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Archive for October, 2003

The Children Deserve A World Series

October 25th, 2003 by olly

Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Miller, despite an initial attempt at bipartisanship, eventually makes an executive parenting decision. Best line:

Being reasonable people, we worked out a compromise. The family would root for the Orioles.

Does this kind of thing happen with the Ducks and the Beavers? Or is intermarriage still considered taboo in that case?

(Hat tip to Asymmetrical Information.)

Unfortunate Acroynm Department

October 25th, 2003 by olly

My beloved homeland’s government continues to grapple endearingly with the mysteries of the internet. This page is your one-stop resource for information on the battle against spam being waged by – who else? – the All Party Internet Group.

And since I am reading things while insufficiently caffeinated, I managed to read the line pointing to this page as “Click here for details of a pig’s trip to Washington DC.”

That is all.

On The Other Hand…

October 24th, 2003 by olly

…were it not for the NYT, I may never have seen this. I can’t decide whether it’s disturbingly cute, incredibly cute, or incredibly disturbing, but it has enriched my day nonetheless.

Every time I think I’ve witnessed the very opposite end of the spectrum from the Green Anarchy types, someone comes along to push the envelope a little further. Oppressive techno-fundamentalism? The soul-deadening anomie of a society dependent on the division of labor? (Meaning that, yes, things started to head down the tubes the moment that someone stayed at home to guard the camp while someone else went out to hunt dinner, but never mind.) I don’t think even these people could maintain their anti-civilization game face when confronted by the 800 MHz teddy bear. He’s adorable!

Revisionist History

October 24th, 2003 by Timothy

The NYT has a story about the Senate easing travel restrictions to a certain totalitarian cesspit that’s only 90 miles from Universal Studios Florida. Now, I don’t care much one way or the other about this. I’ve heard about equally persuasive things on either side of the Cuba issue…from theories that the restriction of trade and American money give Castro somebody to blame; to the position that we must look strong against him. So, I don’t have much to say about the actual Senate decision, but I think the lead from this story obviates that the NYT is still far from the leader in fair news:

In a firm rebuke to President Bush over Cuba policy, the Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to ease travel restrictions on Americans seeking to visit the island.

Firm rebuke to Bush eh? Our Cuba policy has been the same since their beloved John Kennedy for Pete’s Sake! This isn’t a rebuke to Bush or Bush policy, this represents a paradigm shift in the way US polciy makers think about Cuba. Thanks NYT, at least your bias is easy to spot these days.

The Art Of Public Relations (Easterbrook Edition)

October 21st, 2003 by olly

ESPN’s response to Eugene Volokh is… glib, to put it charitably.

Meanwhile, everyone over at Atrios has been just (overused word this week) charming. I was far from sorry myself when Rush Limbaugh got shitcanned, but I find it hard to understand anyone feeling that much of an animus towards Easterbrook. Perhaps they’re all impassioned advocates of blitzing on third and long, getting their own back after years of “Stop Me Before I Blitz Again” features?

UPDATE (10/24): Easterbrook comments at Football Outsiders. Future has potential to be rosy.

"You See What Happens, Larry? You See What Happens When You Feed A Stranger Scrambled Eggs?"

October 20th, 2003 by olly

This just in from the exciting world of basic cable: showing The Big Lebowski requires some fancy footwork to get around the standards and practices people.

Also, you can’t say “Johnson” on Comedy Central.

Why They Hate Us

October 19th, 2003 by Timothy

This Howard Kurtz piece in the Washington Post is an interesting exploration of “Bush Hatred.” I especially like this quote: York also notes that Sheldon Drobny, who is arranging financing for a liberal talk radio network, has alleged online that the president’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, did business with the Third Reich but that “as in any fascist regime, the press is prevented from publishing it.”

You know, if we lived in a fascism, you’d be dead already Ms. Drobny, think about that for a minute. Nixon and Clinton hatred were irrational, and so is hatred of the current President. I’m certainly no Clinton cheerleader, but he did pass Welfare Reform and NAFTA. If the left can’t bring themselves to admit that Bush has done a single good thing (they might like the Africa AIDS package, or the Medicare Drug Benefit or any number of big-government expenditures), they’ll be doomed to irrelevance.

October 18th, 2003 by Bret

Post hoc, ergo … ahh, fuck it (that’s my answer for everything). The NYT has a story on how State Dept pre-war planning was ignored by Rumsfeld and the admin. Check out this logic:

In the end, the American military and civilian officials who first entered Iraq prepared for several possible problems: numerous fires in the oil fields, a massive humanitarian crisis, widespread revenge attacks against former leaders of Mr. Hussein’s government and threats from Iraq’s neighbors. In fact, none of those problems occurred to any great degree.

Apparently being ready with massive food/water aid and teams to battle the fires that were started had nothing to do with the fact that those small problems weren’t catastrophes.

October 18th, 2003 by olly

For Some Reason I’m In The Office On A Saturday

Snarky recall wrap-up from Tim Cavanaugh of Reason, formerly of the much-lamented (at least by me) Suck.

Before Gray Davis’ body was cold, talk radio king Rush Limbaugh had taken to the air opining that Schwarzenegger’s win should not be seen as an endorsement of tolerant social positions—as sure a sign as any that it should absolutely be seen as an endorsement of tolerant social positions.

Heh. Now, if they could only find some pretext for hiring Ambrose Beers and Polly Esther. Oh, wait. Apparently there is a little bit of the Ambrose.

October 18th, 2003 by olly

Volokh Conspiracy Theory

Also sprach Jacob Levy’s college roommate:

I, along with many fans of Major League Baseball, was saddened yesterday when (shortly after midnight) Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association failed to resolve their differences and, for the second time in ten years, were forced to cancel the World Series. I had thought that, after 1994, baseball and its players would understand that such a drastic measure would drive fans away and would be difficult to recover from. Still, the unthinkable has happened again and there will be no World Series this year.

That’s my position, and I’m sticking with it.

October 17th, 2003 by Bret

Good Lord

I haven’t posted much lately, but today’s ODE is so monumentally bad that it can’t be ignored.

First, the editorial editor writes a column in which he sort of backs up the OC’s fight last year over the University’s O logo, but then goes on to completely misapply those principles to the guy selling “Oh Girls” calendars. Unfortunately, the writer completely fails to make the necessary distinction between political speech (as was at issue for student groups) and commercial speech (which is what the entrepreneur in question was doing, besides showing off the T&A of girls too stupid to even charge for their pictures). Not understanding trademark law or free speech makes it tough to write a column on the nexus of the two.

Also of note is ex-OCer Lucas Szabo, who absurdly suggests that concerns over Saferide are unfounded because they’re based on “fairness.” His argument for practicality would be so much more persuasive if the small amounts going to Saferide and the Women’s Center weren’t dwarfed by Title IX money flushed down the toilet so 14 fans can watch women push a pumpkin before sinking a really exciting layup.

October 16th, 2003 by Timothy

The Dr. Is…

Obviously clueless. Poor Dr. Bechard, he’s ventured into territory he obviously doesn’t understand. His column is mostly about corporate taxes and some taxation policy. Now, as one fairly educated on the subject I can say that he’s entirely wrong. Competition for FDI happens on the tax front, and it’s easy to note that places with lower corporate taxes have more FDI (most of that data can be found in a 1996 book by Graham & Krugman). Why do corporations use tax havens?

Because corporate taxes in the United States are incredibly high. Dr. Bechard uses the disingenuous technique of quoting corporate income taxes as a percent of GDP. Now, I understand why one might do this, in order to get a feel for how the rate compares to the rate in other nations, scaled to the same unit. However, when comparing corporate tax rates, we must look at the actual rate that companies must pay because that is what they will be using in their decision about whether or not to attempt evasion.

For instance the OECD (one of Bechard’s own sources) has this handy table of corporate tax rates. Look at the second column from the right. Notice that 45.2%? Yeah, that’s the income tax that corporations face in the most populous region which has a rate in addition to the federal rate. 45.2% including all federal and local taxation on corporate profits. Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick. My guess is that’s for businesses in NY. My point is, that unlike Dr. Bechard’s claim, the US has the highest corporate taxation in the world. Even if you just look at the federal taxation rates [less any double-payment deductions] corporations in the US pay 29.5%. That’s a pretty middle of the road number for corporate taxation rates, but it still gives a pretty big incentive to move profits around using transfer pricing, or to incorporate in Switzerland.

I’ll spare you taking the time to deal with his theories about outsourcing, or taxation being “a necessary and important aspect of social responsibility.” Except to say that I’ll agree that there do need to be some taxes, but I’m not sure there is such a thing as “social responsibility.” Oh, and Joe, please remember that taking Econ 201 does not an Economist make. Crimony.

UPDATE: Testify Brother. From The Lead:

Ever wonder why all the doom-and-gloom economic pronouncements you hear in the media, and from liberal politicians, don’t square up with the America you see around you — an America in which the economy has turned the corner and is growing again? The answer is that most of what you hear about economics is a lie, usually papered over with impressive-sounding jargon and statistics designed to intimidate you.

UPDATE II: Comments Not Working On This Computer.

In response to Erin in Comments: Yes, there is a wealth gap. But, the uncited assertion that “most of the economic growth in America is helping the already well off; since the 70s, the gap between teh [sic] upper and lower classes has increased dramatically…” is not particularly persuasive. I can say that the poverty line in America is about $18,000 of gross income per year for an individual. I can also say that there is nothing in microeconomic literature that justifies the amount of weight given to the poverty line by many policy makers and normative economists. That’s from a 1988 paper by Lewis and Ulph. In any case, this is the classic debate that’s raged since the first capitalism took hold in the 15th century…capitalism makes everyone better off (compared with socialism, or feudalism, &c.) but some people are still better off than others. Expansion of the aggregate economy benefits those at all levels of the income spectrum. That’s just a basic multiplier effect, Econ 202 sort of stuff. The question is whether or not inequality matters, my answer is no for a very simple reason: taking money from one person and giving it to another is not pareto efficient, and will cause harm to the economy as a whole. I’m more worried about the efficiency issues and problems related to those in microeconomics than I am about the value judgements associated with the normative literature. You might check out Econ 440 taught by Peter J. Lambert if you’re interested in inequality issues. He’s a normative guy, big on the whole Robin Hood thing.

October 15th, 2003 by olly

Campaign Slogans That Probably Won’t Work, #1: “People Are Idiots”

Since I’m always the one who takes exception to the National Review yammering on about elitist liberals, I guess it behooves me to post this.

It’s been doing the rounds a bit, and as is the way with discussion boards that suddenly get linked to by the Wall Street Journal, it begins to exhibit a fascinating level of self-awareness about halfway down the response list, but the initial post stands as a truly horrifying instance of Jane’s Law, which sounds more and more plausible as time goes on.

Most of the responses that spring to mind (that’s unbelievably arrogant, that’s blatantly classist, that’s dumb as a frickin’ stone) have already been addressed by other posters, most eloquently in replies 90 and 189. Still, for God’s sake, people.

On the other hand, of course, let us not forget the charming Free Republic. A plague on both your houses.

October 13th, 2003 by Timothy

When Economists Advise…

This little number from the Financial times is pretty great. I must say that I like the real-option approach, but am not quite sure I agree with the conclusion. Any time you wait for more information, you inherently take a risk. I’m not sure that the writer took this into account.

October 13th, 2003 by olly

Consequences Of Failure In Taste-Based Accounting Include Terrorism, Columbine

The normally sane & rational Gregg Easterbrook goes off the deep end on the subject of Kill Bill. The gist: he doesn’t like Quentin Tarantino, the ontological fact of Quentin Tarantino is itself a sinister Hollywood conspiracy, and – a coup de grace I’m always tickled to see – violent films are contributing to a rise in terrorism. Yikes! (He even strays perilously close to Godwin’s Law in the concluding paragraph. [But Godwin’s Law doesn’t apply to blogs! -ed.] Hmph. If it’s ever amended, there’d better be a clause about ripping off Mickey Kaus.)

If he (Easterbrook) can get all this kind of thing out of his system in blog form and still produce the excellent TMQ, it’ll be well worth it. Still, a bit of a shocker from the man with the mysterious double G.

UPDATE (10/17): Backblog is in the process of not working, damn them, so I’ll chime in here. This should be comment #6 below:

My reference to Godwin’s Law above was about the assertion that Jews should be especially opposed to violence in films because of, you know, the Holocaust. It’s an absurd thing to say, although no more absurd than the rest of the piece. Not to say Easterbrook has to like the film, but he does seem to be going over the top a tiny bit. (A tangent: there’s a chapter in – drumroll, please – Jon Ronson’s Them which discusses the ironic founding of so-called “Jewish Hollywood” on the profits from such films as the feelgood Klan extravaganza Birth Of A Nation. I have now demonstrated my ability to bring Jon Ronson’s Them into virtually any discussion on virtually any subject. You’re welcome.)

Actually, the criticism of Tarantino that I’ve never understood is that he doesn’t do characters, or that his films are “pure junk” (Easterbrook) or “about nothing but degradation” (Lileks) – a criticism I would have levelled at the interminable Requiem For A Dream long before Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown or… well, OK, I’ll give you Kill Bill, whose greatest fault is that it genuinely doesn’t have any characters. I thought the scene Lileks disliked so much, where the girl watches Thurman kill her mother, was one of the best in the movie (the others featured Sonny Chiba) precisely because it was the only time Thurman’s killing spree was presented as something awful. It made me uncomfortable, in the way that these things should. The rest is just ballet. And like the man says, some people don’t like dance sequences in movies.

MORE UPDATE (10/18): Goddammit. Now Easterbrook has apparently been fired by ESPN. This is annoying.