Saturday, May 24, 2008
It's a group of a dozen bloggers who, every week, submit their best piece of writing to the rest of the council. They use a complicated Watcher of Weasels-like percentage vote on who did the best job, and the winner gets lots of links and web traffic to whatever he/she wrote.
They also nominate one blog post apiece written by someone from the outside.
Wolf Howling, who has been in the blogroll to your right from day one, took a liking to this thing I wrote about Blog for Human Rights Day. Mr. Howling threw it in the ring for consideration by the Watchers Council.
These people, out of all the stuff blogged about last week, out of all the millions and millions of worthwhile blog entries out there....they decided that my Human Rights Day thing was the best. So now I'm getting traffic from here and here and here and here and here and here and here and about eight other places.
If I were a Democrat, I'd say that I'm humbled by the recognition.
But that's a total misuse of the word "humbled", isn't it? If people throw rotten vegetables and eggs and dead animals at you, and then say you're a total idiot, then you're humbled. How did we ever start using the word "humble" incorrectly? Any time someone gets an award or recognition, they say they're humbled. In my opinion, when you don't get an award, or win the game, or finish the marathon....you're humbled.
Instead of saying "I'm humbled", I should say that I'm pretty dang proud to get some recognition from The Watchers Council.
In the name of LinkLove, here are my picks for the best things written by the Watcher's Council:
The Education Wonks have an interesting post on the recent gang warfare in the Los Angeles Public School System. Read this, and tell me if any parents in their right minds would consider sending their kid to these schools. One thing that would've been an interesting side note.... No real teaching is going on in these places, since they're Gladiator/Gangsta Training Academies, and students risk their lives by showing up. So what's the biggest news in education from California these days? The teachers union is lobbying the state to outlaw home schooling. The mind recoils.
The Glittering Eye is running a series of editorials that Gittering Eye's father wrote for The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. The first one, Adolph The Great, is about students at Yale (and Time magazine) nominating Hitler as "Man of The Year" due to his turnaround of Germany's economy. There are several other pieces by his father in there - just keep hitting the "father's editorial" links.
Rhymes With Right takes one of my least favorite politicians to the metaphorical woodshed. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin recently claimed that John McCain's family having four generations of military service somehow makes McCain unfit for Presidential leadership. Mr. Rhymes With Right has some harsh words for Senator Harkin, and says he should be ashamed of himself. I agree, but for totally different reasons.
Tom Harkin, the senator from Archer Daniels Midland, should be ashamed of himself because he's a whore for the ethanol industry. A worn out, pimped out, used up, totally bedraggled slut. John McCain has proven that he can take care of himself.
Done With Mirrors takes a look at the problem we Christians know as "theodicy". Prompted by the historical and theological explorations of Reverend John Hagee, Done With Mirrors asks, as an outsider, how can monotheists reconcile the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful God with some of the totalitarian outrages of the previous century. (The short answer: We can't.)
Joshuapundit specializes in deep lengthy posts about the Middle East, almost all of which are worthwhile. But I've got to give you a link to this YouTube parody of an academic sensitivity training session. Funny stuff.
SoccerDad is another blogger who focuses on Jewish issues, Israel, and the Middle East. He's got so much interesting stuff in there that my head hurts. I look forward reading all these people in the future. If I have to settle on just one post to highlight, it would be "What Makes A Pro-Israel President?"
The Colossus Of Rhodey has some commentary on a Mark Steyn piece about John McCain vs. The Democratic Party . Senator Tom Harkin, who is shaping up nicely as the villain of this post, also comes in for some well-deserved abuse. But not nearly enough.
Bookworm Room liked the new Indiana Jones movie even less than I did. She's correct when she states that Cate Blanchett looks fabulous. She's mistaken when she states that (the fight scenes were) "like a Rock ‘em Sock ‘em robot, only the heads stayed attached at the end," because Cate Blanchett's head doesn't. But that's trivial. The movie was not good.
BWRoom also has a link where like-minded commenters can recommend their favorite books.
Cheat Seeking Missiles has a discourse on the lowered height requirement in the North Korean Army. (It's now 4'3". That's four feet, three inches tall.) Cheat Seeking Missiles believes this is due to systemic malnutrition in the Socialist Paradise of North Korea.
Well, there's a perfect control group of people with identical ethnicity in the Raging Capitalist Hellhole of South Korea. I wonder how the two nations compare? Can someone let me know if the South Korean military has to admit 4'3" recruits? I think not.
Wolf Howling, who was good enough to get me into all this, has a post on Oil, Gas, Supply & Demand. He talks about the belief that supply and demand have nothing to do with cost and price. He's also the 3rd or 4th one of these folks to post the YouTube video of Rep. Maxine Waters threatening to nationalize the oil companies.
As a small "l" libertarian, I think Maxine Waters' statements are mildly comical. (Imagine what The U.S. Postal Service could do for UPS. Imagine what a V.A. hospital could do for Harris Methodist hospital in Fort Worth. Imagine what the Department of Motor Vehicles could do for Toyota.) The Watchers Council apparently thinks this video is knee-slapping, rolling in the floor laughing, blow-your -drink-through-your-nose funny.
If you can imagine Maxine Waters and her minions taking over an oil company....yeah, it's pretty funny.
Also, while you're in there, check out the various wolf pictures above each blogroll category. The first time I saw the one he picked for "The Left", I laughed for hours.
Hillbilly White Trash has some marketing advice for the Republican party in "Rebranding The G.O.P." One explanation that may be needed for those with other belief systems....RINO stands for "Republican In Name Only".
The Hillbilly has the largest blogroll I've ever seen. He also did 2,200 posts in 2007. The Hillbilly is committed to his cause.
In his leisure time, he runs something called The Hillbilly Ecosystem. (Go ahead and click the link.... it's a blog traffic ranking system using redneck stereotypes as the hierarchy categories.) By one of his standards - blogrolls - I'm a Heavily Armed Moonshiner. By another - hits and comments - I'm a Heavily Armed Saloon Keeper.
Perhaps if all these good folks keep sending traffic my direction, I'll achieve a solid "Heavily Armed Saloon Keeper" status by the end of summer.
The Free-Trade Paradox
by James Surowiecki May 26, 2008
Mr. Surowiecki has written some excellent stuff in the past, my favorite being "The Wisdom of Crowds", a book about majority opinions, elections, betting lines, and how something as goofy as Wikipedia can grow to be more helpful than an encyclopedia.
I agree with what he's written here, for the most part. This posting will be a sort of anti-Fisking. What I hope to do here is draw attention to how gently, calmly, and lovingly Surowiecki takes his almost exclusively Democratic Partly Loyalist audience by the hand and tries to lead them to the conclusion that The Sky Is Blue and Grass Is Green.
All the acrimony in the primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has disguised the fact that on most issues they’re not too far apart.
Actually, the acrimony hasn't disguised anything. Take the names off their websites, and 95% of us couldn't tell which is which.
That’s especially the case when it comes to free trade, which both Obama and Clinton have lambasted over the past few months. At times, the campaign has looked like a contest over who hates free trade more: Obama has argued that free-trade agreements like NAFTA are bought and paid for by special interests, while Clinton has emphasized the need to “stand up” to countries like China.
The Clintons' position of "standing up" to China is like Neiman-Marcus "standing up" to Dollar General for providing products at a lower cost.
Two weeks ago, both senators signed on as sponsors of a new bill that would effectively impose higher tariffs on China if it doesn’t revalue its currency.
YEAH ! That will show....us. Put a tariff on their stuff so we'll have to pay....more. With friends like Hillary, who needs....Obama.
The candidates are trying to win the favor of unions and blue-collar voters in states like Ohio and West Virginia, of course, but their positions also reflect a widespread belief that free trade with developing countries, and with China in particular, is a kind of scam perpetrated by the wealthy, who reap the benefits while ordinary Americans bear the cost.
Actually, with these trade agreements running into the thousands of pages, we don't have true Free Trade with anyone outside our borders. But more trade is better than less.
It’s an understandable view: how, after all, can it be a good thing for American workers to have to compete with people who get paid seventy cents an hour?
How can it be a good thing for everyone who reaps the benefits of lower costs on anything? How can it be good for American oil companies who can only produce oil at $130 a barrel to compete with companies who can bring it in for $90? I believe if confronted with that situation we would all collectively say "Screw the American oil companies". And their employees and their household pets. The benefits for everyone would be big enough to counteract the harm done to someone. It's that simple. But unions are somehow seen as more wholesome....
As it happens, the negative effect of trade on American wages isn’t that easy to document.
Hmmm....wonder why. Could it be that the individual negatives are totally blown away by the group positives? Please remember, Mr. Surowiecki is trying to teach Democrats why their beloved Government Economic Control does more harm than good. Be patient. A master is at work here....
The economist Paul Krugman, for instance, believes that the effect is significant, though in a recent academic paper he concluded that it was impossible to quantify.
I've now read enough Paul Krugman to believe that he couldn't quantify two-for-one pricing at The Dollar Store. Nope, says Dr. Krugman. You can't quantify it, but I know it's bad.
But it’s safe to say that the main burden of trade-related job losses and wage declines has fallen on middle- and lower-income Americans. So standing up to China seems like a logical way to help ordinary Americans do better. But there’s a problem with this approach: the very people who suffer most from free trade are often, paradoxically, among its biggest beneficiaries.
Notice Reverend Surowiecki's continued use of the word "paradox", both in the previous sentence, and in the title of this sermon/essay. He's saying that Free Trade's benefits defy intuition, much like the idea of a round earth defies intuition. Saying it's a "paradox" doesn't imply that the Free Trade skeptics are dumb. It merely suggests that the skeptics don't know what everyone else has clued in on since 1936.
The reason for this is simple: free trade with poorer countries has a huge positive impact on the buying power of middle- and lower-income consumers—a much bigger impact than it does on the buying power of wealthier consumers. The less you make, the bigger the percentage of your spending that goes to manufactured goods—clothes, shoes, and the like—whose prices are often directly affected by free trade. The wealthier you are, the more you tend to spend on services—education, leisure, and so on—that are less subject to competition from abroad.
Wal-Mart denim jeans are subject to the benefits of Free Trade. Houses in The Hamptons, tickets to The Met, and subscriptions to "The New Yorker" are not.
In a recent paper on the effect of trade with China, the University of Chicago economists Christian Broda and John Romalis estimate that poor Americans devote around forty per cent more of their spending to “non-durable goods” than rich Americans do. That means that lower-income Americans get a much bigger benefit from the lower prices that trade with China has brought.
Surowieckie has now removed his Clue Stick from its scabbard, but he has not yet struck anyone about the head and shoulders....he takes a few practice swings....
Then, too, the specific products that middle- and lower-income Americans buy are much more likely to originate in places like China than the products that wealthier Americans buy.
He is now raising the Clue Stick above his head....
Despite a huge increase in imports from China—they sextupled as a percentage of U.S. imports between 1990 and 2006—Chinese products are still concentrated mostly in lower-price markets. (By some estimates, Wal-Mart alone has accounted for nearly a tenth of all imports from China in recent years.)
Using perfect form, Surowieckie swings towards the addle-pated noggins of his audience with all his might ! ! !
By contrast, much of what wealthier Americans buy is made in the U.S. or in high-wage countries like Germany and Switzerland.
The Clue Stick makes contact ! ! ! And now, the follow-through....
This is obvious when it comes to luxury goods—Louis Vuitton bags, Patek Philippe watches, and so on—but it’s also true of many other goods, like electronics, kitchen appliances, and furniture, categories in which American and European manufacturers have continued to thrive by selling to the high-end market. According to the Yale economist Peter K. Schott, machinery and electronics products made in developed countries sell in the U.S. for four times the average price of Chinese products. And, since the late nineteen-eighties, that price gap has widened by almost forty per cent.
But, but, but....Hillary said all this was bad ! ! ! How can this be ? ? ?
This may not always be the case; as China’s economy continues to boom, its companies will likely move up the quality ladder and, eventually, become serious competition for high-end American and European manufacturers. But for the moment the benefits of free trade with China, at least when it comes to shopping, are concentrated overwhelmingly among average Americans. And the result is that, in the past decade, the products that they spend more on have become a lot cheaper compared to the stuff that rich people spend more on.
NO ! ! DON'T SAY IT ! I WANT TO LIVE OUT MY LIFE AS A XENOPHOBIC TRADE BASHER ! ! ! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON'T TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME ! !
Broda and Romalis, in their recent paper, calculate that between 1999 and 2005 alone the inflation rate for lower-income Americans was almost seven points lower than it was for the wealthiest Americans.
IT'S NOT TRUE ! NOT TRUE ! I DON'T WANT IT TO BE TRUE ! trade&business&freedom are bad!!!Hillary&Barack are good ! ! ! NAFTA is bad ! ! Freedom is bad ! ! Excessive regulations are good ! ! Pelosi told me so ! AAAaaaarghhh !
That means that free trade with China has made average Americans, at least as consumers, much better off—in the sense that it’s made their dollars go further than they otherwise would have.
There, there now....I know this is hard to take, Surowiecki is saying. Maybe this next part will help you feel better.
Now, there’s a lot that’s left out of this equation, such as the fact that free trade may help richer Americans by increasing corporate profits.
O thank God I can still say the rich bastards benefit from trade. Thank you James Surowiecki, thank you thank you thank you....
And cheap DVD players may not, on balance, make up for lost jobs.
But notice that Reverend Surowiecki say "may" not. He's having a Krugman moment....
But the reality is that if we toughen our trade relations with China the benefits will be enjoyed by a few, since only a small percentage of Americans now work for companies that compete directly with Chinese manufacturers, while average Americans will feel the pain—in the form of higher prices—far more quickly and more directly than rich Americans will. Obama and Clinton, in their desire to help working Americans—and gain their votes—are pushing for policies that will also hurt them.
Ok, did James Surowiecki's sermon convert anyone? No? You're still going to base your beliefs about trade on pure emotion?
But before you click away, look at who made your computer.
For another take on this essay, click here to go to a Blog called The Economist's View.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Compared to the earlier Indiana Jones movies, it doesn't. Compare. At all. It's no more than a 6 on the 10 scale.
The script is some standard silliness about a missing blah blah blah that has to be reunited with the other blah blah blahs before the blah blah blah can happen. God knows I'm tired of that plot. All of this is tied together with some semi-entertaining dialogue, but the storyline feels like it was written by a committee.
The great John Hurt is in there somewhere in a beard and wild hair, muttering cryptic couplets about...who knows? Who cares? Anyone could've played that part.
It even has a self-congratulatory ending, where Indiana Jones and his bride are applauded by the congregation after their church wedding. God knows I'm tired of movies where movie extras gather around and applaud the heroes. Somehow, it's supposed to make the audience feel like they should applaud the movie.
It's set in the 50's, and Spielberg and Lucas feel obligated to show the FBI being intrusive in the name of anti-communism. One character changes sides 3 times, not for any rational reason, but to keep the plot rolling. Something was going on about magnetism and magnetic fields, but I lost interest in following it. Swords, light fixtures, and gunpowder are attracted to this magnet, but gun barrels are not.
There were some cool scenes involving jeeps and amphibian watercraft going through mountain roads in Peru. The first 15 minutes worth of action in the "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" warehouse, which turns out to be the infamous "Area 51", those are a fun 15 minutes. The videogames should be excellent.
And eventually they put the missing blah blah blah into the blah blah blah where it's belonged ever since it was stolen by blah blah blah and this causes all of the blah blah blah to start happening and the villain who wants to experience blah blah blah gets her head blown up.
I promise, you've seen it all before. For those of you who aren't 46 years old, you have no idea how much fun the first Indiana Jones movie brought to the screen. We had never seen anything like it.
You've seen this one before. Lots of times.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
John Hagee, Jews, Hitler, Zionism, Theodor Herzl, Israel, and The Holocaust are now a bigger problem than Jeremiah Wright
McCain formally accepted Hagee's endorsement a few months ago.
My previous Youtube post on Hagee dealt with one of his discourses on Roman Catholics, and Catholicism essentially being the "Whore of Babylon" referenced in The Book of Revelation.
There must be something floating around out there where he attacks Hindus, because people keep putting "Hagee" and "Hindus" in the search field for this blog.
Hagee, in the video below, states that the Jews have "dead souls".
For betting purposes, I'm setting the over/under for McCain formally repudiating this guy at Saturday, May 24th, at 12 noon.
If you pick the "over" that means you think McCain will throw Hagee under the bus sometime AFTER lunchtime on Saturday. If you take the "under", that means McCain will distance himself from Hagee BEFORE lunchtime on Saturday.
If the Archangel Michael appears in The Promised Land riding a three-headed horse and blowing a trumpet, followed by four additional horsemen named War, Pestilence, Death, and Famine, then all bets are off, and no wagers will be paid.
Lord have mercy, it was a good time.
I met some more great people, including a guy named Gar who runs the Random Ramblings blog. Gar's wife/fiance/simian (see picture at link) is from Germany, and at one point they ran into massive bureaucracy problems. This made him question what the heck government was doing in the Marriage Sanctioning Industry to begin with, especially regarding our gay and lesbian friends. So he's firing off letters about the issue to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Maybe he'll give us the text of these soon.
Gar doesn't realize that Senator Hutchison is too busy trying to preserve ethanol mandates at their current levels to worry about preserving or preventing marriages to Germans. Unless, of course, gays people are involved.
He was also kind enough to send me an email explaining how to get the "Digg" button to appear at the bottom of every post I write. If I'm succesful, it's Gar's fault. It it's a total failure and 8 months of rants go off into the void, that's Gar's fault also.
If you've never been to the Rahr Brewery, check it out via the link above. There were probably 200 people in there, sampling samples and yelling at each other with intense gusto. The Libertarian meeting almost got drowned out by a guitarist playing better-than-average teen angst music. Plus, the Stars hockey game was on the big screen.
I believe the brewery is open every Saturday afternoon. It's one heck of a marketing campaign.
The next Tarrant County Libertarian Party meetup will be at the state convention, conveniently held in Fort Worth at the Raddison Hotel on Meacham Boulevard, June 13-15th.
In the meantime, I've been asked to help staff the Libertarian Party information booth at the Fort Worth Gun Show, June 7-8th. We're all about 2nd amendment rights. I've also been asked to help with a float for the Dallas Gay Pride Parade. Well, whatever it takes to get Kay Bailey Hutchison's attention.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Today the guy who failed to render aid, Senator Ted Kennedy, was diagnosed with malignant glioma, a type of brain tumor. The former Klansman, Senator Robert Byrd, broke down on the floor of the senate, sending his thoughts and prayers to the Kennedy family. It’s not on Youtube yet, but I’m sure it will be. I'll plug that in here if it's posted soon.
Addition from 9:45 p.m. - as promised. I heard a clip from this on the radio this afternoon. These guys have worked together, for better or worse, for the last 40 years.....
And there I was with yesterday’s piece of smart-assedness on my front page all day. The emails have been….interesting. Great timing on my part, huh?
Just to show the impact that all things Kennedy have on our culture, here are 36 of the top 100 search terms being entered into the Google search engine, according to “Google Trends” for May 20, 2008.
Malignant – a severe and progressively worsening disease or medical condition.
Glioma - any tumor formed in the glial, or supportive, brain cells.
Malignant Brain Tumor
Ted Kennedy Brain Tumor
Parietal Lobe – In the senator’s case, the left lobe, the location of the tumor
Mary Jo Kopechne – Kennedy’s unfortunate passenger in the Chappaquiddick Bridge incident
Chappaquiddick – see bridge above
Joan Kennedy – Ex wife of Ted Kennedy
Victoria Reggie Kennedy – Current wife
Chappaquitic – proof that American’s can’t spell. Enter the word Chappaquiddick – it’s the bridge connecting the island and Martha’s Vineyard. Location of the senator’s auto accident.
Glioblastoma – see Glioma
Kara Kennedy – the senator’s daughter
Patrick Kennedy – the senator’s son
Boston Globe – the paper of record for all things Kennedy
Kennedy Curse – the series of accidents, assassinations and traumas surrounding the Kennedy family.
Joseph Kennedy – the senator’s father. Also father of Joe, John/Jack, Bobby, and Ted/Edward.
Define Malignant – tending to be severe, and getting progressively worse.
Robert Kennedy – Senator Kennedy’s brother, assassinated while running for President in 1968.
Cape Cod – the location of the famous “Kennedy Compound”.
Rose Kennedy – wife of Joe, father of Senator Kennedy
Rosemary Kennedy – institutionalized sister of Senator Kennedy
Malignant Definition – tending to be severe, and getting progressively worse.
Joe Kennedy – either the patriarch Joe, or the son of Bobby.
Kennedy Chappaquiddick – already discussed above.
Ethel Kennedy – wife of Bobby
Longest Serving Senator – Senator Robert Byrd, who sent an emotional message to the Kennedy family today from the floor of the Senate.
Out of the top 100 terms put into Google today, Senator Kennedy in some way accounted for 36 of them. Agree with him or not, that’s some serious influence. Is there anyone else who could dominate the national conversation like this?
Monday, May 19, 2008
I think he got his metaphors confused in this remark reported by The Prince Of Darkness, Robert Novak.
(Paul) Ryan's fellow reformer, 45-year-old Jeff Flake of Arizona, in his fourth term, is less cautious about defying the leadership and has been kept off key committees. On Wednesday, he said of a $300 billion bill that raises farm subsidies and is filled with non-farm pork, "Sometimes, here in Washington, we tend to drink our own bath water and believe our own press releases."
However admirable Congressman Flake's policies may be, I believe "bath water" is not what Congress drinks, but is what Congress throws babies out with. The "Kool Aid" is what Congress persuades foolish voters to drink. It's a reference to Jim Jones poisoning his followers in Guyana.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The U.S. spelling is "sepulcher", but I grew up with the King James Bible, and prefer the way it's done in the mother tongue.
Sepulchre is prounounced [sep-pulk-er]. That's a short "e" in sep, with the accent on the first syllable.
A sepulchre is defined as any chamber used as a grave.
The term "Whited Sepulchre" comes from one of Jesus' better rants, found in The Gospel of Matthew 23:27.....as I explained in my first post on this site:
If you didn't have the social, cultural, and career advantages of growing up Southern Baptist, you might not catch the "Whited Sepulchre" reference....It's from a story told about Jesus, when he compared his accusers to "Whited Sepulchres" or Freshly Painted Tombs.It's bascially a reference to anything that seems ok on the outside, but is full of death and rottenness and corruption on the inside. Like the current Farm Bill, The Clintons, U.S. Trade Policy, me, Subsidies, The City of Arlington's Eminent Domain Abuse for Jerry Jones' Benefit, blah blah blah blah....
These tombs were beautiful on the outside, and full of rotteness and corruption on the inside. After accidentally touching a Sepulchre, or tomb, any devout believer who subscribed to the complete rigamarole of the clean/unclean belief system had to go through a long and tiresome cleansing process.
This purification and cleansing process could kill several weekends.Therefore, tombs were routinely painted Day-Glo white so anyone who happened to be going through the graveyard at night could avoid accidental contamination in the dark.This left weekends free for avoiding pork, studying the Torah, and throwing rocks at adulterous women until they bled to death.
If I routinely post updates on this site, I suspect I'll focus on various Whited Sepulchres that make me nuts.
Lots of things make me nuts. I make me nuts.
So does the government. Religious nut cases. Drive-through windows. Department of Transportation requirements. And perhaps I'll include some other musings on travels, extended family, and whether or not it's sane to own four weiner dogs.
If you care about starving people, read this post in its entirety.
We do not have a food crisis. We have a political crisis.
The point that emerges from this is the cause of what turns out to be a "perceived" shortage is in fact an artificially induced phenomenon, arising entirely out of subsidy and trade distortions, overlaid with a heavy dose of politics.And from that, the lessons are clear. If market mechanisms are allowed to work, agriculture is well able to feed the current world population, and accommodate population growth for the foreseeable future. The only thing standing in the way of that are the politicians. We do not have a food crisis – we have a political crisis.
I repeat....We do not have a food crisis. We have a political crisis. The situation described in that Sunday Times article is both terrifying and infuriating.
Japan, through an insane trade agreement, is
1) forced to accept our rice, despite
2) having plenty of rice, but we don't allow them to
3) sell the rice, so therefore the rice usually
Good Lord in Heaven..... and this is the heavily subsidized rice that miraculously escaped being turned into ethanol.
This situation is probably irreversible, so please don't get worked up over it.