Friday, April 15, 2005

Surely you can do better than that?
The New York Times argues in favor of the estate tax (look at that, I didn't even call it the death tax), and does a poor job of it:

The most commonly heard argument against the estate tax - that it represents unfair double taxation - is specious. First, the estate tax does not even kick in until the assets left at death exceed $1.5 million, or $3 million per married couple - and those exemption amounts will more than double by 2009. So most Americans never even have to think about the estate tax, let alone worry about it coming on top of some other tax.
Follow that logic? Because most Americans don't pay the tax, it can't be double taxation on those that do. No, of course you don't follow that logic because it's not logical. How many Americans pay a tax has nothing to do with whether it is taxing the same money twice or not. Next:
Second, much of the wealth transferred at death has never been taxed. That's because capital gains on assets like houses, stocks and bonds are not taxed until the asset is sold. Obviously, if you inherit, say, a house, its owner didn't sell it, so never paid any capital gains tax on it.
Ok, fair enough—sort of. There are two problems with this idea. First, if you want to tax the appreciation of this, say, house, then why does it need to be taxed as part of an estate? If you don't readjust the basis of the investment, then all you have to do is assess the inheritor for the full amount when and if s/he sells the property. That way you still get capital gains tax taken out of it the way you would normally. At the very worst, if you accept the premise that the gain made by the deceased should be taxed, assets like houses should be treated as a sale from the deceased to the beneficiary of the will. The inheritor should get the property, and pay only the going capital gains rate on the current value minus the previous basis. The basis is then readjusted. We don't need a separate tax to accomplish this, it can just be folded into current capital gains law.

The second problem with this piece is in the phrase "much of the wealth transferred at death has never been taxed." OK, but what about the stuff that has? Savings, and other similar forms of wealth, are taxed when they are earned, and then again when they are transferred to the next of kin? That is precisely what double taxation means.

The NYT tries to dismiss all of this with the wave of a hand, and a claim that "The only thing driving the push for repealing the estate tax is ideology." While that's absolutely right, that doesn't make it wrong. The only thing driving the civil rights movement was ideology. The only thing driving the gay rights movement, the anti-death penalty movement, and any other number of issues supported by the NYT are ideologies. These editors do not have a problem with ideology—though that's what they'd like you to believe—they have a problem with ideologies that conflict with their own.

He's right about the key
Michael Costello: "The key thing for those on the Left to understand is that intense dislike of Bush and echoes of Vietnam do not make a foreign policy. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Bolton - they too will pass. What will go on is the great human desire to be free, which should be at the core of our foreign policy. The great danger for the Left is that its Vietnam and Bush obsessions may mean that it will end up on the wrong side of history. "

Precisely the reason
GESO will not soon organize a union at Yale. According to today's YDN: "Members of Columbia University's Graduate Students Employees United, which is holding a strike coordinated with the one at Yale, have laid out plans for a more extensive strike."

First, what about striking Columbia TAs is supposed to give the Yale administration any additional incentive to recognize GESO as a union? It's not like all Ivy League schools have some bond that causes them to look out for one another.

Second, shouldn't it be a bit of a sign when TAs at a completely different school can organize a more substantial protest for your issue than your own group can?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Now that's law enforcement
Cheers to our national law enforcement agencies, who today can proudly say: "More than 10,000 fugitives from justice have been captured in a nationwide, weeklong dragnet involving federal, state and local authorities, said the U.S. Marshals Service, which led the effort."

That's a lot of criminals who are now where they belong. Hopefully at least a few of these—seems more than likely, doesn't it?—will result in convictions that keep them there for a long time to come.

Just on this point?
I had to laugh. I'm sitting in class, and a girl just said "On this point, I disagree with the Europeans" (emphasis hers).

It was amusing because this is, I think, the first time all semester that she has endorsed an American perspective over the typically European view of the world.

UPDATE [4/14/2005 - 14:55]: Oops, I posted too soon. She just added "Sorry, I need to clarify—I don't support the way the Americans are going about it, just the guiding principles." Isn't it grand when Americans refer to their own people in the third person? "The Americans," like "that guy over there."

One of these days I'm going to have to punish GajinBiker for making me laugh out-loud during class...

Liberals as Fascists?
It's not exactly the same old meme, as Evan Coyne Maloney implicates liberals in the next rise of Fascism.

Supreme Response
A while back, I excerpted an article from the New Yorker titled "Supreme Confidence," which attempted to explain who Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is, and what he stands for. I just came across this review of that article from the National Review, and thought I should offer it up as well.

Edward Whelan—the author of the review—offers some compliments and some criticism, in what I found to be a balanced piece. Read it, and broaden your understanding of one of my favorite Justices of all-time.

UPDATE [4/14/2005 - 14:46]: How dare this student behave in such a way? This is despicable (via Political Wire):

WHEN U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (above) spoke Tuesday night at NYU's Vanderbilt Hall, "The room was packed with some 300 students and there were many protesters outside because of Scalia's vitriolic dissent last year in the case that overturned the Texas law against gay sex," our source reports. "One gay student asked whether government had any business enacting and enforcing laws against consensual sodomy. Following Scalia's answer, the student asked a follow-up: 'Do you sodomize your wife?' The audience was shocked, especially since Mrs. Scalia [Maureen] was in attendance. The justice replied that the question was unworthy of an answer."
At least Scalia knows how to respond to such idiots.

I do love it, though, when a student demanding privacy rights in the bedroom feels the need to air a Supreme Court Justice's bedroom activities to the whole world.

What Bolton's confirmation is all about
From David Brooks:

But it is ridiculous to say [Bolton] doesn't believe in the United Nations. This is a canard spread by journalists who haven't bothered to read his stuff and by crafty politicians who aren't willing to say what the Bolton debate is really about.

The Bolton controversy isn't about whether we believe in the U.N. mission. It's about which U.N. mission we believe in.

From the start, the U.N. has had two rival missions. Some people saw it as a place where sovereign nations could work together to solve problems. But other people saw it as the beginnings of a world government.[...]

The people who talk about global governance begin with the same premises as the world government types: the belief that a world of separate nations, living by the law of the jungle, will inevitably be a violent world. Instead, these people believe, some supranational authority should be set up to settle international disputes by rule of law.

They know we're not close to a global version of the European superstate. So they are content to champion creeping institutions like the International Criminal Court. They treat U.N. General Assembly resolutions as an emerging body of international law. They seek to foment a social atmosphere in which positions taken by multilateral organizations are deemed to have more 'legitimacy' than positions taken by democratic nations.

John Bolton is just the guy to explain why this vaporous global-governance notion is a dangerous illusion, and that we Americans, like most other peoples, will never accept it.
What does Brooks think are the reasons we'll never accept it? Glad you asked:
We'll never accept it, first, because it is undemocratic [...] Second, we will never accept global governance because it inevitably devolves into corruption [...] We will never accept global governance, third, because we love our Constitution and will never grant any other law supremacy over it [...]

Fourth, we understand that these mushy international organizations liberate the barbaric and handcuff the civilized. Bodies like the U.N. can toss hapless resolutions at the Milosevics, the Saddams or the butchers of Darfur, but they can do nothing to restrain them. Meanwhile, the forces of decency can be paralyzed as they wait for "the international community."

Fifth, we know that when push comes to shove, all the grand talk about international norms is often just a cover for opposing the global elite's bĂȘtes noires of the moment - usually the U.S. or Israel.
I'm not quite as certain as Brooks that Americans will never accept the UN as a global governing body—I just hope he's right. I believe that Brooks will never accept UN governance for those reasons, and I know that those are largely my reasons for the same. Unfortunately, some people are quick to subject American action to a "global test," you might remember.

Not exactly good news
According to "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned Wednesday that Iran is nearing a 'point of no return' in developing a nuclear weapon that could be used against his country."

Can anyone say Osiraq? (More here and here).

That's not enough?
A column in the YDN today, about fetishes directed at Asian women, begins: "A week ago, InSight, the only Asian-American women's organization on campus, gathered for a weekly dinner meeting[...]"

All I have to ask is: why would we possibly need more than one Asian-American women's organization??

to my two close friends who ran in the Yale College Council elections held over the past three days. According to the YDN: "Marissa Brittenham '07 won the vice presidency with 50 percent of the vote [...] Kasdin Miller '07 was elected secretary with 44.6 percent."

So, congratulations ladies.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

What is wrong with these people? repeats an AP piece that qualifies that organization as just plain lazy, or perhaps just plain stupid. In an article about a robotics competion, I came across the phrase: "just a centimeter (an inch) shy of the required distance."

A centimeter is in no way shape or form equivalent to an inch. There are 2.54 centimeters per inch. Americans learn this in middle school, if not before. How can the AP settle for such total mediocrity?

Look again
Upon my first glance at the front page of today, I could have sworn it was an April Fools issue, 12 days late. What did I see? Click on the image at the right to get see the full-size version and see if you can figure it out for yourself.

Basically, the front-page excerpts the beginning of each top news story below the links to their individual pages. In the excerpt from this story, that excerpt cut out at an undesirable point. The front page read:

University and city leaders gathered yesterday in East Rock Park -- property donated to the city by Yale over a century ago -- to announce that Yale will raise its annual voluntary contribution to the city, giving New Haven an additional $1.
In fact, the article continues "8 million this year," to make the total increase of the contribution $1.8 million, not a mere $1.

Still, that would have been a very funny article.

GajinBiker points out that both China and Japan are looking to become friendlier with Israel, saying: "Israel's actually not that hard a country to get along with, provided you aren't maniacally bent on its absolute destruction."

I'd also point out that they're not a bad group to help you build up your defensive forces.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Pipedreams, but good ones
Russ Smith wants the New York Times to change its name, appending "Democrat" at the end—and to drop the "All the news that's fit to print" motto, which clearly dodges the truth. While he acknowledges that this is never to be, he makes some good points throughout this column. My favorite "heh" moment:

Todd Gitlin, a journalism professor at Columbia—if aspiring reporters need one more reason to skip this expensive and wasteful master's degree, a trip to Gitlin's class might be just the eye-opener—unleashes his dismay about the imaginary GOP hijacking of the Times in April's American Prospect, an essay so insular you'd swear he lived and socialized exclusively with people who supported John Kerry.

Oh wait, he does.
Read the whole thing if you've got time.

Monday, April 11, 2005

For all you Wal-Mart haters out there
Max Borders offers a great column at Tech Central Station "Understanding the Wal-Mart Effect," in which he explains what really goes on after Wal-Mart moves in and gobbles up all of the Mom and Pop businesses:

Boone, North Carolina (named for the famous Dan'l) is a college town nestled in the rustic mountains of Appalachia. The population is divided roughly among groups of students, locals, and the academic elite. Such a microcosm of American diversity works in its own way. The locals realize how much money the university brings in. The students love the Smoky Mountain amenities and the bluegrass music. Academics find the local folkways charming and complementary to their status as, well, elites. But when Wal-Mart decided to come along in the 90s, locals, students, and academics also had a common purpose to bind them: to keep Wal-Mart out.

As it often does, Wal-Mart won. And since then, Boone has experienced the Wal-Mart effect. First, some Mom-n-Pop shops in Boone may have gone out of business due to the intense competition. But something interesting has happened: many new businesses have sprung up and they're cooler, more interesting, and more highly specialized than most of the old ones were. Mom-n-Pop have decided to move into more boutique-style businesses -- and not even Wal-Mart can compete with that.
Since I seem to be getting a lot of hits from the Kossacks today, I thought I'd offer up that bit of information.

As often happens with trade and economic policy from the left, the focus is too much on the immediate future. Cycles like this Wal-Mart effect are known as creative destruction. Yes, a few people will lose out in the short term (as with globalization), but more opportunities are created as well. The success of a local Wal-Mart will never destroy the surrounding area, or Wal-Mart would have gone out of business long ago. Yes, it forces the prices on many common items so low that inefficient, expensive local stores cannot compete. But by providing a sufficient supply of these goods while saving their consumers money, it allows for more specialized products to be offered in other storefronts.

And those poor, non-unionized Wal-Mart laborers? Find me an example where Wal-Mart has moved in and lowered employment in the surrounding communities and I'd love to discuss it with you. In the meantime, enjoy your cheaper shaving cream, and that little extra money you can spend on your environmentally friendly coffee.

UPDATE [4/18/2005 - 11:17]: Dave Justus comments on the same story, and has a poster who actually owned a small retail store that had to deal with an incoming Wal-Mart store. Take a look.

This whole thing is weird:

Police on Monday tackled and forcibly dragged away a man with two suitcases who had stationed himself in front of the west side of the U.S. Capitol.

The incident had forced police to evacuate that side of the Capitol in fear of a possible explosion.

Police, some armed with assault rifles, moved in slowly behind the man, who was dressed in black and faced the Capitol from a plaza below its west entrance. Crouching behind the wall, the police sprang up and ran at the man, who never moved.

He was tackled by two policemen, dragged to an ambulance and taken away. Police left the suitcases behind.

Some spectators applauded as police dragged the man away.
I really don't know what to make of that.

Meaningless Clarifications
Among today's YDN clarifications, I found this gem: "Thursday's story 'GESO leaders host undergrad teach-in' incorrectly implied a teach-in about GESO was organized by that group. The teach-in was sponsored by the UOC and the Hippolytic."

That might as well have said "The teach-in was sponsored by people who would all be members of GESO if only they were in graduate school, instead of mere undergraduates."

Among other things
Glenn Reynolds comments on the gentleman who attempted to use $2 bills at Best Buy, and was turned away: "If the report's accurate, I think this guy's got a lawsuit. And the rest of us have a reason not to do business with Best Buy."

Well, Glenn, my family already had plenty of reasons. How about their "no returns 30 days after Christmas" policy? My brother wanted to return an item that had been given to him as a gift, and he wanted to buy a better, more expensive item in their store. Unfortunately for him, 30 days had passed since Christmas and, despite his having a receipt and his willingness to settle for store credit, they would not take the item back.

Best Buy has a great selection and decent prices, but their customer service policies make it not worth shopping there.

Read this, it's extremely short, but very important.

And the money will pay for a funeral "Using revenue from its candy and soda sales, Model High School plans to pay up to $100 for information about thefts and drug or gun possession on campus."

If your plan is to get kids killed or seriously injured, then this is precisely the way to go about it.