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Saturday, June 16, 2007

THE MYSTERIOUS EAST   Here's a lesson in comparative advantage. For China, it's manufacturing, not marketing. In my email inbox this morning:
How to cooperate with us?<P>Welcome to our website. the shine international trade all of shine’s staff like to do business with you! the shine company since 1997.we have a lot kinds of thing, we have factory. and we e'en can made something that you want.just you can give us a photo, or you can tell us which kind of things you want. we can give you the best price. best service. You have two kind way to join us.

1:you can bay our thing, all kinds. more thing, less price. then you can sell the thing to other people. for example you can sell them on line. Like ebay. Or you can buy them for your friend. best price. Best quality. why not?

2:do business with us. Like you think, china is ready To be world’s factory. We have all kinds of things. Of course. We have best manpower resource , best price. More and more person, company like to build trade company in china. It is our predominance. Like light industry, Sinitic things. and a lot of other things need us to do. It’s a chance for us. That’s right.

We need foreigner friend to cooperate with us. That is very easy. You can have a trade company in your country. then you can sell our thing. Or you can looking for a thing can sell very well. tell us. We can provide to you the source. of course, best price. Cheaper then your country. You also can just have a computer to join us. To give us ebay id, or to sale promotion for our company. If you can do it. Our company will give you a part of our company. Thanks a lot. It’s a chance for you and me! You can come to china to inspection our company. We are sure if you can do it with us. You and us all winner!

Company Address:Beijing. Chaoyang . huawei xilino.9,china zip:100021
yahoo!: shinechina

Good luck!

Shine international trade

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:19 AM | link  

Friday, June 15, 2007

PAUL'S ACHIEVEMENT   Ron Paul continues to be my choice for the GOP presidential nomination. An impossible dream? Probably. But David Boaz points out that Paul has done the impossible before:
Given the 98 percent reelection rates for House members, it’s no great shakes to win three terms — or 10 terms — in a row. It’s winning that first one that’s the challenge. And Ron Paul has done that three times.

He first won in a special election for an open seat. He then lost his seat and won it back two years later, defeating the incumbent. After two more terms he left his seat to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate (and thereby did his greatest disservice to the American Republic, as his seat was won by Tom DeLay). Twelve years later, in 1996, after some redistricting, he ran again for Congress, again defeating an incumbent, this time in the Republican primary. Some political scientist should study the political skills it takes to win election to Congress without the benefit of incumbency — three times.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:32 PM | link  

I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN AS SOON AS THE DEMS TOOK CONGRESS   Makes the "culture of corruption" look good by comparison.

Update... One of my Washington sources thinks he knows the culprit. It's either Senator Crapo (R-ID) or Senator Akaka (D-HI).

Update 2... Reader Paul Anderson speculates that "it's revenge for George Allen's 'macaca' affair!"

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:12 PM | link  

BIPARTISAN SUICIDE PACT   Here's my column for today:
OK, let me get this straight.

The unemployment rate is an ultra-low 4.5%, and an all-time record 137 million Americans have jobs, producing an all-time record $13.6 trillion in annual gross domestic product, which includes all-time records for both manufacturing and exports.

No wonder stocks are flirting with all-time record highs, and no wonder I'm bullish.

There's really just one risk right now. With an economy this strong, there's only one thing for Congress to do: ruin it.

Or at least threaten to. Hopefully it's all just talk, like most of what comes out of Congress is. But if the stuff they've been talking about this week actually happens, the reality is that the economy is going to get hurt. And stocks will fall.

I'm bullish on stocks here, but only because I think it's just talk. All the same, you need to know about the threats to the economy and the stock market that are coming out of Washington.

Two really scary bills were introduced in the Senate this week, both by Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Finance Committee. One bill is designed to destroy America's trade relationship with China. The other is designed to destroy the private-equity business.

Baucus is a Democrat, and Grassley is a Republican. Think of their two bills as a bipartisan economic suicide pact.

Their China bill is designed to force China to revalue its currency, the yuan. Baucus and Grassley believe — or at least the unions who contribute to their campaigns believe — that China is unfairly competing with American workers by keeping the value of the yuan artificially low, so that prices of Chinese goods and labor are kept artificially cheap.

Under the bill, the Secretary of the Treasury is directed to determine if China's currency is "fundamentally misaligned," whatever that means. If the Secretary determines that it is — after whatever arm-twisting may be necessary to get him to so determine — then the bill calls for a bewildering series of punishments for China: everything from black-balling them at the International Monetary Fund to imposing anti-"dumping" duties to directing the Federal Reserve to intervene in currency markets.

With no shortage of jobs in this country, and with manufacturing output at all-time highs, there's no reason — other than pressure from unions — to tell China what to do with their currency. And moreover, it wouldn't really make any difference if China revalued the yuan anyway. Sure, a more expensive yuan would make Chinese goods more expensive at first. But then the expensive yuan would trigger deflation in China, which would just make those goods cheap again.

All that would happen is that, for all the volatility in currency markets that would ensue, and for all the new tariffs and duties and regulations and interventions, it would be harder to do business between the U.S. and China. Harder to buy stuff from them, and harder to sell stuff to them.

Baucus and Grassley ought to tell the farmers who export food to China that their customer is going away. They ought to tell that to the consumers who won't be able to keep buying inexpensive Chinese goods at Wal-Mart. They ought to tell that to home buyers who won't be able to afford mortgages once China decides it doesn't want to hold $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds anymore.

Even politicians aren't that stupid.

Or are they? Wait till you hear about the other bill that Baucus and Grassley introduced this week.

With stocks near all-time record highs, Grassley and Baucus have a plan to scuttle the private-equity boom — the wave of buyouts of public companies that has created billions of dollars of wealth for shareholders of the acquired companies.

Baucus's and Grassley's bill comes two weeks before the blockbuster initial public offering of Blackstone, one of the biggest private-equity firms. The IPO, if it can even be completed now, will give thousands of individual investors a chance to have a stake in private equity, when that strategy has previously been the exclusive province of institutional investors and ultra-rich families.

The bill requires that all public companies be organized as corporations, and be subject to corporate income taxes. Virtually all private-equity firms are organized as partnerships, which pass through all their profits to shareholders who pay taxes on those profits themselves. That's a real efficiency for shareholders such as pension funds or IRAs, which are tax exempt. Without it, profits would be taxed at 35%, which is the highest corporate tax rate of any developed nation in the world.

Why should a company be able to organize as a partnership so long as it is private — and then when it goes public, suddenly have to be a corporation and pay higher taxes?

Or to put the same thing another way, why should tax advantages only be available to institutions and wealthy families, but not be available to ordinary public shareholders?

More broadly, why is Congress in the business of passing laws that punish success?

The trading alliance between the United States and China has been the most successful bilateral global relationship in history, creating vast new opportunities, efficiencies, growth and opportunity in both countries. The public equity business has help rationalize and reorganize hundreds of companies, creating new wealth and new jobs.

The stock market is near all-time highs because of these successes. Take away these successes, and you take away the bull market. It's just that simple.

I'm betting that neither of these bills passes — or if they do, they will be vetoed. They're just show-trials, staged so that Baucus and Grassley can look like they're fighting for the "little guy" against "the rich."

Or to be candid, they're probably just shakedowns — designed to extract maximum political contributions from the special interests affected most closely by these bills.

But think how much higher the stock market would be if it didn't have to live with threats like these. Mr. Baucus and Mr. Grassley, can't you find another way to make a living?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:02 AM | link  

FROM LITTLE PEOPLE, LITTLE IDEAS   Here's a classic example of how a sense of inferiority drives collectivists to a bleak world-view in which the only solution is to give the inferior one and his political cronies the "power" to "do something." Today Paul Krugman -- once described by Newsweek as "gnomish," who once said of himself "I am just not imposing enough in person to be inspiring (if I were only a few inches taller ...)," and who is constantly talking about "little people" (here, here, here, here, and here) -- gripes in a New York Times column today that the "U.S. population is currently at the bottom end of the height distribution in advanced industrial countries."

"This is not a trivial matter," he assures us, confessing that he himself is only 5'7" -- believe me, that's in elevator shoes (I've met him).

The cause? Of course he has no idea at all, but one suspects he thinks the problem would go away under the kind but stern hand of Democratic leadership. He says only,

our relative shortness, like our low life expectancy, suggests that something is amiss with our way of life. A critical European might say that America is a land of harried parents and neglected children, of expensive health care that misses those who need it most, a society that for all its wealth somehow manages to be nasty, brutish — and short.
Update... Wait! A counterexample! What about Brad DeLong -- the "hulking man"?!

Update 2... Here's what this is all about. Reader John Kranz says,

I sense a conspiracy of a different sort. N. Greg Mankiw has co-authored a paper to tax based on height. Clearly, Paul Krugman is poised to come out of this enriched.
Update 3... One of my clients, who I'm sure would prefer anonymity here (but I will tell you that he is quite tall), sends in this link to NOSSA -- the National Organization of Short Statured Americans. If Krugman is looking for a collective to hive in, this would be the place. Their website homepage even quotes Krugman's fellow liberal Ivy League economist John Kenneth Galbraith saying,
"The bias towards tallness and against shortness is one of society's most blatant and forgivable prejudices."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:30 AM | link  

SPEAKING TRUTH TO PROTECTIONISM   Reader Jameson Campaigne is as pissed at the Bush administration for not more articulately standing against protectionism as he is at protectionism itself. Here are his thoughts on how the administration should react to the latest anti-China bill in the Senate:
The way for Bush and the moron public relations people in the White House to handle the China trade issue is to personalize it for the typical American. Someone should do the research, correct my economics, to plug in the real numbers, but say it this way:
"Do you want your childrens' clothing and toys to cost five [?] times as much as they do today?

"Do you want midwest, southern western farmers to lose their best customer for soybeans and cotton and more, putting hundreds of thousands of farmers out of work?

"Do you want the cost of your cell phone, personal computer, kitchen appliances and housewares all to cost five [?] times as much as they do today?

"Do you want interest rates for your car loan, your mortgage, your child's college loan to go up past ten percent because the Chinese can no longer afford to buy our government bonds at five percent?

"Do you realize that massive employment in the United States will result from harming the Chinese economy because XX per cent of the factories in China are owned or controlled by American companies whose American workers ship, distribute and sell their products here?

"If you want to keep your job and your cost of living low, please call your senator and congressman at 202-224-3121 and tell them to support my veto of this dangerous legislation."

Easy to put this in a TV ad, improve the rhetoric and to ask for $20 from "all Americans who wish to spread this message about preserving our low cost of living to every voter." Also in direct mail and email.

Isn't it astounding the Bush idiots have not repeatedly -- like every week! -- told Americans how wonderul the current economy is -- everyone working, unemployment at record lows, salaries continuously rising, welfare dropping like a stone -- they really are The Stupid Party.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:20 AM | link  

Thursday, June 14, 2007

BRAVO!   Czech president Vaclav Klaus:
As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.

The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment. They are Malthusian pessimists.

The scientists should help us and take into consideration the political effects of their scientific opinions. They have an obligation to declare their political and value assumptions and how much they have affected their selection and interpretation of scientific evidence.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:00 PM | link  

THE CHINA BILL   A very plugged-in Washington friend, who will only let me identify him as "Mick Danger," has a prediction about the new anti-China bill introduced in the Senate yesterday:
I am going out on a limb (based on gut instinct and 30 years of experience.)

If Paulson recommends a veto, Bush will veto. McConnell will sustain. All this bravado is just that.

I tend to agree. The bill itself is a dog's breakfast of bureaucratic procedures, most of which are entirely discretionary with the Treasury Department. Hard to believe that the Senate would go to the wall with a veto override on something so without substance. That said, I have to wonder whether Bush would even feel he needed to veto it?

Update... Mick replies,

It’s a diplomatic dance with potentially serious consequences, correct? The conventional wisdom is that “nothing” will happen.

I think Paulson can get some added influence with the Chinese if he acts to defend our trading system from our protectionists.

Conversely, Schumer can only lose at his game if someone raises the ante on him. The game for aggressive Democrats such as Schumer is to put on different dramas for different audiences – playing in the Union Hall, the Dems get confrontational with the Chinese because they are “unfairly manipulating their currency and undermining the average Americans’ wages.” Around the corner at the Palace with a Wall Street clientele, they sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

The big trouble with all this China-bashing is that disrupting the status quo is more dangerous to us than living with it. “Solving it” is not possible – I’m told that the Chinese lack the systems to manage their economy with a market-set currency so they prefer to set it. Naturally, they pick a range which benefits them. (Do you agree?)

A Bush veto pulls both sets of curtains back. Both audiences get pissed.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:44 AM | link  

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

THE DC WAY   Reader Bill Sprague comments on my posting yesterday about Washington DC supposedly leading the nation in "gross state product" per capita:
From the same website that gives us DC as the highest gross state product per capita, is this alternate view.

Note that not only is violent crime per capita in DC #1 on the list, but that its rate is almost twice that of #2, South Carolina. From these two statistics, we can draw the obvious conclusion that crime pays very well in our nation’s capital!

Update [6/14/2007]... Reader Dave Ivers comments:
Actually, I think you're missing something even more important. Check out the data from the same site on DC.

Median Family Income: $54,193.00
Percent below poverty level: 18.9%
Percent of Children Below Poverty Level: 33.9 % Personal income: $30,826,000,000.00
Personal income (per capita): $55,994.23 per capita Unemployment rate: 5.3%

Think this through a little. GSP per capita is $136,714.13, and if we use even the national average household of 2.7 persons per family, then the average family somehow is producing $361,128.15 but getting a median income of $54,193. OTOH, if personal income per capita is $55,994.23, then why isn't the mean family income $151184.42?

Personally, I'm guessing all that crime *really* pays!!

Also, compare that median family income, personal income per capita, unemployment rate and the poverty level of 18.9% ( and child poverty of 33.9%) What the hell is going on here? I can't make these numbers work. Evidently a few people are making about $8,000,000 a year while about 25% of those employed are making less than minimum wage.

Actually, I figure the income numbers, etc come from the DC income tax (there *is* one, isn't there?) that grabs whole bunches of people who live in Georgetown or wherever and count that instead of DC residents.

Anyway, I still don't see how the numbers work.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:51 AM | link  

THE MYSTERIOUS EAST   What's in a name? Too much, apparently, at least when there are too few of them:
With more than a billion people now sharing just 100 surnames, Chinese authorities are considering a landmark move to try to end the confusion, state media reported Tuesday.

Current Chinese law states that children are only allowed take the surname from either their mother or father, but the lack of variety means there are now 93 million people in China with the family name Wang.

In a country of around 1.3 billion people, about 85 percent share only 100 surnames, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of Public Security in April and published in the China Daily newspaper on Tuesday...

Under a new draft regulation released by the ministry of public security, parents will be able to combine their surnames for their children, a move that could open up 1.28 million new possibilities, the China Daily reported.

For instance, a father named Zhou and mother named Zhu could choose to call their child either Zhou, Zhu, Zhouzhu or Zhuzhou, the report added.

Thanks to Dave Duval for the link.

Update [6/14/2007]... A reader notes,

The Chinese idiom roughly equal to "Joe Sixpack" is "Old 100 names." Though "Old" in a context like this is vaguely honorific, not disparaging.
Update 2 [6/15/2007]... The same reader explains how it is that she knew this...
My husband and I spent a sabbatical year in China, 1987-88, where I was a foreign expert at a university. My job was prepping students who had been approved for study abroad to take the GRE and the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). I took two years of Chinese at college (where he taught math) before we went. Didn't keep it up after we got back, but odd bits remain.

People who know anything at all about my views of politics and economics find it hugely amusing that I was once an employee of the Chinese Communist government.

But we foreign experts did our counter-revolutionary duty (which in that year was quite safe). When the anniversary of Wei Jingsheng's essay "Democracy, the Fifth Modernization" came around -- which sent him to prison for 15 years -- the Asian Wall Street Journal published a shorter version in his honor. I typed it onto mimeo stencils on my little Mac SE, took it to the university duplicating center (which was outsourced to a private business on contract) and we printed up enough copies for all the English-speaking FEs to distribute in class.

I hope we didn't get any of them killed at Tiananmen.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:39 AM | link  

LOOK WHO'S CONTRIBUTING TO AL FRANKEN'S SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN   Oh, how the mighty are fallen... Mr. Spock, how could you!!? Less surprising (to me) is Ben Stein, the supposed conservative who supports taxing the rich and criminalizing business. From St. Paul:
Legendary Ferris Beuhler actor, game show host, and brilliant conservative. Former speech writer for Richard Nixon and columnist for the American Spectator and Yahoo Finance, among other outlets. One of the finest writers around on politics, economics, and culture, as demonstrated in this listing. In particular, he's one the most articulate and persuasive speakers advocating the pro-life stance in the country.

And he's giving money to Al Bleeping Franken? A guy who's never found a liberal position on abortion he didn't like (as shown by the $5,000 contribution he also received from something called Washington Women for Choice.) How in the world can Ben Stein be supporting Al Franken?

Rather than engage in rank speculation, I have chosen to utilize the most powerful tool in the Internet journalist arsenal, the email interview. And believe it or not, Stein wrote me back. The disturbing transcript follows:

SP: I was recently reviewing Al Franken's FEC filing for donations and expenditures. I must say I was a little surprised to find what I believe to be your name on the contributors list (if he was paying you, I'd applaud it). I'm a great admirer of your work from the American Spectator and the other media commentary you've provided over the years. But I always thought you were reasonably conservative in your orientation. So why in the world do you want to stick up poor Minnesotans (and the rest of the country) with a comedian who fancies himself a second coming of secular St. Wellstone? He's going to be about as far left as one can be in polite company in this country. If you're friends with the guy, I understand the motivation. But actions like these have consequences. Can't you just shake his hand extra friendly-like at the next cocktail party and leave it at that?

BS: Al is a close friend and one of the smartest people I have ever met.

SP: One final question, with all due respect. I believe you have a pretty strong commitment to pro-life issues and pro-growth economic policies. Are these trumped by your personal admiration for Franken and his alleged intellect?

Anyone ... anyone ... Beuhler?

Maybe my question sent Ben Stein into a spell of intense introspection and he's still trying to reconcile his actions with his philosophy. Or maybe he has a policy of one email only to obsessed, loser fans. Either way, the question stands unanswered. And if we wake up on November 5, 2008 to the reality of Senator Al Franken, we have Ben Stein's money to thank for it.

Thanks to Jameson Campaigne for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:27 AM | link  

THE MEGA-HOLOCAUST THAT ALL TOO MANY PEOPLE DENY   From this morning's Wall Street Journal:
...the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, dedicated by President Bush yesterday, is striking for its modest proportions: a 10-foot female figure raising a torch at a busy intersection in Washington, D.C. That's a fitting rebuke to an ideology that made a fetish of statuary, and murder, on a monumental scale.

The numbers are almost beyond reckoning. Mao Zedong was responsible for 70 million peacetime murders, according to his biographer Jung Chang. The middle estimate of Stalin's victims is 40 million. Pol Pot slaughtered nearly three million fellow Cambodians in only four years. Ethiopia's Mengistu killed some 1.5 million opponents in the late 1970s, and contributed to the death by starvation of a million others in the 1980s.

Throughout these and other horrors, Communists always managed to find high-profile apologists among the bourgeois intellectuals: Jean-Paul Sartre for Stalin, Noam Chomsky for Pol Pot, and so on. Some, like Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler and Whittaker Chambers, repented, but most did not. They may not have been witting accomplices to the butchery, quite. But they are the reason why the West was almost fatally late in recognizing the depth of evil it faced in its communist enemy.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:05 AM | link  

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

IS THIS SOME KIND OF JOKE?   Yeah. Right. Guess which state is number one in "gross state product" per capita? According to this, it's the District of Columbia. What the hell does DC "produce" other than friction? Thanks to reader Alan Scanio for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:31 PM | link  

ENVIROSOCIALIST UTOPIA?   Economist Steve Antler asks,
What's most interesting about the news that (1) China has halted its biofuel drive because of food price inflation and (2) about two-thirds of all Chinese cities lack central sewage treatement and suffer from major air pollution is that centralized socialist planning is supposed to be great at addressing problems like these.

The tradition of French Rationalism has inspired policy wonks -- from the early utopian socialists through Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton -- to trust that "smart" centralized thinking will quickly build just and efficient societies. (It takes a village to run an economy. Yeah.)

So why does the world's fastest-growing manufacturer suffer defficient infrastructure major economic dis-coordination even though it still has a centralized planning structure with virtually absolute power?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:52 AM | link  

ON "OUT OF CONTROL HEALTH CARE COSTS," WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE SAID?   Steve Landsburg in the Wall Street Journal:
Would you rather purchase today's health care at today's prices or the health care of, say, 1970 at 1970 prices? I don't know any informed person who would choose 1970, which means that despite all the hype about costs, health care now is a better bargain than it's ever been before.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:36 AM | link  

Monday, June 11, 2007

HOW DID THIS EVER GET BY THE RADAR?   Yes, it's in the New York Times -- a story about a booming economy (rather than a "jobless recovery" or an "imminent slowdown") and government budget surpluses (not "chronic deficits):
State lawmakers across the country, their coffers unexpectedly full of cash, have been handing out tax cuts, spending money on fixing roads, schools and public buildings, and socking something away for less fruitful years.

Budget surpluses have largely stemmed from higher than expected tax collections — corporate tax revenues alone were 11 percent higher than budget estimates — and booming local economies. There has also been some relief in Medicaid spending, which fell from an 11 percent annual growth rate to something closer to 7 percent in the past few years.

More than 40 states have found themselves with more money than they planned as they wound down their regular sessions... The extra cash over the last two budget sessions (many states work on a two-year cycle) is at the highest level since 2000, state budget experts say.

Still, not a word of credit to the Bush administration for shepherding the economy from recession to recovery. And the artful choice of words manages to portray government spending as noble, and tax-reduction as base.
Many states are largely using surpluses to tackle long-term and costly problems like the uninsured and crumbling infrastructures.

...states are looking to give relief to taxpayers who have long been howling about property taxes...

You see, noble government nabobs "tackle," while beleaguered taxpayers "howl."

Thanks to reader Michael Marx for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:11 PM | link  

GO FIGURE   Here are two Chicago bookstores specializing in Communist literature. One is failing, one is thriving. The one that's failing is not-for-profit. The one that's succeeding is for-profit. Do any of these stores' customers see the irony, or the lesson?
Lou Downey, a communist and volunteer at the store, said Revolution has been around for about a decade and also serves as a meeting area for local communists.

The store is a for-profit venture, he said, but added, "It doesn't make money. It needs contributions from people who see the importance of this space and what it brings to the political and ideological debates in society."

...The situation is more dire at the New World Resource Center, an alternative leftist bookstore and meeting space at 1300 N. Western. NWRC has been in operation at a variety of locations in Chicago since the early '70s, and is a meeting place for a wide variety of leftist groups ranging from the Green Party, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Industrial Workers of the World. It sells a wide range of books, magazines, T-shirts, homemade zines, and buttons.

But a recent decline in grant funding for the store has its all-volunteer staff scrambling to generate revenue. Unlike Revolution Books, the New World Resource Center operates as a non-profit organization, according to NWRC board president Rob Bunting.

"It's been a rough few years since we moved to this location in 2003," said Bunting, an engineer from Uptown. "In general, sales have been down."

..."It's been difficult for the last few years," he said. "We haven't done things that have brought in money in the past. We have not had as many of our own and larger events scheduled in our meeting space. Those are things that make a big difference in bringing in traffic to the store."

Thanks to reader Daniel Ambrose for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:17 PM | link  

"TEAR DOWN THIS WALL" TURNS TWENTY   Tomorrow is the twentieth anniversary of America's victory in the most important battle of the Cold War -- the moral battle which we won when Ronald Reagan said at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin,
There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
John Fund has good comments in today's Wall Street Journal:
Reagan first saw the Berlin Wall in 1978, when he told his aide Peter Hannaford, "We've got to find a way to knock this thing down." After Reagan became president, he returned in 1982 and enraged the Soviets by taking a couple of ceremonial steps across a painted border line. Then, in 1987, he overruled his own State Department by giving the momentous speech in which he implored...general secretary [Gorbachev] directly to tear down the wall...

The Berlin Wall's fall was both a vindication of the West's refusal to kowtow to the Soviets and a tribute to the spirit of dissenters behind the Iron Curtain. Today pieces of the wall exist as mere souvenirs on mantelpieces...

Rip Van Winkle has nothing on Jan Grzebski, a Polish railway worker who just emerged from a coma that began 19 years ago--just prior to the collapse of communism in his country. His take on how the world around him has changed beyond recognition comes at an appropriate time...

Mr. Grzebski is, of course, thrilled to see the wife who cared for him and the 11 grandchildren he didn't even know he had. But he is also shocked at how his homeland has changed. "When I went into a coma, there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed, and huge gas lines were everywhere," he told Polish TV. "Now I see people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin. What amazes me is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and never stop moaning. I've got nothing to complain about."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:43 AM | link  

Sunday, June 10, 2007

THE MYSTERIOUS EAST   Well, the China boom is over. It was fine when they adopted Western-style business practices like McDonalds' fast-food operations. But now they've gone too far. They've adopted our product liability mania, too.
The world's largest restaurant chain, McDonald's Corp., has been ordered to pay a student some 2,200 yuan ($290) after a rat bit her at one of its outlets in northeastern China, media reported on Sunday.

A local court in Shenyang city in Liaoning province ordered the payment -- covering costs that included $130 for psychological injury -- for the incident last year, the China Merchant Morning Post said.

The woman, whose name was not disclosed, said a rat had climbed up her leg and bit her on the thigh while she was eating a meal at the restaurant.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:38 PM | link  

HOYT FLOPS ON DEBUT   The debut today of new New York Times "public editor" Clark Hoyt is inauspicious. Like his two predecessors, he manages to discover a fact pattern that shows clear political bias by the Times, yet at the moment of truth fails to call a spade a spade and lets the paper off the hook. The issue in focus is why the Times didn't play the story about the attempt by terrorists to blow up JFK Airport on page one. It's easy enough to expect that the paper downplayed it either (1) to deprive the Bush administration of credit for a victory in the war on terror, or (2) to minimize the war on terror itself, a signature Republican issue. Hoyt writes,
It’s the same question I had when I picked up The Times and The Washington Post on Sunday morning. The J.F.K. story led The Post. On The Times’s front page, there was a one-paragraph promo to the story inside.
Hoyt concludes,
Do I think political motives were at work? I can’t read minds, but I believe after talking with these editors that they were focused on the substance of the story, the facts. They were mindful of a history in which terrorism cases have been blown out of proportion. [emphasis added]
So which is it? The facts? Or the assumption that the Bush administration can't be trusted, and so its victories must be minimuized? The next sentence in the same paragraph resolves the contradiction:
They were trying to make the right call based on solid journalistic grounds.
Which can only mean the treating victories of the Bush administration is "solid journalistic grounds."

Update [6/11/2007]... Reader D. Forbes Tuttle writes,

You quote Hoyt stating, "They were mindful of a history in which terrorism cases have been blown out of proportion."

As stated, it is a claim upon history, an assertion of universal knowledge--a sort of conventional wisdom. But where is the evidence? It resembles the big lie of propaganda. There is an arm's length laundry list of examples of Islamic terrorism perpetrated globally that most observers can cite from memory (I won't cite them here). While the memory of terror plots broken up in the planning stage is invariably shorter--due to the smaller window of media exploitation, e.g. NYC landmarks case, Lackawanna Six, Millennium plot at LAX, et. al. What would even constitute one terrorist case "blown out of proportion"? Much less a history of such to be mindful?

This isn't so much political bias, or anti-Bush bias, as it is a blind spot--a denial that a war has been declared by Islamic terrorists (al Qaeda) against the West and against infidels.

While Hoyt can explain away certain reporting or editorial decisions as based on journalistic grounds, i.e. journalists making judgments, the first pass on the writing of history is taking a terrible beating, as the Times omits the fact of the war--as if it disappears if they don't report it.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:27 PM | link  

BLAMEGAME FOR BRAIN-DEAD BEARBLOGGERS   The brain-dead bearbloggers -- who have been proven so wrong about the ability of the housing slowdown to throw the overall economy into recession -- are now seizing on a report in the Wall Street Journal about how Alan Greenspan failed to prevent the purported excesses in subprime lending. It's just a garden-variety specimen of the political blame-game; this time, instead of some Democrat blaming some Republican for failing to prevent the terrorist attacks of 9-11, the accusation is that Greenspan failed to fulfill his role as financial system regulator and prevent so-called "predatory lending" (in which lenders execute the nefarious scheme of lending money to unqualified borrowers, thus causing their own bankruptcy). Here's Nouriel Roubini's gloating, smarmy link to it, where in his usual I-knew-it-all-along tone, he says "now the role that the Fed and Greenspan played in allowing this reckless subprime bubble to grow with no control with becoming clearer." And for context, here's his famous post from last year about how the housing slowdown will cause a "tipping point for the US consumer and the effects will be ugly. Expect the great recession of 2007 to be much nastier, deeper and more protracted than the 2001 recession."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:15 PM | link