Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Genius of Flypaper

Glenn's tack is to show how Obama's claim isn't true. Fine. But assume it is true. How is this bad? GWB gets Al Qaeda to open up shop in Iraq, staff it, pour time and resources into AQI, then we kill them all. A blessed thing in my book. Especially since going and finding these guys is tough, getting them to come to us is some beauteous out-of-the-box thinking?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Glenn's Mailbox Big Enough to Fit Monstrous, Preening Ego

Bliss: Mathematically Certain Loneliness

I am profoundly skeptical of the "research findings" referenced here for many reasons. Principally among them is whether or not the "studies" incorporated the views of elderly childless couples, people who have enjoyed decades of greater materialistic consumption and self-indulgent lifestyles (oops, sorry, inner-directedness), but for whom old age can only be marked by diminishing familial relations rather than a static to growing family circle and all that it entails. Life without children might seem great in your 40s, but how about in your 60s and beyond? Did anybody interview those folks?

Barack Won't Let You...

Donny Baseball on 2/24/06: "Maybe freedom means being able to be a fat, artery-clogged slob who gets winded climbing stairs if one so chooses." The Cato folks feel like-minded today listening to Michelle Obama.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

IBM Rides the Laffer Curve

IBM has $15 billion extra dollars that it doesn't need, so naturally it is looking to return that money to its rightful owners, its shareholders. It could pay it out in dividends but dividend levels are hard to reverse, so when taxes on divs go up in 2010, investors will get socked. Granted they could pay out a special dividend now to take advantage of the current rate. However, a 15% tax is still a 15% tax, and if you've discovered a nifty little financial innovation that allows you to return money to shareholders at the lowest possible tax rate, 0%, why not take that option?

Personally, I'd rather have the cash, but financially there is not too much difference between a dividend and a share repurchase. Don't think that these maneuvers and other ploys aren't going to proliferate as we get closer to the expiration of the 2003 tax cuts. Investors won't be happy, but, believe me, they will adapt. They will keep as much of their money out of the government's hands as is legally possible and the government will be worse off for not understanding the negative Laffer effect.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Notable Quotable

"It is a mistake to think businessmen are more immoral than politicians." - John Maynard Keynes

Canada Slowly, Quietly Backtracking On National Healthcare

Canadians are slowly stepping away from their nationalized health care system. Here is but one of the tentative steps. Expect to see more of this. So much for the vaunted status of nationalized health care up North.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


As I am fond of saying, "I don't read the NY Times for the same reason that I don't drive a Chevy. Why buy an inferior product?" Perhaps I am being to kind. Pinto, maybe?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why Wait Until It's Law: First of Obama's Patriot Corporations Revealed!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to unvail to you the first US corporation to earn Barack Obama's coveted "Patriot Corporation" designation. They pay decent wages (even if you don't work at all!), play by the rules (making cars that nobody wants but that Congress says they have to make), and have excellent health and pension benefits. So, give a rousing round of applause to a great bunch of Patriots!

W&M President: I Stand For All That Is Right and Good, So They Fired Me

My alma mater has canned its President, Gene Nichol. Rather than serve out his term he has wisely resigned. In his farewell letter, he sets himself up as a martyr to the forces of illiberalism and a heroic bribe refuser. He faults certain elements of the W&M community for not having as expansive an interpretation of the doctrine of separation of church and state as he does, making no mention that he ran roughshod over 300+ years of history to remake W&M in his own image. He also faults same for viewing a sex worker art troupe's production as not necessary for the preservation of students' First Amendment rights and not worthy of a serious academic setting. Finally, he posits that he made W&M better because he invited more poor students on campus and hired more persons of color to the faculty. It may well be true that W&M is better off for such things, but it doesn't necessarily follow. Are these poor students objectively of similar caliber and aptitude as the broader W&M student body regardless of their economic status; and, do these new diverse faculty members meet the same standard of qualification as previous, presumably non-diverse faculty hires had to meet? Indeed they could. But no evidence is offered because Nichol worships so fervently at the alter of diversity that the notion of objective standards and colorblind and classblind criteria are not worthy of consideration. On offer is only the presumption that these are intrinsic virtues. Intrinsically, faculty of color are good. Intrinsically poor students are good. This is the prevailing orthodoxy across American academia, and W&M must fall in line thinks Nichol. No matter that W&M has never had a strong history of wanting to emulate the prevailing academic orthodoxies.

Nichol showed little concern for the broader W&M community who have a stake in W&M being seen as an institution upholding standards of excellence that are not solely defined by socio-economic class, skin color or ethnic background. The world outside of insular academic communities has not plunged headlong into subjectivism and abandoned long standing notions of merit. The world outside of academia does not require stomping out tradition in order to demonstrate tolerance. The world outside of academic communities still believes that we ought not to confer respect to the superficial without an assessment of the substance as well. This world wants W&M to be excellent by its standards as well as those that emanate from within the academy. This large component of the W&M community wanted a seat at the table, but Gene Nichol would have none of it. He claimed to act in the name of tolerance, he just couldn't tolerate the W&M that he encountered on Day 1 of his tenure, a W&M that centuries of students, faculty, staff, alumni and administration had fashioned. This episode was about who W&M belongs to. Does it belong to the W&M community or does it belong to American academia in the person of Gene Nichol? That, more than Nichol's putative championing of enlightened principle, is why he lost his job. The broader W&M community reclaimed W&M from the orthodoxies of modern higher education. Perhaps the next President of the "College of Knowlege" will give all of those who love W&M a seat at the table in determining what definition of excellence W&M will strive to meet. Here's hoping and Go Tribe!

UPDATE: Of course, the mind of a twenty year old can't grasp any more nuance than right wing versus left wing. UPPDATE: Here is another view that is divergent from mine. I don't know if this guy is another young grasshopper of 20 short years, but I'd say the probability is high given the ability to procure a "Dirty Fucking Hippie" sticker from the site. UPPPDATE: In most press accounts you here that Nichol was wildly popular among students and that his firing has roiled students. Somebody didn't tell that to the students who write the campus newspaper though. UPPPPDATE: More.

The text of President Nichol's email to faculty and staff:
Dear Members of the William & Mary Community:
I was informed by the Rector on Sunday, after our Charter Day celebrations, that my contract will not be renewed in July. Appropriately, serving the College in the wake of such a decision is beyond my imagining. Accordingly, I have advised the Rector, and announce today, effective immediately, my resignation as president of the College of William & Mary. I return to the faculty of the school of law to resume teaching and writing.
I have made four decisions, or sets of decisions, during my tenure that have stirred ample controversy.
First, as is widely known, I altered the way a Christian cross was displayed in a public facility, on a public university campus, in a chapel used regularly for secular College events -- both voluntary and mandatory -- in order to help Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and other religious minorities feel more meaningfully included as members of our broad community. The decision was likely required by any effective notion of separation of church and state. And it was certainly motivated by the desire to extend the College's welcome more generously to all. We are charged, as state actors, to respect and accommodate all religions, and to endorse none. The decision did no more.
Second, I have refused, now on two occasions, to ban from the campus a program funded by our student-fee-based, and student-governed, speaker series. To stop the production because I found it offensive, or unappealing, would have violated both the First Amendment and the traditions of openness and inquiry that sustain great universities. It would have been a knowing, intentional denial of the constitutional rights of our students. It is perhaps worth recalling that my very first act as president of the College was to swear on oath not to do so.
Third, in my early months here, recognizing that we likely had fewer poor, or Pell eligible, students than any public university in America, and that our record was getting worse, I introduced an aggressive Gateway scholarship program for Virginians demonstrating the strongest financial need. Under its terms, resident students from families earning $40,000 a year or less have 100% of their need met, without loans. Gateway has increased our Pell eligible students by 20% in the past two years.
Fourth, from the outset of my presidency, I have made it clear that if the College is to reach its aspirations of leadership, it is essential that it become a more diverse, less homogeneous institution. In the past two and half years we have proceeded, with surprising success, to assure that is so. Our last two entering classes have been, by good measure, the most diverse in the College's history. We have, in the past two and a half years, more than doubled our number of faculty members of color. And we have more effectively integrated the administrative leadership of William & Mary. It is no longer the case, as it was when I arrived, that we could host a leadership retreat inviting the 35 senior administrators of the College and see, around the table, no persons of color.
As the result of these decisions, the last sixteen months have been challenging ones for me and my family. A committed, relentless, frequently untruthful and vicious campaign -- on the internet and in the press -- has been waged against me, my wife and my daughters. It has been joined, occasionally, by members of the Virginia House of Delegates -- including last week's steps by the Privileges and Elections Committee to effectively threaten Board appointees if I were not fired over decisions concerning the Wren Cross and the Sex Workers' Art Show. That campaign has now been rendered successful. And those same voices will no doubt claim victory today.
It is fair to say that, over the course of the past year, I have, more than once, considered either resigning my post or abandoning the positions I have taken on these matters -- which I believe crucial to the College's future. But as I did so, I thought of other persons as well.
I thought of those students, staff, faculty, and alumni, not of the religious majority, who have told me of the power of even small steps, like the decision over display of the Wren Cross, to recognize that they, too, are full members of this inspiring community.
I have thought of those students, faculty, and staff who, in the past three years, have joined us with explicit hopes and assurances that the College could become more effectively opened to those of different races, backgrounds, and economic circumstances -- and I have thought of my own unwillingness to voluntarily abandon their efforts, and their prospects, in mid-stream.
I have thought of faculty and staff members here who have, for decades, believed that the College has, unlike many of its competitors, failed to place the challenge of becoming an effectively diverse institution center stage -- and who, as a result, have been strongly encouraged by the progress of the last two years.
I have thought of the students who define and personify the College's belief in community, in service, in openness, in idealism -- those who make William & Mary a unique repository of the American promise. And I have believed it unworthy, regardless of burden, to break our bonds of partnership.
And I have thought, perhaps most acutely, of my wife and three remarkable daughters. I've believed it vital to understand, with them, that though defeat may at times come, it is crucial not to surrender to the loud and the vitriolic and the angry -- just because they are loud and vitriolic and angry. Recalling the old Methodist hymn that commands us "not to be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong," nor "afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich." So I have sought not to yield. The Board's decision, of course, changes that.
To my faculty colleagues, who have here created a distinctive culture of engaged, student-centered teaching and research, I will remember your strong and steadfast support until the end of my days.
To those staff members and alumni of this accomplished and heartening community, who have struggled to make the William & Mary of the future worthy of its distinctive past, I regret that I will no longer be part of that uplifting cause. But I have little doubt where the course of history lies.
And, finally, to the life-changing and soul-inspiring students of the College, the largest surprise of my professional life, those who have created in me a surpassing faith not only in an institution, but in a generation, I have not words to touch my affections. My belief in your promise has been the central and defining focus of my presidency. The too-quick ending of our work together is among the most profound and wrenching disappointments in my life. Your support, particularly of the past few weeks and days, will remain the strongest balm I've known. I am confident of the triumphs and contributions the future holds for women and men of such power and commitment.
I add only that, on Sunday, the Board of Visitors offered both my wife and me substantial economic incentives if we would agree "not to characterize [the non-renewal decision] as based on ideological grounds" or make any other statement about my departure without their approval. Some members may have intended this as a gesture of generosity to ease my transition. But the stipulation of censorship made it seem like something else entirely. We, of course, rejected the offer. It would have required that I make statements I believe to be untrue and that I believe most would find non-credible. I've said before that the values of the College are not for sale. Neither are ours.
Mine, to be sure, has not been a perfect presidency. I have sometimes moved too swiftly, and perhaps paid insufficient attention to the processes and practices of a strong and complex university. A wiser leader would likely have done otherwise. But I have believed, and attempted to explain, from even before my arrival on the campus, that an emboldened future for the College of William & Mary requires wider horizons, more fully opened doors, a broader membership, and a more engaging clash of perspectives than the sometimes narrowed gauges of the past have allowed. I step down today believing it still.
I have also hoped that this noble College might one day claim not only Thomas Jefferson's pedigree, but his political philosophy as well. It was Jefferson who argued for a "wall of separation between church and state" -- putting all religious sects "on an equal footing." He expressly rejected the claim that speech should be suppressed because "it might influence others to do evil," insisting instead that "we have nothing to fear from the demoralizing reasonings of some if others are left free to demonstrate their errors." And he averred powerfully that "worth and genius" should "be sought from every condition" of society.
The College of William & Mary is a singular place of invention, rigor, commitment, character, and heart. I have been proud that even in a short term we have engaged a marvelous new Chancellor, successfully concluded a hugely-promising capital campaign, secured surprising support for a cutting-edge school of education and other essential physical facilities, seen the most vibrant applicant pools in our history, fostered path-breaking achievements in undergraduate research, more potently internationalized our programs and opportunities, led the nation in an explosion of civic engagement, invigorated the fruitful marriage of athletics and academics, lifted the salaries of our lowest-paid employees, and even hosted a queen. None of this compares, though, to the magic and the inspiration of the people -- young and older -- who Glenn and I have come to know here. You will remain always and forever at the center of our hearts.
Go Tribe. And hark upon the gale.
Gene Nichol

Bloomberg Columnist: What About Global Welfare Mothers?

Andy Mukherjee usually offers up respectable columns for Bloomberg on the Asian finance beat, but today he offers up world class drivel, lamenting that the US government is spending its money lavishly on its own citizens rather than the citizens of poorer Asian nations. Now, I don't think the aforementioned effort at "stimulus" is worth a hill of beans, but even more illogical than the transfer payment of certain American resources to certain Americans, is the demand for these transfers to go to Asians. Apparently, focusing on your own nation's economy, (in however a misguided fashion) rather than other countries' economies is "home bias." Yeah, can you believe that I only buy my children food and clothing to the complete neglect of your children? Indeed, I am an execrable character with my detestable "home bias." Beyond trying to build an argument on this bizarre foundation, Mukherjee completely misses the mark because the stimulus package, regardless of where it is aimed, will benefit Asian workers over American ones. Tax rebate checks in hand, Americans will buy flat-screen TVs, shoes, clothing and all manner of Asian produced goods. Almost certainly they will not buy Boeing planes, mutual fund shares, non-invasive surgery or other characteristically American products and services.

Decades of largesse have apparently bred a sense of entitlement, if not among poor workers in Asia at least among financial columnists. After decades of succumbing to feel-good campaigns aimed at eradicating global poverty, the West has created a global class of welfare mothers, and their advocates, who don't see international aid as generosity but as their due and proper.

Earth to Andy. Asians don't have to hope for rebirth to escape poverty; they have to demand that their governments commit to free market reforms, studiously avoid restricting trade, entrepreneurship and capital formation, and strengthen institutions that permit capitalism to flourish. For more on this, check out Russ Robert's podcast with Bill Easterly.

UPDATE: In one of those cosmic coincidences, last night, as I was reading Amity Schlaes The Forgotten Man, I got to the part where Roosevelt sought to start defunding the WPA. FDR intended it to be a temporary program and warned the government couldn't pay for it forever. No matter though, once aid and assistance is administered long enough, people feel they are entitled to it. Of course, WPA workers went on strike.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Trouble In Biofuel Paradise

Whoops. Whoops. Big Whoops.

Of course, this isn't definitive. We need to continue travelling down this road cautiously, letting entrepreneurs tackle the challenges. However, without a doubt we our main focus ought to be making the hydrocarbon technologies we currently use, and know well, more efficient and cleaner.

I'm With Dan

Dan Henninger posits what ought to be the final word on the subject. More than a money quote, but indeed the distilled essence of the thing: "to consciously turn over Iraq to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama . . . words fail." Or the economy, for that matter, I would add.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Wow. Wow. Wow. And Wow.

I am too addled with both joy and the effects of overindulgence of malted beverages to write anything remotely elegant or meaningful about what was surely the greatest upset in Super Bowl history (and the greatest Super Bowl of my lifetime, IMHO). I became a Giants fan through the accident of geography but I've remained a Giants fan because, beyond the superficial reality of a football team, the Giants organization is an estimable institution. The Giants are a family business in the truest sense, run according to honorable management principles that give pride of place to virtues like loyalty, selflessness, dedication, and hard work over showmanship. While the G-men have had their share of superstars over the years, they have tended to populate the roster with men of decent ability but of exceptional character. Take, for example, this guy or this guy. You could copy the Giants' management philosophy and apply it to almost any business endeavor and you would have good odds at being successful, which is why this guy is one of my business idols. Good people achieving great successes is a wonderful thing to behold and an inspiration, even it is just sports. (And I know one fan who would've heartily agreed and enjoyed last night immensely.)

I'll leave the poignancy at that. Without taking away from the more than well-deserved attention given to the tenacious, workmanlike, quiet leadership of key leaders of this Giants team - Strahan, Pierce, Toomer, Manning - this team, for me, was defined by the "nobodies", the guys who stepped out of nowhere to contribute mightily at critical moments. So kudos to Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, Domenik Hixon, Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Ward (remember him), David Tyree, Kawicka Mitchell, Laurence Tynes, Corey Webster, and coach Steve Spagnuolo.

Another thought. I have always been a Bill Belichick fan; he's a Giant alumnus and probably the greatest coach that ever coached (and for fans of good defense, probably the patron saint of defensive football). I have thought that this SpyGate stuff was crap and the media ought to just drop the silliness, but I have to say this, I have never seen a man so ungracious and ungraceful in defeat.

UPDATE: Pats fans can take solace in the fact that all those pre-printed "19-0" T-shirts are going to clothe poor children in Central America..."Children far removed from the game benefit as well, thanks to a partnership developed in 1994 between the NFL and the relief organization World Vision. By next week, World Vision will have delivered the pre-printed -- and incorrect -- Patriots champion gear to underprivileged children in Nicaragua."

...and even Bret Stephens, the WSJ's Global View columnist, has a little fun with "19-0"!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ah, Breath Deep the Pure Air of Multiculturalism

Bombs. Strapped to women. With Down Syndrome. Detonated Remotely.

And we have a bad reputation in the Muslim world? Perverse.

Oh, and where are the feminists? Fulminating over Obama endorsements, of course.