Monday, February 28, 2005

Is Karin Temple a Nazi?

Karin Temple is a Nazi.

Nazis were German and directed hatred at an -ism to promote their own political purposes. Karin Temple is German and directs hatred at an -ism to promote her own political purposes. That makes her a Nazi, right?

This appears to be the core of her argument (the writer gives pitifully few details):
She said that comparisons can be made from the U.S. government to that of Germany in the ’30s and ’40s....

Temple said that she uses Germany as an example to compare with America because she hopes that it will spark something and get people to act, being compared with a country that did such horrible things.
This leads us to the fallacy of the day: Argumentum ad Nazium ("linking an idea with Hitler or Nazism has become a common form of argument ascribing guilt by association")

Some libertarians and conservatives have used a similar argument to condemn national standards in our de facto national ID card as reminiscent of the Soviet Union. The problem is this: they don't actually say what is independently wrong with the idea.

And another quick history lesson:
Temple explained fascism.... Fascism ultimately leads to restriction of civil liberties and wars.
I'm hoping that this is just bad reporting for an amateur newspaper, but there's actually no reason to say, for example, that fascism ultimately leads to wars. Excluding creations of World War II, the only notable fascist states were Italy, Germany, and Spain (an extraordinarily small sample size). I guess Spain is easy to forget (I hope they didn't give Temple a history degree). Throughout General Francisco Franco's 1939 to 1975 rule, Spain managed to avoid wars and even granted independence to colonies. As for "civil liberties," replace "Fascism" with "Government" and nothing changes.
She also said that Americans seem to have a hard time remembering what has happened in the past.
Clearly not a purely American trait.

Fascist Spain, by the way, enacted quite a few programs that look like they belong in the Democrat Party Platform:

The Law of Family Subsidy, enacted in 1939, provides Spain’s workers with monthly allowances proportionate to the number of children in the family; the necessary funding is collected from employers and employees. A program of old-age pensions and health and maternity benefits has been in effect since 1949.
Similar examples can be found elsewhere, but why validate a fallacy? When people start ranting about Nazis, just compare the Interstate Highway System to the Autobahn.

Observant Ovation to Ryan Damron.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The European Union: Marketing Consultant?

From our friends in Europe:

Another row has broken out over the name [Microsoft] proposes giving to the version of Windows without the MediaPlayer audiovisual programme which it is making available to PC manufacturers....

The EU's competition authorities... have rejected out of hand Microsoft's initial suggestion of calling the "degraded" version of its operating system "Windows reduced media edition" - viewed as a serious deterrent to consumers. Other proposed names have also been rejected.

So now honestly naming your product is illegal in Europe because the name isn't snazzy enough? I guess we know now what the opposite of a truth-in-advertising law looks like.
Privately, officials are angry at what are seen as Microsoft's underhand, prevaricating efforts to lessen the impact of the sanctions. The software group, however, insisted: "We are fully committed to implementation of the commission's and the court's decisions."
No, the officials are angry at getting outwitted by one of those evil mongrel American corporations.

There are plenty of reasons to complain about Microsoft, but this fascination with bundled software (last time it was Internet Explorer) is absurd. I have Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, and QuickTime - each of which is free and each of which has unique benefits and drawbacks. What's next, banning the Windows Calculator because it competes with other free calculators?

Update, Mar. 29: EU imposes a meaningless name:

Microsoft has bowed to pressure from the European Commission to name a new version of its Windows XP software, Windows XP Home Edition N.

...

The 'N' in the new name stands for "not with media player".

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Taking Both Sides on Missile Defense

Canada is expected to officially refuse to participate in the U.S. missile defense system. The question remains, do we care?

Prime Minister Paul Martin will deliver a firm No to Canadian participation in the U.S. missile defence plan and break a lengthy silence that fomented confusion on both sides of the border.

...

The end of Martin's silence will come as an about-face for a prime minister who had repeatedly stated his support for missile defence when he was a Liberal leadership candidate barely a year ago.

And here's why it probably doesn't matter:

News of the announcement follows a day of confusion on Parliament Hill after Frank McKenna, Martin's choice to be the next ambassador to the U.S., sparked a political firestorm by saying participation in the controversial continental missile defence system is a done deal.

...

"We're part of it now and the question is what more do we need?" McKenna said of Canada's role in missile defence.

McKenna backed his argument by citing last summer's deal that allows Norad, the joint Canada-U.S. air defence command, to monitor for incoming missiles - a critical element of the missile shield program's operation.

"There's no doubt, in looking back, that the Norad amendment has given, has created part - in fact a great deal - of what the United States means in terms of being able to get the input for defensive weaponry," said McKenna.

So unless they're going to reverse the NORAD agreement, the only thing we stood to gain was another name on a list. The key here is participation of NORAD, not any other part of Canada. After all, geographical requirements are already met with Alaska and Greenland.

The Canadian viewpoint is understandable. Superficially, Canada (unlike Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Europe) doesn't really face a missile threat. Anyone that could hit Canada would probably opt for cities like L.A., New York, or Chicago first. The threat to Canada probably isn't any more significant than the threat to Kansas - and I can't imagine the system not being used to defend Canada.

The U.S. will continue to defend Canada and Canadian politicians will appease their Anti-American constituents.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sales Tax Loopholes

Hopefully this is the start of a trend (but probably not). Sales tax should be based on where the sale takes place, not where a customer lives (or claims to). (Observant Ovation to Orbusmax)

Oregon Shoppers Could Soon Pay Wash. Sales Tax

Oregonians who shop in Washington could soon find themselves paying more.

A proposal by Washington Rep. Deb Wallace would close the loophole that exempts Oregonians from paying the 7.7 percent sales tax that Washingtonians pay.

Oregon shoppers would still be exempt from taxes on purchases over $50.

Wallace says if her plan passes, it would raise more than $40 million for her cash-strapped state. Critics say the plan would mean lost customers for Washington businesses. Proponents say it creates fairness.

Oregonians have been shopping tax-free in Washington since 1965.

Wallace is a Democrat from Vancouver.

The EU has a similar system in place for tourists. You pay taxes on all purchases, but can get a tax refund on larger purchases. For the most part, my purchases weren't significant enough to qualify for rebates, but it also seemed entirely appropriate to be paying the taxes. I was, after all, in Europe, and using services and infrastructure that were almost certainly government-funded.

In an even more absurd arrangement, the Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority raised the sales tax within its boundaries a few years back - but only for people residing within those boundaries. That meant that people traveling into the area, even commuters, would be exempt from a tax designed to alleviate the problems created by having too many people on the roads. They also get to enjoy whatever subsidized transit is constructed without the tax burden of their neighbors across the boundary.

A few more suggestions for a more workable sales tax system:
  • Include taxes in purchase prices. I rarely see this in the U.S., but it's common with European VATs - the purchase price includes taxes which then show up on your receipt. It makes it easier to estimate costs and often reduces the complexity of change involved.
  • Get rid of the "use tax" - it's unconstitutional and I've never even heard of anyone who paid it.

"No War" for Oil

Today, we observe Mark Steyn's observant observation on the Canadian government's opposition to removing Saddam:

For a year, the antiwar crowd had told us it was “all about oil”--that the only reason Iraq was being “liberated” was so Bush, Cheney, Halliburton and the rest of the gang could annex in perpetuity the second biggest oil reserves in the world. But, if it was all about oil, then the fact--fact--is that the only Western leader with a direct stake in the issue was not the Texas oilpatch stooge in Washington, but Jean Chr├ętien: his daughter, his son-in-law and his grandchildren stood to be massively enriched by the Total-Saddam agreement [acquiring “development rights to 25 per cent of Iraq’s oil reserves”]. It depended on two factors: Saddam remaining in power, and the feeble UN sanctions being either weakened into meaninglessness or quietly dropped.
Observant Ovation to the New Sisyphus.

Introducing the Observant Ovation

We were in need of something semi-unique to credit sources on the web that would not otherwise be linked to. It will generally be used when stories would not otherwise have come to our attention through ordinary news browsing, but the source is not quoted separately.

It was inspired by the "WWC High Five" and the "PaulSchafer.com thumbs-up."

In development, the phrase reached even beyond the wordiness of "Observant Observations Ominous Ovation" before eventually becoming "Observant Ovation."

You have been warned...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Step Forward for French Workers

From the BBC:

French lawmakers have voted in favour of a controversial bill to increase the country's 35-hour working week.

The proposal backed by a large majority allows private-sector employees to work up to 48 hours a week.

...

Other than allowing people to work for up to 48 hours in a week - the EU approved maximum - the proposal also relaxes the overtime limit from 180 hours per year to 220.


I object to the idea of the government telling me how much I can work, but at least this is a step in the right direction. It limits how productive a person can be - but even worse, it limits the income of the working poor.

Last year between the end of finals and the Roadtrip Across America, I worked as many as 65 hours a week. Why? There was work to do and I was being paid by the hour. If I had been in France, I would have lost up to 46% of my income.

The EU now replaces France as the obnoxious regulator. Even the freest EU member would have reduced my income by 26%.

Also, note the economic situation France is in. Germany is in a similar situation, with about double the unemployment that was decried in the 2004 Presidential campaign as a sign of a collapsing economy:

Observers say the 370-180 vote underscores the government's determination to revamp a system that it blames for a stubbornly high unemployment rate and rising labour costs.

French unemployment figures stand at about 10% of the work force amid complaints from private sector companies that the existing system makes them uncompetitive.

There may be hope for Europe - at least for now. I'm betting most of this is happening because of competition with new EU members in Eastern Europe.

Update, Feb. 12: "EU VP Says Europe Economy is Worse":

In a 15-minute speech to foreign ambassadors, financial experts and business men and women, newly elected European Parliament Vice President Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca tried to answer the question on the minds of 450 million European Union citizens: "Why is the European economy not growing?"

...

In terms of gross domestic product in 2004, the European Union had a 1 percent GDP growth rate, unlike the United States, which had a 3 percent growth rate.

...

"There are not enough Europeans working or working the hours that they should," he said, as compared to the United States. In fact, he added, if one were to look at the productivity level of the European Union it far exceeds the United States, but because there are fewer workers and fewer hours worked, the EU falls behind.

"We are lazy, to say it simply," said Roca.

Even the characters in Office Space would get something done in those extra hours.