Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

October 31, 2005

MoveOn.Org as Self-Parody

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:40 pm

Earlier today MoveOn.Org sent an e-mail to its members which began as follows:

Dear MoveOn member,

This morning, with his administration growing weaker by the day, President Bush caved to pressure from the radical fringe of the Republican Party and nominated Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Alito is a notoriously right-wing judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He has consistently ruled to strip basic protections from workers, women, minorities and the disabled in favor of unchecked power for corporations and special interests.

Yup, that’s it — the guy sits at home at night thinking, “How can I make working black female wheelchair riders as unprotected as possible? That’s the way to a stronger America! Bwaaaahhahahaha!!!!!”

As time goes on, MoveOn.Org looks more and more like the Right’s parody of the Left, rather than the actual Left. The trouble is, it is the actual Left! But if I had set out to write a parody of the left for The Onion, I could not have done better than MoveOn.Org’s actual publications.

Until liberals start to come up with actual arguments for their positions, instead of just hurling insults, they are not going to have any credibility with the general public.

UPDATE: (11/2/2005):

As it happens MoveOn.org’s charge is pretty much the opposite of the facts.

Economics of October 31

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:48 pm

Jamie Jeffords has some thoughts on the day:

My sister just left to take my neice trick or treating. Every year at this time, I make the same observatio: we spend 364 days a year telling our kids there is no such thing as a free lunch, then comes Halloween where they learn there is a free lunch, and it is 95% sugar.

He also links to a great cartoon. Click here.

Closing the Loop

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:55 pm

If you remember the news from the late 1980s, especially if you lived in Southern California, you probably remember the McMartin Preschool child molestation case, in which several pre-school teachers were accused of sexually abusing children in satanic rituals that included flying around the city (no airplane), drinking the blood of a beheaded baby (though no headless babies were found and no babies were missing), and of using a room full of lions to scare children to do what they were told. (More examples at the end of this page.)

When the case came to trial, a survey commissioned by the defense found that 97.5% of people in the area believed the defendants were guilty, but their motion for a change of venue was denied. Nevertheless, all defendants were found not guilty of all charges except one, who deadlocked two juries before the charges were dismissed — after he spent five years in jail during the investigation, preliminary hearing, and two trials, and was financially ruined by the cost of his defense.

The loop is now starting to close — one of the children, now 30 years old, has told the Los Angeles Times what happened: how he was induced to lie, how not even his mother believed him when he tried to take it back.

Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn’t like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for. It was really obvious what they wanted. I know the types of language they used on me: things like I was smart, or I could help the other kids who were scared.

I felt uncomfortable and a little ashamed that I was being dishonest. But at the same time, being the type of person I was, whatever my parents wanted me to do, I would do. And I thought they wanted me to help protect my little brother and sister who went to McMartin.

But the lying really bothered me. One particular night stands out in my mind. I was maybe 10 years old and I tried to tell my mom that nothing had happened. I lay on the bed crying hysterically—I wanted to get it off my chest, to tell her the truth. My mother kept asking me to please tell her what was the matter. I said she would never believe me. She persisted: “I promise I’ll believe you! I love you so much! Tell me what’s bothering you!” This went on for a long time: I told her she wouldn’t believe me, and she kept assuring me she would. I remember finally telling her, “Nothing happened! Nothing ever happened to me at that school.”

She didn’t believe me.

Is ‘Getting Drunk’ Australian?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:50 pm

Different Brother writes:

Yet again, a story that works equally well in both a real news site article and in The Onion.

Getting drunk part of Australian identity, study finds

Mon Oct 31, 9:13 AM ET

SYDNEY, (AFP) – Occasionally getting drunk is a core part of national identity for most Australians, according to new research.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Council study of 1,500 Australians found that some 58 percent of people agreed that sometimes having too much to drink was “simply part of the Australian way of life.”

Here’s a story that’s actually from The Onion at about the same intellectual level.

Yes, Competition Really Exists

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:35 pm

One of the main assertions of economics that people find hard to accept is that markets, not sellers, set prices. In other words, economists often assume that “the market” sets the price, and companies sell at the market price, choosing how much to sell, but not what price to charge. People — including, people taking an introductory course in economics, and journalists — find this hard to believe, probably because when they want to buy something, they walk into a store and see prices on tags, or call up a company and ask what the price is and get an answer.

The problem is, when economists say “the market not the seller sets the price,” we don’t mean “the market comes to the grocery and attaches a pricetag to a box of crackers,” but rather, if the seller sets a price that’s too high, no one will buy — and if they set a price that’s too low, they’ll be out of business, or at least out of stock in rather short order.

Joshua Sharf points out a recent example of how this works, in what is called in the airline industry “the Southwest effect” — that is, Southwest Airlines enters a market, uses its lower costs to set lower prices than other airlines, and those other airlines have to reduce their prices to Southwest’s.

October 27, 2005: The Southwest Effect?

Southwest Airlines finally announced its initial routes and fares from Denver, and as promised, it’s a small start. With 13 daily departures, they’ll have more than jetBlue and Airtran, but fewer than such titans as United (309), Frontier (153), and Great Lakes (66). (Hey, don’t laugh. Great Lakes can get you from Denver to Kingman, AZ in just five easy hops.)

They’ll fly to Chicago ($79 one-way), Las Vegas, and Phonenix ($59 one-way, each), starting on January 3, with a 21-day advance purchase. Just for fun, I looked up the current low airfares from Denver to each of those cities, roundtrip, January 5, returning January 8. They are, Chicago: $252, Las Vegas, $206, and Phoenix, $178. (Source: Orbitz)

Now, of course, I’ll have to track those numbers daily until service starts, to see if there really is going to be a Southwest effect.

October 28, 2005: Southwest Effect II

Well, that sure didn’t take long. Next year’s fares from DIA to Chicago, Vegas, and Phoenix drop to match Southwest’s. So far, not all the carriers who had been low-fare have moved to match, and for some reason United it still $40 higher on the Las Vegas route. It’ll be interesting to see which airlines try to maintain higher fares, and for how long.

In other words, those other airlines don’t get to set their prices. At most, the lowest cost producer gets to set the price for the entire market. (But even that price is constrained by what buyers are willing to pay.)

Do “suitcase nukes” exist?

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:20 pm

Richard Miniter says no. Or at least, highly unlikely.

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