Banana Counting Monkey

Thursday, September 26, 2002:


Who the regime views as its friends: "
Suspected Al-Queda camp seen in Iran"

Who the Students of Iran view as theirs: ""September", The Shared Grief of the Iranian and American Nations "

BCM // 11:13 AM


How To Make Your Country Really Poor

Ronald Bailey complies from the real-world experience of the last hundred years the steps a nation should take in order to achieve the miracle of poverty.

Ultra-Mega recommended. I wish that they would require this as reading for any basic economics course. Never happen of course, you don't even get to discuss the real world until about third year. By that time, you've studied abstract models for two years which feature the explicit assumption that any data that doesn't fit can be explained away as being other factors not discussed in the context of the model. Screw the real world results, the model works, it's just that the real world isn't good enough to show the results of the model clearly.

Reality can be very simple. If you want to be successful, you have to do what successful people or nations do. There are no short cuts, there are no ways to become the wealthiest nation on earth and yet retain the state mechanisms of oppressing your people and depriving them of the right to property. (Okay- there is one way, which is to destroy all other nations wealthier than you. ) As long as a nation's government views the people as the property of the government, to dispose of as it pleases, stagnation continues.

It's amazing. Everyone understands that if a person wants to be an athlete, to be trim and run a four minute mile then you have to work at it. You have to exercise, train, eat right and generally be disciplined and proactive. There is a very well defined set of actions that lead to success. A person sitting and watching reruns with a sack of Doritos 24-7 also has a well defined set of results. If the couch potato starts complaining that he wants to be thinner, more athletic but is unwilling to part with the couch and the nachos, no blame accrues to the athlete. The athlete is not oppressing the couch potato, unless you count the feeling of envy as being a form of outside opression. If you want success, you have to adopt the models of success. There is no way to escape this, no way to bypass this. Reality, economics and human nature dictate that "import substitution" doesn't work. Socialism doesn't work, cash transfers and foreign aid don't work. The only dammed thing that works is freedom, individual rights (property being a big one) and capitalism.

Of course, to attain prosperity requires the one sacrifice that intellectual elites are unwilling to accept- that there will be inequality. Some people will be wealthier than others. Some nations will do things better and become wealthier. propsperity requires that governments not interfere and attempt to
BCM // 9:52 AM


Arrogant Politicians, Parts 1 and 2

notes our Illustrious Prime Minister's decision to buy two new jets worth $100 million for his use. Oh- did he mention that the money came out of the military budget? Flit covers the points, so I won't bother voicing my personal (well fatigued) outrage with J.C.

I will say though that Chretien could be classified as a weapon. A decade of him running a country is more than enough to beggar its political and economic life. Perhaps we should consider deploying him to other nations we wish to punish as a use of "Soft Power".

Second, Lileks speaks on Tom Daschle and the roots of his outrage.

"Look. Politicians of this rank come in two flavors: cutthroats and useful idiots. There are the Senators who know how to get things done, how to twist arms and pinch earlobes, and the Senators who float on a perfumed cloud of ideals. If a Senator is not one of the happy-gassy idealists I assume they are a flat bastard in the clutch, and I’m annoyed when they think I don’t know otherwise. (That’s one of the reasons Trent Lott annoys me too: stop smiling! The more you wear that idiot grin the less I like you, and I didn’t like you much to begin with.) I’d be more inclined to respect Daschle et al if they’d just oppose the war and tell me why, and make the case, and have the bloody debate already. Reasonable people can oppose the war for reasonable reasons, so, Mr. Reasonable, put up or shut up. If you don’t have the guts to act like the opposition party, then don’t be stunned when your obfuscation and tail-dragging comes off as petty political maneuvering to smell good now and smell better later.

It’s telling that Daschle finally showed “passion” when he felt the Senate was being attacked. That’s what really galled him. That’s what really made the mask slip. I think that the “attack” on the Senate is one of the least significant events of the last 54 weeks, but that’s what got him steamed. Listening to subsequent speeches from Sen. Boxer and the utterly senile Robert Byrd just confirmed the impression: some of the Senators seem to believe that criticism of the Senate is beyond the pale, because it is THE SENATE, after all.

It’s not a Dem-GOP thing; this sort of self-regarding fatuity affects most politicians when they suck in the first few rarified molecules of Senate air. Some are immune. There's Zell Miller, a Democrat for whom I’d gladly vote - he has a crusty by-God Suhthun coot quality I much prefer to the well-combed hologram we have running for Senate here in Minnesota. Zell made a speech as equally impassioned as Daschle, but the subject was the injuries of the nation, not the tender sensibilities of the Senate."

BCM // 9:50 AM


The Anti-American Reflex

Dr.Manhattan has the
perfect summation of every discussion regarding anything the US considers as a course of action.

They say: "America supports tyrants."
We say: "Okay, we'll take those tyrants out."
They say: "NO! We didn't mean that."
All right.
They say: "America doesn't share aid with these countries."
We say: "Okay, we'll give aid to these countries, and trade with them."
They say: "You're supporting tyrants!"
They say: "You created Saddam!"
We say: "All right, we shall correct our error."
They say: "NOOOOOO! Don't touch a hair on his precious head!"
Fair enough.

Letter perfect. Read it.

BCM // 7:03 AM


Wednesday, September 25, 2002:

Sweeet Justice for all

A colection of
Homer Simpson quotes. (Via Samizdata)

The odds are very good indeed that humans five hundred years from now will know the name "Homer Simpson" in the same way we kinow Robinson Caruso, Robin Hood, Romeo and Juliet...... and Aristotle.

BCM // 1:02 PM


Shtoooopid Spam

Subject Line: "Here's the $20 I owe you"

How stupid do you spammers think I am?!? When I open the email, is a $20 bill suddenly going to materialize out of the screen before me? Is there some other mysterious way of enclosing a $20 bill in an email? Or is this just an attempt to get me to think "Oh, I could get money if I open this email". Hmmm. Who owes me money anyway? Gqqk465? Oh yeah, him, I remember now. I know him so well, I remember the time we were out at that irish pub....


BCM // 12:44 PM


And Another Thing.....

Via Instapundit,
Mickey Kaus points out that Black child poverty in the US continues to decrease even during the middle of a recession. It's been falling since the welfare reforms instituted in 1996.

"The economy went into a recession, poverty went up. That usually happens. But at least two things happened in this recession that don't usually happen. (1) Welfare caseloads continued to fall (contradicting liberal claims that the only reason they were falling was the good economy). And, (2) even though there were fewer people on welfare, child poverty was unchanged -- and the child poverty rate for blacks actually continued to fall.. ...It seems to me (as it does to Isabel Sawhill) that this is fairly strong evidence of the success of the 1996 welfare reform. Liberals like Wendell Primus rightly said the real test of the reform would only come when we'd been through a complete business cycle. Well? "

This is hardly suprising to me as I did my university economics thesis on the effects of welfare rates on welfare enrollment. (Side note- I was utterly amazed at the lack of other research in the area. Getting the "Prior research" area of my paper don was hell. I've always wondered why there would have been so little published material on siuch a basic economic question of incentives, especially when the gov't spends so much money on welfare.) No matter what factors I used in my regression analysis, the most significant and robust result was that welfare enrollment is positively correlated to the level of welfare benefits. You raise the rates, more people will go on welfare. You reduce the rates and fewer people will take welfare.

BCM // 11:37 AM


"Rights Vs. Wishes"

Walter Williams on what a "right" actually is and what it is not. The basic point?

At least in the standard historical usage of the term, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people. A right confers no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. That right imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference.

Contrast those rights to the supposed right to decent housing or medical care. Those supposed rights do confer obligations upon others. There is no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. If you don't have money to pay for decent housing or medical services, and the government gives you a right to those services, where do you think the money comes from?

If you said "From some other American," go to the head of the class. Your right to decent housing and medical care requires that some other American have less of something else, namely diminished rights to his earnings.

Let's apply this bogus concept of rights to free speech and the right to travel freely. If we were to apply it to my right to free speech, my free speech rights would confer financial obligations on others to supply me with an auditorium, microphone and audience. My right to travel freely would require that others provide me with airplane tickets and hotel accommodations. Most Americans, I would imagine, would tell me, "Williams, yes you have rights to free speech and travel rights, but I'm not obligated to pay for them!"

Read the rest of it here.

"I don't possess the right to take your earnings for any reason. Since I have no such right, I cannot delegate it to government. If I did take your earnings for housing and medical services, it would rightfully be described as an act of theft. When government does it, it's still theft -- the only difference is that it's legalized theft sanctioned by a majority vote. "

Ah yes, the difference again between freedom and democracy. Also leading nicely to the discussion of freedom vs equality. Which is more important?

Personally, freedom is far more important. Bill Gates being a billionaire does me no direct harm. Doesn't make a dammed difference to me as he takes nothing from me excapt what I'm willing to trade for his products. I don't like inequality, but I hate the tyranny it would require to achieve it in any meanigful material sense.

Which brings us to Toronto, where a squatter's villiage has just been evicted down by the waterfront. There's an interesting "Numbers file" that goes with the report.

- 5 hectares of contaminated land.
- About 100 residents living in tents, trailers and shacks.
- 10 cats, 8 dogs and countless rats.
- 1 baby born since the city's homeless began setting up camp 2 years ago.
- 6 extremely unsanitary outhouses
- 1 communal pipe spouting water continuously.
- 0 electricity, although some squatters reportedly tapped into Hydro.
- 1 mountain of garbage attracting thousands of flies.
- $180 million will be spent by the city on homelessness this year.

Thane Burnett notes how destitute the tent city really was....

Before you read any weepy tales of the lives of these people, understand that when police went in yesterday, at least one of the places was equipped with two computers. One investigator involved estimated half these people own cellphones. [...] Residents will be allowed, under guard, to return to collect their belongings from the cabins and trailers, some of which are powered by electricity stolen from commercial neighbours. (Emphasis mine) In one case, a squatter had built a nice patio overlooking the water. Crying for her 140-pound dog who was still guarding her place, Tara Breen, 34, said she wanted back inside.

Excuse me for asking the obvious- but aren't we constantly told that the homeless are starving? Can I ask what the hell supposedly starving people are doing owning a 140 pound dog? Can I ask why the hell one mother decided to have her baby in the tent city instead of taking advantage of our socialized medical system? Note- She chose to have the baby there. She is responsible, not some cruel and uncaring cold-hearted capitalist world. She had the choice to seek medical care and did not. Cellphones? Running computers? Don't even get me started. Tapping other people's power? Hello! Safety risk? Down by the water? Possible electrocution?

BCM // 10:23 AM


Vacation Wrapup

Well, I'm back from a wonderful week in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. The hurricanes passed us by, except for a few rainstorms during the evenings.

Best. Vacation. Ever.

Arriving in the airport, I took a moment to go to the washroom. I entered the door to the men's room, and the first thing I notice is a big guy standing there just watching people come in the door. Oooookay. I go over to the urinals past a divider and see that there's three guys in suits standing there talking rapidly under their breath and trading papers back and forth. Doing business. Maybe I don't need to got to the washroom that badly.

We stayed at the Iberostar Costa Dorada, a wonderful hotel which I'll heartily recommend to anyone looking for a vacation spot. Good food in the restaurants, including the three speciality restaurants on the resort. There's a brazillian restaurant which was nice, the waitresses come around with seven different types of meat on this great big skewer, cutting off portions for you onto your plate. Delicious... There's a mexican restaurant with a wonderful hot sauce to combine with the chilli con carne. Gets one sweating very nicely, and finally a carribbean restaurant outside with wonderful shrip, cocktails and desserts. A three man band comes around to seranade you as well in the latter restaurant too. Perfectly romantic.

Wonderful lake-sized swimming pool. Great to lounge around in the sun and get burned. Note- the radiation comes through even when there are clouds. There are few things as relaxing as lying on an inflatable bed floating in a swimming pool and feeling the sun soaking into your skin as a breeze teases you as well.

Of course, while I was away, I see my fellow Torontonians managed to lose the warm weather that existed when I left T.O. Tut-Tut.

Oh well, I'm back and it's time to work once again. Onwards!

BCM // 6:47 AM


Movie Review: Ecks Vs. Sever

I went and saw this on saturday night once I got back from vacation. What a waste of time and money. The director comes from the world of music videos, a fact that becomes very obvious early on. Things blow up really really well. A lot of things blow up in interesting ways. However- due to the utter lack of a coherent plot (okay there is a plot- just not a very good one) the explosions and gunfights are rendered incredibly boring by the halfway mark of the movie. I found myself sitting there just waiting for it to end.

Dialogue- what dialogue? It didn't even rise to the level of cliche! Wooden delivery? Try petrified!

Luy Liu is indeed a very good looking woman. nice to look at, but her acting ability is equivalent to Ahnold in his Conan era. Look serious and say things in five words or less with as little intonation as possible. For this she was paid how many million? No more acting assignments for her -please.

Okay- I admit it- I was just peeved that she didn't show any skin.

But seriously folks, a waste of time. Don't bother with this movie, just wait for Brotherhood of the Wolf on DVD. Real soon now.

BCM // 6:13 AM


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