Monthly Archive for April, 2006

Bipartisan Corruption

The New York Times reports:

Mr. Mollohan, Democrat of West Virginia, stepped down from the House ethics committee last week over accusations of financial impropriety that stem largely from a complaint the conservative National Legal and Policy Center has filed with the United States attorney in Washington.

The nonprofits at issue are the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, the Institute for Scientific Research and the Canaan Valley Institute. The F.B.I.’s notification to them has occurred over the last two days and signals that the bureau is looking deeper into the 500-page complaint, which among other things suggests ties between the special appropriations, or earmarks, and Mr. Mollohan’s personal real estate investments.

Mr. Mollohan’s office did not return repeated calls yesterday. Nor did Vandalia’s president, Laura Kurtz Kuhns, whose ownership of vacant lots on Bald Head Island, N.C., with Mr. Mollohan and their spouses is a prime focus of the conservative group’s complaint.

Though Ms. Kuhns could not be reached, an official of Mr. Mollohan’s network of nonprofit groups confirmed that Vandalia had been told to expect a subpoena. And leaders of the two other nonprofits — Kiena L. Smith, Canaan Valley’s executive director, and James L. Estep, president of the Institute for Scientific Research — said they planned to cooperate fully with the F.B.I.

Read the full article here.

Why Are Gas Prices So High?

Charles Krauthammer spells it out for us:

Today, every time an Iranian mullah opens his mouth about nukes, the risk premium for Persian Gulf supply interruptions jumps again. Crude oil prices alone account for about $1.70 of what you pay for a gallon at the pump. So 10 years later, I’ll wager again. Here’s what the Bush search for price gougers and profiteers will find:

(1) Demand is up.

China has come from nowhere to pass Japan as the number No. 2 oil consumer in the world. China and India — between them home to eight times the U.S. population — are industrializing and gobbling huge amounts of energy.

American demand is up because we’ve lived in a fool’s paradise since the mid-1980s. Until then, beginning with the oil shocks in 1973, Americans had changed appliances and cars and habits and achieved astonishing energy conservation. Energy use per dollar of GDP was cut by 30 percent in little over a decade. Oil prices collapsed to about $10 a barrel.

Then amnesia set in, MPG ratings disappeared from TV ads and we became “a country of a million Walter Mittys driving 75 mph in their gas-guzzling Bushwhack-Safari sport-utility roadsters with a moose head on the hood, a country whose crude oil production has dropped 32 percent in the last 25 years but which will not drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for fear of disturbing the mating habits of caribou.”

I wrote that during the ’96 witch hunt for price gougers. Nothing has changed. Except that since then, U.S. crude oil production has dropped an additional 12.3 percent. Which brings us to:

(2) Supply is down.

Start with supply disruptions in Nigeria, decreased production in Iraq and the continuing loss of 5 percent of our national refining capacity because of Katrina and Rita damage. Add to that the mischief of idiotic new regulations. Last year’s energy bill mandates arbitrary increases in blended ethanol use that so exceed current ethanol production that it is causing gasoline shortages and therefore huge price spikes.

Why don’t we import the missing ethanol? Brazil makes a ton of it and very cheaply. Answer: The Iowa caucuses. Iowa grows corn and chooses presidents. So we have a ridiculously high 54-cent ethanol tariff and ethanol shortages.

Other regulation requires specific (“boutique”) gasoline blends for different cities depending on their air quality. Nice idea. But it introduces debilitating rigidities into the gasoline supply system. If Los Angeles runs short, you cannot just move supply in from Denver. You get shortages and more price spikes.

And don’t get me started on the missing supply of might-have-been American crude. Arctic and Outer Continental Shelf oil that the politicians kill year after year would have provided us by now with a critical and totally secure supply cushion in times of tight markets.

In March 2000, the price of gas hit $1.80. Scandalized congressional Republicans shamelessly pushed for repeal of Bill Clinton’s whopping 4.3-cent gas tax increase. Now that the president is a Republican, what do you think Senate Democrats are proposing? A 60-day suspension of the federal gas tax. It would cost $6 billion and counteract the only good thing that comes with high gas prices — the incentive to conserve.

George Shultz once said, “Nothing ever gets settled in this town.” But even Shultz, who has seen everything, must marvel at the perfect regularity, the utter predictability, of the bottomless cynicism of Washington in the grip of gasoline fever.

It’s as simple as supply-vs-demand. The full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“Asian workers would be aghast at the idea of American consumers boycotting certain toys or clothing in protest. The simplest way to help the poorest Asians would be to buy more from sweatshops, not less….For all the misery they can engender, sweatshops at least offer a precarious escape from the poverty that is the developing world’s greatest problem. Over the past 50 years, countries like India resisted foreign exploitation, while countries that started at a similar economic level — like Taiwan and South Korea — accepted sweatshops as the price of development. Today there can be no doubt about which approach worked better. Taiwan and South Korea are modern countries with low rates of infant mortality and high levels of education; in contrast, every year 3.1 million Indian children die before the age of 5, mostly from diseases of poverty like diarrhea”. —Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, writting in the New York Times, quoted in Harvard economist Greg Mankiw’s blog

Quote Of The Day

“This is why I think folks who are concerned about diversity in higher education are wrong to focus so much energy on affirmative action in college admissions. 1800 students simply are not enough to make black students more than a small minority at top schools. If you want more black students in college, you need better K-12 education. You need to fix the inner-city school districts where three-quarters of black boys fail to graduate high school. Colleges may be able to soften their admission criteria to admit blacks with lower GPAs or SAT scores, as Wesleyan has done, but they can’t relax their standards enough to admit high school dropouts”. —A Constrained Vision

Quote Of The Day

“There is an isomorphism between immigration, outsourcing, and free trade in general. In each case, overall economic efficiency is increased, due to the law of comparative advantage. There are distributional effects, to be sure, but no nation has been able to demonstrate an ability to use trade restrictions of any sort to reduce overall poverty. Redistribution implies that trade is a zero-sum game. [Those who believe immigration is just a redistribution program imply] that immigration works like a tax on low-income workers and a subsidy to high-income employers. Of course, in any sort of competitive market, employers do not profit from lower costs but must instead pass them onto consumers. But why let a little economics get in the way of a folk-Marxist story? Immigration, like all other forms of trade, is positive-sum game. All forms of trade restrictions hurt the economy. Immigration restrictions may change the composition of the least-well off. Overall, however, by weakening the economy immigration restrictions are likely to produce more poverty rather than less. I am not a passionate supporter of open immigration as an economic policy. I do not think that the gains are huge. But I am angry any time an economist misleadingly describes trade as a “redistribution program.” At that point, you forfeit your identity as an economist and instead become a demagogue”. — Economist Arnold Kling, responding to George Borjas reference to immigration as “just another redistribution program”

The Double Standards Of Liberal Academia

Ben Stein writes in the American Spectator:

As everyone has seen, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government has published a scathing anti-Semitic attack on Israel and its friends in the U.S. — Jews, Evangelicals, anyone who believes the most persecuted minority in history deserves a home. Naturally, this article has drawn criticism for factual errors and for its crude anti-Semitism.

Harvard’s response is that at a university, all points of view should be heard. But what about Larry Summers, outgoing President of Harvard? Why was he not allowed even to question why women are not well represented among top scientists? Why was he not allowed to even question grade inflation at Harvard, where the average grade is an A? Why was he not allowed to even discuss with black Professor Cornel West the bizarre fact that West spent a large part of his time at Harvard producing a rap disc? Why was Summers not allowed to even question the anti-Israel bias of some of the faculty at Harvard and the insane idea of punishing Israel by selling stock in companies that do business with Israel…because Israel wants to defend itself?

Free speech for the haters and the Ivy League Klansmen with degrees, censure and humiliation for the real friends of free speech. Veritas — the Harvard motto — indeed. Veritas, and a hearty chorus of the Horst Wessel Song.

Quote Of The Day

“Facts that go against preconceived notions are likely to be ignored, even by many scholars. For example, slavery is an issue that is widely discussed as if it were something peculiar to Africans enslaved by Europeans, instead of something suffered and inflicted around the world by people of every race, color, and religion. Two books about a million European slaves taken to North Africa have been published in recent years. That is more than the number of African slaves brought to America. The books are “Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters” by Robert Davis and “White Gold” by Giles Milton. Both books have been largely ignored by the media and academia alike. Apparently scholars, as well as journalists, have made up their minds and don’t want to be confused by the facts”. —Thomas Sowell, in an article titled, Are Facts Obsolete?

Quote Of The Day

“In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That’s the conviction that inspired Greenpeace’s first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change”. —Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., writing in the Washington Post

The Other Side To The Immigration Debate

As most of you already know, I am by most standards pro-immigration. I strongly believe that immigration, on net total, is an overall boom to this country, both economically and culturally. I don’t just mean legal immigrants either, I also believe this is the case with illegal immigrants as well (and I also don’t just mean Mexican immigrants either, and I am also referring to other immigrants as well, both low skilled and high skilled).

However, given the heated debates going on lately, I thought it’d be a good idea to give those of you who are also pro-immigration a chance to see the other sides argument. Although I don’t agree with those who take the anti-immigration stance, I do concede that some of them make persuasive points. While there certainly are borderline or full-blown racists arguing against immigration, many of them are not, and some even make me step back and re-evaluate my stance (although still, in the end, not persuading me to change my view). So I link below to some of the arguments I have considered well thought out and fair minded (although not necessarily ultimately agreeing with them), by some of the people I consider to be well rounded and whom I respect.

Thomas Sowell: An ugly reality

Peggy Noonan: Patriots, Then and Now

Herbert Meyer: Why Americans Hate This ‘Immigration’ Debate

George Will: Guard the Borders–And Face Facts with commentary by Q and O

Last but certainly not least, is the rights political satirist, Ann Coulter,

Ann Coulter: Brown is the new black

It’s Friday, sit back, have lunch, and take some time to atleast understand the other sides valid concerns.

Update: Thomas Sowell has more.

Quote Of The Day

“In this same area, I see demonstrators marching in the illegal immigrant demonstrations carrying Mexican flags. I think they have this right under the Constitution. But it is sickening, literally nauseating. They leave Mexico to work and build a better life here — then they want Mexico to do a conquista of this country and turn it back into the same poor, confused nation Mexico is. The fact that we are taking in millions of people, some of whom obviously want to take large parts of America back into Mexico, is terrifying. It is a far bigger threat than Iraq. I hope Mr. Bush has a plan about how to deal with it aside from endless appeasement of a movement which has many fine people but some extremely dangerous ones as well”. —Ben Stein, publishing his random thoughts in the American Spectator

Great New Education Blog

Just when you thought HP might actually be slowing down on the blogging, I bring to you a new blog that has as one of its contributing authors yours truly.

Edspresso.com

Edspresso.com is a blog that was created by the Alliance for School Choice, one of the strongest defenders and promoters of what I consider to be the #1 most promising issue for Hispanic and underprivileged minorities – school vouchers. However, the new blog is not going to be limited to school vouchers but will instead cover a wide range of education related topics, ranging from vouchers to the No Child Left Behind Act.

The new blog will include:

  • daily commentary
  • cutting edge education news
  • scheduled week-long debates between experts
  • diverse and provocative guest writers, starting with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush here

As a person who always tries to see both sides of an issue, my favorite part of the blog is this:

A unique feature on the blog will be regular week-long debates between experts on education reform topics. The first debate will involve analysts from two major think tanks, the Cato Institute and the Fordham Foundation, on national standards in education.

Debates where well qualified experts on both sides of an issue get to present their views, and you, as an outside reader, can make up your own mind. I am a firm believer that the more one learns about vouchers, the more one becomes a fan, and the debates are the perfect way to learn about vouchers without having one side distort the others position.

Scheduled contributors for the first two weeks include:

  • Jeanne Allen, Center for Education Reform, on school choice
  • Clint Bolick, Alliance for School Choice and Star Parker, CURE, on the administrative action the Alliance and CURE filed in LA and Compton school districts
  • Lori Drummer, American Legislative Exchange Council, on education spending
  • Peter Hanley, California Parents for Educational Choice, on the administrative action the Alliance and CURE filed in LA and Compton school districts
  • Dan Lips, Heritage Foundation, reviewing the new book “An Army of Davids” by blogger Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds
  • Neal McCluskey, Cato Institute, debating national standards in education
  • Sarah Natividad, blogger at Organic Baby Farm, on school reform legislation in Utah
  • Katie Newmark, blogger at A Constrained Vision, on merit pay for teachers
  • Michael J. Petrilli, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, debating national standards in education
  • Nancy Salvato, The Basics Project, on competition in education reform

For more on Edspresso.com go here and here.

I end with the ending quote from the Jeb Bush article mentioned above:

Researchers from the Manhattan Institute, Harvard and Cornell have independently studied Florida’s private school choice programs. All three studies concluded that the threat of vouchers actually creates the greatest improvement in struggling schools. Given the choice between losing students and raising the quality of education, schools rise to the challenge and make tremendous gains.

The Florida Supreme Court recently struck down one of Florida’s three choice programs on the grounds that it created competition for public schools – the very competition that has helped drive improvement in Florida’s schools. The ruling not only threatens the future of the 733 students in the Opportunity Scholarship program, but in varying degrees could also impact the 29,641 other low-income, minority and disabled students who currently use tuition vouchers.

School choice benefits all students whether they take advantage of the opportunity or not. Our ongoing reform efforts will include changing state law, or the Florida Constitution, to protect school choice programs from activist court rulings.

Please add Edspresso to your blogroll and check back often, it should get interesting. 🙂

Quote Of The Day

“I notice that the liberals within the Catholic Church are a big part of the organizing brains and muscle behind the huge illegal immigrant rallies in cities across the U.S. They are arguing that it is unkind and un-Christian to want to arrest people who have entered America illegally. They also fear prosecution if aiders and abettors are criminalized since they aid and abet illegal immigrants. This is fine, and obviously a man does not sign away his First Amendment rights if he takes orders. But isn’t this obviously Church interference in legal and political matters? How come this church involvement with the huge political issue of illegal immigration is fine and dandy — but involvement by conservative members of the Catholic faith in trying to save the lives of the unborn, the sick, and the deformed is a dangerous intrusion over the “wall” between church and state? How can illegal immigration be considered a bigger moral issue than the killing of tens of millions of the unborn who are totally innocent of any crime? The hypocrisy of the left on this issue is staggering”. —Ben Stein, publishing his random thoughts in the American Spectator

Quote Of The Day

“If you’ve been following the big immigration debate, you might get the impression that the primary economic advantage of liberal economic immigration policies is that they supply America with low-wage workers willing to do grueling, unskilled jobs that native-born Americans won’t touch. Not true: They are the source of America’s success. The secret to America’s wealth is that we were settled by restless, driven, overconfident, risk-taking dreamers. America is an amazing natural experiment — a continent populated largely by self-selected immigrants. All these people had the get-up-and-go to pull up stakes and come here, a temperament that made them different from their friends and relatives who stayed home. Immigrants are the original venture capitalists, risking their human capital — their lives — on a dangerous and arduous voyage into the unknown. Not surprisingly, given this entrepreneurial spirit, immigrants are self-employed at much higher rates than native-born people, regardless of what nation they emigrate to or from. And the rate of entrepreneurial activity in a nation is correlated with the number of immigrants it absorbs. According to a cross-national study, “The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor,” conducted jointly by Babson College and the London School of Economics, the four nations with the highest per capita creation of new companies are the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia — all nations of immigrants. New company creation per capita is a strong predictor of gross domestic product, and so the conclusion is simple: Immigrants equal national wealth”. —John D. Gartner, writing in the Washington Post

Quote Of The Day

“The deal came undone because Reid refused to allow the legislation to go through the amendment process. Republicans had come up with as many as 400 amendments but whittled the list to 20. Reid agreed to proceed with debate on just three. It was a masterstroke by Democrats. Labor is happy. And while Latinos are angry, there’s always the chance that Democrats can fool them into channeling that anger toward Republicans. Remarkably, it’s working. At a protest in Washington Monday, one Latina held up a sign that read: “The GOP is losing my Latino vote.” At another protest in Dallas, someone handed out registration leaflets urging demonstrators to vote Democratic. Some Latino leaders don’t think it’ll be that easy. Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, told me: “I don’t believe that it’s wise for Democrats to come to our community and ask for votes by saying: ‘Hey, we kept an immigration bill from going forward.’ … People understand when they’re being used.”” — Ruben Navarrette writing in the San Diego Union Tribune

Quote Of The Day

“A deal was at hand that would have offered legal status to some illegal immigrants. It would have made the GOP seem more Latino-friendly, but it would also have infuriated organized labor, which opposes something that was in the mix: guest workers. After the Senate Judiciary Committee put out a guest-worker bill, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney issued a statement saying: “Guest-workers programs are a bad idea and harm all workers.” That did it. Senate Democrats sided with labor and sold out Latinos….The moral: Marches and Mexican flags don’t equal power. Labor uses millions of dollars in political contributions to take care of Democrats, and so Democrats take care of labor. After the bill died, Democrats rubbed salt in the wound by insisting that Latinos had no choice but to stay on the liberal hacienda. Susan Estrich, who served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis in 1988,told Fox News that Republicans had blown their chance to win Latino votes and predicted that Latino support would help Democrats win both houses of Congress. You see, in a twist on the famous words of one of their icons, Democrats no longer ask what they can do for Latinos, only what Latinos can do for them”” —Ruben Navarrette writing in the San Diego Union Tribune

Quote Of The Day

“Becker mentions the possibility of racial discrimination in execution. Studies done some years ago–I do not know whether they would be descriptive of current practice–revealed the following pattern: murderers of black people were less likely to be executed than murderers of white people. Since blacks were more likely to murder other blacks than to murder whites, this meant that blacks were less rather than more likely to be executed than whites, relative to the respective murder rates of the two races. (Blacks commit murders at a much higher rate than whites.) The explanation offered was that judges and juries tended to set a lower value on black victims of murder than on white ones. From this some observers inferred that capital punishment discriminates against blacks. The inference is incorrect. The proper inference is that murderers of blacks are underpunished”. —Richard Posner, professor of law at the University of Chicago and a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, blogging over at the Becker-Posner blog on Capital Punishment