bush’s misdirection

bush is engaging in misdirection by saying that congress is attempting to tell the generals how to do their jobs, and it is time to call him on it. i did a search of google news to find the quote i just heard over the radio, and found an op-ed summing up what i was about to write.

“I believe strongly that politicians in Washington shouldn’t be telling generals how to do their job,” Bush said of the push by Senate and House Democrats to dictate a timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq.

In invoking such language, Bush is either trying to dupe Americans into thinking that it is the generals who are in charge of this nation’s wars, or worse, he actually believes that they are. The first notion should be rebuffed, the second should be feared.

In our democracy, war policies are made by politicians. The tactics are left to the generals. The job of the generals is to do what this nation’s civilian authorities tell them to do.

give me whatever is on tap

i like the taste of berkeley water. same goes with good old hetch hetchy in san francisco. now the new trend for foodies is drinking tap water instead of bottled water. i applaud this trend.

Last month, the San Francisco Chronicle spotted a hot new food trend in the Bay Area. Instead of offering diners a choice of still or sparkling bottled water with their (inevitably) locally grown delectables, trendoid restaurants such as Incanto, Poggio, and Nopa now offer glorified tap water. Sustainable-dining pioneer Chez Panisse has also joined the crowd, tossing Santa Lucia overboard for filtered municipal water, carbonated on-site. The reason: It takes a lot of energy to create a bottle of water and ship it from Europe to California. And so of-the-moment bistros can boost their enviro cred by giving away tap water instead of selling promiscuously marked-up bottled water. “Our whole goal of sustainability means using as little energy as we have to,” Mike Kossa-Rienzi, general manager of Chez Panisse, told the Chronicle. “Shipping bottles of water from Italy doesn’t make sense.”

and daniel gross speculates about the arc of hipness and coolness that bottled water is following:

Bottled water’s swift transformation from glass-encased luxury good to déclassé, plastic-wrapped menace was entirely predictable. Over the past century, we’ve seen numerous examples of products that, so long as they were available only to a select few, were viewed by those elites as brilliant, life-improving developments: the automobile, coal-generated electricity, air conditioning. But once companies figured out how to make them available to the masses, the elites suddenly condemned them as dangerous and socially destructive.

So long as only a few people were drinking Evian, Perrier, and San Pellegrino, bottled water wasn’t perceived as a societal ill. Now that everybody is toting bottles of Poland Spring, Aquafina, and Dasani, it’s a big problem.

the couch has left the building

i had, up until last night, an ikea pullout bed sofa. nothing special, but it was the most unbelievably comfortable couch to sleep on. phil takes bragging rights for the last nap, yesterday afternoon while we were waiting for the girl to come pick it up. i look at the corner of the room it used to sit in, and this line from the big lebowski comes to mind: The Dude: [repeated line by The Dude and others] That rug really tied the room together.

i know, it wasn’t a rug. but it really did tie the room and this apartment together. now, it feels empty in here. yes, i am exagerrating. somewhat. it is interesting to discover what items i associate with “home”. is “home” really just a place to fill with crap? is a home a consumer good, as the NAR would have us believe? (their new television ad is awesome by the way). after the couch, a pic of my new homeless home.

couch goes away

my new backpack

taking some pain

brett steenbarger has a post up talking about why he does his taxes by hand. i have done the same thing over the last couple of years, for the same reasons he describes.

My favorite form of performance review is also my most painful. Every year I complete my income taxes–by hand. That means that I write out every single trade that I placed during the year in chronological order, along with its profit/loss (P/L). This past year, that meant reviewing approximately 240 trades, roughly one a day.

Yes, there are ways of capturing this information electronically to avoid the hand-numbing task of writing each transaction, but I choose the old-fashioned method. Writing the trades out makes me reflect on them: “What the hell happened here?” and “What was going on in the market then?” Writing the trades makes me sensitive, not only to their P/L, but to their sequencing: How many runs of winners and losers did I have? How far did I draw down during the year? How well did I trade after I had a losing period? What happened following winning periods?

tax the tall

greg mankiw presents a compelling argument for a tax on height (young men make on average 2% more income per inch of height):

The problem addressed in this paper is a classic one: the optimal redistribution of income. A utilitarian social planner would like to transfer resources from high-ability individuals to low-ability individuals, but he is constrained by the fact that he cannot directly observe ability. In conventional analysis, the plan- ner observes only income, which depends on ability and effort, and is deterred from the fully egalitarian outcome because taxing income discourages effort. If the planner’s problem is made more realistic by allowing him to observe other variables correlated with ability, such as height, he should use those other vari- ables in addition to income for setting optimal policy. Our calculations show that a utilitarian social planner should levy a sizeable tax on height. A tall per- son making $75,000 should pay about $4,500 more in taxes than a short person making the same income.

Height is, of course, only one of many possible personal characteristics that are correlated with a person’s opportunities to produce income. In this paper, we have avoided these other variables, such as race and gender, because they are intertwined with a long history of discrimination. In light of this history, any discussion of using these variables in tax policy would raise various political and philosophical issues that go beyond the scope of this paper. But if a height tax is deemed acceptable, tax analysts should entertain the possibility of using other such “tags” as well.

Many readers, however, will not so quickly embrace the idea of levying higher taxes on tall taxpayers. Indeed, when first hearing the proposal, most people recoil from it or are amused by it. And that reaction is precisely what makes the policy so intriguing. A tax on height follows inexorably from a well-established empirical regularity and the standard approach to the optimal design of tax policy. If the conclusion is rejected, the assumptions must be reconsidered.

he goes on to conclude that you must either support a tax on height, or reject the conventional approach to taxation.