Different River

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

November 29, 2005

Workers Price-Gouging Employers in New Orleans

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:54 pm

Dave Gallagher reports on the Ludwig von Mises blog on an article (no longer online) that appeared in the Arizona Republic:

BATON ROUGE, La. – Burger King is offering a $6,000 signing bonus to anyone who agrees to work for a year at one of its New Orleans outlets. Rally’s, a local restaurant chain, has nearly doubled its pay for new employees to $10 an hour…

On any given day, contractors and business owners pass out flyers in downtown New Orleans promising $17 to $20 an hour, plus benefits, for people willing to swing a sledgehammer or cart away stinking debris from homes and businesses devastated by Hurricane Katrina …

“I’d say I’m paying two to three times as much as I would in normal circumstances,” said Iggie Perrin, the president of Southern Electronics, a supplier in New Orleans, who has offered as much as $30 an hour when seeking salvage workers on Canal Street…

“This region is going to be going through a huge boom for the next three to five years rebuilding the coast,” Bollinger said. “That’s very good news for those who want work and really worrisome news for employers who have to compete with everyone else for labor.”…

For Bollinger, welders are just one of his labor headaches. His company pays welders $16 to $17 an hour. “When Sheetrock layers start paying $25 an hour,” he said, “I’m either going to match it or I’m out of luck….”

The right way to think about this is: When everyone evacuates and a substantial percentage of houses are damaged too much to be lived in, the labor supply decreases because people aren’t there, and the labor demand (for construction jobs at least) increase because there’s so much to rebuild. Both of these push the price of labor up, so employers have to pay more.

The wrong way to look at this: The employees are “price gouging” — taking advantage of the disaster to raise prices, even though their costs of working (the amount of time and muscle power they have to use) has stayed the same.

When gas stations do this, it’s illegal and the gas station owner is arrested — even if in that particular case his costs actually did go up. But when workers do it, everyone celebrates.

Why is it that employers have to pay these higher wages, but get arrested if they raise prices?

Bloggers Save Lives

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:44 pm

A couple of bloggers wound up saving not one, but two lives — based on a comment left on a military blog, and an amazing “coincidence.”

Why do people have abortions?

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:42 pm

Well, let’s ask. But first, let’s ask why people perform abortions. (Actually, the Los Angeles Times asked for us.)

[Dr. William F.] Harrison opened an obstetrics and gynecology practice, but after the Supreme Court established abortion as a constitutional right in 1973, he decided to take on an additional specialty. Now 70, Harrison estimates he’s terminated at least 20,000 pregnancies.

He calls himself an “abortionist” and says, “I am destroying life.”

In the years since, Harrison has become more outspoken.

But he also feels he’s giving life: He calls his patients “born again.”

“When you end what the woman considers a disastrous pregnancy, she has literally been given her life back,” he says.

Note the religious imagery here — “born again.” Now I’ve heard some right-wing commentators describe abortion as a “sacrament” of the left-wingers, but hearing it in such terms from an abortionist is a new one to me. Maybe it really is a sacrament of leftism.

But I digress. Let’s see from one of Dr. Harrison’s patients what it means to “literally” be given her life back:

His first patient of the day, Sarah, 23, says it never occurred to her to use birth control, though she has been sexually active for six years. When she became pregnant this fall, Sarah, who works in real estate, was in the midst of planning her wedding. “I don’t think my dress would have fit with a baby in there,” she says.

Well now, at least we know what the stakes are now.

ADDENDUM (12/5/05):

I should have pointed out that the article is a “puff piece” — it seems obviously intended to portray Dr. Harrison and his career, if not his patients as well, in a positive light. If you read the entire story, the context of the paragraph above makes it clear that “Sarah” is meant to be portrayed in a sympathetic light, without any irony. It is as if to say anyone who would oppose Sarah’s right to an abortion is just a killjoy out to ruin her dream wedding.

Carnivals

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:28 pm

I’ve been remiss lately in posting links to “blog carnivals,” including some -but-not-all of which link here. Mea culpa! To find good stuff to read, consider these:

  • Carnival of Healing — articles about wellness and health.
  • Carnival of the Clueless — “where bloggers highlight the stupidity of various loons, goons, poltroons, dirty necked galoots and the odd idiotarian whose behavior marks them for entry into the blog slaughterhouse.”
  • Carnival Of Liberty — “blogging and thinking about liberty and freedom.”
  • Carnival Of Classiness — “a weekly roundup of 15 blog posts deemed classy by the carnival organizer. The criteria for submissions: incisive original analysis, quirky topics nobody else is covering, fantastic graphics, or other posts that took a lot of work.”
  • Virginia Blog Carnival – articles about Virginia, and by bloggers in Virginia.
  • Grand Rounds (last week, and today) Medical and health-related articles, now promoted by Medscape.
  • Carnival of the Capitalists — posts on economics, business, regulation, etc.

UPDATE (11/30/05 1140am):

In Memoriam, Stan Berenstain

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:03 pm

Papa Bear-enstain — that is, Stan Berenstain, the co-creator of the “The Berenstain Bears,” has passed away.

Urban Legends About the Iraq War

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:23 am

In my humble opinion, everyone should read this.

Iraqis Against U.S. Withdrawal

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:09 am

“Anti-war” activists in the U.S. repeatedly claim that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq because we have no right to “impose” our will on the Iraqi people. They should, perhaps, consider that they have no such right either — and that a U.S. withdrawal is opposed by the vast majority of Iraqis.

Here’s what Joe Lieberman — a Democratic Senator — has to say today:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood–unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.

None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

The leaders of Iraq’s duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America’s commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November’s elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America’s bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration’s recent use of the banner “clear, hold and build” accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

I cannot say enough about the U.S. Army and Marines who are carrying most of the fight for us in Iraq. They are courageous, smart, effective, innovative, very honorable and very proud. After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: “I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates.”

Some might object to Senator Lieberman’s comments on the grounds that despite being a Democrat, he supported the war, and not just in a “voted for it before I voted against it” fashion. However, Lieberman also ran for President in 2004 when Bush was the incumbent, and thus can hardly be considered a shill for the current administration.

Everyone who opposes the American presence in Iraq needs to take a serious look inside themselves and ask, “Whose benefit do I seek?” If you seek to benefit the peaceful citizens of Iraq and not the terrorists who seek to murder Iraqis and Americans alike, then you need to seriously re-think your position. If you seek the benefit of terrorists bent on murdering innocents, both Muslim and “infidel,” Iraqi and American and otherwise, in pursuit of jihad — then go right ahead and support an American withdrawal from Iraq.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

November 28, 2005

Double Standards

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:22 pm

Why is it that when a Republican Congressman commits a money crime he resigns immediately, but when a Democratic Senator drives drunk, actually kills a woman, and gets convicted of leaving her to die, he gets re-elected six times?

Mind you, I’m not defending the Republican here… I’m just wondering why killer can get a pass just for being a Democrat.

November 27, 2005

A Blog by Al Jazeera Staffers?

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:12 pm

Someone(s) claiming to be “Al Jazeera Staffers” have set up a blog entitled “Don’t Bomb Us.” The name is a reference to Al-Jazeera’s claim that President Bush tried to bomb Al-Jazeera’s offices, on which TigerHawk has an excellent analysis.

EU Bans Safe Electronics

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:02 pm

OK, the title is a slight exaggeration. But only slight. The EU is going to ban lead solder in electronic devices, but the only available substitute can cause short-circuits, leading in the best case to device failure and in the worst case to fire. So why ban solder? To appease the environmentalists.

Environmental groups around the world have been campaigning for years to replace lead-containing solders and protective layers on electronic components with non-hazardous metals and alloys. In response, the European Union (EU) will ban the use of lead (and five other hazardous substances) in all electrical and electronic equipment sold in EU nations starting in July 2006.

However, pure electroplated tin and lead-free tin alloys tend to spontaneously grow metallic whiskers (thin filament-like structures often several millimeters long) during service. These defects can lead to electrical shorts and failures across component leads and connectors.

Aside from placating environmentalists, there is an alternative explanation for the ban on solder. It might be a form of trade protectionism:

U.S. manufacturers must comply with this requirement in order to market their products overseas.

Which may (or may not) be the reason the (U.S.) National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is looking into solving the problems with non-lead solders.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have a good reason to avoid buying electronic products sold in EU countries — or if we must use them, at least keep our fire insurance up to date.

New Technology for Old History

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:18 pm

Here’s a great use of scanner technology.

For all those history majors who thought they didn’t have to learn about computers…. ;-)

November 25, 2005

Will the FDA kill Brian White?

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:54 pm

Brian White, of Fairfax, Virginia, is hoping to survive long enough for the FDA to allow him to be treated. Here’s an excerpt of the story in The Fairfax Times:

Battling a rare disease

By Frank Mustac
11/22/1005

His breathing is shallow and deliberate, but, despite a constant struggle to fill his lungs, Brian White is determined to keep up with his young sons playing at the basketball hoop outside his home in Fairfax’s Kings Park West neighborhood.

But with each breath White takes, the slender-framed 42-year-old husband and father of two is even more determined to stay healthy long enough to receive a yet-unavailable but promising new treatment for the rare neuromuscular disorder he has.

In 2002, after two and a half years of misdiagnoses, White was finally diagnosed correctly at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore with Pompe disease, a disorder that affects only about 5,000 people in the United States.

Pompe is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme responsible for breaking down glycogen, a form of sugar stored in the muscle cells throughout the body. This buildup inside cells causes muscle fibers to expand and leak, leading to muscle weakness that becomes more severe over time and can often be fatal.

Now, along with his job as a regulatory expert for a gas pipeline company, White has kept busy as a vocal advocate, despite the sound of his voice, doing all he can as a patient to help win approval by the Food and Drug Administration for a new enzyme replacement therapy for the treatment of Pompe.

Developed by Genzyme, a Massachusetts-based company, the firm earlier this year submitted an application to the FDA for both the adult and infant therapies, White said. A response from the FDA is expected sometime next year.

What is the reason for the delay here? Every day the FDA delays action, Bryan White and 5,000 other people are one day closer to being so sick they can’t be treated. No doubt many of these people will die, untreated, waiting for FDA approval.

This is not like people who die waiting for organ transplants, or people who die waiting for a treatment to be invented. These people are dying waiting for a signature on a piece of paper.

Why is this? In 1962, Congress passed the Kefauver-Harris Amendments, which changed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the sale of any drug that had not been determined by the FDA to be “safe and effective.” The law didn’t say how the FDA was to determine that, so the FDA prescribed a long, complex, and expensive process that companies must go through before the FDA approved their drugs. Prior to 1962, the requirement was the that the FDA find the drug “safe” — and furthermore, the FDA has 180 days to act on a drug application, after which, if it was not unsafe, it could be sold. The 1962 amendments removed the 180-day limit, added the “effective” requirement, and set the stage for thousands of people to die while the FDA spends years processing each new drug application. The FDA’s own history of itself calls this, “a milestone advance in medical history.”

One can only ask what kind of a “milestone” this is when applied to a treatment for a fatal disease for which no other treatment is available. What is “effective”? Without treatment, the patient dies. There is no treatment other than the one current candidate. How could any treatment be less effective than this? If the treatment saves 5% of the patients, is that “effective”? Surely not, by the FDA’s standards — nor anyone else’s. But if the alternative is to save 0% of the patients by having no treatment available, should the FDA stand in the way?

And what about safety? Again, without treatment, the patient dies. What treatment could be less safe than that? Perhaps they will die faster — but this is the sort of thing that can be ruled out fairly easily in animal tests, and anyway the safety hurdle is not what holds up most drug applications; it’s the efficacy requirement. Indeed, the Genzyme treatment has already passed the FDA’s initial safety hurdle, since recruiting for clinical trials is already underway.

If the FDA were operating under the pre-1962 rules, Brian White and many of the 5,000 other people with Pompe disease would be receiving treatment, rather than fighting to be among the few included in clinical trials.

But they can’t do that; they’ve been forced to become lobbyists:

Back in September, White and four other Pompe patients he met through Internet support groups and on Web sites containing detailed information about the disease, spoke with FDA officials to convey the severity of the ailment from a patient perspective. He also appeared in a recently completed video of Pompe patient testimonials.

White said he hopes the FDA will convene a patient advisory committee during the approval process and that members of Congress will use whatever influence they have with the agency to win approval.

As time goes on, White said his advocacy work has become more important, primarily because of his concern for others with Pompe in worse shape than him.

“Just that hope of a better chance is something we’d all jump on,” he said.

Just the hope of a better chance — a hope that, under current regulations, depends on the whims of members of Congress to use “whatever influence they have” with an overloaded agency. And all they are being asked to do is remove a barrier to treatment that they themselves — both Congress and that agency — have erected.

I’m sure most of the FDA’s employees are hard-working scientists, doctors, and bureaucrats who do the best they can with what they’ve got. But these are human beings we’re talking about. In addition to processing millions of pages of material for every new drug application, they have their own lives to live — they have to get their oil changed, mow their lawn, drive their kids’ carpools, take out the garbage, and do all sorts of other things that will not be the impacted in the least if some patient they never heard of dies because some piece of paper is sitting on their desks.

The problem is the fact that Congress and some bureaucrats decided a long time ago that people ought to die if those papers are still on those desks.

November 24, 2005

Will the FDA pull a drug that kills women?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:34 pm

Not if NOW or Planned Parenthood has its way.

It seems that Mifeprex (the “abortion pill” also known as “RU-486″ and “mifepristone”) has been killing women. No, not just the fetal women (and men) it was designed to kill, but the women who take it. As the New York Times reports (emphasis added):

[F]our women in this country who died after taking an abortion pill suffered from a rare and highly lethal bacterial infection, a finding that is leading to new scrutiny of the drug’s safety.

Since all four deaths occurred in California, an unusual clustering, the Food and Drug Administration quietly tested to see if abortion pills distributed in California were somehow contaminated. They were not.

Stumped, officials from the F.D.A. and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have decided to convene a scientific meeting early next year to discuss this medical mystery, according to two drug agency officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Among other issues, the experts hope to explore whether the abortion pill, called Mifeprex or RU-486, somehow makes patients vulnerable to an infection with Clostridium sordellii, the lethal bacteria. If so, they will explore how such an infection “could be more easily diagnosed and even prevented,” one official said.

Monty Patterson, whose daughter Holly died on Sept. 17, 2003, less than a month after her 18th birthday, said he believed that Mifeprex inhibits the immune system, making women more vulnerable to bacteria.

Mr. Patterson’s campaign against Mifeprex helped persuade the family of at least one other woman who died to have tissue samples tested for the presence of the rare bacteria, he said.

“I believe this drug should be taken off the market,” Mr. Patterson said.

For now, there is no indication that the F.D.A. is considering restricting access to the drug. Indeed, it has advised doctors against giving antibiotics as a precaution to prevent the rare infections since antibiotic therapy carries its own risks.

Mifeprex has been used in more than 500,000 medical abortions in the United States since its approval in September 2000. The risks of death from infection after using the pill are similar to the risks after surgical abortion or childbirth, said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the F.D.A.’s center for drugs.

Warnings about the drug’s possible link with Clostridium sordellii were placed on Mifeprex’s label in July, and the drug agency without announcement updated this information on its Web site on Nov. 4 after it discovered that all of the deaths involved the lethal bacteria.

Ms. Patterson died seven days after taking Mifeprex. She lived in Livermore, Calif.

On Dec. 29, 2003, Vivian Tran, 22, of Costa Mesa, Calif., died six days after taking Mifeprex.

On Jan. 14, 2004, Chanelle Bryant, 22, of Pasadena, Calif., died six days after taking Mifeprex. And on May 24, 2005, Oriane Shevin, 34, of Los Angeles died five days after taking Mifeprex.

In each case, Clostridium sordellii infected the women’s uteruses, flourished and then entered their bloodstreams. The bacterium can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and weakness but may not induce fever, so victims often fail to realize how sick they are until it is too late and succumb to toxic shock. Antibiotics are often ineffective once an infection has flourished because even in death, the bacteria release toxins.

The families of Ms. Patterson, Ms. Tran and Ms. Bryant have all filed suit against Danco, claiming the company failed to warn patients of the drug’s dangers.

A woman who died in Canada after taking Mifeprex during clinical testing in 2001 also suffered from a Clostridium sordellii infection. …

Wendy Wright, executive vice president of Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, said that the latest news about deaths involving Mifeprex proved that the drug was unsafe. Ms. Wright also speculated that more women were dying after using the drug but that their deaths were going unreported.

“I’m pleased that the F.D.A. is taking a serious look at this,” she said, “and hope that they will no longer allow this drug to be available to cause the deaths of more women.”

Dr. Scott J. Spear, chairman of the national medical committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation’s largest provider of abortions, said there was no evidence that the vaginal administration of misoprostol increased the risks of bacterial infections.

No, four dead women is “no evidence” when a political drug is involved. It only took three deaths to get Vioxx off the market, and that was a drug given to millions more people, mostly older people who have a greater risk of death than 18- to 22-year-old women, even in the absense of any drug. And there is no known mechanism by which Vioxx can cause death either.

One might ask, if there’s a problem with Mifeprex, why didn’t the FDA find it in testing? The reason is, Mifeprex was exempted from the usual standards the FDA uses to approve drugs. First, on his third day in office, President Clinton issued an executive order directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to allow the importation of the drug for personal use, and to “promptly” “promote” the manufacture of the drug in the United States:

I direct that you immediately take steps to rescind Import Alert
66-47 [which barred the importation of unapproved RU-486].

In addition, I direct that you promptly assess initiatives by which the Department of Health and Human Services can promote the testing, licensing, and manufacturing in the United States of RU-486 or other antiprogestins.

Of course, we all “know” it was pure coincidence that the FDA gave its preliminary approval (subject to resolving labelling issues) in September 1996, during a presidential campaign, and final approval in September 2000, during the next presidential campaign.

You might think that the National Organization for Women might be interested in investigating the safety of this drug that kills only women. But you would be wrong — they are focusing their FDA-lobbying efforts on preventing women from exercising their right to control their own bodies. (See my previous post on that topic.)

Sensing Thanks

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:45 pm

Donald Sensing has an inspiring Thanksgiving Day photo-essay.

Thanksgiving: If the rules now applied then….

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:00 pm

If the rules now applied then, perhaps the First Thanksgiving would have been something like this:

Man in Stocks

(Hat tip: Samantha Burns.)

Pajamas Media

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:30 pm

So many of the luminaries of the blogosphere and other “alternative” media such as talk radio, and even some people from non-alternative outlets like Random House and the New York Times are getting together in something called Pajamas Media.

The name, of course, is a reference to the former CBS executive who defended Dan Rather and CBS by saying that the people who caught them forging documents were just people “sitting in their living room in their pajamas.” They tried to change their name to something that would sound a little more dignified, but the name they picked, “Open Source Media,” was taken already — by another loud, decentralized, internet-based “alternative” crowd!

The “Open Source Software” folks might do their thing in their pajamas also, for all anyone knows. And they produce a lot of darn good software, including the software that runs this blog. I wonder what it is about the phrase “open source” and pajamas.

Reality Imitates TV

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:00 pm

As you may have noticed, I file a lot of bizarre stories under the category “Reality imitates The Onion because — well, because sometimes there is a real news story that looks like it could actually be from the parody newspaper The Onion. (Maybe we should have a contest where you have read a list of stories and decide which is from The Onion, and which is real. But I digress.)

Anyway, this is in that same vein, but not quite the same. See, last week, my wife sat down to watch some TV, and happened to be watching some BBC comedy on PBS. This is not what she usually watches, but she was laughing up a storm and called me in to see. After an episode and a half of “Keeping Up Appearances” there was an episode of Are You Being Served?”, which is about the antics of the staff in a department store. In that particular episode, the guy who cleans the mannequins has a habit of, um, touching them in a way that, um, rather, um, gives the wrong impression when seen through the store window.

That episode was first broadcast in 1974. Thirty-one years later, something quite similar has happened:

A teenager has been charged with indecent exposure after he was caught trying to have sex with a female mannequin on display at an arts centre.

Security guards found Michael Plentyhorse, 18, sprawled with the dummy on the floor with his trousers and pants down.

Police spokesman Loren McManus said: “There was inappropriate activity between him and the mannequin.

Police consider this pretty serious:

If convicted, Plentyhorse may be registered as a sex offender.

The guy from the TV show was just told to clean the mannequins in the stock room.

November 18, 2005

Modern “Economics” and Price Gouging

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:08 pm

OK, so I’ve been following the news, and the (mostly) liberal commentators, and so on, and the radio, and I’ve yet again noticed that to be right-thinking (or should that be “left-thinking”) these days, you need to believe two completely contradictory things:

  1. When the price of oil goes up and Exxon/Mobil charges more for gasoline, this is “price-gouging.” In other words, Exxon/Mobil is evil because they charge high prices.
  2. When Wal-Mart uses its volume-buying power and a super-efficient distribution system to charge low prices, this is bad because it runs “mom and pop” stores out of business. In other words, Wal-Mart is evil because they charge low prices.

I wonder — if a huge oil company like Exxon/Mobil charged low prices at a time like this, would they be excoriated for running “mom and pop” gas stations out of business? Because it would have that effect. In fact, it is precisely for this reason that the state of Wisconsin has a law mandating minimum gas prices. In Wisconsin, price-gouging is manadatory! (If it’s illegal too, that really puts the gas stations in a bind!)

And if Wal-Mart charged higher prices to avoid running runs “mom and pop” stores out of business, would they be excoriated for “price-gouging”? After all, they’d still have lower costs, so they’d be making huge per-unit profits. (Probably less profit total, since they’d sell fewer items, but they’d make more per item on those fewer items.)

The 2005 Weblog Awards

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:10 pm

Nominations are open for the 2005 Weblog Awards.

Not like I’m hinting or anything. ;-)

November 14, 2005

The Political Theory of … Harry Potter?

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:40 pm

Instapundit point to an article forthcoming in the Michigan Law Review by Benjamin Barton of the
University of Tennessee College of Law, which explores the political, public choice (economics) theory in the Harry Potter series:

This Essay examines what the Harry Potter series (and particularly the most recent book, The Half-Blood Prince) …

… [G]overnment is controlled by and for the benefit of the self-interested bureaucrat. The most cold-blooded public choice theorist could not present a bleaker portrait of a government captured by special interests and motivated solely by a desire to increase bureaucratic power and influence.

Folks, I’m not making this up. An abstract of the article is here. But I have the sneaking suspicion that perhaps Professor Barton was just trying to justify all the time he spent reading Harry Potter books as “work.”

And they wonder why I’d rather be a tenured professor…. ;-)

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