And now for some good news
UPDATE: more detailed info here.
"If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders."
UPDATE: more detailed info here.
Peter Robinson: One other question. Be honest. Ten years from now, will Afghanistan and Iraq be functioning as democracies....Larry?This is what he said to the San Francisco Chronicle this week (via Dan Drezner):
Larry Diamond: Afghanistan, I'm very skeptical about because I don't think we're willing to make the commitment. Iraq, I think--I will be pleased if it's functioning in the most minimal sense, Peter, because that would be a historic breakthrough. I think they've got a decent chance...
Peter Robinson: You do?
Larry Diamond: ...if we're committed.
The story of Iraq, this onetime optimist believes, is a tale of missed opportunities.Sad, very sad.
"We just bungled this so badly," said Diamond, a 52-year-old senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. "We just weren't honest with ourselves or with the American people about what was going to be needed to secure the country."
"You can't develop democracy without security," he said. "In Iraq, it's really a security nightmare that did not have to be. If you don't get that right, nothing else is possible. Everything else is connected to that...."
Last Thursday, when it came time for Diamond to return, he did not get on the plane.
Instead, he was in his office at the Hoover Tower, disillusioned over the desperate turn of events he had witnessed and what he feels was a country allowed to spin out of control, in large part, he says, because of the Bush administration's unwillingness to commit a big enough force to protect Iraqis from militias and insurgents.
The Commission received an informal complaint that Station WXDJ(FM) broadcast a telephone conversation between radio personalities Joe Ferrero and Enrique Santos of WXDJ and President Fidel Castro of the Republic of Cuba and four officials of the Cuban government. According to the complaint, and a recording of the broadcast available on WXDJ(FM)’s website, Mr. Santos and Mr. Ferrero pretended to be President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and a high-ranking Venezuelan government official, and telephoned the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations, requesting to speak to President Castro. Each Cuban official was informed that President Chavez was on the line waiting to speak to President Castro on an urgent matter and each official transferred the caller to another official closer to the intended recipient until President Castro answered the phone. When Mr. Castro answered the phone, Mr. Ferrero informed him that President Chavez was on the line and wished to speak to him concerning the loss of some sensitive material. Moments later, Mr. Ferrero revealed the ruse to Mr. Castro and identified himself and Mr. Santos as employees of Station WXDJ(FM).They then called Castro an assassin, and the conversation broke down pretty fast.
After reading the article, I remain concerned about the idea of detaining a US citizen in this way. I can see where something like this might be necessary for national security, but I hope the courts impose oversight requirements of some kind. Especially since the "wartime" used to justify such detentions is likely to go on indefinitely.
WASHINGTON, April 22 — The Bush administration's plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, administration officials said Thursday.
I was quite surprised to see that the word "piss" made the list. I think that's the only one of the profane words that is used in the Bible.
I'm not sure how accurate these reports are. But I'm very surprised to see a defense of these laws from law professor Brian Leiter. I don't know a lot about Brian Leiter, but he's apparently "the youngest chairholder in the history of the law school at Texas," as well as being a prominent law-blogger. His defense of these laws is basically that he considers them to be "civilized." David Bernstein offers a detailed rebuttal over at the Volokh conspiracy, which is worth reading. I'm shocked and appalled that a respected legal theorist at a top law school would defend these laws, especially with such a dismissive argument. I just hope the first amendment can stand up to a nation of lawyers trained by people like Leiter.
One surprising and ridiculous part of Leiter's rant that goes unmentioned by Bernstein is this quote:
It's also true that if you're skeptical about U.S. motives in Iraq (and elsewhere) and think the invasion was on a par, morally, with the Soviet invasion of Aghanistan [sic]; if you believe nationalized health care is preferable to a system which caters to the needs of the insurance industry; if you think redistributive taxation is a requirement of justice; if, in short, you dissent from the neoliberal paradigm and chauvinist nationalism that dominate the public sphere in the United States, you will have far more freedom of speech in Canada: for example, your views might be expressible outside your living room, perhaps, say, in major newspapers, or even on television.Perhaps Leiter is being a bit facetious here, but I can't imagine what he's talking about. People say those things in the media all the time. And this is a guy who spends his days at a law school, where I'm sure it's more risky to disagree with any of the propositions he lists than it is to promote them. Talk about a persecution complex.
What isn't so easy to understand is why the Bush administration and Congress aren't falling all over themselves to give the IRS more money. Tax enforcement pays for itself many times over, and it would seem to be a good way to cut the deficit.....This is a little worrisome...toleranceance for cheating can spread like a virus. I hope the politicians don't let the voters' general dislike for the IRS turn the U.S. into Italy.
So what does this mean for you as a taxpayer? Well, you've got four choices:
- Pay more taxes to make up for the cheats.
- Settle for less service from the government.
- Become a cheat yourself (I don't recommend it).
- Start screaming to your representatives in Congress that you want the tax laws enforced.
Nauru's rich reserves of phosphates - an ingredient for high-grade fertiliser - created enormous wealth during the 1970s and 1980s.This all sounds like a cautionary fable right out of Dr. Seuss, but I'm not sure what the practical moral is. Obviously it's dangerous to have an economy built on a single natural resource, (or even a man-made resource, like legal gambling on an Indian reservation.) Some Naruans apparently realized this, too, but it's not an easy problem to fix:
The island's 10,000 inhabitants enjoyed one of the world's highest standards of living, as well as exemption from tax and immigrant labour to perform all menial jobs.
But once the phosphates started to run out, Nauru's finances collapsed - and it has emerged that much of the money salted away in investments has been either lost or stolen.
Infrastructure has collapsed, and payment problems have frequently led to the island being cut off from supplies, including fresh food.
And unpaid bills mean that Nauruans, among the unhealthiest people in the world after decades of prosperous idleness, are no longer able to fly to Australia for subsidised medical care.
The island has made strenuous attempts to diversify its economy. A major shift into offshore financial services during the 1990s seemed promising, but has resulted in Nauru becoming a major haven for organised-crime financing - and being blacklisted for money laundering by both the US Government and international bodiesHere's another page with some pictures of Nauru. (Via Crescat Sententia)
"At one point in time it was no big deal for most people, but in recent years we had found more and more resistance from people wanting to give that kind of information," said Charles Hodges, a spokesman for the chain. Eventually, Radio Shack found that the quality of the information it was gathering was going down. A customer might say his name was Joe Smith and lived at 123 Main Street, for example.It's not so much that I resent the privacy implications of giving my phone number, it's just that I don't want to be bothered. I don't really have a problem with using my "club card" at the grocery store, but I don't feel any obligation to keep the information up to date either.
When the company stopped gathering phone numbers, Hodges said, "we got nothing but praise from our customers and our sales associates, because they're the ones who took the heat."
I had a friend who registered his club card using an implausible name, something like "Trung Nguyen." I suspect he didn't like the idea of giving out private information, but he didn't want to be deceitful either, and he probably saw it as a form of civil disobedience. Bemused checkers would look at my friend, (who looks more like Woody Allen than Ho Chi Minh), and say "have a good day Mr....," followed by some attempt at pronouncing "Nguyen."
Let us go then, to the john,Can you guess who wrote the poems "Skinny Domicile" and "I Will Alarm Islamic Owls?"
Where the toilet seat waits to be sat upon
Like a lover's lap perched upon ceramic;
Let us go, through doors that do not always lock,
Which means you ought to knock
Lest opening one reveal a soul within
Who'll shout, "Stay out! Did you not see my shin,
Framed within the gap twixt floor and stall?"
No, I did not see that at all.
That is not what I saw, at all.
To the stall the people come to go,
Reading an obscene graffito.
We have lingered in the chamber labeled "Men"
Till attendants proffer aftershave and mints
As we lather up our hands with soap, and rinse.
The federal government is projected to spend $21,671 per household in 2004...$3,500 more than in 2001. Tax revenues will reach $16,981 per household through a combination of the income tax, payroll tax, gas tax, estate tax and assorted business taxes typically passed on through higher prices and smaller investment returns. The remaining $4,690 represents the deficit per household, which will be dumped in the laps of our children.
Read the whole thing for more details.
Fortunately, these sacrifices are worth making, since our president has given clear and realistic explanations about why we went into Iraq and what we will accomplish there. </sarcasm>
This site discusses the origin of the English expression "cloud nine." Apparently it's been around since the 1930s, although it took some time to settle on the number "nine."
Perhaps "Wolke sieben" is not far from "seventh heaven." According to someone here (in German), the Koran also speaks of a seventh heaven. So don't go there unless you enjoy cultural diversity.
Last week, I took my AP Government students to the computer lab to let them play around with a federal budget simulator to see if they could balance the budget. It was fun to see how a bunch of teenagers, most of them 15 or 16 years old, would balance the budget. They were ruthless. The liberal kids happily cut away at military spending, NASA, and foreign aid. They were then dismayed to find that they hadn't cut very much of the deficit. The conservative kids whittled away at social welfare and increased the tax cuts. They too were unable to make substantial headway on the deficit. However, the cut that both the liberals and conservatives agreed on was whacking away at Social Security and Medicare. Cries of "throw Granny off welfare" and "buy your own drugs" were heard. They were ruthless. Some of them reduced Social Security down to zero, cackling cheerfully all the while.I think young people, if anything, tend to be too cynical about social security. The fact is, the system could be made sustainable with relatively minor adjustments. (Medicare is a much bigger problem). Unfortunately this cynicism often becomes apathy, and Ms. Newmark is probably right that the young won't be challenging AARP anytime soon.
My conclusion is that, if younger voters had more pull in Congress, we could get some serious reform of Social Security and Medicare accomplished. Unfortunately, they'll never equal the strength of AARP.
If I could do one simple thing to combat apathy about these programs it would be this: I would require that the entire social security and Medicaid taxes appear on paychecks. As it stands, we only show the "employee share," while the equally large "employer share" may go unnoticed by the average person. I think most people really believe the fiction that the employer is "paying" the employer share. Of course, he is no more paying the "employer share" than he is paying the "employee share;" in fact, he probably writes a single check to the government for both amounts. Who is really paying is a question of tax incidence, and economic theory suggests it probably falls mostly on the employee. The only change I'm proposing is that we add the "employer share" back onto the employee's pay, and then show it being deducted away in taxes. I bet this would get some reform juices flowing. (I'm sure the self-employed are on board already.)
Does that mean that people in 800 A.D. lived better than people in 1700?One thing I've always wondered: if these small, primitive communities were eating so well and had so little disease, how did they keep their populations down? Did they practice some sort of birth control or infanticide? Or were their young just more likely to die young in accidents or violence? How and why did the population of Europe explode starting in the 1700s if the average person was so much less well off then?
On average, it looks like Northern Europeans did live better in 800 than in 1700. They lived in smaller communities, so they were less prone to disease. They often ate better, because they were growing or hunting their own food. Early cities in the seventeen-hundreds, on the other hand, were crowded, with open sewers, and food often spoiled or was less than fresh.
I've been wondering these things for years...does anybody out there have any insight?
A less-noticed trend is the sharp rise in the number of people behind bars in the USA, now over 2 million (!!!!). Perhaps this was necessary to bring about the decline in crime discussed above, but I still feel somehow we should be more cognizant of the human cost of locking all those people up. (By the way, drug offenders make up a significant portion of this increase, but not the majority of it.) Many of these prisoners become victims of violence by other prisoners, including rape, a problem that is usually the subject of jokes rather than the serious attention it deserves.
This interview gives Molly Ivins' opinion on the subject. She's from Texas and has been aquainted with GWB since they were both in high school. I usually don't much like Molly Ivins, but her analysis here rings true to me. An excerpt:
BUZZFLASH: Jim Moore, in his book "Bush's Brain," argues that, yes, obviously there is a real terrorist threat to this country. But the war was fashioned with a political objective in mind.
IVINS: Yes, the origins of the war seem ever more obscure. I mean, the more you try to get to exactly why we were driven into this thing, the more confusing it becomes. But again, I think, you know -– look, Bush was hit with September 11th. That changed everything. That reverses policies, and got him into things he never thought he'd be doing, like nation-building. He actually turned around and became a multi-lateralist for a period of about five months, until we had won in Afghanistan. And then he went back to the previous unilateralist approach that's really irking me alive.
I think it's much too easy to say it's all political calculations. It seems to me that what you have is a group of people who are reinforcing one another's prejudices and not accepting information from outside their inner loop. And they would be the obvious suspects, including Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et cetera, et cetera. And of all of them, I suspect that Cheney has the most influence. Of course, I say that simply because Bush's pattern has been to adopt an older male mentor as he enters each new field. He had an older mentor in baseball, and he had an older mentor in Texas politics.
And it seems to me that Cheney is the guy who he listens to. But I do –- I think all of them form a tight, self-reinforcing circle. And they're committing the ultimate political folly, which is not listening to people who don't agree with them. I think they equate dissension with disloyalty. And with the Bushes, both father and son, loyalty has always been considered THE primary virtue.
BUZZFLASH: Switching gears a bit, is the caricature of Bush as sort of an airhead an accurate one?
IVINS: No. I think I've said this several thousand times in my life. George W. Bush is not stupid, and he's not mean. You know, it is possible to really independently disagree with a politician's policies without personally hating him. You know, grownups can do that. [laugh] It's feasible, believe me.
You don't have to turn into, you know, the liberal equivalent of the Clinton hater in order to think that this guy's just completely screwing up the country. No, he's not stupid. He is very limited, however.
It's not stupidity as much as ignorance, and his inability and unwillingness to learn. He's not very curious. And it's not a first-rate mind. I mean, you get him to a certain point in a discussion, and if you ever hear him talk about "my instinct" or "my gut tells me," then you know we're in trouble. Then you know we have left the realm of facts and logic and where we're going is something else altogether.
One small and simple change that could help (slightly) fix the balance of power would be to base the draft order only on won-loss record, with no reference to playoff position. As it stands now, there will likely be 5 playoff teams in the east that will draft after the 9th and 10th teams in the west, despite having worse records.
UPDATE: The east lost their final two games against the west. Final talley: 154-266, for a .3667 winning percentage.
Blake pointed out another interesting contest where you put in a probability of each team winning for each game, and points are computed according to a non-linear scoring function. I'm not sure where they got the scoring function (it's not a log). They make the dubious and unsupported claim that their function makes it optimal to select the "true" probabilities, a claim which is bound to rankle those with some knowledge of decision theory. But it still looks like a fun idea...maybe next year.
UPDATE: UConn won, and so did I! I even got pretty close on predicting the final score (I predicted 80-70, the final score was 82-73).
I have long wondered about this, too. As a fan of Western Civilization, I'll admit to being un-PC enough to feel some apprehension and regret about this prospect.
Sometimes I think that western culture's overwhelming advantage in producing economic and technological growth will carry the day. But other times I think that demographics are inevitably leading to a major decline in western values. A major question, I suppose, is how much the natives and immigrants are able to assimilate together into sharing a common culture.
Anyway, I didn't much like it. It's a very idealistic play about the wisdom of the common man, and all men are brothers, and that kind of thing. The characters are mostly a bunch of quirky and colorful working-class types, who dispense their down-to-earth insights with groan-inducing lines like "It takes a lot of rehearsing for a man to get to be himself." It seemed like it was an attempt to be unpretentious that instead comes out even more pretentious. Of course, this all might have seemed very fresh back in 1939 when the play was written.
But that's just grouchy old me...my companions all seemed to like it pretty well. And it was nice to get out of the house.
Compensation experts say that many managers, whether at discount stores or fast-food restaurants, fear losing their jobs if they fail to keep costs down. .... Another reason managers shave time, experts say, is that an increasing part of their compensation comes in bonuses based on minimizing costs or maximizing profits. "The pressures are just unbelievable to control costs and improve productivity," said George Milkovich, a longtime Cornell University professor of industrial relations and co-author of the leading textbook on compensation. "All this manipulation of payroll may be the unintended consequence of increasing the emphasis on bonuses."Giving managers incentives may be a good idea in general, but if you increase the power of incentives, you'd better also increase the safeguards against cheating. (Another place we should worry about this is with high stakes testing in schools, where teachers and principals can cheat when administering standardized tests.) Instead, it appears the safeguards have sometimes gotten smaller:
In the punch-card era, managers would have had to conspire with payroll clerks or accountants to manipulate records. But now it is far easier for individual managers to accomplish this secretly with computers, payroll experts say. .... Employees at Wal-Mart and other companies complain that they receive no paper time records, making it hard to challenge management when their paychecks are inexplicably low. Ms. Danner, the former Family Dollar manager, praised the system at the McDonald's restaurant she managed for seven years. At day's end, she said, employees received a printout detailing total hours worked and when they clocked in and out. "We never had any problems like this at McDonald's," she said.Interesting that McDonald's, every liberal's favorite example of a crummy job, is the one doing this right. (Of course, Wal-Mart is every liberal's other example of a crummy job.)
Personally, I think we already have a liberal radio network--it's called NPR, and it's excellent.