Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Joe Takes a Swipe Posted by Hello

Golden Gloved Bill Posted by Hello

Rookie Cards

What did I tell ya? Only the Giant, Joe Wolfram himself, can understand the proof that only 4 colors are needed to cover the map, and here is a link to Wolfram Research giving the history of the problem: no connection to the Giant, but indeed it must be said that he must have inspired it.


"Some people must be treated differently in order to be treated equally." That is a quote from an opinion provided by Justice Blackmun in a Supreme Court case involving setting racial quotas from long ago. I read it today in an editorial. "All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others." A paraphrase from Orwell's Animal Farm. Why didn't Blackmun just quote Orwell to make his point with flare?


Above are pictured the rookie cards for what will one day go down as the best twin duo in major league history. Or not. But these pictures could be worth a lot someday - true rookie cards. Which brings me to my idea. Under the presumption that in the off chance my kids make it to the Bigs someday, and make obscene amounts of money, and that once they do they will no doubt provide for Mom and Dad, that would presumably put us in position now as being at the ground floor of an investment opportunity for you, the reader. Simply buy a share of their education, room, and boarding expenses, and sit back and watch your investment grow! We'll pay you out of the handsome intergenerational transfer that we experience once our kids are stars. Or not.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Not for Disputing Boundaries

On my desk at work sits a globe that is all of 3 or 4 inches in diameter, with the North and South poles made of metal; the globe sits suspended in air between a wooden base with a metal pole that magnetizes when plugged into an outlet. The globe is made in China, and it has this written smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean: "For Toy and Ornament Only, Not for Disputing the Boundaries."

Gotta love that disclaimer. This must be the second production run of the globe, as the company no doubt discovered the problems of not having that disclaimer in place by creating several bloody international border disputes. I'm sure the Jews and the Palestinians, the Indians and the Pakistanis, and other border foes had flare ups due to inaccurately drafted boundaries on a 3 inch globe. But the really funny part is that all of Asia is one color and bears only the name of China. (Actually, that's just a lame joke, but in fact Hong Kong and Taiwan are the same color as China).

For all of you math fans out there, I'm sure I am not telling you anything you don't already know when I say that there are only four colors used for all of the countries, with no two bordering countries sharing the same color. It takes no more than four colors to achieve that result, which was apparently theorized long before it was elaborately and arduously (if memory serves me well) proved. It's a great example of a simple theorem in math where it is easy to understand what the theorem says, to the point where a child can understand the claim, but the proof is extremely complex, to the point where you need to the Giant to understand it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Hatcher Saves Social Security

I've had enough criticizing liberal columnists for awhile. It's look shooting fish in a barrel. So instead today I'm going to save Social Security (and the same winning solution will save Medicare as well).

Social Security reform is such a sexy topic that I know readers have been saying to themselves – I wonder what the Hatcher’s views are on such reform. Well, wonder no more, readers, because I’m offering my entire reform plan, the most novel you will have read, in this blog, as usual free of explicit charge.

There are two reasons why Social Security is becoming an increasing burden on the working generation – people are living longer, and birth rates have, on average, declined, causing the ratio of elderly to working stiffs to rise. The Ponzi scheme could continue apace if we passed a Logan’s Run law (does anyone remember that show?), and if birth rates remained the same.

Here is my take – make it more like a private insurance market. As I see it, the value of social security to the current generation paying the payroll taxes is not only what they expect to receive in benefits themselves down the line, it is the significant risk-sharing benefit of not having to provide for your parents in the unfortunate event that the courts someday don’t allow you to starve them to death once they’ve become an inconvenient financial burden to you. Some of us will be unfortunate enough to see our parents live a long time, and to hedge against that risk, it makes sense to buy insurance that provides for your parents should they live beyond their expected terms.

But here is the rub – the value of that insurance to an only child who might face the entire responsibility himself, is much larger than it is to a child who is one of, say, four, like both me and my kids. Presumably, in the absence of some old-age insurance market for our parents, my brothers and I face one-fourth the potential burden faced by Professor Vic, for example, who is an only child (explains a lot when you think about it). Collectively my brothers and I would be willing to pay the same amount for insurance as Prof. Vic, implying that we’d only individually face one-fourth the insurance premium he would willingly pay.

So it boils down to this – I should pay one-quarter of the payroll taxes as compared to Professor Vic. (And perhaps even less - a private insurance company would consider all relevant actuarial factors, and I suspect that lifespan is probably negatively related to the number of children one raises.) With my brothers and I being pooled with Professor Vic as equals, we are essentially required to subsidize his parents in their golden years. Implicit subsidies from large families to small get larger the bigger the disparity in family size.

Now, Professor Vic might protest – why should I get screwed? And he may have a point. Having only one child, his parents were in a better relative position to provide for all of their retirement needs through direct savings; they didn’t need to invest as much in the next generation. So another solution that would be equivalent in many ways would be to have all workers pay in at the same amount, but collect based upon the number of kids we parented. The more kids you had, the more social security benefits you get.

So you do one of two things – either gauge benefits to children spawned, or the tax burden of the individual to the number of siblings he or she has. There are different parental incentives created under the two systems. Under the “benefits gauged to kids” system, if I have more kids, I get more benefits, but this is at the expense of being able to save more on my own. Under the “tax burden dependent on number of siblings” system, my kids face a lesser burden, and I don’t feel it is as necessary to leave a bequest for them when I kick.

There is a welfare aspect to Social Security, which I would support maintaining, but perhaps as an entirely separate program. But for the bigger picture, make it more like private insurance in some manner.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Fisking Ivins

This is one long article from Molly Ivins that I can summarize as one opinion: the tax code should be more progressive. From that follows the completely illogical conclusion that because it isn’t, rich people receive massive subsidies from the rest of us. She’s entitled to such an opinion, for sure, but to weave an article that pronounces such a simple opinion on fairness as if it is exposing some grand conspiracy is a little much.

Happy tax day, fellow citizens! My favorite authority on taxes is David Cay Johnston of The New York Times, who won a Pulitzer for reporting on the terminally unsexy topic of taxes. His book "Perfectly Legal -- The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super-Rich -- and Cheat Everyone Else" is the single best work on public policy of recent years, I think. Johnston reports: "Through explicit policies, as well as tax laws never reported in the news, Congress now literally takes money from those making $30,000 to $500,000 per year and funnels it in subtle ways to the super-rich -- the top one-one hundredth of one percent of Americans.

The top one-one hundredth percent, generously assuming 200 million American taxpayers, is 20 thousand people. Here is an idea – let’s kill ‘em and this problem will go away. It’s not that many people after all. Expressed sympathy for people making $500K per year by a famous liberal columnist is a great indication of what famous liberal columnists make per year. She’s probably written an article like this every year, and you could track her salary by changes in the upper limit of those deemed deserving of crocodile tears.

"People making $60,000 paid a larger share of their 2001 income in federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes than a family making $25 million, the latest Internal Revenue Service data show. And in income taxes alone, people making $400,000 paid a larger share of their incomes than the 7,000 households who made $10 million or more."

My guess is that those making $10 million or more paid at least 4 percent, or $400,000, on average. So, unless those making $400K were taxed for all of their income, I’d still say they were getting a good deal. I would also hazard the guess that those making $10 million or more pay real estate taxes that dwarf those for those making $400K as a percent of income. And, as the Hatcher mentioned before, there is no separate line at the DMV for Gold Club Taxpayers. In fact, rich people arguably get less value from how taxes are spent, because they substitute private security measures for the less valuable protection offered by the state, and private schooling for public.

The rest of us are subsidizing not only the super-rich, but also corporations. Fifty years ago, corporations paid 60 percent of all federal taxes. But by 2003, that was down to 16 percent. So individual taxpayers have to make up the difference, as corporate profits soar and wages fall.

The rest of us? Why does she assume I’m not pulling in $10 million. Damn those corporations, I hate it when I see them walking down the street with cashing pouring out of their pockets, swaggering and the like. They should pay their fair share!

As more and more rich people cheat on their taxes, the IRS is increasingly unable to go after them because it is so poorly funded. For all this, we can thank the Republican Party.

Thank you, Republican Party!

Every year at this time, conservatives moan and groan and tell us how terribly, terribly overburdened we are by taxes. We wouldn't be overburdened if the tax code hadn't been rewritten by Republicans, and if Republicans hadn't weakened the IRS so much it can barely function. Damn right, this is a partisan effort. And damn right, I'm bitter about it. We don't need to raise taxes in this country, we need to collect them. We need tax cuts that don't favor the obscenely rich. You are getting screwed.

Think of all the Che Guvera t-shirts you could buy if the rich paid their fair share! Greedy capitalist bastards.

OK, now that I've gotten that rant off my chest, back to how it's done. Johnston: "One 1985 law, promoted in the Senate as relieving middle class Americans, gave a huge tax break to corporate executives who make personal use of company jets. CEOs may now fly to vacations or Saturday golf outings in luxury for a penny a mile. Congress shifted the real cost of about $6 per mile to shareholders, who pay two-thirds, and to taxpayers, who suffer the cost lost as a result of reduced corporate income taxes. "Since 1988, Congress has also cut in half the Internal Revenue Service's capacity to enforce tax laws, replacing it with extra effort to reduce audits of corporations and the rich.

1988-1994 was a Democratic Congress; 1992-2000 was a Democratic President. And all of this screwing went on without it becoming a big campaign issue, which suggests that maybe, just maybe, people are fine with the tax code becoming less progressive. It’s called democracy, and Ivins doesn’t much like it when it doesn’t validate her preference.

"On March 30, Congress was told that 78 percent of known tax cheats in investment partnerships are not even asked to pay because there are not enough tax collectors to go after them."

I’ll bet you John Edwards was glued to C-Span during that hearing; I could hear his sigh of relief 2 miles from his Georgetown home.

The IRS oversight board asked for money to go after these cheaters, but both Congress and President Bush refused. The IRS's computer system was installed when John Kennedy was president.

The Senate budget currently under consideration includes $129 billion in new tax breaks for millionaires and a $2.8 billion cut in farm and nutrition programs (i.e., food stamps). Which do you think is more important? The House has already passed a budget that cuts at least $15 billion for Medicaid and $5.3 billion from food stamps. I have long held that W. Bush does not believe changing government policies can actually wreck people's lives -- he thinks it's a game, and the Democrats are just the other team. But if you believe the shift in the tax burden in this country -- and the consequent separation of a tiny, ever-richer minority from the rest of us -- doesn't have real effects, you're blind.

Good thing I make enough money to receive a government subsidy for a Braille internet connection!

When you cut housing subsidies, you get more homeless people. (And of course it’s against the law for Ivins to donate money to private charities that would alleviate the problem). When you cut food stamps, you get more hungry people. In 2002, at least 25.5 million people went to soup kitchens and food pantries. (Where they were – fed!) In 2003, 1.1 million more joined the lines. (Where they were - fed!) As unemployment and other government programs run out, even more will be standing on line. (Where they’ll be - fed!) Last year, America got a pay cut. (It’s a shame, because America did such a good job!). Wages for the average worker fell, after adjusting for inflation -- the first such drop in 10 years. That means the standard of living for most Americans is in decline.

Widening of the inequality in income has been a persistent trend in the US, and many other developed countries, independent of differences in social policy; it proceeded apace with Clinton in office.

The country becomes less and less fair, and equality of opportunity grows farther away ever day. Again, I don't think Republicans are doing this because they are mean, but because they have convinced themselves that people shouldn't be "dependent" on government, that it's bad for their moral fiber. Only corporations and the super-rich should get welfare and subsidies. As economist John Kenneth Galbraith put it, "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Some call it selfishness, others call it freedom. Galbraith lived a high-life – but like every other liberal, there is a disconnect – everyone who has made more than him should pay more in taxes, but mine are at the right level, if not above where they should be. I am reminded of Al Gore, whose charitable givings came under scrutiny in the 2000 election. He had contributed less than $500, if I recall, which is rather pathetic given his income. His response – it’s not easy putting 4 kids through Harvard. See, you have to pry money out of the hands of rich liberals via taxes to fund any charitable efforts, because if you don’t they just piss away their money bidding up college tuition rates at Ivy League schools.

I don't worry too much about rich people getting richer; the super rich eventually want to be famous as well, and those that don't do so via the purchase of political office or a sport's team do so by conspicuously giving away as much of their money as possible, and usually to organizations that Democrats love. So Ms. Ivins should un-bunch her panties, and thank the Republicans for not collecting more taxes that the Republican Congress would only spend on bombing innocent women and children.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Fisking Kinsley

Second target for the week : Michael Kinsley, writing in Sunday's Washington Post:

The term "neoconservative" started out as an insult and is still used that way. When people say that the selection of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank marks the triumph of neocons in Bush administration foreign policy, they are generally not indicating pleasure. Cynics say they are indicating anti-Semitism: A neocon is a Jewish intellectual you disagree with. That's way too harsh. But what does neoconservative mean?

It’s a good question, and he is right that the term is bandied about as an insult that is somehow supposed to be self-explanatory. So when someone does sneer about neoconservatism without ever bothering to say what he means by the term, and many of the prominent neoconservatives are Jewish, it is probably a fair deduction to say that the critics are drawing attention to some feature of neoconservatism other than the ideas it embraces, and Jewish heritage jumps to the top of the list.

Writing in the current issue of the National Interest, Rich Lowry, a conservative of the non-neo variety, defines a neocon as someone with a "messianic vision" of using American power to spread democracy, an indifference to the crucial distinction between what would be nice and what is essential to national security, and excessive optimism that we can arrange things according to our own values in strange and faraway lands. Wow. It was not always thus.

Getting ahead of myself a bit, but isn’t a messianic vision of using American power the underpinnings to Clinton’s actions in Haiti and Bosnia? Were those actions essential for national security or were they just nice? And the term excessive optimism, it seems to me, is an opinion running ahead of the facts, at least with respect to Bush’s foreign policy. There are great reasons to hope that a transformation is occurring in the Middle East, and if they pan out, can it be said that those who advocated that the Iraq war could serve to trigger a transformation (and Bush and others have argued that from the beginning) were overly optimistic?

When the word first surfaced in the 1970s, its sting was in calling people conservatives five or 10 minutes before they were prepared to admit it. The core group had famously been Trotskyists at City College in the 1930s. In the 1950s and 1960s they were anti-communist liberals and supporters of the Vietnam War. The antiwar movement and the '60s counterculture alienated them. Affirmative action was another sore point. Finally Irving Kristol, dubbed the neocon godfather, decided to take it as a compliment. He defined a neoconservative as "a liberal mugged by reality." That phrase also summarizes the plot of the Great Neocon Novel, "Mr. Sammler's Planet," by Saul Bellow. Bellow's last novel, "Ravelstein," actually has a character modeled after Wolfowitz.

The great neocon theme was tough-minded pragmatism in the face of liberal naivete. Liberals were sentimental. They believed that people were basically good or could easily be made so. Domestically, liberal social programs were no match for the intractable underclass or even made the situation worse. In the world, liberals were too hung up on democracy and human rights, refusing to recognize that the only important question about other countries is: Friend or foe?

Somewhere I still have a souvenir of neoconservatism's previous high point. It's a baseball cap from the 1988 Republican convention that says, "Jeane Kirkpatrick for vice president." This was serious. Kirkpatrick, an austere academic with a crooked scowl, was about as unlikely a politician as you can imagine.

Micheal Kinsley, the beady-eyed former host of Crossfire who never looked anyone in the face during those shows … Or how about this: Hillary Rodham, the frigid first wife with the calves of a medium-sized hippo… Did he know her personally to be austere? Did she wear a crooked scowl at all times and places? And why was that neoconservatism’s high-point, if they have now achieved a triumph of controlling US foreign policy, as the first paragraph claims?

But give the Republican Party credit: It does sometimes swoon over ideas. When was the last time the Democrats did that? Ronald Reagan had swooned over a 1979 article by Kirkpatrick in Commentary, the neocon house organ, and he made her his U.N. ambassador when he became president. She gave the big speech at the 1984 GOP convention, leading the massed Republicans in a chant of "they always blame America first."

Well, what can I say, they do!

Kirkpatrick's article, "Dictatorship and Double Standards," was a ferocious attack on President Jimmy Carter for trying to "impose liberalization and democratization" on other countries. She mocked "the belief that it is possible to democratize governments anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances." Democracy, she said, depends "on complex social, cultural, and economic conditions." It takes "decades, if not centuries."

Does all criticism of a policy amount to a “ferocious attack” or mockery? If it was a ferocious attack, couldn’t he find a quote where Kirkpatrick compared Carter to Hitler or something?

Kirkpatrick thought that U.S. power should be used to shore up tottering but friendly dictators, such as Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua and the shah of Iran. Carter sat on his hands, she complained. Now we have an administration that -- wisely or foolishly, sincerely or cynically -- claims to have the aggressive pursuit of democracy everywhere as the focal point of its foreign policy. And the Bush Doctrine is said to have the fingerprints of neoconservatives all over it.

This is quite a reversal by America's most influential group of intellectuals, yet it has received surprisingly little comment or explanation.

As before, it would seem to me to be a reversal that he would favor. I don’t know for a fact – for all I know he might have been against Utopian democratization when Clinton was doing it, but I doubt it. But even if so, should he be criticizing them alone for mistakes that liberals are clearly prone to when in office? Why not criticize the idea no matter who embraces it, and recognize that it originates with Woodrow Wilson, an icon of his party. The fact that the purported reversal has received scant attention should hardly shock – people change their minds in light of new evidence or more learning all of the time.

The chief theoretician of the new neoconservatism is political scientist Robert Kagan. Writing in Commentary (where else?) in 1997, Kagan noted the difference between his notions and Kirkpatrick's and had some fun at the expense of opponents who had been all for a high-minded foreign policy until the neocons started calling for one. But he had little to say about the reversal of the neocons themselves.

Here is the rule: two neoconservatives are never allowed to disagree with each other, implying that if one criticizes the long ago opinions of another, this can only happen if those long ago opinions have themselves been abandoned by the person who held them. (The rule is necessary for all Jewish conspiracies to succeed.) He never says that Kagan has reversed himself, or that Kirkpatrick has; but because they hold different opinions, this amounts to a reversal for all of neoconservatism.

Plenty of explanations are available. The collapse of the Soviet Union (which the neocons did not predict -- their theme had been that the Soviet Union was getting stronger and stronger while the United States diddled) surely changed the calculus. The seemingly easy spread of democracy over the past couple of decades may have disproved Kirkpatrick's pessimism.

I think they probably held that theme in the seventies, and it was justified because the Soviets were certainly on the march, but I am also sure that they advocated trying to thwart further strengthening, and building our own capacity, rather than a policy of appeasement which the Soviets enjoyed under Carter. (We’re not coming to the Olympics, and if you proceed with similar behavior, we’ll abandon the Goodwill games as well!) So while they didn't predict the end, they advocated the policies that helped it come to fruition. And the only thing any liberal predicted during the 1980s was a nuclear holocaust that Ronald Reagan would be entirely culpable for.

But all these explanations require an admission of error, something the neocons are not very good at. They are selling certainty.

It would seem to me that the neoconservatives are last in line for the requirement of an admission of error. Either Kinsley disagrees with neoconservatives now, in which case he must be sympathetic to the vein of Kirkpatrick’s vicious attacks on Carter, or he should be happy that they have hopped on board. So which is it? Were they wrong then or are they wrong now? Maybe committing to an opinion on that matter will be selling certainty, and foreclosing the option to criticize them for any reason whatsoever.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Fisking Friedman

This week the Hatcher takes on some prominent liberal op-ed columnists, starting with perhaps the giant among them, Thomas Friedman of the NYT. This is a guy who believes his own press clippings, but more importantly so do his editors. This article appeared in Friday’s NYT.

One of the things that I can't figure out about the Bush team is why an administration that is so focused on projecting U.S. military strength abroad has taken such little interest in America's economic competitiveness at home - the underlying engine of our strength.

Economic competitiveness? What is this, 1988, when we were worried about our country being purchased by Japan (not that foreign direct investment is ever a bad thing)? Stable money, sound fiscal policy, and restraining itself from excessive regulation – this is all you need your government to do to ensure economic competitiveness.

At a time when the global economic playing field is being flattened - enabling young Indians and Chinese to collaborate and compete with Americans more than ever before - this administration is off on an ideological jag. It is trying to take apart the New Deal by privatizing Social Security, when what we really need most today is a New New Deal to make more Americans employable in 21st-century jobs.

Yes, that’s right - what we need is a Ponzi scheme on top of a Ponzi scheme that has already run its course. There are legitimate arguments against privatizing Social Security, but the notion that we can do nothing and everything will be fine is flat out wrong. And what can government do to make more Americans employable in 21st century jobs? Here is an idea – how about compulsory education through high school – surely that doesn’t occur in China or India. We should try it here, see how it goes. The Hatcher can get behind such a plan.

We have a Treasury secretary from the railroad industry.

Factually true, but so what? Having a Silicon Valley Treasury secretary matters?

We have an administration that won't lift a finger to prevent the expensing of stock options, which is going to inhibit the ability of U.S. high-tech firms to attract talent - at a time when China encourages its start-ups to grant stock options to young innovators.

The problem with this argument is that it assumes investors are somehow fooled by the accounting treatment or non-treatment of stock options, which they aren’t. How it is reported is independent of its true impact on shareholder value. Therefore, it shouldn’t effect the ability of companies to raise capital, and if it is an efficient form of compensation (and there is a lot of reason to believe that it is not), companies will offer it. But still, Friedman is a smart guy, so maybe he sees us now experiencing a “brain drain” with our most talented scientists leaving the U.S. to work in China.

And we have movie theaters in certain U.S. towns afraid to show science films because they are based on evolution and not creationism.

New York Times Checklist for Op-Ed columns, Item 4: Make sure to take a gratuitous swipe at the religious right. Check. Evolution is an explanatory, non-laboratory science, and failure to believe that it explains the origins of life (and it is a belief), or even outright refusal to study it, doesn’t impede one’s ability to be a physicist, or a medical researcher, a computer programmer, a mathmetician, etc. The only occupation it would seem to entirely preclude would be an editorialist at the NYT, which is a grave loss, indeed.

The Bush team is proposing cutting the Pentagon's budget for basic science and technology research by 20 percent next year - after President Bush and the Republican Congress already slashed the 2005 budget of the National Science Foundation by $100 million.

This is cataclysmic news! Buy gold! The $100 million cut is a 1.9 percent decrease (slightly higher in real terms). Total proposed federal spending for 2006, taking into account the reduced Pentagon budget, is $132.3 billion, a growth of 0.1%. Fifty years from now, when we emerge from the post-industrial blight of a decades-long Depression, economists will harken back to the budget, and say, “if only Bush had spent $136 billion, we’d still be an economic juggernaut.”

When the National Innovation Initiative, a bipartisan study by the country's leading technologists and industrialists about how to re-energize U.S. competitiveness, was unveiled last December, it was virtually ignored by the White House. Did you hear about it? Probably not, because the president preferred to focus all attention on privatizing Social Security.

The National Innovation Initiative – did you hear about it? Probably not, because it is one of thousands of think tank documents churned out each year, and among those, this one is probably among the most platitudinous. But if it recommends something the Bush administration is ignoring, it must be gravely important (New York Times Checklist for Op-Ed columns, Item 7)!

It's as if we have an industrial-age presidency, catering to a pre-industrial ideological base, in a post-industrial era.

It’s as if we have a guy trained as a journalist, writing to people who aren’t smart enough to be journalists, about a topic that is over both their heads.

Thomas Bleha, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer in Japan, has a fascinating piece in the May-June issue of Foreign Affairs that begins like this: "In the first three years of the Bush administration, the United States dropped from 4th to 13th place in global rankings of broadband Internet usage. Today, most U.S. homes can access only 'basic' broadband, among the slowest, most expensive and least reliable in the developed world, and the United States has fallen even further behind in mobile-phone-based Internet access. The lag is arguably the result of the Bush administration's failure to make a priority of developing these networks. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized state without an explicit national policy for promoting broadband."

Translation: Teenage boys in 12 countries can access porn on the internet ten times faster than U.S. teens can.

Since it took over in 2001, the Bush team has made it clear that its priorities are tax cuts, missile defense and the war on terrorism - not keeping the U.S. at the forefront of Internet innovation. In the administration's first three years, President Bush barely uttered the word "broadband," Mr. Bleha notes, but when America "dropped the Internet leadership baton, Japan picked it up. In 2001, Japan was well behind the United States in the broadband race. But thanks to top-level political leadership and ambitious goals, it soon began to move ahead.

There is a broadband gap! It rivals in seriousness the mind-shaft gap that plagued General Turgeson in Dr. Strangelove.

"By May 2003, a higher percentage of homes in Japan than the United States had broadband. ...
"Today, nearly all Japanese have access to 'high-speed' broadband, with an average connection time 16 times faster than in the United States - for only about $22 a month. ... And that is to say nothing of Internet access through mobile phones, an area in which Japan is even further ahead of the United States. It is now clear that Japan and its neighbors will lead the charge in high-speed broadband over the next several years."

This is a travesty, after surfing my broadband web at work 8 hours a day, along with the rest of service sector America, I should be able to get the same speedy service at home for $20 per month.

South Korea, which has the world's greatest percentage of broadband users, and urban China, which last year surpassed the U.S. in the number of broadband users, are keeping pace with Japan - not us. By investing heavily in these new technologies, Mr. Bleha notes, these nations will be the first to reap their benefits - from increased productivity to stronger platforms for technological innovation; new kinds of jobs, services and content; and rising standards of living.

The notion that our being behind India or China in our information technology makes us less competitive as laborers is rather asinine. We could adapt cheap information technology at the same rate they have, and it would do nothing to favor American labor. This is because the info technology itself renders your physical location to be much less important to the performance of certain tasks. If I can choose two equally equipped workers, one in India for $30K a year versus one in the US for $120K a year, I'll choose the Indian. The information technology, even if equally spread to India and US employees, entirely erases the competitive advantage of the US employee. It makes sense for these countries to invest in these technologies for the spillover benefits such investments have in providing them the ability to develop a fairly sophisticated service economy quickly.

All of the arguments above say nothing about these countries making investments to advance these technologies; all are related to their efforts to use them. The brains behind these technologies will continue to come from the U.S.

Economics is not like war. It can be win-win. But you need to be at a certain level to be able to claim your share of a global pie that is both expanding and becoming more complex. Tax cuts can't solve every problem. This administration - which often seems more interested in indulging creationism than spurring creativity - is doing a very poor job of preparing the country for that next level.

Extra credit for 2 gratuitous swipes at the religious right! That should put you in the running for NYT Op-Ed Columnist of the Month and all the perqus that entails, but you are porbably 275 entries behind Maureen Dowd. Information technologies cannot clothe you, house you, or feed you, but they can make it cheaper for those things to happen. Part of the way they make it cheaper is by enabling educated people in third world countries to compete against American labor. You can triple the number of cell phones you provide to a U.S. worker, and it aint gonna erase what information technology does to his comparative value as an employee.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Jefferson Memorial Posted by Hello

Shiney Happy Hatcher

The above picture was taken during my daily commute to work. It struck me now that the weather has turned that I could be ten times richer, and it wouldn't improve my commute to work one bit (except by eliminating it, in which case my commute would simply be a workout). It starts off with a steep downhill on a non-busy road, which unfortunately ends at a stop sign; but fortunately it is a 4-way stop, which means that one person can always cheat, so I do. But I have to slow down anyway to make a left turn. I weave my way past two traffic lights through Crystal City, a colorless downtowny looking complex of office buildings right by Reagan National Airport, populated mostly by businesses that deal with the nearby Pentagon. At only a little over a mile into my ride, I duck under the commuter train on the "connector trail", which true to its name connects me to the Mt. Vernon trail, which starts at Washington's Mt. Vernon home on the Potomac about 20 miles south of Arlington, and goes up to North Arlington. I pick it up right at Reagan, and follow it for a couple of miles, and at one point (Gravelly Point) crossing right under the flight path of planes coming into the airport. I cross over a footbridge that parallels interstate 395, which delivers me to the other side of the river, right at the Jefferson Memorial. I hug the river another mile along Ohio Drive, and enter the mall right at the Lincoln Memorial; from there I dodge tourists past the Vietnam Memorial, and into downtown, where I ride between rows of traffic that generally sit at a standstill. 7 miles when all is said and done.

Now think about all of the things in your life that you couldn't enjoy any more if you were ten times richer; the key to happiness in life is to lengthen that list (or be ten times richer than you are).

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Woo hoo! Posted by Hello

The Drinking Man's Anne Geddes

Can't seem to muster a serious post this week, so why not show pictures of babies that promote hard liquor? Sure, the folks at MADD would be very upset, but everyone knows that babies and toddlers cannot drive, so what's the harm? This is from long time reader BFX, the drinking man's Anne Geddes. The Hatcher is inspired by the effort, complete down to the "Party in my crib 3:00 am BYOB" t-shirt, specially printed for the occasion. The posting is a little dated, as this was BFX's St. Patrick's day greetings to friends, but is Southern Comfort ever really out of season?

Some of you pinko commie liberal freaks out there will be thinking - sure, "the Hatcher has no problem promoting alcohol, but if someone should so much as light up some cannibas, he can't send them to jail fast enough." Oh, the hypocracy! But to that I will respond as follows:

1) Of course you think that, because you are a pinko commie liberal freak;
2) Many conservatives are advocates of de-criminalizing drugs - the editors of the National Review, for example. And, while that view obviously remains a minority view, my guess is that the same is true among Democratic politicians;
3) Lighting up a joint doesn't have the same theatric power as a broken man sitting alone at a bar with a half-empty bottle of booze listening to country music. A broken man smoking a joint would get the giggles in minutes and start ordering all the brownies he could eat off of the bar menu. Any drug that takes a man away from rampant self-indulgent misery does him no favors.
4) People who smoke pot can be happy anywhere - putting them in jail together is probably to their liking is long as they can still light up. So, while I am not in favor of de-criminalizing, I am in favor of letting them harvest a small prison crop for themselves.

As a side note, I should mention that within minutes of arriving at our Sandals resort for our honeymoon in Jamaica, the husbands of two other couples were offered marijuana by hotel workers. The Hatcher went a whole week without 1 stinkin offer. Do I look like a narc? Does Jamaica even have narcs?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Superstar

Everyone had an imitation of the Superstar, but most imitations rarely did justice to the genuine article. The Super would greet any member of the beach patrol with his patented “strong” sign - arms outstretched with fists clenched, forearms facing up, elbows locked to the hip, and arms angling slightly from the body. His head would be slightly tilted, and his eyes would be bursting from his head in excitement, and then he’d say your name like he was introducing you to a crowd of people who have been waiting all night for your appearance – “Senior senior guard John Hatch.” (He once introduced me to a woman in Fred’s with a string of seniors followed by guard, followed by superstar triathlete … The woman, in turn, was introduced to me as the most beautiful woman on the island, and the Super was right about that. My rap could only disappoint after such an introduction, and no doubt it did.) Those were the common elements to any imitation, and from there they’d vary according to the dialogue the imitator had chosen to commit to memory. And there was also his distinctive walk, which I can do in a heartbeat but which defies description.

The Superstar, or to his friends, Super, was a man in his early fifties living on the Jersey island town of Stone Harbor. His real name was Dave Shuster, and rumors circulated about how a series of calamitous personal events led to his transformation to the Superstar, but no one could ever verify the stories. What we did know was the Super was an unforgettable character, an unofficial mascot of the beach patrol. He was short, maybe 5’6”, bald on the top, with graying black hair forming the dreaded horseshoe around his head; he had a hairy chest in the days when such was considered virile, and one hopes that he had faded from the scene before men with shaved chests became the fashion. His bar outfit – and there was only one – was a button down polyester patterned shirt, light in color, with a pair of khaki pants and a pair of boat shoes.

Friendship with the Super was strictly hierarchical based upon your years as a lifeguard – you could be in the middle of a conversation with him in Fred’s tavern, having a grand old time, and as soon as a guy with a couple more years spent guarding in Stone Harbor sauntered into the bar, he’d abandon you like a warm drink to go pay his respects, but not before telling you that his close friend, senior senior guard … had just entered the bar, eyes again alight like a kid on Christmas morning. And he knew exactly how long you’d been a guard. For a guy who clearly didn’t have it all going right upstairs, he was a bit of a savant. Once when I was back in Stone Harbor a year or two after I had stopped guarding, I asked the Super what year I began guarding, and he knew it within ten seconds. I had to think longer than that just to know that he was right.

“It’s a psychological thing with the Superstar,” Dave once told me, “I don’t eat shark and shark don’t eat me.” He relished the nickname bestowed upon him by the patrol, and openly referred to himself in the third person as the Superstar. Being eaten by a shark was a real concern for the Super, because his animating passion was swimming from the jetty on 114th street down the one 122nd street, about a half-mile stretch he was granted the privilege of swimming each day on beach patrol hours. He was one of only two who enjoyed any such privilege, the other being the universally respected Mr. Harper, who was sort of the anti-Superstar. At one point in time, Harper was the oldest person to have swum the English Channel, and each day he’d swim the 2.5 miles from 122nd street down to 83rd. He was treated with great respect, and was very amiable – he seemed to exude a Jimmy Stewart like goodness and strength. But poor Mr. Harper was the nemesis of the Super, who begrudged the senior competition as the islands foremost octogenarian swimmer; he probably had no idea who the Superstar was, but one suspected he was at the forefront of the Super’s mind.

The Super didn’t swim freestyle – he swam some version of what he called the “crawl”, which looked like freestyle, only he’d practically turn over on his back whenever he’d take a breath. Somehow the stroke seemed fitting – a normal stroke would have seemed more the eccentricity when it came to the Super. He liked to speak of his unbreakable bond with the beach patrol, which he would demonstrate by interlocking his arms and grabbing each hand to the opposite forearm, and challenging you to pull his arms apart. And sure enough you couldn’t do it; I distinctly remember Chris Nailer in the bar Touche literally lifting the Superstar up by his forearms and then slamming him down, up again and down, over and over, and still the bond remained unbroken.

He was fixture at all lifeguard racing events, where all of his energies would be focused upon providing strategy tips to the entrants to the open swim. These swims would be out to a flag a quarter mile offshore and back to the beach – the standard strategy would take into account the anticipated effects of the current, and so the swimmers would tend to enter the surf as much as 100 yards up the beach from the flag. The Super would have not of that, as he would advise the swimmers to be like Janet Evans and make a b-line for the flag. He’d stand perched at the beach patrol headquarters with binoculars in hand, watching each and every swimmer ignore his advice. And for all but one, he could point to their ignoring his advice as the cause of their loss.

He didn’t lack for a sense of humor, which he would most often reserve for spinning wild tails in response to any questions concerning his personal history. He once told me that he had broken out of prison, where he was serving time for armed robbery, and that he had his prison ID card to prove it. Pressed to produce the evidence, he would take out his wallet, grab an ID, and then flash it for a fraction of second before stowing it away again. He also told me that his routine when he left the bars at night was to go home and study the tidal charts in planning a swim across the inlet (where the ocean meets the bay) from Stone Harbor to the Woods, the next island south. Even Eddie Ifft wouldn’t make that swim, but that’s another story.

We had our fun with him, but there were some on the patrol who genuinely looked out for him. Vizzard once dragged me the Super’s to check in on him after a stretch where no one had seen much of him. He dreaded the winters, when the island would practically evacuate, and he’d be left with the locals who knew him only as Dave and not the Superstar. I would occasionally write to him in the winter, and I think he may have even written back once, but mostly he wouldn’t respond. He’d apologize as soon as he’d see me at the beginning of the summer, an apology that was totally unnecessary. I remember distinctly sending him a postcard from Idaho with a picture of a gigantic potato being hauled on the flatbed of an 18 wheeler, with my message telling him I’m sending him the potato for him to begin carbo-loading for the summer. My reward – when I saw him next he gave me a navy Fred’s Tavern sweatshirt which I wear to this day.

In my last year as a guard, for some reason the Captain of the patrol revoked his privilege, which really took the wind out of his sail. That was his one claim to status in town, a claim that no one else cared about, but it meant a lot to the Super.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Cupbert Schools the Professor

I don't have much for today - the weekend was way too nice to keep up on the blog. But I will point out that the comments section of the Air Amerikkka post has a back and forth between Professor Vic and Cupbert that is highly entertaining. There ought to be a phrase analagous to "get a room" for people who go back and forth for days in the comments section. I think Cupbert gets the best of him, as Professor Vic had serious points subtracted for trying to compare journalists to mathematicians. Still, I think they should settle their differences like men (assuming Cupbert is a man - apologies if I am wrong there), and meet for a rap-off - I'll be the volunteer DJ.

Or, they could meet in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone, because what happens in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone stays in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone. This is from the "Best of the Web" at Opinion Journal:

Blogger Orin Kerr calls our attention to a law review article by Brian Kalt, who points out that U.S. law provides a way to get away with murder (or any other crime): Do it in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone National Park.

This is possible, according to Kalt, because of an oddity in the federal courts' jurisdiction: Yellowstone is under federal jurisdiction, which means state law does not apply. An 1894 law defines the federal District of Wyoming as including the whole park, including the portions in Idaho and Montana, which means that any crime committed within the park would be tried in federal district court in Wyoming.

But here's the rub: The Sixth Amendment stipulates that a jury in a federal trial must be "of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." That means that if you commit a crime in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone, the jury must consist of people who live in both Idaho and the Wyoming District, which is to say, the Idaho portion of Yellowstone, whose population is zero. Thus if you insist on a jury trial, which is your constitutional right, the government will be unable to try you. (The Montana portion of the park has an adult population of 41, making it at least theoretically possible to assemble a jury for a crime committed there.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Air Amerikkka

XM radio came with the new Suburban, and perched one station to the right on the dial from the conservative talk radio station is Air Amerikkka, its liberal counterpart. I’m strangely attracted, making me wonder if I have sado-masochistic tendencies. So here are some observations on what I’ve heard so far, which is three separate hosts, one of which is Al Franken, another Randi Rhodes, and a third a woman I haven’t identified.

Originally I though that liberal talk radio would never survive because it cannot differentiate itself enough from mainstream news – who needs to hear guys on Air America put the same gloss on information that they’ll get from watching Dan Rather or reading the NYT. Conservative talk radio is immensely popular because unlike Air America it fills a real consumer need – a critical assessment of the stories and opinions pushed in more liberal press outlets that resonates with a significantly sized subset of the population. People can argue all they wish to about whether the mainstream press is biased (relative to the distribution of opinions held by the population), but the market success of conservative radio and the relative preponderance and popularity of conservative blogs is all the proof one should need.

That said, it is also undoubtedly true that people to the extreme left view the mainstream press as being biased to the right, and in comparison to the world view of a Nation reader (for example), it is. So the Nation reader would be attracted to a show that can be critical of the mainstream press and all of its critics on the right. But in the past the only people who read the Nation were those who wrote it. The question is whether or not there are enough such people now to make Air America successful. A show that positions itself more or less in line with the mainstream media is more or less redundant media. Air America has to be more on the fringe to be successful, and it has to hope that enough people have taken leave of their senses to the point where they can swallow conspiracy theories that have no factual support.

Alternatively, the network has to capitalize on the overwhelming need of even the more moderate factions of the political left to be told how morally superior they are to those on the right; such validation is not in great demand when they are in power, but it may be now. From my brief experience, it seems that there is a lot of both going on. So here are some observations:

1) People have told me that Al Franken is genuinely funny, and maybe that is so, but talking politics seems to strip him of his sense of humor. I’ve listened to at least 2 total hours of his show, and he’s just not that funny. It doesn’t even seem like he tries to be funny.

2) Neither Franken nor Rhodes seem to take many calls. Maybe it’s because we just all need to listen. But maybe it’s a good thing, because people might realize that the callers make more sense than the hosts. Franken goes off on one Schiavo related call saying that it would be better – good news in fact – if Schiavo were in a coma, because people come out of comas. He goes on to say that he’s spoken with injured soldiers who were put into medically induced comas, and that they come out of them, and this is the basis upon which he claims comas are good, because they are only temporary. So cheer up if you are reading this from a comatose state!

3) The left has learned not to spit on soldiers. Now they just condescend to them, treating them as hapless victims who thought they were just signing up to do fun obstacle courses. You never hear these guys talk about a soldier who isn’t maimed unless it’s Wesley Clark. Maybe that is because the soldiers who can walk just walk away from these guys – either that or journalists never approach soldiers because they are obvious targets.

4) Randi Rhodes goes off on how the Republicans don’t want to regulate any businesses, but they want to regulate people’s lives. And who can argue with that, given the Republican initiatives to eliminate or repeal the EPA, the SEC, the IRS, the FCC, the FTC, FERC, the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Reserve, the Sherman Antitrust Act, the FAA, the FDA and … well, you get the picture. If we had some regulation, we’d see people from Enron, WorldCom, Fannie Mae, etc. actually go to jail. Oh, wait a minute, that’s happening, isn’t it? But not before they cheated their shareholders and employees, which of course happened during Clinton’s watch.

5) Meanwhile, according to Ms. Rhodes in her incoherent rant, we want to tell people when they can live and die, when they can have babies and not. Isn’t it China that tells people when they can’t have babies? Can someone refill her prescription?

6) They need more villains. Twenty four hours of liberal talk radio hosts having epileptic seizures at the mere mention of Tom Delay gets old fast. Either that, or they need more powerful villains – one of 400 plus congresspersons is just not enough to fuel an entire entertainment genre. Can you imagine the conservative hosts talking about Henry Waxman 24/7? Frankly, we have a much better list of targets, with Al Sharpton, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson … the list goes on and on. I attribute this to a mainstream press that will string a shady conservative out to dry, but give any ethically challenged liberal every benefit of the doubt; because that is true, Republicans do a better job screening out candidates.

7) Liar liar liar liar. When Bush says anything, there is no benefit of the doubt accorded – he is a liar. Franken is big on this. In an interview with Barak Obama, they were talking about how Bush was “lying” when he recently was pointing out the fact that Social Security has generally been bad for blacks, who pay into it but die earlier. But there is plenty of evidence to support Bush’s claim. That offered by Franken to call him a liar – well, there was none.

People talk about the hate speech of conservative radio – usually those who don’t listen to any of it. They assume Rush, for example, is just telling people to commit hate crimes. I listened to Rush extensively in the nineties, and his show is relentlessly optimistic about America. Sure, he had plenty of complaints about the Clinton governance, but he seemed to always keep it in his head that, even when the other party is in office (stealing the furniture, as it were), it’s still better to live in America than anywhere else. I get the sense that this is what is lacking, especially with Rhodes, and to a lesser extent with Franken. These people actually believe their own rhetoric – they think they live in a police state. I don’t know that such relentless negativity can sustain a large enough audience, and I hope it can’t. Things could change, and probably would if a Dem were elected – then, all of a sudden, it would be morning in America again.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"Doy!" Posted by Hello

Apple Falls Far From the Hatcher Tree

Things I only thought to say an hour after my initial reaction to the picture above:

1) "OK, Charlie, open up your mouth for a swipe of the cotton swab, this DNA test won't hurt at all."

2) "Call the hospital - I want to know who has our kid."

3) "Charlie, silly kid, when your dad says that the Democrats want everybody feeding off the public tit, it's really not what you think."

4) "Are you sure, at your age, given your inability to plan or anticipate your future, that you want to join the party of Princeton professor Peter "Infanticide" Singer? Why don't you wait a few months?"

5) "Now I know why tigers eat their young."

What I actually did say:

1) "Doy!"

Special thanks to PBryon for the gift - please don't send anymore. And if it's all the same to you, we're re-deploying the bib as a wipe.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

In Need of Prozac

Every once in awhile a reader of leftist bent makes my job a little bit easier by failing to take his prozac and sending me an e-mail in response to a post. Yesterday was just such an occasion:

You are insane. (I am willing to consider that possibility, but not without a book contract - see the Couch the Conservative entries from a few weeks ago).

Have you been popping Oxycontyn with Rush? Reagan bankrupt America and allowed all the nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of rogue psycho states that we are dealing with now. Bankrupt America! Bankrupt I tell you! I remember those days well - the rationing of gasoline, the high unemployment, the high inflation, the malaise. Disastrous!

Here are the list of countries known to have nuclear capabilities: US, UK, France, Russia, Pakistan, India, China, and Israel; North Korea, Iran, and Iraq are suspected to, although Libya has pledged to give up its WMDs due to presence of a kick-ass president. North Korea probably has them, thanks to our friends Carter and Clinton, but probably lack the technology to wipe out anything other than their own launch site, and Iran is clearly trying to get them - but it's not to late for us to nuke them first. North Korea's capabilities are probably due to purchases of old Russian stockpiles, as most likely are Iran's. I would count France among the rogue psycho states that we are dealing with now, but I am pretty sure they didn't get their nukes from Russia.

I liked it better when the Russians had them. During the cold war, you only had to worry about one vodka shooting Russian with his finger on the button. Now we have to worry about millions of angry sandy people who are trying to design a button for the bombs they bought on the black market.

Yes, the only thing we had going for us back then, when we were bankrupt, was the warm comfort of a Cold War. We only had to worry about the Russians, and all of Eastern Europe, and China, and Cuba, and Angola, and Cambodia, and Vietnam, and a good portion of South America - all in the sphere of Soviet influence. Together, those regimes accounted for a mere 100 million killings (which may be 1 out of 9 - see comments below) of their own citizens in the span of a century, but they were hardly a threat compared to a couple of mullahs and a Korean midget. We should have just let the Cold War hang around, so that more arms proliferation would occur before a bankrupt regime (I'm talking USSR now, not America) collapsed and sold off its stockpile to the highest bidder. Instead, Reagan had to go and ruin that security - but wasn't it Gorbachev who ended it? I get so confused talking to liberals.

The only thing we both agree with is Mother Theresa. With the conservative bs you were spewing I was waiting for you to give that whore Ladi Di woman of the century.

Geesh, I am no fan of Ladi Di, but I don't know that I'd call her a whore. And how would she be the choice of a conservative? I don't get this.

Go to Africa, like I did and see the shanti towns with 1 in every 9 people dying of AID's and see if you think the Pope deserves that distinction, or better yet dress up like an alter boy and get banged in the ass by a child molesting priest that the Pope protected. See what you think of him then. You won't be calling him Man of the Century after that, you'll be calling him Pimp John Paull II after that experience.

A logical tour de force, that paragraph! I think I've connected the dots - one in nine people in Africa dressed up like altar boys and got "banged" by a child molesting priest who the Pope was protecting. Therefore, the Pope is responsible for AIDS in Africa. And what is with the "Go to Africa, like I did and see" preface? I spend a whole introductory post in India parodying the moral superiority of the traveler and yet the lesson remains unlearned. Why do I need to go there to see that? Can't I just believe the statistics. And how does one actually see such a statistic. Are all Africans in shanty towns lined up in groups of nine, with the ninth in the line so obviously afflicted with AIDs that the statistic just jumps right out at ya?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Thoughts on the Pope

The death of Pope John Paul II reminded me that I had named him Man of the Century back in December of 1999, in the print version of Ideas Hatched. I also had dished out some other honorariums, reproduced below for your enjoyment. You'll also see Ronald Reagan listed as the American of the Century. The two survived the assassins bullet within 1 year of each other, and now have met their maker within 1 year of each other - both felt that they were spared death for a purpose, and indeed they were. But before launching into the entry, I found this on Powerline - it is the NYT coverage of the Pope's death on their website, later corrected, but not before the guys at Powerline caught this:

Even as his own voice faded away, his views on the sanctity of all human life echoed unambiguously among Catholics and Christian evangelicals in the United States on issues from abortion to the end of life.

need some quote from supporter

John Paul II's admirers were as passionate as his detractors, for whom his long illness served as a symbol for what they said was a decrepit, tradition-bound papacy in need of rejuvenation and a bolder connection with modern life.

"The situation in the Catholic church is serious," Hans Kung, the eminent Swiss theologian, who was barred by from teaching in Catholic schools because of his liberal views, wrote last week. "The pope is gravely ill and deserves every compassion. But the Church has to live. ...
In my opinion, he is not the greatest pope but the most contradictory of the 20th century. A pope of many, great gifts, and of many bad decisions!"

Among liberal Catholics, he was criticized for his strong opposition to abortion, homosexuality and contraception, as well as the ordination of women and married men. Though he was never known as a strong administrator of the dense Vatican bureaucracy, he kept a centralizing hand on the selection of bishops around the world and enforced a rigid adherence to many basic church teachings among the clergy and Catholic theologians.

Classic - three paragraphs of criticism, and a reminder to themselves to find a quote from someone who supports him - but not any from a supporter who might address the complaints of the minority of Catholics who read the NYT and had big issues with the Pope. The last paragraph, apparently a complaint about his centralizing dogmatic governance strikes me as the funniest - I heard it echoed by Andrew Sullivan on TV this weekend - why not allow the bishops more autonomy, goes the argument. My guess is that the primary critics of the Pope are American Catholics - and now all of a sudden people are arguing that the American Catholic Church bishops should have more autonomy? It seems to me that most of them could do with a lot less. The last thing the papacy needs is a "bolder connection to modern life."

Athlete of the Century:

Here, the honor goes to Carl Lewis, for a number of reasons. The longevity of his dominance in the long jump and his contention as one of the world’s best in the sprints is extraordinary for his sport – he was world class for about 14 years, when other great sprinters are lucky to be around for 8 years. He also benefits from competing in a sport where there is no team dependency: it is hard to measure the feats of someone like Joe Montana separate from Jerry Rice, or Michael Jordan separate from Scottie Pippen. Mohammid Ali, despite being the most known, lost three times, and one of those losses was to Leon Spinks, who would probably lose to Carl Lewis in a fight. There is an argument for Babe Ruth, but I could never choose a Yankee.

Man of the Century:
Pope John Paul II. He was instrumental, along with Ronald Reagan, in freeing millions from the oppressive grip of communism, especially in his home country, Poland. He has revitalized the Catholic Church, while at the same making great strides in improving relations between Catholics, Jews, and other Christians. He has employed his extraordinary intellect, compassion, and spirituality in the service of God and His Church, and his witness provides hope to a world emerging from its most brutal century in history.

American of the Century:

Ronald Reagan – Ended the Cold War, revitalized the economy, energized a nation that had lost its moral confidence in foreign affairs, and began, if not the rollback, at least the restraining of the growth of pernicious liberal social programs that have ravaged our cities and undermined the family. FDR goes down as the myth of the century. His economic policies, which were at the time credited with ending the Depression (and still are by most Democrats), probably prolonged the Depression by many years. Social Security, one of his great “achievements”, is an intergenerational Ponzi scheme that is about to run its course. He gave away half of Europe to Stalin because of naivete with respect to Communism. And finally, he ran for President for his fourth term knowing full well he’d be dead in little more than a year, concealing that information from the public in a manner most undemocratic.

Woman of the Century:

Mother Theresa. Any head to head comparison that some might make in suggesting Princess Diana would be laughable, though no doubt it will happen. “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.” Everything she did was for the most impoverished of India (where, in contrast to poor people in the US, the poor do not own an average of 2 TVs).

Greatest Generation of Americans:

The WWII generation. Enough has been said about this generation that nothing more can be added by me. One thing that troubles me, however, is the fact that Tom Brokaw has recently dubbed it the greatest in American history, which is enough to make me rethink my choice. But the only knock against them that I can think of is that they went on to raise…

The Worst Generation of Americans:

The Sixties generation. They would not be my pick if they had followed Timothy Leary’s order to “tune in, turn on (i.e. take LSD), and drop out,” but at some point in time they traded in their tie dies for ties, managed to fake their urine sample, and began to be elected to positions of power. This cannot be what Leary meant by dropping out, though I am sure he took solace in the fact that they wield their power as if they are still turning on. Their kids, invariably raised in broken homes, are left to try to clean up the mess they created. The recent swing music craze, which harkens back to the WWII generation, provides hope that this generation knows where to look for its example.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Koppel Retires

I actually had a celebrity siting of Ted Koppel a couple months ago at a Cosi (fastfood chain) near work. He is shorter than I expected, and he looks more wrinkled in person than on TV - he looks like one of the Chinese dogs that sort of look like bulldogs (a chinchila?).

Anyway, Ted will leave me with the lasting memory of fulfilling what he regards as the most important duty of a journalist - to remind people of the costs of war, which he did when he spent an entire Nightline episode reading off the names of the soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afganistan. Gee, and I thought journalists were just supposed to provide information - newsworthy information that is. Little did I know that the names of a thousand odd strangers who died in combat - which for all anyone would know could have been entirely made up - is newsworthy information.

I think that what he meant to say is that the most important duty of a journalist is maudlin sanctimonious display. Until he read the names, apparently the benighted public was incapable of grasping the fact that people - fathers, sons, brothers, mothers, daughters, etc. - die in war. Prior to that episode, most of us were under the mistaken impression that we have an army of robots. And when he said that the duty was to remind the public, clearly he didn't mean all of the public - those in his set probably all experience a stigmata when a soldier in Iraq gets a hangnail - no, he wished to inform certain reckless red-staters who really don't understand the costs of war.

My bet, given the distribution of military forts and the cultural leanings of the red-staters, is that the red-staters know well enough the costs of war because they'd be the ones more likely to recognize a name or two on Ted's list. They know it at a personal level. Koppel's theatrics treated these people as victims who died for nothing, and if they were alive, my bet is that most would have been deeply offended by how he used them and reduced their deaths to mere senselessness.

Thanks for the reminder Koppel - maybe you can sign off by reading the names of everyone who has ever died of malaria in countries where environmentalists have successfully eliminated the use of DDT - that might take a few years of half hour broadcasts, but at least you'd truly be informing the public about senseless deaths.

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