June 13, 2013
Ah, the liberty of the private sector....
February 14, 2013
November 06, 2012
September 03, 2012
It is with great sadness to report that on Saturday Mr. Thomason has lost his battle with testicular cancer. This tribute, by sportswriter Joe Posnanski, who like myself never had the privilege of meeting him, but who also enjoyed the clear prose he brought to the blogosphere, beautifully describes the loss that those who loved and admired Mr. Thomason feel today.
August 03, 2012
Best Springsteen commentary ever: And one in which the writer doesn't feel the need to point out the hackneyed use of the sexist term "baby" in every song...someone has noticed that the last twenty-five years haven't been all that great:
The musical decline of Bruce Springsteen has been obvious for decades. The sanctimony, the grandiosity, the utterly formulaic monumentality; the witlessness; the tiresome recycling of those anthemic figures, each time more preposterously distended; the disappearance of intimacy and the rejection of softness. And the sexlessness: Remnick adores Springsteen for his “flagrant exertion,” which he finds deeply sensual, comparing him to James Brown, but Brown’s shocking intensity, his gaudy stamina, his sea of sweat, was about, well, fucking, whereas Springsteen “wants his audience to leave the arena, as he commands them, ‘with your hands hurting, your feet hurting, your back hurting, your voice sore, and your sexual organs stimulated!’ ”, which is how you talk dirty at Whole Foods...
Nothing has damaged Springsteen’s once-magnificent music more than his decision to become a spokesman for America. He is Howard Zinn with a guitar. The wounded workers in his songs do not have the authenticity of acquaintance; they are pious hackneyed tropes, stereotypical class martyrs from Guthrie and Steinbeck. Springsteen’s sympathy is genuine, but his people are not. His 9/11 and recession songs are bloated editorials: “where’s the promise from sea to shining sea?” His anger that “the banker man grows fat” is too holy: “if I had a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ‘em on sight” is not a “liberal insistence.” I prefer Dodd-Frank. The drawl in his voice is a production value, the grit a mannerism. A few minutes with one of Johnny Cash’s last records and it is impossible to take Springsteen’s vernacular seriously.
June 28, 2012
May 09, 2012
February 21, 2012
November 28, 2011
I wonder when the term "working class" went from being a description of those who engage in manual labor for a paycheck, to a somewhat dispargaging term referring to educational underachieving. The use of the term "working class" to describe anyone who lacks a college degree seems rather arbitrary, and doesn't provide much in the way of analytical value, since it includes Bill Gates, Gwyneth Paltrow, the late Steve Jobs, and the Kardashian sisters as "working class," while expelling any autoworker with a degree from Wayne State from the ranks of the proletariat.
For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.
All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.
It is instructive to trace the evolution of a political strategy based on securing this coalition in the writings and comments, over time, of such Democratic analysts as Stanley Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira. Both men were initially determined to win back the white working-class majority, but both currently advocate a revised Democratic alliance in which whites without college degrees are effectively replaced by well-educated socially liberal whites in alliance with the growing ranks of less affluent minority voters, especially Hispanics. [emphasis mine]
October 24, 2011
September 16, 2011
I suppose there's no point commenting on the faux-outrage about this story, but it is interesting (at least to me) that there seem to be people who are under the impression that it is a horrible, beastly thing for the government to have lost money on this sort of investment. Solyndra was involved a business that is typically high-risk, so any sort of investment was going to be iffy; the fact that it (and other businesses like it) went under isn't a surprise. The free market is inefficient when it comes to picking and choosing the sorts of new technologies that have a socially useful benefit in the future, since it's all about maximizing profits, right this minute. If the government was basing every decision on what to subsidy as a guaranteed profit center, it wouldn't be serving the public.
For emerging technologies, that's always the case: fifty years ago, similar investments by Big Gub'mint were made on new-fangled devices known as "computers," which were necessary because the free market hadn't really figured out a way to make a profit out of the gadgets. Later, the internet emerged out of similar risk-taking, unprofitable investments by the government. Society as a whole benefits when there is a tension between the free market and government, with the latter making the former more creative and less destructive.
August 21, 2011
UPDATE [9/16/11]: As it turned out, young Saadi had not been captured by the rebels, and as of this date, is reportedly exiled in the West African nation of Niger, a nation best-known for not providing Iraq with yellowcake uranium, contrary to an infamous set of forged documents.
August 11, 2011
Researchers plotted the timing of nearly 500 of those lion attacks against the phases of the moon. And they found that the odds of being devoured by a lion were highest on nights following the full moon—nights when the moon rises late, providing hours of darkness for lions to stage a strike.So says a recent study. Also something important to know: the global population of lions living in the wild has declined by nearly 95% in the past fifty years, before, during and after full moons. Thoughts?
And previous studies have found that the fatter the moon, the slimmer the lion. Probably because the bright nights make hunting harder. So lions are hungriest around the full moon, too—and more willing to pounce on two-legged prey, as soon as they're provided the cover of darkness.
August 07, 2011
In short, the PVSA forbids "foreign vessels" from transporting passengers between American cities. Well, actually it doesn't technically prevent that; what it does is force cruiseships going from one US city to another to either stop at what is called a "far foreign port" (ie., outside of North America), or to stop at a foreign port within North America before returning to the American port of embarkation. Thus, a cruise ship cannot start in Los Angeles and end in San Francisco unless it stops in Tokyo or Lima first. But it can start in Los Angeles, go to San Francisco, then later end in Los Angeles, as long as it stops in Ensenada, Mexico or Victoria, British Columbia first.
And effectively, almost all cruise ships are considered "foreign vessels" for purposes of this act, regardless of whether the line is a domestic corporation, since almost all cruise ships are built overseas. This is not from any fault of the American shipbuilding industry, or from high labor costs, or from any of the other reasons typically used to disparage American competitiveness, but because domestic shipbuilders view building ocean-bearing craft for the military or for cargo lines as a much more profitable use of their resources than building cruise ships. The one recent effort to create such an industry collapsed in the aftermath of 9/11, and the only "American-flagged" cruise ship, the "Pride of America", sails for Norwegian Cruise Line in Hawaii, where it has a government-sanctioned monopoly on inter-island cruising.
Although this may be a boon for Norwegian, it's hard to see how other cruise lines have really been disadvantaged by this protectionist inanity. Other cruise ships have their own lucrative version of the Hawaiian cruise, with the minor disadvantage being that it's length is twice as long (since it starts and ends out of a western coastal port, like L.A. or San Francisco), and it must make at least one brief stop in Ensenada. The cruise ship gets to rake in the dough by having its captive passengers on board ship, purchasing overpriced trinkets and souvenirs, not to mention drinking and gambling, for 9-10 sea days, while the customers are none the wiser.
Obviously, there is nothing in the current law that would encourage the development of a domestic cruiseship building industry, since it doesn't increase the operating costs, or diminish the profits, of those lines that contract with Italian or Japanese shipbuilders to build their next megalopolis-on-the-seas. However, the consumer is shortchanged, since we: a) have to spend more money to take an unnecessarily longer cruise, and b) have fewer consumer choices as to which ship to take, since the domestic market is already saturated with ships taking the same routes to the same locales. Moreover, dockworkers and others who benefit from having busy and profitable ports are screwed by the PVSA, since few cities are close enough to foreign ports to make cruising out of those cities a worthwhile proposition.
And who likes this law? Cruise lines, of course. If the law were to be repealed, the increase in the number of short, affordable cruises within the United States would be exponential. One of the most popular cruises at present is the weekend "booze cruise" that leaves a US port, sails to a nearby foreign locale, like the Bahamas or Ensenada, and back. The typical passenger on such a cruise is much less affluent than the seagoing traveler who typically sails on the larger ships; given the option of taking a weekend cruise from LA to San Francisco and back, or from Baltimore to Brooklyn, or to and from cities on the Great Lakes, more people would sail than ever before. But that would also entice other ships into the market, so the market share of the half-dozen or so companies that control the US market would plummet.
In effect, the PVSA provides for the cruise industry what the pre-1980 regulation of the passenger airlines did for flying; it creates a non-responsive, expensive business oligopoly that caters to the well-off, and prevents the emergence of innovative, cheaper competitors. And it does all this while providing nothing of benefit to the consumer, to industry, or to the worker.
UPDATE: Thanx to the good people at Reason for the link. In the comments, a number of people have pointed out that the restrictions in PVSA purportedly protect "American flagged" ships, not ships originally made in the USA. That mix-up is due, I believe, to the confusion centered around the notion that many ships fly what are called "flags of convenience", ie., are registered in 3rd World countries that do not have the labor or OSHA restrictions required under American law. In fact, under American maritime law, in order to qualify as an American-flagged ship, the ship must not only obey such laws and regulations, but must also be built domestically. The government can grant waivers to this requirement, as it did with the aforementioned Pride of America, which was only partially built (with heavy taxpayer subsidies) in the US of A. Since the lack of a domestic cruise ship building industry makes even this step impossible, the circumvention of American labor and safety laws are the least of the problems with this statute.