Archive for December 2004

Yet Another Reason Why I Am Frustrated By the Libertarian Party

After years of enduring a procession of moonbats and losers running under the Libertarian Party banner, I am frustrated that the party can't produce a credible libertarian candidate I feel good about voting for.  I wrote more on this here just before the election.

Now I see that the Libertarian Party is asking for a second recount in Ohio, after the first one changed the vote tally all of 300 or so votes out of a 100,000+ margin.  The Party's candidate admits that the recount won't change the result:

They have said they don't expect to change the election results, but want to make sure that every vote is properly counted.

Then why the hell do it?!?  And why the hell should we use government money to do it.  And why why why the hell is the Libertarian Party, the party of not just small but minimal government, doing asking for this??

Thanks to Captains Quarters for the link.  This "count every vote" thing confuses me.  A scientist would laugh at you at the concept of error-less measurement. Every measurement and count has error - you just try to make the count or measurement error substantially smaller than the differential in votes.    In the Washington governors race or in the Florida 2000 Presidential race, the differential was/is probably within the error bar.  But certainly not in Ohio.

Poverty and Natural Disasters

I have written in the last week here and here about how it is poverty, not global warming or any other tired explanation, that has the most to do with high death tolls from natural disasters. 

The Mises Institute makes the case in more depth.  Excerpt:

The correlation between poverty and destruction resulting from natural disaster seems to hold up not only with a cross-section of nations, but also over time. As nations become wealthier, their losses of human life from natural calamities tend to fall. Countries that experience economic growth are putting themselves in a better position to reduce the number of deaths that result from natural cataclysms, and the clearest way to produce that economic growth is to allow people to interact in the marketplace without government intrusion.

Walmart: The New Collectivist Target

Collectivists, Progressives, and anti-capitalists have apparently moved on from Halliburton and targeted Walmart as the Satan of the moment.  Walmart is charge with everything from destroying communities to mistreating employees.

What most of these attacks overlook is that no one shops or works at Walmart except by their own free will - that shopping there or working there are better than their other choices.  Cafe Hayek points out this rather obvious but consistently overlooked point.  However, it is a hallmark of "progressives" that they distrust individual decision-making, so I guess it is not so surprising.  You can't compare jobs to some mythical ideal and claim that they don't measure up - jobs measure up or not only in comparison to other available opportunities.

Tsunami Before and After

A whole peninsula, wiped clean.  Ugly.  Thanks to LGF for the link.

Beforeafter

Update:  The wider angle view of these photos are even more dramatic - note the new bay where there used to be farms:

Beforeafter1a  Tsunamibeforeafter1b

More of these side-by-side tsunami before-after photo pairs are here.

Update #2:  We are getting a lot of Google hits on this.  For more before and after images, look here and  here and here (in this last link see the powerpoint download in the lower left).  This site has a ton of tsunami blog links, including pictures and video.  Here is a link-filled roundup (new 1/4) and an older one here, and another here.  And here is a dedicated blogHere is a 1/5 roundup of Indian blog posts about the tsunami and its aftermath.  And here is a local blog with news.  And here is the Amazon Red Cross donation page.

The Principles of Kwanzaa Suck

The concept of a cultural celebration by African-Americans of themselves and their history is a good one.  The specific values celebrated in Kwanzaa, however, suck.  They are socialist -Marxist-collectivist-totalitarian crap.   Everyone seems to tiptoe around Kwanzaa feeling that they have to be respectful, I guess because they are fearful of being called a racist.  However, I find it terrible to see such a self-destructive set of values foisted on the African-American community.  These values are nearly perfectly constructed to keep blacks in poverty - just look at how well these same values have played out in Africa.

First, understand that I have no problem with people of any ethnic group or race or whatever creating a holiday.  Life is worth celebrating, as often as possible, even if we have to make up new occasions. 

Second, understand that Kwanzaa is not some ancient African ethno-cultural tradition.  Kwanzaa was made up in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga.  Karenga was a radical Marxist in the 60's black power movement.  Later, Karenga served time in jail for torturing two women:

Deborah Jones ... said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga ... also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said."

Interestingly, after this conviction as well incidents of schizophrenia in prison where "the psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by dive-bombers," California State University at Long Beach saw fit to make him head of their Black Studies Department.

Anyway,  I give credit to Karenga for wanting to create a holiday for African-Americans that paid homage to themselves and their history.  However, what Karenga created was a 7-day holiday built around 7 principles, which are basically a seven step plan to Marxism.   Instead of rejecting slavery entirely, Kwanzaa celebrates a transition from enslavement of blacks by whites to enslavement of blacks by blacks.  Here are the 7 values, right from the Kwanzaa site (with my comments in red itallics):

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race

On its surface, this is either a platitude, or, if serious, straight Marxism and thoroughly racist.  Think about who else in the 20th century talked about unity of race, and with what horrible results.

In practice, the notion of unity in the black movement has become sort of a law of Omerta -- no black is ever, ever supposed to publicly criticize another black.  Don't believe me?  Look at the flack Bill Cosby caught for calling out other blacks.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves

Generally cool with me -- can't get a libertarian to argue with this.  When this was first written in the 60's, it probably meant something more revolutionary, like secession into a black state, but in today's context I think it is fine.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together

Um, do I even need to comment?  This is Marxism, pure and simple.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

OK, I said the last one was Marxism.  This one is really, really Marxism. 

Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

There's that collectivism again

Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

I guess I don't have much problem with creativity and make things better.  My sense though that if I was to listen to the teaching on this one in depth, we would get collectivism again.

Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

What about in ourselves as individuals?  Through all of this, where is the individual, either individual responsibility or achievement?  It is interesting that a holiday that was invented specifically to be anti-religious would put "faith" in as a value.  In fact, Karenga despised the belief in God as paying homage to "spooks who threaten us if we don't worship them and demand we turn over our destiny and daily lives."

However, this is in fact very consistent with the teachings of most statists and totalitarians.  They tend to reject going on bended knee to some god, and then turn right around and demand that men go on bended knee to ... them, or other men.  This is in fact what this "faith" was about for Karenga - he is a statist laying the foundation for obedience to the totalitarian state.  He wants blacks to turn over their destiny and daily lives to their leaders, not to god.

So, in conclusion, Kwanzaa was designed as a celebration of creating a totalitarian collectivist Marxist racist state among African-Americans.  I may well get comments and emails that say "oh, thats not how we celebrate it" and I will say fine - but Marxism is the core DNA of the holiday, a holiday created by a man who thought Lenin and the Black Panthers were all wimps.

Never wishing to criticize without suggestion a solution, here are alternate values I might suggest:

Freedom - Every individual is his own master.  We will never accept any other master again from any race (even our own).  We will speak out against injustices and inequalities so our children can be free as well.

Self-Reliance - Each individual will take responsibility for their life and the lives of their family

Pride - We will be proud of our race and heritage.  We will learn about our past and about slavery in particular, so we will never again repeat it. 

Entrepreneurship - We will work through free exchange with others to make our lives better and to improve the lives of our children

Education - We will dedicate ourselves and our time to education of our children, both in their knowledge and their ethics

Charity - We will help others in our country and our community through difficult times

Thankfulness - Every African-American should wake up each morning and say "I give thanks that my ancestors suffered the horrors of the slavery passage, suffered the indignity and humiliation of slavery, and suffered the poverty and injustices of the post-war South so that I, today, can be here, in this country, infinitely more free, healthier, safer and better off financially than I would have been in Africa."

By the way, if you doubt that last part, note that in the late 90's, median per capita income of African Americans was about $25,000, while the per capita income of Africans back in the "old country" was around $700, or about 35x less.  Note further this comparison of freedom between the US and various African nations.  Finally, just read the news about the Congo or Rwanda or the Sudan.

Global Warming and Poverty

Several days ago in this post I made the point that the only connection between the recent tsunami deaths and global warming I could find was that 3rd world poverty, which global warming treaties will likely help lock in place, made people more vulnerable to the disaster.  Kendra Okonski makes a similar point in the Asian Wall Street Journal.  Note:

Appropriate infrastructure, including warning systems that can save lives, communications systems, transportation infrastructure, medical facilities, and sophisticated construction methods are the tangible benefits of economic development. Just look at the much lower death tolls when tsunamis strike Japan, where the average citizen is 43 times wealthier than his counterparts in countries such as Indonesia, and so much better placed to afford the infrastructure needed to minimize loss of life.

He goes on to point out how focus on the focus on global warming, combined with growth destroying treaties like Kyoto as well as a hodge-podge of other statist policies will conspire to keep many people locked in poverty:

This week's tragedy illustrates why environmentalists' proposals are preposterous and counterproductive. Policies such as the Kyoto Protocol -- a global treaty to limit emissions in industrialized countries -- would in fact harm the poor the most, by slowing economic growth and distracting attention from real and present problems.

So, in conclusion

The real problem for most of the people affected by the disaster is poverty. Whatever the earth, or its climate, may have in store in the next few decades, the best strategy to minimize human deaths and suffering is to tackle poverty through economic development and technological progress.

UPDATE:  More here at Cafe Hayek

Week 16 Football Outsiders Rankings

Football Outsiders has their week 16 football rankings up here.  Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here.

The amazing thing to me is just how bad Atlanta looks in these rankings, at number 19.  In fact, much of the NFC playoff mix looks bad, with ATL, SEA, and GB sitting at 19,20,and 21.  On the flip side, Buffalo and 5 and Baltimore at 7 could be the best teams to miss the playoffs.  Buffalo in particular has really been playing lights out, but they still need some help this week to make the playoffs given their really bad start and the strength of the AFC.

Interestingly, Buffalo gets in if they win and the Colts beat the Broncos.  The Colts are likely to play one of these teams in the first round.  If I were the Colts, I would much much much rather face the Broncos in the first round than the surging Bills.  Bledsoe may be a playoff question mark, but Plummer is even more so.  Therefore, the Colts, despite what Dungee is saying lately, have zero incentive to win this weekend and every reason to take a dive.

Dave Berry, Libertarian (and Dang Funny, too)

I found this interview with Dave Berry in Reason Magazine while cleaning up some of my IE favorites.  Its a bit old, but still fun to read.  A sample:

If we're spending $853 trillion on some program now, and next year we spend any less, that's "budget-cutting" to them. For them, the question is always, "What kind of government intervention should we impose on the world?" They never think that maybe we shouldn't.

It gives me a real advantage as a humorist because I get credit for having insight and understanding--and I don't. I don't have any insight or understanding on anything about the government. All I think is that it' s stupid--which is the one perspective that' s almost completely lacking in Washington.

His discussion of why libertarianism won't lead to everyone having sex with dogs is priceless.  No, I am not going to explain this, you have to read it.

Carnival of the Vanities

Its now up here at the Radical Centrist.

Amazon Red Cross Donations over $2 Million

You can actually watch the numbers move as it refreshes.  After spending yesterday watching the tsunami body count go up, this is a much better number to watch rise.  Update:  Now over $3 million.

Seasonal Business and Unemployment

Most of the campgrounds and recreational facilities our company runs are seasonal, meaning that they are only open from late-Spring to early-Fall.  Many are at high altitude, and are under 10+ feet of snow this time of year, so that they couldn't be kept open even if there was any customer demand.

The problem with this business model is that it tends to saddle us with a huge unemployment tax bill.  For those that don't know how unemployment taxes work -- and I certainly didn't before I got into this -- each time someone files for unemployment, the business is sent a notification.  If the person was fired for cause, or quit when work was available, and the business can prove it to the state, then the person is either denied unemployment or your business is at least not hit with the cost. 

In any other case, the person will get unemployment, and your business "experience" account is hit for your proportional share of that person's payments -- if you provided them with 100% of their employment the last couple of years then you get 100% of the cost.  Each year your tax rate (a percent of wages) is reset based on your experience account - so more unemployment claims by your ex-employees drives higher tax rates.

Even before recent problems I will describe in a moment, I have always felt that unemployment tax systems unfairly punish seasonal businesses.  Unlike at another company where a person might think they are getting a permanent job, then get laid off, my employees join in March and accept the job knowing that the job ends in September.

Well, I could live with that problem- we get hit with a month or two of unemployment until folks find another job.  Unfortunately, we now have a much worse problem, particularly in California (of course). 

Many of the people we hire are full-time RVers, meaning that they no longer have a permanent home, but roam about the country all year in their RV (I wrote about this trend here).  They work for us in the summer, and then many of them vacation all winter in places like Arizona and Mexico.  Unfortunately, many of these folks, particularly Californians, are filing for unemployment all winter while they play.

Now state rules, including those in California, require that folks applying for unemployment be looking for work, and so certify on a regular basis to the state.  However, a number of our folks are, I hate to say, lying about this.  I know of at least one pair who are on California unemployment and are not even in the country right now.  As a result, in California in 2005, I will be paying nearly 7% of wages in unemployment taxes, and the state of California will be paying in additional money from other sources, to help fund these people's winter vacations.

This really, really is irritating me, and I don't know what to do about it.  I have called the state of California on several occasions, but as long as the employee says they are looking for work, the state can't, or won't, do anything about it.  Some really annoying person at the state unemployment office told me that it was my fault, that my business should learn to plan better and this is the cost I pay for messing with people's lives by laying them off. 

Unfortunately, this "the business is evil, the employee is always right" attitude permeates nearly every state labor-related agency I have ever dealt with.  About a year ago I fired an employee for chasing a customer around with a baseball bat -- I even had a letter from the customer testifying to the whole sorry story -- and the state employment department refused to certify that the employee was fired for cause and our experience account got hit with all of the unemployment payments for this individual.

Scrappleface: White House to Boost Empathy Statements

via Scrappleface:

As one unnamed reporter put it, "In the hours immediately following the disaster, millions of people in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Somalia and elsewhere turned their eyes toward America to discover whether the president would rush back to Washington D.C. and empathize with their plight. But Bush stayed in Crawford and made just one official statement, as U.S. military planes surveyed the damaged area and Air Force C-130 cargo planes with humanitarian goods headed for the region. It's as if Bush thinks that action is a substitute for news conferences."

LOL.  I have always hated the empathy dance after disasters, particularly the now required visit by the President to the disaster site.  What is he going to do?  The visit to the WTC site soon after the attack on 9/11 had value because it made a statement about security that gave confidence to people that they could return to Manhattan.  Why is it necessary, though, to tour hurricane damage by helicopter?  Isn't that the experts job? 

We had a number of our operations in Florida shut down for weeks after the recent hurricanes there.  Several of my friends asked me if I was going to go visit the damage.  "What for" I asked?  The damage had been described to me, and the folks in charge there who knew the area had a good plan in place for fixing things.  If I showed up, work would have to stop for a day while everyone showed me around.  The time to go back is after it is cleaned up, when you can thank everyone for their hard work.  But of course, I didn't have to deal with the media editorializing on my heartlessness because I didn't run to Florida and sight-see the damage.

Coming to Love FeedDemon

I have been looking for a good feed reader for a while.  I don't like the online solutions, for the same reasons I don't like web-based email clients  - they are slow and awkward to navigate.  I tried one or two that were supposed to integrated into IE, but they crashed my system, and I am trying to move to Firefox anyway.  I have not yet tried the new Mozilla email client called Thunderbird, but I am told it has a feed reader in it.

FeedDemon is a third party standalone app that is a combination of feed reader with tabbed browsing to pursue links in feeds.  The embedded browser can be switched between IE and Firefox, but even with the IE code, it has tabbed browsing!  I have been very happy with it.

The only complaint I had was that it was difficult to synchronize my already-read feeds between home and work.  For a week or so, I carried a usb memory key back and forth with the cache, but this was a Kluge.  Fortunately, the FeedDemon 1.5 beta has (almost) fixed this.  By integrating with bloglines, I do not get repeats at work of feeds I read at home.  There are only 2 downsides to this:

  • You have to go online to bloglines to add a new feed to your reading list, though this is pretty fast
  • Feeds downloaded at the office do not show up at all at home.  This is not what I ultimately want.  What I really want is to be able to download and have on my computer all feeds in both locations, but with the read/un-read status synchronized.  This may already be possible, but I can't figure out how.  Since this is a beta, I am sure more improvements are to come.

30 day free trial.  Recommended.

Economics and Creationism

Most "progressives" who reject capitalism do so in part because they do not trust the bottom-up organic progress and social structure that comes with capitalism.  They prefer top-down god-like statist technocratic control.

This is an interesting article contrasting the rejection by liberals and progressives of creationism in the complex systems within nature to their embrace of it in economics and society.

Just as in the natural world, society and the economy is self-organizing, and arises without any sort of central direction or central planning. This is a view that has been put forward by economists and social thinkers such as Frederick Hayek, Adam Smith, David Hume and many others and, like its non-creationist counterpart in the realm of biology, has the advantage of empirical support.

Cool article.  I have written on similar thoughts here.  Listen closely to about any politician today, liberal, conservative, progressive, etc and you will hear, in almost every statement, a distrust of individual decision-making.  Ironically there are many liberal professors out there who will explain to you all evening how termites can build an elaborate mound without any centralized control, but will deny to the death the suggestion that individual humans can build a strong economy and social structure without central control. 

This Was Inevitable - Environmentalists Try To Blame Tsunami on Global Warming

Global warming advocates are already trying to make hay from the recent tsunami disaster (via Reuters, who else)

"Global Warming, Pollution Add to Coastal Threats"

Creeping rise in sea levels tied to global warming, pollution and damage to coral reefs may make coastlines even more vulnerable to disasters like tsunamis or storms in future, experts said on Monday.

Of course it says "may...in the future", but advocates want you to believe that the death toll is due in part to global warming.  Forget of course that the world has yet to see any rises in ocean level (presumably due to melting ice somewhere) or that the basic disaster mechanism of earthquake causing tidal wave has nothing, zero, nada to do with climate.

The argument that clearing mangrove swamps may make a tsunami worse may or may not be true to some extent, but this is only a secondary effect.  The primary, by far, human activity that affected the death toll is the desire by humans to live on the coast.  Unless you want to change this (and I would bet that a disproportionate number of the world's environmentalists make this same personal choice to live on the coast) it does not really matter if there are mangroves or not.

Ironically, the primary way to avoid such disasters is not by reversing human technology (as global warming activists want to do), but by increasing it, in the form of warning systems and evacuation routes.  Global warming advocates actually want to keep everyone poor - they blame wealth and progress for global warming, but note that wealthy countries like the US (the global warming great Satan) has had the technology and the wealth to afford to put systems in place that would have prevented such a huge death toll.  Wealth, prosperity and technology are what would have averted this disaster, and it is just these things that global warming advocates oppose for Southeast Asia.  So here is my alternate headline and first paragraph:

"Poverty, Lack of Technology add to Coastal Threats"

The creeping influence of global warming advocates and treaties that are limiting 3rd world growth and prosperity may make coastlines even more vulnerable to disasters like tsunamis or storms in future, experts said on Monday.

Another Stingy American

The Southeast Asian Tsunami may well be the worst natural disaster in our lifetimes.  I helped out by donating at Amazon - it takes two seconds here.  The Southeast Asian Tsunami Blog can keep you up to date here.  By the way, here is the stingy American reference.

Women's Rights Groups Have Lost Their Way

It is not uncommon that advocacy groups struggle to declare victory.  The problem with crossing the finish line for such groups is that their leaders will lose power, influence, and face-time on the news, and rank and file members may lose jobs.  Also, it is always possible to point to some instance where victory has not been secured, though these instances are often trivial compared to the original problem the groups were organized to fight.

Such seems to be the case with women's groups today.  Their shift from women's issues advocacy to groups trying to maintain their political stature probably began in the Clinton administration, where most women's groups chose to support their political ally (Clinton) rather than their traditional issue (sexual harassment in the workplace).

This trend seems to be accelerating.  Here are some other indicators:

  • Increasingly, women's rights seem to have become a euphemism for abortion rights.  I don't have any problem with people organizing to support abortion rights, but it strikes me that women have more rights than this.  What happened to free speech and property and religion and bearing arms?  Aren't those women's rights?  But press most women today who say they are concerned with the erosion of women's rights, 95% of the time they will be talking narrowly about abortion rights.  The majority of the articles on the NOW site are related to abortion and Roe v. Wade, not any other discernable consitutional rights.
  • At the same time that the US Government was in the process of freeing millions of Afghan women, opening up to them for the first time the right to vote and go to school, womens groups in the US were mostly opposing these actions.  In fact, their main focus at the time was instead on trying to get one female millionaire into a country club in Georgia.  This contrast both points out the trivialization of the battles left to fight for women in this country who can mostly claim victory, as well as the loss of focus on the most fundamental of women's rights that are still denied to women all over the world.  For many women in the world, women's rights aren't getting an abortion or joining a country club, they are not getting beaten with impunity by your husband, not getting stoned to death for minor offenses, being able to vote, or read, or be educated, or even to show some skin every once in a while.  Women have far fewer rights in islamic nations than blacks had in aparteid South Africa.  African-American groups in the US actively opposed apparteid in South Africa -- where are womens group's voices on islamic fascism?
  • Women's groups have lost any consistent philosophical focus.  With abortion, they were of one mind - our bodies are private, the government can't tell us what to do with them.  Great, I'll buy that.  But, along comes the breast implant scare, and suddenly women's groups are all for banning women from doing certain things to their body (mainly because women's leaders see breast implants as frivolous and not something real women should do).  So, you can do whatever you want with your body as long as women's leaders agree with your decision- making.  Don't believe me?  Here is the spot on the NOW site urging women to complain about that the government is micro-managing their bodies by denying them certain medical items, and here is an article urging woment to complain that the government is not micro-managing their bodies enough by making certain medical items too available

And now comes this story on banning Walmarts and other big box retailers from certain parts of Maryland.  I won't even get into the ridiculousness of this rank protectionism for unions and small retailers - other blogs have attacked it well enough, example here.  I was struck by this line:

Officials of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, meanwhile, organized labor, education and women's rights advocates to testify with them in front of the council in October [in favor of the ban].

Huh?  Women's groups are out campaigning to ban Costcos and Walmarts?  Is it somehow hurting women to go to one place to do all of their shopping rather than 4 or 5 smaller stores?   Is it a fundamental right of women not to be tempted by lower prices?  Are women somehow genetically more susceptible to those large boxes of cereal?  Yes, I know that women's groups are opposing some hiring and promotion practices at Walmarts, but is this really a valid reason to have the government ban construciton of all large retail establishments?

The fact is that womens groups have just become another generic liberal advocacy group, jumping in on whatever hot topic is out there to keep them in the press, but with little connection to the original issues that energized their formation.

If women's groups want some valid women's causes, here are some suggestions:

  • Support women in their transition from slave to citizen in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You don't even have to sanction the war - just accept the situation as-is and help tens of millions of women who are trying to be free
  • Protest the UN's treatment of women, including widespread rape, in the Congo
  • If they want a cause closer to the US, support the women whose husbands are stationed overseas in war zones.  Or, if you would rather support the troops than their wives, petition Congress for more budget to ensure women soldiers have the tools they need to survive and be victorious

There's Always an Entrepreneur Smarter Than You Are

Take these guys:

It's called Kona Nigari, comes from 2,000 feet down off the coast of Hawaii, and it's bottled by Hawaii Deep Marine.

Kona Nigari is a seawater mineral concentrate you mix with regular water. You can buy some at the Key of Life store in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Honolulu.

As always with expensive weird shit, the Japanese are driving the market. They can't drink it fast enough.

They are apparently selling 80,000 2 oz. bottles A DAY to Japan, with each bottle going for $33.50.  Wow.

New Age Ayn Rand

Check out this flash animation that seems kind of strange and new-agy at first, but actually is a pretty good, simple definition of libertarian philosophy.  Definitely worth checking out.  Hat tip to the Mises Institute.

This is Tempting

Staring at all my Christmas decorations around the house, and dreading putting the lights back neatly so they won't be a tangled rats nest next year, this looks more and more tempting.

A private Bridge in France

This is cool - a bridge built privately in France, for a fraction of the cost of most major public bridge projects.  More via the Mises Economics Blog.

Christmas Gifts and Economists

When I get an odd or inappropriate Christmas gift, I usually get a good chuckle with the family and then try to figure out who to recycle it to next year (though the Chia Shrek may be a keeper).

When economists get a bad gift, they try to quantify deadweight loss to the economy.  And, according to Marginal Revolution, the number is substantial.

Update:  more here at TCS

I Hope This is Good News

From Yahoo News:

Pro-West opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko claimed victory in Ukraine's historic presidential election rerun, telling supporters the vote was a triumph for the country and proclaiming that "now we are free" from dominance by neighboring Russia.

This seems like good news, especially given the creeping fascism in Russia.  However, we've been disappointed by putative democrats before.

Spending Christmas Day Doing Tech Support

Merry Christmas, and I hope everyone is having a happy version of whatever holiday they celebrate. 

Around our house, I am always the tech support guy, fixing issues ranging from computers to hitting all the right buttons on the home theater.  Because my wife has a Mac and I and my kids use a PC, just trying to keep everyone playing nice over the home network is hard enough (god, this is starting to sound like a Chaos Manner column).  Usually, this duty is spread pretty evenly through the year, but on Christmas day, our household has an influx of technology that often needs support.

Yesterday was no exception.  First, with the arrival of yet another new mini iPod, this one for my son, a new user partition had to be created on my wife's Mac.  Later in the day I was back on the Mac, helping my son when iTunes inevitable Christmas Day server overload caused him to have a few songs disappear on him during download.  In between, I was on the PC helping my daughter with Zoo Tycoon 2, given to her because Santa knows that she loved the first version. 

Finally, towards the end of the day, I was helping my son with his Star Wars Battlefront game install.  Unfortunately, the install code on the back of the CD box did not work, so with my son panicking when I told him he would have to wait 2 WHOLE DAYS for the the tech support people to come into the office, I swallowed my scruples and went to one of the pirate sites that publish registration codes for games and successfully used one of those to get the game started.  Unfortunately, those sites slam you with pirate-ware, so first I had to fire up my backup computer I use for such grossly unsafe surfing.

Whew.  I can relax now, everything is up and running.  Imagine my relief this morning when my kids wanted to play something low tech - Yahtzee.

New Forest Service Rules

My company operates campgrounds and other recreational facilities on government lands, and the US Forest Service is our most important partner.  We work day-to-day with about 20 or so district rangers, who are the front-line general managers of the Forest.

My observation over time is that USFS district rangers have a nearly impossible job.  By their enabling legislation, the USFS is tasked with balancing logging, mining, ranching, recreation, forest health and environmental stewardship in running the forest.  In our modern day age of uncompromising special interests and conflict resolution by lawsuit, it is absolutely impossible to make any decision  without sending some party scurrying to the courts.  In particular, environmental groups have become expert at tying up any decision in court, and attempting to block any of the other competing interests.

The current Administration has introduced new rules intended to make this job easier.  As reported in the New York Times via the Commons Blog,

Forest Service officials said the rules were intended to give local foresters more flexibility to respond to scientific advances and threats like intensifying wildfires and invasive species. They say the regulations will also speed up decisions, ending what some public and private foresters see as a legal and regulatory gridlock that has delayed forest plans for years because of litigation and requirements for time-consuming studies.

I hope this is true, because I feel for front line forestry personnel who joined the service mostly because of their love of the outdoors and the environment, and have been forced instead to become amateur lawyers.  However,  I doubt much will change.  I think that intelligent planning and negotiation may be gone forever in working on environmental issues in favor of litigation.