Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The War: Americans Brutally Killed In Fallujah Car Attack

Remember how the left was crying about collateral damage--about the death of innocents in the war to overthrow Saddam's dictatorship. This is how those innocents react to the murder of Americans. WARNING: Graphic depiction of children playing with mutilated corpses.

There is only one answer to those in Iraq who delight at the murder of Americans: Destruction and individual ruin.

Rights and Reason: The Myth of Predatory Pricing

Walter Williams demolishes it at Capitalism Magazine:

A couple of weeks ago, heading down to George Mason University, I pulled into my favorite Wawa gasoline station just off the Bel Air, Md., exit on I-95 South. At each of the 20 gasoline pumps, there was a sign posted that Wawa would no longer dispense free coffee to its gasoline customers. Why? The station was warned that dispensing free coffee put it in violation of Maryland’s gasoline minimum-price law.

Here’s my no-brainer question to you: Do you suppose that Maryland enacted its gasoline minimum-price law because irate customers complained to the state legislature that gasoline prices were too low? Even if you had just 1 ounce of brains, you’d correctly answer no. Then, the next question is just whose interest is served by, and just who lobbied for, Maryland’s gasoline minimum-price law? If you answered that it was probably Maryland’s independent gas-station owners, go to the head of the class. . .

. . . Lobbyists such as WMDA Service Station & Automotive Repair Association, the Gasoline Retailers Association and the Petroleum Marketers Association of America are able to sell legislators on the fairy tale that if high-marketing gasoline outlets such as Wawa, Sheetz, Wal-Mart and others are allowed to charge prices that are too low, they’ll drive all other gasoline stations out of business. Having done so, these high-marketing outlets could charge any price they pleased and make huge profits.

In economics, we call this strategy predatory pricing. It’s an argument that has a ring of plausibility, but there’s little evidence anywhere anytime that a predatory pricing scheme produced results even remotely close to what would-be predators envisioned. Questioning this fairy tale and asking for evidence would never cross the mind of a legislator.
Or an antitrust regulator.

The War: Corrie Chose to Sacrifice Her Life

The George Mason University campus has a significant Islamic population and last week many of them were attempting to make a martyr out of Rachel Corrie, the American killed a year ago in Gaza as she protested an Israeli military operation. My letter to the editor condemning an article enshrining Corrie was printed in yesterday's campus paper, the GMU Broadside. The Broadside has a circulation of 16,000. Here is the text:

"Corrie Chose to Sacrifice Her Life"

According to Toka Nusairat in her March 22 letter “Corrie Engraved in Hearts,” American activist Rachel Corrie was a martyr for justice. Corrie was killed a year ago when she attempted to stop an Israeli bulldozer as it cleared tunnels that Palestinian terrorists use to smuggle weapons and explosives into Gaza from Egypt.

Nusairat would do well to recognize that Corrie chose to sacrifice her life to one of the most vicious and cynical causes on earth today, the creation of a Palestinian dictatorship dedicated to the subjugation of its own people and the destruction of Israel. It is no mere coincidence that the Palestinians use suicide as a tactic against the Israelis. While solders fighting in defense of freedom fight to live, the Palestinian suicide bombers would rather kill Jews than live themselves.

The cult of militant Islam that the Palestinians rely upon for their moral justification is no different from other suicide cults, such as the emperor-deifying Shinto religion that inspired the kamikazes of World War II. And just as America had the right to defeat the kamikazes, Israelis who value this life are right to defend themselves against Palestinians who would murder for the next, even when an ignorant American "peace activist" would attempt to stand in their way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Culure: So maybe single issue blogging does pay off

Score a big victory for Don Luskin:

[The New York] Times has been forced to deal with its fox-guarding-the-henhouse policy of letting its op-ed columnists handle their own corrections of their own errors. That policy of institutionalized unaccountability has led, just as you would expect, to lots of errors and almost no corrections -- and to the illusion of infallibility for the likes of Paul Krugman.

Think how much less influential liberal icons like Krugman and Maureen Dowd will be when their errors must be admitted and corrected. Think how the threat of that will restrain them from making errors in the first place. And, most important, think how much less powerful their rhetoric will be when it can no longer rely of errors which, to be blunt, are frequently not "errors" at all -- but rather deliberate distortions, misquotations, and downright lies.

The Times' policy shift is subtle but significant. In a memo last week, editorial page editor Gail Collins declared,

"...while their opinions are their own, the columnists are obviously required to be factually accurate. If one of them makes an error, he or she is expected to promptly correct it in the column. After some experimentation at different ways of making corrections, we now encourage a uniform approach, with the correction made at the bottom of the piece."
What does this mean, exactly? It means that no longer can columnist corrections come in the form of what Times "public editor" Daniel Okrent calls a "rowback" -- the correct restatement of the error in a subsequent column, without reference to the original error or any admission that there even was an error in the first place. Columnists -- and reporters, for that matter -- love rowbacks because they can comfort themselves that they set the record straight, but without having to admit error.
Luskin, though his unrelenting hounding of Times columnist Paul Krugman, has compelled the Times to make a sweeping change in how it handles columnist errors and misstatements. Given the large volume of errors on the part the Times’ columnists, I suspect this is going to take up a lot of ink. Bravo, Don!

Monday, March 29, 2004

Rights and Reason: Involuntary Servitude

John Kerry wants to make every high school student in America a volunteer. (Hat tip: Skip Oliva)

On September 11th, 2001, America experienced the most terrible and deadly attack in its history. John Kerry believes we need to think big and do better and get more young Americans serving the nation.

As part of his 100 day plan to change America, John Kerry will propose a comprehensive service plan that includes requiring mandatory service for high school students and four years of college tuition in exchange for two years of national service.

As President, John Kerry will ensure that every high school student in America does community service as a requirement for graduation. John Kerry understands that young people have many obligations and recognizes that a service requirement should not be onerous or unrealistic for students to meet. Maryland and numerous school districts around the country already have such a requirement and have had great results. Knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship - including the duty to serve your community - are as important to American adults as knowing how to read and do math. Combined with a curriculum that teaches students about democracy, citizenship and civic participation, this high school service requirement will be a rite of passage for every young person in the country. States would design service programs that meet their community and educational needs. John Kerry does not believe in unfunded mandates. No state would be obligated to implement a service requirement if the federal government does not live up to its obligation to fund the program. [John Kerry for President - A New Era of National Service and An Army of New Patriots]
In essence, Kerry proposes a new Declaration for America--life, liberty, and the duty to serve your community.

Yet in reality, there is no such duty to the community. Each individual is a sovereign, independent being. No person has an un-chosen duty to live his life for the sake of another. A high school diploma is a mark of having met basic educational standards, yet by forcing mandatory volunteerism into the curriculum, Kerry's proposal would turn it into the mark of servitude.

Will Kerry force his proposal upon private and home school students? Will students who refuse to be turned into serfs be compelled to serve nevertheless? And why is the language of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution ignored? If forcing every high school student to perform a mandatory service requirement is not involuntary servitude, what is?

I went to Philadelphia to protest Bill Clinton and Colin Powell's national service summit in 1997. I suspect that we may soon have to dust off our protest signs and stand up against mandatory service yet again.

The Culture: Kerry's Sermon

Beware of politicians making sermons.

John Kerry cited a Bible verse Sunday to criticize leaders who have "faith but has no deeds," prompting President Bush?s spokesman to accuse Kerry of exploiting Scripture for a political attack.

Kerry never mentioned Bush by name during his speech at New North Side Baptist Church, but aimed his criticism at "our present national leadership." Kerry cited Scripture in his appeal for the worshippers, including James 2:14, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?"

"The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Kerry said. "When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?"

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's comment "was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack."

Kerry told worshippers in the largely black congregation that the country's leadership has served the privileged while ignoring people across America who live in neighborhoods like theirs.

"Today we are told that, after 3 million lost jobs and so many lost hopes, America is now turning a corner," the pending Democratic presidential nominee said. "But those who say that, they're not standing on the corner of Highland Street, where two 15-year-old teenagers were hit in a drive-by shooting last week." [AP]
Kerry is attacking Bush's defense of markets in the name of the meek and his sermon reflects his deep altruistic premise. Yet if Kerry made the charge that the market was responsible for a drive by shooting to an Objectivist, the Objectivist would stand up for justice, freedom and the market. Bush's spokesman can only condemn the politicizing of the Bible. How pathetic.

For all the commentary on the flaws of the religious right, we must not forget that the religious left is a culturally significant force in America too. Yet Christianity, both left and right, damns man against all proof, hamstrings his means of living on earth, perverts justice so as to make the son guilty for the sins of the father, and demands the sacrifice of the good to the undeserving. Christianity or any other faith has no place in the public square, yet as we all know, its presence and negative impact is undeniable. It is disheartening that in a republic founded upon the rational identification of the principle of individual rights that both serious contenders for the presidency are animated by faith.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Rights and Reason: Court Affirms Nipple Piercing Conviction

Heaven save us from an exposed mammary. Consider this case:

The state Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction of an Albuquerque shop owner who offered free nipple piercing if customers underwent the procedure in the store's window.

In 2002, Renee Sachs was convicted of violating Albuquerque's ordinance banning nudity in a public place. She received a 90-day deferred sentence.

In a 3-0 ruling Tuesday, the Appeals Court also upheld the constitutionality of the city's public nudity ban.

Sachs' attorney, Jeffrey Dempsey of Albuquerque, said his client would continue with her legal challenge by asking the court to rehear the case or petition the state Supreme Court to review the ruling.

Sachs ran an advertisement two years ago promoting the free nipple piercing. The first customer to undergo the procedure in the shop's window was a man and the second was a woman.

When police arrived at the tattoo and body piercing shop, a woman was sitting in the window exposing her breasts as she had her nipples pierced. Several people on the sidewalk were watching.

Sachs was convicted of violating the city's ordinance that bans nudity in public and prohibits store owners from allowing people to be nude in a public place of business.

The Appeals Court ruled that the ordinance did not violate the Equal Rights Amendment of the New Mexico Constitution or the state's Human Rights Act, which prohibits gender-based discrimination.

In her appeal, Sachs contended that the ordinance was unconstitutional because it discriminated against women by prohibiting the public exposure of a female breast but not a male breast. She also argued that the ordinance forced her to offer body piercing services in a way that discriminated on the basis of sex.

The court disagreed.

"The city ordinance does not prohibit public nudity of women while allowing public nudity by men," the court said in an opinion written by Judge Michael Vigil. "It recognizes that females and males have different anatomies, so the objective is accomplished in a nondiscriminatory manner." [AP]
A naked human body is not pornographic--it is a metaphysical given. Only property holders have a right to establish anti-nudity prohibitions for their property. The government has no more right to demand its citizens wear clothes than it does to demand that its citizens wear plaid.

But yet again, the courts have affirmed an illogical and senseless prohibition on conduct that is completely the province of the individual.

The Culture: A Symphony of Lies

Just came across Andrew Sullivan's take on Jayson Blair's book. It's worth reading.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Antitrust News: Senate Leader Slams EU Over Microsoft Ruling

This from Reuters:

The U.S. Senate majority leader on Wednesday attacked European regulators' decision to impose stiff antitrust sanctions on Microsoft Corp. and expressed fears of a transatlantic trade war.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, said the requirement that Microsoft change the way it designs and sells its Windows operating system was "preposterous."
Hehehe. Only US laws can slam Microsoft.

And this from R. Hewitt Pate, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust,

"The EC has today pursued a different enforcement approach by imposing a 'code removal' remedy to resolve its media player concerns. The U.S. experience tells us that the best antitrust remedies eliminate impediments to the healthy functioning of competitive markets without hindering successful competitors or imposing burdens on third parties, which may result from the EC's remedy. A requirement of 'code removal' was not at any time -- including during the period when the U.S. was seeking a breakup of Microsoft prior to the rejection of that remedy by the court of appeals -- part of the United States' proposed remedy.

"Imposing antitrust liability on the basis of product enhancements and imposing 'code removal' remedies may produce unintended consequences. Sound antitrust policy must avoid chilling innovation and competition even by 'dominant' companies. A contrary approach risks protecting competitors, not competition, in ways that may ultimately harm innovation and the consumers that benefit from it. It is significant that the U.S. district court considered and rejected a similar remedy in the U.S. litigation.
Pate is amazing. The whole point of antitrust is to hinder successful competitors.

As predicted, Americans are condemning the excesses of the EU's enforcement, but they are not questioning its fundamentals.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Rights and Reason: Atheist Calls Pledge of Allegiance Unconstitutional

Here's the AP's take on today's SCOTUS oral argument:

A California atheist told the Supreme Court Wednesday that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are unconstitutional and offensive to people who don't believe there is a God.

Michael Newdow, who challenged the Pledge of Allegiance on behalf of his daughter, said the court has no choice but to keep it out of public schools.

"It's indoctrinating children," he said. "The government is supposed to stay out of religion."

But some justices said they were not sure if the words were intended to unite the country, or express religion.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that Congress unanimously added the words "under God" in the pledge in 1954.

"That doesn't sound divisive," he said.

"That's only because no atheists can be elected to office," Newdow responded.

Some in the audience erupted in applause in the courtroom, and were threatened with expulsion by the chief justice.
It seems, unfortunately that one of the key question before the court is Newdow?s standing, since he is a non-custodial parent. That?s a shame, because I would hate for the court to have any room to get out of having to make a decision on the central question in this case. The fact of the mater is that if words are held to have meaning, the Pledge endorses a belief in a creator, an action it has no right to do.

Also, be sure to check out How Appealing, which has some great first-hand reporting on today's oral argument.

Antitrust News: EU Hits Microsoft With Record $613M Fine

The long-awaited European Union decision on the Microsoft antitrust case has been released. It is not pretty:

The European Union declared Microsoft Corp. guilty of abusing its "near monopoly" with Windows to foil competitors in other markets and hit the software giant with a record fine of $613 million Wednesday.

The EU's antitrust authority said that "because the illegal behavior is still ongoing," it was also demanding changes in the way Microsoft operates in Europe with the aim of improving competition globally. The EU edict goes well beyond the 2001 U.S. antitrust settlement.

It gave Microsoft 90 days to offer European computer manufacturers a version of Windows without the company's digital media player, which lets computer users watch video and listen to music and is expected to be an important market as multimedia content becomes even more pervasive in coming years.

The panel also chastised Microsoft for trying to "shut competitors out of the market" in software for office servers, by hoarding code that would help competing programs work smoothly with Windows computers. Microsoft now has 120 days to provide rivals in the server market with such code.

EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said the ruling was "proportionate" and "balanced," and said "dominant companies have a special responsibility to ensure that the way they do business doesn't prevent competition."

"We are simply ensuring that anyone who develops new software has a fair opportunity to compete in the marketplace," he told a news conference. [AP]
Anyone except Microsoft, that is.

UPDATE: Here's CAC's Press Release.

Here's the European Union's Press Release. Key quote:

"Dominant companies have a special responsibility to ensure that the way they do business doesn't prevent competition on the merits and does not harm consumers and innovation " said European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Antitrust News: Gas Prices

Seems Congress is getting in a lather over high gas prices. This snipit amused me:

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon on Monday reintroduced a bill requiring the Federal Trade Commission to act on what he called anti-competitive industry pricing policies.
Always blame the businessman. Wyden ought to turn his attention to the pathetically weak dollar.

The War: Israel to kill more Hamas leaders

This is the best news I've heard in a long, long time. According to the AP:

Israel will strike at more Hamas leaders, the Israeli defense minister said Tuesday, a day after the founder of the Islamic militant group, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated in a missile attack.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and his security chiefs decided to try to kill the entire Hamas leadership, without waiting for another terror attack, security sources said Tuesday. . .

. . . Hamas, founded by Yassin in 1987, wants to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Monday that Hamas killed 377 Israelis and wounded more than 2,000 in hundreds of attacks.

Mofaz said Tuesday that other Hamas leaders would be targeted. "If we will continue, in a determined way, with our strikes against Hamas and other terror groups, with the means I outlined, including action against those leaders, we will bring more security to Israeli citizens," he said.
Absolutely. My only quibble is that this should have happened in 1987.

The War: Palestinians weeds

Bret Stephens is asking some interesting questions at the Wall St. Journal:

Are Palestinians weeds? It would seem many people think they are. Following Israel's assassination early yesterday morning of Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of Hamas,the gist of international reaction was that the strike would bring new converts to the Islamist cause and incite a fresh wave of terrorist violence against Israel. In other words, Palestinians are weeds: Mowing them down, as it were, only has the effect of making them grow back stronger and faster.

There are moments (Monday morning was one of them) when I find myself tempted by the metaphor. As I write, my TV screen is filled with images of Palestinian mourners thronging the streets of Gaza, praising Yassin as a martyr and vowing deadly vengeance. This looks like the reaction of an emboldened people, not a frightened one. So what's the sense, in purely utilitarian terms, of further Israeli attacks? Alternatively, what's the sense of showing any restraint at all? If the weed metaphor is right, either Israel should sue for peace on whatever terms the Palestinians extend or it should resort to extreme measures like population transfer. Anything else just fruitlessly prolongs a cycle of violence.

But of course Palestinians aren't weeds. They're human. They think in terms of costs and benefits, they calculate the odds, they respond more or less rationally to incentives and disincentives. And what makes us afraid can also make them afraid.

This is a trite observation, but it's one Palestinians would rather have us forget. Over 42 months of conflict, their strategy has been to persuade Israelis that they, the Palestinians, are made of different stuff. Why else the suicide bombers? Not because of their proven capacity to kill civilians in greater numbers than any other weapon currently in the Palestinian arsenal. That's only a second-order effect. The deep logic of suicide bombing lies in the act of suicide itself. People who will readily die for their cause are, by definition, beyond deterrence. By showing that Israel's tanks and fighter jets are just so much scrap metal in the face of the Palestinians' superhuman determination, they aim to disarm Israel itself.

How does one respond to such a logic? It helps not to be fooled by it.
Paraphrasing John Lewis, until the Palestinians equate war against the West with individual ruin, there will be continued bloodshed, because ultimately, the Palestinians want to kill Jews more then they want live. In the face of such a morality, there can be but one response--the utter destruction of the Palestinian's terror institutions and the will of the Palestinians to field them.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Antitrust News: Money for Nothing II

Consider this report by Kevin O'Hanlon of the Associated Press:

A divided Nebraska Supreme Court revived a class-action lawsuit Friday alleging that Microsoft Corp. violated the state's consumer-protection laws by engaging in monopolistic behavior.

The high court ruled 4-3 in favor of two Nebraskans who sued the software giant in 2001. They allege that Microsoft used its monopoly in computer operating systems to overcharge people for its widely used Windows 98 software.

The lawsuit is one of scores nationwide stemming from the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust action against Microsoft, which the company has settled. . .

. . . Last year, Microsoft agreed to settle class-action antitrust lawsuits brought by customers in five states and the District of Columbia by issuing vouchers worth $200 million.

In all, Microsoft has settled similar lawsuits in at least nine states and Washington, D.C., for a total of $1.55 billion.
$1.55 billion? This is a looters paradise. Yet when the undeserving get the unearned as a matter of right and the businessmen/victims consider it the inevitable cost of doing business, it then falls to the secondary victims—those who benefit from their unshackled relationship with businessmen—to stand up for their rights.

Antitrust News: Money for Nothing

Consider this report by Bruce Schreiner of the Associated Press:

U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., the nation's largest maker of smokeless tobacco, has agreed to pay $200 million and forfeit its cigar business to settle an antitrust lawsuit brought by rival Swedish Match North America.

Separately, the subsidiary of UST Inc. also said it had resolved a lawsuit brought by customers who said they were overcharged. The company said it has taken a $40 million charge to fulfill the terms of the agreement, which include awarding coupons for reduced-priced products and paying legal fees.

"We concluded that it was in the best interest of our shareholders to reduce the uncertainty and risk we face by having these lawsuits pending in the courts and are pleased that we can move forward," UST chairman and chief executive Vincent A. Gierer Jr. said in a statement.

The agreement with Swedish Match settles a two-year-old federal lawsuit filed in Owensboro, Ky., alleging that U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, which makes the Skoal and Copenhagen brands, used illegal tactics to suppress competition, raise prices and stifle innovation. Swedish Match makes Timber Wolf snuff among other brands.

In its suit, Swedish Match accused U.S. Smokeless of destroying Swedish Match retail racks, defacing or removing advertising, supplying misleading data to retailers and entering exclusive agreements to keep Swedish Match products out of areas. . .

. . . UST, which is based in Greenwich, Conn., has faced antitrust allegations before.

In 2000, a federal jury in Kentucky ordered UST to pay Conwood Co. $350 million in an antitrust case. Federal antitrust provisions tripled damages in the case, meaning a total award of $1.05 billion.
If U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. gave just one percent of the money it has paid in antitrust fines and settlements to the opponents of antitrust, we would have real movement toward the re-examination and ultimately repeal of the antitrust laws--but first, UST's executives would have to be convinced that they were innocent of the charges brought against them. What do you think are the odds of that?

As long as the antitrust bar continues to get rich off antitrust, these laws will remain in place and the businessmen who tacitly support antitrust by their inaction will reap what they so. One billion dollars in antitrust fines is an outrage against the innocent, but not the complacent.

The War: Inconsistencies

Just a quick observation on the year anniversary of the war in Iraq: I wonder where all the anti-war protestors who protested against the US this weekend will be on the third anniversary of 9/11.

And where will those same protesters be after the first American city is destroyed by a nuclear bomb detonated by militant Islamists.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Rights and Reason: Wal-Mart is good for America

Luke Boggs understands Wal-Mart:

For years, liberal elites have blamed Wal-Mart for emptying historic downtowns, steamrolling competitors and not paying well enough. Today, these old bromides are being trotted out yet again.

Ketchup queen Teresa Heinz Kerry recently claimed that Wal-Mart "destroys communities." Fact is, Wal-Mart began in 1962 and exploded in the 1980s. Historic downtowns began fading much earlier, with the rise of cars in the 1920s and shopping centers in the 1950s.

Long before Wal-Mart arrived, mom-and-pop businesses were losing ground to mass merchandisers because consumers preferred larger selections and lower prices. Wal-Mart didn't invent mass retailing, it perfected it.

Liberal elites also love to whine about Wal-Mart's wages. This is, really, none of their business.

Wal-Mart employs 1.2 million Americans. Many move up, many move on, but all joined the company voluntarily. In a market system, wages are set by supply and demand, not CBS News or The New Yorker.
Great line. And notice Boggs' use of the word "bromides." I know of only one other writer to use that word--a certain novelist-philosopher who wrote these books about architecture and railroads. ;-)

Monday, March 15, 2004

The War: The Reign in Spain

Jim Woods makes an excellent point today: al Qaeda plans to use terrorist attacks to influence elections in democratic countries, and it can be successful in doing so.

Read the whole post.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Capitalism and the Law: The Martha Fallout

I heard about Martha Stewart. Disgusting. Ms. Stewart was convicted for nothing more than proclaiming her innocence before federal investigators. If ever there was a flimsy charge, it was this one.

I'll have more to say when I get back on Thursday. In the mean time, this is all I have to say: this conviction is an affront, and lest we forget, it happened under a supposedly pro-business administration.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Spring Break--Wohoo!!!

Best think about being back in school is spring break, so accordingly, CAC offices will be closed until the 15th. St. Maarten, here I come!