Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tough Government

LA's finest, at the Los Angeles United School District, are facing up to adversity:
In the face of a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines ordered an immediate hiring freeze Monday and cut other expenses, including travel, conferences and food at district meetings... "Despite the pressure of a severely curtailed budget, despite the challenge of meeting our education mandate, we will live up to our responsibility to educate the children of LAUSD."
It's rare to see a unionized profession capable of contracting when necessary. Of course, there is a little flexibility:
The only exceptions to the hiring freeze will be for classroom teachers, principals, assistant principals, cafeteria managers, school police officers, bus drivers[,] teachers' assistants, education aides, special education assistants and plant managers.

According to the district, other exceptions will only be considered for requests that are considered essential to school and district operations.
The burning question now is, who are they hiring besides classroom teachers, principals, assistant principals, cafeteria managers, school police officers, bus drivers, teachers' assistants, education aides, special education assistants and plant managers??

Hat tip to BOTWT.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Handball Henry

French metric football striker Thierry Henry has admitted to using a handball to score against Ireland's plucky side in a winner-goes-to-the-World-Cup qualifier. The isles are in an uproar, and even the French papers are clear that their World Cup berth was dishonestly gained. The front page of Ireland's Independent newspaper is running the latest update on the scandal: the Football Association of Ireland is asking for the match to be replayed.

Come on FIFA - just think of the ratings this would draw!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Patriot Way

The Patriots are the only team in the NFL using double-sided mouthguards, which reduce the risk and severity of concussions. Kudos to the Pats and team dentist Gerald Maher for designing a mouthguard players could accept, and for prioritizing long-term health.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Right Call, The Wrong Call

Global Review fully supports Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th down from their own 28 last night [play-by-play here]. A punt offers the possibility of a serious runback, and Peyton Manning probably had a 50% chance of completing the two-minute drill to win the game. Likewise, the Patriots had converted 5 of 10 fourth downs this season. This was fourth-and-two, and the play worked perfectly - for 1.5 yards. Only a perfect tackle prevented the Pats from icing the game.

The defense took the call as disrespect, which is understandable. But given the situation, it made sense.

The bigger coaching mistake came one down earlier. On 3rd-and-short, Brady passed, incomplete. If Coach knew he was going to go for it on 4th, he should have run on 3rd. That would have allowed the possibility of a small gain even without a conversion, making the 4th-down attempt easier. More importantly, it would have caused Indy to immediately burn their third timeout. Instead, Belichick burned his own timeout, leaving him helpless to prevent Indy's 29-yard slow motion drive which ate up all but 13 seconds. Brady and co. would have had at least a chance of getting into field goal range with 30 more seconds to use.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

De Grote Broer Kijkt Je Aan

Hello, Holland: the big brother will be watching you.
"Each vehicle will be equipped with a GPS device that tracks how many kilometres are driven and when and where. This data will be then be sent to a collection agency that will send out the bill," the transport ministry said in a statement.
Levying per-kilometer taxes on autos is a laudable way to internalize the wear of a car on the roads. But what's wrong with odometers? Or gas taxes, which penalize SUV's more than compact cars? Why does Amsterdam need to know "when and where" every citizen is driving. Dystopia is now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Krugman: All the Wrong Lessons

In today's column, Paul Krugman doubles down on his support for Depression policies. He points out that Germany has had a much milder recession than the U.S. with regards to employment. And he suggests that we have something to learn from the Germans.

Smart - though he's three months behind Global Review, which suggested the same thing in August. But he wants to imitate the wrong things. Here's his logic:
Consider, for a moment, a tale of two countries. Both have suffered a severe recession and lost jobs as a result — but not on the same scale. In Country A, employment has fallen more than 5 percent, and the unemployment rate has more than doubled. In Country B, employment has fallen only half a percent, and unemployment is only slightly higher than it was before the crisis. Don't you think Country A might have something to learn from Country B?
He also points out that Germany came into the Great Recession with strong employment protection legislation, which has been amped up even more. He attributes Germany's low unemployment rate to this legislation. But he leaves out three key facts:
  • the entire recession has been more mild in Germany than in the U.S., not only the jobs picture
  • Germany refused to do a big stimulus package, which Krugman eviscerated them for here and here
  • despite the recession, Americans earn 34% more than Germans
Thus, who should be imitating whom? The data suggests that America is doing things right in the long run, hence our big advantage in earnings. But Germany is doing things right in the short run, hence their relatively mild losses during the recession.

That logic leads one to the following conclusions:
  • Germany should imitate the U.S.'s more free, less protective labor laws
  • the U.S. should imitate Germany's response to the recession: no stimulus package, just a boost to assistance for marginal workers
  • Krugman should find a different career
And as far as implementing that assistance for marginal workers, wouldn't it have been easier to find the money for that if we hadn't spent it on a trillion dollar stimulus package that hasn't worked at all? Krugman even admits that the trillion dollar stimulus hasn't worked, and wishes for a bigger one. After all, it can't be that his 1930's economic theory is wrong!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Theft's Labours Lost

WSJ notes today the coda to the tragedy of Kelo v. New London. (In case you forgot, the 2005 Kelo decision was the most corrupting rulings handed down by the Supreme Court in decades. It authorized an expansion of the power of government to include 'public purposes' as vague as tax collection rather than 'public use', which is the literal statement of the 'takings clause' of the Fifth Amendment. Dissenting Clarence Thomas called this a "deferential shift in phraseology" and noted that the city's 'public purpose' was "suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation".)

Now, Pfizer is leaving New London:
While Ms. [Susette] Kelo and her neighbors lost their homes, the city and the state spent some $78 million to bulldoze private property for high-end condos and other "desirable" elements. Instead, the wrecked and condemned neighborhood still stands vacant, without any of the touted tax benefits or job creation.

That's especially galling because the five Supreme Court Justices cited the development plan as a major factor in rationalizing their Kelo decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy called the plan "comprehensive," while Justice John Paul Stevens insisted that "The city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue."
Whoops! It turns out Washington bureaucrats, even the ones in long robes, are not the best judges of how to manage a local economy. It also turns out that selling out your lower-class residents to curry favor with a large corporation is a losing game for municipalities. Pfizer is a pfickle lover, and was never committed to New London.

Susette Kelo, on the other hand, was committed. But I'm guessing New London lost her love, too.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Friedman's Mojo

I don't know where he found it, but Tom Friedman has his mojo back, at least briefly. He's got a new prescription for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process: Get the U.S. out until they really want us. This is a recent conversion for Tom: on August 9th, he called for more U.S. engagement, likewise August 2nd and February 7th. Perhaps his current conclusion is just an angry fit, which would be understandable after 20 years of solid peace-process-ism:
This peace process movie is not going to end differently just because we keep playing the same reel. It is time for a radically new approach. And I mean radical. I mean something no U.S. administration has ever dared to do: Take down our “Peace-Processing-Is-Us” sign and just go home... Indeed, it’s time for us to dust off James Baker’s line: “When you’re serious, give us a call: 202-456-1414. Ask for Barack. Otherwise, stay out of our lives. We have our own country to fix.”
Of course, some would say this has exactly been the case for the last eight-and-a-half years: the American diplomatic efforts are either very detail-oriented (which is always good) or just window-dressing (which fools precisely no one).

Global Review doesn't take a strong stance on U.S. involvement. If the U.S. can improve some small-scale things, like the National Security Force Friedman was touting heavily in February, that's probably worth the expense. On the other hand, serious "permanent solution" efforts are impossible without punching Israel in the face a few times, something the Obama administration couldn't get away with.

For now, we'll have to settle with having a creative columnist back.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Research Paper Saves Baby's Life

Molybdenum cofactor deficiency is a genetic condition which can retard brain development, or kill within months of birth. Only 100 people have ever been diagnosed with it. It had never been cured - until now.

News.com.au reports:
Soon after she was born in 2008, Baby Z's toxic sulphite levels were almost 30 times higher than normal and were dissolving her brain. After three weeks looking for answers, biochemist Dr Rob Gianello found a research paper by German plant biologist Prof Gunther Schwarz describing how he had developed an experimental drug that was able to save mice with the disease in 2004. The drug had hardly been used in animals and nobody had more than an educated guess at what it would do in a human.

But Monash's Dr Alex Veldman contacted Prof Schwarz in Cologne and appealed to the hospital's ethics committee to use the drug on Baby Z. The long shot was backed because the only other option was a painful death.

Within hours of receiving her first daily dose of cPMP (cyclic pyranopterin monophosphate), tests showed Baby Z's sulphite levels immediately dropped from near 300 to below 100. Within three days they fell to the normal level of about 10. Baby Z's neurological development is delayed due to some brain damage in the weeks it took to find the cure, but she is now [at 18 months of age] improving.
Praise God, and humanity's thanks go to Drs. Schwarz, Gianello, and Veldman for their intrepidity.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tokyo Vice

Jake Edelstein has a tremendous preview of his forthcoming book Tokyo Vice, on the Japanese mob. He and his family have death threats out from the Goto crime family:
I'm not entirely objective on the issue of the yakuza [mafia] in my adopted homeland. Three years ago, Goto got word that I was reporting an article about his liver transplant. A few days later, his underlings obliquely threatened me. Then came a formal meeting. The offer was straightforward. "Erase the story or be erased," one of them said. "Your family too."
Japan still allows possession of child pornography, which is the mafia's bread and butter, and refuses to share information with U.S. law enforcement. This story is begging for a movie to be made - and to be used to embarrass Japanese officials into action.

Fire Snyder

Hey Washington Redskins fans - make sure you get yourself into the FIRE SNYDER sign on November 15th.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Silent Scream

A Planned Parenthood director in Texas has resigned in response to a spiritual conversion:
Johnson said she realized she wanted to leave, after watching an ultrasound of an abortion procedure. "I just thought I can't do this anymore, and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that's it," said Jonhson.
She not only got out of the abortion providing business, but got signed up with an abortion alternatives center down the street.

What might be most interesting about the story, outside of Johnson's personal story, is Planned Parenthood's response to the recession:
According to Johnson, the non-profit was struggling under the weight of a tough economy, and changing it's business model from one that pushed prevention, to one that focused on abortion. "The money wasn't in family planning, the money wasn't in prevention, the money was in abortion and so I had a problem with that," said Johnson. Johnson said she was told to bring in more women who wanted abortions
PP likes to pitch itself as an advocate for women's independence. It shouldn't be a shock that Big Abortion is like any other business - the bottom line trumps the tagline.