Gaza: Israel vs. Hamas & Iran

I am not sure what Israel hope to accomplish against Hamas in Gaza with the current conflict. Israel surely do not want a repeat of the last Lebannon war. Then, it might have tactically weakened Hezbolla but the resultant military stalemate became a political loss of Israel. I am not just sure that Israel can take out Hamas even if Israel take over Gaza. Certainly this does not mean it is worth the effort to inflict massive damage on Hamas.

What is more potentially interesting is that Israel may be, through the attack against Hamas, may actually provoking Iran, Hamas' major backer, into some sort of response. A military response by Iran would certainly justify an Israeli attack against Iranian nuclear program.

All this is happening just before Bush leave office (a more supportive PotUS for Israel) and potentially laying the ground works for an Obama administration support.


Merry Christmas

Picture from my latest artistic blogrolled site Stuck in Customs



I wonder what it would be like if our newscasters delivered the news like the sportcasters (say from ESPN Sportcenter). The sportcasters are able to be critical of mistakes (as they and newscasters should be) and yet remain cheerful when the right things are done (as they should be but newscasters are not). I understands that world events, economic reports, and crime news are significantly more serious than a sport contest. Yet the dour harping of negatives by newscaster need to be balanced by positive reports.

To some extent, some bloggers ("blogcasters?") already do this. Bill Roggio and his crew certainly have done this very well. Too bad we don't get more of this from the MSM when it comes to news. We only get if from the MSM when it comes to sport news.

Automaker Bailout

W is using the TARP moneys to bailout the auto industry. It would have been best if no bailout occurs at all. Second best would have been restructuring ala bankruptcy as a precondition for a bailout. But using the TARP at least means no additional new money is being spent by the feds during the whole economic crisis.


Speed Kills?

Interesting info regarding driving speed and auto accident fatality from Autoblog
The NHTSA undertook a two-and-a-half year study that examined 5,471 injury accidents nationwide in order to figure out how accidents were being caused. Government researchers conducted their own evidence gathering at crash sites in order to establish a first-hand account of causation. What did they find? Among other things, that more drivers crashed as a result of crossing the center line (11%) than as a result of speeding (5%). Speeding, in this case, defined by "too fast for conditions," not necessarily above the posted limit.

In accidents where driver error was the cause, speeding also came in last as a causative: the 8% who drove too fast were tied with the 8% who fell asleep or had heart attacks while driving. What's more, the NHTSA's causation percentages are strikingly similar to the percentages found in an independent study conducted by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. In its study of crashes in 2007, the VDoT found that 2.9% were due to speeding -- dead last -- while 3.8%t were due to drivers falling asleep or falling ill at the tiller.


Can Google be trusted? No

Google cranks up the Consensus Engine
Google this week admitted that its staff will pick and choose what appears in its search results. It's a historic statement - and nobody has yet grasped its significance.

Not so very long ago, Google disclaimed responsibility for its search results by explaining that these were chosen by a computer algorithm. The disclaimer lives on at Google News, where we are assured that:

The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program.

I know that its signifies. This means that the results of searches will be biased rather than objective. For the users, some searches, likely political or controversial topics, will be less reliable. For the searched, they too will be affected and it will only be a matter of time when this will be influence by money to google.

While not what one would typically think of as a media company, Googles delivery of information to users for both news and entertainment does qualify it as a media company of sort. It has thus acquired the same status as most other Mainstream Media outlets, that of bias driven policies.

What we all need and search for is objective truth. Once that was thought to be probable with google searches. Now that is no longer the case. The solution for now is to go beyond the first 2-3 pages of google search results.

HT: Public Secrets


Job Economics

Two interesting reads today regarding jobs and economics. Firstly, a review from the MIT Press on a book entitled "Minimum Wages" by David Neumark and William L. Wascher.
In this book, David Neumark and William Wascher offer a comprehensive overview of the evidence on the economic effects of minimum wages. Synthesizing nearly two decades of their own research and reviewing other research that touches on the same questions, Neumark and Wascher discuss the effects of minimum wages on employment and hours, the acquisition of skills, the wage and income distributions, longer-term labor market outcomes, prices, and the aggregate economy. Arguing that the usual focus on employment effects is too limiting, they present a broader, empirically based inquiry that will better inform policymakers about the costs and benefits of the minimum wage.

Based on their comprehensive reading of the evidence, Neumark and Wascher argue that minimum wages do not achieve the main goals set forth by their supporters. They reduce employment opportunities for less-skilled workers and tend to reduce their earnings; they are not an effective means of reducing poverty; and they appear to have adverse longer-term effects on wages and earnings, in part by reducing the acquisition of human capital. The authors argue that policymakers should instead look for other tools to raise the wages of low-skill workers and to provide poor families with an acceptable standard of living.

Now complement the above with the following article by C Edmund Wright at American Thinker
When the jobs report for November came out last week, many so-called "experts" were shocked at the massive loss of an estimated 533 thousand jobs. Even a Time /CNN organization called "The Curious Capitalists" were at a loss to explain it.

Let me attempt to help out these "curious capitalists" (though I am still skeptical that anyone working for CNN or Time is either curious or a capitalist). I caused part of this job loss and I know precisely why; the election. The results portend big trouble for small business.

The job destruction process has started. We are about 20% of the way through our ramp down process and on schedule to complete the shut down by spring 2009. Watch the financial news and you will see continued job cuts each month. We are not alone in our strategy. Far from it. Atlas has shrugged all over the country.

Like many business owners, we are no longer willing to take all of the financial and legal risks and put up with all of the aggravation of owning and running a business. Not with the prospects of even higher taxes, more regulation, more litigation and more emboldened bureaucrats on the horizon. Like others we know, we are getting out while the getting is, well, tolerable. Many who aren't getting out are scaling back.

Those in government, especially the recently elected administration, just do not seem to understand how economic work. While the government intention may be good, their results is far short of good.


Illinois/Chicago Politics

When I was writing my previous post on Anh Cao's election over a corrupt African-American Democrat in a district designed for African-American Democrats, I was heartened that voters were able to reject race-party affiliation to vote out corruption. I wondered whether there might be a culture shift away from the corrupt Bayou politics as usual since hurricane Katrina. I also wondered what could change the corruption of Chicago politics short of a natural disaster that might cause harm to the good folks of Chicago. Well since Chicago is known as the Windy city not from the cold winds from Lake Superior but from the hot air of Chicago politics, today Chicago suffered a wind storm with the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. His attempt to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder is astounding in its outright bald face plain and simple corruption! I hope voters there will take a good look at what they have and vote against corruption. If guilty, it is exceedingly unlikely that Blagojevich only became so corrupt once he became governor, instead with near certainty he enter the office with a flawed and corrupt character, the same character that allowed him to rise in political circles to become governor.

And as Obama really is a product of this same system, it really causes me to wonder what is the link between Obama and Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Now more than ever I have questions about Obama's character and his ability to judge character of others he associated with.

BTW, I know the capital of Illinois is not Chicago but Springfield but it really is all about Chicago politics even if it plays in Springfield.


Automakers Bail-out

The big three US are looking to the US government for cheap loans to continue business as is. This would be a mistake for the automakers, the US government, and ultimately the US taxpayers. The first question to be asked in all this is why are the US automakers having a problem being competitive. In manufacturing there are three factors to being successful: cost efficiency of production, quality of product, and appeal of product. Currently the cost efficiency of production for the US automakers is prohibitive. While it cost the foreign automakers about the same to manufacture automobiles in the US, the big three automakers are burdened by legacy payments to retired United Auto Workers union members. This substantially increased the cost of operation for the big three. While it is not necessarily wrong to guarantee retired workers a pension, it was a poor decision to use operational budget for this rather than set up a separate fund/portfolio to do so. Considering that the quality of US autos have improved significantly in the past decade, as well as the appeal of SUVs and pickup trucks remain high for US automakers (their major products rather than passenger cars) I believe this aspect of cost inefficiency to be the primary factor for the big three financial woes at this point. For the US government to bail out the US automakers as is would only perpetuate a broken system and reset the date of failure. (Didn't we bail out Chrysler in the 80s?)

I see two potential solutions.
Firstly, let the automaker fail. The benefit would be that in the restructuring and reconstruction of the automaker, a better and more efficient company would arise that would then be competitive. This is the most free capitalist approach to the problem and sets the best precedence for other large companies facing similar problems. We cannot be bailing large inept companies out over and over again. There can be no true success without a chance of failure. I believe this to be the superior, though harder, solution. Harder to do as well as harder to suffer through. I am skeptical this option will be chosen.
Secondly, the federal government could assume the retirement cost and thus remove the financial burden from the big three automakers, thus allowing them a chance of being cost efficient again. Naturally this sets a poor precedence for future bailouts. However, this allows a political solution for politicians wanting to, or expected to, do something to help. And this option would certainly be more palatable than a hand out to the big three, whether they take on new management of not.


Anh "Joseph" Cao for Congress: Louisianna's 2nd

Congress's first Vietnamese-American Anh Cao defeated 9 term incumbent William J Jefferson (Louisiana's first black Congressman since the end of Reconstruction). From Wikipedia
On 30 July 2005, Jefferson was videotaped by the FBI receiving $100,000 worth of $100 bills in a leather briefcase at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington, Virginia.[9] Jefferson told an investor, Lori Mody, who was wearing a wire, that he would need to give Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar $500,000 "as a motivating factor" to make sure they obtained contracts for iGate and Mody's company in Nigeria.[10]
New Orleans Mardi Gras float satirizing "Dollar" Bill Jefferson

A few days later, on 3 August 2005, FBI agents raided Jefferson's home in Northeast Washington and, as noted in an 83-page affidavit filed to support a subsequent raid on his Congressional office, "found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers." Serial numbers found on the currency in the freezer matched serial numbers of funds given by the FBI to their informant.

Late on the night of 20 May 2006, FBI agents executed a search warrant[11] at Jefferson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building. This is "believed to be the first-ever FBI raid on a Congressional office,"[12] raising concerns that it could "set a dangerous precedent that could be used by future administrations to intimidate or harass a supposedly coequal branch of the government."[13]

Despite this, Jefferson was re-elected. This might have been due to the fact that the district "was specifically drawn to give African-Americans an electoral advantage and one in which two of every three voters are registered Democrats." This naturally make Congressman Cao's victory all the more interesting.

I also not the current happenings in Louisiana's election since Katrina. Perhaps the inept response to Katrina by the established political class of Louisiana, long known for its corrupt ways, was the final straw. Since then, Bobby Jindal has been elected as America's first Indian-American governor. Cao's election appears to represent a similar dissatisfaction with corrupt politics as usual in the Bayou.

HT: Powerline


Racism v. Sexism

When confronted with racism, those affected band together to fight back. Sometimes they even win: witness African-Americans & Obama.
When confronted with sexism, women fight among themselves and thus usually end up losing.