December 2002 Archives
December 21, 2002
A new study by the Heritage Foundation recommends making the Bush 2001 tax cut package permanent. The study argues that by making the reductions permanent and fully effective immediately, the cuts would benefit individuals, families, businesses, the economy, and the stock market.
The study also showed the consequences of repealing the Bush 2001 tax plan in 2003:
o Taxes would increase and refunds would be reduced for filers in all income classes in 2004.
o Overall, the rate of increase in income taxes after refundable credits would be greatest for those with incomes between $10,000 and $30,000.
o Many tax filers with incomes less than $15,000 would notice the tax change as a reduction in their refundable tax credits.
o Taxpayers with incomes over $500,000 would have the smallest percentage increase.
Other consequences of repealing the tax cuts in 2003 include:
This piece from the WSJ op-ed page nails some of the problems with telecom regulation, which is the biggest policy issue facing tech. The growth of broadband is the biggest single factor in the growth of all of tech, and the biggest gating factor to telecom is federal intrusion. Much of the political weight driving this intrusion comes not from those looking to protect consumers, but from other companies looking to protect market share. And to those who would "protect" consumers, the unintended consequences of anti-trust and regulatory actions are doing anything but.
Telecom Meltdown, the Sequel
The cycle time between bad policy decisions and their impact in the marketplace keeps getting shorter and shorter. Last week, EchoStar and Hughes confessed defeat in their satellite merger attempt, foiled by regulators. Hours later, Hughes announced for the benefit of its stock price that it wouldn't be going ahead with residential broadband rollout after all.
That was the word from Jack Shaw, the company's CEO, in an interview with one of our reporters. "No longer willing to make the risky investments" was how the Journal's Andy Pasztor phrased it. Hooking up with Echostar was supposed to give the combined company a potential subscriber base to make a satellite broadband option for regular folks a money-making proposition. But now that the merger is off? Fuggedaboutit.
December 15, 2002
Trent Lott was the wrong face for the Republican Party of the 21st Century before his gaff and of course he's now a disaster for the Republicans. As if his judgment wasn't bad enough with his latest remark, he is now putting his personal interests well ahead of the Party's by not bowing out gracefully. Worse, he seems to be playing a game of chicken--threatening that if he is forced out he will resign, leaving his Senate vacancy to be filled by a Democrat and putting the Republican's control of the Senate in jeopardy. But of course this tactic, as shameful and revealing as it is, can't really work--if he stays the Republicans will surely lose their majority in two years anyway. This man is an embarrassment--get him out.
December 12, 2002
Also from the WSJ editorial page:
Down (Under) With the Internet
Watch what you say on the Web.
Wednesday, December 11, 2002 12:01 a.m.
"Some Australian guy went and ruined the Internet. Dang."
So writes Web writer Glenn Reynolds. And he might not be far wrong.
Yesterday's ruling by the High Court of Australia that libel suits can be brought wherever damage occurs has chilling implications for free speech, whether the alleged offender be a large news corporation or a one-man operation like Mr. Reynolds's Instapundit.com. In theory, one incautious comment on your family Web site could be enough to land you in a foreign court if it gets read in the wrong place.
From the WSJ editorial page:
The Deficit Gambit
Now that President Bush has a new economic team, we keep reading that their first obligation is to repudiate Mr. Bush's economic policy. This is the sage Beltway counsel now being delivered to these alleged "budget hawks" who are said to be duty bound to defuse the "deficit bomb."
Do these journalists realize how foolish they look? Presidents typically choose advisers to implement their policies, not to stymie them. But even as word leaks that Mr. Bush is planning a large pro-growth tax cut, Washington wise guys insist on writing without irony that maybe Dick Darman has returned in the form of Stephen Friedman and John Snow. And these folks question George Bush's IQ?
December 6, 2002
From the WSJ. Answers some of the gossip about mercury and vaccines. Read this piece entitled: "The Truth About Thimerosal: Democrats and trial lawyers play politics with vaccine liability." Excerpt:
Most important, no scientific study has ever found a link between vaccines and autism, despite years of detailed research into the safety of vaccines. Even the World Health Organization continues to endorse the use of the preservative.
Sadly, the real losers of this wild goose chase are parents of autistic children, who've seen anti-vaccinators use their cause to divert time and resources away from legitimate research into the disorder.
U.S. public health agencies knew most of this in 1999. But they worried that anti-vaccine groups would use the FDA information to scare parents away from immunizations. So they hastily recommended that manufacturers immediately remove the preservative--a huge mistake.
"We took it out precipitously, which made it look like thimerosal is harmful--when there is no evidence it is. I think we hurt the public trust," said Paul Offit, who sits on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and is chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The recommendation brought unwarranted fear, vaccine shortages, and . . . tort lawyers.
December 4, 2002
Sometime this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will announce whether it will accept the case Nike, Inc. v. Kasky. The Court is being asked to consider if the California Supreme Court was correct when it ruled that Nike, Inc. could be sued for false advertising over responses to charges concerning its labor and environmental practices at plants in developing countries. Court observers believe that the case -- which addresses the extent to which the First Amendment protects corporate speech -- could prove among the most important of the coming term.
This past summer, as Nike's appeal was being filed, the Washington Legal Foundation asked Clark S. Judge, managing director of the White House Writers Group, to discuss the case's "impact on business". The foundation published his response as a "Legal Opinion Letter" in late September.
To read Mr. Judge's comments, "Kasky v. Nike: U.S. Supreme Court Review Can Protect Free Public Debate," please click here:
The White House Writers Group is a high-stakes corporate communications and public policy strategy firm based in Washington, DC. Neither Nike, Inc. nor any party directly or indirectly involved in this suit is a client of the firm.
The New York Times
December 4, 2002
Protect the Children
To the Editor:
The failure of significant numbers of children to be vaccinated is America's dirty little public health secret. As you point out in "When Parents Say No to Child Vaccinations" (front page, Nov. 30), unvaccinated children are at far greater risk from potentially lethal infectious diseases than those who have been vaccinated, and are a threat to the community.
States should terminate "personal" and "philosophical" exemptions from vaccination, and only documented allergy or sensitivity to vaccines should qualify.
Schools should aggressively enforce vaccination requirements, and child-welfare and law enforcement agencies should regard the failure to vaccinate a child as tantamount to subjecting him to a game of Russian roulette with a handgun. Children's advocates should consider lawsuits against parents whose unvaccinated children contract serious illnesses from which they could have been protected.
HENRY I. MILLER, M.D.
Stanford, Calif., Nov. 30, 2002
The writer was an F.D.A. official, 1979-94
December 2, 2002
Did FDR not only know about Pearl Harbor before the attack, but encourage it? The debate wages on at:
If you are in the mood for the absurd, read this drivel, originally published in the Toronto Star. The idea is that Bush's verbal gaffes are a clear indication of his true nature: "He's a very angry guy, a hostile guy... he's all about punishment and death..." The clue? He only stumbles when it's something he doesn't care about. So, the article reads, when Bush says "I know how hard it is to put food on your family," ... "That wasn't because he's so stupid that he doesn't know how to say, 'Put food on your family's table' — it's because he doesn't care about people who can't put food on the table..." Ah, brilliant! No statistics or anything resembling proof are cited, but their reference to Happy Days' Fonz is certainly authoritative...
One of the greatest threats to the economy are the increasing political and legal consequences against taking risk. Milton Friedman has said (my paraphrasing) you need to be able to fail in order to be able to succeed. As the line between failure and fraud is increasingly blurred, for the sake of political grandstanding, media supremacy, and trial lawyer greed, pre-emption against risk taking, both regulatory and self-imposed, will flourish and the economy will suffer. We need an alliance for risk. From Robert Bartley's column today:
CEOs are hunkering down at the threat of jail. As a class they're under legal, political and societal assault, brought about by apparent crimes of a few of their peers, a general impression of excess by imperial CEOs and, of course, the collapse in share values after the boom from mid-1999 to mid-2000. It's not easy to assume risks when Eliot Spitzer, Robert Morgenthau and the SEC and Justice Department are all in the field. Not to forget the swarming piranhas of the tort bar, suing even the best of firms because their share prices fell.
One of the most spectacular industrial transformations, and political fight, will the metamorphosis of commercial entertainment in the coming decade. Hollywood's business models were built in a world of fixed, physical media (LPs), and closed networks (tv), and location based entertainment (movies.) All of this is changing, as entertainment becomes part of the digital Internet. The economics of fixed, physical media are changing: CDs are already becoming unnecessary and DVDs will follow--all this content will be available over the network. The current advertising business model (i.e. commercials) made possible in closed, analog networks will change. And the movie theater has, quietly, declined dramatically as a part of Americans' lives over the past 50 years, and that trend will not abate. This doesn't mean the end of the entertainment industry--far from it--but it means the end, soon enough, as we know it today. Large, oligopolistic cartels are poor innovators, eschew risk, and tend to use power, political and legal, to forestall change, rather than eat their own young. Hollywood is no exception. (For a clear example of how Hollywood does this, see this piece on their attempt to institute a "broadcast flag.")
If history is a guide, the entertainment industry's efforts will be successful in the short term, but fail in the long term--new competitors will emerge, delayed, and ultimately some will be formidable. Some in the cartel will fail, while most will adapt and survive. Entrepreneurs have been trying to invent new business models for entertainment, and have largely failed to date--some because their models didn't work, others because they were squashed by Hollywood, and their henchmen in Washington. But the struggle will continue, and the spoils will go to the entrepreneurs who get it right.
See this piece in today's Wall Street Journal. Excerpt:
We're the first to stand up for intellectual property and copyright laws, and we sympathize with the industry's attempt to enforce them. But that doesn't change the reality that technology is making it easier for people to ignore them -- and that sooner or later the record industry will have to adapt its business model to this new world.
To date, the industry's only response has been to send battalions of lawyers to sue anyone with the odd MP3. What it is rapidly finding is that there aren't enough lawyers' fingers to plug all the digital holes. The studios shut down Napster, and promptly got in its place Kazaa, Morpheus and other music-sharing programs. You'd think by now they would know how futile it is to try to wipe out the new technology. Over the years, studios have fought everything from tape recorders to VCRs, only to have no choice but to accept their existence and belatedly figure out ways to profit from them. The industry would do better to work on ways to give consumers reasons to buy, rather than steal, their music -- whether it be for low prices, ease of use, added value or free goodies.
One of the most important changes to US foreign aid practice has just happened with very little fanfare. It has been widely understood that blind foreign aid, doled out solely on the basis of need, can often be counter-productive. Often the problem with the recipient countries is a corrupt central government and aid has tended to do nothing more than line their pockets and extend their stay in power. Trade, not aid, is the far better approach and the US would do the world much more good by eliminating tariffs and subsidies. Of course, this is politically untenable, so reforms to aid have been necessary. The Bush plan was tactically brilliant: augment the criteria by which nations are eligible to receive aid so that political realities are taken into account. To avoid criticism from the left, this criteria only applies to an INCREMENTAL $5 billion in aid, on top of the $10 billion already in the pipeline. The Bush tactic was expensive but effective: mute criticism from the left by increasing US foreign aid by 50% and mute criticism on the right by having this new aid be values based. One hopes that the criteria, once proven effective, will begin to apply to other forms of aid and that over time all aid will be invested properly. Read more about it in this New York Times piece.
There is a popular fantasy among the academics that jihad is nothing more than an "individual struggle for personal moral behavior," a "struggle without arms," and many "deny that jihad has any military meaning whatsoever."
IT IS an intellectual scandal that, since September 11, 2001, scholars at American universities have repeatedly and all but unanimously issued public statements that avoid or whitewash the primary meaning of jihad in Islamic law and Muslim history. It is quite as if historians of medieval Europe were to deny that the word “crusade” ever had martial overtones, instead pointing to such terms as “crusade on hunger” or “crusade against drugs” to demonstrate that the term signifies an effort to improve society.
Consider some statements from the fantasists:
Roxanne Euben of Wellesley College, the author of The Road to Kandahar: A Genealogy of Jihad in Modern Islamist Political Thought, asserts that “For many Muslims, jihad means to resist temptation and become a better person.” John Parcels, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Georgia Southern University, defines jihad as a struggle “over the appetites and your own will.” For Ned Rinalducci, a professor of sociology at Armstrong Atlantic State University, the goals of jihad are: “Internally, to be a good Muslim. Externally, to create a just society.” And Farid Eseck, professor of Islamic studies at Auburn Seminary in New York City, memorably describes jihad as “resisting apartheid or working for women’s rights.”
But, of course:
THE TROUBLE with this accumulated wisdom of the scholars is simple to state. It suggests that Osama bin Laden had no idea what he was saying when he declared jihad on the United States several years ago and then repeatedly murdered Americans in Somalia, at the U.S. embassies in East Africa, in the port of Aden, and then on September 11, 2001. It implies that organizations with the word “jihad” in their titles, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and bin Laden’s own “International Islamic Front for the Jihad Against Jews and Crusade[rs],” are grossly misnamed. And what about all the Muslims waging violent and aggressive jihads, under that very name and at this very moment, in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao, Ambon, and other places around the world? Have they not heard that jihad is a matter of controlling one’s anger?
But of course it is bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, and the jihadists worldwide who define the term, not a covey of academic apologists. More importantly, the way the jihadists understand the term is in keeping with its usage through fourteen centuries of Islamic history.
In premodern times, jihad meant mainly one thing among Sunni Muslims, then as now the Islamic majority.* It meant the legal, compulsory, communal effort to expand the territories ruled by Muslims (known in Arabic as dar al-Islam) at the expense of territories ruled by non-Muslims (dar al-harb). In this prevailing conception, the purpose of jihad is political, not religious. It aims not so much to spread the Islamic faith as to extend sovereign Muslim power (though the former has often followed the latter). The goal is boldly offensive, and its ultimate intent is nothing less than to achieve Muslim dominion over the entire world.