Wednesday, March 31, 2010

lottery and education as state monopolies

From Jeremiah Dyke at LewRockwell.com...

Gambling is a moron’s retirement plan, and it is certainly not our positive obligations to help morons. Yet, unlike the casinos, what is it about state lotteries that make these acts so contemptible?

By means of mandatory K-12 drill-and-kill public education, the state ill-educates the public into a pool of mathematical ignorance. Most high school students graduate without a single course in probability/statistics. Sure, in seventh grade they learn about the probability of pulling an ace out of a deck of cards, but permutations and combinations like that needed to calculate the odds of winning the mega-millionaire jackpot is only taught to the top percentile of high school students...

How convenient.

The state not only promotes the public’s ignorance in probabilities, but then maximizes that ignorance via a monopoly on gambling....

Again, I am not highlighting that casinos and other private gambling venues should highlight such depictions of probability, but at least these private institutions are upfront about their self-indulgence. The state, however, promotes such ignorance from their constituents under the veil of moral good....

But whose money are they giving away? What percentage of transfer payments like welfare, unemployment, disability or social security simply returns to the state via the "stupid tax"? More bluntly, what percentages of OUR paychecks are being given away?...

The state may choose what math is important for study, exploit that ignorance in mathematics, and veil its racketeering under the label of social good all from the comforts of its monopoly.

North on the politics of ObamaCare

More from Gary North at LewRockwell.com-- this time his predictions about the impact of this politically...

[Obama and the Democrats] have sent a message to voters: "We have sacrificed the principle of majority rule for the sake of a higher cause." In principle, this is correct....[But the]
Democrats face this problem: this view of democracy has not been widely preached or believed since 1913: the direct election of Senators. The push toward mass democracy has been constant....the Democrats have reverted to the older view. They will pay for this next November....

This time, there is enormous anger among hard-core Republicans and independents. They will not forget. Usually, voters do forget, but not this time. The law back-loads the financing. The burden will hit in full force in 2014. This is standard politics, but this time, it will backfire. Why? Because of the size of the Federal deficit....

The law will go into effect at a time when the deficit has become unthinkably high. It finally is getting through to voters that it threatens their lifestyles in the future. They are beginning to get afraid. They should be afraid.

The Democrats waited too long. The deficits are now Obama’s. They must be dealt with on his watch. He refuses to deal with them. In this setting, the Democrats rammed through the bill.

The voters will be reminded, year by year, that this was done against their will. The Democrats will not be able to blame Bush. The burden will aggravate people, because they did not want the program.

Democrats assume that voters will forget. Voters at the margin will not forget. They will be reminded....This issue will not go away, because costs will rise.

The tea party movement is at present amateurish. Time will take care of that. If Republicans do not deal with it, they will lose elections....Usually, negative voting blocs get marginalized....This time it will be different. The politics of vengeance is now in play. The voters will be reminded, year after year, that the program was shoved down their throats....taxpayers and insurance premium payers and patients sitting endlessly in filled doctors’ offices will be reminded about who did it to them. It was Obama and the banshee with the huge Medicare gavel, Nancy Pelosi....

North on ObamaCare and the State as God

The usual good stuff from Gary North at LewRockwell.com...

National health care is the second most important of all government welfare programs. The first is funding education and making it compulsory. But this is generally enforced at the state level in the United States.

Why is government-funded medical care so important? Because it is the symbol of a state that has the power to extend life. It is the supreme agency of healing. Any government that does not pass laws funding and controlling the health care delivery system is seen by the apologists of state power as being inconsistent. A state that cannot heal is not a true god....

Four centuries ago, this was called the divine right of kings. That meant that the king was the final court of appeal. There was no one or nothing higher, other than God. Today, the government’s position is that there is no God. Therefore, the state is the final sovereign. It is God by default.

A final sovereign must possess the power of life and death. So, we live under the jurisdiction of a welfare-warfare state.

The United States has had Medicare ever since 1965. The state has proclaimed itself as a healer of the old. This expense will bankrupt the Federal government unless the law is modified to allow cost-cutting. Politically, this is not yet possible. The oldsters want the money: over $11,000 a year in subsidies.

This was not enough, according to Democrats....Why isn’t this good politics? Because the Federal government waited too long. It is now running annual deficits over $1.5 trillion. This does not count the extra two trillion or so that accrue to the unfunded Medicare program each year. That is part of the off-budget budget.

At some point, all those oldsters who are dependent on the off-budget budget will be placed on the off-life support system. They will have their life support unplugged, at least figuratively and in some cases literally....

the Dems' reverse rhetorical racism in Health Care vs. Tea Party

From Andrew Breitbart at LewRockwell.com...

As I have said over and over and over, the left has one trick that it will use again and again when its back is in the corner: shout ‘racist’ in a crowded country.

On Saturday, during the peaceful and patriotic tea party protest at the Capitol, the Democrats staged a series of symbolic acts meant to manipulate the media to do its bidding. The Congressional Black Caucus pulled the Selma card and chose to walk through the crowd in the hopes of creating a YouTube incident.

There is no reason in 21st century America on an issue that is not a black or white or a civil rights issue to have a bloc of black people walk slowly through a mostly white crowd to make a racial point. The walk in and of itself — with two of the participants holding their handheld cameras above their heads hoping to document “proof” — was an act of racism meant to create a contrast between the tea party crowd and themselves....

Saturday’s “never mind” moment will live in infamy as the Congressional Black Caucus claimed the N-word was hurled 15 times. YouTube video shows that at least two of the men in the procession were carrying video cameras and holding them above the crowd. They have not come forth with evidence to show that even one person hurled the vile racist epithet. The video also shows no head movement one way or another. Wouldn’t the N-word provoke a head turn or two? Is it really possible that in 2010, in a crowd of 30 or 40 thousand people — at the center of a once-in-a-lifetime media circus — not one person’s flipphone, Blackberry, video recorder or a network feed caught a single incident?...If that had happened, there would be an investigation to see if the perpetrator was a left-wing plant....

That’s how much the Democrats need a racist Tea Party moment. To stop it in its tracks. That’s why on Saturday they used the Congressional Black Caucus to try to manufacture the false appearance of one. And when they didn’t get it, they did what they always do: they lied.

Alinsky taught them well: the ends justify the means....

It’s time for the allegedly pristine character of Rep. John Lewis to put up or shut up. Therefore, I am offering $10,000 of my own money to provide hard evidence that the N- word was hurled at him not 15 times, as his colleague reported, but just once. Surely one of those two cameras wielded by members of his entourage will prove his point....

I’ll give him a backup plan: a lie detector test. If you provide verifiable video evidence showing that a single racist epithet was hurled as you walked among the tea partiers, or you pass a simple lie detector test, I will provide a $10K check to the United Negro College Fund.

As someone commented about this post at its original site: that money is safer than it would be in a bank...

how much does Wilson Research know about the 9th District?

In addition to the spelling error, their assessment of the 9th District is probably just "something you say" about a competitive district. (Or perhaps they were just confusing presidential votes in the district-- with the Congressional representative.) But it's still a funny/odd mistake to make.

Hopefully, they're better at conducting polls!


We are happy to serve as the pollster to Congressman Mike Sodrel who is seeking to retake his seat from Baron Hill. The 9th district of Indiana has proven itself to be a (if not THE) bellweather district. Republicans have won this seat in years that the GOP performed well nationally, and have lost it in years the DEMs experienced pick-ups.

Young (and Hankins vs. Sodrel) on the issues

I have blogged a few times about the limited policy coverage on Todd's website.

My memory is that he had a brief discussion of three topics (the economy and two of the following: Constitution, 2nd Amendment, and Defense) and nothing on pro-life.

Sometime in the last month or so, the website was updated to expand the discussion of economics and to add a few more topics, including a blurb on "pro-life and pro-adoption".

In my view, it is now within range of what is appropriate/ideal for a candidate. In any case, kudos to Todd for adding more meat to those bones.

Hankins' website has tremendous detail in his policy discussions.

Sodrel's website, from what I can tell, still has nothing on public policy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

nothing like a good "pulled pork" joke

From the Onion:

Shaq Misses Entire Second Half With Pulled Pork Sandwich

March Madness from the Onion...

Cheering Fans, Thrilling NCAA Tournament Disgust BCS Officials

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jesse Ballew supports a fiscal moderate for Congress

I was surprised to see a bunch of Mike Sodrel signs pop up on property around Clark County.

Most or all of that property belongs to Jesse Ballew (Enterprises).

From my dealings with Jesse (mostly on property taxes), I would have guessed that he is a fiscal conservative. So, I'm surprised to see him supporting Sodrel in the primary. He should support the candidate who lines up with his principles-- or wait until after the primary to weigh in. (I can imagine him, reasonably, supporting Sodrel in the general election IF Sodrel wins the primary.)

If Sodrel is a strong candidate, then he doesn't need Jesse's support. If Sodrel is a weak candidate, then why would Jesse prop up a fiscal moderate?

The only answers I can imagine: a.) Jesse is letting his friendship with Sodrel get in the way of his principles; b.) he is not aware of Sodrel's lukewarm record on such things; or c.) he is not all that interested in fiscal conservatism (maybe he's more interested in social issues and state policies like property taxes).

I sent an email to him two days ago, but have not yet heard back. I hope he'll reply so I can provide an update to this post!

UPDATE: All I have so far is that Todd Young signs are now on many of those properties. I have emailed Jesse to see if we can place Hankins signs as well.

Sodrel continues to struggle with verbal commitments vs. walking the talk

First, and more important, is the divorce between reality and rhetoric on "fiscal conservatism"-- where Mike Sodrel claims the title despite his fiscally moderate voting record.

Now, it's debates in the primary race for the 9th District Congressional Race. Apparently, there's only going to be one-- assuming Mike doesn't back out of it. He had agreed, publicly, to have a bunch of them. But since then, he dropped out of the Jasper debate, he refused a Madison debate, and a few others.

(The issue is not the number of debates per se. There are two problems here: Sodrel has clamored for debates, when convenient, in other campaigns. And to the point here, if you commit to something, you need to follow through.)

The funny/ironic thing: although Mike and Baron Hill are quite different, they both like to say one thing and do another when it comes to "fiscal conservatism" and arranging debates!

Hopefully, 9th District voters will send someone more principled to Washington DC in January.

Cornell's unfair advantage (satire)

From SportsPickle (hat tip: Dave Carlsen)...

Cornell's run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed may be tarnished after reports surfaced today that all 13 players on the roster have been given elite educations that all but guarantee high-paying jobs after they leave the school.

NCAA president James Isch: "It's not fair for players at one school to be given expensive educations while athletes at other member schools receive basic, remedial instruction that is worth essentially nothing."

Big Red players have received an education worth $39,450 per year...Compare that to player at a school like Kentucky, where tuition is set at $4,051 -- but with an actual value far below that....

Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose team must play Cornell in the next round, says the disparity troubles him. "I don't want to say too much until these reports are confirmed," said Calipari. "But we're talking about more than a $150,000 difference in education per player -- and that's even if my players stayed four years or graduated, which many of them do not...."

Cornell point guard Louis Dale, who is reportedly enrolled in the College of Human Ecology, denied allegations that the Big Red program is cheating. "The discourse on this matter is fatuous and inane," he said, only implicating his program further.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hill touts (benefits only of) health care bill

From Seymour's TribTown.com...

Indiana 9th District Rep. Baron Hill of Seymour said the health care bill passed Sunday in the House will have a positive impact on southern Indiana residents.

“Immediately, the reform measure bans insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, creates a temporary high-risk pool for the 10,000 southern Indiana residents with pre-existing conditions to secure affordable care, prohibits insurers from dropping people when they get sick,” Hill said Sunday night.

He added it also “eliminates lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on coverage, requires new private plans to cover preventatives services and immunizations with no co-payments, allows young people to remain on their parents’ insurance policy until their 26th birthday, makes small businesses that provide coverage to their employees eligible for a tax credit of up to 35 percent of premiums and gives Hoosier seniors a $250 rebate to offset the price of high prescription drug costs.”

All costs; no benefits. If Hill sees it that way, he's ignorant. If he's selling it that way, he's a typical, despicable national politician. I'll bet on the latter.

Republicans seeking their party’s nomination to challenge for the 9th District seat this fall said they were disappointed with Hill’s decision.

Three different approaches:

Travis Hankins of Columbus has asked Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Indiana General Assembly to call a special session to exclude Indiana from the health care bill...

Mike Sodrel of New Albany said “Anyone who believes government cost estimates to be certain, as released by the Congressional Budget Office, probably believes in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.”

Todd Young of Bloomington said he would “continue to lead the charge against this bill and other big government legislation that erodes our liberty and passes along unsustainable debt to our children and grandchildren.”

the future in health care/insurance and beyond

The U.S. already has a strong mix of govt and markets-- from responsibility for more than 1/2 of the spending to a wide array of market-numbing regulations and subsidies. Beyond that, it is quite easy to make the case that govt involvement is the cause of the vast bulk of our current problems (although it takes some time and is more complex than the facile arguments to expand govt activism).

Will some people be better off with the new legislation? Sure, that's the nature of government activism.

Are "we" worse off, overall, with the new legislation? The most interesting and hopeful answer is that in the long run, this is likely to mess things up a lot more, leading to some better outcomes. If/when that happens and if we don't trash the economy in the meantime, we would finally end up at "true" (catastrophic and preventative) insurance, which would restore sanity to a govt-inspired mess.

Another interesting angle: this will continue to lengthen/deepen the ongoing recession-- as Bush/Obama/Congress continue to screw around with the markets. This will continue to put the Federal govt in an increasingly precarious position with respect to avoiding debt and inflation. And it will continue to put state and local govts in an increasingly tight bind. This will probably lead to some amazing changes in the next decade.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Korir wins LA Marathon for the second year in a row

Congrats to Wesley and his new wife, Tarah.

What a way to honeymoon!


Click here for results...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Noonan on Baier's interview of Obama

More from Peggy Noonan in this weekend's WSJ...

This time, on President Obama's interview with Bret Baier of Fox News Channel (an excerpt with the video pasted in below or part 1 and part 2 of the full interview)-- what she labeled "the most revealing and important broadcast interview of Barack Obama ever". (Noonan notes that Fox and the WSJ are owned by the same company, leading to the possible appearance of conflict of interest.)



It revealed his primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn't want revealed, which is that he doesn't want to reveal much about his plan....the interview was what such interviews rarely are, a public service. That it occurred at a high-stakes time, with so much on the line, only made it more electric...

...the Baier interview was something, and right from the beginning. Mr. Baier's first question was whether the president supports the so-called Slaughter rule, alternatively known as "deem and pass," which would avoid a straight up-or-down House vote on the Senate bill....The president said, "The vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health-care reform." We shouldn't, he added, concern ourselves with "the procedural issues."...

Then she quotes from the transcript:

Mr. Baier again: "So you'll go deem-and-pass and you don't know exactly what will be in the bill?"

Mr. Obama's response: "By the time the vote has taken place, not only will I know what's in it, you'll know what's in it, because it's going to be posted and everybody's going to be able to evaluate it on the merits."

Before commenting:

That's news in two ways. That it will be posted—one assumes the president means on the Internet and not nailed to a telephone pole—should suggest it will be posted for a while, more than a few hours or days. So American will finally get a look at it. And the president was conceding that no, he doesn't know what's in the bill right now...

And then to the bribes-- err...."special deals"-- to get additional votes:

Mr. Baier interrupts: "Mr. President, [can you] tell me what the special deals are that are in or not today."

Mr. Obama: "I just told you what was in and what was not in."

Mr. Baier: "Is Connecticut in?"

Mr. Obama: "Connecticut—what are you specifically referring to?"

Mr. Baier: "The $100 million for the hospital? Is Montana in for the asbestos program? Is—you know, listen, there are people—this is real money, people are worried about this stuff."

Mr. Obama: "And as I said before, this—the final provisions are going to be posted for many days before this thing passes."

Noonan continues her analysis of Baier's effort and how we [should] interview presidents in general:

Throughout, Mr. Baier pressed the president. Some thought this bordered on impertinence. I did not. Mr. Obama now routinely filibusters in interviews. He has his message, and he presses it forward smoothly, adroitly. He buries you in words....

Mr. Baier forced him off his well-worn grooves. He did it by stopping long answers with short questions, by cutting off and redirecting. In this he was like a low-speed bumper car....Mr. Baier's style seemed—this is admittedly subjective—not rude but within the bounds, and not driven by the antic spirit that sometimes overtakes reporters. He seemed to be trying to get new information. He seemed to be attempting to better inform the public....

Presidents have a right to certain prerogatives, including the expectation of a certain deference. He's the president, this is history. But we seem to have come a long way since Ronald Reagan was regularly barked at by Sam Donaldson, almost literally, and the president shrugged it off....

Finally...

And so it ends, with a health-care vote expected this weekend. I wonder at what point the administration will realize it wasn't worth it—worth the discord, worth the diminution in popularity and prestige, worth the deepening of the great divide. What has been lost is so vivid, what has been gained so amorphous, blurry and likely illusory. Memo to future presidents: Never stake your entire survival on the painful passing of a bad bill....

how embarrassing for the U.S.

Some rough but appropriate words from Peggy Noonan in this weekend's WSJ...

Excuse me, but it is embarrassing—really, embarrassing to our country—that the president of the United States has again put off a state visit to Australia and Indonesia because he's having trouble passing a piece of domestic legislation...What an air of chaos this signals to the world...Wow bush league, how undisciplined, how kid's stuff.

You could see the startled looks on the faces of reporters as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who had the grace to look embarrassed, made the announcement on Thursday afternoon. The president "regrets the delay"—the trip is rescheduled for June—but "passage of the health insurance reform is of paramount importance." Indonesia must be glad to know it's not.

The reporters didn't even provoke or needle in their questions. They seemed hushed. They looked like people who were absorbing the information that we all seem to be absorbing, which is that the wheels seem to be coming off this thing, the administration is wobbling—so early, so painfully and dangerously soon....

reparations for me but not for thee

From Allen Guelzo in First Things (from 2002, part of the 20th anniversary edition)...

The call for reparations for slavery is not, I believe, an ignoble one. But...the call for reparations opens itself up to a charge of willful forgetfulness so massive that resentment, anger, and bitterness, rather than justice, will (I fear) be its real legacy. The evils of slavery were real evils; so were the deaths of boy after boy, white and black, blue and gray, as well as the lag of postwar wages for Northern workers and the pauperization of Southern agriculture. In whose balances shall we say the one fails to measure up to the other?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lost and Christianity

I haven't more than a smidgen of Lost, but this seemed like an interesting analysis:

From Megan Basham in World...

Without spoiling anything for those who have yet to experience the secrets of the island, it is safe to say that from the outset Lost has been a rare show that allows those able to pick up on its Christian symbolism to appreciate it on a deeper level than the average viewer. Some of those symbols are writ in neon and some in postscripts (ask Christian fans about the thrill they experienced when the character Charlotte Staples Lewis—ahem, C.S. Lewis—arrived on the scene), but they are an ever-present, ever-developing feature of the story.

Perhaps no other character represents these layers of significance better than John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), the abandoned foster child who was once lame but begins to walk and later experiences other miracles of New Testament proportions. Locke stands as the voice of faith, often against Dr. Jack Shepherd (Matthew Fox), the voice of science....

There's more there, but you'll need to click on the link to read more.

CAL senior chooses U. of Alabama for wheelchair basketball

From Niki King in the C-J...

It was no surprise to those closest to Mackenzie Soldan that she had little to say Friday, as she signed with the University of Alabama's No.1-ranked women's wheelchair basketball team.

People often describe the 17-year-old senior at Christian Academy of Louisville as quiet, modest, shy even.

But beneath the quiet is the smoldering determination of a top-flight, internationally elite athlete.

In wheelchair basketball, she was one of the top five college recruits in the country, and she was one of 20 invited to try out for the American Paralympics team, which will compete in London in 2012.

But basketball isn't her only sport. In wheelchair tennis, she's ranked No.3 in the world junior division and for the last three years has represented the United States in the World Team Cup....

how diverse and tolerant do you want to be?

An interesting cultural clash, as a white group wins an historically black event...

From Kate Brumback and Dionne Walker (hat tip: C-J)...

Visit any of the nation’s more than 100 historically black colleges or universities and you’ll see clusters of men and women engaged in the rhythmic clapping and foot-stomping routines known in black Greek circles as “stepping.”

A white Arkansas team’s win in an Atlanta step competition has started a fiery debate over the African-inspired tradition and whether the integration of a once-ethnically exclusive activity constitutes a form of cultural theft....

On Thursday, sponsor Coca-Cola announced “scoring discrepancies” and said the runner-up — the Alpha Kappa Alpha team from Indiana University, whose members are black — would share first place and receive the same $100,000 in scholarships that the Zeta Tau Alphas won. It was unclear what the discrepancies were and Coca-Cola would not elaborate....

While scholars have debated the origin of stepping, the phenomenon is generally believed to have originated with black Greeks around 1969. Some link it to a form of African “gumboot” dancing, which involves performers rhythmically slapping and stamping their feet. It’s a form of dance made popular by workers in South African mines.

Pulling from things like military cadences and dance routines, stepping usually involves stomping out rhythms in heavy boots or loud shoes, with emphasis on precision and flair. Step crews often travel from coast to coast to earn cash, trophies and bragging rights for the most precise or clever routine....

where the wild things aren't...

Laugh-out loud funny from Dave Coverley's Speed Bump...

ROI vs. RPI: NCAA basketball return-on-investment

From David Biderman in the WSJ...


[who] filled out a bracket that rewards teams for the revenue they produce relative to their expenses.

The results showed that when it comes to money, the Big Ten dominates, boasting three of the four teams to reach the ROI Final Four. In the end, Ohio State cuts down the nets on the strength of its basketball team's 243% return on investment. The Buckeyes put $4.7 million into their men's basketball program in 2008-09 and had $16.1 million in revenue (the biggest arena in the Big Ten might help). Generally, state schools have the most success, taking up 12 spots in the Sweet Sixteen. Louisville reaches the finals with a 196% return on the $8.63 million it spent.

On the other end of the spectrum, Duke, which showed a 14.6% loss, gets sent home by play-in-game winner Arkansas Pine Bluff in the first round (Pine Bluff made a nice 48% return on the humble $505,000 it spent)....

if I could build an educational system from scratch

Tell you what I’d do if I could start over from scratch:

I’d set up a government-run system where only the upper- and upper-middle class have other choices. I’d want the monopoly power over the poor and middle class to be as great as possible.

Then I’d pass policies that undermine the nuclear family and set those kids loose in the schools.

Then I’d want all of the workers to be in a union.

And I’d spend more than $10,000 per student and then complain that we don’t spend enough.

One more thing: If someone started to complain about my system, I’d call them names, question their compassion, bring up strawmen about separation of church and state, and so on.

Man, that would be AWESOME!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

the book of life vs. the books of works

From Dave Coverley's Speed Bump...



This is a reference to Rev 20:12's "book of life"-- those who will be judged in light of Christ's atoning sacrifice on their behalf. In contrast, there are the (many/plural) "books of the works" of those who will be judged by their works.

The book of life can be singular because there are relatively few people going to heaven or because the entries are much smaller. To note, the book of life only requires a mention of my name.

The books of works must have more volume, given the extent of even one individual's good and bad works. Unfortunately, for those choosing this route, the Bible explains that one much be perfect.

Don't try to earn God's salvation; it can't be done. Accept the grace of God, offered to you freely.

what Evangelicals and Catholics (hopefully) have in common: a Biblical view of Justification

From Evangelicals and Catholics Together in 1998 (again, from the First Things' 20th anniversary edition)...

Justification is central to the scriptural account of salvation, and its meaning has been much debated between Protestants and Catholics. We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own; it is entirely God's gift, conferred through the Father's sheer graciousness, out of the love that he bears us in his Son, who suffered on our behalf and rose from the dead for our justification.

awesome comment on virginity

From Sarah Hinlicky in First Things (back in 1998-- more of their 20th anniversary retrospective)...

Okay, I'll admit it: I am twenty-two years old and still a virgin. Not for lack of opportunity, my vanity hastens to add. Had I ever felt unduly burdened by my unfashionable innocence, I could have found someone to attend to the problem.

some fun with the principle of Sabbath

From Dave Coverley's Speed Bump...

eat fish and help the poor

Marty Rosen in the C-J on an intersection between church fish fries, ministry, and Lent...

It's Lent, a season when church fish fries serve as communal expressions of sacrifice (well, you know what I mean) and celebration. For a complete list of fish fries run by Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Louisville, connect to www.archlou.org and follow the links.

There are dozens of excellent fish fries in the region. Over the last several years, I've visited about 20 of them, and I've yet to find a single one that wasn't worth visiting. I love the noisy gymnasiums, the clusters of volunteers, the homemade side dishes and desserts. I especially love the places where the kitchen is staffed by longtime volunteers who've developed their own special techniques and recipes for hand-breading the fish.

Most of the area fish fries run from now through March 26...

But if you can get downtown at lunchtime, the fish fry at the Cathedral of the Assumption ought to be at the top of your list. It runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Friday from now through the end of Lent....a project of the cathedral's Social Concerns Ministry...all proceeds benefit the Daily Lunch Program.

isn't it crazy how far we've come (on race relations) in 45 years?

Or the flip side: Doesn't it seem crazy, now, to consider how ridiculous things were in the 1960s?

From the AP (hat tip: C-J)...

Georgia Congressman John Lewis strolled to the middle of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday and remembered the incident 45 years ago when he and other marchers were beaten on the day known as "Bloody Sunday" [by Alabama state troopers]....

Marchers were a few blocks into their Selma-to-Montgomery march on March 7, 1965, when they were beaten by troopers on the bridge.

The march was later completed under federal protection, with Martin Luther King Jr. leading it. It led to passage of the Voting Rights Act, which opened Southern polling places to blacks and ended all-white government....

Lewis is a mess politically, but a legitimate hero for the Civil Rights movement from back in the day.

regulating RedBox vs. restricting competition

Excerpts from an intro and follow-up articles-- both in the C-J...

the first by the Indy Star's Jon Murray

A Southern Indiana prosecutor has threatened criminal charges unless stores with DVD rental kiosks remove R-rated movies and other material considered harmful to children.

The rollout of hundreds of automated Redbox-style kiosks to grocery stores, McDonald's restaurants, Wal-marts and other retailers in Indiana has met resistance in some communities over the perception that they provide children younger than 17 with easier access to adult-rated movies....

It's driven, at least in part, by the kiosks' old-school competitors -- the brick-and-mortar video stores that say they provide safeguards by requiring customers renting R-rated DVDs to show ID.

Kiosks, they say, aren't playing by the same rules, though Redbox officials say their kiosks require customers to affirm their age and are on firm legal ground....


the update from an AP writer--

The Vanderburgh County prosecutor says he won't pursue charges against stores that offer R-rated films in movie rental kiosks accessible by minors....

A very interesting question! There is the potential for "unfair competition" and a reduced inability to enforce laws that regulate "community standards". But as the first article (impressively) notes, this is also a terrific example of the universal desire to use the government to restrict one's competition.

This holds whether we're talking about doctors, Teamsters, car manufacturers, tax-service providers, manicurists, peanut farmers, and so on.

the limits of economics (esp. macro) OR comparing econ to biology rather than physics

From Russ Roberts in the WSJ...

For an economist, these are the best of times and the worst of times....everyone wants to understand what happened to the economy and what's going to happen next....[but] so little in the way of answers....

There were Nobel Laureates who thought the original stimulus package should have been twice as big. And there are those who blame it for keeping unemployment high. Some economists warn of hyperinflation while others tell us not to worry.

It makes you wonder why people call it the Nobel Prize in Economic Science. After all, most sciences make progress....

But in economics, theories that were once discredited surge back into favor. John Maynard Keynes and the view that government spending can create prosperity seem immortal. I thought stagflation had put a stake in the heart of this idea back in the 1970s. Suddenly, he's a genius once again....

I once thought econometrics—the application of statistics to economic questions—would settle these disputes and the truth would out. Econometrics is often used to measure the independent impact of one variable holding the rest of the relevant factors constant. But I've come to believe there are too many factors we don't have data on, too many connections between the variables we don't understand and can't model or identify....

...economists have learned some things that have stood the test of time and that we almost all agree on—the general connection between the money supply and inflation, for example. But the arsenal of the modern econometrician is vastly overrated as a diviner of truth. Nearly all economists accept the fundamental principles of microeconomics—that incentives matter, that trade creates prosperity—even if we disagree on the implications for public policy. But the business cycle and the ability to steer the economy out of recession may be beyond us....

If economics is a science, it is more like biology than physics. Biologists try to understand the relationships in a complex system....We have the same problems in economics. The economy is a complex system, our data are imperfect and our models inevitably fail to account for all the interactions.

The bottom line is that we should expect less of economists. Economics is a powerful tool, a lens for organizing one's thinking about the complexity of the world around us. That should be enough. We should be honest about what we know, what we don't know and what we may never know....

legalized abortion causes more deaths in Chile

From World...

Abortion advocates claim that legalizing abortion leads to fewer maternal deaths but, according to research from Chile, the opposite is true. Chile made its abortion laws stricter in the 1980s, but between 1960 and 2000 the maternal death rate underwent the largest reduction of any Latin country—from 275 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 18.7 deaths.

Chile's maternal death rate is now lower than any other country in South America, according to a recent World Economic Forum report.

A lot of this is due to technological advance and free-market driven economic growth which can take advantage of it. So, another ode to freedom and markets-- with at the least, a provocative correlation between welfare of the abortion and abortion law.

a parody of the "personally opposed" pro-choice abortion view

From Robert P. George in First Things (back in 1994-- recently republished in their 20th anniversary issue)...

I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view.

Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity-not a good, but a lesser evil.

In short, I am moderately pro-choice.

abortion and "the veil of self-regarding ignorance"

From James Q. Wilson in First Things (back in 1994-- recently republished in their 20th anniversary issue)...

Many people now regard a fertilized egg as sacred life, entitled to all the protection we can afford it. I have no quarrel with them.

Other people regard an embryo in the early weeks of pregnancy as not deserving of unqualified protection because, before we feel it to be human, we feel an obligation to spare the human-that-is-to-be unnecessary pain. I have no quarrel with them.

My quarrel is with those women who, knowing that they carry within them life by anyone's definition, refuse to confront that fact, insist on pulling the veil of self-regarding ignorance over what they bear, and abort because they are endowed with rights that trump all other rights and interests.

population theories as religion vs. Science

From Nick Eberstadt in First Things (back in 1994-- recently republished in their 20th anniversary issue)...

The tendency to invest in population theories with an almost religious zeal—as well as to harness them to the service of political movements buoyed by public hysteria—might be considerably reduced if there actually were a body of knowledge demonstrably capable of explaining population change, or of connecting this change predictively with various determinants or consequences. Unfortunately, such an understanding of the process of population change does not exist.

victory for the god of civil religion over the Triune God and atheists

From the AP's Terence Chea (hat tip: C-J)...

An appellate court has upheld references to God on U.S. currency and in the Pledge of Allegiance, rejecting arguments they violate the constitutional separation of church and state....

The same appeals court caused a national uproar and prompted accusations of judicial activism when it decided in Sacramento athiest Michael Newdow's favor in 2002, ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance violated the First Amendment prohibition against government endorsement of religion....

Bea noted that schools do not require students to recite the pledge, which was amended to include the words "under God" by a 1954 federal law. Members of Congress at the time said they wanted to set the United States apart from "godless communists."

Not nearly enough people understand the origins of the phrase-- in the pledge and on our money. In any case, check out these two quotes:

In a separate 3-0 ruling, the appeals court upheld the inscription of the national motto "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins and currency, citing an earlier 9th Circuit panel that ruled the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic and "has nothing whatsover to do with the establishment of religion."

Nope, nothing to do with the establishment of a traditional religion. We're talking about the god of American civil religion. (Of course, some people say the pledge as if to the Triune God of the Bible, but that is relatively uncommon.)

Greg Katsas, who argued the currency case on behalf of the U.S. government when the appellate court heard the case in December 2007, said the panel made the right decision Thursday.

"I think these two phrases encapsulate the philosophy on which the nation was founded," said Katsas, who now works in private practice. "There is a religious aspect to saying "One nation under God," but it isn't like a prayer. When someone says the pledge, they're not praying to God, they're pledging allegiance to the country, the flag and th ideals of the country."

Again, the same thing. It's not a prayer. It's not about the Triune God of the Bible. It's about country-- and the god of civil religion which dovetails with those ideals.

your govt in action: an anecdote on the TSA vs. your Constitutional rights

Date: March 29, 2009

Who: Steven Bierfeldt, treasurer for Ron Paul’s "Campaign for Liberty"

Subject: Detained/questioned by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at the St. Louis airport for a half-hour

Why: He put a box with $4,700 through a security checkpoint’s X-ray machine

How recorded: on his iPhone

The TSA's problem: Traveling with large amounts of cash is not illegal.

Excerpts from the full transcript are available from Harpers...

Here's the CNN coverage of the episode.

Here is part 1 (of 3) of the audio on YouTube.


In how many ways is this sad/funny?

the tolls may not toll for thee, 2nd Street Bridge

From Marcus Green in the C-J...

The current scenarios for using tolls to pay for the Ohio River Bridges Project would leave the Clark Memorial Bridge as a “free” route, a step that could increase traffic on the bridge to the highest levels since the mid-1960s and create chronic traffic jams....

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said, “It seems reasonable to expect that, in the event of toll bridges, many motorists — at first — would seek to avoid tolls by some route. If the Clark Memorial is the only such route, serious congestion could be expected.”...

While motorists might initially take the Clark to “be real frugal,” he said, they won’t continue “if they can’t get on it and it takes forever to get across it. So I think all that will work itself out,” [Jeff Mayor Tom] Galligan said....

The one time I spoke to Mayor Galligan at length, we talked about gas prices and he was busy telling me how much he understood Economics. In this case, he is, indeed, right on the nose!

How many drivers go out of their way to use a free route depends on how easy it is to divert from the toll roads and how much the tolls are, said Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington....

Hallenbeck said drivers’ decisions often boil down to a simple question: Is the money saved by not paying a toll worth possibly taking a longer trip?...

Money vs. time. Opportunity costs. E101.

NCAA selection committee errors or bias in seedings: some data

From Russell Adams in the WSJ...

How much should you trust the people who build the bracket?

Every year, fans accuse the NCAA selection committee of overseeding (and underseeding) certain schools....

We recorded the scores of every tournament game played since 1985 to find out how close each game should be based on the seeds of the two teams playing. By establishing the average scoring differential for each seed pairing (for instance, 3-seeds beat 14-seeds by about 11.5 points), it's possible to compare every team's performance against a benchmark. Some teams consistently outperform this average-scoring margin, and others consistently underachieve...

Here are the teams in this year's tournament that have done the most and the least to justify their seeds since 1985. (They provide a full list of teams on-line.)

Overseeded
(Avg. Pts. Below Seed)
Underseeded
(Avg. Pts. Above Seed)
Wake Forest (5.68) West Virginia (4.08)
New Mexico St. (4.92) Texas A&M (3.57)
Clemson (4.65) Kansas (3.28)
BYU (4.47) Kentucky (3.25)
Tennessee (3.62) Louisville (2.79)

In my bracket, I'm hoping that they over-corrected with BYU this year. I have them going to the Final Four-- along with Baylor and Kansas who will beat Kentucky in the Finals.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Young blows up Sodrel for debate hypocrisy

Like Baron Hill, Mike Sodrel only wants to debate when it suits him-- this campaign and others-- and not otherwise. Not particularly principled.

Of course, that goes with Sodrel's failure to own his votes for funding for Planned Parenthood in two federal budgets. And most notably, it squares with his curious claim to be a fiscal conservative-- when his voting record is quite clear that he's a fiscal moderate. (Again, Baron Hill makes the same sort of claim.)

So, more could be said, but this is a nice start:

Apparently the luck of the Irish has run out on those voters hoping to hear Mike Sodrel address voters in a candidates debate. He has yet to participate in a single debate. Two weeks ago, Mike Sodrel backed out of tonight's congressional debate in Jasper. After agreeing to meet in a series of public forums...Mr. Sodrel has decided that debating the issues that affect all voters in Indiana's Ninth District is not a high priority....

Several groups have offered to host candidate debates, but Mike Sodrel is the only candidate in the field that has held these up. Moreover, Mr. Sodrel actually chose the date and location of tonight's debate to best accommodate his own schedule. Neither Mr. Sodrel, nor any representative of his campaign, has offered an explanation...

In May, GOP primary voters will be deciding whether to reward political antics and important but missing principles. A vote for Sodrel is a vote for a politician-- or at least a former business owner who acts like a politician. We can do better in the 9th District, right?

As should be abundantly clear, I believe Travis Hankins is the best candidate in the field. But how can one vote for Sodrel, while complaining about the status quo in Washington?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

crying wolf and blaming markets vs. the govt: Love Canal, 30 years later

From Ronald Bailey in Reason...

In February 1981, Reason ran a major investigative article on the Love Canal scandal, in which industrial chemical dump leaks were blamed for birth defects and cancer in a neighborhood of Niagara Falls, New York....[Eric] Zuesse showed that Hooker ElectroChemical had adequately sealed the wastes and had repeatedly warned that the site should never be developed. He noted that chemicals began leaking out only after local and state agencies willfully breached the dump site's clay seal as part of a development scheme.

Although it wasn't his focus, Zuesse also expressed skepticism about some of the health concerns that circulated after Love Canal residents were exposed to the chemical wastes....Zuesse's skepticism was warranted. In 2009 New York state published its findings in a tracking study that has been running since 1996...Love Canal residents are not especially prone to early mortality, cancer, or birth defects.

rhetorical heat in global warming

From William Anderson in First Things...

These days, in the matter of climate change, simple epistemology has become a matter of dispute. Competing visions prefer appeals to emotion. After a plausible beginning some three decades ago, testable hypotheses concerning climate have faded into the background—eclipsed by an ever-ramifying and near-impenetrable tangle of acrimonious accusations, ad hominem arguments, well-poisoning, and appeals to authority....

Some of the frequently heard assertions may now be fairly judged as false to a moral certainty:

“The science is in, settled, or enjoys overwhelming consensus.”

“Those who disagree cannot be trusted because they have a vested interest in the outcome.” The statement does not discriminate between believers and skeptics and is an empty assertion.

“Even if the current findings are uncertain, the application of a ‘precautionary principle’ requires that we act to avert catastrophe, just in case.” Again, the assertion is logically untenable, since it assumes what it purports to prove....

These three propositions, still frequently proclaimed, serve only to distract and mislead. Reasonable debate should not involve their use.

As for those controversies that cannot be settled by the use of logic alone, they are of two types: questions of process and of content. The problems with the process of climate science begin with the corruption of the peer-review process....

Worse, these same investigators refused to disclose their original data and their methods of analysis, threatening to destroy data rather than comply with freedom-of-information demands, as required by law. This action constitutes scientific malfeasance of the gravest type. Alone it is sufficient to discredit their entire enterprise.

A second problem with the process is the corruption of the original data....

is ClimateGate a symptom of far larger problems?

From Peter Berkowitz in the WSJ...

He opens with this provocative question:

What does this scandal [ClimateGate] say generally about the intellectual habits and norms at our universities?

This is a legitimate question, because our universities, which above all should be cultivating intellectual virtue, are in their day-to-day operations fostering the opposite. Fashionable ideas, the convenience of professors, and the bureaucratic structures of academic life combine to encourage students and faculty alike to defend arguments for which they lack vital information. They pretend to knowledge they don't possess and invoke the authority of rank and status instead of reasoned debate...

what happened to peer-reviewed science?

From the editorialists of the WSJ...

It has been a bad—make that dreadful—few weeks for what used to be called the "settled science" of global warming, and especially for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is supposed to be its gold standard.

First it turns out that the Himalayan glaciers are not going to melt anytime soon...Next came news that an IPCC claim that global warming could destroy 40% of the Amazon was based on a report by an environmental pressure group....

Since the climategate email story broke in November, the standard defense is that while the scandal may have revealed some all-too-human behavior by a handful of leading climatologists, it made no difference to the underlying science....But there's no doubt that climategate has spurred at least some reporters to scrutinize the IPCC's headline-grabbing claims in a way they had rarely done previously....

In its 2007 report, the IPCC wrote that "up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state."

But as Jonathan Leake of London's Sunday Times reported last month, those claims were based on a report from the World Wildlife Fund, which in turn had fundamentally misrepresented a study in the journal Nature....

The IPCC has also cited a study by British climatologist Nigel Arnell claiming that global warming could deplete water resources for as many as 4.5 billion people by the year 2085.

But as our Anne Jolis reported in our European edition, the IPCC neglected to include Mr. Arnell's corollary finding, which is that global warming could also increase water resources for as many as six billion people.

The IPCC report made aggressive claims that "extreme weather-related events" had led to "rapidly rising costs." Never mind that the link between global warming and storms like Hurricane Katrina remains tenuous at best. More astonishing (or, maybe, not so astonishing) is that the IPCC again based its assertion on a single study that was not peer-reviewed....

the USPS continues its slide into obsolescence

From the AP's Randolph Schmid (hat tip: C-J)...

The post office is renewing its drive to drop Saturday delivery – and plans a rate increase – in an effort to fend off a projected $7 billion loss this year.

Without drastic action the agency could face a cumulative loss of $238 billion over 10 years, Postmaster General John Potter said...But, he added, "all is not lost ... we can right this ship."...

As Americans turn more and more from paper to electronic communications, the number of items handled by the post office fell from 213 billion in 2006 to 177 billion last year. Volume is expected to shrink to 150 billion by 2020. At the same time, the type of material sent is shifting from first-class mail to the less lucrative standard mail, such as advertising....

"We need to walk slowly and very, very careful" in raising prices, Potter said, noting that increases can also drive business away....

Ooooh, concerns about the price elasticity of demand for the USPS' services. Nice!

from supposed monopoly to needing a big subidy: how things change in the newspaper business

From Matt Welch in Reason...

Welch opens with a quote from media historian Robert W. McChesney a decade ago-- on the AOL/Time merger: "a violation of any known theory of a free press in a democratic society...[would lead to] another round of mergers that should leave the entire realm of communication under the thumbs of a small handful of companies."

McChesney was not just wrong about all of the above. He was spectacularly wrong....Instead of heralding a new age, the merger is now seen as marking the last big burst of irrational exuberance from a long-gone era. And the "eventual course of the Internet" has been determined not by a handful of mustache-twirling profiteers but by millions of frequently anonymous individuals, some seeking profit but most using the simplest of online tools...

This was more than just an outlier prediction at didn't pan out...

The 2000s, which stand as arguably the single most disruptive and creative decade for media since the dawn of the William Randolph Hearst/Joseph Pulitzer press baron era, forced what might be called the Media Monopoly wing of journalism criticism...to change its tune....

This shape shifting would be little more than an intellectual curiosity if it weren't for one pressing fact: The media criticism establishment, McChesney most of all, is pushing hard for an unprecedented federal government intrusion into the free press. And its alarming proposals are gaining a sympathetic audience on Capitol Hill.

In March 2009, McChesney and John Nichols, the Washington correspondent for The Nation, penned a widely circulated story for the progressive weekly calling for a journalism "stimulus" costing $60 billion over the next three years. Provisions included a $200 tax credit for newspaper subscriptions, the elimination of postage rates for magazines receiving less than 20 percent of their revenue from advertising, and taxpayer support for "a well-funded student newspaper and a low-power FM radio station" at "every middle school, high school and college."...

Unfortunately for anyone enthusiastic about both a strong federal government and freedom of the press, there is and always will be a fundamental tension between the two....

from govt schools to govt prisons

I give a lot of time to school choice as a primary factor in our expensive, low-quality, restricted-choice government elementary and secondary education system. It's the most important factor that we could change easily (outside of political interests).

But the most important factor, overall, is social disintegration, and in particular, the dissolution of two-parent households among the poor and middle class.

A sad piece from four authors in the C-J...

One of the most alarming trends affecting our children today is what has become known as the “school to prison pipeline,” a term used to describe an all too common reality for poor-performing students. First they are academically unsuccessful, then their misbehavior results in school disciplinary action, then their misbehavior puts them into the juvenile justice system, then they leave school prematurely and eventually end up as incarcerated adults....

In Kentucky, an estimated 33 percent of juvenile court cases are initiated in schools.

In the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), 25 percent of students who begin high school do not graduate.

Nationally, students who do not graduate are three times more likely to be incarcerated....

Louisville busing plan may come under political attack

From Chris Kenning in the C-J...

It was a familiar situation: Suburban parents who wanted to keep their children from long bus rides objecting to a system set up to keep the county's public schools racially and economically diverse.

So when four newly elected, conservative school board members in Wake County, N.C., forged a new board majority and then last week announced their plan to toss out the district's nationally recognized integration plan — the shakeup rippled all the way to Louisville....

And with four of Jefferson County's seven school board seats up for election this year — and parental discontent with its new student-assignment plan still simmering — integration advocates say what happened in Wake should serve as a “wake-up call” in Louisville....

Could be fun!

Superintendent Sheldon Berman has said he's worried about doubts some board members have expressed in the face of opposition from parents who he said are typically from affluent families, many new to the system, who want their children to attend better schools closer to home....

Oh yes, I'm sure it's the rich. Actually, I think they have their kids in private schools or home schooling. If it's connected to wealth, the much larger group of complainers would be upper-middle class.

Finally, a quote from Brent McKim, head of the teachers' union. (It's odd that they take any position on this at all, isn't it?)

Despite a “small but vocal group of people unhappy with any system,” he said, “for the most part the community has a strong commitment to diversity. Everyone agrees we need to try to keep travel time as short as possible."...

It'd be nice if Mr. McKim explained how those principles compete. At this point, diversity trumps convenience by a large margin.