Archive for the 'DayToDay' Category

Quote Of The Day

“In general, anything that increases economic well-being, according to McKenzie, makes us fat. While the standard of living increased over the past several decades, the price of food relative to other goods has fallen about 17%. Research has shown that for every 1% drop in the price of food, people increase food consumption by .6%. Food may become cheaper and more readily available, but our 20,000-year-old metabolisms don’t adjust for the added intake of calories. – John Goodman blog

For The Record: On The Economy

For the record, I agree with every single point David Frum makes here against Republicans in general:

On the most urgent economic issue of the day – recovery from the Great Recession – the Republican consensus is seriously wrong.

It is wrong in its call for monetary tightening.

It is wrong to demand immediate debt reduction rather than wait until after the economy recovers.

It is wrong to deny that “we have a revenue problem.”

It is wrong in worrying too much about (non-existent) inflation and disregarding the (very real) threat of a second slump into recession and deflation.

It is wrong to blame government regulation and (as yet unimposed) tax increases for the severity of the recession.

It is wrong to oppose job-creating infrastructure programs.

It is wrong to hesitate to provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other forms of income maintenance to the unemployed.

It is wrong to fetishize the exchange value of the dollar against other currencies.

It is wrong to believe that cuts in marginal tax rates will suffice to generate job growth in today’s circumstance.

It is wrong to blame minor and marginal government policies like the Community Reinvestment Act for the financial crisis while ignoring the much more important role of government inaction to police overall levels of leverage within the financial system.

It is wrong to dismiss the Euro crisis as something remote from American concerns.

It is wrong to resist US cooperation with European authorities in organizing a work-out of the debt problems of the Eurozone countries.

It is wrong above all in its dangerous combination of apocalyptic pessimism about the long-term future of the country with aloof indifference to unemployment.

With that said, I also agree with every single point he makes here.

Quote Of The Day

“I don’t feel any obligation to represent liberal Democrats. Over the years I’ve argued, for example, in favor of getting rid of the corporate income tax, creating school vouchers inversely related to family incomes, and extending free-trade agreements — positions not exactly favored by liberal Democrats.” – Robert Reich

The Institute For Justice Shows Results

One of my favorite organizations is the Institute For Justice. It is an extremely successful organization that fights against the powers of the government in areas where there are little other organizations doing so. For example, there  is the licensing fight – an especially discriminatory and arbitrary arm of the government that gets little attention – where the District of Columbia government threatened hairbraider Pamela Ferrell and her husband Talib-Din Uqdah with fines and jail time for practicing their craft without an unnecessary government license. The license would have been expensive, and worse, unnecessary, as the barbers license had no class for hair braiding – a predominantly African American practice. The Institute for Justice took the case and won! See more here.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tjTheDqQrw&feature=youtu.be]

Then there is the case of the El Paso governments war on taco trucks. Prodded by restaurants afraid of the competition, the El Paso government tried to ban taco trucks in the area. So the Institute for Justice stepped in.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1YlXcORhUs&feature=player_embedded]

It also fought against the state of Arizona in its attempt to regulate eyebrow threading.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpsqEB5q7TA&feature=player_embedded]

Then there is the case of Atlanta’s war against street vendors.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XDLN14yDUg]

But a case that has hit close to home is the Institute for Justice’s recent victory against the city of National City on eminent domain. The Liberator today explains:

The Institute for Justice has obtained a victory in the long running dispute between National City and the Community Youth Athletic Center, which was designated as blighted in order to allow seizure of the gym by the city so that an influential developer can build luxury condos…National City took the route of declaring the area “blighted” by paying a private consultant to produce a report allegedly proving the blight. However, they then refused to provide the details of the report.“. . .the Court also held that when the government retains a private consultant to perform government functions—in this case, documenting the existence of alleged “blight” in National City—documents that the private consultant produces are public records subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act. The Court also set a clear standard for what government agencies have to do in searching the records of their private consultants in response to a Public Records Act request.”

National City, for readers unfamiliar with the area, is one of San Diego’s low income neighborhood. The Barragan family have run the gym primarily as an alternative outlet for gangmembers who want a way out of the gang. The gym has been successful and the residents of National City hold the gym and the family in high regard (to read a moving article on how a 2006 tragedy to the Barragan family was dealt with by the community, see here).   But this didn’t matter to the greedy politicians who cared more about money than doing whats right. Luckily for the Barragan family and the community of National City, the Institute for Justice stepped in.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pB_TmpSjJI]

The Institute for Justice doesn’t stop there, it also helps fight for school choice, property rights, and other cases involving economic liberty.There are three things that make the Institute for Justice unique: first, it helps those who need help the most. Mostly the poor and recent immigrants. How could a poor immigrant from Africa trying to make a living hair braiding have paid for a lawyer on her own? Or the taco truck owners? Or the Barragan family in the low income neighborhood of National City? Second, it targets laws that primarily harm the poor and minority. Third, it has a strong winning record. Few other organizations could say the same.

Quote Of The Day

” Whatever their customs and traditions, even the most modern polities often find themselves yearning, like the Israelites of old, for a kinglike authority. And the existence of a largely-powerless royal family can be a useful hedge against the perpetual temptation to invest ordinary politicians with quasi-royal powers, and then (almost inevitably) watch them run amok. (The experience of post-Franco Spain suggests that the restoration of a hereditary monarchy after a long period of dictatorship can play a similar stabilizing role.) Having a monarch as the symbolic head of state keeps elected officials in their place, provides an apolitical outlet for popular hero worship and the cults of celebrity, and satisfies the human hunger for ceremonial authority. If it’s an affront to democratic sensibilities, it’s also a safeguard for democratic institutions. Better a real king, crowned and powerless, than the many pseudo-kings who have strutted (and still strut) so destructively across the modern stage.” — Ross Douthat

Quote Of The Day

“Japanese people may well be more honest than most. But the Japanese legal structure rewards honesty more than most. In a 2003 study on Japan’s famous policy for recovering lost property, West argues that the high rates of recovery have less to do with altruism than with the system of carrots and sticks that incentivizes people to return property they find rather than keep it. For example, if you find an umbrella and turn it in to the cops, you get a finder’s fee of 5 to 20 percent of its value if the owner picks it up. If they don’t pick it up within six months, the finder gets to keep the umbrella. Japanese learn about this system from a young age, and a child’s first trip to the nearest police station after finding a small coin, say, is a rite of passage that both children and police officers take seriously. ” — Christopher Beam, writing in Slate on Japan and looting, or lack thereof

Presidential Movies

Neal Gabler, writing in this months American Prospect gives a poignant view of presidents past:

Every president, whether he says so explicitly or not, approaches the presidency with a metaphor in mind. Theodore Roosevelt thought of his as a “bully pulpit” from which to educate the public. Franklin D. Roosevelt seemed to think of his as a national living room from which he could bolster American spirits in dark times. John F. Kennedy seemed to think of his as a salon. George W. Bush acted as if his were a testosterone-drenched fraternity.

Each of these metaphors has its benefits — and its problems — but it was left to Reagan to find a metaphor that reshaped the entire institution of the presidency to the point where his successors could ignore his conception at their peril. For him, the presidency was no bully pulpit, living room, salon, or fraternity. Nor was it the college lectern that Obama seems to think it is from which he can calmly and rationally explain his policies. It was a darkened theater in which Reagan could project a movie about the country’s desires and dreams — an American fantasy.

Reagan came to this idea naturally from his training as an actor. An actor’s object is to move an audience, excite it, and ultimately give it pleasure. When Reagan entered politics, he intuited that theatrical performance and political office were essentially the same. The goal was, once again, effect — to make the audience feel. He understood that in the age of mass culture, the relationship between the president and his public was paramount and that his primary role was to be the actor-in-chief who starred in the national movie and provided vicarious thrills.

This was a radically different conception of the presidency, but because it was couched in all sorts of bold policy pronouncements, not everyone caught on that the pronouncements were smokescreens covering the movie screen. Before Reagan, only FDR seemed to have presentiments that the presidential function was as much psychological as political and that an effective president, particularly in bad times, had to be an entertainer as much as, if not more than, a politician. Die-hard liberals used to blanch when Reagan cited FDR as his inspiration, but this is undoubtedly what he meant. Roosevelt wasn’t a political forebear; he was an aesthetic forebear who vehemently promoted optimism.

Still, FDR was a traditionalist. For him, aesthetics were in the service of politics — a way to gain support for his agenda. Reagan’s political genius, such as it was, was to recognize that politics is basically aesthetics, that the public is an audience, and that the president has to satisfy that audience. He realized that people care less about what you do in substantive political terms if you manage to buoy them psychologically. They want to feel good — the way they feel when the lights come up at the movie theater. That’s why Reagan wasn’t a detail man. He knew that the details were irrelevant. It was the show that counted.

Quote Of The Day

“First Thanksgivings aside, these local birds just wouldn’t do, and the English began importing turkeys to America. This preference carries over to the present day, and the bird Americans sit down to eat every Thanksgiving is not the northern wild turkey Meleagris americana but the Aztec land chicken Meleagris mexicana [which the Spanish, in the 16th century, had brought to Spain from Mexico].  And so Ben Franklin’s preferred symbol of America — and the only creature that can annually count on a presidential pardon — is not a native Yank at all but a Mexican bird that immigrated to the United States via two transatlantic crossings.” — Los Angeles Times

Quote Of The Day

“Are McDonald’s* hamburgers immune to natural processes like rotting? There’s some evidence that they are, but a truly scientific inquiry into the matter has been lacking — until now. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats tested nine different hamburgers of varying sizes (both homemade and from McDonald’s) to find out. Contrary to popular belief, the non-rotting phenomenon isn’t due to the mysterious chemical composition of the burgers.  ”[T]he burger doesn’t rot because its small size and relatively large surface area help it to lose moisture very fast,” writes Lopez-Alt. “Without moisture, there’s no mold or bacterial growth. Of course, that the meat is pretty much sterile to begin with due to the high cooking temperature helps things along as well. It’s not really surprising. Humans have known about this phenomenon for thousands of years. After all, how do you think beef jerky is made?”” –Freakonomics blog

Why Are We Drilling At 5,000 Feet?

Charles Krauthammer writes:

“Why are we drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place?

Many reasons, but this one goes unmentioned: Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production (see map above, source).

And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, we’ve had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  So we go deep, ultradeep — to such a technological frontier that no precedent exists for the April 20 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Full article here.

The Effort To Keep Ethnic Studies Professors Employed

As someone who both grew up in Compton and attends UCSD, I feel compelled to comment on the recent race relation issues UCSD is having.  As most of you have probably already heard, the whole thing started when UCSD students, outside the campus, had a “Compton Cookout”, where participants were to wear “chains, rapper-style urban clothing by makers such as FUBU and speak very loudly.” Female participants were encouraged to be “ghetto chicks” with gold teeth, cheap clothes and “short, nappy hair.” Also, “The invitation said the party would serve watermelon, chicken, malt liquor, cheap beer and a purple sugar-water concoction called “dat Purple Drank.” It’s goal, apparently, was to mock Black History Month.

That was followed up a couple of days later by a Noose hung from the UCSD library.  With just this information at hand, it paints a very dim picture of UCSD and the racial climate on campus. Especially when you see pictures of students crying and claiming to be ‘afraid to walk to their car’.

Since I have taken many undergraduate and graduate courses at UCSD,  and my experience with the campus is the exact opposite – it is a welcoming campus and not in any way racist -  I was suspicious about the news allegations and decided to dig in deeper.

The first thing I found that contradicted the image the media tried to portray was that the main organizers of the Compton Cookout were Black.  This is how the main organizer defended his decision:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Bd7VmDkCTo]

Right or wrong, he claims that the real reason of the Compton Cookout was “to bring the races together”, because “for one night everybody is on the same playing field”. Listen to the full interview. He even debates an ethnic studies UCSD professor on the appropriateness of the event.

Then comes the news story of the Noose.  The student who hung the noose was a female minority. She explains how it happened here:

The student claims in her letter that she and her friends were playing with a rope when one of them tied it into a noose.

“I innocently marveled at his ability to tie a noose, without thinking of any of its connotations or the current racial climate at UCSD. I left soon after with one of my friends for Geisel to study, still carrying the rope,” she writes. “After a bit of studying I picked up the rope to play with, and ended up hanging it by my desk. It was a mindless act and stupid mistake. When I got up to leave, a couple hours later, I simply forgot about it.”

Yet with all of these details left out, UCSD is still forced to cave to the wishes of the race police:

On Monday , the university outlined the actions it has taken to improve the school’s climate and cultural diversity. They include creating a task force to focus on recruiting minority faculty, forming a commission to address the campus climate, continuing to fund Faculty-Student Mentor Programs, ensuring ongoing funding for the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, identifying space for an African-American Resource Center on Campus and meeting with member of the Black Student Union at least once every academic quarter. (emphasis added)

So you see, it was all one big conspiracy to keep ethnic studies professors employed.

Comencement Advice Worth Giving

P.J. O’Rourke, author of Eat The Rich, gives commencement advice worth giving:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money!

Here we are living in the world’s most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, “Go out and make a bunch of money.” Instead, they tell you that money can’t buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.

There’s nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino’s box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.

2. Don’t be an idealist!

Don’t chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you’ll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That’s $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You’ll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, “I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I’m a better person. And because I’m the better person, I have the right to boss you around.”

Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.

Who does more for the redwoods and society anyway — the guy chained to a tree or the guy who founds the “Green Travel Redwood Tree-Hug Tour Company” and makes a million by turning redwoods into a tourist destination, a valuable resource that people will pay just to go look at?

So make your contribution by getting rich. Don’t be an idealist.

3. Get politically uninvolved!

All politics stink. Even democracy stinks. Imagine if our clothes were selected by the majority of shoppers, which would be teenage girls. I’d be standing here with my bellybutton exposed. Imagine deciding the dinner menu by family secret ballot. I’ve got three kids and three dogs in my family. We’d be eating Froot Loops and rotten meat.

But let me make a distinction between politics and politicians. Some people are under the misapprehension that all politicians stink. Impeach George W. Bush, and everything will be fine. Nab Ted Kennedy on a DUI, and the nation’s problems will be solved.

But the problem isn’t politicians — it’s politics. Politics won’t allow for the truth. And we can’t blame the politicians for that. Imagine what even a little truth would sound like on today’s campaign trail:

“No, I can’t fix public education. The problem isn’t the teachers unions or a lack of funding for salaries, vouchers or more computer equipment The problem is your kids!”

4. Forget about fairness!

We all get confused about the contradictory messages that life and politics send.

Life sends the message, “I’d better not be poor. I’d better get rich. I’d better make more money than other people.” Meanwhile, politics sends us the message, “Some people make more money than others. Some are rich while others are poor. We’d better close that ‘income disparity gap.’ It’s not fair!”

Well, I am here to advocate for unfairness. I’ve got a 10-year-old at home. She’s always saying, “That’s not fair.” When she says this, I say, “Honey, you’re cute. That’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That’s not fair. You were born in America. That’s not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.” What we need is more income, even if it means a bigger income disparity gap.

Continue reading ‘Comencement Advice Worth Giving’

Quote Of The Day

“No developed country approaches American giving. For example, in 1995 (the most recent year for which data are available), Americans gave, per capita, three and a half times as much to causes and charities as the French, seven times as much as the Germans, and 14 times as much as the Italians. Similarly, in 1998, Americans were 15 percent more likely to volunteer their time than the Dutch, 21 percent more likely than the Swiss, and 32 percent more likely than the Germans. These differences are not attributable to demographic characteristics such as education, income, age, sex, or marital status. On the contrary, if we look at two people who are identical in all these ways except that one is European and the other American, the probability is still far lower that the European will volunteer than the American”. — Arthur C. Brooks, writing in The American magazine

Quote Of The Day

“So what drives modern marriage? We believe that the answer lies in a shift from the family as a forum for shared production to shared consumption. In case the language of economic lacks romance, let’s be clearer: modern marriage is about love and companionship. Most things in life are simply better shared with another. … The key today is consumption complementarities — activities that are not only enjoyable, but are more enjoyable when shared with a spouse. We call this new model of sharing our lives “hedonic marriage.”” — Justin Wolfers, on the economics of marriage.

Quote Of The Day

” If we look at the history of Western civilization, we find that Christianity has illuminated the greatest achievements of the culture. Read the new atheist books and make a list of the institutions and values that Hitchens and Dawkins and the others cherish the most. They value the idea of the individual, and the right to dissent, and science as an autonomous enterprise, and representative democracy, and human rights, and equal rights for women and racial minorities, and the movement to end slavery, and compassion as a social virtue. But when you examine history you find that all of these values came into the world because of Christianity. If Christianity did not exist, these values would not exist in the form they do now. So there is indeed something great about Christianity, and the honest atheist should be willing to admit this.” –Dinesh D’Souza, author of What’s So Great About Christianity, writing about his recent debate with Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great

Quote Of The Day

“[Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence] Thomas was talking about how surprisingly positively he has been received in campuses around the country over the past two decades. It is mostly the faculty, not the students or the public that are tough on him. Of course, there are some law schools he does not expect an invitation from. “About the only way I would get invited to Columbia is if I was a Middle East dictator with nuclear weapons.”” — Richard Miniter, writing about his Dinner With Clarence Thomas and Thomas’s new book, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir