February 27, 2006
Three Economic Books
While Three Economic Books is not the most exciting title in the world, I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting some of my recent reading has been.

The FairTax Book is a light, but interesting read on taxes – a phrase I never thought I would write. It was written by Congressman John Linder and talk show host named Neal Boortz. Until I read the book, I had never heard of Boortz, but Linder is a socially conservative congressman from Georgia who has promoted tax reform for many years. This book did a great job convincing me that a consumption tax on all new sales and services to the final consumer (e.g., unlike the European VAT, resellers would not pay it) is a viable and superior solution to reforming our income tax. The proposed consumption tax would eliminate all corporate and personal income taxes in exchange for the consumption tax. I have previously opposed consumption taxes because they regressively target the poor. The FairTax proposal has an answer to that. All citizens in the US (rich and poor) would receive a monthly check to cover the expected amount of taxes a poor family would pay on necessities. Thus, the poor would end up paying no tax (and if they spent less than the government estimated, they would even come out ahead).

Under the FairTax proposal, the IRS would be eliminated (yea!), and all the people who deal with income taxes could find better uses for their time. When the book was published, over 600,000 people had signed a petition for the FairTax. Since then, many others (including yours truly) have done so online. You can learn more by reading the book (which was at my local library) or by going to the FairTax website.

I finally got around to reading Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and greatly enjoyed the experience. Steven Levitt, a famous economist, got into a little hot water because he was careless with the data in one claim. He stated that legal abortions reduced crime because the disproportionably large number of abortions performed on impoverished minority women. Levitt's mistake will not be of interest to non academics as he still stands by his conclusion (the mistake was in how he did his statistics, he has since redone them and obtained the same conclusions.) Some other economists disagree with this finding, but I think the finding should not be controversial. If you abort/kill/vivisect/otherwise destroy millions of unborn children, you can expect these dead unborn will be incapable of committing crimes in the future. The killing of these unborn is (and should be) controversial, but given million of children, some would have become criminals. Some would have become doctors too and most would have paid taxes to help support our aging population. For better and for worse, all of this potential was snuffed out by abortionists. I do not see why people are giving Levitt a hard time over this claim.

However, the abortion claim is just a small part of the book. Levitt uses economic tools to evaluate a host of issues, such as identifying teachers who encourage cheating on standardized tests and analyzing the business operations of crack gangs.

Last, but not least, I recommend Pietra Rivoli's The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy. It was a fascinating story of the life cycle of a T-Shirt. Who knew that many Chinese T-Shirt firms used cotton grown in Texas? That's right – in today's crazy economy, cotton is grown in Texas, shipped to China and turned into yarn then into fabric, then sent to whatever poor country is high on the current US quota list where expatriate Chinese "reside" and assemble the shirt before shipping it to United States. Rivoli does a fair job presenting the views of free market economists and that of protectionist activists and looks at the results over time.

All three books are wonderful reads and should be part of every politician's library. Recommended reading for all voters.

Don Quixote | | TrackBack: 0
Category: Domestic Politics , Category: Economics , Category: Quests for Change
February 23, 2006
Delayed Impact
This weekend I played nurse as my family had the stomach flu. I thought I had escaped. Last night, I was proven wrong. Blogging will be light for a few days...

February 22, 2006
Homosexuality and Mental Disorders
Yesterday, as an example of the infringement on free speech, I briefly mentioned that homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the psychologists until the homosexuals applied political pressure to change this definition without any scientific rationale whatsoever. At Outside The Beltway, a blogger named Anderson civilly questioned my assumption. I am capturing part of our exchange at the Roundtable because I expect this will come up again in future conversations. I have made minor edits to improve readability and to focus on this issue (we also disagreed on the religious aspect, but that is another topic).

February 21, 2006
Free Speech Hypocrites
James Joyner has an interesting post on free speech, or the lack thereof, in Europe. He quotes Sebastian Holsclaw and both make the point that people should be allowed to say stupid things.

I don't see why many of my fellow Americans are making a big deal about this. Yes, Austria has a law against denying the Holocaust. As far as I can tell, Austrians consider this law on par with our law against falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater. Given Austrian history, they may have a point.

I find it fascinating that many of those that make a big deal about this are more complacent about other restrictions on free speech all over the Western World. In much of Europe and Canada, you can be jailed for pointing out that homosexuality is a perversion according to most (all?) the major religions and that homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the psychologists until the homosexuals applied political pressure to change this definition without any scientific rationale whatsoever.

In the US, some forms of political speech have been banned right before an election - so much for the 1st Amendment which was specifically written to protect political speech. Our Supreme Court claims that the First Amendment protects virtual pornography and lap dances, but not political speech. Why are the American "defenders" of free speech not more outraged over this local problem than the jailing of one harmful lunatic in Austria? Let's clean our own house first. We have more serious free speech problems that need to be addressed. If and when we have our own house in order, then we can pay attention to more trivial problems.

Note: My title is not aimed at James (whose blog I enjoy) nor Sebastian (of whom I had never read until today). It is aimed at everyone who makes a big deal over the speck in Austria's eye while ignoring the beam in America's eye.

Best Blonde Joke
A blonde and a lawyer are seated next to each other on a flight from LA to NY. The lawyer asks if she would like to play a fun game? The blonde, tired, just wants to take a nap, politely declines and rolls over to the window to catch a few winks. The lawyer persists and explains that the game is easy and a lot of fun. He explains, "I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5.00, and vise versa."

Again, she declines and tries to get some sleep.

The lawyer, now agitated, says, "Okay, if you don't know the answer you pay me $5.00, and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500.00."

This catches the blonde's attention and, figuring there will be no end to this torment unless she plays, agrees to the game.

The lawyer asks the first question. "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?"

The blonde doesn't say a word, reaches into her purse, pulls out a $5.00 bill and hands it to the lawyer. "Okay," says the lawyer, "your turn".

She asks the lawyer, "What goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four legs?"

The lawyer, puzzled, takes out his laptop computer and searches all his references, no answer. He taps into the air phone with his modem and searches the net and the library of congress, no answer. Frustrated, he sends e-mail to all his friends and coworkers, to no avail. After an hour, he wakes the blonde, and hands her $500.00.

The blonde says, "Thank you," and turns back to get some more sleep.

The lawyer, who is more than a little miffed, wakes the blonde and asks, "Well, what's the answer?"

Without a word, the blonde reaches into her purse, hands the lawyer $5.00, and goes back to sleep.

February 20, 2006
Rebels Without a Clue
On February 7, the student council of the University of Washington voted against a resolution honoring World War II fighter pilot Col. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. It was a close call – the vote was actually tied, but Senate Chair Alex Kim then used his tie-breaking power to vote against the resolution. The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out some of the reasons why the UW students voted against honoring the fighter pilot.
The student senate rejected the memorial because "a Marine" is not "an example of the sort of person UW wants to produce."

"We don't need to honor any more rich white males."

Not that race should matter to these politically correct and obviously naïve students, but Boyington was neither rich nor white, but a poor American Indian who faithfully served his country in a time of war. I am ashamed public tax money goes to support these ungrateful kids, but I am thankful for modern day soldiers who protect the UW student's rights to make public idiots of themselves. I also want to be careful that we do not think all UW students are idiots. This only became news, because a UW student, Brent Ludeman, called attention to the story via emails and letters [second letter, after the letter by the clown who cast the dissenting tie-breaking vote].

February 19, 2006
Interesting Times
Lady Quixote, the Engineer, the Lawyer, the Little Princess, and the baby all have the stomach flu complete with vomiting, diarrhea, and other fun symptoms. So far, I am well, so I am the nurse. Life is interesting. I am trying to keep two things in mind. One – this too shall pass. Two – All things considered, we are still very blessed.

February 14, 2006
Happy Valentine's Day to Lady Quixote
I am a fortunate man. I have been happily married for almost fifteen years and fully expect our marriage to last until death do us part. There is more passion in our marriage now (along with four kids) than there was when we were first married. It is hard to believe we are now middle-aged and when we've been married another fifteen years our oldest child will probably have graduated from college and our middle two kids should be in college. (Our eldest, the engineer, is currently in second grade).

My wife is a good sport and puts up with my many quirks. She is fun to be with and makes most days special. I am also lucky my wife is a wonderful cook from the Deep South. When I take her out to a restaurant, it is because I love her, not because I need a good meal. On the contrary, my wife's cooking is usually much better than that of a restaurant. This probably means she gets taken out less than she would if she were culinary challenged.

My wife is a full-time homemaker. It may shock some people as old fashioned, but my wife and I both love it and our kids are doing great. (The latter is simple probability; research shows that all things being equal, kids raised in a traditional family will do much better than kids who are not.)

I don't know what I would do without her. I love her and wanted to take time on Valentine's Day to publicly acknowledge her.

February 13, 2006
Searching a Mosque and a Self-Appointed Spy
Slightly over three years ago the British police took the extraordinary step of raiding a mosque in Finsbury Park. Many officers, dressed in riot gear and armed with battering rams, forced their way into the Islamic worship center. Was this justified? They took much flack for this at the time. The police have recently issued a report on their findings after Abu Hamza's trial on race hate charges came to a successful prosecution.

February 09, 2006
Comments Working!
Thanks to BlogRescue, my site has been upgraded and the new comment software has been installed. It seems to be working fine now. People will no longer have to be approved - you can post and your comments should be instantly available. Automatated spammers should be thwarted, at least for a while longer.

If you do find any bugs with the comments or other bugs on the site, please let me know by posting here. Right now, the only known bug is that my search results come back with a dark (hard-to-read) format. This will be fixed shortly.

Democrats and Republicans, Oh My
One of my favorite satirists is Scott Ott. He is one of the many jewels that have been discovered thanks to the ease of self-publishing enabled by the internet. He recently nailed both parties with this commentary:
(2006-02-08) — Democrat National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean today accused White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove of engineering a series of Bush administration failures and scandals in order to highlight the Democrat party’s inability to capitalize on political opportunity.

“I think it’s more than coincidence,” said Mr. Dean, “that Scooter Libby, Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff get indicted, Social Security reform is DOA, Iraq is a quagmire, Bin Laden is on the lam, Iran and North Korea have nukes, FEMA lets black people die in New Orleans, gas prices go ballistic and yet, Democrats get no bump in the polls…Oliver Stone, phone your office.”

A White House spokesman denied that the administration ever intentionally fails at anything, but acknowledged that the key to Republican electoral victory in 2006 and 2008 is to “give Democrats numerous chances to publicly highlight their own ideas and to spotlight their own integrity.”

Scott spoofs my greatest frustration with American politics today. As an Independent, what are my options? The Republicans are acting like a party that has grown accustomed to majority status – many of them, including the president, seem to be fans of big government, massive spending, and cronyism. However, at least they have three strengths – most Republicans are pro-life, strong on defense, and believe that laws should be enforced by judges, but created by legislatures who face reelection. They also recognize Social Security is going to be a problem and some of them tried to address this issue.

Other than supporting the "right" to abort a baby at any point, up to and including delivery, for what do the Democrats stand? Some of the students on my campus (who I would judge as libertarian, not conservative) disdainfully call the Democrats the terrorists' rights party.

The Democrats' lack of ideas is harming America. If they were a serious option, there would be real pressure on the Republicans to shape up or the electorate would throw them out. However, given the choice between today's Republicans and today's Democrats, I will hold my nose and vote for big government Republican who are at least trying to tackle today's pressing issues vs. voting for clueless Democrat who is more concerned with a terrorist's right to privacy than keeping their oath to protect the United States from enemies foreign and domestic. When you cannot tell the difference between a press release by Bin Laden and any ranking Democrat, you know the Democrats are in trouble.

February 08, 2006
I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
When I was a child, the doomsayers claimed we were entering another ice age. I would imagine snow in South Florida and got excited when we actually had flurries in 1976. When I was a young adult, the doomsayers claimed the ice age theory was wrong, that mankind was polluting the environment with greenhouse gases such as methane and that global warming was coming. This refrain continued for years despite revelations that cows and trees are some of the biggest producers of "greenhouse" gases.

Now that I am middle-aged, a Russian astronomer claims temperatures will peak in six or seven years and that I can look forward to chilly golden years with my grandchildren as we enter a mini ice age. At least his theory makes sense, has a testable timeframe, and explains why Mars has been warming at the same time as the Earth even without mankind, trees, or bovines.

Tip of the helm to Clayton Cramer for the link.

February 07, 2006
Two Steps Forward, One Step Backwards
After stating that I was resuming posting, I then went silent for a week. This was not due to my busy schedule, but due to lack of programming expertise. I found a comment program that I liked as it does not require people to register in order to comment. However, it needed the latest version of Movable Type. So I started to upgrade to this version and somehow messed up my blogging software so that I could not make new posts. Fortunately, a reasonably priced and competent solution was available.

I now have access to my blog again and the comment system should be revamped shortly. Thank you blogrescue.