Years ago, Canadians touted their health care system as the best in the world; today, Canadian health care stands in ruinous shape.
Sick with ovarian cancer, Sylvia de Vires, an Ontario woman afflicted with a 13-inch, fluid-filled tumor weighing 40 pounds, was unable to get timely care in Canada. She crossed the American border to Pontiac, Mich., where a surgeon removed the tumor, estimating she could not have lived longer than a few weeks more.
The Canadian government pays for U.S. medical care in some circumstances, but it declined to do so in de Vires' case for a bureaucratically perfect, but inhumane, reason: She hadn't properly filled out a form. At death's door, de Vires should have done her paperwork better.
De Vires is far from unusual in seeking medical treatment in the U.S. Even Canadian government officials send patients across the border, increasingly looking to American medicine to deal with their overload of patients and chronic shortage of care.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Years ago, Canadians touted their health care system as the best in the world; today, Canadian health care stands in ruinous shape.
I get the sense that Marshall and Sullivan, like many of their antiwar compatriots, don’t really care about whether we win or lose in Iraq. They simply want to get out, and damn the consequences. That brings up another historical analogy that I’m sure they would rather forget: the way we pulled out of South Vietnam after the defeat of the North’s Tet and Easter Offensives when a decent outcome (namely the long-term preservation of South Vietnam’s independence) was within our grasp. A lot of antiwar voices back then said it would actually be good for the locals if we left, just as they now say it would be good for Iraq if we skedaddled. Tell it to the Vietnamese boat people or the victims of the Cambodian killing fields.
Richard Nixon's early-1970s price controls were a disaster. Administering the controls on energy alone took an estimated 5 million man-hours per year and punished motorists with gas lines. Repeating this experiment by clamping down on oil trading is like burning your hand on a gas stove and then sitting on a barbecue.
Would-be Nixons argue that hedge funds and their ilk are piling into oil futures, driving prices above "reasonable" levels. They note that in 2000, speculators owned just over a third of the "paper oil" traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange but now own more than two-thirds. This buying pressure on paper oil is said to be pushing physical oil up. Stop the speculation, they say, and prices would revert to normal.
The most basic problem with this claim is that a speculator can buy paper oil only if someone else sells to him. For every trader who bets on a price rise, there must be another who bets the opposite. So an increase in the number of speculative players does not show whether prices will move up or down. Think of a youth soccer team: If it adds two extra players it doesn't become more likely to win, because its opponents will add two players as well.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
There's something curious about the Congolese minister of foreign trade — he doesn't exist.
When the prime minister asked for two nominees for the post, UNACEF party leader Kisimba Ngoy nominated himself and "Kasongo Ilunga," apparently thinking he was bound to win against a phantom.
The plan backfired when the prime minister chose Ilunga. The enigmatic 36-year-old failed to appear at the opening of the new government, and he hasn't claimed his office. Ngoy says that the invisible bureaucrat has resigned, but the prime minister insists that he must do so in person.
That leaves Congo without a trade minister — and Kisimba helplessly offering that dubious resignation letter. "He wrote it himself," he insists. "He signed it. Could an imaginary man do that?"
More interesting oddities like this at Futility Closet.
Wahrheit is a blogger who's recently come to my attention. While his (mostly) political blog is on hiatus a the moment, it's worth taking some time to read some of his posts. After what can only be described as a cursory examination this afternoon I found tons of good stuff including this homage to Jonathan Swift. He also has a chess blog that I need to spend some time digging through. I used to play quite a bit, but my game (which was never really very strong) is embarrassing at this point. Hopefully he won't laugh at me when I'm forced to ask "how does that en passant thing work again?".
A Dutch court is currently considering whether the United Nations and the government of the Netherlands are immune from a suit brought by families of some of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
At Sbrenica, Dutch forces, operating as UN "peacekeepers" lured Bosniacs into areas which were claimed to be safe havens, disarmed the Bosniacs, and promised that the UN peacekeepers would protect the disarmed Bosniacs. When Serbs attacked, the Dutch peacekeepers (unlike peacekeepers guarding some other safe havens) fled, leaving the Bosniacs to be murdered.
The Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Second Amendment, and striking down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and the ban on the use of any firearm for self-defense in the home, is solidly reasoned. Although the case leaves ample room for moderate gun control laws, the case casts doubt on the continuing validity of a variety of other gun prohibitions.
I think it's appalling that it was only a 5-4 decision. The Second Amendment has always been embarrassing for liberals who consistently seek to interpret every constitutional guarantee as broadly as possible save this one. This isn't some vague penumbra we're talking about here. The right to keep and bear arms is an express provision of the Bill of Rights.
The notion advanced by some, that the right to bear arms is conditional on service in a "well regulated militia" begs the question of why would the framers think they had to guarantee such a right in the first place.
The already enacted Constitution provided for the creation of the armed forces. Did the framers think they needed to make it clear that the army was allowed to have weapons? Of course not. It would be stupid, but that's what you essentially have to believe if you embrace the "collective right" approach. What the framers intended was that the populace be armed to protect itself, not just against criminals, indians and foreigners, but against the possibility of tyranny by by our own government. They came from a tradition that stood in defiance against the worst excesses of absolutism. They wanted to build a shining city on a hill where the state would be the servant of the people, not the reverse.
Glen Reynolds (better known as Instapundit) says it much better here.
The full text of the court's decision is here.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
New technology won’t help all that much for a nationwide system, either. The French TGV train — I love French: train à grande vitesse just sounds so much inherently cooler than “really fast train” — really only travels about 200 miles an hour; even maglev trains are not a lot faster. That would cut the travel time in half, making the total travel time to New York only, hoo-hah, 45 hours.
It’s not a matter of the government not supporting Amtrak. It’s not a matter of the U.S. not having the “will” to have the best passenger trains in the world. It’s that passenger trains, using any current technology or any technology we see coming in the foreseeable future, simply can’t compete with airlines.
It’s just arithmetic.
I found these lectures on the web the other day and wanted to share them.
Hans Bethe was perhaps the most impressive person I've ever seen speak in person. He was the last survivor of the the major players who had developed the atomic bomb. He died at his home on March 6, 2005. He was 98.
Some of my favorites:
Christopher Columbus's efforts to obtain support for his voyages were not hampered by a European belief in a flat Earth. In fact, sailors and navigators of the time knew that the Earth was spherical, but (correctly) disagreed with Columbus' estimates of the distance to the Indies (see Flat Earth). If the Americas did not exist, and Columbus had continued to the Indies (even putting aside the threat of mutiny he was under) he would have run out of supplies before reaching them at the rate he was travelling.
Entrapment law in the United States does not forbid police officers from going undercover, or from denying that they are police. It is a common misconception among persons engaged in low-level crime that if an undercover police officer is asked, "Are you a cop?" that they must reveal themselves to avoid entrapment.
The Coriolis effect doesn't determine the direction that water rotates in a bathtub drain or a flushing toilet. The Coriolis force is relatively small; it appears over large scales (like weather systems) or in systems such as the Foucault pendulum in which the small influence is allowed to accumulate over time. In a bathtub or toilet, the flow of the water over the basin itself produces forces that dwarf the Coriolis force. In addition, most toilets inject water into the bowl at an angle; the resulting spin is tens of thousands of times too fast to be overcome by the Coriolis effect.
Mount Everest is, indisputably, the highest point of land above sea level (8850 meters / 29035 feet) which, according to traditional measurements, means that it is the tallest mountain in the world. Given certain definitions, however, this can be challenged. One alternative method of measurement is the base-summit height. When this is applied, Mauna Kea (a dormant volcano in Hawaii) turns out to be much higher at 10,314 meters (33,480 feet). This takes into account Mauna Kea's base on the ocean floor, some 6000 meters below sea level. Its height above sea level is only 4,208 meters (13,796 feet). If the base-summit height is measured from land only, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, meaning it does not belong to a mountain range or chain, measured from its base (at ground level) to the summit at 5,896 meters (19,344 feet). Another alternative method is to work out the furthest point of land as measured from the centre of the earth. Chimborazo, a volcano in Ecuador, takes this honor, because the Earth "bulges" at the equator. This peak is 2,100 meters "taller" than Everest.
Lots more here.
The flickering hope that elections would force Robert Mugabe from power died this weekend in a campaign of state-organized terror that forced opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai out of this Friday's runoff. So an African dinosaur – the tyrant willing to destroy his country in the service of his vanity – will live on in Zimbabwe.
How much longer only God or, perhaps, Zimbabwe's neighbors know. Mr. Mugabe may be a dying breed, but he is all too able to kill and harass the democratic opposition. Outside intervention, preferably by the Africans themselves, now appears the one remaining way to end this nightmare.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Saturday, June 21, 2008
This guy is the whole Chicago package: an idealistic, lakefront liberal fronting a sharp-elbowed machine operator. He’s the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he’s too intelligent. He speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside.
But he’s been giving us an education, for anybody who cares to pay attention. Just try to imagine Mister Rogers playing the agent Ari in “Entourage” and it all falls into place.
Back when he was in the Illinois State Senate, Dr. Barack could have taken positions on politically uncomfortable issues. But Fast Eddie Obama voted “present” nearly 130 times. From time to time, he threw his voting power under the truck.
Dr. Barack said he could no more disown the Rev. Jeremiah Wright than disown his own grandmother. Then the political costs of Rev. Wright escalated and Fast Eddie Obama threw Wright under the truck.
Dr. Barack could have been a workhorse senator. But primary candidates don’t do tough votes, so Fast Eddie Obama threw the workhorse duties under the truck.
Dr. Barack could have changed the way presidential campaigning works. John McCain offered to have a series of extended town-hall meetings around the country. But favored candidates don’t go in for unscripted free-range conversations. Fast Eddie Obama threw the new-politics mantra under the truck.
And then on Thursday, Fast Eddie Obama had his finest hour. Barack Obama has worked on political reform more than any other issue. He aspires to be to political reform what Bono is to fighting disease in Africa. He’s spent much of his career talking about how much he believes in public financing. In January 2007, he told Larry King that the public-financing system works. In February 2007, he challenged Republicans to limit their spending and vowed to do so along with them if he were the nominee. In February 2008, he said he would aggressively pursue spending limits. He answered a Midwest Democracy Network questionnaire by reminding everyone that he has been a longtime advocate of the public-financing system.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
The thing is, though, the people of eastern Iowa seem to be stepping up in the Iowa stubborn way. I have seen any number of man-on-the-street interviews, and nobody is complaining. They all seem to be working to solve their problem, which is not surprising because Iowans do not complain about tragedy. They complain about hot weather and dry weather, but not tragedy. And I have looked for reports of looting and come up empty so far.
Katrina has become a metaphor for many things beyond natural disaster, including governmental and individual incompetence (depending on your point of view). In Iowa there is a 500 year flood, but the people are not paralyzed, whining, or looting. There will be no massive relief effort from around the world, and nobody will step up to help Iowans except for other Iowans. Yet years from now, there will be no Iowans still in FEMA camps.
The difference is not in the severity of the flood, but in the people who confront the flood.
It's gotten to the point where I absolutely hate flying and long for a return to a more civilized age of rail travel. Unfortunately passenger rail (in the United States anyway) is government enterprise, and they do it about as well as they do everything else.
Megan McArdle explains:
Why isn't there a high speed train from New York to Chicago? Well, first of all, this would greatly anger legislators from New York and Michigan, who like the fact that the Chicago train must pass through Buffalo and Detroit, even if this assures that almost no one with a job will actually use it.
There's also the problem of the Federal construction process. The high speed train between DC and Charlotte was first conceived in the early 1990s. The EIS for this project will be completed probably sometime in 2010. Then we have to get final legislative authority. Then we have to put out the project for bids. By the time the thing is actually built, we'll probably all have evolved an extra leg and be able to run faster than the high speed train.
She was lovely and talented, one heck of a dancer, and for my money one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.
She overcame polio to become a world class dancer. That alone should tell you a lot about her grit and determination. She set out to become a star and she made it...with a little help from Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
As she noted in her autobiography:
"As one of the handful of girls who worked with both of those dance geniuses, I think I can give an honest comparison. In my opinion, Kelly is the more inventive choreographer of the two. Astaire, with Hermes Pan's help, creates fabulous numbers — for himself and his partner.
But Kelly can create an entire number for somebody else ... I think, however, that Astaire's coordination is better than Kelly's ... his sense of rhythm is uncanny. Kelly, on the other hand, is the stronger of the two. When he lifts you, he lifts you! ... To sum it up, I'd say they were the two greatest dancing personalities who were ever on screen. But it's like comparing apples and oranges. They're both delicious."
I miss her already.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Proven oil reserves are likely to be far larger than reported because of the way the capacity of oilfields is estimated and how those estimates are added to form the proven reserves of a company or a country. Companies add the estimated capacity of oil fields in a simple arithmetic manner to get proven oil reserves. This gives a deliberately conservative total deemed suitable for shareholders who do not want proven reserves hyped, Dr Pike said.
However, mathematically it is more accurate to add the proven oil capacity of individual fields in a probabilistic manner based on the bell-shaped statistical curve used to estimate the proven, probable and possible reserves of each field. This way, the final capacity is typically more than twice that of simple, arithmetic addition, Dr Pike said. "The same also goes for natural gas because these fields are being estimated in much the same way. The world is understating the environmental challenge and appears unprepared for the difficult compromises that will have to be made."
The worst case scenario would be, as Dujarric and Zelleke imply, the transformation of Iraq into a California-sized oil-rich Gaza.
The quickest and most reliable way to get from here to there would be for the United States military to step out of the way now and let the most ruthless factions violently take over the country without interference. Iraqis are most unlikely to vote themselves into a Gaza scenario. The insurgent groups, remember, are those that lost the elections and can only acquire power through force. Even if an unambiguous victory is impossible in the short or medium term for the United States and the elected government of Iraq, a victory of any kind for Al Qaeda in Iraq or Moqtada al Sadr’s radical Mahdi Army militia is likewise impossible while American forces remain on the ground and in the way.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
China and Cuba are actively exploring oil fields 50 miles from Key West, Florida while U.S. companies are barred from working in this area because of U.S. policy ... So, instead of allowing the most environmentally responsible companies to operate there and increase our domestic supply, China, who has a dismal environmental record, is preparing to suck our close, lucrative oil reserves dry.
2008-06-13) — The U.S. housing crisis reached fever pitch this month, with potential foreclosures up 48 percent compared with May 2007.
The devastation of receiving foreclosure notices has now swept through a full 2/10ths of one percent of American homes. About 1/10th of one percent of owners may lose their homes. For some of those people, it’s actually their primary residence in jeopardy, rather than a second home, rental property or vacation condo.
To add insult to misery, mortgage rates skyrocketed this month to 6.32 percent, a shocking figure a full third of what it was during the Carter administration.
As a result of the flood of homes on the market, real estate agent commissions have dipped precariously, and home buyers increasingly wrestle with the guilt of paying bargain prices for excellent properties.
Market analysts say home prices could plummet as much as another 10 percent by the end of 2009, leaving first-time home buyers to face the specter of owning a more spacious residence. The additional square footage inequitably boosts the burden of cleaning, heating and air conditioning.
Way back in the dark days of 2007, when the only popular question about the Iraq war concerned the degree of tragedy, Congress’s Iraq “benchmarks” were all the rage among Democrats. Every argument against a continued U.S. presence in Iraq was constructed around the Maliki administration’s apparent inability to meet the political and security-based milestones as outlined by America’s Democratic-majority Congress.
Then something happened. The gains of the troop surge allowed the Iraqi government and citizenry to implement the security measures and legislative acts called for by the U.S. The benchmark line of argument quietly died. Here, then, is the brief life and glorious death of the great benchmark trope.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Short version: No.
Long version: Here.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I can confirm: The wealthier and better-educated seem less concerned about gas prices.
From my informal conversations, I'd go even further: The wealthy, especially political liberals, also like that high-priced gas translates into less burning of fossil fuels by others and will help accelerate research into alternative energies.
But what these elites don't seem to realize is that the energy policies they advocate are paralyzing almost everyone else - and that the truly ethical and environmental solution would require embracing positions long considered anathema to traditional liberalism.
Jon Swift examines the issue with his tongue held firmly-in-cheek.
For most Presidential elections of the past 100 years, Jews have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, with the exception of the 1920 election when many Jewish women, overwhelmed by Warren Harding's goyische good looks, pulled the lever for the Republicans. But this year many Jews are asking themselves, Is Barack Obama is good for the Jews?
The Patterico blog has details of some of the coarse humor that was available on Judge Alex Kozinski’s website. Kozinski can be criticized for indiscretion in failing to realize that his website was publicly accessible, and opening himself up to this politically-motivated silliness, but I fail to see why a judge’s e-mail habits should be a scandal. Yes, Kozinski apparently has an immature sense of humor, but we already knew that.
Of more interest is that the attorney peddling this, Cyrus Sanai, has been targeting Kozinski for years.
Read the whole thing.
NEW YORK—Shortly after finishing in last place in the Belmont Stakes Saturday, Big Brown was reportedly seen leaving through the back exit of the Belmont stable locker rooms carrying several shopping bags stuffed with cash, which the 3-year-old colt placed into the back seat of his Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe.
"I could hardly tell it was him because he was wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes, and a long trench coat, but I remember thinking he was so tall he had to be one of the athletes," said horseracing fan Jason Larson. "Still, I didn't figure it out until I saw the 'Big B' vanity plates on his car."
So that explains it.
I haven't commented on the attempt by Dennis Kucinich to impeach President Bush because...well...it's stupid. The Anchoress isn't as circumspect. She thinks it's about high time that all the B.S. accusations against the administration, which the media allows to fester, be examined, under oath...to be followed by the appropriate rolling of liberal heads.
1) Bush Stole the Election!
Let’s have the editors of the NY Times and the consortium of newspapers who took the time to actually Recount Florida Gore’s Way testify - under oath - that their 10,000 word article admits that yes, Bush really did win the election, or that no, their piece was a lie. Let’s get it on the record.
And while we’re at it, let’s shine a little light on some real voter fraud.
Read the whole thing.
Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact.
h/t Maggies Farm.
John McCain on Friday described the decision by the Supreme Court to allow Guantánamo Bay prisoners to challenge their detention in US courts as “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country”.
Fred Thompson agrees. So do I.
Orin Kerr has an epiphany on the Ohio death penalty decision:
My co-blogger Jonathan Adler earlier noted the quite puzzling decision by Ohio state court judge James Burge blocking the state's death penalty. After seeing the picture accompanying the USA Today's coverage of the decision, however, I think I understand.
Two U.S. senators, two former Cabinet members, and a former ambassador to the United Nations received loans from Countrywide Financial through a little-known program that waived points, lender fees, and company borrowing rules for prominent people.
Senators Christopher Dodd, Democrat from Connecticut and chairman of the Banking Committee, and Kent Conrad, Democrat from North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, refinanced properties through Countrywide’s “V.I.P.” program in 2003 and 2004, according to company documents and emails and a former employee familiar with the loans.
France, which has historically had a love-hate relationship with the US, has not had such an overtly pro-American leader since the First World War. Mr Sarkozy is ready to risk hostility from his own public by becoming Washington’s ally-in-chief, breaking with the Gaullist policy of isolation that Jacques Chirac pursued not least over the invasion of Iraq. “The frost is over,” said an Elysée Palace aide. “We want to show the warmth that now exists between the two countries after the frictions of the recent past.”
Actually, I think some of these are rather good.
A few samples:
The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.
Friday, June 13, 2008
It turns out that kids in households lucky enough to get computer vouchers spent a lot less time watching TV—but that's where the good news ends. "Vouchered" kids also spent less time doing homework, got lower grades, and reported lower educational aspirations than the "unvouchered" kids.
Tim Russert was one of the few members of mainstream press that I actually liked and respected. He was smart, funny and above all honest. He cared about the truth and had the courage to ask tough questions. Our political discourse will be poorer with his absence. He will be greatly missed.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Every Eastern gardener knows well how much nature wants to turn your garden into a grassy weed-patch, then into a woodland. Humans force nature to obey with great difficulty. Everyone who sanctimoniously bemoans deforestation in South America and Africa should first look out their window to see one’s local deforestation.
Our Great Plains, it is believed, were at least partly the result of Indian burning practices and wildfire. And the Scottish moors? The result of deforestation too, but they are beginning to re-plant. Permanent deforestation is definitely a bad thing from a conservation standpoint, but often not from a human economic standpoint. Manhattan Island is now pretty nice without the forest.
For a century, an ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous knowledge class -- social planners, scientists, intellectuals, experts and their left-wing political allies -- arrogated to themselves the right to rule either in the name of the oppressed working class (communism) or, in its more benign form, by virtue of their superior expertise in achieving the highest social progress by means of state planning (socialism).
Two decades ago, however, socialism and communism died rudely, then were buried forever by the empirical demonstration of the superiority of market capitalism everywhere from Thatcher's England to Deng's China, where just the partial abolition of socialism lifted more people out of poverty more rapidly than ever in human history.
Just as the ash heap of history beckoned, the intellectual left was handed the ultimate salvation: environmentalism. Now the experts will regulate your life not in the name of the proletariat or Fabian socialism but -- even better -- in the name of Earth itself.
You'd think with gas prices topping $4 and consumers crying uncle, Congress would be moving fast to spur development of a domestic oil resource so vast - 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil shale in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming alone - it could eventually rival the oil fields of Saudi Arabia.
You'd think politicians would be tripping over themselves to arrange photo-ops with Harold Vinegar (whom I profiled in Fortune last November), the brilliant, Brooklyn-born chief scientist at Royal Dutch Shell whose research cracked the code on how to efficiently and cleanly convert oil shale - a rock-like fossil fuel known to geologists as kerogen - into light crude oil.
You'd think all of this, but you'd be wrong.
American policies were driven by public opinion while British ones were shaped by elite preferences. As a result, victim surveys show that by the late 1990s the British robbery rate was one-quarter higher and the burglary and assault rates twice as high as those in this country.
This raises the interesting question of why elite views should be so different from popular ones. Some possible explanations: Elites can more easily protect themselves from criminal attacks; elites tend to have a therapeutic rather than punitive view of crime; elites in parliamentary regimes are protected against sharp swings in public moods.
There are a lot of criticisms one can make of prisons, but sending offenders there, provided it is done correctly and without abuse, is an eminently democratic strategy: We deprive guilty people of liberty to make innocent people safer.
American visitors to Paris, Rome, Prague, or Barcelona, comparing what they see with what is familiar from their own continent, will recognize how careless their countrymen often have been in their attempts to create cities. But the American who leaves the routes prescribed by the Ministries of Tourism will quickly see that Paris is miraculous in no small measure because modern architects have not been able to get their hands on it.
Elsewhere, European cities are going the way of cities in America: high-rise offices in the center, surrounded first by a ring of lawless dereliction, and then by the suburbs, to which those who work in the city flee at the end of the day. Admittedly, nothing in Europe compares with the vandalism that modernists have wreaked on Buffalo, Tampa, or Minneapolis (to take three examples of American cities that cause me particular pain). Nevertheless, the same moral disaster is beginning to afflict us—the disaster of cities in which no one wishes to live, where public spaces are vandalized and private spaces boarded up.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
After years of arguing that expanded credit is critical for the poor, and attacking banks for "red-lining" poor and minority districts, the liberal-left of this country has reversed directions, and has decided that the poor can't handle credit.
I particularly like this point:
However, for those who think they are ever so much smarter than payday loan customers, who are charged a lot of money for small liquidity boosts, consider this: Let's say you take out $40 each week from an ATM to keep you liquid and that the ATM fee is $1.50. You are therefore spending $1.50 or 3.75% for a one week liquidity boost of $40, which you must again refresh next week. Annualized, you are effectively paying 195% to get liquid with your own money. For this kind of vig, at least payday loan customers are getting the use of someone else's money.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Oregon Health Care won’t pay for cancer drugs, but will pay for doctor-assisted suicide.
Oregon Health Care offers coverage, its Web site said, “if you live in Oregon and are a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen.”
It covers everything but:
· Treatment for conditions that get better on their own, like colds
· Conditions that have no useful treatment
· Treatments that are not generally effective
· Cosmetic surgeries
· Gender changes
· Services to help you get pregnant
· Weight loss programs
But it covers cancer. It is just that it uses “doctor-assisted suicide” to treat cancer.
As Barbara Wagner discovered.
The AP reported:
Last month her lung cancer, in remission for about two years, was back. After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that could slow the cancer growth and extend her life, Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover it.
It would cover comfort and care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide.
The story has a happy ending.
That mean-old, profit-driven drug company stepped up and gave her the treatment.
Socialists to cancer victims: Kill yourself.
Capitalists: Can’t pay? No problem.
Oh and the capitalists also pay the taxes that finance the socialist programs.
Recently his spokesman stated, “Barack Obama has always believed that our courts should stand up for social and economic justice, and what’s truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves.”
Well what’s wrong with all that? Plenty, if you believe in the separation of powers and democracy, according to noted conservative legal scholars.
Steven Calabresi, professor of law at Northwestern University and co-founder of the Federalist Society (who also serves on John McCain’s legal advisory committee), says “I think it means he has completely the wrong idea of what a judge is supposed to do.” He notes that since the first Congress all judges have taken an oath to “do equal justice unto the rich and the poor,” but, by asking judges in essence to side with the less well off, Obama is “calling on judges to disregard this.”
Taken literally, Obama’s conceives the role of the courts as roving advocates of the poor and disadvantaged who will look, not to the text and meaning of the Constitution, but to their own ethics and values — presumably very left-leaning ones — to override statutes, executive branch actions, and the American people themselves.
Given that, one wonders if confirmation hearings for Obama judicial appointees should skip over questions of the law and focus on the appointees’ religious and ethical views, their childhood experiences, and even their record of charitable giving. How else will we know whether they are “sympathetic enough”?
Aside from his judicial philosophy, Obama’s views on specific matters of constitutional law are no secret — and bear little resemblance to the body of case law which has built up over the last thirty years.
From the article:
In the run-up to World War 2, the focus switches to Germany. Over a ten year period starting in the mid-1930s, no fewer than five German companies were involved in developing short-cased cartridges suitable for assault rifles: Geco, DWM, RWS, Rheinmetall-Borsig and Polte.
Geco was the first in the field, co-operating with the gun company Vollmer-Werke Maschinenfabrik, to produce the Vollmer SL Model 35 self-loading carbine in a nominal 7.75x40 calibre (the calibre was actually 7.9mm, with a bullet 8.05mm in diameter). This was officially tested with good results, but led to no orders. In 1942 Geco produced a new cartridge also intended for a Vollmer carbine, the 7x45SR. This used a wider case and was far more powerful, with a muzzle velocity of 1,000 m/s. Another cartridge, measuring 7.92x33.5, was designed at Geco and attributed to an H.G.Winter, a director of the firm, but the date and the gun for which it was intended are not known.
DWM designed a 7x39 cartridge in the mid-1930s, for which a Walther self-loading carbine was reportedly made. It was appreciably more powerful than the later 7.92x33 Kurz. However, the interest of the Heereswaffenamt (HWA) was by then focused on Polte developments, so the DWM round also failed to progress further. RWS produced several short-cased rifle rounds in the 1930s, including an 8x45, 8x46 and 7x46, but these developments were taken no further. Rheinmetall-Borsig were involved in a number of prewar experiments concerning 7mm rounds in various case lengths, some of them very long, probably for high-velocity aircraft gun projects. One drawing has been found of a 7x36 cartridge which would obviously have been suitable for assault rifles, but there is no evidence that it was made. The design work may have been done by Polte on behalf of Rheinmetall-Borsig.
This brings us to Polte Patronenfabrik of Magdeburg, who made by far the most significant contribution. The HWA awarded them a contract, probably in 1938, for the development of a short-cased infantry cartridge. This resulted in several different designs of cartridge; 7.9x45, 7.9x30, two different 7.9x33 and a 7x45, all by 1940. In all of these, Polte retained the head and rim diameters of the standard 7.92x57 rifle/MG round, and in all but the 7mm the same calibre as well. This kept production costs to a minimum and no doubt helped to account for the success of their proposals. The final 7.92x33 design (which had less case taper than the first or "transitional" effort) was approved in December 1940, the only subsequent change being to the angle of the extractor groove, which was altered from 45 to 60 degrees in May 1942.
The MKb42(H) by Haenel and the MKb42(W) by Walther were designed around the new cartridge and produced in some numbers for field testing. This led to the development of the Haenel MP43/44 (later renamed StG 44 for Sturmgewehr or assault rifle). Despite initial opposition from Hitler, this was the weapon the Army wanted to back-up their MG 42 GPMGs, and it was produced and used in quantity. However, the end of the war stopped the direct line of development of this significant weapon.
An interesting discussion of the history and uses of an oft misunderstood class of weapons.
The realisation that the great diversity of the world stems from a handful of elementary particles acting under the influence of a few fundamental forces was one of the triumphs of twentieth century physics. But the path to this realisation was not straightforward, and at one point physicists were faced with a bewildering collection of "fundamental particles" - more than there are elements in the chemical table!
It has taken an understanding of mathematical symmetry combined with experiments into conditions similar to those soon after the "Big Bang" to bring physicists to the elegant understanding of today.
From the Washington Post editorial:
Iraq passed a turning point last fall when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Now, another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country, dispersing both rival militias and the Iranian-trained "special groups" that have used them as cover to wage war against Americans. It is -- of course -- too early to celebrate; though now in disarray, the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the U.S. and Iraqi elections this fall. Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments -- and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the "this-war-is-lost" caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
Think you can balance the Federal budget? All I have to say is Good luck.
Budget Hero is an interesting little game that allows you evaluate spending priorities over a fairly long time-line. It uses the Congressional Budget Office scoring method which unfortunately has some serious flaws. The worst of these is a failure to take into account the dynamic effects on the economy of your taxing and spending decisions.
If you cut taxes for example, you get less money. There's no possibility that growth in the private sector can offset any of the cuts. Similarly, there's no recognition that tax increases might bring in less money than expected because people might change their economic behavior.
It also uses the Current Services Baseline method of budgeting which scores increases for inflation as a starting point. For example: if your budget last year was $100.00 and inflation is 5% then your budget starts at $105.00. If at the end of the day you wind up with $103.00 that's a $2.00 cut, not a $3.00 increase. That make make sense in terms of providing services to people but it's not what most people think of when they hear that a program has had it's budget cut.
For the most part however, this is how Congress draws up a budget and it brings home the enormous costs of some of the programs Democrats are talking about these days. Have fun!
To what culture does the concept of “cultural property” belong? Who owns this idea?
It has, like much material property in the last 50 years, often changed hands. And in doing so, it has also changed meanings and grown in importance. It now affects the development of museums, alters the nature of international commerce and even seems to subsume traditional notions of property.
It was brought to modern prominence in 1954 by Unesco as a way of characterizing the special status of monuments, houses of worship and works of art — objects that suffered “grave damage” in “recent armed conflicts.” In its statement Unesco asserted that such “cultural property” was part of the “cultural heritage of all mankind” and deserved special protection.
But the framers of that doctrine with its universalist stance would hardly recognize cultural property in its current guise. The concept is now being narrowly applied to assert possession, not to affirm value. It is used to stake claims on objects in museums, to prevent them from being displayed and to control the international trade of antiquities.
My confession of being an anti-intellectual requires a bit of explanation. Being anti-intellectual is not the same as being anti-intellect. My beef is with a particular social class -- the "intelligentsia" -- and not with the practice of using one's intellect to reflect on experience. In my experience, intellectuals (as a class) are ideologically intolerant, easily offended by ordinary humor, and pretentious in their prejudices, which they disguise as universal truths.
PHILADELPHIA - Derrie-Air has been exposed. Readers of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News opened their papers Friday to see ads for a new airline called Derrie-Air, which purportedly charges passengers by the pound.
But the new carrier will never get off the ground. It's a one-day advertising campaign about a fake airline by Philadelphia Media Holdings, the papers' owner, and Gyro ad agency.
H/t The Wife
The jihadist revolt against bin Laden.
After September 11, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world led by bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign--both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West-- make that less likely. The potential repercussions for Al Qaeda cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen, " says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of Al Qaeda] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."
Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by Al Qaeda's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al Qaeda's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: First, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where Al Qaeda's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, Al Qaeda in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.
Additionally, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since September 11: hundreds of ordinary Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a U.S. hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to Al Qaeda have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr. Zawahiri but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with Al Qaeda's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed September 11 and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.
2. You make over $300,000 and still can't afford a house.
3. You take a bus and are shocked at two people carrying on a conversation in English.
4. Your child's 3rd-grade teacher has purple hair, a nose ring, and is named Flower.
5. You can't remember if is pot illegal.
6. You've been to a baby shower that has two mothers and a sperm donor.
7. You have a very strong opinion about where your coffee beans are grown, and you can taste the difference between Sumatran and Ethiopian.
8. You can't remember is pot illegal?
9. A really great parking space can totally move you to tears.
10. Gas costs $1.00 per gallon more than anywhere else in the U.S.
11. Unlike back home, the guy at 8:30 am at Starbucks wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses who looks like George Clooney… really IS George Clooney.
12. Your car insurance costs as much as your house payment.
13. You can't remember... is pot illegal?
14. It's barely sprinkling rain and there's a report on every news station: "STORM WATCH."
15. You pass an elementary school playground and the children are all busy with their cells or pagers.
16. It's barely sprinkling rain outside, so you leave for work an hour early to avoid all the weather-related accidents.
17. HEY!!!! Is pot illegal????
18. Both you AND your dog have therapists.
19. The Terminator is your governor.
20. If you drive illegally, they take your driver's license. If you're here illegally, they’ll give you one.
Thought for today: According to the EPA, lead particles in the air in Los Angeles cause six thousand deaths a year. Los Angeles residents call them ‘bullets?
Eleven years ago, after doing a lot of studying and a lot of thinking, Richard Rainwater convinced himself that the long decline in oil prices that had begun in the early 1980s was about to end. As a billionaire who had made his name and fortune steering the Texas oil riches of Fort Worth's Bass family into lucrative nonenergy investments like Disney stock, Rainwater had the wherewithal to act on his conviction. So he plunked down about $300 million of his own money on energy-company stocks and oil and gas futures.
For a while it looked like a boneheaded move. At the end of 1998, the price of oil fell below $10 per bbl. Regular gas sold for 90¢ a gal. While Internet billionaires were being minted to the right and left of him, Rainwater was getting poorer by the day.
You can guess the rest of the story. The dotcoms imploded; the price of oil climbed, climbed and climbed some more--and Rainwater's energy bet came to look like one of the better investment calls of our time. It has netted him about $2 billion, vaulting him from the mid-200s on Forbes magazine's 1999 list of the 400 richest Americans to No. 91 last summer (with $3.5 billion overall).
So guess what Rainwater did a few weeks ago, right after oil prices topped $129 per bbl. for the first time? "I sold my Chevron," he says. "I sold my ConocoPhillips. I sold my Statoil. I sold my ENSCO. I sold my Pioneer Natural Resources. I sold everything."
In the end, all bubbles burst. In the fullness of time, so will this one.
This kind of thing does more to undermine faith in democracy than almost anything else. The truth is, for all the outrage over "hanging chads" paper ballots remain the safest, most reliable way of casting and correctly counting votes. It is however pretty amusing that the same liberals who created this mess after the debacle in Florida are now paranoid that they're the ones being cheated by electronic voting. The truth is were all being cheated.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
In a weird way, state governments are like banks: they have a fundamental and inevitable duration mismatch. Banks loan money long and borrow short (a demand deposit, aka your bank account, acts in crises like a renewable daily loan); under the right (wrong) conditions, the short lenders flee and the bank collapses.
This is not a perfect analogy with state governments of course. But they make long promises with only short funds, and when long and short durations collide, disaster can occur--just ask John Lindsay. Plus both have an implicit guarantee from the Federal government that allows them to be less fiscally responsible than they ought.
There is a certain irony here. In a year that for historical and contemporary reasons should be a Democratic shoo-in, the Democrats have nominated about the only candidate who can lose in November, the Republicans the only one of their own who can still win it.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Monday, June 02, 2008
This sort of thing happens to me all the time.
They are drawn by a love of American culture - although definitely not American politics - and a passion for line dancing, which enables them to swing but avoid all human contact.
Now country and western has become so big in France that the country's bureaucrats have decided to bring the craze under state control.
The French administration has moved to create an official country dancing diploma as part of a drive to regulate the fad. Authorised instructors who have been on publicly funded training courses will be put in charge of line dancing lessons and balls.
The rules, which come into force next year, come after the rapid spread of country and western in France, where an estimated 100,000 people line dance several times a week. Jean Chauveau, the chairman of the country section of the French Dance Federation, said: “It's growing at a crazy rate. There are thousands of clubs and more are springing up all the time.”
Conservatives often exclaim that liberal policies are not sustainable. They are not solvent. They are socialist. They will bankrupt us. We can't afford them. We'll have to double or triple or quintuple taxes to pay for them. Etcetera. Etcetera.
All of that is true.
But liberals don't care about any of that. They even embrace some of those criticisms.
To really get the point across, liberals need to understand that their gargantuan government programs, paid for with ever-expanding tax rates and types, are politically unsustainable. I know it's hard for liberals to believe, because they look at polls showing how 55% support this program, or 60% support that program, or 80% support the idea that every child should have x, y, and z guaranteed. It's hard to believe, but people respond to big government. Policies matter. When people feel the burden of high taxes, they move themselves, their businesses, and their money to places where they'll be treated better.
Raoul Wallenberg was the diplomat who would appear like a phantom in Budapest, handing out the Swedish passports that saved some 15,000 Hungarian Jews from being murdered by the Nazis. But Wallenberg had no such help himself on January 17, 1945, when he was taken into custody by the Soviet forces that had liberated Budapest. The Swedish diplomat was never heard from again, and Moscow would later report that Wallenberg had died in Lubyanka Prison in 1947.
But in the 63 years since his arrest, the Wallenberg family and generations of researchers have relentlessly pursued the possibility that the Swedish diplomat survived long after 1947, as a secret prisoner in the Soviet gulag system. "There are plenty of indications that he may have survived past 1947, and these deserve thorough examination," says Susanne Berger, a German-born researcher who has spent 15 years exploring Wallenberg's fate.