Some kraut with your frank?

Here's an interesting take from VodkaPundit on how to deal with France & Germany.

Very incisive and funny.

The EU wants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Fine, give it one. But take away France's. The rational is simple: France already has a seat (a WWII anachronism) and would still be represented by the EU. With the stroke of a treaty pen, France and Germany would be forced to coordinate their foreign policies, even when their national leaderships and national interests are in contrast.
France and Germany want to be treated as equals. Fine, treat them that way. Never consult one without consulting the other. Or better yet, do all the consulting through their EU bastard child. Either way, eventually France and Germany will be back at each other's throats – a condition as natural as a hooker with her heels in the air.


Quantifying crackpottery

Every once in a while, you may get the sneaking suspicion that what you're reading was, in fact, written by a crackpot. And occasionally the crackpot nature may be blindingly obvious. But what we really need is a comprehensive, quantitative theory of crackpottery (frangiceramics?); John Baez gives us a first step.

Clearing My Head

I was wondering why I have been thinking much more clearly the past few days. Unfortunately, I have not been able to make it to the gym this week, so that's not it.

Then I realize that it's been over a WEEK since I read a New York Times op-ed columnist because I will not pay $49.95 for the privilege. I am not opposed to this on principle because I do pay more than that for my online WSJ subscription. I must admit to missing their newest columnist John Tierney but otherwise my mind is clear of the natterings of Ms. Dowd and Mr. Krugman.

It seems that lots of other folks do not see the value proposition of TimesSelect either. Mickey Kaus has done a wonderfully snarky job covering this. He's always worth a read and doesn't drown his readers in frenetic posting.

His take today:

Does the NYT have an exit strategy? If they pull the plug on TimesSelect, do they have to give all the sucke ... I mean, customers who signed up their $49.95 back?


Leftists Thwarted By Mass Transit

The irony here is delicious that some of those protesting the "War for Oil" got snarled up in a Northeast Corridor power failure on Amtrak.

An electrical failure in New Jersey disrupted train service between New York and Washington for five hours yesterday morning, leading to confusion, delays and an impromptu protest outside Pennsylvania Station by antiwar activists who gave up on plans to join a larger rally in the nation's capital.

Service was shut down just before 5 a.m. Vernae Graham, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said the electrical failure occurred in Rahway when a crane accidentally dropped a beam on the wires that provided power to the trains, severing the connection.

I feel almost as sorry for this Mahattanite as I do for Martha Stewart:

Julie Finch, a pastry cook and actress from Manhattan, was on the 6 a.m. train for two and a half hours before she joined three other activists in trying to rent a car. She said that she was scheduled to help lead a silent peace vigil at 11 a.m. in Washington, and was heartbroken to discover that she would not arrive in time.
"I don't want to burst into tears," she said after walking out of Penn Station. "I have a hand-quilted peace banner that I was sewing last night, and I was up far too late."

A hand-quilted peace banner. How precious. Look on the bright side: some poor slob with a half-assed magic-marker-and-cardboard job didn't have to feel inferior in your presence. A good thing, wouldn't you say? NOW STOP YOUR CRYING!!!!!!

Of course, in the iron-clad logic of the protesters, the war itself was responsible for the train snafu:

They walked in a circle, denouncing the war, but some seemed to have amended their grievances to include train travel. A group of young women known as the radical cheerleaders, dressed in pleated short skirts, with pompoms made of plastic trash bags, shouted: "Let's get on the right track. Get the troops out of Iraq." Another chant went "Money for trains, not war."

Amtrak struggled this spring and summer with delays, pulling its high-speed Acela trains off the track in April after brake problems surfaced. Ms. Levine, responding to yesterday's unexpected trouble like a politician pretending to have seen it coming, said that the connection between the war and less reliable train service was obvious. "We want money for trains, for schools, for hospitals and other human needs and not for war," she said, adding that she planned to seek a refund from Amtrak for the chartered train car.

I love these people, not only are they stuck on stupid, but now they're stuck on Amtrak, too.


I love these things...

It's one of those "political" tests that asks you a number of questions and then tells you where you are on the scale. Here is my result.

I love the Donald!


Metro Rack

OK, I know Mike and Rob are fans of Metro Rack shelving, so they'll waste an hour apiece browsing the on-line catalog and idea book.

Maybe our two non-related readers will get hooked, too.

(Note the extra-super-adjustable split sleeves, and the conductive sleeves.)


If that's not dorky enough....

Well, looks like Boston has finally lost Mac World (perhaps due to an evil Microsoft plot) but now can look forward to hosting a bunch of even harder core geeks.

Pat Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, also lamented the Macworld shutdown, but added that other shows will take up the slack. Next year, the LinuxWorld show, dedicated to the popular open-source operating system, will move from the Hynes to the new convention center. ''That's where the real growth is," Moscaritolo said. ''I think that LinuxWorld, within a three-year span, will make you forget Macworld."



Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with a guest director.


Just read this

Michael Barone (of US News) has another spot-on column discussing how Adam Smith didn't just get it right on economics, he also got it right on social issues.

"In every civilized society, in every society where the distinction of ranks has once been completely established, there have always been two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time, of which the one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or if you will, the loose system. The former is generally admired and revered by the common people; the latter is commonly more esteemed and adopted by what are called people of fashion."


Ruinous to the poor: Smith anticipated the New York City of the Lindsay administration, which I wrote about in its first month in office. As Myron Magnet has explained in The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties' Legacy to the Underclass, published in 1993, 117 years after Smith's book, the "loose" morality promoted by affluent liberal New Yorkers may not have hurt them very much, but it hurt the poor of New York and all our major cities very much indeed. The "common people" were onto Lindsay. In two general elections for mayor he lost the four outer boroughs of New York City. He was elected, with pluralities rather than majorities, because he carried Manhattan, especially its affluent neighborhoods, by wide margins. It was a contest between the beautiful people and the dutiful people, and the beautiful people won—with horrifying results for the city.

Follow the link in the post title and read the damn thing (especially if you can't figure out why non-wealthy people voted for Bush).



As Bugs sang,

Carrots, they are so divine / You get a dozen for a dime / It's maaaaa-gic....

In addition to the intrinsic merit of the story itself (including where they point out that baby carrots are not the same as baby-cut carrots), I found the "Related Links" box, um, interesting.

Union hires non-union workers to protest working conditions

This is a classic. From the article:
They're not union members; they're temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the union—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.
Is union labor too expensive to use to protest and picket? Does it matter if the people you hire to picket believe in what their picketing for? Apparently not:
But standing with a union-supplied sign on his shoulder that reads, Don't Shop WalMart: Below Area Standards, picketer and former Wal-Mart employee Sal Rivera says about the notorious working conditions of his former big-box employer: "I can't complain. It wasn't bad. They started paying me at $6.75, and after three months I was already getting $7, then I got Employee of the Month, and by the time I left (in less than one year), I was making $8.63 an hour." Rivera worked in maintenance and quit four years ago for personal reasons, he says. He would consider reapplying.
Understanding unions is right up there with understanding airline prices and solving Fermat's equation thingy...

Boston Globe to Bush: Don't mess with Taxes

Leave it to the Globe to frame Katrina as an argument for socialism:

Katrina is a good reason to create a new political vision of prosperity for all, one that rejects ill-advised budget and tax cuts that cripple the country's ability to invest in its people and its future.

Read the rest here.

Great Moments in Bureaucracy (I)

The Roman numeral I means, of course, that this is an innaugural post in a new category.

It's a short piece but here's the title, which should whet your appetite:

Report: Rat Catchers 0 for Decade

Also, a question: does the fact that it's from India make it even more funny?

Perhaps they can band together and form an outsourcing shop.



...Land of Smug Socialist Giants and $10 beers.

At least their elections are boring, though.

Note to our reader...

Ok, readers. I know of at least two people besides my two brothers who read this. Anyway, each of you has made the mistake of accusing me of writing something you didn't agree with. Here's a little primer:

See what it says in the red box at the bottom of the post? Yes, it says Posted by followed by who posted it.

If it reads Posted by Robert, then my brother Rob posted it. If it reads Posted by George, then my brother George posted it. If it reads Posted by Mike, then I posted it and you're more than welcome to accuse me of whatever you want because you don't agree with me. Just don't yell at me for something Rob wrote. Since George doesn't really contribute more than a few links here and there, I can't see either of you disagreeing much with him.


Cool Spy Tradecraft

I started reading this article in a CIA journal about one of the most important walk-ins in Cold War history, and I just couldn't stop. I know Rob will have the same reaction, and maybe Mÿke and Breedo and our other two readers, too.


You know Boston has an image problem...

...when people who have nothing, and their nothning is under 15 feet of water have this to say about Boston:
"Boston? Isn't it cold up there?" said a woman listening nearby. "There is nothing for black people in Boston," said Senecia Williams, 44, who was also standing in line.
It kind of rings true. Go see a Red Sox game? Damn, only black people are the ones on the field. Patriots? Few rich-white people can get tickets. Southie? Forget it. Cold? You betcha and it isn't just the weather.


I'll Huff and I'll Puff...

If any of you are not familiar with the Huffington Post, I don't recommend visiting unless you are in a place where you can shout at your screen in peace. With a few exceptions, it is the biggest collection of poseurs ever assembled, with its founder and namesake the biggest of all.

Anyway, its main redeeming feature is that they have retained one Greg Gutfeld as a sort-of internal critic/court jester, who from time to time performs merciless takedowns on above mentioned poseurs.

UPDATE: I wasn't immediately able to confim it but I have verified that Gutfeld is the editor of Maxim UK.

Anyway, something about HuffPo's coverage of New Orleans last week broke Greg's internal levee and, given the depths of stupdity and hypocrisy to which HuffPo had sunk, a massive flow has innudated the lot of them.

Excerpts follow, but READ THE WHOLE THING , this time in a place where you can laugh at your screen in peace.


Do you often find yourself fantasizing about becoming a Huffpo blogger? Do you love to read other blogs, digest their info, and then expel pre-chewed nut-bag assumptions into a concerned and earnest post? If so, you might be perfect for this blog!

So... how do you get the job?

Just tick the boxes!


Are you famous?
Do you know someone famous?
have you ever brushed up against someone famous?
Was it Warren Beatty?
Did you think he'd be firmer?

Is your husband famous?
(check one of the following)
- Yes I am Rebecca Pidgeon.
- Yes I am Laurie David
- Yes, I am Shiva Rose
- No, but my wife is rich AND famous, I am Brad Hall
- Other lady of leisure:____________________

Where did you spend your summer vacation?
- French Riviera
- Camp Casey
- Deepak Chopra's Seducing the Spirit Retreat
- working as Sean Penn's personal photographer

Which of the following countries have you threatened to move to (check all
that apply):
- France
- Canada
- Monaco has no taxes, right?

-Can you work the phrase "tipping point" into a sentence, without actually
reading the book, "The Tipping Point," or even understanding what this
tipping point thing is? Can you pretend to know something without knowing


Do you believe people are too afraid to discuss the "taboo" of race?
Yet you can discuss it for hours, insert it into any topic, from natural disasters to footwear?
Do you feel compelled to let blacks know immediately where you stand on the topic of race?
Do you feel compelled to tell blacks how much you admire Spike Jonze?
Do you realize the next day that you meant Spike Lee?


-do you wear a baseball cap when you go to REM concerts?
-does it hide your bald spot?
-do you write for numerous alternative newsweeklies?
-Do you ignore the fact that they survive off escort ads?
-Which you swear you're never calling again.

Just a small rant...

Why don't web sites trust me to enter in my own state's two letter abbreviation? Why must I pick from a drop-down menu? They trust me to enter my name, address, zip code, phone number, and credit card number (not to mention my credit card's security code), but not the two letter abbreviation for my state. Besides, if I enter my zip code, the state is not necessary as a zip code can exist in only one state. Why? Also, why, when I go to choose a country on a website is the good old USA at the bottom? The site is in English and there's a good chance that more than 50% of their visitors will be from the USA -- why the hell are Afghanistan and Angola at the top? Are we that PC these days or are we just LAZY!

Enough about Gas...

...on to conspicuous consumerism!

Yesterday Apple announced two "new" products to the market. The first, and most anticipated since it's non-debut at CEBIT in March, is the iTunes-enabled Motorola ROKR cell phone on the Cingular network. It holds "100 songs" and is compatible with both Macs and Windows PCs (sorry, no Linux) through iTunes. I think it's obvious that Apple had very little input on the ROKR's designs.

The second, and much cooler looking product, is the new flash-memory based iPod Nano. Dude, this little product is sweet. It comes in two colors (black/white) and two capacities (2GB/4GB) at two price points ($199/$249). Let's see how many of these little guys Apple can sell...


Gas Price Q&A From the Boston Globe

Click above for a little Q&A the Boston Globe did about gas pricing here in the State and what caused it.

Here is one of the questions that a friend of mine asked me (ok, it was Breedo) in a discussion (ok, argument) we had last week:
Q. Pump prices went up sharply overnight after Katrina. How can gas station owners justify raising the price 50 cents a gallon for fuel they've already bought that's sitting in their tanks?

A. To make sure they can afford the next load of gas coming tomorrow or next week, station owners say. In a notoriously low-margin business where lottery tickets and cigarettes are far more profitable than gas, few station owners have much working capital on hand, so they need to raise prices on today's gallon of gas to pay for next week's price increase, said Tom Pickett, owner of Arthur's Sunoco in Dorchester.
''Your next delivery is going to cost $10,000 more, and then what happens if the price goes down?" said Paul O'Connell, executive director of the New England Service Station and Automotive Repair Association. ''You can't stay 30 or 40 cents ahead of the competition. It's a tough game right now."

Breedo has started to become a celebrity here on paci.blog. Maybe I should start a blog with him and argue incessantly until we turn blue in the face...

Haunting Recriminations

Here's a great backgrounder on the disaster "planning" in New Orleans which explains a lot about the grim result.


The evacuation plan was a plan, but it was really just a ghost plan with ghost buses and ghost drivers, with ghost emergency supplies kept in ghost "shelters" under control of a ghost police force with a ghost emergency communications system overseen by a ghastly governor.

It was a plan for a ghost town. That plan worked.

And here come the ghosts.


Failing the Turing Test

Here is an amusing little article about a guy who was added to some IM list (mistakenly, of course)* and started to get a flurry of people inquiring into if he were a celebrity or some kind of AIM-bot. He was able to convince people he wasn't a celeb (not hard, show some intelligence), but he wasn't able to convince people that he is a person. Funny.

*I've taken to adding one of my buddy's AIM id to all of the computers at the Apple Store at the Northshore Mall in Peabody, MA. He gets all kinds of random AIMs from people -- amusing as hell, for me. It's been a while since I've re-added his ID there...

Mmmmm, Burger

I really don't know how I got to this article -- I think it was a conversation I had with a co-worker on what it means to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I thought it was just a cool title and the power to wear a funny hat while hearing arguments. Apparently, there's more to it. Read the article...
(Keep in mind it is published in the San Francisco Chronicle)

A quote:
Within the court, the chief justice is just the first among equals -- nine strong-willed, independent jurists -- but the office has powers that can be used to expand its influence.
Most important is the ability to decide who will write the majority opinion after a case is argued and the justices vote. That authority exists when the chief justice is in the majority, and otherwise passes to the senior justice in the majority; some insider accounts of the court have included accusations that Rehnquist's predecessor, Chief Justice Warren Burger, often switched his vote so he could join the majority, commandeer the opinion and narrow its scope.

I'm sure this behavior wasn't limited to Justice Burger.


Economics Lesson

A hat tip to Don Luskin who passed this on from a presidential economics report. (Follow the link find the link to the full PDF report if you are so inclined).

2004 Economic Report of the President (p.155):

Market Responses to Unexpected Shortages

When there are large, unexpected increases in demand or decreases in supply for a good, a normal market response is for prices to increase by enough to restore balance between supply and demand. Consumers might accuse sellers of “price gouging” when such price increases occur in response to a natural disaster or a failure of supply infrastructure. A number of states have laws that make price gouging illegal. Even without such laws, some businesses might choose not to increase prices during an emergency for fear of a consumer backlash.

If prices do not increase, however, consumers do not receive a signal to cut their consumption and suppliers might not have the proper incentives to increase supply adequately. By not allowing market forces to restore the balance between supply and demand after the shock, nonprice rationing must be implemented instead. For example, after a pipeline break reduced the supply of gasoline into the Phoenix, Arizona, area in August 2003, press reports indicated that some stations ran out of gasoline, consumers waited in line for hours, and some drivers started following gasoline tankers as they made their deliveries.

Changes in demand can induce shortages as well. For example, in the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Isabel in the Mid-Atlantic states in September 2003, press reports indicated that many retailers sold out of flashlights and D batteries. The flashlights and batteries went to the first people to show up at the store, rather than to those who valued them the most. It also meant that people who were able to buy the goods might have bought more than they would have at the higher price, leaving fewer for others. Without price increases, there was no mechanism to allocate the available goods to their highest valued uses. For example, if prices were higher, early customers may have decided not to buy new batteries for their fifth flashlight and later customers would not have been forced to sit in the dark.

While allowing prices to increase in the face of a natural disaster or a supply disruption may seem unfair, the alternative would be to restrict the allocation of scarce supplies and to possibly keep supplies from those who need them most. Artificially low prices remove incentives for consumers to conserve and for suppliers to meet unfilled demand, potentially prolonging the shortage. Society must decide whether the perceived fairness resulting from regulations to hold down prices is more important than allowing the market to provide incentives for resolving the shortage as quickly as possible, while making sure that scarce resources are available for those who value them the most.

Got that, Breedo?

Anyone? Ben Stein.

Here's a good summary of common sense on the politics of Hurricane Katrina written by Ben Stein.


On the lookout for stupidity.....

In the spirit of our former school-teacher FOP (Friend of Pacis), I'd like to see posts of the dumbest statements on the part of politicians (or others but politicians are most likely the leaders in this category) about rising gas prices.