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Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Join us as we discover, document, expose and challenge the bad people, the bad institutions and the bad ideas that stand in the way of wealth creation -- and show you how to fight back!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

MORE INTELLECTUAL BANKRUPTCY   Reader Bryan Arledge has a good observation:
I am not really in favor of the new bankruptcy law, but found a New York Times story today -- "Debtors in Rush to Bankruptcy as Change Nears" -- odd. I find it odd because none of the people in the story whose financial info is revealed actually make more than the median income, and thus they would not be materially affected by the new law changes in October. It seems either the fact the bill screws the middle class isn't good enough for the Times so they have to make it seem like it screws the lower class as well or the reporter was too stupid to know that the people in the article who were "rushing to file" were rushing for no reason.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:10 PM | link  


Friday, August 19, 2005

REMIND YOU OF ANYONE?   From a reader:


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:51 PM | link  

BUSINESS STANDS UP AGAINST ENVIRONAZISM   A rancher has won a landmark lawsuit against an environmental pressure group:
The Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson is known for its lawsuits against ranching practices -- and for its methods of posting photos on the Internet that it says depict land destruction. So when the Center came after [cattle rancher] Mr. [Jim] Chilton, he struck back with a defamation suit in Arizona Superior Court in Tucson last year.

He produced his own photos of lands the group claimed he spoiled in order to argue that their photos had exaggerated the damage. He snapped one photo, for example, of a hillside featured on the Center's Web site to show that what looked like barren earth was just a tiny patch surrounded by lush grass.

After a jury trial this year, Mr. Chilton was awarded $600,000, including $500,000 in punitive damages against the environmental group. "I had to decide whether I was a cowboy or a wimp," Mr. Chilton says. "I decided to be a cowboy...and not ignore people saying bad things about my ranch."


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:53 AM | link  

ONE HIGH SOCIETY ON THE LINE   Not sure whether this constitutes a "prediction market" or not -- but it's surely a case of putting your money where your mouth is. Two Russian scientists have challenged a UK scientist to a $10,000 bet over claims of global warming.
The Russian solar physicists Galina Mashnich and Vladimir Bashkirtsev have agreed the wager with a British climate expert, James Annan.

The pair, based in Irkutsk, at the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics, believe that global temperatures are driven more by changes in the sun's activity than by the emission of greenhouse gases. They say the Earth warms and cools in response to changes in the number and size of sunspots. Most mainstream scientists dismiss the idea, but as the sun is expected to enter a less active phase over the next few decades the Russian duo are confident they will see a drop in global temperatures.

Thanks to Chris Masse for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:25 AM | link  

THIS AGAIN?   Paul Krugman's column today -- "What They Did Last Fall," about how Republicans stole the elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004 and how they will have to steal all future elections to prevent disclosure of imagined scandals -- is even more confused than usual.

Reader Chuck Huff thinks the title is good, but the content is a bit off (as he points to this story about Democratic election fraud last year).

The Chief Brief blog questions Krugman's repetition of the Democratic mantra about 2000 that "Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore." It seems that Krugman's own paper, the New York Times, saw things a little differently.

In a November 12, 2002 story: comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.

Contrary to what many partisans of former Vice President Al Gore have charged, the United States Supreme Court did not award an election to Mr. Bush that otherwise would have been won by Mr. Gore. A close examination of the ballots found that Mr. Bush would have retained a slender margin over Mr. Gore if the Florida court's order to recount more than 43,000 ballots had not been reversed by the United States Supreme Court.

Even under the strategy that Mr. Gore pursued at the beginning of the Florida standoff filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties Mr. Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted for a consortium of news organizations.

Update... Brainster's Blog takes on Krugman's repetition of the urban myth that "Miami County [Ohio] reported that voter turnout was an improbable 98.55 percent of registered voters."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:03 AM | link  


Thursday, August 18, 2005

WHAT PUBLIC?   The New York Times' new headquarters building is on land seized on its behalf "for public use" by the State of New York under eminent domain. But according to the terms of the land deal between the Times and the state, "public use" is all about keeping the riff-raff out:
...it won't have a Taco Bell, McDonald's, Wendy's, or Nathan's, because they are specifically forbidden under terms of a land deal with the state. But a Starbucks or Cosi would be just fine.

The lease, which is on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, also bars renting space in the 52-story building for "a school or classroom or juvenile or adult day care or drop-in center." It forbids "medical uses, including without limitation, hospital, medical, or dental offices, agencies, or clinics." It gives the New York Times Company "the sole and absolute discretion" to reject United Nations or foreign-government offices, including any "considered controversial" or that are potentially the focus of demonstrations. It bans any "employment agency (other than executive-search firms) or job training center" and auction houses, "provided, however, the foregoing shall not apply to high-end auction houses specializing in art and historical artifacts." Discount stores are forbidden. And the deal bars "a welfare or social-services office, homeless shelter or homeless assistance center, court or court-related facility."

In fact, any government office is excluded from the building if it would attract people who arrive "without appointment."

and establishing a luxurious environment for the Times' limousine liberals. According to the Village Voice,

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:49 PM | link  

NOBODY HERE BUT US LIBERALS   There can't be any liberal bias at the New York Times. How do we know? Because "public editor" Barney Calame asked the editors, and they told him there wasn't any. Sorry. None here. We're all out. Try again tomorrow.

From Calame's weblog, on why the Times hadn't covered the Air America loan scandal:

There's another reason to get to the bottom of the scandal. It's the perception problem -- a perception of liberal bias for which I haven't found any evidence after checking with editors at the paper.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:25 PM | link  


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

LOOK UP "INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY" IN THE DICTIONARY   ...and you know whose picture you will see. But here's the definition you'll read.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 6:18 PM | link  

WHAT "FRENCH CHOICE"?   The more time that goes by, the more false Paul Krugman's column about the French economy becomes. At this point, it seems that virtually not a single statement in it is true. Here's the latest, thanks to two readers (Nathan Colvin and Charles Huff). Krugman wrote,
France's unemployment rate, which tends to run about four percentage points higher than the U.S. rate, is a real problem... But the main story is that full-time French workers work shorter weeks and take more vacations than full-time American workers....Perhaps even more important, however, the members of that French family are compensated for their lower income with much more time together. Fully employed French workers average about seven weeks of paid vacation a year. In America, that figure is less than four. So which society has made the better choice?
Now this story from the Associated Press:
With unemployment hovering at 10 percent, a growing number of French can no longer afford a traditional August getaway -- a summer ritual that symbolizes the good life a la francaise.

"Holidays have gotten very expensive, and more and more employed people who used to go find that they can't anymore," said Jean Froidure, a tourism expert at the University of Toulouse. He called the trend "very worrisome."

"The vacation is a potent symbol in French society, a visible sign of a certain social standing," Froidure said. "Not going on vacation can cause people to lose confidence not only in their own future, but also in French society in general."


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:40 PM | link  

WILL HE NEVER LEARN?   Just getting around to Paul Krugman's Monday column. Seems he's quoting people saying things they never said (again). Power Line has him dead to rights -- I can't improve on this one. And the EU Rota blog catches Krugman in a little arithmetic misunderstanding -- something about percentages.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:02 AM | link  


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

WHAT MORE CAN WE SAY?   Could you ask for a single sentence that better captures the quintessence of what's wrong with government trying to spend and invest our money for us? Leading off a story from American City Business Journals, the first half of the sentence:
Members of Congress want to establish a new government-backed venture capital program...
And now the second half:
...to replace one that's being phased out because of sizable losses.
Thanks to reader David Duval for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:08 AM | link  

END OF AN ERA?   Brendan Miniter says in the Wall Street Journal today that the era of big tax cuts may be over:
...the national tax-reform movement--kicked off by California's Proposition 13 in 1978, which froze property taxes, and propelled forward by Ronald Reagan winning the White House in 1980 with promises to roll back big government by rolling back taxes--now appears to be running out of steam. The reason is that the Laffer Curve applies to politics too. There's a point at which further tax cuts won't spur any more economic growth, and there's also a point after which they won't win any more elections.
Miniter never says why, unfortunately. But for me, if the big tax cuts are over, let's go for small ones.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:09 AM | link  


Sunday, August 14, 2005

BUT THINK OF ALL THE TIME THEY SPEND WITH THEIR FAMILIES   Reader Art Patten looks sadly to Cuba:
Cuban cigars were considered to be the very best in the world by virtually all cigar smokers. Pungent and full-bodied without excess strength, the smoke of a Cuban led to rapturous descriptions in prose and verse. Slowly though, more and more is heard that the fabled Cuban cigar is no more; the land is not fertilized properly; the master cigar rollers are gone; there is no quality control; and so on...

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:09 PM | link  

FIAT MONEY, FIAT THINKING   Here's a very thought-provoking paper by professor Lawrence White on the large role of the Fed in sponsoring research into monetary economics.
The Fed (the Board of Governors plus the twelve regional Reserve Banks) employed about 495 full-time staff economists in 2002. That year it engaged more than 120 leading academic economists as consultants and visiting scholars, and conducted some 30 conferences that brought 300-plus academics to the podium alongside its own staff economists. It published more than 230 articles in its own research periodicals. Judging by the abstracts compiled by the December 2002 issue of the e-JEL, some 74 percent of the articles on monetary policy published by US-based economists in US-edited journals appear in Fed-published journals or are co-authored by Fed staff economists.
Thus the Fed enjoys not just a statutory monopoly on the creation of money, but also monopolizes the research into the theory of money and monetary policy. Presumably a similar probe into the role of the FTC and the Justice Department in sponsoring research into antitrust would show the same thing -- in that case, a monopoly on research into monopolies. Some version of it no doubt exists in every regulatory domain. Now this is the conspiracy to keep you poor and stupid!

Update... our antitrust guru Skip Oliva chimes in:

You are correct in presuming that the FTC and DOJ sponsor antitrust research. The FTC's Office of Policy Planning and Bureau of Economics perform that agency's research, with its counterpart at the Antitrust Division being the Deputy Asst. Attorney General for Economic Analysis. Most of these groups' work is dedicated to justifying existing enforcement policies. I don't think they are as intertwined with outside research as the Fed is, because the agencies have more restricted budgets and they aren't quasi-private entities like the Fed.

If there is a structural flaw with antitrust research, it's the dominant role played by the ABA's Antitrust Section, which obviously has a self-interest in maintaining strong antitrust enforcement (even when it works against the clients of individual bar members.) There is also a group called the American Antitrust Institute, which was founded by a number of pro-antitrust academics and practitioners in the wake of the Microsoft case. AAI routinely takes public "grants" to promote antitrust. Just recently they were given money from a California antitrust "settlement" to produce a video promoting the wonders of antitrust to school children.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:06 AM | link