Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

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Dan is a student at Georgetown University. He is currently trying to think of a new biography for this space.

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This blog translated:


Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.

"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics." - Variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many other dead people.

Currently reading:

Songbook by Nick Hornby

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

You should read:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Bobos In Paradise by David Brooks

Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright

Damned Lies and Statistics by Joel Best

Books written or edited by my professors (well, only the good ones)

Nick Barr

The Economics of the Welfare State

The Welfare State As Piggy Bank

Chris Dougherty

Introduction to Econometrics

David Gewanter

The Collected Poems of Robert Lowell (ed. with Frank Bidart)

In the Belly

The Sleep of Reason

Meredith McKittrick

To Dwell Secure

John McNeill

The Human Web (with William H. McNeill)

Something New Under the Sun

Max-Stephan Schulze

Western Europe: Economic and Social Change Since 1945

Greater Blogtopia

Abu Aardvark
Across the Atlantic
Asparagus Pee
Bohemian Mama
Brazos de Dios Cantina Carl with a K
Chip Taylor
Conceptual Guerilla
D-Squared Digest
Dilettante's Guide to Life
Egotistical Whining
Enemy of the People
Equilibrismi ridanciani Fester's Place
Fleeting Impulse
Funny Farm
Grammar Police
Head Heeb
I Know What I Know Interesting by Association
Impolite Company
Internet Activism
Jacqueline Passey
John Hoke
John Lemon
John Scalzi
Kick the Leftist
Kids Korner
Kieran Healy
Liquid List
Loopy Librarian
Mark Maynard
Martin Stabe
More White Teeth
No More Mr. Nice Blog Notes on the Atrocities
Open Source Politics
Passenger Pachyderms
Peevish...I'm Just Saying
Politics and Policy
Quantum Skyline
Radical Review
Random Points
Risa Wechsler

Sha Ka Ree
Sick of Bush
Signifying Nothing
Something's Got to Break
Talking Dog
Tom Runnacles
Truth is a Blog
Vaguely Right
Vast Left Wing Conspiracy
Vulgar Boatman
We Report... You Deride

Weblog Commenting by

Listed on 

Boot Bush! Donate to the DNC today

2004 ESPN Information Please Sports Almanac

"Everything to Everyone" by Barenaked Ladies

"In Between Evolution" by The Tragically Hip

"Phantom Planet" by Phantom Planet

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

"One Plus One Is One" by Badly Drawn Boy

"Sultans of Swing" by the Dire Straits

"Best of the Talking Heads" by the Talking Heads

How Shareholder Reforms Can Pay Foreign Policy Dividends, James Shinn, ed.

Weaving the Net, James Shinn, ed.

Fires Across the Water, James Shinn, ed.

Panasonic ES8017SC Men's Triple Blade Pro Curve Rechargeable Linear Shaver

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Thursday, July 31, 2003
We need a National Statistics Office

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been putting together a godawfully large series (nearly a thousand, I think) of tables at work intended to assemble and dissemble various data points, mostly macroeconomic in nature. Most foreign countries, thankfully, have national statistics offices that provide tables with all of the necessary information. Hell, there's even a Statistics Greenland.

Meanwhile, the U.S. entrusts its statistics to any number of government offices. Want population data - go to the Census Bureau. Employment data is measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Energy production and consumption estimates are at the Energy Information Agency. And a whole range of other data is kept by various departments and bureaus at the Commerce Department, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. The closest thing to a uniform information source is the FedStats portal, which is little more than a set of ill-organized links to data elsewhere that is not kept in any uniform manner.

Meanwhile, it becomes difficult for people to find the information that they need, causing delays and making things more difficult to understand. Dammit, we need a real national statistics office. Even if a whole parent department isn't created, having the government create a single website that standardizes American statistics in a single style in a single location should not be too much to ask.

Brett Marston has a post up discussing an amendment recently passed by the House that would bar Federal Marshals from enforcing the decisions of the courts in two currently ongoing cases - the attempt by a California parent against the inclusion of 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance and an Alabama case involving a judge who installed a monument to the Ten Commandments in his courthouse. The amendments, proposed by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN), were intended to "once and for all reassert responsibility and authority of Congress, and remind the judiciary of who they are, as outlined in the Constitution," as Tom DeLay put it.

Whether or not you agree with the court decisions (the Alabama course seems pretty clear-cut to me, but the California case probably should never have been brought - the parent in question has a somewhat dubious claim to standing, as he lacks custody), the amendment clearly expresses an astonishing contempt for the court system. I am not intending to argue that the courts should be left unchecked, but this is clearly a large step backwards towards the days of Andrew Jackson's famed statement upon hearing the Trail of Tears decision - "Justice Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." The different arms of the government should not be allowed to shirk their duties simply because they disagree with what the others tell them to do. Even the Justice Department opposed the bill, stating to lawmakers that it should at least not be considered until final verdicts had been reached.

Mostly, however, I'm writing this rambling post to complain about Rep. Hostettler. Basically, he's either a dumbass or a nutcase. Borrowing from Meg Greenfield's extended metaphor in Washington, in the giant high school that is Congress, Hostettler is the guy perenially walking around with a 'kick me' sign taped to his back.

He's not a lawyer.* But somehow, Rep. Hostettler ended up on the House Judiciary Committee a few years ago. This, mind you, despite the fact that he lacks a view of the Constitution that would come about from, well, any basic legal training or understanding. To wit:

Last summer I was working for a political organization in Washington. They didn't always have enough work for me to do, so I occasionally got sent to committee hearings on Capitol Hill to take notes which I doubt were ever read. One afternoon I got sent to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. The hearing was intended to deal with the constitutionality of the bill. Those arguing against the bill felt that it would be found unconstitutional as it failed to meet the conditions set out by Sandra Day O'Connor as to what such a bill would require to be constitutional in her view in Carhart v. Stenberg. As she was the swing vote in the decision, only a bill that met her standards would be acceptable to the Supreme Court.

About an hour into the hearing, Rep. Hostettler began questioning the witnesses. Abandoning the lines of questioning that the other representatives had previously followed, Hostettler began asking if the laws passed by Congress were the supreme law of the land. Based on the Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2), Hostettler took these words literally: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."** In other words, as far as he was concerned, Congress could do whatever it wanted, and it was up to the courts to follow Congress in its entirety. Hostettler was not stopped by the fact that much of the audience (and a few of his colleagues) were laughing at him, nor the fact that one of the witnesses pointed out that his view would involve casting away 200 years of legal history going back to Marbury v. Madison and the entire idea of judicial review.

As the room cleared a few minutes later, I ended up walking out behind Rep. Hostettler. He was arguing his point to a boy who appeared to be about 14 years old or so. The kid was not impressed.

*I think it's a perfectly good idea to have teachers, doctors, policemen, clergy and people from every other damn profession in Congress, but the Judiciary Committees and the courts should be limited to people with some understanding of the law beyond what can be learned in a high school class in civics.
** The Supremacy Clause, from what I understand, was and is purely intended to maintain the supremacy of federal laws over state laws where the jurisdiction of each does not assign control over an issue.

The former Iraqi ambassador to China, having been order by the U.S. military administration to return to Iraq, has refused to do so and has armed and barricaded himself inside the embassy in Beijing.

Dude, it’s over.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Carnival of the Vanities #45

Welcome to the 45th weekly edition of the Carnival of the Vanities. The Carnival was started by Bigwig as a way for bloggers to feature their best posts that had the rest of the blogosphere had missed out on. And, yea, it was deemed a good thing and drifts around from blog to blog each week. I am proud to host this week’s special, non-themed edition.

Without further delay …

Blogs in British

Marty Dodge at Dodgeblogium thinks that the only person responsible for the death of David Kelly was ... (ominous music please) ... David Kelly. So Roberto Calvi wasn’t at fault?

Emma at A TCS Blog explains one of London's odder and more artistic traditions ... proms (to Americans – no, not what you’re thinking).

Joe Dougherty at Attaboy publishes his response to a cease-and-desist letter he received from a British psychic after the post was published. Unfortunately, due to the strictness of British libel laws, Joe has been sentenced to 2 years in jail in absentia and is now pending extradition.

The Philosophical Cowboy of Layman's Logic provides the BBC's translation of Tony Blair's speech to the U.S. Congress for the hard of understanding.

Dissecting Life With a Blunt Instrument

Joanie at Da Goddess submits two posts. Yeah, she gets to do that because she hosted the COTV last week. Well, the first isn't entirely hers, it's a letter she received from a friend currently in Iraq. The other is a post reminding readers that part of being a responsible adult is, well, acting like a responsible adult. That is soooooooooo childish.

Ravenwood's Universe asks who it is that's killing personal responsibility - everyone expects to have everything handed to them nowadays. Personally, I blame the (INSERT POLITICAL PARTY THAT YOU OPPOSE HERE).

Jim at MT Politics writes that there is still one last place where men can gather sans women ... the barber shop.

The Yeti at Tales From a Yeti Suit discovers that, to his horror, everything changes at the exact moment for men when they turn 30 ... their hair turns gray and then falls out, women no longer find them attractive, and they suddenly become unable to drive over 30 MPH .... AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

Adam and his co-authors at A Single Guy in the South take a close-up look at what defines the Southern Belle. No belching, for one.

Sarah Fitz-Claridge at Taking Children Seriously explains that trying to punish children by making them face the 'natural consequences' of their actions is not exactly natural - or necessarily beneficial. Then again, would unnatural consequences be any better? Or preternatural consequences?

Morgaine at The Goddess submits a post entitled "The Beauty Buck Stops Here" (no permalinks, just scroll down to the post) on the American obsession with plastic surgery and beautification.


John Lemon at Barrel of Fish submits a series of posts (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) offering advice to those thinking about seeking tenured work in academia. Of course, it would have been far quicker and taken only one post to write 'abandon all hope, all ye who enter'

Zombyboy at ResurrectionSong discusses the reported protest by black parents in Oberlin, Ohio, at a decision by a local elementary school to have a white teacher teach a African-American history class. I'm a little frightened to think about what they'll have to dig up when they get around to covering ancient Rome and Greece.

John at Discriminations reports on discrimination by the University of Virginia against ... Northern Virginians.


Bussorah at Wicked Thoughts lists the top 25 country and western song titles ever. No. 25: “Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth 'Cause I'm Kissing You Goodbye.” ‘Nuff said.

Sharon at Brazos Cantina submits a series of posts (here, here and here) remembering the life of the late Bob Hope (who, this time, is really dead).

Over at the World of Pete, the latest is in on Bob Hope's post-death activities.

James DiBenedetto at Eleven Day Empire argues that lawsuits against food companies for causing obesity ignore the basis of a free society - personal responsibility. Which, I'm sure, is what leads into this. Yikes.

Foreign Affairs and Liasons

Feste notes that there are actually a fair amount of similarities between post-WWII Japan and post-war Iraq. Now if we can only introduce baseball to them, they'll be all set.

Jeff at Caerdroia explains why the American intelligence systems were set up the way they were after the failures of Pearl Harbor and why they are today not well set-up to deal with non-state actors. No joke there.

Chris Genovese at Signal + Noise writes on using markets (of several kinds) to ease information sharing among intelligence services.

PeakTalk writes a remembrance of the soon to be dead Idi Amin Dada, former dictator/tyrant/thug-in-chief of Uganda. Currently comatose in Saudi Arabia, he will not be missed.

Our So-Called Media

Gerald at the American Digest diagnoses Big Media with a severe case of ADD ... but I'm afraid that they won't read it all the way to the end of the post.

Tim Machesney at Dean's World submits a post discussing the attempt to get the Pulitzer Committee to revoke the award given to Walter Duranty for his writings in the early 1930's that covered up the Ukranian famine perpetuated by Stalin.

Ken Weight at Lying in Ponds has produced a rather impressive index ranking the partisanship of various political columnists so far this year. Ann Coulter came first, Robert Scheer placed second and Paul Krugman finished third. It raises the question ... how did Ken find the time to produce it?

People (Other Than You) Are Annoying

Bogie reminds his readers that good customer service includes knowing when to shut up.

Seebs explains that it’s not just an urban legend - you can actually get money from suing for being spammed by fax.

Politics (The Intentionally Humorous Stuff)

Madeleine Kane takes a look at the leaked White House e-mail questionnaire that the George W. Bush doesn't want you to see.

Kevin at the Smallest Minority thinks that the blogosphere needs to get behind an alternative Presidential candidate ... Glenn Reynolds. I'll be coming on board to the campaign once they promise me that I can replace that old fart Alan Greenspan at the Fed.

Politics (The Unintentionally Humorous Stuff)

Brett at Marstonalia points out that Tom DeLay's view on constitutional history is, well, quite characteristically self-centered and also takes a look at the rhetoric surrounding the PATRIOT ACT in recent months.

Barry at Rush Limbaughtomy argues that there's something suspicious about Stephen Hadley, the latest Bush administration official to take responsibility for the faulty claim about Nigerien uranium. It certainly ain’t pretty.

John Moore at Useful Fools argues that the U.S. military administration should have just shown the bloody pictures of Uday and Qusay Hussein and been done with it rather than having morticians reconstruct the bodies. I think that it was all well and good to reconstruct the bodies, but highly inappropriate to use them in the filming of an episode of Six Feet Under.

Rev. Allan Brill at The Right Christians argues that progressives need to work at communicating to young people if they are to remain a potent force in American politics. Of course, given current trends, it won't matter since no one will be voting anymore by 2032.

Frank J. at IMAO offers his suggestions as to how he would respond to the Nigerien WMD claim controversy if he were President. I have no f---ing comment.

Justene Adamec at CalBlog thinks the recall of Gray Davis heralds a revolution in American politics. She's already decided on which candidate she'll back. Me, I'm supporting the Aflac Duck. If he can get affordable insurance for all those people, that’s good enough for me.

Pete at The Smarter Cop fisks an column attacking the war in Iraq and George W. Bush. Luckily, I think the COTV is too long of a target to feasibly fisk (and, no, that’s not a dare).

Setting the World To Rights argues that the death penalty is a bad policy for society as a whole - even the most evil people may have some use to the rest of society.

Dodd at Ipse Dixit (see here for a follow-up) is concerned that UPI is underestimating the possibility of a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.

Tiger reprints one of his late father's columns, this one on gun control.

D.C. Thornton suggests that the NAACP needs to change its behavior towards President Bush if it expects to be treated well in return.

John Ray at Dissecting Leftism argues that there are similarities between the policies enacted by Nazi Germany and the policies that the far Left wants to implement today.

Lynn at Reflections in D Minor argues that some politics would be best left as art, but doesn't answer whether the politics of art is an art or just too damn confusing for my head to handle at this hour.

Kevin at Wizbang argues that you can't be for filibusters and against recall elections, or vice versa. Which is why I'm for ice cream.

Sports (Non-Corked Edition)

Norbizness at Happy Furry Puppy Story Time looked into his crystal ball and predicted the outcome of the NL Central race. Incredibly, he already predicted Ken Griffey Jr.'s annual season-ending injury. If Jim Edmonds does physically explode, we can expect it to see it repeated on SportsCenter now and again at the hour every hour until 2648.

Fran at FitNotes recounts her experiences playing volleyball at the company picnic.

Stuff That Just Defies Categorization

Michele at A Small Victory sends a short story that, um, well, let's just say squeamish men should skip the ending.

Harvey Olson at Bad Money seems to have come across a dollar bill that's, uh, been places.

Broad At Bat offers her guide to life on a farm, answering those questions you've always pondered, like "Hey, is this one of those electric fences?"

Where the Hell Was I? discusses walls in society. Not physical walls, but, um, non-physical walls. Like the difference between, um, physical walls and non-physical walls.

Tim at When Worlds Collide comes up with a few suggestions as to possible alternate realities that would involve subtle differences from our current world - like if we still had New Coke.

Kiril at Sneakeasy's Joint took a three-hour trip to Balboa Island and, amazingly, lived to tell the tale. He also sends this post commemorating the life of Bob Hope.

Technology and Other Things That Frighten Old People

Phil at the Speculist thinks that what the field of nanotechnology needs is a BHAG - Big Hairy Audacious Goal, like a nanoforge. Hmmm ... would world domination be a big enough and hairy enough idea?

The Laughing Wolf has published a series of posts (here, here and here) on the reasons why space commercialization would be a good thing, and how to best encourage it.


Chuck at You Big Mouth, You! has a post up providing us with all of the blogosphere's posts on Deanna Wren, who filed a report with Reuters on the homecoming of Jessica Lynch only to see something completely different published under her byline.

Graham Lester at Uncategorical announces his own Blogging Awards. I am shocked, shocked, that he forgot me!


Of course, I’d like to thank the Academy … no, wait, wrong speech.

Thanks to all the people who submitted posts, forgot to submit posts, linkers, readers, visitors, people who accidentally stumbled on to this and are wondering what the hell is going on, and assorted hangers-on.

If I've missed any posts, used the wrong links, or just done something else I shouldn't have done, please either e-mail me or leave a note in the comments.

Next week's Carnival of the Vanities will be held at Across the Atlantic.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Just 1 hour left.

11-Hour warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

For those who haven't heard of this before, the Carnival of the Vanities is a chance for bloggers to promote a brilliant post of theirs that has been ignored by the rest of the blogosphere and allowed into the archives abyss.

For the 45th weekly edition, posts can be submitted up until 12:00 AM EST on July 30th by e-mailing me a link and any other sundry information at

This week's Carnival is currently up at DaGoddess.

Monday, July 28, 2003
27-Hour+ warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

For those who haven't heard of this before, the Carnival of the Vanities is a chance for bloggers to promote a brilliant post of theirs that has been ignored by the rest of the blogosphere and allowed into the archives abyss.

For the 45th weekly edition, posts can be submitted up until 12:00 AM EST on July 30th by e-mailing me a link and any other sundry information at

This week's Carnival is currently up at DaGoddess.

Asking the tough questions

Dammit, why is it that cell phone stores never have nearly enough staff?

Does anyone know where I can find economic data for China (not Taiwain)?

I'm at a loss here since the main statistical bureau only seems to publish data going back to the beginning of the year.


Sunday, July 27, 2003
Three-Day warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

For those who haven't heard of this before, the Carnival of the Vanities is a chance for bloggers to promote a brilliant post of theirs that has been ignored by the rest of the blogosphere and allowed into the archives abyss.

For the 45th weekly edition, posts can be submitted up until 12:00 AM EST on July 30th by e-mailing me a link and any other sundry information at

This week's Carnival is currently up at DaGoddess.

Saturday, July 26, 2003
Four-Day warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

For those who haven't heard of this before, the Carnival of the Vanities is a chance for bloggers to promote a brilliant post of theirs that has been ignored by the rest of the blogosphere and allowed into the archives abyss.

For the 45th weekly edition, posts can be submitted up until 12:00 AM EST on July 30th by e-mailing me a link and any other sundry information at

This week's Carnival is currently up at DaGoddess.

Friday, July 25, 2003
Five-Day warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

For those who haven't heard of this before, the Carnival of the Vanities is a chance for bloggers to promote a brilliant post of theirs that has been ignored by the rest of the blogosphere and allowed into the archives abyss.

For the 45th weekly edition, posts can be submitted up until 12:00 AM EST on July 30th by e-mailing me a link and any other sundry information at

This week's Carnival is currently up at DaGoddess.

Good luck ... you'll need it

DC has launched another well-meaning but probably ultimately useless lawsuit against the federal government. This one is demanding that the District be allowed to institute a Commuter tax, which would tax income earned in the district by residents from elsewhere.

As I’ve said before, the District is essentially structurally bankrupt. It cannot earn enough money to pay for what it needs to do in terms of basic public and social services as well as maintaining the infrastructure that the city and federal government require. There are a few reasons for this. Many neighborhoods east of Rock Creek are desperately poor, requiring expensive services and providing very little in the way of tax revenues. Much of the District consists of parkland – primarily the Mall and Rock Creek Park – and much of the prime business land is owned by the federal government, meaning that no property taxes can be collected (no city can collect property taxes on federal land, but this is a particular problem for DC because of the huge number of federal offices and the fact that most are located in the central area). Finally, there’s the lack of a commuter tax.

The district can’t levy a commuter tax because it is banned by the federal government from doing so. Any other state can levy a commuter tax as it wishes. The district cannot do so because Virginia and Maryland would be hurt by one – the current rules essentially subsidize district workers living in Maryland or Virginia and have contributed to the development of some very nice middle- and upper-income suburbs just beyond the district border. Congressmen are generally opposed to the commuter tax too, since the ban prevents them from paying DC taxes on their salaries.

The revenue of the commuter tax itself could only raise so much money for the district, but it would also be beneficial insofar as it would serve to reverse the effective segregation by income that currently exists. There are certainly other things that the District could do to deal with its social problems – say, redirecting all the cops who are out policing underage drinking to more serious issues (yeah, I go to Georgetown). Economics can only go so far. Policy changes are needed as well.

In theory, the tax need not actually increase tax levels - most states credit their residents the cost of a commuter tax agains their own state income taxes - but Maryland and Virginia would likely be reticent to do so. Maryland is also bankrupt - even if passed, Gov. Ehrlich's plan to turn the state into one giant casino would raise little revenue for the next few years - and the state Assembly in Virginia mostly consists of people so far right as to consider taxation positively satanic.

The district has resorted to lawsuits against the federal government before, principally in trying to acquire the ability to vote in Congress, without much success. Given that the current lawsuit seems to stand on the same basic legal principals – ‘taxation without representation’ and the equal protection clause – I don’t really know that this one will go much further.

Technical economics post

OK, so I’m following the hubbub around the pegging of the Chinese currency (alternatively known as the Yuan, RMB and Renminbi) to the U.S. Dollar. A lot of countries and companies are unhappy that China has maintained the peg in recent years. As the economy has grown and become much more competitive, the peg no longer reflects the current economic reality. The RMB has become grossly undervalued. One US dollar can currently purchase 8.28 Yuan (give or take about 0.1%). Were the peg not maintained, the US dollar would be able to purchase a lot less Yuan. Some estimates put it as high as half the current rate (it’s probably closer to the current rate, but I’m not going to hazard a guess).

The result of this undervaluation is that it’s harder for China to import goods easier for them to export to other countries, thus fueling further economic growth in China at the expense of other countries. This has become a worse problem of late due to the drop in the Dollar relative to the Euro, Canadian Dollar and other countries, which means that Europe, Canada and other countries may now be flooded with dirt-cheap imports and hampered by an inability to export. This situation can’t be maintained forever – the Chinese economy cannot grow at enormous rates indefinitely, the willingness of the Chinese government to maintain the capital account deficit that runs alongside their current account surplus cannot be maintained indefinitely either.

The problem right now is that the Chinese government is unwilling to let the RMB appreciate, since the undervalued peg runs to its advantage. There is talk of widening the trading band, but even letting it go to 1% would be far, far short of what free markets would want. For that matter, the government doesn’t want to be seen to caving into to international pressure to relax the peg. They claim that open market operations can resolve the pressure on the currency, but this seems unlikely to be a panacea.

One idea that doesn’t seem to be getting much airtime would be to shift China from an exchange rate pegged to the U.S. Dollar to an exchange rate pegged to a basket of currencies. This would create a greater amount of flexibility while allowing the Chinese government to save face and to maintain a fairly large degree of currency stability.

The basket that would seem to make the most sense would be a trade-weighted scheme. China’s two largest trading partners at the moment are the U.S. and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Dollar is currently pegged to the U.S. Dollar as well – this may also change, but that’s another long story – which would render its use in the basket pointless. Taiwan can be excluded from any basket for political reasons. Still, including, say, the Pound, Euro, Canadian Dollar, Yen and SDR, would dull the pain inflicted by an undervalued Yuan on any one country.

Thursday, July 24, 2003
Six-Day warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

For those who haven't heard of this before, the Carnival of the Vanities is a chance for bloggers to promote a brilliant post of theirs that has been ignored by the rest of the blogosphere and allowed into the archives abyss.

For the 45th weekly edition, posts can be submitted up until 12:00 AM EST on July 30th by e-mailing me a link and any other sundry information at

This week's Carnival is currently up at DaGoddess.

The House voted overwhelmingly - 400-21 - yesterday to overturn most of the FCC's new rules that would allow individual companies to own nearly half of the TV stations in the country. An amendment that would have overturned the whole of the FCC's ruling was rejected by 273-152, with most of the Democrats voting for the amendment and most of the Republicans voting against it.

This vote comes on the heels of a promise from the President to veto any bill overturning the FCC's new rules. Should such overwhelming support for overturning the bills not be reversed via the lobbying of the companies that stand to benefit from the new regulations, his veto might well be overturned in the end.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Matt Yglesias thinks that the fact that George W. Bush has decided against the death penalty for two British citizens currently held in Guantanamo and up for trial soon will be a political boon for Tony Blair - basically, Bush threw 'Tony Blair a bone' by allowing him to point to his sway.

I think Matt has it backwards. Domestically, what Blair needs is not so much to be able to point to a strong relationship with George W. Bush and his ability to sway the White House - indeed, to much of his political base, Bush is essentially radioactive - but to be able to point to the fact that, besides not being 'Bush's poodle,' as some have tarred him, that he is capable of getting into a spat with Bush as well as anyone or anything else. In other words, Bush shouldn't be trying to appear friendly to Tony Blair if he wants to help him politically. If he really wants to help him politically, they need to find something to disagree on.

Canadian stuff

John Manley has pulled out of the Liberal Party leadership race, essentially ensuring that Paul Martin will become the Prime Minister of Canada, effective in February 2004 (though the leadership vote will actually be held in November of this year). Sheila Copps is still in the race, but stands very little chance of being elected.

Martin is generally thought of as inhabiting the right wing of the Liberal Party, but he is still far short of the Alliance. He is generally accorded with credit for the strong growth of the economy until he was forced out as Finance Minister by Jean Chretien. The economy actually continued to grow strongly after he was forced out, but has slowed in recent months (though not as badly as the Bank of Canada thinks, I'm fairly sure - much of the slowdown can be explained by relatively temporary factors that don't point to any underlying problems)

One-week warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

For those who haven't heard of this before, the Carnival of the Vanities is a chance for bloggers to promote their best posts that have been ignored by the rest of the blogosphere and allowed into the archives abyss.

For the 45th weekly edition, posts can be submitted up until 12:00 AM on July 30th by e-mailing me a link and any other sundry information at

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Eight-day Warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

Hell of a day for news.

And now the Eiffel Tower is on fire. Anyone want to engage in mindless speculation about what caused it?

UPDATE: OK, so it looks like it's a pretty small fire.

MSNBC is apparently reporting that Uday and Qusay Hussein may have been either killed or captured in a raid in northern Iraq earlier today.

UPDATE: CNN is reporting that 'people of high interest' have been taken into custody, but nothing else.

UPDATE: CNN now has more on the firefight in Mosul in question. Most of it is unrelated round-up material.

UPDATE: MSNBC has a full article here.

UPDATE: Just a quick thought. It sounds like whoever was in that house - sons of Saddam or not - were probably killed rather than captured, which is not positive from an intelligence standpoint. If they're dead, they can't lead us too easily to Saddam or anyone else. It's not negative, it's just less positive than it could be.

UPDATE: It's now being reported on CNBC that American authorities are '80% sure' that it's Uday and Qusay (this, as opposed to them simply being '80% dead'). It sounds as if DNA testing will be needed to certifiably prove whether the corpses were formerly occupied by Uday and Qusay.

UPDATE: The Pentagon says they're dead. I'm guessing it'll be about 15 minutes before someone comes up with a conspiracy theory arguing that they're actually alive, etc. ...

Monday, July 21, 2003
This makes me very, very angry.

Sunday, July 20, 2003
10-Day Warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

Saturday, July 19, 2003
Can I be a pointless language snob for a sec?

As I understand it, the correct pronounciation of the country from which George W. Bush claimed Iraq had tried to buy uranium from is Niger. The correct pronounciation is not 'Nai-jer,' as the media keeps referring to it (I apologize for the inexactness of my pronounciation standards relative to actual linguistic conventions, but my old textbook that could resolve this is a few hundred miles away from where I'm currently sitting). Niger as in 'Nai-jer' refers to a river that runs through the country in question and its southern neighbor ... which is Nigeria (which is correctly pronounced as 'Nai-jeer-ee-a'). The country in question is correctly pronounced as 'Nee-zher,' as it was once a French colony.

Dammit, get it right.

Cheap and snarky bastard that I am, I've put up a link to my Amazon Wish List, which is full of the books I'm going to need for the fall semester.

Still no PayPal button, though (don't ask).

Thursday, July 17, 2003
Dumbass, adj. -

You might have missed this on CNN:

ZAHN: But historically hasn't it been true that when these justices retire it's usually because of ill health?

ROBERTSON: Not necessarily. I think Lewis Powell was in good health, he just decided it was time to get on with it. I believe that, you know, in corporations, many people have mandatory retirements at 65 or 70. I know we don't have that on the court, but nevertheless there comes a time.

Pat Robertson, by the way, is 73.

Monday, July 14, 2003
Well, depending on how you look at it, I've either been upgraded or downgraded to my very own cubicle, so blogging may increase slightly from here ... though still at weird hours and not when I'm actually supposed to be working. Yeesh.

Sunday, July 13, 2003
17-Day Warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

Idiotic Campaign Finance Reform Idea #876

So, I've been following the asbestos trust bill (the 'FAIR' Act*) at work. The bill would initially create a $108 billion trust to pay out to sufferers from asbestos exposure rather than dealing with them on a case-by-case basis through the courts - a method that has bankrupted a few dozen companies in recent decades. The bill has been assaulted from both sides - the companies and insurers who would pay into the trust are convinced that they would have to pay too much and the labor unions are arguing that the payouts aren't large enough. Anyway, the bill made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a nearly party-line vote (Feinstein switched sides and Kyl abstained). The bill is probably now going to die. It may not get brought up on the Senate floor. If it does get brought up on the Senate floor, it may get filibustered by the Democrats. If it does actually make through the Senate, it almost certainly won't get through the conference committee before the Senate adjourns for the year - the bill likely to be brought up in the House hasn't come before the committee yet, and the bill in consideration works on a completely different basis than the Senate bill - it's just not reconcilable.

Followed all that?

Anyway, I've seen it written out by a fairly reputable - i.e., not insane - inside source that the bill is going to die because neither party really wants it passed, as actually passing legislation would make it impossible to continue raising campaign funds from both sides. Pretty damn corrupt.

See, I'm beginning to think that we're approaching this thing all wrong. We're trying to prevent the buying of access by special interests by limiting the buying. So why not just limit the access?

Access already is somewhat limited by requiring lobbyists to register, but that doesn't do much to actually deter bad behavior. Limiting access could allow people to donate what they want to who they want (within reason) but prevent donations from essentially having strings attached.

I'm not thinking that we should simply limit the ability of Senators and Congressmen to meet with outsiders. Barring them from any outside access would make an interesting experiment in political science and sociology - and a decent reality show, I'd think - but that starts to run into free speech restrictions. What we could do is simply require that Senators and Congressmen spend a certain number of hours per week or year either on the floor or in actual committee hearings. Requiring that even 20 hours per week in session be spent either on the floor or in Committee hearings - lest Senators and Congressmen lose, well, either their salary or their vote - would hardly be an onerous burden.

It's not as if they're exactly busy right now. The Senate has been in session for 95 of the 184 days so far this year; the House has sat on 78 days. (by comparison, someone who works 5 days a week and hasn't taken any vacation would have worked 131 days).

Senators and Congressmen currently do very little actual work on the floor or sitting in committee for that matter. If you've ever watched C-SPAN, you'll know that there's usually fewer than a dozen or two of them on the floor, and only when they're actually speaking (or pretending to debate). Except on major legislation, most don't bother attending the preliminary hearings, since speeches can be inserted into the record later. Actual speeches on the floor are mostly made for the benefit of the camera anyway. I've been to one committee hearing that had exactly two congressmen attending (actually, one and a delegate). The committee hearings are usually deadly boring, except when the experts are eccentric (or, as I've seen in one case, when one of the Congressmen had absolutely no understanding of constitutional law). They're not there, and it's pointlessly dull.

It really compares pretty badly to, say, the British Parliament and many other legislative bodies. Question Time at Westminster - the only glimpse that Americans are likely to happen upon on TV - is actually a bad comparison. Most of the time, still, there's usually about 60 or so backbench MPs on hand at any given time when the Parliament is in session (it usually looks busier than it really is, anyway, since the Commons can only hold about 400 of the 650+ MPs, and then only in very cramped quarters). The hundred or so ministers are generally heading departments when not answering questions or speaking at Westminster.

In other words, if you want to lessen the chance of corruption, take away the time that legislators might have to be corrupt, and actually put them to work.

*I support of the 'NMSAITTOOL' Act - the No More Stupid Acronyms In The Titles Of Our Legislation bill

Saturday, July 12, 2003
My next Senator?

Jerry Springer is apparently gearing up to run for the Senate next year.

The Ohio State Democratic Party is horrendously incompetent. In the last couple of years, they've failed to elect anyone to a state-wide position other than the State Supreme Court. They've managed to do this by running candidates who no one knows anything about (Mary Boyle), who have no qualification other than being the brother of the former governor (Ted Celeste) or just dug up former Attorney General Lee Fisher again. And then there's Tim Hagan, who ran a horrific, mostly web-based, campaign that lost badly against Bob Taft (aka 'the Gray Davis of Ohio').

This time, the only other candidate willing to run against Voinovich is State Sen. Eric Fingerhut (DISCLAIMER: I did a little work for Eric a couple of years ago). Fingerhut served in Congress from 1993-5, but got steamrollered in the 1994 Republican landslide by Steve LaTourette. Fingerhut is a nice guy and a good centrist, but he has absolutely no name recognition outside of Cleveland. He hasn't done anything in the State Senate that would change that yet.* The party seems to continually hope that they can just run someone from Cleveland and get enough turnout to swamp the rest of the state. It hasn't happened yet, and there's no sign of it happening now. There are a couple of Clevelanders who probably have enough name recognition to make it a competitive race - Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones or Mayor Jane Campbell. Tubbs Jones won't run - her House seat is essentially tenured** - and Campbell seems to be waiting for DeWine or the Governorship in 2006. Or they could actually look outside of Cleveland for candidates. Tony Hall, anyone?

The sad thing is that the seat really should be competitive. The state isn't as Republican as their dominance of state-wide offices would imply. Voinovich has few, if any, achievements to point to - standing up to Bush on this year's budget was really the first time I can remember him standing up for anything.

So we may be stuck with Jerry. Well, it certainly should be interesting.

*Not his fault, really - the State House and State Senate have been gerry-mandered so as to return large Republican majorities. There is little that the Democrats in Columbus can get done as a result.
** It's a VRA thing.

UPDATE: I just caught the last ten minutes of Springer's infomercial, and it absolutely seems (now there's a contradiction in my semantics) that he'll be running.

Assuming that Springer gets past Fingerhut - which isn't certain, but fairly likely - I think that he could actually mount a pretty serious challenge to Voinovich. Springer's sounds like enough of a populist to make some inroads in the southern half of the state. He has enough name recognition to draw out voters - which has been a perennial problem for the Democrats, who have repeatedly failed to achieve sufficient turnout in the northern half of the state. Still, Springer's candidacy speaks ill of the state party that things are this desperate.

Friday, July 11, 2003
The right call

Harvard has rescinded their offer of admission to Blair Hornstine. Hornstine was the twat who sued to be declared sole valedictorian at her high school - the school had wanted to have her share the honor, as she had been excused from certain classes based on an apparent illness and received separate home schooling during that time - only to have it subsequently revealed that she had plagiarized various writings for articles she had written for a local newspaper.

Damn time.

I don't really know who was right and who was wrong over the claim that Iraq bought uranium from Niger, but watching the Bush administration and the CIA slug it out sure is fun to watch.

Sunday, July 06, 2003
24-Day Warning

The Carnival of the Vanities will be held here on July 30th.

Hmmm .... slow news day.

Saturday, July 05, 2003
There's an interesting article on Howard Dean in today's (well, technically tomorrow's) Washington Post.

Thursday, July 03, 2003
Pointless thought o' the day

Has anyone ever noticed that the profile of Thomas Jefferson on the nickel doesn't really look like any other portrait of Jefferson?