Archive for November 2004

More on Forwarding Hoax Emails

I wrote here about my frustration with friends and family credulously forwarding hoax or urban legend emails.  Here is a nice post at techno mom with similar advice.  This post has similar advice.

Maryland Doctors Strike (and the whiny reaction)

Maryland doctors are finally starting to shrug under the weight of the current tort system.  Apparently about 50 doctors have canceled elective procedures for a number of days to protest skyrocketing malpractice premiums.  (hat tip: Club for Growth)

What struck me is not necessarily the doctors' actions, which are representative of the state of mind of doctors across the country, but the whiny reaction:

"Actually what they`re doing is going against their doctor`s oath. The patient is more important than malpractice insurance and they have to realize that," said Washington County Hospital patient Brian Levasser.

Remember, these doctors have stopped doing elective surgeries.  So Mr. Levasser's penis enlargement or whatever will have to wait a few days.  He sounds just like Kip Chalmers on the train in Atlas Shrugged.

OK, here is something Mr. Levasser can try:  Go to work each day, work long hours, and do your absolute best in a critical profession.  Then, each day, just before you go home, roll three dice.  If the result is anything but 1-1-1, go home, have  a beer, and relax with your family.  However, on that unlucky day when you roll three ones, you lose everything - your job, your house, your savings, your reputation and your ability to work again in your chosen profession.  Note that you lose everything not because you did a bad job, but because something unlucky but inevitable happened (e.g. child born with a birth defect) and you were the one standing closest.  On the day after you rolled that 1-1-1 and lost everything, tell me malpractice insurance isn't important. 

Doctors used to be the people we looked up to and admired, the pillars of society; now, we treat them like galley slaves.  We keep you alive to serve this patient. So operate well and live.

(By the way, I am sympathetic to the first comment on the Club for Growth post.  Those of us in general business can sometimes get frustrated that doctors seem to be able to get attention on their frivolous suits where the rest of us cannot.  But I refuse the begrudge them that, and wish them well)

Two Faces of Islam

For years, a number of more conservative groups have been warning that the messages given by Islamic leaders and holy men in English for world consumption were far different than the messages given to their own people in Arabic.  And indeed, their translations of Arabic speech aimed at Muslims can be pretty scary.  Few Westerners believed or wanted to believe these warnings, preferring to hope that most arabs were like themselves, basically peaceful and supportive of democracy and plurality. 

For years, I was skeptical of these claims.  I felt like it would require extraordinary laziness and incompetance on the part of the media to just digest the English statements of Islamic leaders without ever checking out what they were saying in Arabic.  However, over the past couple of years, I have lost all faith in the work ethic, intelligence, and dilligence of the western media, and have come to believe that it would be enitrely possible for Arab leaders to manipulate Western media in this way.

For this reason, a part of this article (hat tip LGF) about German reactions to Musilm violence in the Netherlands is interesting to me.  It seems that, after the recent violence, the media finally had the idea to actually listen in on what some Islamic religeous leaders are saying in Arabic:

"These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don't shave under their arms and their sweat collects under their hair with a revolting smell and they stink," said the preacher at the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, in the film made by Germany's ZDF public TV, adding: "Hell lives for the infidels! Down with all democracies and all democrats!"

Beyond the bizarre body hair reference, this is NOT what the media has been saying that Islam is teaching here in the west (I don't imply this represents the majority, but the media has essentially claimed it does not exist at all).

By the way, the proposed "solotions" strike me as nuts, and should also be enlightening to anyone in the US who looks up to Continental Europe as a counter-weight to percieved creeping fascism with the Bush Administration.  I may not be a fan of the Patriot Act, but nobody in the Bush administration, with far more provocation, has suggested anything as loony as making all religeous ceremonies English-only.

Sears and Kmart -- Two Drunks Propping Each Other Up

Back in Texas in the 1980's, a number of large tottering banks merged, in an attempt at survival.  The result was called two drunks propping each other up, and it seldom worked.  The classic example is the Pennsylvania-New York Central railroad merger which ended in one of the most catastrophic bankruptcies of all time, and the largest industry nationalization in US history.

It was exactly these precedents that occurred to me today when I heard that Sears and Kmart are merging.  Scrappleface apparently was thinking the same thing, but is much funnier than I am.


Other good examples in the comments.  I fell over laughing at "the EU".

Sarin Gas in Fallujah?

See Updates Below -- Update #1: Sarin test kits, most probably. Update #2: MSM still waddling along, left in the dust by blogs

This is not a huge surprise, but it is still bad news.  Sarin find announced a few days ago confirmed in pictures, and it sure looks legit.  Memo to Republicans:  This is bad news.  Do not make the same mistake as Democrats in deciding what is good and bad news based on how it vindicates or hurts Bush.


Larger version is picture #2 in USA Today Slideshow

Story courtesy of Powerline and Captains Quarters

Update #1

More information in the link above at Captains Quarters.  The betting line now is that these are Sarin test kits, rather than Sarin, which makes more sense anyway given how they were found.

It is amazing to me that USAToday and others could have this story now for days, and make less progress on what is really in this picture than amateur blog readers can in a couple hours in a comment thread.  Interesting.

UPDATE #2 (1AM EST Thursday): 

It has been well over 8 32 hours since readers at a number of sites, including Powerline and LGF, deconstructed this photo and concluded that these were Sarin test kits.  USAToday has still not changed their story or their caption.

Vaccine Regulatory Mess

Flu shot shortages, free market failure or regulatory/litigation mess.  You decide.

Week 10 Football Outsiders Rankings are Up!

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 10 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Despite the win last week, our Arizona Cardinals have finally returned to their usual stomping grounds -- in the bottom 5 teams, along with Miami, Oakland and San Francisco.  Hard to argue about these teams being the worst.  Perhaps the biggest surprise is the team fifth from the bottom - Dallas.  Cowboy haters rejoice.  Parcel's record of second year improvement seems to be in serious trouble.  If the season ended today, San Francisco would set the record for the worst statistical performance since these guys started keeping the stats, beating the second worst team, the 2002 Cardinals and the third worst team, the 2003 Cardinals, but just shy of the 2002 performance of the expansion Texans.  (Gotta love our Cards).

The top three, unsurprisingly, are New England, Philly and Pittsburgh.  New England has taken the top spot, which is where I think they belong.  For a while, Philly's special teams rank was carrying them, but history in these rankings has shown that special teams ranks are very volatile and tend to regress to the mean.  Philly's soft defense may well spell another playoff disappointment for the Eagles.

Spanking Employees

Well, just when you think you have seen every way to screw up in a small business, there comes this story.

The owner of a shaved ice business was arrested after two employees claimed he spanked them for making mistakes at work.

And more...

One of the women told police that on her first day at the Tasty Flavors Sno Biz, Levengood made her sign a statement that said: "I give Gene permission to bust my behind any way he sees fit."

Hat tip to Jim Rome, as I first heard this on his radio show, and to the Mises Institute, of all places, where I found the link.  This story has been out and about for a while, but I wanted to give it a few days to make sure it was not a hoax.

To make this more bizarre, I did a Google search to see if anyone had called this out as a hoax, and found that there have been many similar stories in other places, including here and here.

Caveat on Social Security Reform

I had some links on Social Security reform here

One thing I forgot to mention -- No matter what we decide to do, please, please do not let the government invest social security funds in private equities.  I am all for giving individuals control of their social security funds and allowing these individuals to make their own investment choices.  But, allowing the government to invest in equities will lead to all sorts of problems:

  1. The most obvious is creeping socialism and regulation, particularly of companies that are not well-loved by the intelligentsia.  Mad at Dick Cheney?  Pass a law that the trust fund can't invest in Haliburton.  Don't like Dan Rather?  Pass a law that the trust fund can't invest in CBS.  You get the idea.  The mere threat of disowning the company's equity from the trust fund investments portfolio would force companies to kowtow to the populist notion of the moment.
  2. If you worry about private individuals manipulating the stock market, just wait until the government has the incentive to get in the game.  The government has all kinds of ways, from small (control of economics data) to large (interest rates and SEC regulations) to manipulate the market for short term gain. 

Marginal Revolution also has an interesting post on whether the historic equity premium would still exist if the government invested massively in equities.

VOIP Regulation

Good roundup over at the Knowlege Problem on regulation of Voice over IP (VOIP - basically telephone calls over broadband Internet). 

The Federal Communications Commission declared today that a type of Internet telephony service offered by Vonage Holdings Corp. called DigitalVoice is not subject to traditional state public utility regulation.

The Commission also stated that other types of IP-enabled services, such as those offered by cable companies, that have basic characteristics similar to DigitalVoice would also not be subject to traditional state public utility regulation.

This may be good news.  If it keeps regulation low and lets this new technology continue to innovate and find its way in the market, great.  If it is just two bullies snarling over who gets to take my lunch money, then its not-so-good news.

Carnival of the Vanities #113

COTV #113 is up Food Basics, yet another on the growing list of Arizona Blogs.  This site has its article on Meyer's Law featured.

Lileks and the Cabinet

I love this from James Lileks:

Yay Condi Rice. I want her to go to Saudi Arabia, and I want her first words upon getting off the plane to be "I'll drive." As for the Department of Education, I'd like to see an experiment: let the position go unfilled for four years and see if it has any impact on the educational abilities of the nation's youth. I'm guessing no one would notice if we didn't have a Secretary of Education. Everyone just keep on doing what you're doing, and get back to us.

I would suggest the Department of Commerce for the same experiment.

CBS News Ethical Priorities

CBS News really is falling to some new lows.  Courtesy of is this article from Reuters that CBS is firing the producer who had the temerity to break into a top-rated show (CSI-NY) with news that a major world figure had died (Arafat):

CBS News has fired the producer responsible for interrupting the last five minutes of a hit crime drama with a special report on the death of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat (news - web sites), a network source said on Friday.

Great.  CBS has an hour-long show using documents my 10-year-old could see were forged attacking a presidential candidate a few weeks before the election, and no one gets fired - and no apology to viewers is issued.  But, pre-empt a few minutes of a top rated show to announce that one of the most prominent world figures of the last 50 years has died, and you get fired (within hours) and CBS publishes an apology to viewers. 

Jackpot Litigation

For those who still hold out belief that the tort system today is still primarily about justice rather than just hijacking deep pockets, read this post at  From an online ad:

We will show you how to prove you had taken Vioxx, to prove that you had related side effects, and to find a good lawyer to win your case. There are still places selling Vioxx after the recall, you can find them online. Merck is still 100% fully responsible for any side effect. If you purchase Vioxx now, not only you can sue Merck, you can also sue the pharmacy store for selling recalled products. The purchase is risk free, as Merck will pay you every penny you spend on Vioxx including tax and shipping fees.

Quick, buy some before they take it off the shelf, so you too can get in on the lawsuit!

By the way, this little tidbit, also via, gave me a chuckle.  A woman is suing a railroad for hitting her when she was walking down the railroad tracks.  In part, she is suing the train for "failure of its engineer to...yield the right of way".  LOL - I can't believe the train didn't swerve out of the way.


Legal Underground has a post critical of this article:

As grist for its anti-lawyer message, is featuring this obvious Internet hoax: "Get Your Million Dollars from Vioxx Lawsuit."  Does Walter Olson really think his readers are so gullible?

In the comments section, I responded as follows:

Hmmm. I am one of the listed disciples (lol). I am willing to believe the ad is non-serious, meaning that it was aimed more at getting traffic and probably was not written by a law firm, and am posting an update as such with a link to this site.

Hoax? In my mind, its a hoax only if the legal advice is wrong or if you think no one would respond to the plea. I can't tell you if Vioxx can still be bought nowadays (that may be a hoax). However, if it was still on the shelf somewhere, ask yourself two honest questions:

1. Is there a lawyer out there who would happily try to make the case that a person who bought Vioxx after the recall can still be awarded damages?  Even if the attorney knew the person bought the Vioxx mainly to get in the class action?
2. Are there people out there who, if they thought it would get them in on a big class action, would go out today and load up on Vioxx solely to get a chance at having a lawsuit?

The honest answer is yes to both (just read the billboards in Florida). I mean, I would bet about any amount of money that someone out there has read this on the Internet and has tried to go buy Vioxx to get in on the jackpot. Guaranteed. Would any of you take the other side of this bet?

The fact that this ad may not be from a real lawyer does mean that I may have overstepped in painting law firms as being this bad (sorry), but I don't think its being fake in any way hurts the case that the notion of individual responsibility is on life support in this country.

By the way, after looking at Walter Olson's original post, I think he was pretty careful not to claim that the page was from a real law firm, and basically pointed to the same issues with the page's provenance that Legal Underground pointed out.

In the companies I have run, I have spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with a few really ridiculous lawsuits.  Here are two examples (that happened to companies I ran - this is not Internet hearsay or friend of a friend):

  1. A visitor to one of our facilities claims to have stepped, while walking in his bare feet, on a nail that was on the ground.  He did not come to us for first aid, but called us later after he had left our facility.  He never could produce the nail, nor could we ever find one in the area, but we agreed to pay any small bills he had -- we assumed he might have gone to the emergency room for a tetanus shot or maybe to get a band-aid.  It turns out he eventually claimed that the injury caused him to - get ready -  experience sexual dysfunction, which he eventually sued us over when we refused to pay any treatment costs.
  2. A woman came to our office at our facility limping, claiming to have fallen down the stairs and saying that we were gonna pay.  Despite the fact that it was a crowded area, no witnesses could be found.  We offered her a ride to the hospital which she refused.  Several of our employees thought we saw her come into the facility limping already.  Within the week, she was threatening to sue us for the cost of her knee operation.  Fortunately, since our employees saw her limping coming in, we did some more research, and members of her family told us she was also suing a restaurant she had visited the week before for the same injury.  It turns out she was uninsured, and had hurt her knee elsewhere, and was out trying to find some public business that she could get to pay for her operation. 

Given this experience, I am not going to apologize for believing that the referenced ad might be real.


By the way, I don't think that Legal Underground was calling the train story a hoax, only the Vioxx.  By the way, the exact wording on the complaint against the railroad is even better than I thought:

"The [engineer] did not stop the train in a timely manner, and failed to yield the right of way to a pedestrian walking along the tracks in plain view"

A freight train's topping distance is measured in miles, even with full emergency braking.

She and her attorney's further argue:

that the railroad was negligent for failing to post signs warning 'of the dangers of walking near train tracks and that the tracks were actively in use

Lets leave aside the obvious point about individual responsibility, and ask what would happen if this were the legal standard, to have such signs.  To make sure someone saw one, you would have to have one say every 30 feet.  Since there are just over 200,000 miles of freight railroads in the North America that works out to a bit over 35,000,000 signs that need to be posted.  At $100 per sign this would cost $3.5 billion.

Here is the serious point:  Never would any legislature pass a law that said there had to be warning signs every 30 feet on railroads.  It would be way too costly for little benefit.  At grade crossings today, we have signs and flashing lights and even gates and still thousands of people a year drive in front of trains on grade crossings.  So, if we would never require it legislatively, how have we gotten to a point where a jury might effectively retroactively require such signs, and assess a multi-million dollar penalty for not doing it?

LA Confidential is Terrific

I am sitting here this evening watching LA Confidential on the big screen.  This is a fabulous movie, and its incredible to me that it didn't get more play at the time.  The acting performances are awesome -- ironically I think Kim Bassinger's is the weakest, but she is the only one to get an Oscar for it. The music and mood are fabulous.  It is even more incredible that the nearly unwatchable Titanic could beat it out for best picture Oscar.  If you have never seen it, give it a rent.

Rule of the Courts

This post in The Commons raises an issue that has concerned me for years.  Increasingly, activists are using the courts to achieve regulatory goals that legislatures and/or voters have rejected.  While I am still not sure there is constitutional justification for the degree of legislated regulation that exists in this country, there certainly is no basis for individual courts running whole industries (e.g. telecom, tobacco). 

State attorneys general and private plaintiffs lawyers are increasingly turning to the nation's courts to adopt regulatory measures that legislatures reject. Such "regulation by litigation" has been used against numerous unpopular industries in suits by government and private attorneys. The first set of cases sought to regulate and extract rents from the tobacco companies, but subsequent cases have been brought by both private lawyers and government agencies against gun makers, lead-paint producers, coal-burning utilities, diesel engine manufacturers, and many other industries. In each case, the aim is to extract rents and impose regulatory controls that could not be adopted through the legislative or administrative process.

Read the whole thing.

Update on Coyote's Law

Given all of the conspiracy theories bouncing around the net nowadays, I thought it would be timely to revisit Coyote's Law.  Coyote's Law states:

When the same set of facts can be explained equally well by

  1. A massive conspiracy coordinated without a single leak between hundreds or even thousands of people    -OR -
  2. Sustained stupidity, confusion and/or incompetence

Assume stupidity.

To some extent, Coyote's Law is a logical extension of Occam's Razor.  However, it seems to have consistent and frequent application in modern politics.  Here are a couple of examples, but I am sure the reader can think of more:

  • There are a number of revisionist historians that make the argument that Pearl Harbor was actually an elaborate FDR plot to overcome domestic isolationism and bring the US into the war.  They point to the many missed intelligence clues, the incredible unreadiness of the defenses at Pearl Harbor, and the missing US carriers as evidence of a conspiracy.  However, most historians have concluded that Coyote's Law holds, that our failure at Pearl Harbor we the result of mistakes and incompetence, not conspiracy.
  • The mother of all conspiracy theory subjects is, of course, the JFK shooting.  Many people simply refuse to believe that a lone gunman, and a fairly unimpressive one at that, could have pulled off such a killing.  He must have had help from the Cubans, or the Mafia, or the FBI, or the CIA, or the grassy knoll, or whatever.  Despite all the millions of hours of research into these theories, Coyote's Law still holds - it is much more likely that JFK was killed due to poor protection and the vulnerability of any one man to a sufficiently dedicated gunman who is not committed to getting away after the assassination (which, by the way, is still true).

To some extent, in both these cases it is a bit unfair to use the word "stupidity".  I am reminded of a quote by Frank Borman (as portrayed in the awesome mini-series "From the Earth to the Moon", I have not been able to find out if it was his actual words) in a committee hearing on the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts.  Under intense scrutiny for a set of conditions that in retrospect seemed ridiculously unsafe, Borman described the problem as "a failure of imagination".  To some extent, that is what happened both at Pearl Harbor and with the JFK assassination, and, essentially, with the 9/11 attacks.  What occurred was so new, so unprecedented, that no one could really make themselves believe in advance that it would happen.  But, none-the-less, it resulted in incompetence, not conspiracy.

Which brings us to the 2004 election.  Certainly, in this case, no one can claim a failure of imagination, as just about everyone half anticipated vote-tally screw-ups after Florida in 2000.  However, in their review of conspiracy charges regarding election counts, this Caltech-MIT report has a fantastic restatement of Coyote's Law:

Well, I don't want to write off legitimate questions about the integrity of the voting system. But turn the question around: Which is more likely -- that an exit polling system that has been consistently wrong and troubled turned out to be wrong and troubled again, or that a vast conspiracy carried out by scores and scores of county and state election officials was successfully carried off to distort millions of American votes?


EEEK!  Frank Borman is the astronaut.  I had Martin Borman, the Nazi.  Sorry.  (and yes, this mistake was due to my STUPIDITY and INCOMPETENCE, and not a Boys From Brazil conspiracy.

Directory Listing Checks are the Worst Non-Internet Scam

I don't know if you get these, but about twice a month we get what looks like a refund check in the mail, usually for a couple of dollars and change, from some yellow pages company.  Today we got one from "Directory Billing, LLC" for $3.25.  We get a lot of small checks for pay phone and ATM commissions, NSF check refunds, etc, so sometimes these almost slip through - be VERY careful.

Why?  Well, the check looks all normal and innocuous, but in tiny grey lettering in the background of the endorsement section on the back, there is a lot of legal verbiage that amounts to the following "by endorsing and cashing this check, you are signing up for a directory listing in some random yellow pages you never heard of for some god-awful amount of money which we will bill later". 

Potential Changes in Employment Law

George's Employment Blawg has a nice roundup of what folks might expect in the way of changing labor law and employment regulation from a second Bush term.  As I posted below, I do think that the Bush administration has a pent-up backlog of domestic policy that it wants to tackle.

On Social Security Reform

One of the less remarked on casualties of 9/11 and the war on terror is any progress on a number of issues that GWB looked like he might tackle (e.g. social security and tort reform).    While the war is far from over, and I have had mixed feelings about some part of it (e.g. here), the infrastructure seems to be in place to fight the war while also tackling some new domestic issues.

Jane Galt, over at Asymmetrical Information, has a nice post about new momentum in the Bush administration to tackle social security.  It is unlikely that Bush could draw any more hatred than he already has, so he might be the right person to finally grab the third rail.


Marginal Revolution tackles social security and links to other good sources.

On Different ways to Understand the Computer

For a variety of reasons, my wife and I, who usually get along swimmingly, get into fights when I am trying to help her with the computer.  She has never developed a high comfort level with computers, while I have been using them since I was about 15, programming assembly language on S-100 bus CP/M computers (and yes, I have used punch cards too -- I am just old enough to have had that experience).

I realized today what the problem is.  She called me on my cell, trying to elicit from me the set of commands to do something-or-other in Word.  I kept saying I don't know and she got mad at me because she knew I had done it before, and she thought I was just blowing her off.

In truth, the difference is in how we have both learned to use the computer, and maybe even a fundamental difference in how each of us learns anything.  My wife is a memorizer and note taker.  If I explain to her how to, say, embed an image in a word document, she will carefully write down each step in a notebook she has.  She will never ask me again or falter at the task of adding an image to Word, because she now has either memorized how to do it, or she can look in up in The Book.

I, on the other hand, am nearly incapable of memorizing anything, and the sum total of the notes I took in college probably would not fill a single spiral notebook.  In fact, I suspect I switched from chemical engineering to mechanical engineering in college because, at least at my University, chemical engineering had a ton of memorization (can you say, Isomer?) while mechanical engineering was all about open book problem solving.

When I sit down to a computer, I just sort of figure things out.  When I had my old S-100 bus computer, that was essential, because there was no manual.  Today, its just how I am.  The disadvantage is that every time I insert a graphic in Word, I may have to fiddle around in the menus to figure out, for the 100th time, how to do it.  The advantage is that, if I am suddenly required to insert a spreadsheet rather than a graphic, I am not thrown for a loop - I just follow my usual process of poking around through the menus.

So, I have explained to my wife that to help her, I need to be at the computer.  Once I figure out how to do something, she can then document it in The Book. 

I have had friends who work like me try to insist that my approach is better than my wife's.  I don't think it is - just different.  Take driving directions.  I have no problem trying to find someplace I don't have clear directions for, because I have a good sense of direction and can usually get there by visual reckoning.  As a result, though, I sometimes cannot give street names to get to places I have been as many as 10 or 20 times.  Since I navigate visually and by real-time reckoning, any knowledge I have gained in my successful exploration is very difficult to pass on, just like I have difficulty passing on my computer knowledge.  If the world was all like me, technological society would end after this generation, because no one could pass our knowledge on.

In fact, as I write this, I am getting an epiphany about myself and why I did not do so well as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. (the reader is welcome to stop at this point, because what follows will likely be real-time self analysis rather than of general interest).  I was very very good at analysis, and quickly getting to a sort of 70% confidence level as to conclusions, and then I would hit a wall.  I had little tolerance for continuing to build evidence and analysis and the perfect polished presentation once I thought I "got it", and I had absolutely no tolerance for sitting down and writing a white paper or other published article about our experiences.  This profile probably makes me perfect for running my own business - I wish I had figured it out about 10 years earlier.

ACME Featured Product X

This series explained here. We get many of our featured products here.  You can find all of our past featured products here.

Today's featured product is an ACME classic.  Not necessarily high tech or sexy, but one in which ACME has a tremendous world market share.  No self respecting cartoon character would drop any other brand anvil but ACME!

Anvil   Acmeanvil2

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of State Sales Tax Systems

Note that this is the newest in my series of "real-world" small business issues.  Other posts in this series include Buying a Small Business and Working with the Department of Labor

One of the things I did not mention in my series on buying a small business was the notion of complexity.  Our business manages over 175 sites with 500 seasonal employees in 10 states.  I have friends who own businesses that have the same sales, and more profit, from working alone from their home.  As I often tell people, I love what I do, working in recreation and spending most of my time in National and State Parks, but it is overly complex for the money we make.

The one advantage of this is that, despite being a small business, I get to observe business practices in many parts of the country.  And one business-related practice that varies tremendously from state to state is sales taxes.  (By the way, before I bought this business, I was a strong Federalist.  Putting most regulatory power in the states slows government encroachment.  It also limits anti-business regulation, because states know that such unilateral regulation will just chase employment across state lines, as California has found out.  However, having to deal with 10 different tax and regulatory regimes every day is causing me to revisit Federalism a bit).

Anyway, based on this experience, I will dedicate the rest of this post to my observations of the good and bad of state sales tax systems.

Continue reading ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of State Sales Tax Systems’ »

Alternate Obituaries for Arafat

Some of the "official" biographies of Arafat in the media are starting to make me sick.  Arafat was not a slightly flawed statesman and freedom-fighter.  Arafat was a leading terrorist who has squandered the Palestinians chances to get a real homeland for themselves.  When given the chance at statehood, he was unwilling and unable to create any sort of rule of law, and quickly demonstrated that he was really seeking violence and chaos, not stability and happiness, for his people.  You can find "alternate" obituaries here and here.

Coyote's Law at Work!

Coyote's Law states:

When the same set of facts can be explained equally well by

  1. A massive conspiracy coodinated without a single leak between hundreds or even thousands of people    -OR -
  2. Sustained stupidity, confusion and/or incompetance

Assume stupidity.

Protein Wisdom links to this report Caltec/MIT report debunking a lot of the recent voter fraud accusations.  Here is the money quote that is a dead-on reformulation of Coyote's Law:

Well, I don't want to write off legitimate questions about the integrity of the voting system. But turn the question around: Which is more likely -- that an exit polling system that has been consistently wrong and troubled turned out to be wrong and troubled again, or that a vast conspiracy carried out by scores and scores of county and state election officials was successfully carried off to distort millions of American votes?