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Friday, January 10, 2003


Diplomats are useful only in fair weather.
As soon as it rains, they drown in every drop.
--Charles De Gaulle

Thursday, January 09, 2003

trade--the positive side

Good point made by Orrin Judd in a post about the White House beginning negotiations for a Central American Free Trade Zone:
... One can't help but notice that the hysteria surrounding the steel tariffs has not been matched by similar coverage and kudos for the Administration's recent series of Free Trade victories. This is hardly surprising as regards the liberal mainstream media, but it's disappointing from the often self-congratulatory blogosphere (especially the libertarian wing), which seems reluctant to admit that it completely misjudged the President.
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What we are really after...

My friend Anthony Parisi (whom I shall henceforth refer to by his Nom de Cybernetique, Andrew, the Punning Pundit), wrote this:
...It is tough to think rationally about any group that would hate (or support) something no matter what. That is, the temptation to believe that the group in question doesn’t actually mean what they say...

For instance, conservatives have always hated public education. I do not trust them at all when the discussion is on education reform; the burden of proof is set higher because of it...
Now this is the sort of ludicrous bolshoi that gives Liberals a bad name. Conservatives are unhappy with public education not because it's public, but because in many places it is broken. It doesn't work right. Millions of young lives are being blighted and destroyed.

Why is it broken? Because the system is responsive mostly to legislators and bureaucrats. That's where the money and promotions come from. The desires of parents and students come last.

What conservatives would like is to make education responsive to parents. For instance, they always support proposals to let parents choose schools within the public system. That would in itself be a big improvement. Schools would have to do a good job or lose their students. A better solution would be school vouchers, which would allow parents to choose any school. But even that would not destroy public schools--it would force them to compete for students, which would force them to do a better job.

The arguments Liberals raise against vouchers are usually lying scare tactics. For instance, they claim that public schools would be left with only the least-able students. In truth the parents whose kids are doing poorly would be the ones most likely to be hunting for alternatives. And schools who needed to attract more students would be advertising their skills in dealing with learning disabilities or whatever.

As an example, one of our sons goes to a private school that specializes in having very small classes. They manage that partly by having very little administrative overhead. They attract students who need the extra attention. That's the kind of flexible response to student needs that is almost impossible in the massively-bureaucratic public systems.

And public schools are perfectly capable of performing well. Or rather, they are performing well now, but only in the field of bureaucratic empire-building and log-rolling. When they aim for other goals, they can achieve them. For instance, that same son is right now applying to a public high school, San Francisco's School of the Arts (SOTA). SOTA pursues excellence, (admission is by audition!) and parents are eager to get their kids in.

The truth is that Liberals adore public schools because, A: The damnable teachers unions are probably the biggest contributors to Democrats, and B: They hate the idea of ordinary people choosing anything. (Not all of them perhaps, but it seems to be a common theme.)
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Where the money comes from

I purloined this chart from Steve Verdon, it was part of a good Krugman shake-up...

% of Total
US Income
% of Total
Income Tax Paid

Top 1%$313,46920.81%37.42%
Top 5%$128,33635.30%56.47%
Top 10%$92,14446.01%67.33%
Top 25%$55,22567.15%84.01%
Top 50%$27,68287.01%96.09%

If you remember nothing else, be aware that when Democrats denounce "tax-cuts for the rich," "the rich" means almost everybody. The poor don't pay any Income Tax--the whole bottom 50% pays less than 4%.

And when Tom Daschle says that Bush's tax cuts are going to the "wrong people," he probably means you. You are the wrong. Unless you are standing in line for your Food Stamps.

And (since I'm in the mood) remember that Big Business is not owned by the rich. The majority of shares in US corporations are held by pension funds and mutual funds. Those blood-sucking corporations are owned by ordinary people...

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Odds and Ends, blog-bash ...

Life is just too busy right now. I can't say half as much as I'd like about even half the things that I would like to say something about ...

Now this is advertising: I found this ad for the new Macintosh Powerbooks just too too cool. And probably politically incorrect to boot. One of the fellows at last-night's blog-bash was Brian Tiemann, whose blog Peeve Farm has lots of interesting technical and Mac stuff (I took the link to the ad from him)

Blog-bash: Anthony mentioned hearing Joanne Jacobs talk about sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card. I don't know if he heard, but Bill Quick also told a story, one that moved me, about how he was about to give up his attempt to become a writer, after having a few stories published. Scott Card saw him at a convention, and told Bill that a story that Bill had written about an intelligent computer was the best he'd ever read of the type!

Charlene just hunted up our old Mortgage Payment book, to loan it to a friend who is hoping to buy a condo. Oooops, no good. It has mortgages from 8% to 24%! Remember those days...Jimmy Carter, we miss you not at all.
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Stephan Sharkansky has posted lots of pictures of a blogger's get-together last night. You can see me looking retarded, and Charlene looking cute.

I will now have to add some more names to my little blogroll. Which is not, by the way, a club you can join by mere vulgar merit. Only if you know the right people (me) will you be invited in from the cold...

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

good book

I've been enjoying the book Six Days in June: How Israel Won the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, by Eric Hammel. The war has been described as a David and Goliath affair, but might better be thought of as a war between people who think and people who don't.
The Sinai Campaign of 1956 was a turning point in the modern Israeli military experience. Beginning virtually the hour the guns went silent, the campaign was transmuted into a huge retrospective experiment whose results and ramifications were analyzed and debated over the next decade and beyond. By 1967, there was nothing about the Sinai Campaign that had not been scrutinized closely by Israel's professional officers and, likely, not one lesson that eluded the Israelis. Without Sinai in late 1956, there could have been no Six-Day War as it was waged in mid 1967...

..Zahal [Israel Defense Force, Zvah Haganah L'Yisrael ] planners gave short shrift to the things their forces had done right in Sinai and began a relentless pursuit of every error that their forces and soldiers had made, no matter how minuscule. Once discovered, the error in question was studied relentlessly from every angle. Then it was reassembled in some new and often quite unrecognizable form. It was as if the Israelis were bent upon intentionally overturning the past—the conventional wisdom—simply for the iconoclastic joy of doing so. They might as well have been, for, in the end, they reinvented combined-arms maneuver warfare...
I was especially moved by the Israeli soldiers fighting through the Old City in Jerusalem, to capture the Wailing Wall, the remnant of the Temple that is their most sacred spot. No Jew had been there since 1948. One soldier hurried to find a certain elderly rabbi who had vowed in 1948 not to leave his home until the wall was regained.
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P. Krugman
#71: Running short of a vital polemical ingrediant

Paul Krugman has a problem–he's running out of poor people. In An Irrelevant Proposal (01/07/03) he writes an essentially irrelevant column with the false thesis that the Bush tax proposals benefit only the rich. And that, of course, is his problem. There are a lot more people who fall into the "rich" category for tax purposes than Krugman apparently can imagine. Krugman likes to talk about the top 1%, and even the top 0.1%, but, in fact, a two income family with a total income of around $90,000 is probably in the top tax bracket now under current law. This is why you will never hear a Democrat define the dividing line between "rich" and "poor" with any precision. It would conflict with their class warfare propaganda. Over time the Democrats base of the "victimized poor" will erode even further.

So like we said, Krugman's running out of poor people.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Reasons why we shouldn't/couldn't/mustn't liberate Iraq; #187:

From a column by Arnold Ahlert in the NY Post. (via Andrea)
January 5, 2003 -- IT was probably an amazing coincidence, but twice in the past week when the argument was being made for a "hands off" policy regarding Saddam Hussein, I got the exact same answer to a question.

The question: Does it make any difference to you that Saddam Hussein has murdered more than 180,000 Iraqis? The answer both times: Well, they're his people, aren't they?...

...Were the Jews "Hitler's people"? This particular follow-up question elicited no response...