Monday, September 25, 2006

Good Advice for Your 10th Grade Son

Good advice for your tenth grade son? "Have a drink, kid. No, not just one, make it a binge!" This will make the Chartreuse Alcoholic so pleased. Turns out that your future income is positively tied to binge drinking in your formative years, which goes a long way toward explaining Dusty Eggs. Here is the link: What is interesting is that it works only for guys. Apparently there is a serious glass cieling perpetuated by our patriarchal society against young chicks who like to have a few. Either that or they got knocked up early by the sober guys who can take advantage of the situation, and both end up poor because they have to raise a kid at a very early age, whereas the binge drinking guy spends most nights throwing up on his shoes rather than pro-creating.


Dear County Treasurer,

We had claimed no assets employed in my wife’s business as a real estate agent. You had asked for written clarification, which I subsequently provided on her behalf. However, we then received a bill, due today (September 15, 2006), in the amount of $126.50, with no explanation about the derivation of that amount.

I called the number on the bill and spoke to someone who was very helpful, who clarified for me that it is not the ownership of assets that matters, or the primary use (business or personal) – all that matters is that she uses the tangible property in her business. With that clarification, I would like to submit to you that, at least for the assets we, or I, own, which she uses in her business, we have the following:

• IMac Computer – estimated value $1800.
• Cell Phone – estimated value $100.
• 1994 Model BMW 525i – estimated value $4000.

Of these three, only the cell phone was purchased by my wife. I would ask that my tax bill be re-assessed on the basis of the values reported above. However, I realize that I have omitted the fact that my wife uses the county’s road system, and doubtless other public assets, in the performance of her job. You are in a better position to estimate the value of these assets than I am, but surely $1 billion is not out of the question.

Best Regards,

The Hatcher

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Moral Equivalence

Joseph Shumpeter once said that the first thing a man is willing to do for his ideology is lie. It follows that when a man makes a fact-based statement that is consistent with his ideology, there is some probability that he is lying; but of course there is some probability that he is not. So when confronted with a portrayal of factual events that go against one's ideology, you have really two options - refute the facts convincingly, or paint the guy as an ideologue, with the implication being that he must clearly be lying. The writer of The Path to 9/11 got the second treatment, as you can read in his opinion piece for the WSJ:


It never ceases to amaze me how the left can find moral equivalence of some sort between the institutions of the West, and most especially America and the Catholic Church, and the forces of barbarism in this world. In my post on Monday, in the comments section, Anonymous feels compelled to take a dig at the Catholic Church in response to the admittedly off-topic query of pbryon as to whether or not the Pope's remarks were considered infallible by the Church.

Now, normally I wouldn't be so sensitive about such a dig, but when the post itself is pointing out some pretty damning differences between Islam and Christianity, I think that a comment directed at the supposed comparative hubris of the Catholic Church is really quite revealing. If the worst that can be said about the Church, as is said by Anonymous, is that the Cardinals always assume they speak with infallibility, than in my eyes you are praising them with very faint damnation, but I suspect Anonymous doesn't see it this way. When an Imam says take a machete to the head of the infidel dog and someone does, and the Pope tells us to love your neighbor and someone does, is it appropriate to take a dig at the Pope for presuming he is speaking infallibly versus the ever so humble and fallible Imam?

As the contrarian Catholic apologist that I tend to be, I'd point out that the ability of the Pope to speak infallibly, which as Professor Vic points out, has to be invoked for the occassion (and my understanding is that this has happened a limited number of times in history), is actually refreshingly humble in comparison to most people, who feel that they speak infallibly all of the time. Because they feel that way, they do not feel the need to designate whether a statement is being delivered with a requisite amount of humility, which the Pope implicitly does whenever he does not invoke his infallibility.

In any event, the day was almost done when Pulvarizer jumped into the fray in an even more offensive "moral equivalence" mode, listing positions or comments made by select Christians that were supposed to make me more tolerant of jihadists. I suspect, and more importantly I hope, that these were intended more to get under my skin than to depict his true view of the comparative value of the two religions. But if that is not the case, my suggestion to the Pulvarizer is that he'll have a valid comparison if a comment made by Pat Robertson leads directly or indirectly to the Pulvarizer's losing his head, at which time I'd be prepared to give his comments full consideration, as they are likely to be far more sensible.

Granting the Pulvarizer the benefit of the doubt, I must nevertheless say that there is still a wide swath of extremely deluded people on the left in this country who think that there is no difference between extreme Moslems and politically conservative Christians; or even further, that the Moslems actions are somehow excusable because Pat Robertson occasionally inserts his foot in his mouth. And they have influence in the Democratic Party. The thing about the Democrats is this - they're way too afraid to alienate the wacko elements of the left, who generally hate America. This costs them with the moderate middle, who share no such animus. Maybe they are too large of a population to ignore while holding onto any chance at electoral success.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Proving the Pope Right

Suppose you had the following theory - that the Moslem religion has brought nothing new to the world except evil and inhumane acts. How would you set about convincing others that there may be some truth to it? You could read up on a lot of history, both recent and from times long ago, and write volumes on the subject; but of course, to be fair, it would have to be a comparative history showing that, in comparison to other religions, the claim is borne out. But that would take a long long time, and of course would spur a long debate that would bring to light new and novel interpretation of well documented facts, the introduction of new facts that you may have ignored or were ignorant of, countless debates, calls for further dialogue, etc. etc.

Or you could just quote someone else who said that very thing. And then, rather than document and prove your point with words, stand back and see the adherents to the religion of Peace (who to this day enslave Christians, preach conversion by the sword, talk about the infidel dog, call the Jews the modern day Nazis) burn churches and kill Italian nuns. Point proved if you ask me, but then again I didn't really need any more proof than what has been on offer for years (others more historically informed would say it's been on offer for centuries).

I am sympathetic to the argument that a small minority of extremists have distorted Islam, but I think that argument only goes so far. It seems to me that certain aspects of the religion lend it to extremism on the part of its adherents, especially as compared to the other major religions of the world. To say that it only does so for, say, five percent of Moslems, is no wringing endorsement, if other religions do not contribute to extremism at all. Every religion has its nuts, but only the imams of Islam seem to be confused about the difference between a martyr (the Christian conception of which is someone who dies in defense of their faith) and a suicide bomber, who dies in defense of nothing so as to kill innocents. Encouraging five percent of their unbalanced followers to terrorism (if that is all they have done), given the damage that minority is done, is too much to hold the religion in high esteem even if the remaining 95 percent are pious and peace-loving.

Think of it this way - if you were a non-believer in God, but you had to choose a religion for your kids, would you choose the one that maximizes the probability of them becoming murderers? Think about it as prescribing a medicine for your kid - all religions may, on average, yield equally beneficent effects on the virtue of their adherents, but only one seems to have such violent side effects in a non-negligible subset of the population.

I am reading a very enlightening book now by James Bowman (Honor: A History, you can order the book from his website:, who makes the point that the Arab world is an old-time medieval honor culture, and that much of how they behave is not to be explained by their particular religion, but instead can be understood within the context of that old-time honor culture, which is largely dead in the West. That old-time honor culture put a lot of weight on any public comment - if you insulted a guy's wife, his courage, his religion, whatever - you had to be prepared to duel or be exposed as a coward whose insult cannot carry any weight. Words often led to matters of life and death. "Honor" killings are still very much a part of the Arab Moslem world, and their reaction to the Pope's comments - treating them literally as "fightin words" - fits Bowman's hypothesis very neatly.

So one might argue that it is this old honor culture that, independent from the religion, would lead to the same behavior. But Bowman knows that the religion is not entirely blameless, because he spends a fair amount of time in the book describing how Christianity had a clear and civilizing influence on the concept of honor. One religion seems to lead people out of the insane aspects of the old honor culture, whereas the other keeps them mired in it.


The Phillies swept the Astros and are 1 game behind the reeling Dodgers for the wild card. Bet the college fund that they lose their next game!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Censorship? Nah, not the Democrats

Don't know if anyone is following the recent rantings of Dems who practically camped out to get tickets to see the DC premiere of Farenheit 911, but they're a tad upset that anyone would have the gaul to point out in a television series that Clinton and company were far too busy selling the Lincoln bedroom to power-loving celebrities and having intern-delivered pizzas to do anything about terrorism. Clinton wrote a letter to ABC urging them to pull its upcoming miniseries; Albright claims its defamatory to her; and Sandy Berger had problems with it too, but as he was speaking to reporters, he kept getting distracted by classified documents falling out of his socks. This is from NRO, about a couple of free-speech loving Democrats who no doubt glad-handed Michael Moore at the 2004 Convention suddenly finding issue with the factual content of a docudrama that places some blame on their party. Tom Kean, on the chairmen of the 9-11 Commission, was an advisor to the movie and supports its factual content.

Sens. Reid, Durbin, Stabenow, Schumer, and Dorgan sent a letter to Disney today containing the following passages:

We write with serious concerns about the planned upcoming broadcast of The Path to 9/11 mini-series on September 10 and 11. Countless reports from experts on 9/11 who have viewed the program indicate numerous and serious inaccuracies that will undoubtedly serve to misinform the American people about the tragic events surrounding the terrible attacks of that day. Furthermore, the manner in which this program has been developed, funded, and advertised suggests a partisan bent unbecoming of a major company like Disney and a major and well respected news organization like ABC. We therefore urge you to cancel this broadcast to cease Disney’s plans to use it as a teaching tool in schools across America through Scholastic. Presenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law, to your shareholders, and to the nation.

The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events. [...]

Should Disney allow this programming to proceed as planned, the factual record, millions of viewers, countless schoolchildren, and the reputation of Disney as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress will be deeply damaged. We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.

If I were Disney, I would make a huge public issue out of this letter - I would dare these windbag Senators, stuck in the minority party and likely stuck there for awhile longer, to even try to revoke ABC's broadcast license, as is implicitly threatened. Oh God would the Republicans have a field day with that one heading into the election - the Dems want to kill Mickey Mouse!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Apology to Rove?, The Phils, and Sexually-Abusive Latino Janitors

David Broder of the Washington Post says that many journalists owe Karl Rove an apology, but don't hold your breath: Good for Broder, who proves that you can be a liberal without being completely ass over tea kettle insane.


The Phils are killing me for the second straight year. They do everything they have to do to claw back into a wildcard race, suck me in to following them on a day to day basis, and constantly torture me by getting hot, coming to within a game, but never quite closing the gap. But I do know one thing - although the Padres now hold a 3 game lead over the Phils, they have another thing coming if they think they will win the wildcard by more than 1 game - not going to happen. So take that, Padres fan(s?).


So the Wife of Hatcher is giving the twins the refresher on inappropriate adult behavior now that school has started again.

Wife of Hatcher: "Now if any adult does something to you and tells you not to tell your parents because they'll be mad, you tell us right away and we'll promise not to be mad at you."

Joe and Bill: "Any adult, mom?"

Wife of Hatcher: "Yes, any adult."

Joe and Bill: "But all of the janitors at school speak Spanish. If they told us not to tell you because you'd be mad we wouldn't know what they were saying, so how would we know to tell you?"

Wife of Hatcher: "Um, Um, don't worry about the janitors."

The upshot is that my kids are free game to the Latino janitors unless they speak some broken English. But we started Spanish lessons yesterday, starting with the great Fletch line: "F*%$ing taco."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Why I am a Republican: Part I

The current issue of The Journal of Economic Perspectives (run out and buy your copy now! - impress your friends and neighbors)has an economic test of the Moneyball hypothesis, put forward by Michael Lewis, that there were inefficiencies in the baseball labor market that enabled Billy Beane, the GM of the A’s, to exploit the inefficiencies and put a winning team on the field at a fraction of the price required from others to do the same. They confirm the hypothesis, but also say that the market has learned, and the inefficiencies have disappeared. In their introduction, discussing other similar literature using sports to test for market behavior, they reference research showing that the behavior of soccer players in penalty kick situations parallels what would be predicted by game theory, and in addition that soccer players, when playing laboratory games, act strategically in manners consistent with theory, whereas non-soccer players tended not to.


A hilarious column by Mark Steyn last week detailed the arrest of a Turkish man in his 30s at airport security in Chicago who, when asked about a certain item in his carry-on luggage that he’d prefer his mother (traveling with) not be aware of, blurted out that it was a bomb. He faces three years in prison. The item – a penis pump. I don’t know what one is, but I’m damn sure not going to ever Google it to find out. Some things are better left unknown. And, I think he made the right choice in taking the three years.


As election time rolls around, I’ve been contemplating the question of why I’m a Republican. The simple answer of course is that I prefer their policies to that of the next most likely holders of office, the Democrats. But why?

Taking just one area of policy for the mill today, consider domestic social policy, by which I mean the economic safety net provided by various forms of welfare, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, and policies affecting things like abortion, gambling, smoking, etc. These policy issues fall into two broad categories: they either deal with whether or not a citizen is given autonomy over certain decisions that are primarily personal (but arguably have a public dimension); or they deal with providing assistance in cases where people have, in some cases, made disastrous decisions given their sphere of autonomy. The two categories are obviously connected.

It is a curious fact that many people who classify themselves as libertarians tend to vote Democratic – Pbryon being one that comes to mind. I think that they tend to focus their libertarian instincts on the first component – the desire to give individuals autonomy over certain decisions - rather than on the second. Arguably, on issues like abortion, the Democrats offer greater individual autonomy. The same is also true from a cultural standpoint for issues like gay marriage, where there is more sympathy for extending the marriage choice on the side of the Democrats (although they ran far away from it in 2004 while pointing out that Cheney’s daughter – WHO IS A LESBIAN – might want it). On other issues, like having a smoke, they are quite paternalistic. And on gambling, with Bill Bennett on our side, we got ‘em licked. And hunting. And being able to own a gun to defend yourself and your family.

But that’s not my point – if you think it is true that Dems extend personal choice into more domains than Republicans, you can only be thinking that from the “what is permitted” side of the equation. But there is another side that needs to be considered, and that is what we do when what we have permitted leads to really bad consequences for some. To the extent that we bail people out of the consequences of their own decisions via redistribution policies, although we are not reducing the theoretical sphere of autonomy for those taxed for that purpose, in reality we are reducing their practical sphere of autonomy by limiting their ability to afford decisions that they have every right to make. A libertarian cannot be for permitting everyone to do as they please in the knowledge that someone else will pick up the bill. So it seems to me that some paternalism on the front-end is justified if it is expected on the back-end. A libertarian Democrat of this stripe is fundamentally confused, in that he

Clearly, I am in favor of some of the paternalism offered by Republicans, especially with respect to abortion; where I see the paternalism of Democrats on offer, especially as regards their Puritanism over smoking, it strikes me as somewhat ridiculous. But in general, I favor paternalism on the front-side, with little preference for it on the backside. If we tell you smoking is bad for you, don’t expect strangers to bail you out when you ignore us. If we tell you male homosexual sex is particularly risky, don’t expect strangers to bail you out on the backside. If we tell you to save for retirement and you don’t, don’t expect strangers to bail you out on the backside, etc. etc.

Now obviously we haven’t always known to tell people these things, but once we do, and we make a minimal investment in prevention education, it’s up to people to care for themselves and those in their families and communities.

Is this a particularly anti-Christian attitude? Only if you believe: 1) that the presence of the net does not affect the need for it; and 2) that the government is otherwise the right and proper conduit and authority over charity. To the extent you keep the safety net there for people, their actions as a direct response to that net being there on the front-end contribute to their need for it. And, even if this is not true, there is a fairly convincing argument that government can only be in the charity business in order to over-supply it and/or to re-direct it away from where the money would flow under private charity (and via compulsion - maybe the outcome is Christian, but the means are not, and that matters).

For example, when there was no effective treatment for HIV, the sexual behavior of male gays was altered significantly to reduce the risk, but not to zero; now that there is an effective treatment, many have gone back to their old ways, and they can afford to do so without increasing their risk relative to where it was pre-treatment. Arguably, then, much of the federal research dollars that have poured into the field served as a subsidy to more promiscuous behavior for the at-risk population. (You could argue that this was a side effect that, even if known as a potential benefit in advance, didn’t contribute at all to the political demand for such research. But presumably a portion of the preference for such research on the part of someone outside of the at-risk population stemmed from the expectation that effective treatments would definitively reduce the risks faced by the at-risk population, rather that be offset by a few extra trips to the bath house.)

So, in short – educate and take away some of the net – and I truly believe that the lot of the disadvantaged would improve over time relative to the status quo. Part of the safety net is insurance against risk, so there is some sensibility in it, but I think that Republicans are more sensitive to the trade-offs inherent in public insurance (stemming from moral hazard) than are Democrats.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wilson Lies, People Dies

Turns out the conspiracy to discredit Joe Wilson and mortally imperil our CIA activities abroad by disclosing the CIA identity of a woman with extremely poor taste in men, rather than reaching up to the highest levels of the White House, stops with a guy in the State Department named Richard Armitage who is no fan of the neo-conservative cabal, and at best a reluctant supporter of the Iraqi war. Of course, Joe Wilson, in addition to his lawsuit which names Cheney, Rove, and Libby for efforts to defame him, should own up to his own role as a co-conspirator in his own defamation – if he wasn’t such a well documented liar and bombast, he wouldn’t have been so easily discredited and defamed. If the rest are guitly as charged, then Wilson has to be guilty of entrapment.

If Wilson thinks he was defamed by these guys, he should credibly accuse Bill Clinton of sexual assault - then he'll really see the gloves come off. The difference, as I am tired of hearing, is that such accusations had nothing to do with the public behavior of the President, whereas Wilson's pertained to porpurted motivations for war. That is a big difference, indeed. But there is another difference to keep in mind - Wilson is a documented liar, and should have been subject to much broader discrediting on the basis of the importance of his lies to our public policy, whereas Kathleen Willey, for example, was in all probability telling the truth.

Even the Washington Post, that bastion of hatemongering yellow journalism so characteristic of the political Right, had this to say:

“It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue. The partisan clamor that followed the raising of that allegation by Mr. Wilson in the summer of 2003 led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a costly and prolonged investigation, and the indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury. All of that might have been avoided had Mr. Armitage's identity been known three years ago.”

“Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.”

But not the Hatcher! I’ve always known and professed that the guy is an ass, and if you didn’t agree with me, you only have yourself to blame. But I’d go beyond the statement that the Washington Post makes, saying that it is unfortunate so many people took him seriously. It is also unfortunate that anyone takes those who took him seriously seriously, if that makes any sense. Which implicates nearly every major Democratic politician, with the possible exception of Joe Lieberman, who now is persona non grata at all Democratic functions.

And to the extent that Wilson’s lies became the banner of much of the far Left with respect to Bush lying to lead us into an unjust war, doesn’t this go a little bit beyond unfortunate? This is precisely the type of propaganda that aids our enemies, and for years now a not unsubstantial portion of the American population has treated allegations that have been known to be false from the get-go as truth, knowing full-well that their lies damage our efforts.

I recently read an article accusing the Right of having to boil the world down to good versus evil, making it easy for us to cast everything in moral absolutes with no sense of nuance. (Fair enough, although clearly I am in a set that agrees such sharp distinctions are often times more accurate.) I’ve read things like this probably one thousand times before, and there never seems to be any self-awareness on the part of the author that many on the left, and often the author himself within his own article, fall into the same mindset, only with good versus evil defined differently, but with the out group - in their minds the political Right - treated as a monolithic whole. This is why the left cannot simply shout that they disagree with a Bush policy, or even content themselves with saying that he is a moron – they have to turn it into a moral issue, where there is clear intent on the part of Bush to be evil. Or, for those who hue to the straight “moron” hymnal aware that there is a potential paradox in saying a guy who is so successful in his quest to do evil is at the same time a moron, he has to be surrounded by a group of conspiratorial puppet masters bent on world domination.

Memo to the left: be content to just disagree with his policies as a matter of preference; if you have to make it personal, flatter yourself that he is not nearly as smart as you are. But please stop being so offended when someone questions your patriotism when your operating assumption, supported only by your unique omniscience, is that the President of the United States is the new Hitler. Such comparisons make you no friend of this country, and their shear ignorance and the evident lack of psychological balance they reveal are such that you cannot even claim intellectual superiority over the guy. Having said that, I note that many, perhaps most on the left, are not in that set (at least to the same extent), but the problem is that that set seems to be wielding disproportionate influence in the Democratic party these days.

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