Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

E-mail Me

Twitter: yourlyingeyes

29 November 2005

'Jobs Americans Won't Do'

This is a favorite catch-phrase of the open-borders crowd (and their Commandante Uno Bush) - immigrants are just trying to make a living doing jobs that Americans just won't do. The phrase conjures up an image of a nation of spoiled brats, unwilling to dirty their hands in uninspiring toil.
So what would be a good example of a job that an advanced society would collectively shun? How about plumbing - while laying pipe at a new construction site may be inoffesive enough, the kind of plumbing work that has gone on at my 4-score-year-old house takes a pretty strong stomach. Yet plumbers are almost without exception native-born. How do we get them to perform their foul duties? Well you know perfectly well how - we pay through the nose.
Plumbers generally have to be licensed and their ranks - at least in these parts - are strictly union. And so the plumbing profession relies on what economists refer to as 'barriers to entry' to keep out cheap labor. The licensing requirements ensure a certain minimum skill level for people to get paid for plumbing, as well as restrict the field of available plumbers. The result is that a job that would have to be on anyone's short list of ones you wouldn't want to do ends up being in fact a fairly desirable profession - that is in fact not all that easy to get into. Now I'm not proposing that we start licensing landscapers and short-order cooks for chrissake - just pointing out the obvious disingenuousness of the open-borders crowd.

28 November 2005

America - Still a Great Country

An eight-term, war-hero Congressman is investigated, indicted, and put away by prosecutors working in a Justice Department controlled by the Congressman's own party. While I felt bad for "Duke" Cunningham as I watched his tearful press conference, none of us should take for granted how fortunate we are to live in the kind of country where the rule of law still carries such force. The Republican Party controlls the White House and both houses of congress, yet this politically embarrasing case proceeded along its own path to its apparently inevitable conclusion despite many powerful people no doubt wishing it would go away. Americans should be proud.

We Don't Need No Steenking Guest Workers!

Excellent commentary in the Christian Science Monitor on Bush's feint to the right on border security as a ploy to get things moving on his guest-worker program.
Up to now, border security has been a lesser immigration priority for a president who once said that those who enter the US illegally are simply trying to "provide for their families" and "put food on the table" - as if opening the border to any job seeker were merely a humanitarian matter.
It's nothing more than a scheme to pay as low wages as possible. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid criticizes the President's approach on immigration:
"Enforcement alone does not work. Unless we address the gap between our immigration laws and reality, illegal immigration will not stop and the situation on the border will continue to be chaotic," Reid said. The Democrat implored Bush to "stand up to the right wing of your party and stand up for what is right" by taking more than an enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration.
Wait...How's that? I thought the Democrats were supposed to be for the working man. Apparently the top Democrat thinks that "reality" requires more-and-more low-wage earners flooding the US labor market. Of course Reid is from Nevada, which thrives on low-wage service workers, so he might be a fair representation of the party. But where are all the Democrats from the Midwest and Northeast? Why aren't they up in arms over a "guest-worker" (i.e., cheap labor) program? Funny, isn't it?

23 November 2005

Why People Hate Economists

Arnold Kling explains that economists are rational while "people" are illogical, and so there's this perpetual conflict. But he doesn't help his cause with this bit of cluelessness:...Read more
Hardly anyone feels guilty about using tax preparation software rather than paying an accountant to handle their tax returns. Yet many people would tell you that there is something wrong with outsourcing tax preparation to accountants in India.
I explained why people feel this way in the comments section of his own blog, so I don't expect Mr. Kling to understand (or listen to) me here, but let me explain again: When you replace manual labor with machines, people view that as progress. The creative impulse of man inventing technological solutions to life's drudgeries - that's what we here in good ol' Western Civilization kind of strive for - it's kind of "our thing." Deciding to save a buck by going down the street (or half way across the world) and hiring some guy to do the same manual work but cheaper is not progress. It's just saving a buck. We Western Civ folk ain't much impressed by that kind of thing - some even consider it rather bad form. Any penny-pinching homeowner knows how to call up a few contractors to get an estimate to repave a driveway - that takes no special talent. But if some big paving machines can save you money by using less labor, then we are impressed. Should we be similarly impressed if some guy hires a gaggle of illegal Mexican immigrants to work cheaper than renting a machine? I don't think so - I think we'd consider that a bit of a step backward. Get it? Now is that so freakin' hard to understand?!

French Riot Aftermath: Cluelessness Reigns!

This BBC article on the aftermath of the French riots is a study in irrelevance. The most obvious explanation of the riots is that there is a large community of third world immigrants living in a modern European welfare-state. People from Africa (north or south) simply lack...Read more (on the whole - not everyone of them, of course) the necessary "human capital" (i.e., brains) to function successfully in a technological society. If being successful in France required subsistence farming or hand-to-hand combat, undoubtedly the immigrants would stand a decent chance. But it doesn't - instead, one must be capable of fairly demanding cognitive skills. Now unlike in the U.S., where welfare is given out rather grudgingly and low wage jobs are plentiful, France has generous welfare and strong unions which keep wages high. Thus, there isn't a lot for third-world immigrants to do. And what do young men with little to work to do tend to do instead? Raise hell, that's what.

Enough with the obvious. What does the BBC analysis tell us?
[O]ver the past three decades, French governments of all colours have implemented an array of initiatives aimed at tackling widely documented problems.
Huh - government programs haven't worked?
The problem, it seems, is not one of neglect - but one of ineffectual action.
Uh-huh. We just need the right programs. reason for the failure is that urban policies have focused too much on "urban regeneration".
...the underlying causes of the crisis, such as bad schools, have not seriously been dealt with.
...[funding] has been spread too thinly and used for patronage purposes.
...the current centre-right government has made problems worse by putting a halt to the neighbourhood policing launched by the previous administration.
So you've got everything under control, then? Great. Here in the U.S., many claim that local control and funding of school districts puts poor communities at a disadvantage, but apparently French poor neighborhoods have uniquely deep pockets:
[sociologist Sebastian] Roche points out that to improve education, you must allow local schools to choose their teachers and set higher wages. But this is unthinkable in the country's heavily centralised education system.
Oh I'm sure those rioting neighborhoods are just salivating at the thought of being able to raise teacher salaries.

Finally, at the end of the article, some semblance of realism begins to creep in:
France is also characterised by a high degree of social protection and many labour-market rigidities. This helps those already in work but prevents the creation of low-skill, entry-level jobs. The result is 25% unemployment among the young - and zero job prospects for the poorly-educated youths of the ghettos.
But they don't dare procede to the next logical step in the argument: that low-wage work is the only likely prospect for these residents for generations to come. France must stop immigration from third-world countries immediately, and begin serious deportation for any law breakers if it hopes to stem this tide.

NCLB: Dumb but Constitutional

The NEA, apparently flush with so much cash it can afford to hire lawyers to argue frivolous lawsuits, says it will appeal a judge's ruling that their lawsuit is as idiotic as the law they seek to overthrow.
A judge threw out a lawsuit Wednesday that sought to block the No Child Left Behind law, President Bush's signature education policy.
Selected school districts joined the suits. What was their argument?
The school districts had argued that the law is costing them more than they are receiving in federal funding.
Well then refuse the funds, and forget NCLB!

Now lord knows NCLB is a stupid law...Read more It's premise is that all students are of equal ability, and so any school district that does not bring all its students up to the grade standards must be doing something wrong. But for districts that have a large African-American population, this presents an unwinnable challenge - unless the tests or standards are watered down. So the NEA has a point - the law is completely unworkable. But the solution is simple - each state should opt out of NCLB and just forego the federal money. But the NEA, the biggest lobbier for federal involvement in education, doesn't want that! They want to have their cake and eat it, too. Instead, they must reap what they sow!

China Could Whup Our Butts

At least that's the assessment of East Asian allies.
The overwhelming assessment by Asian officials, diplomats and analysts is that the U.S. military simply cannot defeat China. It has been an assessment relayed to U.S. government officials over the past few months by countries such as Australia, Japan and South Korea, Insight magazine online reported in its Nov. 21-27 issue.
Of course Japan has underestimated us before, with disastrous results for them. Still, that's a rather sobering thought since China is only just getting started. They've just put men into space, and are only a small fraction of the way into industrializing their economy.

The U.S., on the other hand, is clearly moving in the opposite direction. Our manufacturing capabilities are declining while our list of growth industries suggests that our strengths lie in financial regulation, landscaping, home construction, and restaurants. Note that none of these are tradable commodities - they are only fit for domestic consumption and can't be exported.

And already we are considered militarily inferior to China? What will it be like in 20 years? What can we do to stem this tide?

20 November 2005

Jewish Leader Uses 'Hitler Argument' Against Evangelicals

The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech Saturday, calling them "zealots" who claim a "monopoly on God" while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's.
And so the good rabbi ensuress that no one but the already-persuaded will hear his argument by preemptively invoking Godwin's Law. There are many reasonable ways to argue that fundamentalism is incompatible with a civic-minded society, but arguing that opposition to special protection for gays amounts to Nazism is not among them.
"We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations," Yoffie said. "Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."
I like that - "We can disagree about gay marriage, but..." - but if you disagree with me, you're a fascist!

No good can come from this sort of fire-brand rhetoric. He's alienating not just evangelicals, but anyone who has any qualms about extending special legal protection to gays. Not that his audience at the event minded:
The audience of 5,000 responded to the speech with enthusiastic applause...One attendee, Judy Weinman of Troy, N.Y., said she thought Yoffie was "right on target. He reminded us of where we have things in common and where we're different," she said.
- Ah yes, different - as in we're reasonable, tolerant people, and they're fire-breathing, bigoted troglodytes.

14 November 2005

Sad But Not Too Farfetched

From the Onion:
Okie Hears There's Sam's Club Work In New Mexico

Three Star Restaurants in NYC

Kevin Drum and Tyler Cowen discuss why there is such a dearth of top quality restaurants in NYC compared to Paris. Neither comes close to understanding it. In France, great food is a fundamental part of their lives - not something to brag about when you make a lot of money. I was watching Jacques Pepin on TV a few weeks back making a chicken dish made in the manner of frogs legs (a la' whatever frogs legs are in French)....Read more As he prepared it, he commented on the pleasant memories it brought back of when his mother would make frogs legs. Can you imagine? Note that in France, if you prepare it a certain way, it's chicken that tastes like frogs' legs! Pierre Franey would wax nostalgic about a chicken liver dish his mother prepared on special occassions. Contrast this with what goes on in this country, food-wise. I know several people who can afford to eat out regularly at the most expensive restaurants (or have access to expense accounts that allow them to). They are, without exception, barbarians who have learned to mimic the act of fine dining. But they leave tell-tale signs of their monstrousness, such as a grotesque food-wine pairing or bit of uneaten roe. There simply is not enough native talent here to make a true 3-star restaurant work, and there is definitely not enough demand to justify its existence.

Bush urged to raise crackdown on Falun Gong with Chinese leaders

Ah yes, first things first. There's always those little matters of the $200 billion trade deficit, intellectual property rights, arms sales to Iran and North Korea's nuclear program - all in good time. But make sure you bring up the Falun Gong! (Via Drudge).

13 November 2005

Memo to Self: Get A Life

I've gotten involved in a little debate on free trade in the comments section of Econlog, the blog of economists Bryan Caplan and Arnold Kling.
I've always been a free-trader (as a good conservative should) but I feel something is amiss of late....Read more... When the Japanese launched their assault on our auto industry 30 years ago, Detroit was under siege from clearly superior manufacturing. But now, there just seems to be nothing special going on except cheaper labor - and there's an unlimited supply of that.
What's worse is now we're tapping into China and India, and these people can do brainy work, not just weaving rugs or packing fish. So our college graduates are tending bars while we send skilled jobs overseas.
But what really amazes me is the attitude free-traders take towards the suggestion that, as Americans, the welfare of our fellow Americans should be our top priority - "repulsive" and "repugnant" were the most common reactions I got.
So I have one plea for those advancing the (perfectly legitimate) free-trade argument: State clearly whether you support free-trade for the good of the world, or for the good of America. If the latter, then we can dispense with all the accusations of nativism and xenophobia, because then we all want the same thing - it's just a question of how best to get there. If the former, then at least we all know where you stand.

And This Is Supposed to be Bad News?

The Washington Post reports that dozens of veteran lawyers have left the Justice Department's Civil Rights division in frustration over a 40% decline in racial and gender discrimination prosecutions. I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep well tonight knowing that in America today businesses may now feel they can, with impunity, just go out and hire the best person available for a job.

12 November 2005

Cause of Death: Decomposition!

This NYT article on the sloppy accounting of the Katrina dead in Louisiana doesn't give us much hope that autopsies will shed any light on what really happened in the city during those dark days. I guess even minimally competent work from the coroner's office was too much to ask.

Confused Seniors Poised to Save U.S. Billions?

It sounds too good to be true. The new Medicare prescription drug benefit, whose projected costs threaten to make the Iraq War look like a cheap night out on the town by comparison, could well be so confusing that seniors won't be able to take full advantage of it. Said one senior:
"With the new program you go home at night, and your mind is totally boggled, so confused that you think, 'Golly, is it worth it?'
If enough of the elderly take that attitude, the country may yet be saved from fiscal ruin. Just how complicated is the drug benefit?
After a two-hour class at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, Mr. Samet used a Yiddish word to describe his state of mind. "Farmisht," he said. "Mixed up. All of us here are mixed up."
This program is apparently so complicated even retired Jews can't figure it out!

Now I don't wish to sound callous towards the plight of senior citizens - cetainly not like this proposal, for example. But while there are no doubt a number of hardship cases, there does not seem to be any existing broad health-care crisis relating to unmedicated senior citizens that should have justified this kind of expenditure given our current budget and trade deficits. So let confusion rein!

10 November 2005

NIYBY in the Arctic

Congress appears to be going back and forth right now on whether to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. The interesting thing about this is who opposes it and who favors it. It's probably a safe bet that unlike, say, the gulf coast of Florida, almost nobody is ever going to actually visit ANWR. So what's the problem?

I like to imagine a conversation between an eager young geologist breathlessly informing his wizened superior about the huge oil fields he just discovered in an arctic wilderness in our least populous state:...Read more

Young Geologist: Sir, sir, I've just discovered a huge untapped oil field!
Old Pro: Uh-huh - and where might this be?
Young Geologist: You're gonna love it - in the most desolate, god-forsaken place in the U.S. The northern coast of Alaska!
Old Pro: [furrows brow] oh, that's a problem.
Young Geologist: [frowns] Problem? What, are the Alaskans going to fight it?
Old Pro: No, the Alaskans will be all for it.
Young Geologist: So who's against it?
Old Pro: Oh, people from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey...

I don't want to argue that we shouldn't have protected wilderness, and it's certainly reasonable to oppose drilling in ANWR. But, really, Barney Frank is about as interested in the flora, fauna, and glaciers in ANWR as I'd be in a Judy Garland film festival (and I would't be - I swear!).

So what's the deal here - why do blue-staters, who typically are indifferent to or even repelled by the wild outdoors, oppose any wilderness development, while red-staters, who are more likely to actually commune with nature, tend to support it? It's like there's a reverse NIMBY going on - Bob Menendez (D-NJ) represents Hudson County, surely one of the most urbanized regions in the world, where there couldn't be a shred of undeveloped land remaining, is telling Alaskans regarding ANWR drilling "Not in your back yard!" I can assure you his constituents do not give two craps about ANWR. So what's going on here?

My suspicion is that this reflects more a general anti-business mindset, like the idea that some businessmen are going to be getting away with something here and we're damned if we're going to let them. Rationally, urban voters should be all for ANWR drilling since it will result in lower fuel prices and ANWR might as well be a crater on the far side of the moon for all they know. But they also sense that those bastard oil executives are going to make a helluva lot more money on the drilling than they're going to see in lower prices, so screw 'em - no drilling for you!

Oil Execs Give Senators Opportunity to Show Off

Senators got to yell at oil industry executives at a hearing yesterday for making so much money last quarter, gaining points with constituents. The executives got to give sober, reasoned responses allowing them to show how - well - business-like they are. And we get to continue to buy gasoline and have our tanks filled with heating oil.

There couldn't be too many Senators who didn't wait on long gas lines in 1973 and 1979, the last time we had supply shocks and price controls. It's hard to imagine an any more obvious lesson to learn from history than what would await us if we were to interfere with the ability of oil companies to make short term profits.

As with any other entity in a market economy, oil companies want to be able to make money - lots of money if possible - in return for the work they do. It's a no-brainer that if a profit limit is imposed on them, they will do less work - and that means less petroleum for us.

We don't have a lot of choice - there is no governmental entity in these here United States that could possibly deliver petroleum products effectively. Only greedy, profit-motivated private concerns can do that. The only mechanism that works is price - so if we mess with that, we're asking for trouble.

But the Senators know this, and so we have little to fear. There are some other ideas on the table. One is to rescind some recently enacted tax breaks. In and of itself there's nothing wrong with this, as long as it is decided analytically rather than in a fit. Another is to subsidize oil heat for poorer residents - again, nothing wrong with that necessarily. Just don't f-around with price controls!

07 November 2005

Breasts Not Bombs - Not

At least not on the grounds of the state Capitol in California. The group Breasts Not Bombs, headed by performance artist Sherry Glazer, attempts to illustrate the indecency of war by contrasting it with the "decency" of their bared breasts, and thus argued that their topless displays are protected speech. The judge bounced this argument out of court: "Do you think the founding fathers had this in mind when they drafted the First Amendment?" . In case you harbor any doubts regarding the wisdom of the judge's decision, here is a picture of the group in action. "Decent" may not be the first word to roll off your tongue.

Of Riots and Tornadoes

It's interesting to note that over 11 nights of intense rioting in France have apparently produced no mortal victims while in a flash a tornado in Indiana killed 22. I wouldn't be surprised if the overall property losses aren't similar. I don't know what this means, but there it is.

Update: The perceptive though shy commenter "anonymous" added some good points:
There will be more deaths. 36 police have been injured and 10 have been shot...The main reason there has been only one death so far is that the authorities have allowed the intifada to proceed largely unimpeded. Eventually the rioters will get bored and this will stop, but when this happens the next time the muslims will have stockpiles of automatic weapons and RPG's available to them.
No doubt. Of course that's one big difference between a natural disaster and terrorism - adapting to their victims' weaknesses. A tornado doesn't learn to exploit our weaknesses - tornadoes haven't "learned" to single out trailer parks. However, whether it's continuing to build trailer parks in tornado-prone prairies, or developing in high-risk flood zones, or importing large numbers of immigrants from third-world countries, we in the civilized world don't seem to learn any better than tornadoes.

04 November 2005

More DeLay DeVelopments

The New York Times reports that Tom DeLay asked his lobbyist buddy, indicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to raise money for him through a private charity.
"Did you get the message from the guys that Tom wants us to raise some bucks from Capital Athletic Foundation?" Mr. Abramoff asked a colleague in a message on June 6, 2002, referring to the charity. "I have six clients in for $25K. I recommend we hit everyone who cares about Tom's requests. I have another few to hit still."
Sounds so matter-of-fact, doesn't it, like they were rounding up sponsors for a Rotary Club golf outing. But the Rotary Club seldom gets their hands in this many pockets:
Mr. Abramoff's private charity, the Capital Athletic Foundation, has come under scrutiny by Senate investigators since the foundation was used to underwrite overseas travel by members of Congress and senior government officials, as well as a Jewish day school that Mr. Abramoff had established and paramilitary training for kibbutz residents in Israel. Mr. Abramoff's e-mail messages describe the training program as a "sniper school.
If you're looking for some people to owe you a favor, a group of trained snipers isn't a bad place to start. For more on Abramoff and others' exploitation of Israel connections as cover, see here.
Now is not the time for Republicans to get defensive about Tom DeLay. Being this tight with a guy like this should have marked DeLay as radioactive a while ago. And his failure to keep a lid on spending, which is all anyone would ever expect from a Republican House Majority Leader, renders him unworthy of extraordinary support from the rank and file. It's time to leave ol' Tom to twist slowly in De Wind.
Note: in the interest of fairness, if you are inclined to support the former Majority Leader, here's an important message on how you can do just that.