Saturday, December 31, 2005

No Respect - cartoon

Zarqawi and his therapist. Via No Pasaran! a French blog I recommend.
Click on the cartoon for a larger version.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sovereign Canada?

For a nation to be sovereign it has to defend its borders. Canada is a very large country, but it hasn't been protecting its vast northern territory. The US announced that one of our submarines went to the North Pole from Alaska then traveled east to the Atlantic Coast. The most likely route would go through waters Canada considers to be their territory, though the channels are so wide that other nations consider them to be international waters. Covered by the National Post - Map But, more importantly, Canada doesn't know where and when the USS Charlotte went. Canada does not patrol the northern area. You would think that they have some listening posts or something. I suppose they would keep quiet about it. But I see that Canada has cut their military so much that they don't have much. I don't recall where I saw it, but Canada has cut its military spending by 25% and its personnel by 25% as well. And the article quotes the past commander of Canadian armed forces for the north that there are seldom any patrols up there. I know one thing they are doing instead. On our early November trip to the Caribbean we saw a Canadian Navy ship at port in Nassau, Bahamas.
Prof. Byers said potentially lucrative oil and gas resources off the Queen Elizabeth Islands could slip out of Canadian control if foreign navies are operating in the Arctic without our permission. "The fact of the matter is that we've spent nothing on Arctic sovereignty over the past 20 years."
There is a brief mention at PeakTalk. And Red Tory doesn't think there is anything Canada should want to defend. But Canada has defended one tiny island. Hans Island is more than 80 degrees north in the channel between Canda's Ellesmere Island and Greenland. Last July Canada's defense minister traveled there to renew Canada's claim to it in a dispute with Denmark. Denmark protests that the two countries have agreed to disagree over the island - to work it out later. Why they defend one little island while they do nothing to vast stretches baffles me. If you don't protect it you should expect to lose it.

Competitiveness and high-tech jobs

Quote: With China’s successful launch into orbit of its second manned spaceship, claims and worries that America is losing its edge in many high-tech industries will no doubt increase. Democrats just love to hit the airwaves proclaiming the myth we are becoming a nation of hamburger flippers, as our best jobs get outsourced to Asia. For the past thirty years, the American people have been treated to warning after warning of our impending mass servitude behind the McDonald’s counter. In the 1980’s it was Japan and the Asian Tigers that were stealing our good jobs. Then came Ross Perot talking about that giant sucking sound from Mexico. Today, everyone seems worried about China and India....... But in recent months, evidence coming out the Middle Kingdom continues to paint a slightly different picture. While it is undeniably true that China’s rise creates a major challenge for the Western economies, it is important for us to keep this major power shift in perspective. While it is true many labor-intensive industries elsewhere have been hit hard by growing Chinese exports (with textiles as a prime example), the reality is quite different from what many on the mainstream media would like readers to believe. Brian Schwarz at American More on the "engineering crisis" As I noted here last week, a new study from Duke University suggests the so-called engineering gap between America and its Asian rivals China and India is a myth. Now BusinessWeek has uncovered some possible reasons behind this “propaganda” and the detrimental effect it is having America’s current high-tech workers. After discussing the sensitive issue with the author of the Duke study Dr. Vivek Wadhwa, Mr. Pete Engardio writes: The bottom line is that America’s engineering crisis is a myth, Wadhwa argues. Both sides in the globalization debate are “spreading propaganda,” he contends. India and China are using inflated engineering numbers because they want to draw more foreign investment, while fearmongers in the U.S. use dubious data either to support their case for protectionism, to lobby for greater government spending on higher education and research, or to justify their offshore investments. Brian Schwarz again

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The future of America - In Iraq!

"IF YOU WANT to meet the future political leaders of the United States, go to Iraq. I am not referring to the generals, or even the colonels. I mean the junior officers and enlistees in their 20s and 30s. In the decades ahead, they will represent something uncommon in U.S. military history: war veterans with practical experience in democratic governance, learned under the most challenging of conditions" So writes Robert Kaplan in the LA Times
For several weeks, I observed these young officers working behind the scenes to organize the election in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. They arranged for the sniffer dogs at the polling stations and security for the ballots right up to the moment Iraqi officials counted them. They arranged the outer ring of U.S. military security, with inner ones of Iraqi soldiers and police at each polling station, even as they were careful to give the Iraqis credit for what they, in fact, were doing. The massive logistical exercise of holding an election in a city of 2.1 million people was further complicated by the fact that the location of many polling stations changed at the last minute to prevent terrorist attacks. Throughout Iraq, young Army and Marine captains have become veritable mayors of micro-regions, meeting with local sheiks, setting up waste-removal programs to employ young men, dealing with complaints about cuts in electricity and so on. They have learned to arbitrate tribal politics, to speak articulately and to sit through endless speeches without losing patience.
This is news to me. Read the original source. Again no internet access at the beach. That's OK. We had rain, wind-driven rain and sun! It's great to get away.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

That's what Christmas is all about

Then Linus said.... "And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid ... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord." "And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men. That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Great news for Iraq from IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a large loag guarantee for Iraq, and it's bad news for those who want the US to lose - Pelosi, Murtha and Jim McDermott. Iraq is stable! The IMF says so as reported in the Washington Times
The loan... reflects the lending agency's judgment that Iraq's government is doing its best to revive the war-torn economy. The loan clears the way for major debt relief from Western nations. "The Iraqi authorities were successful in promoting macroeconomic stability in 2005, despite the extremely difficult security environment," said IMF Deputy Managing Director Takatoshi Kato. He noted growth slowed in 2005 after a strong spurt in 2004. "The medium-term outlook for Iraq is favorable, but subject to many risks," he said
This is news, not opinion.
The IMF's action is a victory for the Bush administration, which is counting on the IMF and World Bank to supply a significant portion of the funds needed for Iraq's reconstruction. "This arrangement will underpin economic stability and help lay the foundation for an open and prosperous economy in Iraq," said U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow... IMF loans normally are considered a green light for private investors to start doing business with a country. But Iraq continues to have trouble attracting investments from major Western companies, particularly in its critical oil sector.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Movies - the excellent and the unacceptable

We saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is as excellent as I expected it to be. It's is well staged and acted. The characters are well done. The witch is not what I expected, but is still a good combination of being good looking while you can see there is something wrong with her. Go see it. But don't waste your time on Munich. I trust Michael Medved on movies. Here is his key sentence:
its underlying theme that terrorists and those who try to defeat them are morally equivalent makes it impossible to endorse.
It's hard to believe that Steven Spielberg would find those fighting to stop the terrorists to be as evil as tghe terrorists who plotted to kill the Israli athletes, then hunted and murdered them in cold blood. Oh, I am sure he puts it in much nicer terms. But he does the same thing - he considers those trying to avenge murder to be equivalent to the murderers. Medved's current reviews are at Eye on Entertainment. It's best to listen to the mp3 file, rather than read, because there are audio clips that are missing from the text version.

Remember those who made our peaceful Christmas possible

Men who gave their lives to preserve our freedom. The 172.5-acre Normandy American Cemetery has 9,387 burials of US service men and women from World War II.
This scene has pleasant Christmas color, but I don't know its location or history.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Americans DONATE a lot more than Canadians

"The most striking finding of the Generosity Index is the dramatic difference in charitable giving that exists between Canada and the United States. These differences are most marked when comparing the depth of charitable giving in the two countries. In 2003, the United States donated 1.57 percent of aggregate income to charity, more than twice that of Canada (0.70 percent). " More than double. Source: The Fraser Institute in Vancouver, BC (I don't recall who lead me to this.)

US Savings Rate is Close to 10%

It has been widely reported that US households are spending so much - that's good, right? - that they have cut their savings rate to less that zero. Michael K Evans in Industry Week doesn't believe them. Because a respected authority says that this analysis is incorrect - Alan Greenspan in a working paper and the US Labor Deptment as well.
For example, recently the Federal Reserve Board issued an important working paper, co-authored by none other than Alan Greenspan himself. It estimates "gross equity extraction" from homes on a quarterly basis from 1990 to the present. As I read through the numbers, they suggest that the personal savings rate is about 9%, not less than zero. They are not the only numbers we can look at. The U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a comprehensive consumer expenditure survey on an annual basis. The personal saving rate, calculated from that survey, increased from 3% in 2000 to a whopping 12% in 2003, the latest year for which data are available. I don't think the saving rate is that high, but the point is that the BEA measure of personal saving is far from the only measure available, and in my opinion is irrelevant.
Why the disparity? Because of different methods of looking at consumption, particularly housing.
The main difference occurs in housing. Suppose, for example, that the typical mortgage rate declined from 7% to 5%, and many homeowners refinanced. They would then spend less on their mortgage payments, which would leave more money for either other purchases or an increase in saving. Note that this development is independent of the extraction of home equity, which increases the actual cash saving rate even more. The Fed's paper has gone far to resolve the conundrum that consumers keep buying other goods and services at the same rate even when energy prices rise and even though the personal saving rate is reportedly negative. The personal saving rate is nothing of the sort. It is probably about 10% when refinancing at lower rates and extraction of home equity are taken into account.
I admit that this souce doesn't go into sufficient detail for me fully understand. But it appears that much of this is a conversion of savings in a home to cash savings by refinancing and extracting equity. But I do understand that two respected sources find the data say the news is good.
As a result, real consumer spending will grow at the same rate in 2006 as it did in 2005. BEA will continue to report that the personal saving rate continues to become even more negative, but those figures can be safely ignored.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Progress at TSA

I have been concerned with airline security since long before 9/11. It seems to be bothering lots of people but accomplishing little. Long ago I heard that Israeli security avoids concentrating its attention on weapons, but looks for the dangerous people. Our airline security has concentrated on weapons; it seems to think that the more people are bothered will cause terrorists to just give up. And Norm Minetta has turned a boyhood grudge into "a law" against protecting us against people from certain places. Now the new head of TSA - Transportation Security Administration - is using his head. Kip Hawley is responsible for the rule going into effect this week that will allow scissors and screwdrivers. He is doing this to free up the TSA screeners to do more flexible screening - to look for the terrorists, not the scissors. US News and World Report reports this week:
A Man On A Big Mission ... Many will see changes in security--changes engineered by Hawley, who's now the head of TSA. Hawley was behind the recent decision to allow passengers to carry small scissors on board, but he's far from done. He has vowed to increase the variability of the screening process, increase intelligence gathering, and generally shake things up. In just five months at the helm, Hawley has acquired a host of admirers and an imposing group of critics. ... In a recent speech, Hawley said he was embracing more "flexible thinking" at TSA. Not everyone, however, is a fan of such thinking, or even agrees on what it is. And so Hawley's announcement that he was taking small scissors and tools off the list of prohibited items immediately drew fire from lawmakers like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who introduced a bill to reverse the changes. Unfazed, Hawley is pressing on. Now he wants to expand a program in which screeners monitor fliers for signs of agitation, like subtle facial tics, which might indicate a passenger is concealing a weapon or intends to cause some other kind of trouble. "Passengers with illegitimate, violent agendas don't act normally when passing through checkpoints," says Rafi Ron, a former security director at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport, "if you know what to look for."
Good for Hawley. The TSA will be able to search broader and be thorough when necessary. This also adds uncertainty: it makes it easy for terrorists when the routine is always followed. Give them some surprises and throw them off. We will be safer.

Protect the US against Al Qaeda

President Bush is defending us against the 9/11 attackers - Al Qaeda. Who is against him? The New York Times and every Democrat that can be found. Telephone calls are tapped if they involve international terror group members or people they are in contact with. I am in favor of that. President Bush informed Congress. The New York Times lied and says Bush did it in secret. Ed at Captain's Quarter says "People have the impression that FISA requires warrants from the FISA judge, but that isn't what FISA says at all." Read it. Powerline Blog is glad that "Bush noted both the legality of the NSA program and the illegality of the leaks that exposed the program to the terrorists." Why do we expect the NYT to not provide our enemies with tools to attack us? Low expectations.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

China continues to repress town

The government of China attacked the people of Dhongzhou and killed 20. They were protesting against the taking of their properties for a new power plant without compensation. China is doing everything they can to supress talk of what the government did. The New York Times reports:
Now, a stilted calm prevails, a cover-up so carefully planned that the small town looks like a relic from the Cultural Revolution, as if the government had decided to re-educate the entire population. Banners hang everywhere, with slogans in big red characters proclaiming things like, "Stability is paramount" and "Don't trust instigators." Many facts remain unclear about the police crackdown on a Dongzhou demonstration on Dec. 6, which residents say ended in the deaths of 20 or more people, but one thing is certain: The government is doing everything possible to prevent witnesses' accounts of what happened from emerging. Residents of Dongzhou, a small town now cordoned off by heavy police roadblocks and patrols, said in scores of interviews on the telephone and with visitors that they had endured beatings, bribes and threats at the hands of security forces in the week and a half after their protest against the construction of a power plant was violently put down. Others said that the corpses of the dead had been withheld, apparently because they were so riddled with bullets that they would contradict the government's version of events.
And there is a reward for telling the government's lie.
And residents have been warned that if they must explain the deaths of loved ones - many of whom were shot dead during a tense standoff with the police in which fireworks, blasting caps and crude gasoline bombs were thrown by the villagers - they should simply say their relatives were blown up by their own explosives. "Local officials are talking to families that had relatives killed in the incident, telling them that if they tell higher officials and outsiders that they died by accident, by explosives, while confronting the police, they must make it sound convincing," said one resident of the besieged town in an interview. "If the family members speak this way they are being promised 50,000 yuan ($6,193), and if not, they will be beaten and get nothing out of it."
Should the world reward China with the spotlight of the 2008 Olypmics? It will be a spectacular show. But the show is being built on the deaths of - who's counting? - thousands of their own people. One historian is counting. RJ Rummel at the University of Hawaii has spent decades counting "Deaths by Government." This does not count wars. He only counts when a country kills its own citizens. It is available at His website at U of Hawaii Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, and War covers the facts for quck reference. And I just discovered his blog "Democratic Peace." In a recent entry he updates the number of people the Communist government of China has killed: 77,000,000. This number does not include the actions of the previous governments. On December 6, 2005 the Communist government of China added at least 20 to the 77,000,000 of its own people it has killed. Note: "This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945. For perspective on Mao's most bloody rule, all wars 1900-1987 cost in combat dead 34,021,000 -- including WWI and II, Vietnam, Korea, and the Mexican and Russian Revolutions. Mao alone murdered over twice as many as were killed in combat in all these wars." Quoting Rummel's web site.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tax Cuts Delayed

Bad news. Congress isn't getting it done until they take another 3-week vacation... 4-week? The Wall Street Journal reports
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R - Tenn) told reporters earlier this week that it is very doubtful whether Congress will pass a key tax cut bill before the Christmas holiday recess, as lawmakers rush to complete a number of other important legislative items before the year's end. The bill will contain a number of important tax cut items, such as an extension of the dividend and capital gains tax cuts beyond their present expiry date of December 31, 2008, and the renewal of various other tax incentives for businesses and individuals. However, because the House and Senate have yet to resolve differences in their respective bills, the legislation is unlikely to be enacted before February 2006. The delay means that lawmakers will be unable to apply a one-year patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax before the preset fix expires at the end of this year. Consequently, an additional 15 million Americans face being dragged into the AMT net in 2006, although Republicans have indicated that they will apply the patch retroactively to the beginning of 2006.
Yes, 15 million tax payers will have their income taxes increased by the Alternate Minimum Tax. I hope they will succeed on the spending reduction they are working on. And keep control on throwing money at New Orleans.
In the meantime, lawmakers are expected to turn their attention to a $45 billion deficit reduction bill and federal funding legislation. They are also likely to vote on a $7 billion tax incentive package designed to help the reconstruction effort in the areas of the Gulf Coast hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita earlier in the year.

Let's work with our closest allies - F35

US export restrictions have put our relationship with the British at risk. We rightly control the export of military technology. But the controls are so tight that our close ally the United Kingdom can't work with us on the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. That's ridiculous. And it is Republicans who are doing the damage. Winds of Change blog reports
Trouble has arrived. Senior Ministry of Defence officials have confirmed to The Sunday Times of London that Britain is considering its options and contemplating a pullout from the multinational, multi-billion dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program (JSF). It's a 10-nation program: USA, Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey); but Britain is the program's only Tier One partner with the USA. They've invested about $2B to develop the F-35B STOVL version that was intended to fly from Britain's future Queen Elizabeth Class carriers - and will also form the future backbone of US Marine Corps aviation.
Come on, Congress. Fix it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Iraq Insurgents Want to Talk

Great news from Iraq! Insurgents who have tried to disrupt Iraq are starting to change their mings. They want to talk to the US and the new government of Iraq. They fear being left out of the future of Iraq; they want in. It's not the US winning, but the people if Iraq. From the Chicago Tribune via
BAGHDAD, Iraq - As Iraq moves toward crucial legislative elections Thursday, homegrown Iraqi insurgent groups are reaching out to the United States in the hope of launching a dialogue that would draw them into the political process and end their 2 1/2-year rebellion, according to U.S. officials and Iraqis close to the insurgency. Spurred by fears of the growing influence of Iran and encouraged by signals from Washington that the United States will start drawing down troops next year, insurgents who see themselves as fighting for an Iraqi nationalist cause are looking for ways to distance themselves from the religious radicals and the hard-core Baathists who have dominated the insurgency in the public eye, with a view to establishing a foothold in Iraq's political landscape, the Iraqis say.
But the US is cautious and of course we do not negotiate with terrorists....
At the same time, U.S. officials also have indicated that they are willing to open a dialogue with people representing insurgent groups, as long as they have not been directly involved in violence. "We're not going to talk to people with blood on their hands," said Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, in a recent interview. "We talk to others who talk to them." A number of exploratory meetings have taken place between U.S. officials and people who claim to represent insurgent interests, Iraqis and Americans say, though there have been few tangible results. "They haven't got very far," said Casey. "There's too much mistrust." But the signals from both sides point to a building momentum toward negotiations that could help ease the violence as U.S. forces prepare to start reducing troops next year. Insurgents also have been reaching out to the Iraqi government. Since President Jalal Talabani told the National Reconciliation Conference in Cairo late last month that he was prepared to "listen" to "any armed group" that wanted to talk, his office has been contacted by a number of people who claim to be leaders of the insurgency offering to negotiate, his officials say.
Read the whole thing! Great news!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

China represses dissent with 20 killed

China handled political dissent with deadly force in Dongzhou in southern China near Hong Kong. The town people were protesting the lack of compensation for land taken for a wind power project. The Seattle Times reports:
Police started firing into the crowd, killing as many as 10 people, mostly men, and wounding up to 20, villagers reached by telephone said Friday. On Saturday, Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper raised the death toll to nearly 20, citing villagers. There was no explanation for the discrepancy. Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper today quoted villagers who said authorities were trying to conceal the deaths by offering families money to turn over bodies. "They offered us a sum but said we would have to give up the body," an unidentified relative of one slain villager, Wei Jin, 31, was quoted as saying. "We are not going to agree."
It's not surprising that the government of China cannot handle dissent by its political process, because there are no political processes in China. The government is a Communist dictatorship. The dictator doesn't want to look bad in the eyes of the world. But he knows only one way to rule - by pure power. Should China be given the world's spotlight with the honor of hosting the Olympics? They can't even rule their own country. There is a solution, but it's messy - elections. If China were a democracy people would elect their leaders and would be able to have some influence over them. It's messy and it takes years to make the conversion. And the powerful have to give up their positions. In Russia they started this process, but the people at the top couldn't wait for the bottom and middle to build the political infrastructure, particularly since the end of Communism brought about huge economic disruptions.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cato Unbound

Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank that does first-class work. I am not a libertarian, but a conservative. I don't accept their whole world view, but it's close enough that I can use the work they do. Cato has a new combination magazine and blog: Cato Unbound - This issue's feature is a proposal to add 3 rights to the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution.

Nuclear for Kyoto Fears

The world's environmentalists gathered for 10 days in Montreal, Canada to sing the praises of the Kyoto accords on global warming even though few countries are on-target for their greenhouse gas emissions targets and those that are cannot expect to continue
Kyoto requires developed nations to bring their total greenhouse-gas emissions to 5% below their 1990 levels by 2012. Yet in 2003, emissions were above the 1990 baseline by more than 10% in Italy and Japan, more than 20% in Ireland and Canada, and more than 40% in Spain. Germany and Britain have met their Kyoto targets, but this is the result of one-time events: the collapse of British coal and the shuttering of much of the former East Germany's industrial base. Given Germany's anemic economy and Britain's reduced growth forecasts, the appetite in either country for costly environmental virtue is not likely to increase. Wall Street Journal
There was interesting discussion of nuclear power. German greens made the case that the targets can be met without substantial new nuclear power generation. And the industry can't build enough. And, besides, the nuc industry depends on government subsidies. And researcher Felix Christian Matthes added the ultimate insult: "nuclear power has failed the "market test" because the industry depends on government subsidies in the form of caps on liability and funding for long term waste disposal of high level radioactive wastes." The nuclear industry was there to talk back and did. And James Glassman's sent Ron Bailey there to report
First, Colin Hunt from the Canadian Nuclear Association dismissed the activist implication that the number of power plants needed to offset 5 GtCO2 of emissions cannot be built fast enough. "Building enough nuclear facilities to produce 25 GWs of additional power each year is equal to the construction worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s," he said. .... So what about the subsidy claims made by Matthes and other anti-nuclear activists?
There are two parts to the subsidy question, first insurance. The discussion is too long to quote here. The industry insures itself in the US up to $10 billion per incident. There is a federal cap on liability payments. Maybe the greens are right that this cap provides an artificial support to the industry. The second part on subsidies is the disposing of nuclear waste.
What about the claim that the government subsidizes the disposal of nuclear wastes? Here the activists are wrong. The nuclear industry people point out that taxpayers do not subsidize nuclear waste disposal; ratepayers do. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires electricity consumers to pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund a fee of one-tenth of a cent for every nuclear-generated kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed. That fund now totals $24 billion. It may be government mandated, but it is not government financed.
And in conclusion: "Finally, it certainly should not be the case that nuclear power is pre-judged and excluded by international treaties dealing with climate change. If the activists are so sure that they are right that nuclear power will fail the market test, then they ought to give the market a chance to prove them right." Also, Greenie Watch has some comments from ex-Green Peace founder Patrick Moore on Kyoto and nuclear power. They don't link to individual items, so you have to scroll or search down. Greenie Watch

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas is a national holiday

My friend Matt Rosenberg corrects those who think that because Christmas is a national holiday that it is a national holiday - those who are dismayed that saying "Merry Christmas" is being outlawed, and not just by Ron Sims. He posts both at Sound Politics and at his own Rosenblog, which I recommend because he finds and writes up interesting observations every day. He doesn't accept comments at his blog (due to comment spam) so I sent Matt this email:
Dear Matt, re entry on Sound Politics and Rosenblog: I wouldn't be surprised or bothered by Ramadan signs and displays if I lived in Saudi Arabia or Malaysia. But I live in the United States of America. Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian virtues and principles. Here is one example; there are dozens more. The resolution of Congress giving instructions re the inauguration of George Washington said: "Resolved, that after the oath shall have been administered to the President, he, attended by the Vice President, and the members of the Senate, and House of Representatives, proceed to St. Paul's Chapel, to hear divine service, to be performed by the Chaplain of Congress already appointed." Our nation was founded by Christians with the intent that Christianity be part of public life. That is a fact of history. When I was in school they taught us that the founding fathers were deists, not Christians. But that is not true. Benjamin Franklin proposed daily prayer when the Continental Congress was making little progress and he knew the prayers would be Christian; he might be the one deist, but he took part in the practice of Christianity. The other person people cite is Thomas Jefferson. It is true that Jefferson's Christianity was unusual - he wanted to edit the Bible to improve it - but he was a Christian. The December holiday that is a national holiday and is publicly celebrated in our country is Christmas. It began that way and it has continued for over 200 years to today. At Sound Politics you say: "Freedom of religion also encompasses freedom FROM religion in the public square." Wrong. There is no basis for that in this country. And I wish you a very pleasant Hanukkah, please note the spelling! Sincerely, Ron Hebron

Monday, December 05, 2005

Three Huge Automatic Tax Increases

James Glassman warns of 3 tax increases that will take effect automatically - without action of Congress - unless Congress acts soon. Capitalism Magazine Dividend tax requires action this month. Captial Gains tax requires action this month. Death tax aka Estate Tax can wait a month or two.
Academic research has found that the dividend cut, by increasing what America's 57 million investing families can keep after taxes, boosted stock prices considerably. A paper for the prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research by Alan Auerbach and Kevin Hassett concluded that the cuts "had a significant impact on equity markets" -- a broadly positive impact. Take the cuts away, and stocks will almost certainly head in the opposite direction.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

School Choice - 50 years

Milton Friedman was the first to propose that parents be able to choose the school their child goes to, rather than elected or unelected bureaucrats. In 1955 he published an article titled "The Role of Government in Education." The original article - PDF file. His first concern was freedom, not quality or cost. Indeed schools were better then than now and at a much lower cost. Education is a first concern of our society and government. So there are laws for compulsory schooling; out governments finance free schooling; and they have a monopoly on running them. Why the monopoly? The issue was quiet until the quality of schooling deteriorated while the cost increased dramatically. Friedman says that a big change occurred in 1965 when the National Education Association converted itself from a professional association to a trade union. Since then there has been increased concern about the effectiveness of schooling in the US. And the quality has gone done while the spending has doubled. Milton and Rose Friedman have formed a foundation to provide information about school choice, to promote it and to a limited degree fund it. Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation

Saturday, December 03, 2005

44-acre Collapse in Hawaii

Hawaii's Big Island is one of my favorite places in the whole world. It has three major volcanoes - dormant Mauna Kea; "not active right now, but expect it" Mauna Loa - both close to 14,000 feet high and very active Kilauea. A lava flow recently formed by Kilauea collapsed to no one's surprise. The lava solidified at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, so parts of it were over the water and it was clearly unstable. The photo above is the result - a 60-foot cliff (others say 30-meter) with a lava "waterfall." A close-up of the fall. My Way News has the story. Here is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park's page about viewing the lava flows. How close you can get varies - of course, because the flows change daily. It's dangerous. It looks like right now a short walk gets you to where you can get a distant view of the lava entering the ocean. During the day you see mostly steam; at night you can see the red flow or more likely a red glow. But you have a hike over a mile to get close to the flow. And it's a rough mile; the new pahoe'hoe lava is like glass; in case you stumble you want to be wearing boots and long pants; it's nasty. And they don't let you close if it's not safe. In 1999 we did this trip when it was a 3-mile hike! About one screen down there is a "before" photo of the shelf that collapsed. Here is the more detailed Hawaii Volcano Observatory web page(s). They don't directly describe the collapse. I guess they assume it was news and everyone knows it. Turns out it happened 8 days ago on 11/28! They show the "after" in the first photo in the 12/1/2005 section and the "before:" if you scroll down the November 1 it is the fourth photo. My Big Island page

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fox guarding the hen house - Sen. Dorgan

I sent this to Senator Patty at her email form: Senator Murray, We have a big problem with Honorable Senator Byron Dorgan leading the investigation of Jack Abramoff's lobbying. Senator Dorgan is part of the very same mess. $11,500 worth. From Yahoo News today Abramoff Investigator Aided Mashpee Tribe
The top Senate Democrat investigating Jack Abramoff's Indian lobbying met several times with the lobbyist's team and clients, held a fundraiser in Abramoff's arena skybox and arranged congressional help for one of the tribes, records show. Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record), D-N.D., acknowledges he got Congress in fall 2003 to press government regulators to decide, after decades of delay, whether the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts deserved federal recognition. Dorgan met with the tribe's representatives and collected at least $11,500 in political donations from Abramoff partner Michael D. Smith, who was representing the Mashpee, around the time he helped craft the legislation, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Please get Dorgan off the case and get a senator not involved. It's ridiculous. Ron HebronVia Instapundit