Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The state of the world is dismal; "We're living on borrowed time"

Is this latest dispatch from environmental alarmists any better than the accounting at Enron and Worldcom?

In 1997, a team of biologists and economists tried to put a value on the "business services" provided by nature - the free pollination of crops, the air conditioning provided by wild plants, the recycling of nutrients by the oceans. They came up with an estimate of $33 trillion, almost twice the global gross national product for that year. But after what today's report, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, calls "an unprecedented period of spending Earth's natural bounty" it was time to check the accounts.

The New York Times goes easy on Kofi

It is no surprise that the internationalists at the New York Times (subscription required) would defend the United Nations and overlook Kofi Annan's lack of management skills. He knew nothing of course of what was going on with the Oil for Food program that propped up Saddam although the Volker Report scores Annan for poor oversight. To investigate Kofi is, according to the Grey Lady, to conduct an "assault on the United Nations."

Yes, yes we all know the clamouring over OFF is a plot by the conservatives to discredit Sir Kofi. Believe that and you will believe anything. Where's the outrage.

G-Scobe has a useful contrast, compare on Enron and OFF aka as UNron.

(Hat tip to Instapundit, who else?)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The obvious restated

Why does Howard Kurtz even bother? College faculties, even engineering departments, are leftist bastions. We need to be reminded again?

Stanley Crouch makes the case for a Jazz Museum in Harlem

There will be those who claim that the $1 million Congress set aside in 2000 for a prospective Jazz Museum in Harlem is pure pork. Stanley Crouch disabuses them of such a notion. That money will be well spent. Besides how can you argue with a man who writes expressively about the most expressive genre.

... there is something different about jazz, which is largely a performance art based in improvisation. Its richness allows for the listener and the performer to enjoy the invention of value, which is what artistic improvisation means. It is not just pulling anything out of the air; it means pulling value out of the air.

That's the best description of improvisation I've ever read. Congress should sign up for another million.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The New York TImes reviews Paglia

Clive James is an early reviewer of Camille Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn, her new anthology of poetry.

She flies as high as you can go, in fact, without getting into the airless space of literary theory and cultural studies. Not that she has ever regarded those activities as elevated. She has always regarded them, with good reason, as examples of humanism's perverse gift for attacking itself, and for providing the academic world with a haven for tenured mediocrity. This book is the latest shot in her campaign to save culture from theory. It thus squares well with another of her aims, to rescue feminism from its unwise ideological allegiances. So in the first instance ''Break, Blow, Burn'' is about poetry, and in the second it is about Camille Paglia.


Read the entire review. It's largely laudatory but a little forced in the end. James sees the need to let just a little of the air out of the balloon.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bush takes a Schiavo hit in the polls

The first wave of blowback on big government Republicanism. Bush takes a hit says Gallup.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The cracks at the U.N. are beginning to show

Benny Avni of the New York Sun is tracking the OFF scandal. Where's the MSM?

After All Its Denials, U.N. Admits It Paid Oil-for-Food Program Aide's Legal Fees

BY BENNY AVNI - Special to the Sun
March 22, 2005
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/10909

UNITED NATIONS - After months of denials, the United Nations admitted yesterday that, in an exception to its own rules, it has paid for the legal defense of Benon Sevan. The U.N.'s own investigation panel denounced Mr. Sevan for his central role in the oil-for-food scandal that has engulfed the world body.

Questions regarding whether the U.N. would cover Mr. Sevan's legal fees were raised soon after the name of the oil-for-food program chief appeared on a list published by the Iraqi newspaper al-Mada shortly after the start of the Iraq war. The newspaper accused world diplomats, businessmen, and U.N. officials of accepting bribes from Saddam Hussein in the form of oil allocations.

Up until late last week, the U.N. said it had not paid any of Mr. Sevan's legal fees. But yesterday, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard told The New York Sun that the U.N. had been paying his legal bills up until last month.



Read the whole thing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Very good question for the economic historians among us

The Angry Economist, ever-so-wise and maybe not so angry, finds some similarities between railroads and fiber optic cables. He asks a very good question.

Setting bad precedent; Republican overreach

James Pinkerton points out the unintended consequences of Republican overreach via the Schiavo saga.

... the Republicans have their victory, but now they must live with consequences of having made a state case into a federal case. Having intervened in this state issue in 2005, future Republicans will have a hard time urging federal restraint in the name of decentralization. Which is to say, whenever the Democrats retake power and resume their own ambitious national agenda, they will happily trample on "states' rights," citing the Schiavo legislation as their precedent. But maybe by then Republicans won't care as much, because the traditional conservative belief system, which grounded its politics in the original intent of the Founding Fathers, has been superseded - the Constitutional Right now being the Religious Right.
Fourth, the Republicans will now bear greater responsibility for the rising cost of health care. That is, if the elephantine federal government has become so energetic - some might say paternalistic - that it reaches into local courtroom dramas in the name of preserving life, then that same GOP Establishment will have to deal with the cost of keeping such people alive. To be sure, in the Schiavo case, the parents have volunteered to bear all of the woman's expenses, but what of similar instances in the future where families have the will, but not the means, to preserve a life? Will Republicans dare say that their "culture of life" extends only to those who can pay?
Meanwhile, libertarian-leaning Ryan Sager will have none of the Wall Street Journal's nonsense on Schiavo.

Conservatives, of course, recognize their hypocrisy. And they're offering up weak rationalizations, like this one from The Wall Street Journal in an editorial Monday: "We'd have more sympathy for this argument if the same liberals who are complaining about the possibility of the federal courts reviewing Mrs. Schiavo's case felt as strongly about restraining the federal judiciary when it comes to abortion, homosexuality, and other social issues they don't want to trust to local communities."

In other words: Our opponents are hypocrites, so we can be, too.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Big Government, line by line

This is a very big tree.

Libertarians v. Conservatives; The Case Study of Terri Schiavo

Who's right on the Terri Schiavo case? Well let the conservatives slug it out with the libertarians. Meanwhile, I think that Peggy Noonan has gone off the reservation with her claim that the Repubilcans will pay dearly fail to keep Schiavo. Why? Because they control all the levers of power and letting Shiavo succumb would cost the Repubilcans their right-to-life base. Apparently, the Republican leadership is paying attention. Michael Schiavo, the much maligned husband who wants to end his wife's life says GOP posturing is all about getting votes.

The libertarians will have none of the sanctimony, arguing that the decision to end a life is a private matter that doesn't warrent government intervention. No one is committing fraud; someone's in charge according to the courts and that's the husband. What business does Congress have in overruling a federal court judge? What ever happened to the separation of powers? Will the Repubilcans overreach one more time, (the real reason they may lose.)

Samizdata.net carries the water for the pull-the-plug crowd rather convincingly. And Micha Gertner at Catallarchy will brook no Schiavo analogies to the Holocaust.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Why do I think Jeffrey Sachs is a dangerous man?

I have always been suspect of Bono's evangelical campaign to cancel Third World debt. But I am even more appalled he has taken to the grand vision of one Jeffrey Sachs, the one time Harvard and now Columbia University economist who gave us the mess in Russia otherwise infamously known as shock therapy disguised as economic reform. Leaving Russia in shambles of sorts, Sachs has since moved on to bigger things and more perilous ones. He has a new book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, which unfolds into "utopian social engineering" and an uncritical audience; Time magazine opened up its pages to him recently. But his overreaching plan is set for failure in that it is partly built on western liberal guilt about the human condition in Africa and partly because it calls for massive infusions of aid to be borne by taxpayers in the industrialized First World. And of course he trusts the United Nations to pull it all together. Sachs is a dangerous man because he cannot see history repeating itself. Not a time for Big Plans from a man who doesn't believe in going slow or "piecemeal" as they say in the development business.

The noted economist William Easterly sums it up better than I ever will in the Washington Post.

Sachs pays surprisingly little attention to the history of aid approaches and results. He seems unaware that his Big Plan is strikingly similar to the early ideas that inspired foreign aid in the 1950s and '60s. Just like Sachs, development planners then identified countries caught in a "poverty trap," did an assessment of how much they would need to make a "big push" out of poverty and into growth, and called upon foreign aid to fill the
"financing gap" between countries' own resources and needs. This legacy has influenced the bureaucratic approach to economic development that's been followed ever since -- albeit with some lip service to free markets -- by the World Bank, regional development banks, national aid agencies like USAID and the U.N. development agencies. Spending $2.3 trillion (measured in today's dollars) in aid over the past five decades has left the most aid-intensive regions, like Africa, wallowing in continued stagnation; it's fair to say this approach has not been a great success. (By the way, utopian social engineering does not just fail for the left; in Iraq, it's not working too well now for the right either.)


For more on Easterly, read my brief review of his stupendous book, The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics.

Libertarianism as the "Marxism of the Right"

Robert Locke has a well-argument brief against libertarianism in the American Conservative.

The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. Simple physical security, which even a prisoner can possess, is not freedom, but one cannot live without it. Prosperity is connected to freedom, in that it makes us free to consume, but it is not the same thing, in that one can be rich but as unfree as a Victorian tycoon’s wife. A family is in fact one of the least free things imaginable, as the emotional satisfactions of it derive from relations that we are either born into without choice or, once they are chosen, entail obligations that we cannot walk away from with ease or justice. But security, prosperity, and family are in fact the bulk of happiness for most real people and the principal issues that concern governments.

Read the whole thing.

Catallarchy has an equally well-argued response. This, however, isn't convincing.

Meanwhile, try Brian Caplan's Libertarian Purity Quiz.

The tort lobby puts the squeeze on voluntarism in the U.S. Read and weep!

Writing in today's Wall Street Journal, Philip Howard underscores the latest legal insanity: suing nonprofits. The expanding theory of liability means that fewer and fewer people will volunteer at thousands of organizations that help the poor.

Like a lake receding from its shores, the area of our freedom continues to diminish with each new theory of liability. The latest casualty is volunteerism. Last month, a jury in Milwaukee found the Catholic Archdiocese liable because a volunteer for a Catholic lay organization, driving her own car, ran a red light and caused an accident while delivering a statue of the Virgin Mary to an invalid. Although the church does not direct the activities of this group, called the Legion of Mary, its meetings are held on church property. The jury decided the Archdiocese should pay $17 million to the paralyzed victim, an 82-year-old semi-retired barber.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Could someone get a hold of Jeremy Rifkin please?

Some, not all, American intellectuals implore us to be more like Europe. They are heartened by the rise of the Euro as a sign of the new counterweight to cowboy capitalism as practiced by the U.S. But alas reality has set in so much so that even the Europeans can't ignore sclerosis anymore. See Tim Blair.

Here's what Bruce Bartlett has to say by way of Don Luskin.

THERE IS A GLOBAL TEST, AND WE'RE PASSING IT

Tell me again why American intellectuals still look to Europe for inspiration? Eurochambres, the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry, says the economic performance of the European Union is 20 years behind that of the US.

Employment: Europe’s employment level for 2003 was achieved be the US in 1978. It will take the EU until 2023 to reach US levels of employment, and then only if EU employment growth will exceed that of the US by 0.5% p.a.
R&D: Europe’s R&D investment for 2002 was achieved by the US in 1979. It will take the EU until 2123 to reach US levels of R&D nvestment, and then only if EU investment will exceed that of the US by 0.5% p. a.
Income: Europe’s income for 2003 was achieved by the US in 1985.
It will take the EU until 2072 to reach US levels of income per capita, and then only if EU income growth will exceed that of the US by 0.5% p. a.
Productivity: Europe’s level of productivity for 2003 was achieved by the US in 1989. It will take the EU until 2056 to reach US productivity rates per employed, and then only if EU productivity growth will exceed that of the US by 0.5%.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Wow can you believe this? Going Red State! Playgirl editor is a Republican looking at the whole package!

Courtesy of the Drudge Report

PLAYGIRL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OUTS HERSELF -- AS REPUBLICAN
Mon Mar 07 2005 19:42:14 ET

When it comes to sex and politics, Democrats are the more liberal, right? Not so fast. Playgirl editor-in-chief Michele Zipp explores “down and dirty� politics and examines sexuality on both sides of the aisle.

In the process she comes to a realization about herself and reveals for the first time she’s now a Republican.“Siding with the GOP when you live in the bluest state around is almost like wearing a Boston Red Sox jersey at a New York Yankees’ home game,� says Zipp in the April issue of PLAYGIRL. �I cannot tell you how many times a person assumed I voted for John Kerry in 2004. Most of the time, I don’t have the heart to tell them, or the energy to discuss my reasons for going red this election year. But this is Playgirl magazine so it’s about time I was the one who bared what’s underneath.�

How could a member of the media who produces adult entertainment for women possibly side with conservatives from the red states? Zipp spells it out. “Those on the right are presumed to be all about power and greed – two really sexy traits in the bedroom. They want it, they want it now, and they’ll do anything to get it. And I’m not talking about some pansy-assed victory, I’m talking about full on jackpot, satisfaction for all.�

“The Democrats of the Sixties were all about making love and not war while a war-loving Republican is a man who would fight, bleed, sacrifice, and die for his country. Could you imagine what that very same man would do for his wife in the bedroom?� asks Zipp.



Wow!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The blogosphere is rising modestly; taking a bite out of the newspaper business

According to the latest Pew Survey:

...one-third of political news consumers cited a belief that they did not get all the news and information they wanted from papers and television, and another 11 percent said the Web had information not available elsewhere. These individuals were more likely to visit blogs or campaign sites for information.
Readers are turning not to the printed pages that carry wire services but rather the web sites of Mainstream Media such as CNN and The New York Times.

Nonetheless, Americans who got campaign news over the Internet were more likely to visit sites of major news organizations like CNN and The New York Times (43 percent) rather than Internet-only resources such as candidate Web sites and Web journals, known as blogs (24 percent).
A summary of the findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project can be found here.

Here she comes again! The brilliantly mad Italian iconoclast speaks for the poets in our insta-Media age

Camille Paglia's new book is due out March 20. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Quote for the day

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Marcus Tullius Cicero

Just as the Soviets were hopeless against the fax machine...

Technology revolutionizes the aspirations of the Lebanese.

Young protesters have been spurred by the rise of new technology, especially uncensored satellite television, which prevents Arab governments from hiding what is happening on their own streets. The Internet and cellphones have also been deployed to erode censorship and help activists mobilize in ways previous generations never could.

Another factor, pressure from the Bush administration, has emboldened demonstrators, who believe that their governments will be more hesitant to act against them with Washington linking its security to greater freedom after the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States says it will no longer support repressive governments, and young Arabs, while hardly enamored of American policy in the region, want to test that promise.

Yes the New York Times is starting to get it.

Arabs differ on the degree to which American influence helped foster the changed mood, but there is no doubt that pressure from the Bush administration played some role.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, March 04, 2005

World to America:What have you done for me lately?

The cascade is ginning up. Democracy is breaking out. Gerard Baker makes this observation in the London Times.

But something very important is happening now, something that will be very hard to stop. And, although not all of it can be directly attributed to the US strategy in the region, can anyone seriously argue that it would have happened without it? Neither is it true, as some have tried to argue, that all of this is merely some unintended consequence of an immoral and misconceived war in Iraq.

It was always the express goal of the Bush Administration to change the regime in Baghdad, precisely because of the opportunities for democracy it would open up in the rest of the Arab world. George Bush understands the simple but historically demonstrable thesis that freedom is not only the most basic of human rights, but also the best way to ensure that nations do not go to war with each other.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The end of atheism, first Antony Flew now the world!

How many battalions do the atheists have? The argument for intelligent design is taking hold.
As British philosopher Anthony Flew, once as hard-nosed a humanist as any, mused when turning his back on his former belief: It is, for example, impossible for evolution to account for the fact than one single cell can carry more data than all the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together.
Writes Turkish philosopher Harun Yahya, "Atheism, which people have tried to for hundreds of years as 'the ways of reason and science,' is proving to be mere irrationality and ignorance."
More on atheism by way of Jane Galt.

The Maestro favors a consumption tax. What next?

Alan Greenspan has endorsed the concept of a consumption tax. Democrats will have none of it until the issue of regressivity is resolved. Can there be some kind of means tested rebate?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Say it ain't so; Patriots decline Troy Brown's option

What more can you say? We love Troy Brown and would hate to see him go. But who will ever second guess Bill Belichick? When it comes to making personnel decisions, the man is simply on a roll.

Troy Brown, the longest-tenured player on the New England Patriots, may not return to the team in 2005.

ESPN is reporting that the Patriots have declined to pick up Brown’s contract option for
the 2005 season, making the receiver, returner and defensive back a free
agent.

The Patriots were seeking to restructure the deal to lessen the salary cap hit of $5.7 million for the upcoming season. Apparently, an agreement could not be reached.