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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, April 15, 2006

CUP HALF FULL   The Alaska Department of Fish and Game isn't worried about avian influenza, and they don't want you to be, either. From a brochure for "subsistence hunters" (try hard not to think about that lifestyle), the agency says, comfortingly, that of the people who have been infected with bird flu, "half of them survived." I feel better already.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 6:34 PM | link  

AMERICA IS SPITZER'S VICTIM   AIG's Hank Greenberg, Eliot Spitzer's most prominent victim:
Mr. Greenberg hasn't dimmed, but he believes America has. "You couldn't build an AIG today," he explains. Overbearing regulators, new corporate governance rules, protectionism, a failing tort system, prosecutors unleashed -- these, as he sees them, are the obstacles to corporate greatness. And Mr. Greenberg is uniquely positioned to know.

It isn't just that over 38 years he transformed a tiny operation into a global insurance empire currently valued at $169 billion, a feat that even detractors -- and he has many -- admit counts as one of the great corporate success stories. It's that Mr. Greenberg was front and center to witness how prosecutors, regulators and lawyers could bring that success to its knees, practically overnight. "Why is it that private equity is growing as fast as it is. . . . Why are public companies not doing as well? Once [a country] gets a reputation that way, once it loses momentum, it takes quite a while to regain it. It doesn't happen overnight," says Mr. Greenberg.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:56 AM | link  

ACADEMIC STANDARDS   From a reader who asked for anonymity:
So I am attending an information session with my son for newly admitted students at a university that I shall not name (its initials are CU and it is in Ithaca, NY). Asked by a parent about the availabilty of summer jobs in industry, a senior biology major soon to attend grad school with a goal of returning to teach at this same school, replied, "I can't answer that question because of the ethical concerns about doing science for profit."

No one reacted, although my son whispered, "yes, profit should be limited to religion."

Update [4/16/2006]... Reader Rick Gaber asks,
Uh, do you really want your offspring to attend Cornell? Click on this...
Update 2 [4/16/2006]... An anonymous reader protests
,I went to Cornell, and don't let one moron undergrad at the famously leftist school put you off. The sciences there are at the highest level, even if the politics is pedestrian.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:49 AM | link  

PORTRAIT OF A LEFTIST HERO -- UH, I MEAN, LUNATIC  

What can I add by way of comment to this story in the Washington Post?

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.

Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.

She smokes a cigarette. Should it be about Bush, whom she considers "malevolent," a "sociopath" and "the Antichrist"? She smokes another cigarette. Should it be about Vice President Cheney, whom she thinks of as "Satan," or about Karl Rove, "the devil"? Should it be about the "evil" Republican Party, or the "weaselly, capitulating, self-aggrandizing, self-serving" Democrats, or the Catholic Church, for which she says "I have a special place in my heart . . . a burning, sizzling, putrescent place where the guilty suffer the tortures of the damned"?


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:10 AM | link  


Thursday, April 13, 2006

YOU KNOW IT WAS A BIG REPUBLICAN VICTORY WHEN...   the New York Times has to call the results "muddled."
The race to succeed former Representative Randy Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty to corruption charges, took a complicated turn for both parties on Tuesday after a crowded primary in which a Democrat came in first, but did not win enough votes to escape a runoff.

The muddled outcome left Democrats and liberal activist groups cheered...

Funny how the mainstream media always seems to get fair and balanced when there's a story that ought to favor conservatives.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:15 AM | link  

DUCK AND COVER   New York Times editor Bill Keller covers his own ass, and that of his newspaper, in a single bulls**t answer to a tough question in an online Q-and-A:
Q. In your columns, before you were appointed executive editor, you proclaimed yourself to be a "hawk" with regard to the then impending Iraq war. In retrospect, do you still stand by that opinion?-- Heidi Miller

A.That's an excellent question, which, I apologize, I'm obliged to duck. In my current job it's important that I endeavor to keep my opinions to myself and out of the paper. To do otherwise risks giving readers the impression that the paper is driven by a political agenda, which it is not.

Thanks to Newsbusters for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:00 AM | link  


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

OKAY, I'M GOING TO VEGAS AND CHECKING THIS OUT AS SOON AS I CAN   Corny but cool, just like the TV show. But I'm not sure I'd want to get married here.

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

BOSS TWEED OF THE WEST   I've actually been to Vernon, California, described accurately in this strange news story:
Founded in 1905, the five-square-mile city consists in large part of rutted roads, railroad tracks, and a densely packed maze of warehouses, meatpacking plants, fuel tanks and an occasional vacant lot. There is no high school, no movie theater, no parkland. The city's motto: "Exclusively Industrial."
Seems that there have been some political problems in Vernon.
It took a judge's order to force the first local election in 25 years in this industrial city, and it was a contest filled with allegations of intimidation, harassment and undercover surveillance.

And it wasn't over when the polls closed, either.

On Tuesday night, a clerk promptly carried a metal ballot box into the City Council chamber and announced he would not count the votes.

The bizarre, and some say illegal, decision was just the latest eyebrow-raising political turn in Vernon, a city on the edge of Los Angeles where the mayor and council members have served for decades without opposition and most of the voters hold municipal jobs while living in city-owned houses.

The political order was upset earlier this year when three new residents filed as candidates for three of the City Council's five seats.

One of them, paper company salesman Don Huff, said that soon, he was being shadowed by private investigators, city crews shut off the power and police watched his building. Eventually Huff, 41, was evicted. He has been living in his car.

"They wanted to run us out, totally," he said. "The mayor owns the whole town. He controls it."

The town has a website, where you can meet the mayor, Leonis C. Malburg, of whom it says:
Mayor Leonis Malburg was born to the City of Vernon as the grandson of founding father, John B. Leonis. Malburg joined the City Council in 1956 and has served continuously ever since. He became mayor in 1974.
Want to bet he's a Democrat?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:57 PM | link  

LET'S HEAR IT FOR LITIGIOUS ECONOMISTS!   Another one sues for defamation!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:28 AM | link  

SHOULD THE W.H.O. ADD THESE NINE TO THE OFFICIAL DEATH TALLY?   Reuters:
India has culled hundreds of thousands of birds to contain several outbreaks of the H5N1 avian flu virus in poultry since February, but the disease has continued to resurface, mostly in western Maharashtra state.

The scare has decimated the country's $7.8 billion poultry industry, which says losses in the past two months have reached $2.2 billion.

"Nine farmers across India have committed suicide after their businesses suffered huge losses," O.P. Singh, member of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), told Reuters.


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

THE IMPERFECT STORM   The mainstream media won't cover it this way, but the reality is that yesterday's special election in California's 50th district, to replace disgraced Republican Randy Cunningham, wasn't a big victory for Democrats. Chuck Todd says it best:
Republicans have done it again; they've survived another day. Just when it seems a local disaster has the potential to turn into a national earthquake for the GOP, the party figures out how too delicately shift the landscape just enough to get by.

Democrat Francine Busby came within just a few thousand votes of garnering the necessary 50 percent to avoid a runoff. Had that happened, Democrats would have the spark they've been searching for to cement the idea that not only can they win control of Congress this year, but they will...

It has to be somewhat frustrating to the blue team, who must know how Charlie Brown feels every time Lucy pulls the football away at the very last minute.

In fact, it points to the one big disadvantage Democrats are facing this cycle that Republicans didn't have in 1994 - an opponent aware that they have a problem.

For a party on the ropes, the GOP has been very adept at avoiding the big campaign disaster snatching victory from defeat (e.g., Calif.-50 and Ohio-02) and convincing Tom DeLay to step aside as majority leader -- and then resign from Congress altogether.

The experience this current team of House GOP strategists has acquired over the last four cycles shouldn't be underestimated when handicapping this year's fight. They seem to know exactly what they have to do and when to attack. Despite denials, we find it hard to believe the NRCC dumped a few hundred grand in the last week simply to start softening Busby up for the runoff. Please, they have two months to do that.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:58 AM | link  


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

BUT FRANCE MAKES BETTER NECKTIES   According to IPI's Tax Bytes, guess which country in a GlobeScan poll most agrees with the statement, "The free enterprise system and free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world":
China, the largest of the Communist countries. Seventy-four percent of the people polled in that country agreed with that statement.

And which country do you think was most skeptical of free-market principles? France... Surprised about China, that is? (Who is ever surprised by what the French say?)


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:42 PM | link  

CALIFORNIA ACID TEST FOR THE GOP   If somehow the Democratic candidate for replace disgraced Republican congressmen Duke Cunningham gets better than 50% in todays special election in California, it's Armeggedon for the GOP. Watch carefully:
There is a special House election in California's 50th District, a Republican-leaning area in and around San Diego where Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned in December after pleading guilty to charges of accepting bribes from defense contractors. Eighteen candidates -- 14 Republicans, two Democrats and two other candidates -- qualified for the single-ballot, all-party contest, which requires a majority vote to win outright. Otherwise, the top vote-getters from each party advance to a runoff election on June 6. No candidate is expected to win a majority in today's balloting, though Democrat Francine Busby, an educator who lost to Cunningham in 2004, almost certainly will finish first. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign organization, is airing television advertisements attacking Busby. It is unclear which Republican will finish second overall to Busby and earn the GOP berth in the June 6 election. The huge GOP field includes current and former officeholders such as former Rep. Brian Bilbray (1995-2001), former state Rep. Howard Kaloogian, state Sen. Bill Morrow and former Del Mar mayor Richard Earnest. Wealthy businessman Eric Roach, Alan Uke and Bill Hauf have spent heavily from their own pockets.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:07 AM | link  

THEY GET IT RIGHT DOWN UNDER   Would that we could pass an extension of the 2003 tax cuts on dividends and capital gains. In New Zealand, they seem to understand these things better:
The government is to introduce a fairer regime for taxing New Zealanders who invest in New Zealand and overseas which will mean a tax cut of $110 million a year from next April, Finance Minister Michael Cullen and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne announced today...

"This is no money grab by the government. In fact it will cost about $110 million a year in foregone tax revenue. But if we are to improve the savings culture in this country the government considers this to be a valuable investment to make," said the Ministers.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:59 AM | link  

SO LET'S PUT THIS GUY IN CHARGE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY   Guess who's state has the highest per capita taxes? Thanks to reader Jameson Campaigne for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:53 AM | link  


Monday, April 10, 2006

UNDOCUMENT ME!   Mark Steyn:
Here's my immigration "compromise": We need to regularize the situation of the 298 million non-undocumented residents of the United States. Right now, we get a lousy deal compared with the 15 million fine upstanding members of the Undocumented American community. I think the 298 million of us in the overdocumented segment of the population should get the chance to be undocumented. You know when President Bush talks about all those undocumented people "living in the shadows"? Doesn't that sound kinda nice? Living in the shadows, no government agencies harassing you for taxes and numbers and paperwork.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:54 PM | link  

RIEDL DEFENDS HIMSELF   http://guerillawomentn.blogspot.com/2006/03/bogus-bush-bashing.html

 

In his March 20 New York Times column, Paul Krugman attacked our friend Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation as a "bogus Bush basher":

So where does the notion of Bush the big spender come from? In a direct sense it comes largely from Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, who issued a report last fall alleging that government spending was out of control. Mr. Riedl is very good at his job; his report shifts artfully back and forth among various measures of spending (nominal, real, total, domestic, discretionary, domestic discretionary), managing to convey the false impression that soaring spending on domestic social programs is a major cause of the federal budget deficit without literally lying.

Today the Times ran a letter from Riedl defending himself. Funny how the Times is willing to let conservatives defend themselves so long as they bash Bush in the process.

To the Editor:

In "Bogus Bush Bashing" (column, March 20), my old professor Paul Krugman criticizes my analyses of runaway domestic spending while calling the entire issue bogus. His rhetoric is hot, but he does not dispute a single fact or statistic in my work.

The federal government's own budget historical tables show nominal federal spending has leaped 45 percent since 2001, two-thirds of it unrelated to defense or homeland security. Non-security discretionary outlays are expanding 7.2 percent a year under President Bush, versus 4.2 percent under President Clinton.

How about social spending?

Since 2001, education spending has surged 137 percent, and health research and regulation spending has jumped 78 percent. Higher benefits and an expansion of Medicaid and food-stamp eligibility have pushed federal antipoverty spending above 3 percent of gross domestic product for the first time ever.

These government budget data expose conjecture about mean-spirited G.O.P. budget-cutters for the straw man that it is.

Brian Riedl
Washington, March 21, 2006
The writer is a fellow for federal budgetary affairs at the Heritage Foundation.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:36 AM | link  

MAKING NIHILISM PAY   A smart capitalist can make money on anything.
"We are very encouraged by the worldwide consumer demand for Oblivion," stated Paul Eibeler, Take-Two's President and Chief Executive Officer.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:06 AM | link  

HELPLESS TO CHECK THEIR FALL   Two consecutive items from an economics briefing email I get each morning:
* French President Chirac bowed to pressure and abandoned the youth-labor law that made it easier to fire young workers. Mr. Chirac's capitulation tells companies that labor laws are not going to be reformed in France anytime in the foreseeable future, meaning that more French companies may export jobs to other countries, thus worsening French unemployment over the longer-term. The recent widespread protests and disruptions are also expected to cut a tenth or two off French Q1 GDP.

* French industrial production in Feb unexpectedly fell -0.9% following Jan's +0.3% rise, suggesting that the French manufacturing sector was weaker than expected going into the large student protests that occurred in March.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:23 AM | link  

GOOD JOKE OF THE DAY  

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:56 AM | link  


Sunday, April 09, 2006

BAD JOKE OF THE DAY  

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:46 PM | link  

AN ECONOMICS PROFESSOR LEARNS FROM THE REAL WORLD   Yes, even in France:
PARIS Danielle Scache tries to avoid using the term "capitalism" in her economics class because it has negative connotations in France.

Instead, she teaches her high school students about the market economy, a slightly less controversial term she started using last year after a two-month internship at the dairy giant Danone. That was an experience that did away with more than one of her own prejudices, she said.

"I was surprised to see that people actually enjoyed working in a company," said Scache, who is 59. "Some of them were more enthusiastic than many teachers I know."

Thanks to reader Jill Olson for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:44 PM | link  

DO DIFFERENT INCOME TAX RATES MATTER?   Greg Mankiw says on his blog,
Yes, they do, for the simple reason that people respond to incentives. Here is a summary of a study of international differences by Steven Davis and Magnus Henrekson:
A tax hike of 12.8 percentage points (one standard deviation) leads to 122 fewer hours of market work per adult per year and a 4.9 percentage point drop in the employment-to-population ratio. It also increases the size of the shadow economy by 3.8 percent of official GDP, and it reduces by 10 to 30 percent the share of national output and employment in "Retail Trade and Repairs," in "Eating, Drinking, and Lodging," and in a broader category that includes "Wholesale Trade and Motor Trade and Repair." The evidence suggests that tax rate differences among rich countries are a major reason for large international differences in market work time and in the industry mix of market activity.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:38 AM | link  

LIKE WE REALLY WANT THEIR OPINION   Reuters:
Conservationists and artists gathered at the edge of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya on Sunday to put an end to bad publicity they say migratory birds receive as the main vectors for spreading avian flu.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:34 AM | link