Monday, February 28, 2005

The New London Eminent Domain Case

Has been covered well elsewhere. I don't need to reiterate my view on property rights and their central role in a free society, particularly since that has been done so well, here and here and here and here, among other places. It bothers me to no end, and I think that it may very well be the single biggest issue for me as far as politics is concerned. Use of eminent domain aside from strictly defined government uses (i.e. roads, rails, utilities, and, perhaps, in a real stretch, a school or library) is simply intolerable, and is nothing short of outright tyranny as far as I am concerned. It's not as far as some people think from cases such as this one involving less-affluent homeowners to an all out collectivization ala 1930 Ukraine.

That being said, it all was made even worse to me this morning, reading this exchange from Jeff Jacoby's article on the situation:

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor presses Wesley Horton, the lawyer for New London, on whether eminent domain can really be deployed to condemn any property that could be put to better use.

"For example, a Motel 6," O'Connor says. "A city thinks, 'If we had a Ritz-Carlton, we'd get higher taxes.' Is that OK?"

"Yes, that's OK," Horton replies.

Justice Antonin Scalia: "You can take from A and give it to B, if B pays more in taxes?"

Horton: "Yes, if it's a significant amount."

What amazes me about this exchange is the brazen nature of it. I somehow thought these were misguided folks, who perhaps hadn't thought out the full implications of their actions. But no. Even when faced with the bottom line of their actions - in cold, black and white terms - they stand by the position that, yes, if someone can pay more in taxes than you, then you are not entitled to control over your property.


Simply Astounding.

Belarussian Journalist Slain by Authorities?

That's the possibility raised by a RFE/RL article today detailing the last months of Veranika Charkasava's life. Apparently they have discovered that she spent that time investigating Infobank accounts frozen by US authorities investigating arms sales to Iraq. A stomach-churning tale the whole way through, it includes an alleged coverup involving framing the woman's fifteen year old son for the murder.

Lebanon's Peaceful Revolt

appears to be generally good news. Looks like the Syrian puppet state is out, and Allah knows they are no friends of ours, but we have yet to see what will develop from this latest peaceful revolt.

A poster referring to himself as "MB" in the comments section of this Reason Hit and Run blurb about the situation, posts links to here, here, and here, showing that the widely quoted Druse opposition leader, Walid Jumblatt, while he seems to be saying all the right things, is no great friend of America. And of course, there's always the possibility of anarchy or civil war, with pro-Syrian (or just Syrian) factions and opposition forces contesting the right to rule in a Arab land bodering Israel. Potential cause for concern, to put it mildly.

For the moment, however, I'll take a glass-is-half-full approach and be pleased that once again opposition by the masses has thrown off an unrepresentative government.

After a Weekend Away in the Poconos

Skiing falling down what we East Coasters charmingly refer to as a "mountain". I'm recovering by applying ice packs to assorted portions of my muscle structure and pretending to get things done here at work. As part of this ruse, I will refrain from commenting on the couple of items that struck me in the news until I get home from work (which may take a while given the Nome-like snowfall we're getting), but in the meantime, read this good take out of Mark Steyn. One thing, though, Mark. I think it's time to start using the word "Western" as a prefix to "Europe" when referring to the nations of France, Germany, Belgium, etc. There's a whole other half of the continent with a distinctly different political situation, and it deserves to be approached as such.

I am particularly fond of this passage, wherein Mark points out the general ignorance people have about the early period of our country's development.

The new EU ''constitution,'' for example, would be unrecognizable as such to any American. I had the opportunity to talk with former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on a couple of occasions during his long labors as the self-declared and strictly single Founding Father. He called himself ''Europe's Jefferson,'' and I didn't like to quibble that, constitution-wise, Jefferson was Europe's Jefferson -- that's to say, at the time the U.S. Constitution was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was living in France. Thus, for Giscard to be Europe's Jefferson, he'd have to be in Des Moines, where he'd be doing far less damage.

Friday, February 25, 2005

More Post-Soviet Elections to Watch

in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. No, I don't have the same level of personal involvement as in the Ukraninan and Belarussian situations, so go visit Nathan, (who aparently lives within a long chip shot of the rox castle) for the lowdown.

The common theme here, as in Georgia, Ukraine, and more recently Lebanon, is that previously compliant populations are now beginning to voice opposition to being railroaded by fraudulent elections or unrepresentative governments.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ukranian Libertarians?

From Discoshaman's always appreciated Ukranian roundup:

- One of the new minor parties here in Ukraine is the “Freedom Party.” They’ve announced they’ll be taking part in the 2006 elections. They’re a self-described Centrist party which mates left-wing social stances with right-wing positions on nationalist issues. So far they support Yushchenko, but have declared a willingness to go into Opposition depending on the decisions the government makes along the way.

So Ukraine may have a functional libertarian party? Can't say I'm not jealous.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

David Brooks Indulges my Fantasy

of a great "small government" leader protesting the fleecing of the young by the aging Gimme Generation in a NYTimes editorial linked by several of the bloggers on my "Daily Read" list:

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution

Loki at House of the Dog

Stephen Green at The Vodka Pundit

My take? It's a nice fantasy, but young folks aren't aware of the demographic train wreck that is down the road, and don't care enough to do anything about it even if they understood. It looks to me as if the nightmare that is social security as it stands is here to stay, with the Elephants fighting any change in its regressive structure and the Asses fighting any change in the unsustainable benefit levels. And Medicare and the prescription drug boondoggle? Forget about it. No one will touch that and be accused of denying our senior citizens medicine.

So us gen-Xers and gen-Yers or whatever you want to call us face a HUGE economic issue foisted on us by the previous generations, from FDR to LBJ and, yes, to the father of the prescription drug disaster, George W. Bush himself. And, while we may be frustrated with them for having done so, we will only have ourselves to blame for having been out playing with our I-Pods, watching Sex in the City DVDs, and allowing the folks in power to get us sidetracked on petty BS like same sex marriages the whole time our downfall was being plotted.


Well, maybe SOME of us are getting it.

Let Me Get This Straight

You supplant the entrenched union establishment, with a new, consumer friendly business model and business booms?


A decade ago, experienced travelers avoided Philadelphia International Airport like a middle seat on a crowded flight. The food was terrible, the rest rooms were unkempt, construction dust was a constant companion, and, most annoying, airfares were among the nation's highest.

Today, practically everything has changed. The airport not only looks better, but ticket prices have plunged, and the place is bulging with business.

The airport accommodated a record 28.5 million passengers last year, a 15.5 percent increase over 2003, and sales in its shops, bars and restaurants were up 23 percent at $108 million.

The airport's sudden popularity is a direct result of the arrival in May of discount king Southwest Airlines, and the response that its lower fares forced on US Airways, the airline with almost two-thirds of the airport's traffic.

In last year's third quarter, Philadelphia had the largest drop in average ticket prices - 27.4 percent - of any airport in the nation, compared with the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Would de Tocqueville Say This Today?

The citizen of the United States is taught from his earliest infancy to rely upon his own exertions in order to resist the evils and the difficulties of life; he looks upon social authority with an eye of mistrust and anxiety, and he only claims its assistance when he is quite unable to shift without it. …

Sadly, I fear not.

via The Locker Room

Let it Die


I think I'd rather watch the Phantoms team that's intact (and won again tonight) make a run at the Calder Cup than have it get dismantled for a half-assed NHL season.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Video of Philly 5 Arrest

Here, from Red Oasis via Discoshaman. So, from halfway around the world, the good bloggers STILL trump me with video footage of the happenings here in my backyard.

And while I have spent this week defending the cops against the ignoramouses on the left who would celebrate a cop killer, it's time to let them know when they've overstepped their authority. Before watching the video, I had a mental picture of some confrontational, fire and brimstone spewing raving lunatics coming near to physical blows with festival goers. That seems not to have been the case at all. The gentleman in the video, who I presume to be the ringleader of the bunch, was reasonable and mild-mannered through the entire occurance. That the police would act in occordance with the wishes of the majority and arrest the unpopular folks within a crowd is horrifying. Their job is not to quell disagreement, but to protect the citizens whom they serve. Anything outside of that description is an unforgiveable abuse of authority. And the precedent set that this type of action is acceptable is nothing short of frightening.

In addition to the police overstepping their bounds, the idea that Lynne Abraham's district attorney office found it reasonable to detain and prosecute these folks I find disturbing. That they had the gall to persue felony charges is unconscionable. I'm much more disturbed by this entire situation having seen this video and attempting to reconcile it with the reaction of our authorities. Once again, they have no need to be concerned, as they are part of the entrenched and unreachable Democratic political machine in this city. The only way to protest is to vote with your feet, and for years, that's what thousands upon thousands have been doing.

And you know...

I really DO wonder what those French protesters would have to say about all this.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

While I go Play Hockey

read about why it's just as well the guys who get paid for it won't be doing it this year.

Wednesday's somber announcement was treated, particularly in Canada, as a mass funeral of sorts, and certainly, by giving the NHL the dubious achievement of being the only North American league to lose an entire season to labor strife, it was not a wonderful day for owners, players or the sport.

But blowing up the old to make way for the new has worked before, it seems to me.

I completely agree.

This Ain't Just Peanuts

to my company headquartered in the Pittsburgh area. The office here conservatively buys 4 roundtrip tickets a week on average between Philly and Pittsburgh at $600 or so a pop. Competition and the resulting fare reductions is nothing short of outstanding news for the bottom line, and hopefully my year end bonus check. Plus, the entrenched unions with their "screw the customer" tactics and the old guard airlines with their bloated, corporate welfare sucking business model are getting the rug pulled out from under them, and I for one love it.

From the article:

Southwest will have introductory one-way fares of $29 plus tax between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and a top one-way price of $79 plus tax for refundable tickets bought at the last minute. The fare on US Airways for a refundable ticket bought today for travel tomorrow was $730.40, according to the Web site.

Hell, I could go meet friends at Carnegie Mellon for a beer!

"You can always count on Southwest for some surprise," said Kevin P. Mitchell, chairman of the Radnor-based Business Travel Coalition, the advocacy group for companies and travelers. "It's going to have a huge negative impact on US Airways... and it's going to stimulate activity between the business communities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh."

It will indeed, and if I were Gov. Rendell, I'd call a press conference thanking Southwest for opening up the state's air travel options and fostering a positive business climate in our fair state.

"We're still the largest airline in Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh," he said. "We're facing competition from Southwest, not only in Pittsburgh but at other points in our system, from AirTran, JetBlue, ATA, Frontier and Spirit Airlines. That's why this company has taken such an aggressive approach to attacking our cost structure."

Seven Hundred Thirty One Dollars and some odd cents, and you call that your "aggressive approach to attacking your cost structure"? Shut up already. May you get bought out by the end of the month by someone who realizes the airline industry and the regulated oligopoly it used to be.

Reason Prevails

In the case of the Philly 5.

In throwing out the charges, Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe said that the United States, through the First Amendment, was "one of the very few countries that protect unpopular speech."
She cited Supreme Court decisions to support the argument that the reaction of listeners to speech, even a potentially violent reaction, can not be used as the basis for filing charges against the speakers.

Thank God that some judges still understand and apply the law.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Wall Street Journal Addresses Belarussian Situation

Thanks to Discoshaman for the heads up.

No real surprises here, except that Patio Pizza, a lively joint in the center of Minsk where I've eaten on a couple of occasions with the Mrs., now takes on a more sinsiter overtone:

(Opposition politician) Mr. Lebedko, for one, is hardly unaware of whom he's dealing with: On Oct. 18 last year, the day after Belarus's rigged parliamentary elections and constitutional referendum, security-service agents dragged him into a pizza parlor across the street from October Square in downtown Minsk and beat him until he was unconscious.

Inquirer Gets It Right Again

John Baer in the Inquirer today lets Mayor Street know exactly what he thinks of welcoming supporters of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal:

So I ask the mayor about this yesterday and he starts in with an excuse about how he wasn't there and doesn't know the details and if the slain policeman's widow wants to call he's happy to talk with her and so on.

I simply ask, "Wasn't it a mistake?"

And he goes off about how it's routine for international visitors to get gifts from City Hall and I'm thinking, yeah, but these are not routine visitors, these are people calling for the freedom of a man who murdered a city police officer, and I ask, "Why not just admit it was a mistake?"

Because, he says, "I don't want to criticize people who are trying to do the right thing."

Really? Well, Mr. Mayor, that's part of leadership. In fact, I'd say criticizing people who are wrong, especially when they work for you, is a big part of leadership.

Damn straight. And thanks for saying so.

A First Step for Lukashenko?

From Radio Free Europe

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in an interview with Arkadii Mar, editor in chief of the New York-based Russian-language weekly "Russkaya Amerika," that Belarus is open to foreign investment, Belarusian Television reported on 14 February. Lukashenka also expressed the government's readiness to sell land to investors for the construction of factories. "In any part of the country we cannot only give an investor the right to build [a plant] but also sell him the land," Lukashenka said. "But preferably for [introducing] new production capacities." Belarusian Television noted that readers of "Russkaya Amerika," jointly with the New York-based radio station Nash Golos (Our Voice), have declared Lukashenka the best politician of 2004.

One problem there, bud. Who's gonna trust you not to regulate and/or tax them into the ground, nevermind the very real possibility you would nationalize them on a whim.

Sorry, my friend, you just haven't made yourself an attractive option for investors. I have a feeling the foreign investment in the region is gonna be on the other side of your southern and western borders.

You made your bed, now your people are going to lie in it as the neighbors pass you by. Damn shame, really.

Proof that Big Government Trumps Environmentalism

The true priorities of leftist politicians in California is evident with their proposal to tax cars based on miles driven rather than through the gas tax currently in use. Why? It turns out that increasing revenues is more important than maintaining an incentive for folks to drive fuel efficient vehicles. Amazing. So it isn't about the environment after all? Can't say I'm surprised.

But such an ill-concieved and deeply flawed arangement is beyond even my low expectations for a Democratically controlled state legislature. This proposal promises to be regressive, anti-environment, inflationary, wasteful, and anti-privacy all at the same time. No small accomplishment.

Here's a list of ways in which this is an idiotic idea, which is by no means comprehensive:

A. In the leadup to the 2000 election, Al Gore proposed a $.50 a gallon gas tax to discourage fuel consumption. Not sure I liked the tax, as it would make every product we buy more expensive, but you could certainly see the merit in structuring it this way to encourage fuel economy. Do I need to go through the litany of environmental, economic, and foreign policy reasons why encouraging fuel economy is good for our country? Nah, I'll trust if you're reading this you're smart enough to understand this is a positive. The miles driven tax treats Joe Billionaire's 1/2 mpg Hummer the same as Granny Ethel's 35 mpg Suzuki Sprint. What's the message we are delivering here? Speaking of Joe and Granny Ethel, that leads to:

B. It's regressive. Poorer folks are generally driving smaller vehicles, consuming less fuel. SUVs are the poster vehicles for the new suburban rich, which the lefties hate. Isn't a tax which shifts the burden from the latter onto the former the exact thing the left is always running around so incensed about?

C. Who's going to monitor miles driven? Should the government be keeping track of this? How soon before the government regulates how many miles you can drive? And while we are at it, where you can drive?

D. This monitoring system - How efficient can that be? How many people are going to have to be hired to maintain and enforce this system? How are you going to pay for this new bureaucracy? Does this eliminate the additional revenues raised by the new tax, or do you just tack that money on there as well?

So, with all these problems, I have to ask - assuming there's a revenue shortfall (I'm willing to believe fuel consumption is falling on a per capita basis, so I'll accept that's the case) why not do what the lefties always seem to want to do elsewhere? Raise the existing tax. Seems to me the fuel tax is one of the few taxes that is well conceived and serves the purposes it is designed for well. It's a use tax which falls on the people who benefit from it's revenues, it is structured to encourage behaviors we should be fostering, and it's entirely voluntary how much one contributes.

It figures that one of the few times government has something right, the statists want to come along and destroy it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Help Me Out, I'm New at This

Do real bloggers take Valentine's Day off to make the misses happy?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Blogging is Great

If I weren't blogging, I never would have seen this, and my life would be short several hearty guffaws.

Roll Out the Red Carpet

Maia over at House of the Dog alerts us to the latest outrage from the Street administration - a gala reception for anti-American lovers of America's favorite celebrity cop killer, Mumia Abu Jamal. I'm pleased to report that the Street administration, in the person of:

Mjenzi Traylor, the city's first deputy director of commerce, told the crowd of about 150 that he was there to "make certain that we are receiving the message that you would like for us to deliver to Mayor Street."

And the sweet folks who care so little for a public servant killed in the line of duty, yet so much for his cold-blooded killer, they left with replica Liberty Bells, presumably provided for them with tax payer dollars. And still policemen all over the city, and their relatives and friends will continue to vote for these people. What exactly will it take to throw out the machine? Do the John Streets of the world have to personally burglarize every citizen and go and physically deficate on Daniel Faulkner's grave before people will consider voting for the ....r ...r ....r ... republican..... (*gasp*) opposition?

Is the brotherhood of leftist reactionism and hatred for capitalist America so strong that it trumps respect for the slain and loyalty to the folks who protect the law abiding citizens of our city each and every day? Is the slaying of a police officer not an issue on which the citizens of this city and the administration can agree to stand united and refuse to give credence to those who will not acknowledge humanity's most basic wrong? Is this the point that we have reached in this city?

Maybe a more appropriate reception would be to arrange a meeting for these globetrotting ignoramouses with Daniel Faulkner's widow Maureen, and perhaps a couple of the cops who hang out at Callahan's down on 26th and South. Then perhaps a field trip to 13th and Locust, to take a look at the plaque in the sidewalk where Danny Faulkner's lifeless body lay after what at least four unbiased witnesses describe as Mumia firing at least three shots at Faulkner at point blank range.

To every cop, to every wife, parent, or child of a cop, to every homeowner and storeowner relying on a cop to patrol the neighborhood, to every parent of a child on the way to school, counting on the police to be there to keep them safe, to every young woman walking through Rittenhouse Square at night glad there was a cop there who's presence caused that freak following you to scurry off into the alleyway, know that this is how the administration shows it's support for the city's policeman - by welcoming with open arms and indeed GIFTS those who would celebrate the slaying of one those cops by naming his assasin an "honorary citizen" of their home city, Paris.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bistro Economics

Want to see a New Yorker just completely lose it? Tell him that the eats are better in Philly or Baltimore and watch the hilarity that ensues - stuttering, steam coming out of ears, head spinning, sudden coughing fits, etc. Never the less, I've been contending it's true for years.

Sure, New York has the best restaurants in the world - if you're willing and able to lay out a couple of C-notes every night, but the little-known truth is that for your neighborhood restaurants, bistros, diners, and coffee shops, Charm City and Philly have the more "cosmopolitan" northeastern cities (New York, DC, Boston) beat hands down. After moving from Baltimore to DC, I found myself unable to eat out as frequently, based on the higher costs, and less excited about doing so, as the restaurants in my price range were more likely to be uninspired chains than eclectic local joints. (Of course, there's always the exceptions that prove the rule.)

My explanation has always been the cheaper startup costs which result from the cheaper real estate. Cheaper startup costs mean more entrants to the market, and cheaper eats from those who do. And for those of us who aren't being shuttled around Manhattan in a stretch Escalade, that's a huge benefit.

Tyler Cowen has a post regarding the restaurants of Paris, and the similar phenomenon that is taking place there. He points out that the impact of real estate values can go beyond the mere startup costs, and affect the cost and availability of supplies and talented labor. The net affect of all of this is that while Paris, New York, and Washington may indeed be home to the best restaurants the world has to offer, your average citizen will likely enjoy better quality and more eclectic local fare at a cheaper price in cities without such worldly airs.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Yulia gets to Work

Unraveling years of corruption and oligarchy is a big job, but Tymoshenko has added motivation:

The process is being driven by the country's new Prime Minister, Julia Tymoshenko, who suffered at the hands of the old regime when she spent more than a month in jail on what she says were trumped-up embezzlement charges.

So, with that little thorn in her backside, she's rolling up her sleeves and getting to work:

Firstly, one of Mrs Tymoshenko's first acts as Prime Minister was to begin the reversal of the 2004 privatisation of Krivorozhtal, Ukraine's biggest steel producer. The company employs 52,000 people, and has pre-tax profit of about $300m (£161m).

The move, announced at the administration's first cabinet meeting last Saturday, strikes right at the heart of the Kuchma clan. The company is co-owned by Viktor Pinchuk, an MP who is also Mr Kuchma's son-in-law, and by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man, who bankrolled the election campaign of Mr Yushchenko's defeated presidential opponent, Viktor Yanukovych.

Its sale last year took place amid accusations of corruption and nepotism.

The deal was pushed through by Mr Kuchma in the face of vocal opposition. The tough auction rules set out by Ukraine's state property fund meant that foreign bidders, of whom there were many, were barred from bidding.

Mr Kuchma's son-in-law and others snapped up Krivorozhtal for what was regarded as a ludicrously low price of around $800m; a US-UK consortium had offered $1.5bn.

And so, for the first time in my life, I am in favor of nationalization. In the jubilation over the Orange Revolution, and the promise of reform that it brings is lost the fact that the leader of the revolution is an economist by trade. He appears to understand the role that foreign investment and trade can play in creating wealth for a nation. Until this point, whether it be through faulty ideology, irrational fear, or strictly corruption, no CIS country has really opened itself to the market, and allowed the brilliance and resources of it's people to create the kind of economic growth and world status that by all rights should be theirs.

By nationalizing these politically held (stolen?) entities and reselling them on the open market, Ukraine makes a tremendous step in that direction.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Glowing and Eloquent Endorsement

Of the "Ownership Society" by it's original proponent, Jack Kemp.

The ownership society realizes that economic freedom and political freedom are two sides of the same coin: that we are not truly free until we have control of our own destiny and until the man-made roadblocks on the path to success are removed. These obstacles are what the president has in mind when he talks about tax reform, Social Security reform and tort reform.

These are the barriers he wants to remove by creating personal retirement accounts, health savings accounts and lifetime savings accounts. Ownership of your house, your education, your retirement and your future. The president is talking about enabling American entrepreneurs from the Bronx to the barrios and from Watts to Washington, D.C., to have the opportunity to achieve their dreams and realize the promise of America.

Ah, Jack... If only you were a better public speaker...

If I were granted the power to appoint a president, this would be my guy.

Thomas Sowell Provides Interesting Perspective

The anti-slavery movement was spearheaded by people who would today be called "the religious right" and its organization was created by conservative businessmen. Moreover, what destroyed slavery in the non-Western world was Western imperialism.

That oughtta raise some eyebrows

Heros of the Week

The Steinkopf family, from wherever the hell near Detroit the Conservative Princess is from:

When the Steinkopf family just had enough of the town telling them to fix a "historical home" located on their property, they did the only thing they could do. They let the fire department burn it down.


A property rights Boston Tea Party. I love it!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

This Cheers Me Up a Bit

Bush Proposes Cuts to Scores of Programs

Particularly this:

One of the biggest battles is certain to occur in the area of payments and other assistance to farmers, which the administration wants to trim by $587 million in 2006 and by $5.7 billion over the next decade.

Farm subsidies are some of the most insidious programs the federal government participates in, creating problems on a whole host of levels, not the least of which is inhibiting the development of agriculture in third world nations where unsubsidized farmers must compete with subsidized crops from the first world.

I have to say that so far, Bush's priorities in his second term have been largely the economic points on which I agree with him, whereas the socially conservative issues where I have problems with his stated positions have been treated mainly with quick and empty rhetoric. There's a long way to go to get any of this stuff done, and he has plenty of opportunity to shift his focus, but so far I'd have to say I'm pleased.

Billy Penn's Curse Lives On

with the Eagles 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I suppose I'm partly to blame since I in fact work in an office built higher than William Penn's statue on city hall:

The city has not won a championship since highrises taller than the staute have been built. The superstitious among us believe it's not a coincidence. Whatever the reason, there are Philadelphians of legal drinking age who weren't born the last time the city saw a professional champion. The Eagles just concluded the 86th consecutive professional season of the four "majors" in Philadelphia without a champion. (85 if you discount the cancelled World Series). Yeah, I know, wah wah wah...

On a positive note, let's compare and contrast this year's halftime show of Sir Paul McCartney with last years debacle with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, shall we? First time I was actually interested in the halftime show ever. McCartney didn't disappoint.

And props to the Patriots, who, if they weren't beating the Iggles, would be a team I would love. Bruschi, Brady, Harrison, and even the mellowed by winning version of Cory Dillon are a classy bunch. I can't find myself hating them as I once did the Leon Lett, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders types in Dallas the last time we saw a team this successful.

End of sports commentary until they officially cancel the NHL season. I promise.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

JR Speaks Out

via TSN

"My personal opinion, I'm in favour of a vote," Roenick said. "I'm in favour of the players determining what they will do themselves. At some point, I do not want someone else making that decision for me. When I see where the game is going and I see the damage that's being done and what we could probably live with - I would like to have a vote, and I have expressed my opinions to the PA, and I've expressed my opinion to other people in the league."

You don't want someone making that decision for you? Isn't that EXACTLY what a union is? Maybe the players should reevaluate exactly what the purpose of the union is, and whether it's really looking out for their best interests.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Tymoshenko Confirmed

The Goddess of the Revolution is now Prime Minister of Ukraine. 373-0 no less.

They got the Orange Dream Team. Now it's time to deliver the goods.

This Post Strikes a Chord

The Pirate is talking about California, but it applies nationwide:

I'm getting tired of all the ads for Cal-Grants on the radio. Not for the fact that we spend a metric butt-load of money on these 'entitlements' on punks who cut class and get drunk 5 to 7 days a week. Of course they go on and represent it as 'free money', which is flat out misleading advertising. The money isn't free, the State is going to tax the crap out of you and everyone else for the rest of their lives for it. It doesn't matter if you didn't even go to college, the janitor at the local school gets taxed to give some 18 year old 'free money'. Of course it doesn't matter much to the college kid if they are riding on the backs of someone who works hard just to get by, because its their calling to major in dance (which of course leads one to believe they won't make enough to be taxed to pay back the Cal-Grant ten-fold).

The whole reason to advertise Cal-Grants is to increase demand, so the people in Sac-toe who love the entitlements can bitch and moan about how we are short changing the future. With that out goes the call to increase taxes to support the entitlement demand. Its dirty pool, its and end around to raise taxes to benifit the few. Now I think places Community Colleges and schools with practical are a wonderful thing, it gives people very affordable job skills that can help them succed or improve their lives.

The other thing about this massive aid to colleges problem is it allows the schools to be financially irresponsible. There is no reason why tution increases should continously outpace inflation, with only the lame excuse of 'teacher's salaries,' ignoring the expensive ammentities, more admins that you know what to do with, leftist protests and multicultural events. The Cal-Grant isolates the school from being accoutnable to the tutition payers for outrageous tuition and tuition hikes, because you can just make everyone share the burden.

In the interests of open disclosure, I was one who fell through the "financial aid" cracks when my Dad threw a hissy fit and wouldn't fill out forms. The system told me to get lost because, though I was a poor college student making $6.30 plus tips at Starbucks, living with 4 other guys and eating beans and rice to get by (although, I must confess to still somehow finding the cash for beer), I was too young to be considered independent. At the same time my Dad had no obligation to support me. Yet now I must fund four years of Art Appreciation at some leftist institution which preaches statism with my confiscated dollars while simultaneously repaying hefty loans for an education which is cost inflated by the nearly infinite supply of aid dollars for colleges to draw from for those whose situation happens to coincide with the social engineering of the powers that be.

It's experiences like this that have formed my libertarian views. A statist will trust the state to make these decisions, and is confident THEY will never be the one to fall into the cracks in the system. I, on the other hand, assume that every program will result in me paying out and someone else, often someone for whom working the system is more important than being productive, will be collecting. Nothing in my experience serves to undermine this principle. Because I can have no faith in the government's programs to provide for me, I therefore plan to provide for myself in any case. Thus, any government entitlement program simply detracts from my ability to provide for myself, and puts me at a disadvantage to those who are well connected or work the system.

Cooked Books or Real Progress?

via Radio Free Europe:

The Ministry of Statistics and Analysis has reported that the average before-tax monthly wage rose from 299,859 Belarusian rubles ($139 at the then exchange rate) in December 2003 to 434,900 Belarusian rubles ($200 at the current exchange rate) in December 2004, Belapan reported on 1 February. The official exchange rate of the U.S. dollar increased by 0.6 percent and that of the euro by 9.7 percent in 2004.

That's better than a 40% increase in just a year. Impressive by any standard. And sure, you can argue the books have been cooked by the same folks who brought you 97% pro-Lukashenko election returns, but then you'd have to accept that they didn't similarly cook them last year. I suspect there's some truth to the numbers, despite Belarus' statist economic policies. I wish I understood more about the situation.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I Did Not Know That

FDR is my favorite mythical historical figure to disparage - in large part for his creation of the welfare state as we know it - a HUGE component of which is social security. But apparently, as Duane Freese at Tech Central Station lets us know, even HE saw the need to have an ownership component in the program:

Franklin Roosevelt, the same man whom Bush quoted as saying that "each age is a dream that is dying, or one coming to birth"; the same man who gave birth to Social Security in the midst of recession; also said, in his Message to Congress on Social Security on Jan. 17, 1935:

"In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, noncontributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps 30 years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities that in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

Those are the same principles Bush is upholding today, and those Democrats who booed Bush derided them with the same exhalation of breath.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Real Tribute

Andrew Sullivan calls it quits - for a while at least - and elicits some touching responses, many of which I identify with.

Here's to hoping this was all just a pathetic ploy for attention. I suspect he'll find it harder to stay away than he anticipates. Or maybe that's just what I hope will prove true.

State of the Union Observations

- Bush did a great job outlining the problems with social security's funding - and then proposed changes that do nothing to address it.

- Hear that murmur from the left? That's the sound of statists aghast at the proposition that anyone gain even a modicum of control over 4% more of their income. Always remember, you're not competent to provide for yourself - you need the "promises" of government to provide for you.

- They will make sure us younger workers can only select a "conservative mix" of stock and bond funds. I'm sure these funds will be "carefully selected." Oh, that's not open to abuse or likely to promote distorted prices between "selected" and "not selected" securities. And it's not much of a stretch to imagine the wrong folks in charge employing methods similar to those of Street administration bond issues in the "selection" process.

- Ukraine made the first paragraph! Ding - WOO!!

- Faith based initiatives, gay marriage amendment. Well, I guess Bill Bennett will be happy. *sigh*

- Yeah, I was near tears with the two women embracing at the end. What of it?

And, yes, for all my misgivings I'm glad it wasn't Kerry up there.

What the hell is a "Media Box"?

I don't know, but apparently the city of St. Louis believes it's something that is worthy of depriving a local businessman of his property rights and his livelihood.

Let the mayor know property rights matter.

Reason Hit and Run

I Ain't Religious

The Boyd Theater

Saved by evil corporation Clear Channel, and what's more, without the strong arm tactics of "historical preservation".

Think back to that day in April 2002 when the Philadelphia Historical Commission declined to give the city's sole surviving movie palace historic protection


The Boyd vote freed its owner, developer Ken Goldenberg, to seek a demolition permit for the theater, which was still in operation as the Sameric.


Goldenberg is an experienced developer, albeit of suburban-style shopping centers. Like most developers, he wants to be seen as a good guy, the hero who rides into town and builds us something dazzling. He knew he couldn't demolish the Boyd without being perceived as a bad guy.


Clear Channel initially sought massive city tax breaks for its $34 million Boyd project, but was rejected. In the end, federal tax credits were enough.

Free people making decisions voluntarily based on profit and public relations motives creates an atmosphere hospitable to the preservation of a civic treasure without the coersion of government involvement. It's a beautiful thing when the free market works!!!

The Inky Gets It Right

While I was gone Inquirer columnist Andrew Cassel actually got it right regarding the comments of mayoral aide George Burrell:

Let's assume it's true, as mayoral aide Burrell told a federal jury this week, that city contracts were not awarded by the Street administration in return for campaign donations and other under-the-table gratuities.

Let's accept Burrell's explanation that some bidders for city business receive preferential treatment not because they pay to play, but because they "support the mayor's vision" through local investment or charitable contributions.

Does that make it right?

I'm in no position to judge whether the 2003 discussion between Burrell and the late Ron White - captured on tape by the FBI and played as evidence in the trial of investment banker Denis J. Carlson - means anyone broke the law.

But whatever might yet emerge from the federal probe of City Hall, Burrell's effort to frame this as legitimate governing-as-usual is pretty revealing all by itself.

If I understood him correctly, Burrell was saying that it's perfectly fine for city government to pass out contracts to people and firms it likes - as opposed to those that offer the best service or lowest price.

He's suggesting that it's not only innocent, but also positively admirable, for City Hall to favor businesses that support its objectives.


Firms that hire local residents, invest in neighborhoods, or donate to worthy local causes ought to be rewarded with favored treatment when it comes to purchasing and contracting.

Who could disagree with that?

How about... a taxpayer?

Right on, Andy - and major props to you for saying so. It's so not like the Inquirer to put legitimate economic concerns ahead of feel good rhetoric, but there it is. Such disregard for the cost implications of business decisions is particularly inexcusable in a city where the nation's highest wage tax is frightening people away in droves, and when the mayor keeps telling us that anything more than the most trivial of cuts is "irresponsible".

No, Mr. Mayor, I'll tell you what's irresponsible. Letting officials in your administration act in such a cavalier fashion with the monies with which they are entrusted by the citizens who elected you. And that's giving you the benefit of the doubt that this all is not directly your doing.