March 2008 Archives

America's capital markets are losing ground to foreign competition due to excessive expense and regulation.

The United States received only 6.9 percent of the funds raised in global initial public offerings in 2007 and did not participate in any of the top 20 global IPOs, Harvard Law School Professor Hal Scott said at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's second annual capital markets conference.

"We found U.S. public markets had increasingly become uncompetitive," said Scott, director of the private-sector Committee on Capital Markets Regulation.

In comparison, in 2000, about half of the value of global IPOs was raised in the United States, according to Scott's committee.

Scott also noted that many foreign companies in 2007 took advantage of a U.S. regulatory change that let them delist from U.S. exchanges. About 15 percent of U.S.-listed foreign companies left the U.S. markets in 2007, about three times the historical rate, he said.

We need to ease regulations and cut taxes, or businesses will go elsewhere. That's capitalism. If we keep moving towards greater regulation and government meddling, we're going to end up on the losing end of economic history.

(HT: John Rutledge.)

Several years ago I wrote a short series of posts about our society's despicable tolerance of prison rape, and this editorial by Ezra Klein presents a good opportunity to raise the matter again: "There's nothing funny about prison rape".

These hearings are held annually. This year's transcripts aren't online yet, but in 2006 you could have heard a man named Clinton explain, "I had no choice but to enter into a relationship with another inmate in my dorm in order to keep the rest of them off of me. In exchange for his protection from other inmates, I had to be with him sexually any time he demanded it. It was so humiliating, and I often cried silently at night in my bed ... but dealing with one is better than having 10 or more men demanding sex from you at any given time."

Clinton's testimony wasn't very funny, and it wasn't for entertainment. Nor was the 2001 report by Human Rights Watch, "No Escape," which included a letter from an inmate confessing that "I have no more feelings physically. I have been raped by up to five black men and two white men at a time. I've had knifes at my head and throat. I had fought and been beat so hard that I didn't ever think I'd see straight again."

Prison rape occupies a fairly odd space in our culture. It is, all at once, a cherished source of humor, a tacitly accepted form of punishment and a broadly understood human rights abuse. We pass legislation called the Prison Rape Elimination Act at the same time that we produce films meant to explore the funny side of inmate sexual brutality.

If we as a culture really want to subject our criminals to this sort of torture then let's do it explicitly, not with a wink and a nudge. I'm abstractly in favor of corporal punishment, but this sort of sexual abuse is clearly beyond the pale and should be loudly condemned and quickly eliminated.

Modern Mechanix has posted a great bit about a "Unique Bus of Future to Duplicate Speed of Railroads". You've got to see the picture.

RECENT developments in everything that moves has caused many flights of imagination. Thus the fancy conjures up a bus to keep pace with other transportation. The bus between New York and San Francisco will be equipped with airplanes for trips not on the regular schedule. For diversion, billiard rooms, swimming pool, dancing floor and a bridle path would be available. The pilot would be “enthroned” over his engines, with the radio above. Space for autos would be afforded by the deck.

There's no source given, so I assume it's recently made-up and not a real historical proposal.

Progressive Insurance has ponied up $10 million to sponsor the Automotive X PRIZE. Awesome! Here's Progressive's explanation of the competition.

The Progressive Automotive X PRIZE is a multiyear competition in which $10 million in prize money will be awarded to teams that design clean, production capable vehicles that meet all of the following requirements:
  • Exceed 100 mpge or the equivalent (Some cars might not be fueled strictly by gasoline, so they would need to produce a gasoline equivalent of 100 mpge.).
  • Meet strict emission requirements.
  • Can compete in rigorous stage races that test real-world driving conditions.
  • Be safe, affordable, and desirable.

I love the prize paradigm for encouraging research, and it's great to see an Evil Corporation like Progressive make this of leap of faith. I hope they get a lot of recognition and respect for it.

Universal, a writer at the Democrat site MyDD, has posted a hypothetical television ad that would completely annihilate any chance Obama has of winning the presidency. There's some very strong imagery, so if you decide to watch it be prepared.

Honestly, I don't see this ad as being particularly unfair.

(HT: Instapundit.)

"Earth Hour" is a post-civilizational effort to make a mockery of human progress and ingenuity by encouraging people to sit around in the dark and ruminate on the despoiling of our planet, et cetera. To honor this repulsive nonsense, I'm going to leave all my lights on all night -- I call it "Light Night". Feel free to join me if you're so inclined.

Despite my earlier assurances, some scientists (?) think the Large Hadron Collider may destroy the planet.

The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

If there ever were alien civilizations in the universe, maybe the reason we don't see any evidence of them is that they all destroyed themselves with dangerous supercolliders!

Tax Prof notes that in addition to being stingy, the Obamas aren't saving for retirement.

Several bloggers have note another curious fact about Barack Obama's tax returns: despite over $1.6 million in Schedule C income, most of it from royalties on his book, he did not take the elemental tax planning step of establishing a SEP-IRA. The tax magic is that you can shelter up to 25% of your self-employment income (up to $180,000 in 2007), and the investment earnings accumlate tax-free until withdrawn at retirement. Greg Mankiw (Harvard) suggests possible reasons that Obama did not do this:
Maybe he is getting bad tax advice. Or maybe he is expecting vastly higher tax rates in the future when the accumulated savings will need to be withdrawn and taxed. As Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee has written, "Future increases in tax rates potentially threaten to significantly reduce the value of your retirement savings and may even mean that you should not save in 401(k) accounts at all."

Great news.


The Obamas don't own stock either. Wow, these people either have zero foresight, or they know something we don't....

Despite massive outpourings of money over the past decades, AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson says America's secondary education system is a failure.

Stephenson said he is especially distressed that in some U.S. communities and among certain groups, the high school dropout rate is as high as 50 percent.

"If I had a business that half the product we turned out was defective or you couldn't put into the marketplace, I would shut that business down," he said.

Gone are the days when AT&T and other U.S. companies had to hire locally, he said.

"We're able to do new product engineering in Bangalore as easily as we're able to do it in Austin, Texas," he said, referring to the Indian city where many international companies have "outsourced" technical and customer support workers.

"I know you don't like hearing that, but that's the way it is," he said.

The problem with American secondary education isn't a lack of funding, it's a lack of teaching. Not teachers -- we've got plenty of those, it's just too bad they apparently aren't capable of doing their jobs effectively. I think most of the blame lies with the teachers' unions' commitment to their own power at the expense of our students. They've created a culture in which the purpose of public education is to create union jobs rather than to actually educate children.

Although Iraq's past collaborations with terrorist groups like al Qaeda are difficult to completely discern, it looks like Saddam Hussein's connections to leftist United States congressmen are easier to track.

Saddam Hussein's intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The three anti-war Democrats made the trip in October 2002, while the Bush administration was trying to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Iraq. While traveling, they called for a diplomatic solution.

Prosecutors say that trip was arranged by Muthanna Al-Hanooti, a Michigan charity official, who was charged Wednesday with setting up the junket at the behest of Saddam's regime. Iraqi intelligence officials allegedly paid for the trip through an intermediary and rewarded Al-Hanooti with 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil.

The lawmakers are not named in the indictment but the dates correspond to a trip by Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California. None was charged and Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said investigators "have no information whatsoever" any of them knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam.

"Obviously, we didn't know it at the time," McDermott spokesman Michael DeCesare said Wednesday. "The trip was to see the plight of the Iraqi children. That's the only reason we went."

Obviously! We're supposed to believe that these congresscritters were smart enough get elected to national office but were completely unaware of who paid for their trip to Iraq in the run-up to our invasion. What's more, we're supposed to believe that these vermin didn't knowingly use their public offices to lend legitimacy to the murderous tyrant Saddam Hussein. It's just a coincidence! It's all so obvious!

British men, who once ruled the world, are now whining about feeling emasculated.

Asked what it meant to be a man in the 21st century, more than half thought society was turning them into "waxed and coiffed metrosexuals", and 52 per cent say they had to live according to women's rules.

What they apparently want is what some American academics have dubbed a "menaissance" - a return to manliness, where figures such as Sir Winston Churchill were models of manhood. ...

Men said they "felt handcuffed" by political correctness - only 33 per cent felt they could speak freely and say what they thought, whereas two thirds found it safer and to conceal their opinions.

Men have the power to reverse this trend by simple force-of-will. If men would stop responding negatively to other men who say politically incorrect things, the whole charade would quickly disintegrate. Sure, we'd get clucked at by women, but c'mon. We're stronger, smarter, and control the vast majority of the world's wealth. If our only response to the feminization of society is to whine, then dude, the game is over.

It seems that leftists are only with taxpayer money, not their own personal wealth.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle gave $10,772 of the $1.2 million they earned from 2000 through 2004 to charities, or less than 1 percent, according to tax returns for those years released today by his campaign.

The Obamas increased the amount they gave to charity when their income rose in 2005 and 2006 after the Illinois senator published a bestselling book. The $137,622 they gave over those two years amounted to more than 5 percent of their $2.6 million income.

Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman, said the Obamas gave as much as they could afford. He also said the Obamas gave $240,000 to charity in 2007, though they have yet to make last year's tax returns public.

My wife and I make a lot less money than the Obamas, so I'm surprised to learn that we give away a lot more. I guess it's just a difference in priorities. Leftists prefer to tax others to fund their generosity, while conservatives are willing to give their own wealth away. It sure makes Barack Obama's lectures on "hope" a little less palatable, doesn't it? Put your money -- not mine -- where your mouth is, Senator.

The fact that he decided to give more away when his candidacy for the presidency became serious makes him look worse, not better.

(HT: Political Punch.)

Benjamin Franklin famously advised that "a penny saved is a penny earned", meaning that reducing expenses has the same effect as increasing earnings. It's often easier to save a penny than to earn one, so the aphorism is a useful reminder to us all to be careful with our spending.

Fortunately for Ben Franklin, however, he didn't have to pay income taxes! With today's marginal rates, every penny you save can be equivalent to a penny-and-a-half in earnings! All the more reason to practice frugality.

Here's something that's been nagging me that I can't find with Google: what's the history of "free refills" at American fast-food chains? Restaurants more generally?

I have a recollection that Subway was the first place to offer free refills, but I can't remember when it started. I think I was old enough to desperately prefer Subway over other restaurants because of the "free refills" policy, and I remember other fast-food joints quickly following suit.

Did sit-down restaurants always offer free refills of soft drinks, or did they come after the fast-food "free refill"? Is my memory that the "free refill" phenomenon began with Subway correct? Does anyone know what year it was?

"Most Awesomely Bad Military Patches". I find it hard to believe that some of them are real.

With the feminization of our culture I think we're losing an appreciation for some of the male-oriented social skills that have helped propel Western civilization to the dominant world position we presently enjoy; perhaps chief among those skills is the art of intimidation. (That's a pay link, but I recommend reading the whole article.) Everywhere you turn is another fuzzy feel-good message about how we all need to be nice and get along, but the fact of the matter is that male-dominated social structures naturally coalesce around strong leaders, and strong leaders rely on intimidation to drive their followers. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Zander and Weinstein are examples of what I call great intimidators. They are not averse to causing a ruckus, nor are they above using a few public whippings and ceremonial hangings to get attention. And they’re in good company.A list of great intimidators would read a bit like a business leadership hall of fame: Sandy Weill, Rupert Murdoch, Andy Grove, Carly Fiorina, Larry Ellison, and Steve Jobs would be just a few of the names on it. These leaders seem to relish the chaos they create because, in their minds, it’s constructive. Time is short, the stakes are high, and the measures required are draconian.

But make no mistake – the great intimidators are not your typical bullies. If you’re just a bully, it’s all about humiliating others in an effort to make yourself feel good. Something very different is going on with the great intimidators. To be sure, they aren’t above engaging in a little bullying to get their way.With them, however, the motivating factor isn’t ego or gratuitous humiliation; it’s vision. The great intimidators see a possible path through the thicket, and they’re impatient to clear it. They chafe at impediments, even those that are human. They don’t suffer from doubt or timidity. They’ve got a disdain for constraints imposed by others.

The modus operandi of great intimidators runs counter to a lot of our most deeply entrenched preconceptions about what it means to be a good leader these days. We’ve all read the books and articles describing people who lead quietly and with great empathy and humility. But as you’ll see, the leaders I’ve been studying think and work in an entirely different way: They’re rough, loud, and in your face.

Beneath their tough exteriors and sharp edges, however, are some genuine, deep insights into human motivation and organizational behavior. Indeed, these leaders possess what I call political intelligence, a distinctive and powerful form of leader intelligence that’s been largely ignored by management theorists and practitioners. In all our recent enchantment with social intelligence and soft power, we’ve overlooked the kinds of skills leaders need to bring about transformation in cases of tremendous resistance or inertia. It’s precisely in such situations, I’d like to propose, that the political intelligence of the intimidating leader is called for.

The article expresses in very clear terms a concept I started to recognize in my later years of high school. Intimidating behavior doesn't come naturally to me, but I've tried to develop my abilities in this area and have found that a little bit of intimidation applied at the right time can often work wonders in business and social relationships. The flip side is that once you learn to use the power of intimidation it's very hard not to apply it in situations where it's not appropriate, such as on friends and family.

I also would never want to be (or be perceived to be) a bully, so that undermines my utilization of intimidation techniques. Most of the time I'd rather stay friends than make every effort to push a group towards an efficient or productive end, so intimidation certainly isn't the only tool in my social toolbox. Being an effective leader in a family, church, or group of friends where the primary reward to the group members is a positive social interaction is a much more difficult balancing act than leading a business that's paying its employees to get some job done. I'm far from perfect at this (as my wife will attest) but I'm working very hard to increase my experience.

First off, let me say that I think it's silly for corporations to pay taxes at all. Why not just tax income when the shareholders of a corporation take out their profit as dividends? Taxing corporate profit and then taxing dividends again for individuals isn't fair, because you're taxing the same money twice on the same people. Anyway, it would be a lot simpler to just combine all the taxes together.

That said, the Tax Foundation has released a new report showing that corporate tax rates in America are among the highest in the world, and there's no doubt that our high rates are pushing jobs and businesses out of the country.

A new study from the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group in Washington, shows that most American states tax job providers at a higher rate than any other country in the developed world.

"This is startling news for America's businesses and workers," said Tax Foundation president Scott Hodge, the study's author. "Tax competition for jobs and investment is fierce, and the U.S. continues to fall further and further behind. Our states should be the world's leaders in many things, but high taxation should not be one of them. The high federal corporate tax rate is literally crushing states' competitive abilities. That means fewer jobs for American workers."

Counting the federal rate alone, the U.S. has the world's highest corporate tax rate, but including average sub-national rates (federal plus state in the U.S.), Japan edges out the U.S. for the highest-tax location (see table).

This new study breaks the tax down state-by-state, adding each state's corporate tax rate to the federal corporate tax rate. The results show that 24 states impose, when combined with the federal rate, a higher business tax rate than in any other nation. In fact:

* 24 states have a combined corporate tax rate higher than top-ranked Japan.
* 32 states have a combined corporate tax rate higher than third-ranked Germany.
* 46 states have a combined corporate tax rate higher than fourth-ranked Canada.
* All 50 states have a combined corporate tax rate higher than fifth-ranked France.

As I said though, to be properly considered you need to combine corporate tax rates with individual tax rates. My intuition tells me that if you add corporate tax rates to our individual tax rates, the sum would be lower than the similar sum for the various other countries mentioned. (I have no numbers on hand to back this up.)

Hope everyone is having a good time celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Despite what many professing Christians focus on these days, Christ's resurrection is really the cornerstone of our beliefs.

Acts 2:29-39

"Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

" 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." '

"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

NPR has an interesting take on why burglaries have been declining for decades:

"I was a salesman. I could sell anything," Mathis says, as he waits to see his probation officer at a city building in Washington, D.C. "Go get me some toilet paper, and I could sell it."

For almost 20 years, Mathis burglarized homes to support a drug habit. He only got caught a few times. Mathis says he stopped breaking into homes because there's just no money in it anymore.

"If you're going to do a burglary, you need to have some buyers," Mathis says. "Everybody has everything now."

Mathis says there's just too much on the street already. Everyone he knows already has a digital camera, iPod knockoffs and pirated DVDs shipped in from China.

"And if it's not new, a lot of people don't even want to fool with it," Mathis says.

Forget about last year's video games and old laptops, Mathis says. And don't even bring a VCR or boxy TV to the street.

"You can get a TV for nothing almost," he says. "People are giving them away now."

How's this for a definition of what it means to be a "wealthy" nation: legal commerce puts the black market out of business.

Perhaps most interesting is that private enterprise isn't just attacking burglaries from beneath, but also from above.

The program and the street economy may have turned Mathis' life around, but criminologists say there are other reasons behind the 30-year drop in burglaries — such as the 1 million private police and security guards at work in residential communities.

Two years ago, Steve Southworth, a private police investigator for the Wintergreen Resort in central Virginia, spent six months tracking the movements of a burglar who traveled along the Appalachian trail. ...

In the past, remote communities like this one were ripe for thieves. But since residents started paying for their own private officers, crime has dropped 70 percent.

Maybe a wealthy free market can provide solutions to problems that even many libertarians often believe require government intervention?

Of course, the flip side is that gadget robberies are up.

(HT: Marginal Revolution.)

Fellow St. Louisan Gateway Pundit has a fun chart comparing military deaths in the Iraq War to military deaths during the first five years of Bill Clinton's presidency.

As has been repeatedly noted, the Iraq War has had very light casualties by historical standards.

Here's an article that really made me think over the past month, which is why I didn't post it sooner. "The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors". I'm not good at this, and I've really been debating the merits of the idea internally.

“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities. If you are afraid to drop any project at the office, you pay for it at home.

“We may work more hours at our jobs,” Dr. Ariely writes in his book, “without realizing that the childhood of our sons and daughters is slipping away. Sometimes these doors close too slowly for us to see them vanishing.” ...

So what can be done? One answer, Dr. Ariely said, is to develop more social checks on overbooking. He points to marriage as an example: “In marriage, we create a situation where we promise ourselves not to keep options open. We close doors and announce to others we’ve closed doors.”

Or we can just try to do it on our own. Since conducting the door experiments, Dr. Ariely says, he has made a conscious effort to cancel projects and give away his ideas to colleagues. He urges the rest of us to resign from committees, prune holiday card lists, rethink hobbies and remember the lessons of door closers like Xiang Yu.

I don't tend to bite off more than I can chew, but I do like to stay extremely busy. Am I too busy? I don't know. I know I get bored if I don't have something productive to do.

Anyway, I still don't know what to think of the article, but I figured it was time to share it so I can close at least one thing: a lingering browser window.

Barack Obama gave his bigspeech on race, and as usual he was eloquent. Also as usual, he shied away from any practical policy proposals and displayed a disingenuous ignorance of how liberty and free markets could be applied to bridge the racial divide, if not so hampered by taxes and regulations. (Drudge had the text of the speech first, but I expect that link will expire.)

First, Obama appears to have a solid grasp on some of the concerns of whites that are rarely broached in public.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

The purpose of the speech seems to be to transform racial division into class division: all us poor people of every color need to fight against our common enemies, the rich! And the only solutions he can come up with involve the coercive use of government power:

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I think the bolded part is particularly insincere. Obama knows that the majority of Americans are shareholders in these evil corporations -- directly or indirectly through pension funds -- and those profits go straight into American pockets. What's more, the primary beneficiaries of lower prices are the poor.

And so forth. As you'd expect, I find the policies that Obama vaguely hints at to be antithetical to liberty and ruinous to our economy, facts that far outweigh the common eloquence of his words. I think this speech made a meaningful contribution to the discussion of race in our country, but the conclusions he'd have us draw are misguided and dangerous.

Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright Jr.

I feel like I've written about UCLA students versus Planned Parenthood before, but I can't find a post of mine that mentions that earlier incident in which a PP employee told a supposedly-15-year-old girl to lie about her age so she could get an abortion.

Anyway, lately students from my alma mater have been calling Planned Parenthood and getting the employees to admit to explicit racism.

The call to Idaho came in July to Autumn Kersey, vice president of development and marketing for Planned Parenthood of Idaho.

On the recording provided by The Advocate, an actor portraying a donor said he wanted his money used to eliminate black unborn children because "the less black kids out there the better."

Kersey laughed nervously and said: "Understandable, understandable. ... Excuse my hesitation, this is the first time I've had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I'm excited and want to make sure I don't leave anything out." ...

The student editor-in-chief of The Advocate said she's not surprised by Planned Parenthood's response and that the unedited recordings speak for themselves. The activist students think Planned Parenthood targets minorities and minority neighborhoods.

Well there's certainly statistical evidence that Planned Parenthood targets minorities, but I'll admit that I'm surprised it's due to racism rather than greed. I guess they're returning to their roots: Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, advocated the abortion of black babies "by force if necessary".

I generally don't like developing in Linux. I find all the obfuscated, inconsistent "conventions" confusing and arcane, and I don't really understand why some few people are so devoted to a computing platform based on 40-year-old technology.

So anyway, I'd been banging my head trying to figure out why a shared object wasn't being loaded when I brought some libraries to machine B from machine A. They ran fine on A, and compiled and linked just fine on B. But they wouldn't run on B, and I couldn't figure out why. LD_LIBRARY_PATH was exported properly (set to ".") but the shared object wasn't loaded. After Googling for a while I discovered yet another unintuitive environment variable you can set that causes some debugging information to be displayed by the various dl* functions: LD_DEBUG. Gee, it's so obvious!

So I exported LD_DEBUG=libs and found that the shared object I was trying to load was itself referring to some libraries on the old machine...?!?! Or at least it thought it was (the objects it wanted were actually linked in statically). I rebuilt the shared object and everything worked just fine from there out... but who really knows why? I sure don't.

Linux is extremely difficult to develop on, and I avoid it like the plague. Linux-devotees (and I know quite a few) can make whatever elegance/power arguments they want, but the simple fact of the matter is that the mental overhead involved with developing on Linux is substantial, and the learning curve is steep. I'd rather use my brain to do actual work than to decipher and untangle impenetrable webs of Linuxisms.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

A writer who claims to be a former booking agent for a high-priced New York escort service gives the inside scoop on the employees and the kinds of men that patronized them. (There's no evidence the author is who she says she is, but it's still interesting!) As for the men:

Remember that scene from Casablanca, when Captain Renault declares that he is shocked, shocked to find gambling going on — just as the croupier hands him his winnings? I keep thinking of that scene when I read about all those politicians who are baying for Spitzer’s blood. Because I know, and they know, that almost all of them have been escort agency clients too. Show me a rich and powerful man between the ages of 35 and 60 who has never paid an escort for sex, and I will show you a man who is a very rare exception.

But why would a rich, powerful and handsome man pay for extra-marital sex? Aren’t there tons of women waiting to throw themselves at him for free? Yes, there are. But those women always want something: they want attention, intimacy and romance. They want to enjoy the high of sleeping with a powerful man. Escorts don’t want or care about any of those things. At least one of the articles about the 22 year-old escort who slept with Spitzer implied that she didn’t even know who he was. Based on my experience, I think it’s highly unlikely that she knew or cared. She was in it for the money, and she had as much to hide as he did.

One high-powered New York attorney explained it to me like this: “Of course I love my wife. Escorts have nothing to do with that. She comes to my hotel room and I don’t have to know her name, because they all use fake names like Amber and Kimberly. I don’t have to worry about how she feels or what she wants. It’s a simple exchange: I give her a thousand bucks, we have a good time for a couple of hours, she goes away and we never have to see each other again.”

A thousand dollars is nothing for these men. Money has little value; because no matter how hard they try they will never be able to spend their hundreds of millions. And if you are about to say that for a thousand bucks those girls must supply the best sex in history, then you really do not understand this world. Because it is not about sex; it is about power. And the simple act of ordering up an anonymously pretty 22 year-old girl to do your bidding in the salubrious confines of a luxury hotel suite is an act of power.

Of course there's an obvious selection bias here: the only rich and powerful men the author would come into contact with are prospective clients. Maybe I'm naive about wealth and long-enduring marriages, but I know plenty of people with both who don't fit this author's mold.

The fates of the women are even sadder:

Yes, I did become cynical, jaded and confused. On the one hand I could not deny the basic reality of supply and demand. None of these girls was coerced into selling her body for money. Most of them came from middle-class backgrounds, and many had been accepted to universities. But they dropped out as soon as they discovered that they could make $20-30,000 a month as an escort.

Then they got addicted to the money and the lifestyle. And then one day, usually between the ages of 25 and 28, once they’d developed that knowing, experienced look that clients instinctively disliked, they found that themselves in a classic bind: they were addicted to high living but could no longer pay for it; they had no marketable skills; and years of late nights and lazy days had left them with no self-discipline. What to do? The really smart ones pulled themselves together and, with the help of a sympathetic client, started some kind of a business. Others married rich, cynical, older men in a sort of paid-wife arrangement. Those were the most common stories. I did not inquire into the fate of the girls who sort of faded away. I did not want to hear about their loneliness and poverty.

So the value of the escorts declined rapidly as they aged. Meanwhile, the value of the clients increased because they accumulated more money and more power. I could not make my peace with the power imbalance, even though I understood intellectually that the men would always want to pay women for sex, and there would always be women who wanted to be paid for sex.

Perhaps the initial money is just too hard for these women to resist, despite the obvious long-term damage they're doing to their lives. But again, the author can only write about the women she came into contact with, all of whom were at least considering prostitution. I know plenty of beautiful young women who would never have done it, for any amount of money. Or maybe I'm naive about them too.

From a forwarded email... the picture is funnier than the easily-inferred text.

Barack Obama is struggling to catch up to a story which I predicted a year ago would sink his campaign: he's denouncing the "Reverend" Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.'s statements but doesn't seem to understand the big picture.

On Friday, Mr. Obama called a grab bag of statements by his longtime minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., “inflammatory and appalling.”

“I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue,” he wrote in a campaign statement that was his strongest in a series of public disavowals of his pastor’s views over the past year.

These words must have been chosen very carefully, so let's analyze them a bit. First, "inflammatory". Obama thinks the racist, insane rantings of his pastor might "arouse anger, hostility, passion, etc.", but the word doesn't carry any implication that Obama disagrees with Wright's views. "Appalling" is a bit better, but are only the statements "appalling"? What about the man who made them?

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this story isn't what it says about Barack Obama, but what it may say about the beliefs of American blacks more generally.

Mr. Wright, 66, who last month fulfilled longstanding plans to retire, is a beloved figure in African-American Christian circles and a frequent guest in pulpits around the country. Since he arrived at Trinity in 1972, he has built a 6,000-member congregation through his blunt, charismatic preaching, which melds detailed scriptural analysis, black power, Afrocentrism and an emphasis on social justice; Mr. Obama praised the last quality in Friday’s statement.

His most powerful influence, said several ministers and scholars who have followed his career, is black liberation theology, which interprets the Bible as a guide to combating oppression of African-Americans.

He attracts audiences because of, not in spite of, his outspoken critiques of racism and inequality, said Dwight Hopkins, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, in an interview last year.

But Mr. Wright’s blistering statements about American racism can shock white audiences.

“If you’re black, it’s hard to say what you truly think and not upset white people,” said James Cone, a professor at Union Theological Seminary and the father of black liberation theology, who has known Mr. Wright since he was a seminary student.

Cone is attempting to defend Wright and Obama by asserting that the beliefs behind Wright's racist, hateful, evil sermons are widespread. In doing so, rather than acquiting Wright and Obama Cone broadly indicts all American blacks. If these beliefs are really as widely shared as Cone asserts (which I refuse to believe) then the peddlers of this malicious evil need to be called to account and their followers need a severe reality check.

Barack Obama's crazy racist spiritual advisor, Jeremiah Wright Jr., is finally getting some attention from the mainstream media, but you may remember that I was all over this story almost a year ago. (Which is why I believed, asserted, and still believe, that Barack Obama cannot win the general election.)

It's not like "Pastor" Wright is an strange estranged family member associated with Obama by random chance... Obama and his family have been under his spiritual guidance for 20 years by their own volition. There's no way for Obama to disassociate himself from this nutcase at this point... and frankly, there's no reason to believe that Obama doesn't share Wright's view of the world.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans are serious about controlling federal spending, but the idea of nixing earmarks is popular enough that all three remaining contenders for the presidency have endorsed ending the practice.

The Senate rejected calls from both parties' presidential candidates to take an election-year break from pork-barrel spending as a Democratic-run Congress passed budget plans that would torpedo hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts won by President Bush.

John McCain, the GOP nominee-to-be, couldn't attract even a majority of Senate Republicans to vote with him Thursday night behind the earmark moratorium touted by party conservatives as a way to restore the GOP's credibility with voters.

It failed on a 71-29 vote. Only three Democrats joined with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in voting for it.

What do earmarks cost us taxpayers?

Earmarks have exploded in number and cost in recent years, accompanied by charges of abuse and public outrage over egregious examples like the proposed "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska, which would have cost more than $200 million to serve an island with a population of about 50.

So who really thinks that bureaucrats in far-off Washington D.C. are capable of managing much of anything better than state governments, local government, or private enterprise?

Jessica and I have been working our way through The X-Files and it has struck me recently that the series has a tendency to take rape and non-consensual impregnation rather lightly in some circumstances. This treatment is especially surprising considering that one of the ongoing conflicts in the series' story arc is that Agent Scully's eggs have been stolen (leaving her infertile) and are being used by nefarious scientists to create alien-human hybrids.

Example the first: in the episode "Small Potatoes" a shapeshifter takes on the appearances of the husbands of various women and impregnates them. Most of the episode is a set-up for the final scene in which the shapeshifter takes on Agent Mulder's form and nearly seduces Agent Scully, until the real Mulder bursts through the door to discover the two of them on the couch. The conclusion to the episode is classic, and quite amusing, but writer Vince Gilligan works hard to keep the earlier rapes and impregnations from spoiling the light-hearted mood.

Example the second: in "The Post-Modern Prometheus" -- my least favorite episode thus far in the series, written by creator Chris Carter -- a stereotypical mad scientist (and/or his farmer father) create human-animal hybrids by drugging women and implanting embryos while they're unconscious. The hybrids are born with distinctive animal characteristics -- such as a chicken-women whose neck pecks like a bird -- with intended comedic effect. The "Frankenstein"-inspired episode ends with the villagers forming a mob to lynch the mad scientist, but he saves himself by pointing out all happiness he brought to the town through their children. All is forgiven! (The mad scientist is arrested, with an aw-shucks tenor.)

Come to think of it, non-consensual impregnations is a major theme of The X-Files. Numerous episodes feature it as a plot device (such as "Emily"), but the matter isn't typically considered to be as serious as I would expect.

Writer and ironically self-described "brain-dead liberal" David Mamet has written a compelling account of his transition from "liberalism" to realism.

Prior to the midterm elections, my rabbi was taking a lot of flack. The congregation is exclusively liberal, he is a self-described independent (read "conservative"), and he was driving the flock wild. Why? Because a) he never discussed politics; and b) he taught that the quality of political discourse must be addressed first—that Jewish law teaches that it is incumbent upon each person to hear the other fellow out.

And so I, like many of the liberal congregation, began, teeth grinding, to attempt to do so. And in doing so, I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other—the world in which I actually functioned day to day—was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.

"Aha," you will say, and you are right. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing. If you're a leftist you might find some new ideas to consider, and if you're not you'll at least get some insight into the "liberal" mind.

The disconnect between reality and the prevailing leftist view of a world gone horribly wrong that must be fixed immediately, by government, at any cost, is why I often have a hard time respecting even the most intelligent leftists I encounter. This cornerstone of leftist dogma just does not compute.

Reader JV sent me this article about three-way chess, but it looks to me like it would turn into a mess very quickly. The first player to check-mate any other player wins, and any two players can obviously team up on the third very easily.

Does anyone know of any three-player adversarial games that don't turn into two-on-one dogpiles every time? Such a game would have to be inherently asymmetric, such that two players were forced to align against a more-powerful third, or such that the relationships between the players were not commutative (rock vs. paper vs. scissors). I imagine a three-player game would also be more likely to be playable if it were either not turn-based, or at least not based on cyclical turns.

The title above is controversial in many ways. Defense attorneys didn't step forward to exonerate an innocent man sentenced to live in prison for the crime they knew their client committed. Outrageous on the face, but the issue is more complex than it may appear at first glance. (I'll try to excerpt the important points, but you may want to read the whole thing.)

Alton Logan was convicted of killing a security guard at a McDonald's in Chicago in 1982. Police arrested him after a tip and got three eyewitnesses to identify him. Logan, his mother and brother all testified he was at home asleep when the murder occurred. But a jury found him guilty of first degree murder. ...

Logan, who maintains he didn't commit the murder, thought they were "crazy" when he was arrested for the crime.

Attorneys Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz knew Logan had good reason to think that, because they knew he was innocent. And they knew that because their client, Andrew Wilson, who they were defending for killing two policemen, confessed to them that he had also killed the security guard at McDonald's - the crime Logan was charged with committing. ...

The problem was the killer was their client. So, legally, they had to keep his secret even though an innocent man was about to be tried for murder.

"I know a lot of people who would say, 'Hey if the guy's innocent you've got to say so. You can't let him rot because of that,'" Simon remarked.

"Well, the vast majority of the public apparently believes that, but if you check with attorneys or ethics committees or you know anybody who knows the rules of conduct for attorneys, it’s very, very clear-it's not morally clear-but we're in a position to where we have to maintain client confidentiality, just as a priest would or a doctor would. It's just a requirement of the law. The system wouldn't work without it," Coventry explained.

Even if Coventry and Simon had been willing to betray their client, their testimony would not have been admissible in court. The attorney-client privilege belongs to the client, and even if the attorneys published a book their information could never be considered at trial. Coventry and Simon could probably have found some way to exonerate Logan, but they took their duty to their own client very seriously.

Were they right to? Is a system that requires these kinds of decisions really interested in "justice"? In the end, I think so. Commenter Malvolio at The Volokh Conspiracy has the most significant point in my opinion:

If you pay attention, you'll notice that attorney-client confidentiality didn't make the unfortunate Mr Logan any worse off. If no confidentiality existed, Wilson would simply not have confessed to his lawyers. Wilson would have gotten a worse defense, but Logan would not have gotten a better one.

If attorneys were allowed to break privilege (or did anyway) when the stakes were "high enough", then their clients simply wouldn't share their secrets. The clients would lose the benefits of expert legal advice, and the "victims" of the secrets would still suffer.

Additionally, in a world without attorney-client privilege it's non-lawyers who would suffer the most. Lawyers who go on trial would be able to represent themselves and hold all their secrets in their minds, but non-lawyers would be forced to rely on another person who could not be trusted to the degree one trusts oneself.

As difficult as the situation is to reconcile with simple morality, I believe it is true that the legal system as a whole is more fair and ethical than it would otherwise be precisely because some of its participants are allowed/required to behave in a way that would be considered immoral in another context.

Barack Obama is smart enough to refuse any consideration of running as Hillary's vice president. Even if he were losing the primary I can't see any reason why he would want to hitch himself to the Clintons.

The Illinois senator used his first public appearance of the week to knock down the notion that he might accept the party's vice presidential nomination. He noted that he has won more states, votes and delegates than Clinton so far.

"I don't know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who is first place," Obama said, drawing cheers and a long standing ovation from about 1,700 people in Columbus, Miss.

Saying he wanted to be "absolutely clear," he added: "I don't want anybody here thinking that somehow, 'Well, you know, maybe I can get both.' Don't think that way. You have to make a choice in this election."

"I am not running for vice president," Obama said. "I am running for president of the United States of America."

Even if Obama weren't the leader at this point, he has nothing to gain and everything to lose by taking the second spot on a Clinton ticket.

1. The VP candidate is expected to be the attack dog. Assuming that role would greatly diminish the "new politics" image Obama has built for himself.

2. Obama is young. He's only 46 years old, which means that if he wants to he can run for president six more times and still be younger than John McCain. Why take a chance running with Hillary Clinton? Not only a chance on losing, but a chance on winning and then being embroiled in the inevitable tsunami of scandals.

3. Vice presidents aren't successful presidents, when they even manage to get elected.

4. When next he ran, he'd be on the tail end of Democrat/Clinton fatigue.

5. He'll have more power if he stays in the Senate, and may actually have time to accomplish something his supporters can think of when interviewed.

A lot of people seem to think that Barack Obama sprang onto the political scene pure and wholesome, untainted by the muck that stains "regular" politicians. Alas! Obama is a corrupt Chicago politician and not a saint.

(HT: Right Wing Nut House.)

A state appeals court has ruled that homeschooling is illegal in California unless the parent has a teaching credential.

A California appeals court ruling clamping down on homeschooling by parents without teaching credentials sent shock waves across the state this week, leaving an estimated 166,000 children as possible truants and their parents at risk of prosecution. ...

Yet the appeals court said state law has been clear since at least 1953, when another appellate court rejected a challenge by homeschooling parents to California's compulsory education statutes. Those statutes require children ages 6 to 18 to attend a full-time day school, either public or private, or to be instructed by a tutor who holds a state credential for the child's grade level.

"California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. "Parents have a legal duty to see to their children's schooling under the provisions of these laws."

Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said.

"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare," the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue.

Setting aside some thousands of years of common law and custom on the matter, I've known plenty of homeschooled kids in California -- this law has never been enforced. I'll be surprised if this ruling is allowed to stand without intervention by the state Legislature, even in California.

The usual parasites are naturally pleased:

The ruling was applauded by a director for the state's largest teachers union.

"We're happy," said Lloyd Porter, who is on the California Teachers Association board of directors. "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting."

And I think no one without a degree in computer science should be allowed to program a computer!

I hung out with my brother and Bernardo tonight and realized that Bernardo and I have fundamentally different views of liberty. To paraphrase him, he thinks that our rights as humans derive from a Rousseau-ian "social contract" that depends solely on whatever agreements a majority makes within itself. I, on the other hand, believe that we each individually have inalienable rights that supersede any the desires of any majority, even if it's everyone else in the world against me alone.

I think this ode to tax havens will serve as a concrete example of our differing perspectives. I agree with the writer, Johnathan Pearce, and I expect Bernardo will take the communitarian position.

The difficulty that even any pro-freemarketeer politicians - if there are many - have in defending tax havens is defending the right of people to essentially flee from an oppressive but still-democratic regime. In chatting to people on this issue and reading the commentary, a lot of people make the assumption that wealth is collectively owned if enough voters wish it so and that therefore no-one has the right to flee from the looting intentions of such voters. In other words, non-domiciled residents who want to get away from the British taxman are not being good, democratic citizens by shirking their 'responsibilities'.

At its core, what this issue throws up, beyond the practical issues of how tax rates hurt economies, is a broader issue of the obligations, if any, that an individual has to his fellow citizens. If one believes the classical liberal idea that governments exist to serve the individual and not the other way round, that individuals have no apriori obligations to others, then the crackdown on tax-avoiders should be seen as the power grab that it is.

Another issue, of course, is this: democracy and liberty are not the same thing, a point that has been remarked at this blog many times before. For sure, democracy may - may - be the least-worst way to kick out a government and replace it with a hopefully better one, but the idea that freedom comes from letting 51% of the electorate steal from 49% of the electorate has precious little to do with liberty. The right to own property and enjoy its fruits unmolested is as important as freedom of speech or the right to self defence. Tax havens rile communitarians precisely because they are a standing reproach to the looters who use democratic mandates to justify their depredations. They act as a brake on the power of governments with a temporary majority in a democratic assembly every bit as powerful as other checks and balances such as independent courts and upper chambers.

The "classic liberal" ideas expressed in that second paragraph are utterly foreign to modern "liberals" -- leftists -- who rarely hesitate to advocate the use of coercive power for the accomplishment of their desired ends.

Wow, Hillary has won in Texas and Ohio. The Democrats' primary is going all the way to the convention. I love this stuff. This is shaping up to be one of the most exciting election years ever!

Even though Obama is leading in delegates, it's interesting to consider how the Democrats' primary would be shaping up if they selected a nominee using the Electoral College. Using 270ToWin and the primary/caucus victories that Hillary and Obama have already racked up, I calculate that Hillary would have 263 electoral votes to Obama's 193.

Hillary's substantial (hypothetical) electoral college edge is due to her victories in all the high-population states. The largest state Obama has won is Illinois with 21 electoral votes, but Hillary has won California (55), Texas (34), New York (31), Florida (27), and Ohio (20).

The Democrats' system for awarding delegates in their primary is almost the exact opposite of the winner-takes-all Electoral College. I wonder if it will produce another nominee who can win the "popular vote" without actually winning the presidency?

(Side note: Why doesn't 270ToWin have a way to create a link to a page with a certain configuration of states? That would be nice.)

I've written before about the damaging cult of self-esteem in our education system, and now Abraham Katsman proposes that the cult of self-esteem is fueling "Obamania".

For the past two decades, America's educational establishment has stressed the inculcation of self-esteem as the supreme educational goal. Self-respect - the product of struggle and achievement - is out; self-esteem - the entitlement tofeel great self-worth regardless of actual accomplishment - is in.

Strict correction of misspelling or of wrong answers to math problems is discouraged. Competition is a big no-no: many youth sports leagues forbid keeping score, lest any child's self-esteem suffer from the indignity of losing. Posting honor rolls is discouraged, as it might injure the self-esteem of those who did not make the grade.

Grade inflation is rampant in schools: according to one recent study, about half of today's college freshman had an "A" average in high school compared to under 20% in the late 1960s, even though SAT scores have tanked over the same period. The focus on self-esteem has, in a sense, been a huge success.

For example, American students have very high scores when asked to assess how good they are at math. Unfortunately, they have low/mediocre scores in actual math performance, routinely being outscored by students in most other developed countries.

Inevitably, however, such over-indulgence of students leads to increased narcissism, self-absorption, and sense of entitlement. Those with self-esteem disproportionate to their achievement tend to be less willing to take responsibility for their own failures, shortcomings, or bad behavior.

Coddled children raised to believe that any dream is not only attainable, but an entitlement granted regardless of actual effort and accomplishment are increasingly growing into depressed and stressed young adults as they rudely discover that the post-school world is not so cooperative and doesn't really care about their dreams or their feelings. In the real world, they keep score.

But not in Obama-world. That is a world of Hope; of Action; of Change You Can Believe In; of Yes We Can; of Coming Together; of Moving Forward Into the Future, and of other banalities that can mean absolutely anything to anyone. "I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations." It's all about us and our good feelings of youth and unity. Nothing so difficult as spelling out tough policy choices or arguing about a particular program's merits or ramifications is involved.

If that's right, then America is simply reaping the vacuity our mushy education system has been sowing for decades. Hopefully "Obamania" will meet the real world sometime before November.

All eyes are on Ohio and Texas... guess which state is being sucked dry by union vampires?

Ohio's most crippling handicap may be that its politicians -- and thus its employers -- are still in the grip of such industrial unions as the United Auto Workers. Ohio is a "closed shop" state, which means workers can be forced to join a union whether they wish to or not. Many companies -- especially foreign-owned -- say they will not even consider such locations for new sites. States with "right to work" laws that make union organizing more difficult had twice the job growth of Ohio and other forced union states from 1995-2005, according to the National Institute for Labor Relations.

On the other hand, Texas is a right to work state and has been adding jobs by the tens of thousands. Nearly 1,000 new plants have been built in Texas since 2005, from the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and Fujitsu. Foreign-owned companies supplied the state with 345,000 jobs. No wonder Texans don't fear global competition the way some Presidential candidates do.

Just imagine how good our education system would be if it's primary role weren't playing host organism to the education unions. Etc.

(HT: The Pirate.)

Jessica and I were on a walk this morning and she made a brilliant point about the Democrats: their imminent nomination of Barack Obama is a tacit admission that they can't win a presidential election purely on the issues. They know that the left's socialist domestic agenda and internationalist foreign policy will only attract ~30% of American voters, so they're forced to adopt Obama over Hillary Clinton in the hope that his charisma will draw in the other 20% + 1 the Democrats need to win the White House.

On the other hand, Republicans are soundly rejecting more charismatic candidates in favor of John McCain. They actually believe (wrongly or rightly) that they can win the election based on the issues. Republicans believe that 50% + 1 of the electorate prefer their policies or can be convinced, and that they don't need a pretty man in an empty suit to do the selling. Maybe Republicans are wrong and America won't agree with them on the issues, but the nomination of John McCain at least proves that the Republicans are sincere.

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