Thursday, 26 May 2005


I notified Chris last night and we discussed it via email. I’ll no longer pretend to blog at SN. Even when I have the time to do so, I don’t. School has changed my focus to the point that I’m no longer a motivated blogger and my output, when it’s been there, hasn’t been up to my standards.

On my old Insults Unpunished site, I had a quote by Arthur Alan Leff that went something like “I have an axe to grind, and plenty of fury to turn the wheel”. My fury is gone.

Thanks to Chris for providing me with a forum and, if I get what feels like a permanent swell of fury, I might be back. But I wouldn’t count on it. Thanks to all who have been supportive over the years.

Incidentally, today is my three-year anniversary as a blogger. I was a late starter in the aftermath of 9/11 and had plenty to say; today, not so much. A fitting day to put a clean end to this period in my life.

Friday, 20 May 2005

The American Economy

This week’s edition of The Economist is focused on the American economy. They say flatly that it’s the best in the world, but could use some improvement. They end this article (may or may not be for subscribers) as follows:

This last recommendation is one that George Bush will be especially reluctant to accept. Mr Bush is the classic instance of a conservative politician who confuses support for particular businesses with support for enterprise in general. These seemingly similar ideas are in fact directly contradictory. The way to support enterprise—American enterprise, the best in the world—is to be as unEuropean as possible. Mr President, look at France. Notice their economic policies. See how they subsidise this and protect that. Do we have to spell it out?
They list a number of areas where we neeed improvement and I agree with all of them: end the $100 billion in corporate subsidies; reform corporate governance; tax reform; and, tort reform. I can’t disagree with any of these.

Thursday, 19 May 2005

Revenge of the Sith

Finally, George Lucas has done something that doesn’t fuck up the franchise. Revenge of the Sith is far, far better than the other prequels and I would put it ahead of Return of the Jedi simply because there are no Ewoks. One downside: he places a gratuitous shot of Jar-Jar Binks in towards the end. Anything to frustrate the fans…

Monday, 16 May 2005

Nighttime Lights of the World Dataset

Interesting discovery here. I was prompted to look it up by an econ text that was making a point about world development, though most people might be interested to see it. The actual data is downloadable here for the statistics geeks among us.

Saturday, 14 May 2005

Review of Crash in five words or less

Not Magnolia, but very good.*

Thursday, 12 May 2005

Remembering Barry Goldwater

Goldwater had a philosophy that came from his upbringing, if I remember his memoirs correctly, and he held on to it quite stubbornly to the end. His defeat in 1964 was crucial to the emergence of Reagan sixteen years later. The Economist has a great article that contrasts today’s Republican Party with Goldwater’s views and the GOP comes off looking bad.

It’s a subscriber only article, but I’ll provide a quick excerpt here:

THE Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think-tank based—where else?—in Phoenix, Arizona, contains a striking photograph of the young Barry Goldwater, dressed in girlish clothes and accompanied by a tame monkey. The precise meaning of the photograph—was the monkey borrowed, or a permanent part of the maverick Arizonan’s household?—is lost to history. But for those with a taste for symbolism the photograph raises an intriguing question: is Goldwaterism anything more than an eccentric side-show in today’s Republican Party?

Although he went down to a huge defeat in the 1964 presidential election, Goldwater did as much as anybody to launch the modern conservative movement. Yet everywhere you look, the Republican Party is abandoning his principles.

One reason why Ronald Reagan had such an invigorating impact on his party is that he never allowed the Christian right to gain too much power at the expense of the Goldwater right.

The senator’s conservatism was rooted in small government. But today’s Grand Old Party has morphed into the “Grand Old Spending Party”, as the libertarian Cato Institute dubs it. Total government spending grew by 33% in George Bush’s first term. Goldwater’s hostility to big government also extended to government meddling in people’s private lives. He thundered that social conservatives such as Jerry Falwell deserved “a swift kick in the ass”, and insisted that the decision to have an abortion should be “up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the religious right”. For Goldwater, abortion was “not a conservative issue at all”. For many Republicans today, it often seems to be the only conservative issue.


This love affair with big government has been inflamed by the experience of power. Ten years ago, the champions of conservatism were anti-government radicals such as Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey. Today they are patronage-wallahs like Tom DeLay. The congressional Republican Party, once a brake on spending, is now an accelerator. Congress trimmed Mr Clinton’s budgets by $57 billion in 1996–2001; in Mr Bush’s first term, it added an extra $91 billion of domestic spending.

Despite this, it would be a mistake to dismiss Goldwaterism as a side-show. The Arizonan would have applauded at least some of Mr Bush’s policies, including his tax cuts, his strong defence of gun rights, and Social Security reform, a cause that Goldwater embraced in the 1960s. He would also have found something to like in some of Mr Bush’s conservative judges-in-waiting, particularly Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, who have both been vigorous supporters of property rights.

Goldwaterism is also flourishing at the local level, particularly in the west. Thanks in part to the Goldwater Institute, Arizona has taken bigger strides towards school choice than any other state in the union. Last year, Seattle rejected overwhelmingly a do-gooder coffee tax. Florida recently passed a “right to shoot” law, giving citizens the right to shoot people who attack them in the street.


One reason why Ronald Reagan had such an invigorating impact on his party is that he never allowed the Christian right to gain too much power at the expense of the Goldwater right. Messrs Bush and Rove may have to pay more attention to that balance if they are to realise their dream of turning the Republicans into America’s permanent ruling party.

This is all another way of describing the possible split in the Republican Party: some say immigration is the issue and others say a distaste for the religious right’s influence. I see it as being split along the Goldwater lines. I favor immigration, like President Bush, but I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the RR's influence in the party. The Left immediately gave credit to the "values voters" and tried to denigrate the country because of it. Members of the RR were happy to accept credit because it would give them more influence. Don't get me wrong: I'm not one of the hysterics who thinks we are headed for "theocracy", but I do see the Party pandering too much to the RR.

I'm not in total disagreement with the religious right, but my disagreements are real and matter at the voting booth. Again, though, I'm not in total disagreement. For instance, I happen to agree with the religious right that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, but it ends there for me. Returning the issue to the states where it belongs is my goal. I suspect that the RR would be thrilled with a SCOTUS ruling that made abortion illegal in all states, whereas I would not be happy; not at all.

Bush's non-defense, non-homeland-security spending during the first term is still an embarrassment, along with the steel tariffs and the huge farm bill. In this respect, Bush looks a lot like Nixon. Not a flattering comparison, to say the least.

Bush signed McCain-Feingold though it was against his own stated principles (Nixonian also). He massively increased spending on the Department of Education and it’s so large now (over $50 billion) that the only way to get rid of it would be along the lines of welfare reform. He could propose that the Department be abolished and the huge budget spread among the states as block grants. I would be thrilled if this could be done.

If the alternative weren’t so hideous—the Democrats—I would have a hard time voting Republican these days.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Not that you asked, but

Sunday, 1 May 2005

Movie trivia of the day

The new version of Walking Tall says it’s 86 minutes long. Well, it is if you count the closing credits. The movie ends at the 73 minute mark and there are an additional 13 minutes of credits on a black background. I could have probably gotten a credit if I asked. I had to watch the movie twice to make it feel like a real movie.

Not necessarily a bad movie, just too little of it.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

This has to be read to be disbelieved

It takes a lot to get me to blog these days, with finals and qualifiers approaching, but this article at The Guardian has done it.

They begin by declaring Tony Blair a “war criminal” and say he’s the worst British PM since Chamberlain. You can see where this is going, right? Chamberlain appeased Germany and Blair “appeased” the U.S. by supporting the Iraq War. Hence, the U.S. is Germany of the 1930s. Well, minus the territorial ambitions, a dictator running the country and a million other things. No socialism either.

I’ll quote a good bit from the article, but you really should read it all for yourself:

Blair has followed in his footsteps, and is destined for the same place in history's hall of infamy. Like Chamberlain, he is an arrogant and God-fuelled appeaser, the unseemly ally of an unbridled country that presents a global threat similar to Germany in the 1930s.

Tony Blair has been the worst prime minister since Neville Chamberlain, a figure with whom he shares a number of significant characteristics. Chamberlain was a supremely confident and arrogant politician, an excellent speaker and a deeply religious man with a hotline to God. He had an unassailable majority in parliament, was popular in the country and presided over a cabinet stuffed with nonentities.

Unfamiliar with the outside world, he conducted his own disastrous foreign policy with the help of backroom advisers as ignorant as himself. By seeking to appease the German government, the principal threat to world peace at the time, he onlysucceeded in encouraging that country's appetite for aggression and expansionism. His egregious errors played a not insignificant role in the outbreak of the second world war, the principal tragedy of the 20th century.

Blair has followed in his footsteps, and is destined for the same place in history’s hall of infamy. Like Chamberlain, he is an arrogant and God-fuelled appeaser, the unseemly ally of an unbridled country that presents a global threat similar to Germany in the 1930s.

Instead of seeking a grand alliance to confront this new danger – “a coalition of the unwilling” that would include the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese – Blair has sided with the evil empire. He has taken up a role as its principal cheerleader, obliging Britain to become a participant in its wars of aggression. Today’s Labour party has been a supine collaborator in this policy of appeasement, just like the Tory party in the 1930s. Blair’s war party must be defeated at the polls.

So. Britain should have sided with Russia, China and France rather than the U.S. I’m glad this idiot isn’t actually running things in Britain.

Saturday, 23 April 2005

Cry for help

Can anyone recommend some good books that teach one to use SAS for econometrics? I bought a couple of books from Amazon, which were highly recommended, but apparently not for people that are interested in econometric applications. The types of books I would be looking for would list ALL of the options for the commonly-used procedures (proc reg, proc means, proc ttest, etc.) and list them together with the command, rather than having them scattered throughout the book (and then only some of them).

A book with a f*cking index would be valuable as well. Another good book would include examples of programs written using both SAS procedures and IML, again of the kind an economist would use.

I plan to learn Stata in the not-too-distant-future but it’ll do me no good for class, which requires SAS.

Friday, 22 April 2005


For those with a wicked sense of humor (that includes me), this will probably be one of the best blog posts you ever read.

Friday, 15 April 2005

Late Notice

Well, if you happen to live around Starkville and want some good music, try the University Union, 3rd floor, Small auditorium at 7:30pm. I have it on good authority that these guys are great. I know with our MILLIONS of readers and such short notice, the turnout will be overwhelming.

Monday, 11 April 2005

Milton Friedman even provides interviews to small Mississippi papers

My department head passed along an interview by Milton Friedman for a Mississippi paper. I’m sure you’ll read the whole thing, being it’s Milton Friedman and all. I’ll have to skip it for the moment due to the torments of grad school.

UPDATE: OK, my co-blogger has informed me it's a Jackson, TN paper. I told you I hadn't read it!! Imagine all of the appropriate changes to the post being made, with TN replacing MS.

Saturday, 2 April 2005

Pope John Paul II has died

Even though I haven’t been to Mass in a couple of years, I’ll be going tomorrow out of respect for this man. He wasn’t perfect—he didn’t respond well to the rise of Islamofascism, nor did he respond well to the pedophile priest fiasco a couple of years ago—but he was a good, even great man. His leadership provided moral support, even encouragement, for dissent in the Soviet Union, which played a large role in its collapse. He also remained consistent in his opposition to both the death penalty and abortion, a view that informs me to this day.

Part of my love for him is just sentiment, since he was the only Pope I knew growing up. May he rest in peace.

Spoons has more.

Friday, 1 April 2005

News flash

Gmail has started upping its storage size to two gigs. It seems to be happening gradually, but if you look at your main screen and choose new features, you should see it.

Here's what the help screen says:

G is for growth Storage is an important part of email, but that doesn't mean you should have to worry about it. To celebrate our one-year birthday, we're giving everyone one more gigabyte. But why stop the party there? Our plan is to continue growing your storage beyond 2GBs by giving you more space as we are able. We know that email will only become more important in people's lives, and we want Gmail to keep up with our users and their needs. From Gmail, you can expect more. We're not in the plains anymore Fonts, bullets and highlighting, oh my! Gmail now offers rich text formatting. And over 60 colors of the rainbow. Discover a land of more than just black and white.
Apparently they're also allowing messages written in rich text.

Thursday, 31 March 2005

Pope receives Last Rites

Pope John Paul II has received his Last Rites and appears to be near death. The death doesn’t appear imminent, but the ceremony of Last Rites is not a good sign. I’m not particularly religious these days, but I grew up a Catholic and he’s the only Pope I’ve ever known. In any case, Godspeed, good man:

Pope John Paul II was given the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church late Thursday night as his health deteriorated, a Vatican source has told CNN.

The sacrament does not necessarily mean that the pope is dying. Last rites—also known as the sacrament of anointing the sick—are commonly given to people who are seriously ill as well. The pope received the sacrament after he was shot by a would-be assassin in 1981.

The pope is suffering from a high fever caused by a urinary tract infection, the Vatican confirmed earlier Thursday—one day after revealing he had been put on a nasal feeding tube for nutrition.

Saturday, 26 March 2005

Disliking both sides of an argument

For most of the Terri Schiavo controversy, I’ve sided with the Schindlers. The ideal outcome, given that the daughter had the medical problems to begin with, would have been to let the parents take custody of her and have Michael Schiavo divorce her and move on. The time for that has passed, though.

When the week started, I was a little concerned that opponents of Congress’s move to allow federal jurisdiction would claim that it was unconstitutional, when the Constitution allows Congress to set the jurisdiction of cases. As a matter of custom we usually don’t allow this, but it’s unclear that it’s unconstitutional. It appeared to me that the opponents of the move were themselves being selective—and dishonest—in claiming that it’s unconstitutional.

Now it seems that the Schindlers have gone overboard. They’re obviously interested in seeing their daughter, but they’ve shown themselves to be too hysterical for anyone to accept their judgment. They made political threats against the Republicans in Congress and against Jeb Bush; one of their “expert” doctors is a quack; and, they’re making unverifiable claims that their daughter tried to speak before the tube was removed. Clearly they can’t be trusted on future decisions about the matter. To make things even worse, they’ve brought Randall Terry into the mix, which is never a good sign.

I started the week off thinking that Congress and the President did a good thing by allowing the federal courts to have a look at this. In the mean time it has become clear that the other supporters of that decision won’t be happy until they get the right outcome, regardless of what the law says. Every time a decision that goes against them is made, they move the goalposts and no-one will be spared from their wrath. I hope the Republicans (and I, also) never fall for an attempt to pander to hysterics again.

For more of their misadventures, see the attacks on Donald Sensing, here and here.

Thursday, 24 March 2005

Compromising democrats

The Democrats offered a compromise on abortion that wasn’t a compromise at all. One of Ross’s commenters (see link) made a suggestion that is a real compromise and fits quite nicely with my own views on both the death penalty and abortion: pass a constitutional amendment that bans post-first-trimester abortions and ends the death penalty in this country.

It has the benefit of matching my views, which I’m sure everyone is concerned about, and it wouldn’t come down from our robed masters at SCOTUS. If it did pass it would represent a real consensus that we don’t get from SCOTUS rulings. It won’t happen, though, because the Left isn’t interested in compromising, but rather holding their own views in place and calling it a consensus.

(þ: Jane)

Thursday, 17 March 2005

Something to look at

Every time I start looking at Jefferson, like earlier today, it ends up leading me elsewhere. Today, I found this. If you’re interested in deism, or something similar, take a look.

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

A weird time to go wobbly

Like many, I’ve had my doubts about the potential success of the war in Iraq. In fact, I had them last Fall in Cass’s comments section back when she was at Jet Noise. I never thought I would see Michele go wobbly, though.

Michele is apparently experiencing buyer’s remorse over having voted for President Bush back in the Fall. She’s even starting to question us going to war in Iraq. Coming from one of the founders of The Command Post, a post I manned in the runup to the Iraq War, it’s more than a little astonishing.

Here’s Michele on her reasons for experiencing buyer’s remorse:

Social Security. Bankruptcy. The insistence of the far right that they have some kind of religious mandate now and we need to revert back to our Christian roots and morals. And yes, Iraq.
One at a time:
  • Social Security: it’s not clear to me why there should be any remorse here. Bush’s support for private accounts is one of the worst kept secrets in the world. He’s favored them since the 2000 race. Lately, I’ve started to question the need for the accounts myself, but I can’t claim that Bush’s support for them is a surprise.

    According to Zogby, this is part of a political realignment that Bush is attempting to engineer. Maybe so, but it seems like a far more difficult solution to the problem than is needed (for more see here, here and here) and that the effort to reform Social Security would be better spent working on Medicare, which is a far bigger problem.

  • Bankruptcy: this is a little more bothersome, but not as much as Michele seems to think. From what I’ve read, the credit card companies are refusing to accept any responsibility for the people they give cards to. This seems a bit unfair, and I would like for it to be different, but it’s not something to get worked up over. The best solution is to limit your use of credit cards and you won’t have to deal with the bankruptcy bill. If there’s more to it than that, please let me know.
  • The religious right: Michele and I apparently read different publications. Even if the religious right thinks it has a mandate, what are they gonna do? Throw people in jail for going to the wrong church, or for not going at all? I’ll be in there with all of the other sinners.

    On gay marriage it seems that they mostly want it to be handled at a state level. Some want it outlawed nationwide, but it’ll never happen. They couldn’t even get the FMA out of the Senate last Fall and it doesn’t outlaw gay marriage; it simply guarantees that it’s left to the states. The optimal answer here is to let the states decide and that appears to be what is happening.

    Abortion is another item, but again, the religious right doesn’t seem to be intent on outlawing it nationwide; they simply want it returned to the states, which is all that would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned. The real problem is that the courts intervened in this process thirty years ago and tried to fashion a consensus where none existed. And it’s still a huge issue today precisely because the Court intervened, rather than leaving it to the states. If someone tries to do the opposite and outlaw it nationwide before a consensus exists, I’ll be screaming about it as well. Until then, I won’t worry about it.

  • The Iraq War: this is the most inexplicable of Michele’s gripes. Finally, after months and months of nothing but bad news, the idea of freedom in the Middle East seems to be getting a bit of traction, and part of it can be traced to the reelection of President Bush. By reelecting President Bush we told the rest of the world that we can’t be rolled and that we’ll remain committed to what we started. The people in other countries in the Middle East have taken this to heart and are acting on this and other events to work for freedom. How is this sneaking past Michele?

    Like Cass said, it’s gut check time. All we have to do is be resolute in our jobs as computer jockies and let the troops know that what they are doing is not in vain. I can do that.

It’s weird. Right now I support Bush more strongly than I ever have and seeing others get buyer’s remorse is a bit confusing.

Catfight 2008

I’ve been a big fan of Condi running in 2008 for some time now. The issue has been popping up everywhere since Sunday and has never really gone away at all (Condi's rather lengthy, and tortured denial didn't help).

Condi has some negatives for a Republican—she’s pro-choice and supposedly supports affirmative action—but the positives outweigh that by a great deal. Foreign policy is a great starting point and I’ve seen no indication that she would be all that different than most free-market Republicans.

On the abortion issue, which is usually a deal killer for most Republicans in the primary, Condi isn’t nearly as far out as many Democrats, which usually involves abortions on demand up until the baby crowns. Also, she won’t get elected in a vacuum and will have to pay attention to the pro-lifers. When it comes down to it, Republicans are far more reasonable than the Democrats on the issue and I hope the Republicans aren’t marginalized in the same way the Democrats have been due to their hard-headedness on the issue.

Outside of Condi, the Republicans have a very shallow bench for 2008. In fact, the best candidate outside of Condi seems to be Jeb Bush. If Hillary runs, that will do away with a lot of the nepotism charges and make a run for Jeb easier.

As for Hillary, Condi could whip her with a corn stalk.


I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “state’s rights” since I view individuals as rights holders, so I generally use the word federalism instead. The Professor points to an article that makes the distinction. I’m simply marking it for later reading, and hoping it will be of interest to you.

Saturday, 12 March 2005

How is this possible?

They wrote a report and everything!!

There’s been a lot of attention paid to this midterm meeting on the Lisbon Report, wherein the EU planned to catch up with the US on a number of economics measures. It’s apparently not working out (duh). Every time someone in the EU suggests substantial reforms, they’re shouted down as “neoliberals” (capitalists).

(þ: Tim Blair and The Professor.)

See also here, here, here and here.

Monday, 7 March 2005

The rule of 72

Michael Barone has a column that would be better titled “The Rule Of 72”—not the one used for financial purposes, but the one I mentioned here. It’s an interesting read. Check it out.

(þ: Power Line)

Sunday, 6 March 2005

The Bus

There’s a nice tribute to Jerome Bettis here. It’s a little too early to be doing a tribute to him because he might still play another year for the Steelers, but it’s a nice rundown of his career. Most impressive.