Archive

  • Black Market Guitar Picking

    The absurdities associated with copyright enforcement in the 21st century seem to be endless. The NYT had an article on another one this morning. Apparently publishers of sheet music are up in arms over guitar tablature sites. These are sites where guitarists pass along tips to each other on how to play particular songs. (I know nothing about guitar playing, so I welcome clarification.) The sheet music publishers argue that these sites, which are accessible at no charge, are a violation of their copyright for the sheet music and should be shut down. This is the best copyright enforcement story I�ve heard since the publishers of the Harry Potter series went after sites in which people exchanged their own Harry Potter stories � a great use of the state�s police power. (Anyone know how this one was resolved in the courts?) What's missing in the NYT coverage of these stories is any input from economists. These problems arise because the state is granting a monopoly with copyrights, which...
  • WHO NEEDS A...

    WHO NEEDS A VACATION? Not the American people, apparently. Sustained time off of work is increasingly becoming a quirky memory, one of those strange traditions practiced by our superstitious ancestors: The Conference Board, a private research group, found that at the start of the summer, 40 percent of consumers had no plans to take a vacation over the next six months � the lowest percentage recorded by the group in 28 years. A survey by the Gallup Organization in May based on telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,003 adults found that 43 percent of respondents had no summer vacation plans. About 25 percent of American workers in the private sector do not get any paid vacation time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Another 33 percent will take only a seven-day vacation, including a weekend. That's a shame for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that vacation time carries substantial health benefits for workers. I've long believed that Democrats could make...
  • SALI SINKING.

    SALI SINKING. Not that anyone should care, but I have a new favorite midterm race. Courtesy of some folks at the palace of Grand Vizier Kos , I have come to develop great affection for the race in the First Congressional District of Idaho. Last week, Dick Cheney unlimbered his rhetorical firepower -- the only kind of firepower it is safe for him to unlimber, truth be told -- on behalf of Bill Sali , the Republican candidate running against Democratic hopeful Larry Grant . As you can see from this link, Sali is about as beloved among his fellow Republicans as is The Invisible Man, whose pants can now be seen running by themselves in the Connecticut senatorial contest. Democrats have had nowhere near enough races recently in which Republicans openly discuss out of which window they should toss their candidate. Things are looking up. --Charles P. Pierce
  • THIS WEEK IN PANEL BALANCE.

    THIS WEEK IN PANEL BALANCE. Classic Sunday chat show roundtable on ABC's "This Week" yesterday: George Will , Reuel Marc Gerecht , Fareed Zakaria , and Robin Wright . For those keeping score, that's a conservative, a neoconservative, a moderate conservative, and a straight news reporter. The subject was the fiasco of American strategy in the Middle East, however, and an elite consensus of outrage and despair on that subject is clearly beginning to emerge such that the ideological slant of the team didn't prevent the discussion from being, on the whole, fairly cogent and sober-minded. (Another way of putting this is that, particularly regarding Iraq, several of the panelists made the major analytical points that liberals have been expressing for a few years now, which can be taken as a real sign of progress given that it's apparently simply too much to expect that liberals themselves will ever regularly appear on such panels.) Bush has turned out to be a uniter after all. --Sam...
  • Jobs Without Money? Employment in the Mortgage Banking Industry

    Mortgage applications in 2006 are running at a pace that is about one-third lower than the year-round average for 2003. One-third fewer mortgages should mean that revenue is roughly one-third lower. This would presumably translate into a substantial drop in employment in the industry, but not according to the Washington Post . Relying on industry sources, the article explains that mortgage bankers are cutting staff through attrition or simply allowing commision based pay to fall with the number of mortgage applicants. This could be the case for the moment, but it's hard to believe that employment will not adjust at least partly to the drop of revenue. Industries never like to tell reporters that business is bad and layoffs are soaring. It would have been a good idea to talk to an analyst not connected to the industry.
  • I.R.S. Cracks Down

    The NYT had a good piece this morning about plans by the I.R.S. to turn over 12,500 tax deliquency cases to private collection agencies. There are two interesting features to this story. First, the I.R.S. believes that it will get less money by turning these cases over to private collection agencies than if it pursued the cases itself. (Well, someone has to help out the collection agencies -- life's tough out there.) The other interesting part of the story is that the I.R.S. is only turning over cases where the back taxes owed are less than $25,000. While this still amounts to a nice hunk of cheating (about 5 times the average cash TANF grant for a year), the industrial strength tax cheats will still not have to worry about annoying calls from bill collectors. --Dean Baker
  • Bad Inflation Numbers From BLS

    A couple of days ago I commented in passing about the Bureau of Labor Statistics plans to change the way it reports its inflation numbers. I realize that I did not fully understand the issue until a couple of posts clarified the problem. Currently, BLS reports index numbers and changes only to the first decimal. Remarkably, it computes the monthly change based on index numbers rounded to the first decimal, even though it obviously has the data calculated to many decimals. This can lead to the monthly inflation figure being understated or overstated, depending on the rounding. For example, suppose the June index number is 202.050 (rounded to 202.1) and the July number is 202.249 (rounded to 202.2). The inflation rate calculated based on the three decimal index numbers is 0.0985 percent, which would be rounded to 0.1 percent in the monthly CPI report. The inflation based on the one decimal index numbers is 0.0495 percent, which is rounded to 0.0 percent in the monthly CPI report. In...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. Bruce Ackerman argues that we should act now to devise a new statutory frameword for federal emergency powers -- before the next terrorist attack sweeps away the prospects of checking the government's powers. The emergency statute should recognize that extraordinary powers are indeed justified in the immediate aftermath of an attack. There is a clear and present danger that the terrorists have already organized a second strike, and it is imperative to take special steps to disrupt the plans before it is too late. As a consequence, Congress should authorize short-term detentions on reasonable suspicion -- so long as they remain short-term. At the same time, the new framework must prevent reasonable emergency measures from becoming permanent restrictions on our freedoms. First and foremost, it should impose strict limits on unilateral presidential power. Presidents should not be authorized to declare an emergency on their own authority,...
  • COUNTING WHITES ONLY.

    COUNTING WHITES ONLY. Back to orthodoxy: Corner bashing! Be amazed as Kate O'Beirne tries to demonstrate that women usually vote Republicans and shows you can, in fact, demonstrate just that, as long as you . . . don't count African-American and Latina women. --Matthew Yglesias
  • POLITICIZING TERROR. ...

    POLITICIZING TERROR. I assume nobody will be surprised by this, but the Republican Party has apparently settled on its 2006 message: Vote Democratic, and the terrorists will win. That's always been their implicit appeal, of course, but now they're just saying it. On the other hand, why shouldn't they? Terror should be politicized, and if one party or another believes they can do the better job, they should say so. There�s nothing illegitimate about it. That means, however, that Democrats shouldn't be afraid to mention that the Bush administration is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of American troops, World Trade Center employees, Iraqi civilians, and adorable little puppies. It also wouldn't hurt to wonder if Bush isn't some sort of Manchurian plant, so dedicated has he been to ensuring that America did exactly what its enemies hoped it would. Block the U.N. from stopping Israel's self-destructive demolition of Lebanon? Why not? Who cares if it'll empower a dangerous...

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