Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Economist puts the spotlight on central planners

Economist William Easterly went straight to the people who are the problem and put the spotlight in their eyes. Central planning was supposed to lead the world, because smart people would get all the data and make the best decisions. Communist economies in the Soviet Union and east Europe were supposed to leave us behind. After all, we had dirt farmers deciding what to plant. How could they know enough? Part of the reason Communism failed was because 1,000 central planners were not as smart as 1,000,000 farmers. Plus the farmers are striving to save their farms, while the bureaucrats have none of their skin on the line. Central planning failed completely. Except countries that receive large foreign aid. Tim Worstall reports at TCS Daily:
[Easterly] opens with this piece of fighting talk: "Seventeen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is only one major area of the world in which central planning is still seen as a way to achieve prosperity -- countries that receive foreign aid. Behind the Aid Wall that divides poor countries from rich, the aid community is awash in plans, strategies, and frameworks to meet the very real needs of the world’s poor. These exercises only make sense in a central planning mentality in which the answer to the tragedies of poverty is a large bureaucratic apparatus to dictate quantities of different development goods and services by administrative fiat. The planning mindset is in turn linked to previously discredited theories, such as that poverty is due to a “poverty trap,” which can only be alleviated by a large inflow of aid from rich country to poor country governments to fill a “financing gap” for poor countries. The aid inflow is of course administered by this same planning apparatus."
Worstall covers Easterly's four main points in detail. I will shorten them: The four core beliefs of development economic planners:
1) That there is a financing gap; that more investment is needed (and that there is a direct relationship between the level of investment and growth); and if we sent that extra cash as aid, then it would become that extra investment… As Easterly points out, even the people writing the papers for the World Bank on the issue ... point out that the extra cash strategy is wanting, and that investment-growth correlation is false. 2) That there is a poverty trap; that prevents countries from developing seems unobjectionable. Places might simply be too poor to ever save enough to actually get going. Or, in an alternative formulation: all are so desperately searching for that scrap of food for today that they never have a chance to plan and build for the longer term. There are indeed some statistics that support this contention, but unfortunately they are not very convincing ones: "It doesn’t help the poverty trap story that 11 out of the 28 poorest countries in 1985 had NOT been in the poorest fifth back in 1950. They had gotten into poverty by declining from above, rather than being stuck in it from below, while others escaped. If the identity of who is in the poverty trap keeps changing, it must not be much of a trap." 3) That aid should be of the government-to-government model; That is, that the wise and good of our society should be using the (forced) charity of the citizenry to aid the wise and good of another country, to in turn aid the poor of their country. Such might be fine if those wise and good were, in fact, wise and good rather than whatever group of scumbags that had managed to climb to the top of the dungheap. (The Professor is, of course, a little more diplomatic about it and probably doesn’t share my view that the same is true of our own “wise and good”). But there is little evidence of benevolent, corruption-free dictators: The search for the elusive “well governed low income countries” casts a broad net. The Millennium Project report lists 63 poor countries that are “potentially well governed,” and thus potentially eligible for a massive increase in foreign aid. The list includes 5 out of the 7 countries singled out by Transparency International in October 2004 as the most corrupt in the world: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Chad, Nigeria, and Paraguay. .... (4) That sending in aid is equivalent to actually achieving any of the desired development goals; It’s extremely difficult to find evidence of success outside of the most limited (and specific) programs -- e.g. vaccinations. But in terms of general development aid? There are very few signs of success.
And Easterly reaches the same conclusion.
What Easterly really wants is for people to understand that, in the same way top-down planning didn’t make the Soviet block rich, it isn’t going to make the poor countries rich. Development is a series of very small steps, all of which must be subjected to both responsibility criteria (accountability) and to information feedback mechanisms. Two things that simply don’t exist in any such system of top-down planning.
And Worstall's favorite part: "But clear and concise views on what should be done about development don’t produce the laughter and cheering noted above. No, rather it was where he gave the speech. Easterly castigates the entire structure and organization of the development bureaucracy. The World Bank, the IMF, well-meaning yet muddled do-gooders like Bono and Sachs, just about anyone and everyone who sits in an office and talks about such things. And where does he do this? At the Asian Development Bank -- a part of that very same development infrastructure."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Editing with Ecto - Cartoons about Mohammed

Several countries like Jordan and Syria are threatening Denmark and a newspaper there because they published cartoons about Mohammed. They say the newspaper violated some ban against any image of the prophet Mohammed. Michelle Malkin reports. But no such ban has been enforced for hundreds of year, evidently. Zombie Time blog has a few dozen images that have been published, some from medieval times. A small portion of them make Mohammed's face blank, but most don't. Mohammed images Advanced feature: What I am listening to this very minute on iTunes. This smart software pasted it in: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from the album “Holiday! A Collection of Christmas Classics” by Crystal Lewis. It's a jazz style perfect for walking bass.

[posted with ecto]

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Google Censorship

Google won plaudits this week for refusing the US Government's request for search phrases. Knight-Ridder News Service. Notice how anything the government bureaucrats do that the media don't like is done by President Bush himself. But anything good is done by your US senator. On the other hand, in China Google is helping the Communist government to repress information. There are millions of Christians in China and they have churches, as much as the Communists allow. But you can hardly find either on Google.cn - that's Googles China search engine. Junk Yard Blog reports:
Specifically, is Google helping Communist China suppress religious freedom on the web? Is an American company jumping at the beck and call of a Communist regime? It’s easy enough to check. Google’s Chinese page for image searches is http://images.google.cn. We’ve been running searches from there and the surprising thing is that you don’t always get the same search results each time you run it. It’s almost as though your own machine’s cache of previous searches is influencing the results you get on subsequent searches. Or maybe Google is still tweaking the filters, so some things slip through sometimes but not at other times. Whatever is happening behind the scenes, it’s beyond argument that Google users in China are not getting the same search results as Google users in the US and elsewhere. The difference in search results can be striking. On a clean search, Google-China turned up 10 hits on an image search for jesus christ. Just like that, no quotes. By comparison, the US version of Google image search turns up 168,000 hits on the same exact search terms. 168,000 versus 10. And this is just an image search. We’re not searching for the teachings of Jesus, just pictures. China’s version of Google significantly filters the search Further, Google-China is even censoring photos of churches for some reason. On the US image search page, a search for church turns up more than 2.8 million hits. On Google-China, church turns up just 723 hits. How about christian? In the US, 2.36 million hits; Google-China nets 819. This is no accident. Google is helping its business partners in Beijing airbrush Jesus Christ right off the Chinese internet. Its cyber dragnet even nets people with the word “Christian” in their name, just to make sure Chinese citizens won’t get religion from their search engine results. Google needs to drop its “Don’t be evil” motto and replace it with something more honest, like “We help evil be evil.”
The article has live links to the searches mentioned. Fortunately the Chinese use arabic numerals. Read it. Hat tip to Michelle Malkin

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Links & Free Market Project

Will Hansen at PLU Republicans shines the spotlight on the "great liberal" movies of the year that specifically pushed their agenda; got lots of publicity; lots of money spent on promotion and ... ta ta! ... went bust. Good analysis. Read it. Ann Coulter sees signs in both the NYT and Washington Post that the liberals are starting to push the feminists overboard. At Human Events Lucianne.com is one of my favorite sites. Today they posted the link to a piece in the Toronto Star that just gushed over wonderful Jimmy Carter and all the wonderful work he did bringing peace to the Middle East. The author didn't like the feedback he got and outed his editors - one of the over-the-top phrases he didn't write (just one of many); his editors added it. A screaming match ensued. All dutifully reported entry by entry at Lucianne.com. Work your way down and enjoy it. Lucianne.com Added Free Market Project - a good organization devoted solely to analyzing and exposing the anti-free enterprise culture of the media. There certainly is a need for it. How did I miss it? Today... "More than 2 million new jobs were created in 2005 but that wasn’t the story presented by the evening news. The three broadcast networks downplayed strong growth and, instead, emphasized negatives such as corporate layoffs and outsourcing in more than half the stories about jobs or unemployment." Read it at Free Market Project. (But their pages have a text crawler that drives my cpu to 100%.) Added - How to start a fire with a can of code and a chocolate bar If I can stop laughing long enough to type this. Solve this one yourself. Start a real, flaming fire with just those two items. Give up? They have a believable way to do it at Tracker Trail.

Friday, January 27, 2006

2003 Capital-Gains Tax Cut Paid for Itself

It has happened before and now again. A tax cut freed up enough money in private hands that was reinvested and spent and such. The result was more economic growth that resulted in more taxes being collected - due to the tax cut. The Congressional Budget Office predicted a loss of 2-year loss of $27 billion, but the result was a 2-year GAIN of $26 billion. Donald Luskin reports at National Review Online
On Thursday the Congressional Budget Office released its annual Budget and Economic Outlook, [(PDF file)] and buried in one of its nearly impenetrable tables of numbers is a remarkable story that has gone entirely unreported by the mainstream media: The 2003 tax cut on capital gains has entirely paid for itself. More than paid for itself. Way more. To appreciate this story, we have to go back in time to January 2003, before the tax cut was enacted. Table 3-5 on page 60 in CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook published in 2003 estimated that capital-gains tax liabilities would be $60 billion in 2004 and $65 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $125 billion. Now let’s move forward a year, to January 2004, after the capital-gains tax cut had been enacted. Table 4-4 on page 82 in CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook of that year shows that the estimates for capital-gains tax liabilities had been lowered to $46 billion in 2004 and $52 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $98 billion. Compare the original $125 billion total to the new $98 billion total, and we can infer that CBO was forecasting that the tax cut would cost the government $27 billion in revenues. Those are the estimates. Now let’s see how things really turned out. Take a look at Table 4-4 on page 92 of the Budget and Economic Outlook released this week. You’ll see that actual liabilities from capital-gains taxes were $71 billion in 2004, and $80 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $151 billion. So let’s do the math one more time: Subtract the originally estimated two-year liability of $125 billion from the actual liability of $151 billion, and you get a $26 billion upside surprise for the government. Yes, instead of costing the government $27 billion in revenues, the tax cuts actually earned the government $26 billion extra.
You saw it - a gain of $26 billion after the tax cut. Blame Bush.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Busting Pork

Mary Katharine Ham blogs on Hugh Hewitt's blog. I like her observation today. "As a fiscal conservative, I'm beginning to think a good idea in the Senate is one that ticks off the largest possible number of senators. If my hunch is right, then this is a really good idea.
According to Senate aides, Dr. Coburn has notified his colleagues that he intends to challenge every earmark—or pork project—on the floor of the U.S. Senate... Coburn's threat will dramatically slow the appropriations process because he will demand many more votes and more debate than normal on all spending bills. The added debate will allow senators to learn the merits (or lack thereof) of each earmark and affirm or reject.
"Sen. McCain has also signed onto the effort, and the two have shot off a "Dear Colleagues" letter that must have Senate aides clasping to their little appropriating chests the plans for the Central Idaho Celebration of Railroad Conductors Museum. "Appropriators think they can leverage enough pressure to make the Coburn threat an empty one, but I think it's a mistake to underestimate Tom Coburn's desire to shake things up in the Senate. It's equally dangerous to overestimate his desire to make buddies in the Senate. Appropriators beware. Andy Roth: "Memo to Ted Steven’s office: Bring a defibrillator with you to the Senate floor from now on." Roth has the numbers: There were at least 13,998 earmarked projects in last year's appropriations bills. 13,998 voice or roll-call votes! Last year there were only 366 roll-call votes. Good for Coburn and McCain - I am still very cautious about the latter. I can't wait to watch the complaining when their pet projects are out in the day light for everyone to see. But of course they will have fancy words for their cheap tricks.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Making Constitutional Speech Illegal

Senator McCain's biggest accomplishment is making political speech illegal while nude dancing is protected to the point that cities are required - required - to allow it. The US Constitution's primary purpose in protecting speech was to allow political discourse. John McCain is proud that McCain-Feingold does not allow citizen groups to take out advertising that targets a politician in the last 60 days before an election. (Is his goal to protect incumbents? Looks like it.) This has been interpreted by courts to not allow an ad on an issue during those 60 days because the politican running for reelection favors the issue. And one of the lowest acts of the US Supreme Court was upholding McCain-Feingold in McConnell v. FEC in 2003. But there is good news here. The Roberts Supreme Court reopened the door on Monday. Law.com reports:
The Supreme Court on Monday said that its landmark 2003 ruling upholding the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law did not foreclose all First Amendment challenges to provisions restricting pre-election issue advertising. The Court remanded to a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., the case of Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. v. Federal Election Commission, which was argued before the high court Jan. 17 -- a remarkably quick turnaround for a contentious issue.
But the reason I take up this hot-button topic (could you have guessed?) today is an article in the Wall Street Journal today that features the court attack on local talk radio hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson on KVI. A Washington court found - against all precedent and logic - that these talk radio hosts' talking about the initiative to repeal a gas-tax increase was a donation to the campaign. Sound Politics covered this. And here. Highlights of the Wall Street Journal article:
The rise of alternative media--political talk radio in the 1980s, cable news in the '90s, and the blogosphere in the new millennium--has broken the liberal monopoly over news and opinion outlets. The left understands acutely the implications of this revolution, blaming much of the Democratic Party's current electoral trouble on the influence of the new media's vigorous conservative voices. Instead of fighting back with ideas, however, today's liberals quietly, relentlessly and illiberally are working to smother this flourishing universe of political discourse under a tangle of campaign-finance and media regulations. Their campaign represents the most sustained attack on free political speech in the United States since the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts. Though Republicans have the most to lose in the short run, all Americans who care about our most fundamental rights and the civic health of our democracy need to understand what's going on--and resist it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Index of Economic Freedom

What makes a country rich? Per P.J. O'Rourke: Is it being smart? In Russia chess is the national sport. Are they smart? Yes. Are they rich? No, they are poor!! Then look at Hollywood. Are those people smart? No, but many are rich. What is the difference? Freedom. If you look at which countries have the freest economies you will see a list of growing, prospering countries. Freedom is the key to prosperity. And you might add the rule of law = enforcing contracts and such. You are headed in the right direction. Every year Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal research the countries of the world and their economic and legal systems to find which are allowing businesses to conduct business without undue interference and in an environment that encourages legal behavior. This year the top eleven countries (there was a tie) are: Hong Kong 1 [1.28]  Singapore 2 [1.56]  Ireland 3 [1.58]  Luxembourg 4 [1.60]  United Kingdom 5 [1.74]  Iceland 5 [1.74]  Estonia 7 [1.75]  Denmark 8 [1.78]  United States 9 [1.84]  Australia 9 [1.84]  New Zealand 9 [1.84] We may be behind Estonia, but there are 149 countries below us. To the report online Tomorrow: More about what factors they use in this ranking.

Monday, January 23, 2006

An Airport for Economic Growth

We have to increase our infrastructure so we can continue to grow. There are a lot of people north of Seattle, but the only airport with service by the real airlines is in Vancouver, BC, 140 miles away and in Canada. Paine Field is the airport in Everett, Washington, 30 miles north of Seattle, where Boeing assembles all its wide bodies - 747, 767, 777 and the 787 is coming. It might be obvious that it has an adequate runway. So it is the natural candidate for more airline service. I would use it. It's about the same distance as Sea-Tac. But I would avoid going through Seattle. So I favor airline service there. The Herald (Everett) reports "Paine Field debate continues"
Opponents stay on the defensive against any potential commercial passenger jet service, but one supporter says it's inevitable. The potential for Paine Field to be opened to commercial air traffic may be lying fallow, but the debate is not. While no formal proposal has been forwarded to expand service at the Snohomish County-run general aviation airport following its mention in county studies as an economic development tool, opponents remain on the offensive. Greg Hauth, vice president of Save Our Communities, the Mukilteo-based group that has led the opposition to passenger air traffic, continues to make presentations to city councils about what the group sees as the drawbacks of the idea. Since last summer, Hauth has visited council meetings in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway, Mill Creek, Marysville and Mukilteo, giving a presentation that outlines the reasons for the group's opposition. Supporters of Paine Field expansion have been relatively quiet, but Hank Robinett, an Everett-based residential real estate developer, has voiced his support. He has not been shy about his belief that expansion would be good for the region's economy with little or no damage to surrounding communities.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Great Economic News

The US had a very good year in 2005 on the economic front, despite Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (and Wilma and others) that did great damage to our economic infrastructure and production. Janic Parshall hosted Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in a broadcast and a podcast at Beyond the News.
  • The US economy grew at 4% over the year. (Preliminary number; will be adjusted later.)
  • Employment grew, resulting in an unemployment rate of 4.9%. Twenty years ago 6% was considered full employment; it was thought to be impossible to get lower.
  • The average hourly pay was up 3.1%.
  • Average take-home pay (real) up 1%, that is, after adjusting for inflation. The Bush tax cuts caused a 1% benefit; without them take-home pay would have been flat.
Let's enjoy it. And, since everything is Bush's fault, Bush get credit for this good news. Fair?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Red tape is turning best firms away from Europe

I am interested in what allows economic growth, what causes it and what prevents it. I take no delight in Europe suffering from its own bullets; I want everyone to succeed. But here is one more lesson on what works. The news is bad. The Telegraph of UK reports
rope's most successful companies are turning their backs on EU markets because of red tape, a high-level report said yesterday. The companies that Europe needed to survive were instead investing more money than ever in the United States and Asia, concluded the report, presented to the European Commission in Brussels. The lack of investment was so dire that it threatened Europe's "comfortable" way of life. "Europe has to act before it's too late," said the report's author, Esko Aho, the former prime minister of Finland.
And they knew 10 years ago that they had a problem and they promised "to quit."
The findings made unsettling reading for the EU leaders, ripping into their pledges to build a "knowledge-based Europe" that would overtake America in 10 years. Perhaps most damagingly, Europe's most important countries were pouring more and more of their technology investment overseas, as they despaired of the European Union becoming "innovation friendly". Unless EU governments took bold action to increase spending on research, freed labour (sic) markets so skilled workers could move more easily, and stopped pouring taxpayers' money into dying industries, Europe's post-war way of life was doomed. The report said: "Europe must break out of structures and expectations established in the post-Second World War era that leave it today living a moderately comfortable life on slowly declining capital.
Is now the time for denial? For France and Germany: yes. But here is an exception:
Mr Aho [of Finland] refused to follow the lead of French or German politicians, who have attacked major corporations for investing overseas and called for more "economic patriotism". He said: "We cannot blame them. They are trying to take care of global competitiveness. Unfortunately, these companies can survive without Europe, but Europe cannot survive without these companies. That is why Europe has to act before it's too late."
Some of the specifics:
  • continuing to pour state aid into dying industries such as cars, steel and textiles.
  • lack of investment: "As part of the so-called Lisbon agenda of 2001 EU leaders committed themselves to spending three per cent of their gross domestic product on research and development. Halfway through the 10-year Lisbon agenda programme, the EU still spent a meagre 1.9 per cent, far behind the US or Japan.
  • productivity: "the report noted that Europe badly needed to extract more productivity from each worker.
And how about taxes?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Encouraging wind energy or just PR?

Whole Foods, a large grocery retailer, announced it is going to voluntarily spend an extra $110 million on energy next year. For wind energy. But they are not going to use the wind energy. How would they get it to their stores. No, they are buying credits. They are paying to lower the cost of wind energy so others can pay the lower cost. Max Schultz reports at TCSDaily.com
Whole Foods, the trendy Austin-based company that prides itself on its environmental consciousness, announced this week that it will make the largest ever purchase of wind energy credits in the United States. The company pledged that in purchasing more than 458,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable energy credits from wind farms, it will offset 100 percent of the cost of its annual energy use. No other Fortune 500 company has done anything like this before.
Will this encourage the development of wind generation? It should. At first it sounds hokey. Just PR. But it is a way of using a market to transfer the benefits. Someone chose to do good by encouraging something desirable by lowering its price. I am a skeptic on the "end of the world" due to running out of fossil fuels. The Earth won't run out of energy until the Sun burns out in 8 billion years; it is bombarded with energy every day. It's just a matter of converting the arriving energy into a form we can use. Wind works. Go for it! The Whole Foods press release

Operation Red Washington

Washington is a very liberal state. Is everyone liberal? No, far from it. Dino Rossi proved that a Republican who is consistent can win the majority vote in Washington - except for Ron Sims's willing mismanagement of the voter registration, poll operation and vote counting. How can we get the majority in other races, issues, etc? Statewide, especially. Timothy Goddard, who blogs at The Flag of the World and Sound Politics is organizing an exchange of information for building a strategy. Operation Red Washington
Welcome to Operation: Red Washington, the only blog on the Internet devoted to turning the Republican Party into a party that can win elections everywhere in Washington state, and to turning the state into one that will willingly elect Republicans. How do we plan to do that? Through the principles of Pragmatism, Patriotism and Personality, plus an open and frank discussion about what the Republican Party needs to do to achieve those goals.
Join them. I am.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

China Dissent Spreading

Uprisings against the Communist government of China a widespread, though little reported. Thomas Lifson reports at American Thinker.
Dictatorships wield arbitrary power, so that they look strong to those of us accustomed to the open political struggles characteristic of free societies. But the exercise of arbitrary power does not necessarily make for a robust regime. If he were alive, the former Shah of Iran could comment from experience on this point. China, with 5000 years of history under arbitrary rulers, is the best example of all. Dynasties have risen and fallen. The Communists who rule in Beijing know very well that when the government loses the support of the people, when conditions worsen, and when discontent flares, regimes can be replaced. That is how they came to hold power. The ongoing crisis of legitimacy for the Beijing autocrats is escalating in visibility. Once again land seizures and pollution seem to have sparked rioting, which has met with police violence. Last summer it was Dongzhan Village which received international attention. Now, it is Panlong Village, again in Guangdong Province near Hong Kong, where the regime is attepmting to control news coverage of its people in revolt against the arbitrary rule seizing their land and polluting their environment.
He relays a New York Times story, but the doesn't work for me. My story on December 11, 2005

Monday, January 16, 2006

US and Japan lead in innovation

The Europeans want to be innovative, but they are behind and not catching up.
Scandinavia is the best when it comes to innovation in the EU 25, but offers no competition to worldbeaters America and Japan, according to a new study. The EU's executive arm is concerned. The Nordic countries are the most innovative in Europe but most of the economically embattled continent is failing to catch up with the United States and Japan, the European Commission said Thursday.
Source: Deutch-Weille This isn't creative writing, but the multiple facets required for leadership in technical products - an ares Europe has long taken pride in. It includes 26 criteria such as research spending, access to venture capital and the number of trademark registrations.
Most of the EU's older member states were lumped in the middle of the ranking neither falling behind nor making much progress advancing up the innovation ladder. Europe's poorer eastern countries, many of which joined the EU in 2004, put in a mixed performance. The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia were seen catching up while Bulgaria, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey but also Spain were losing ground. But the commission warned that Europe was broadly not catching up with the United States and that action needed to taken to boost innovation. "Should the trend continue in terms of innovation in the 25 European Union member states the innovation gap we have been seeing in the last year between Europe and United States for example will not close," commission spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber told journalists.
Japan is doing very well. And when you aren't getting close to the goal you are tempted to move the goal closer: "Last year, EU members states watered down an ambitious programme to boost the EU's competitiveness after they consistently failed to meet the original targets when it was launched in 2000 in Lisbon with the aim to make the EU the most competitive economy in the world."

Cisneros Probe Stirred Worries Of Democrats

The Clinton scandals continue. Clinton's Secretary of Houseing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros paid a mistress to cover up their relationship. When the lying began the web of deceit grew and grew. Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno "didn't see any problem" when crimes that reflected on her boss were in question. What poor vision she had. And she didn't find anything on Cisneros. An independent counsel was hired - David Barrett. He found a lot. His report says that high Clinton administration officials tried to block his report. They moved the San Antonio regional office of the IRS, then closed it. And much more. Democrats in the Senate have succeeded in blocking the parts of Barrett's report that link to the White House - to Bill and Hillary. What is left of the report will be released on January 19. R. EMMETT TYRRELL Jr. and BRIAN McGUIRE in the New York Sun have the story today. How about Henry Cisneros? He pleaded guilty of a misdemeanor charge of lying to the FBI and paid a $10,000 fine. He was pardoned by President Clinton on Mr. Clinton's final day in office, though he was not a fugitive at the time. The Washington Post has a page of links to key stories on the Cisneros probe. Hat tip to "Webweaver" who posted this at Lucianne.com. I am departing my normal focus on growth and opportunity today because I am disgusted that those being investigated can hamper the investigation of a US independent counsel. And that the Clinton machine is succeeding in preventing the release of what David Barrett found.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

I am joining in the following pledge: We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street. We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members. But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process. As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future. Signed, N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com Kevin Aylward, Wizbang! La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber's Corner Lorie Byrd / DJ Drummond , Polipundit Beth Cleaver, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom Stephen Green, Vodkapundit John Hawkins, Right Wing News John Hinderaker, Power Line Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO James Joyner, Outside The Beltway Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters Scott Ott, Scrappleface The Anchoress, The Anchoress John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!! See the original at The Truth Laid Bear

Thursday, January 12, 2006

US Companies Get Productivity from Info Technology

Productivity in US business has been racing ahead of Europe. And the reason seems to be the use of information technology. The HAL R. VARIAN in the New York Time reports:
Growth in output per hour in the third quarter of 2005 was a striking 5.4 percent. In fact, output per hour has grown at an average annual rate of nearly 3.5 percent over the last three years. These are large numbers by historical terms. From 1974 to 1995, productivity grew at around 1.4 percent a year. Productivity growth in the United States accelerated to about 2.5 percent a year from 1995 to 2000. Since then, productivity has grown at a bit over 3 percent a year, with the last few years looking particularly strong. Unlike the United States, European countries have not seen the same surge in productivity growth in the last 10 years.
What's the difference?
Nowadays, most economists agree that information technology is a significant part of the explanation for the post-1995 productivity surge in the United States. In fact, when you look at productivity statistics by industry, those industries that make and use information and communications technologies intensively in the United States have accounted for the bulk of the productivity growth, with other industries showing little change. The story is quite different in the European Union. In the late 1990's, when productivity growth in the United States was accelerating, productivity growth in Europe was static. But Europe has access to the same information technology that the United States does, at more or less the same prices. Why didn't those countries get the same increase in productivity?
We were telling school people about this in the early 1990s. That businesses didn't get a pay back from computerizing unless they changed the way they did their work. And where they spend the money.
Furthermore, the authors suggest that information technology capital may be a big part of the productivity difference: American companies in Britain use a whopping 40 percent more information technology capital per worker than the average company. Not only did American companies use more information technology, they used it more effectively. According to the economists, "U.S. firms appeared to simply get more productivity out of the same amount of I.T. (this was not true of non-I.T. capital)."
The report by Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics is here.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Good economic news spun wrong by NYT

There is continuing good news on the economy. But the New York Times keeps spinning it negatively. Don Luskin has made a second career pointing out economist Paul Krugman's misuse of facts in his NYT columns. Now he has discovered that a very respected financial analyst is fed up with the NYT - Ed Yardeni. Luskin quotes Yardeni:
It is obvious that the folks at The New York Times don't like the Bush Administration. They are entitled to their opinions which should be based on facts. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing their credibility just as CBS anchorman Dan Rather did because he let his dislike of Bush cloud his journalistic objectivity. My peeve is with the Times' reporting and editorializing on the latest employment numbers released on Friday: (1) In their story on the employment numbers, they felt obliged to observe "that Bush's policies were not the primary reason for the economy's strength." (2) In their January 7 editorial titled "An Anemic Jobs Recovery," they focused on December's "paltry" increase and didn't mention the big upward revision to November. (3) Nor did they mention that first-reported employment data has a long history of upward revisions as shown in the Alert below. (4) Instead, the Times whined that only 2 million jobs were created in 2005, 1.5 million less than at this point in the last recovery. The longer-term comparisons are even "uglier." Job growth in the current expansion "is the worst by far of the four comparable economic upturns since 1960..." There is no mention in the editorial that the jobless rate was only 4.9% in December, matching the 4-year lows hit in August and October.
If respected Wall Street analysts are warning their customers to not believe what they read in the NYT a new day is arriving.

New 'Imiloa Astronomy Center in/on Hawaii

Some of my favorite interests in one of my very favorite places. 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii at the University of Hawaii at Hilo will open on February 23. Hilo is on the Big Island of Hawaii. Its name is Hawaii, but that's confusing so they call it "Big Island." For anyone interested in earth science the Big Island is hog heaven - Kilauea volcano has been active since 1983 only missing a few days in 22 years. And the summit of Mauna Kea is the best site in the world for telescopes, both visual and radio and there might be some other classification. You can't just drive to the top, but you can get there on a tour. The Honolulu Star Bulletin has the story:
When the $28 million, 42,000-square-foot 'Imiloa center opens to the public on Feb. 23, people will see more than the sun. They'll see the whole universe, and they'll see it in 3-D, said center Director Peter Giles. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan will have a permanent computer simulation, viewable with 3-D glasses, showing the origin of the universe in the big bang 13 billion years ago and continuing to the present day. Looking at the universe is what astronomy is about. But in the 1990s an awareness grew that astronomers were busy looking at the sky but failing to look at their feet -- at the summit land of Mauna Kea where 13 observatories stand. Awareness also grew that astronomers were looking back 13 billion years to the origins of the universe but failing to look back 2,000 years to the origins of Hawaiian culture. An idea was born to develop a Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center to show how the two cultures relate, how Polynesians from the South Pacific used their voyaging canoes to follow stars to Hawaii and how astronomers use their giant telescopes to follow paths of twinkling light into the distant past.
The 'Imiloa web site My web page on the Big Island.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Good news - Americans' net worth

The net worth of American households is growing. Did you hear that on the news? Jerry Bowyer reports at National Review Online "Would you judge the status of someone’s personal finances without even looking at his assets? Probably not. But that hasn’t stopped the mainstream media from obsessing over the level of debt of the average American family, which they only look at in a vacuum, completely ignoring the growth of family net worth. "According to the Federal Reserve’s “Flow of Funds” report, released last month, the net worth of the American household (measured as assets minus liabilities) stands at a robust $51 trillion — yes, that’s trillion with a “T.” This isn’t just higher than last year (or the year before that; or the year before that). It’s almost twice what it was in 1995 and over 27 percent higher than it was in 1998 — right in the middle of Clinton’s “economic miracle.” "In other words, American households may be borrowing more today, but they’re acquiring even more assets. And thanks to low interest rates they’re borrowing in an environment that is particularly friendly to borrowing. "The result of all this is the highest level of household wealth in our nation’s history." Update The quote says $51 trillion in net worth. That is assets minus liabilities. It is GOOD news. (As it says.) (I am not receiving commenters email address, so I can't respond directly.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Abramoff and our Democrats

The Jack Abramoff lobbyist scandal involves Republicans most directly. But a lot of Democrats were happy to receive money from groups, especially Indian tribes, connected with him. I wrote an item on this about our Washington politicians and posted it at Sound Politics. We get a bit more traffic there than at this little personal blog.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2005 Best and Worst

The Best political moment of 2005: Iraqi voters waving purple fingers - JOHN J. MILLER of the National Review Online Best political move - US The Republicans in the US Congress saw a bluff and called it. Congressman Jack Murtha - a Marine retiree - called on the "US to pull out of Iraq immediately. The Republicans forced an immediate vote on Murtha's pull out. The Democrats stampeded to vote against their Marine hero and his pull out. Even Murtha voted against himself! Worst political trick by political ally Alaska's Rep. Young and Senator Ted Stevens trying to stealour tax dollars for a bridge to Ketchikan's airport and "Don Young's highway." Stevens promised to "be carried out of here" if he lost his projects. He half lost. He lost the earmarks for these specific projects, but not the huge money they cost. Democrat's most proud political victory of 2005: "We killed the Patriot Act," boasted Minority Leader Harry Reid. He can have his victory. But I know I can't trust the Democrats with our national security. IF they are smart they are trying to turn this around right now. No, they so are focused on defeating Bush that they don't care about security. Worst trick by the media # 1 NY Times discovered that Bush listens to Al Qaeda phone calls. Because they are trying to kill us. And the former newspaper of record sat on the story for one year, so they could get the successful December election in Iraq off their front page. Media #2 - The near instantaneous politicization of the response to Hurricane Katrina. And of course now we know that almost every sensational story out of New ORleans was wrong - a rumor that the media didn't check out before broadcasting world-wide. Shame. Howard Dean highlight - just one of many - "...rich, white Republicans who never worked a day in their lives..." And he was referring to all Republicans, not just the 55 Republican Senators Just one more - "The US will lose in Iraq." He hopes we will lose. But we won't give up.