Saturday, December 21, 2002

Merry Christmas

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet the words repeat,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll'd along th' unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bow'd my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

'Til ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Friday, December 20, 2002

Everybody Loves Raymond

If you are an American in the living room what are you in the bathroom?


That'll Teach Him

A friend just sent me this funny bit of news. A french court fined George Soros $2.2 million for insider trading. The trades took place 14 years ago and Soros is alleged to have made $2.28 million. This would be like an interest free loan for 14 years if the fine was $800,000 more. I guess its too much for the French to understand the time-value of money when they are still trying to figure out why limiting people to working 35-hours did not increase employment.

How Stupid Can A US Senator Be?

Apparently, incredibly stupid. Senator Murray, from Washington, while speaking at a high school said
"We've got to ask, why is this man (Osama bin Laden) so popular around the world?," said Murray, who faces re-election in 2004. "Why are people so supportive of him in many countries … that are riddled with poverty?

"He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that.

"How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"
In the senator's world Al Qaeda is a benevolent clan, spreading candy, ABC books and band-aids all over the world. They are way better than Santa Claus. Where is my check book? Her opponent is getting a donation. Knowing morons like her are making decisions on the citizenry's behalf does a pretty good job of filling me with DREAD.
(via drudge)

Rated I for Idiot

This is just too ridiculous to let slip by. Joe "Wholly than thou and I" Lieberman is on a crusade against video games. Joey is upset because your children (not his) are buying games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Probably Joe is secretly shilling for the game's publishers, drumming up publicity.

I first heard about this game a few months ago. My girl-friend came home from her job at an elementary school. She had told one of her charges that we have an X-box. The little tike (~8 years of age) asked her in a hushed voice "Do you have any M-games?". Her reply was "M-Games? What are M-games?", this was also my question to her, as I interrupted her story. Well the student was the master in this case. That day we learned that M-games are games rated "mature". Each video game is assigned a rating (just like the movies) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the other ratings are: C=Early Children, E=Everyone, T=Teen, M=Mature, A=Adults Only. The little dear asked "do you have grand theft auto?", in the same hushed-sly tone. Well we don't have Grand Theft Auto, and all I know about the game I learned from the 3rd grader and Joe Lieberman. Apparently, junior had played Grand Theft Auto and based on his little smile, liked it.

Just a few days ago, I was dispensing some free advice to a friend on the very topic of video game consoles. His niece wants a console (X-box or Playstation). He was asking me what I knew about the two choices, and was concerned whether video games are a good idea for a child. My take on the whole "video games for kids issue" (disclaimer: I have no kids) is that they are preferable to TV. Despite Holy-Joe's concerns, currently video game usage is much easier for parents to monitor than what goes on TV. Games cost $50 and where is a kid going to get that money unless its from their parents. Games can be rented at the video store, but you need to have a store card which is secured with a credit card, again the parents are in the loop. The games could be played at their friends house, but the kids could also be playing Russian-roulette at their friends house. If you don't know what kinds of friends your kids have, good luck. Personally I think games are better for the brain than TV viewing. I haven't done any kind of research to backup my claims. But I have watched a lot of TV for the last few years and I can honestly say 99% of it is crap. Today thanks to the Internet and X-box (now X-box live) my viewing is down.

Finally, after a bit of discussion about the PS2 vs X-Box issue, the winner was PS2. The primary reason for selecting PS2 over X-Box was the greater availability of children's games. I wonder what Joe's kids and grand-kids are getting for Christmas got for Hanukkah.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Partly Sunny - Partly Cloudy

South Korea is holding its elections for president tomorrow, Dec 19. The choice is between Roh Moo-hyun (from the Millenium Democratic Party, the governing party) and Lee Hoi-chang (from the Grand National Party). Don't know much about their differences on domestic policies, but their foreign policy vis-a-vie North Korea are stark. Mr. Lee is in favor eliminating the Sunshine Policy. The Sunshine Policy was begun by the current South Korean president Mr. Kim (limited to one term). The policy is a characterized by aid from the South flowing North.

Proponents of the policy say that tension on the Korean peninsula have eased. There were meetings between leaders (first time since the Korean war). There were agreements between the US and North Korea, now famous for being pretty one sided, the North Koreans did not abide by the letter or spirit of the agreements. Some "experts" have floated the idea that the Sunshine Policy created a rift (maybe a small rift) in the North Korean leadership, between those that favored closer ties to the South and those intent on achieving a workers paradise even if it costs every single Korean. Opponents of the policy point out that it has cost billions of dollars and yielded little. There have been high-level exchanges and photo opportunities for presidents but little else. The North has continued its nuclear weapons program. Not all Koreans feel the North's nuclear program is a bad idea. Most people feel that reunification will eventually come, and when it does having a nuclear capability would be a useful deterrent against neighbors like China. There have been casualties from North Korean and South Korean naval clashes.

Currently the polls have the two candidates pretty even. But North Korea has recently issued threats against South Korea should Mr Kim be elected. More than a few people will not appreciate this black-mail. Now Mr Roh has chimed in by warning the electorate against Mr Kim lest it lead to war. Desperation? Maybe. These threats plus the vocal anti-American demonstrations (there are pro-American demonstrations but I have never seen it reported on TV, thank god for the internet) in South Korea may push Mr Kim over the top. Tomorrow we shall see if the South Koreans favor a policy that tolerates threats.

UPDATE: Mr Roh 48%, Mr Kim 46%. Prof Drezner gives Mr Roh 6 months before his polarity dives.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Fair Play

Well protectionism is alive and well in these United States. This time its the nice folks at the US International Trade Commission. They have "tentatively" decided that South Korea is competing unfairly against US DRAM manufacturers (like Micron Tech). The problem centers around South Korean government "subsidies" to Samsung and Hynix Semi. We'll skip the part about glass-houses and such, and jump to the real-issue: "playing fair".

Often in trade disputes between governments somebody is being accused of not "playing fair". The unfair play usually takes the form of tariffs or subsidies to industry. "Our guys" are affected because the subsidies over there allow their competitors to sell products for less, possibly forcing lay-offs in the good-ole-US-of-A. While it sounds that the other guy is behaving badly are they really?

The customers (numerically far more than manufacturers) are not complaining, they can buy parts for their products cheaper. The customers' customers are not complaining (the retailers), they can sell products for less. The customers' customers' customers (that's you and me, or is it I) are not complaining because, hey, its so cheap. The benefit of lower prices more than off sets the problems for local manufacturers that compete against the subsidies.

The only ones complaining are the businesses that have to compete against these subsidized competitors. But the one who really should be complaining is the South Korean citizen, it is his taxes that are being spent to give US consumers a discount. Let me be the first to say, Thank you. Thank you for lowering the prices of cell-phones, digital cameras, mp3 players, and hundreds of other products.

While I feel for the smart folks at Micron and their investors, the simple fact is that there are no guarantees in life. If they cannot compete against foreigners without running to Uncle Sam for help, they better get out of that business cause the writing is on the wall. Once upon a time the US had a really big textile industry, today despite ridiculous tariffs the textile industry in the US is tiny (when was the last time your shirts were not made in China, Philippines, etc). It seems the DRAM business is going the way of the sweat shop, and there is nothing Uncle Sam can do about it.

It would be just fine with me if all the countries in the world (expect the US) subsidized their businesses. We could all be driving foreign cars that cost $10,000. Nice four door cars, with air bags and walnut interiors, not "2-door-specks". Wearing the finest silk and cotton at Walmart prices. Europeans would be traveling to the states to go shopping (of course they do that already). Perhaps one day.

Hold It, Back It Up

Ok. The Transit Union is not striking. So much for my sources. Maybe the union blinked, but we wont know until the negotiations have finished.