Monday, August 30, 2004

John Kerry seems genuinely surprised by his fellow veterans attacks on his anti-war activities after he returned from Viet Nam. He seems actually to believe that Bush is somehow behind the Swiftvets ads. This attitude might be surprising if one weren't aware of his prior activities. Take his Senate Testimony in 1971. He provides a lengthy list of supposed war crimes committed by U.S. troops:

They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

And if he is to believed, these crimes were not sporadic.

These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

So according to Kerry, the troops in Viet Nam were monsters, raping and pillaging throughout the countryside. Yet he later condemns America's response to her returning veterans.

I understand 57 percent of all those entering the VA hospitals talk about suicide. Some 27 percent have tried, and they try because they come back to this country and they have to face what they did in Vietnam, and then they come back and find the indifference of a country that doesn't really care, that doesn't really care.

Even as Kerry's testimony contributes to the myth of widespread war crimes in Viet Nam, he complains that Viet Nam vets return to face what they did in Viet Nam. Perhaps if he and others like him weren't making unfounded, outrageous accusations about their conduct in Viet Nam, the vets would have returned to a more welcoming nation. Kerry seems unwilling to accept the effect of his own actions. You can't call people rapists, killers,torturers, and modern-day followers of Ghenghis Kahn without consequence. Back then, the public - for whatever misguided reason - allowed Kerry to get away with his slanders. Today, the Swiftvets are doing their best to ensure that he is called to account. You can help them in their cause here.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Howell Raines asks the following question in today's Washington Post

Does anyone in America doubt that Kerry has a higher IQ than Bush?

He follows up his post with what he believes is a partial answer.

I'm sure the candidates' SATs and college transcripts would put Kerry far ahead.

Let's examine Howell's claim. Bush and Kerry both attended Yale and we don't have Kerry's records so that doesn't tell us much. Or does it? The mere fact that Kerry has not made either his SAT score or college transcipts public is enlightening. He's attempted to spin a brief stay in Viet Nam into a reincarnation of Audie Murphy. Surely were his grades and SAT score anything to brag about, he would be bragging.

Let's turn to post-graduate work. When Kerry was looking at law schools did he pick Harvard, Yale, or, say, maybe Stanford? No he attended Boston College. At least today, BC is a good school, but far from great. For example, U.S. News and World Report lists it at number 29, or put another way, number three in Boston as both Boston University and Harvard are rated higher. Perhaps in the 70s it was better, but it's hard to believe that anyone wanting to attend law school in Boston would pick BC over Harvard.

Now let's look at Bush. When he wanted to get an MBA, where did he look? Harvard, ranked number one by U.S. News and widely regarded as the best business school in the country, if not the world.

So returning to Raines claim, what do we see? We have two men that attended Yale. One went on to law school at BC, while the other took his MBA at Harvard. Would anyone in America bet that the one who attended BC had a higher IQ? Well at least one person would - Howard Raines.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Inequality

Here's an interesting observation on inequality from Amity Shlaes from today's Financial Times

All of which brings us to the larger question: is unequal income distribution always bad? The answer is no. Historically, uneven income distributions tend to correlate with strong growth. In societies with the rule of law, that wealth tends to turn into opportunity. Societies in which incomes are fairly even grow more slowly. They are also frequently broke (like parts of continental Europe).

Property Rights

Here's a good example of the importance of property rights to economic growth (from today's Financial Times):

China's land reforms have had two stages. The first, from 1979 to 1989, entailed breaking up the Maoist collective farms and granting farmers 15-year rights to individual plots of land.

The result was a huge increase in rural wealth. In the 1980s the value of China's agricultural output, in constant prices, rose 86 per cent. Rural per-capita income soared 192 per cent. Average rural incomes, just 39 per cent of average urban incomes in 1978, rose to 55 per cent in 1983. This surge in wealth provided much of the capital for the subsequent industrial expansion.

And what if property rights are insecure? The Financial Times explains

In the 1990s, as the original 15-year terms began to expire, they were replaced by 30-year terms. Rural land management laws passed in 1998 and 2002 also required villages to provide farmers with contracts certifying their land use rights. But for most of China's farmers these property rights remain insecure. Village leaders can arbitrarily "readjust" land rights at a moment's notice, changing boundaries or even forcing farmers to move from an old plot to a new one.

As a result, farmers are reluctant to make investments that could enhance their productivity but might take years to recoup. These include building permanent greenhouses so they can grow high-profit vegetables all year round.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Aaron's post on CAFE's side effects notes that the rise of the SUV can be attributed - at least in part - to CAFE. CAFE has other side effects. The downsizing of cars to increase gas mileage has decreased safety. And Detroit's efforts to comply have hit the bottom line. In order to sell larger vehicles that get lower gas mileage, Detroit (particularly GM) lowered the prices of small cars. The result - GM loses $2,000 per small car it sells.

These side effects highlight the stupidity of the CAFE standards. In any event, we already have a perfect mechanism for conserving gasoline. It's called a price. As gasoline prices rise, the demand for fuel efficient vehicles increases. Witness the success of this ugly customer. If people are willing to buy something that unattractive (and the dash on this monster is far uglier than the exterior), it looks like we really don't need the government's help to purchase more efficient cars.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Unintended consequences

The idea behind CAFE standards is that if the government regulates the minimum amount of gas mileage a car must have to be sold at a dealership, then this will help improve fuel efficiency in the long run. For example, the current standard for automobiles is 27.5 miles per gallon and 20.7 miles per gallon for light trucks. The CAFE standards prevent Ford from selling an automobile that only gets 15 miles per gallon.

Here's the funny part of the story and a good illustration of how the government can mess things up, even though it has the best of intentions. A good case can be made that CAFE standards created the SUV. The story goes like this: consumers demanded bigger cars, but automobile manufactures couldn't supply the bigger cars, because they couldn't meet the fuel efficiency requirements. So what the automobile manufactures did was create the SUV, which is classified as a light truck and has a lower fuel efficency requirment. Hence, if this story is true then government regulations designed to improve fuel efficiency created the SUV, which is now being condemned today because of how much fuel it consumes.

One other interesting tidbit: the PT cruiser is classified as a light truck. If regulations change, Chrysler is going to be in serious trouble.

Why socialism won't work

Here's Dostoyevsky's take on it (p. 256 from Crime and Punishment)

"N-nothing is admitted!" Razumikhin interrupted hotly. "I'm not lying!... I'll show you their books: with them one is always a 'victim of the environment' - and nothing else! Their favorite phrase! Hence directly that if society itself is normally set up, all crimes will at once disappear, because there will be no reason for protesting and everyone will instantly become righteous. Nature isn't taken into account, nature is driven out, nature is not supposed to be! With them it's not mankind developing all along in a historical, living way that will finanlly turn by iteself into a normal society, but, on the contrary, a social system, coming out of some mathematical head, will at once organize the whole of mankind and instantly make it righteous and sinless, sooner than any living process, without any historical and living way! That's why they have such an instinctive dislike of history: 'there's nothing in it but outrage and stupidity' -- and everything is explained by stupidity alone! That's why they so dislike the living process of life: there's no need for the living soul! The living soul will demand life, the living soul won't listen to mechanics, the living soul is suspicious, the living soul is retrograde! While here, though there may be a whiff of carrion, and it may all be made out of rubber -- still it's not alive, still it has no will, still it's slavish, it won't rebel! And it turns out in the end that they've reduced everything to brickwork and the layout of corridors and rooms in a phalanstery! The phalanstery may be all ready, but your nature isn't ready for the phalanstery, it wants life, it hasn't completed the process yet, it's too soon for the cemetary! You can't overleap nature with logic alone! Logic will presuppose three cases, when there are a million of them! Cut away the whole million, and reduce everything to the one question of comfort! The easiest solution to the problem! Enticingly clear, and there's no need to think! Above all, there's no need to think! The whole of life's mystery can fit on two printed pages!"

Friday, August 06, 2004

The What-did-Kerry-really-do-in-Vietnam? story is spreading throughout the blogosphere. As usual, Instapundit has the story. The story also making the rounds on the talk shows. Even these guys played the ad. Boortz was also talking about it. He mentioned the letter that the DNC sent to threatening to sue stations that aired the ad. This station initially backed down. A caller on Boortz mentioned that he talked to the station and they changed their mind after getting several complaints. They now say they will air the ad. On their 5:30 newscast, they discussed the controversy without mentioning that they initially refused to air the ad.

This can't help Kerry. He's obviously unwilling to discuss his experience in Vietnam. As I noted earlier, if his four months in Vietnam is what qualifies him to be president, a discussion about that service is in order. In addition, it's time his military records were unsealed. If he's the hero he claims to be, what is he hiding?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I made the mistake of watching John Edwards' speech last night. I didn't find him particularly effective; he blinks more in a minute than the average person does in an hour. And he has a used-car salesman's smile, insincere and somewhat sleazy. More importantly, his absurd two America's riff and his supposed eagerness to carry the war to the terrorists were laughable. Had I known of this, I could have avoided watching altogether. I didn't make the same mistake tonight. Rather than experiencing Kerry firsthand, (or at least via television) I read this. Thanks to Powerline, my blood pressure stayed constant tonight.

The theme of the Democratic convention seems to be that John Kerry is qualified to be president because he spent four months in Viet Nam.   This is completely ridiculous.  But assume it's true.  If so, isn't what Kerry did in Viet Nam a legitimate campaign issue?  According to these veterans, Kerry's service actually disqualifies him for the presidency.  More can be found here.  To say the least, this presents Kerry's service in a less-than-heroic light.  If Kerry's Viet Nam experience is all he's got - and according to the convention it pretty much is - he is manifestly unqualified for the presidency.


This is good news:

In the fall of 1995, Dr. Reid Lyon, who directs research in the neuroscience of reading and learning disorders in children at the National Institutes of Health, got an unexpected call from first-year Texas governor George W. Bush. "Look," Bush said, getting right to the point. "I have lots of kids who are not reading well. What's the science on this that can guide us?" After that chat, Bush flew Lyon down to Texas several times to help redesign the state's early-childhood reading programs so that they incorporated the latest NIH findings. "We've had a great relationship ever since," Bush recently noted.

Since he took office, Bush's educational policy has been guided by science. Now the Federal government is requiring at least some evidence that the pedagogical techniques it funds actually work. No doubt John Kerry's  educational policy will have its basis not in science, but here. Sure, the Federal government has no business funding education at all. But if it's going to, I'd rather have Bush make the decisions than Kerry.