And Russell Roberts with the Smackdown!

On Hugo Chavez’s deal to sell oil at a deep discount to certain Massachusettsans:

“He’s doing the right thing,” Kelly, 44, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “The people of Venezuela are lucky to have him. That’s what government is supposed to be about — taking care of the little guy.”

Yes, the people of Venezuela are lucky to have him. He’s selling oil at a 40% discount to people in a country whose per-capita income is over SIX TIMES that of Venezuela’s. That’s a man who really knows how to take care of the little guy.

Mr. Ford: It’s Called a “Market”

So the eponymous CEO of Ford Motors, Inc., went before Congress to argue for tax breaks to encourage “investment” in more fuel-efficient vehicles. Choice quote;

Bill Ford said more action was needed to stimulate the development of hybrid vehicles and those powered by ethanol.

Um. Mr. Ford, sales of the Toyota Prius should have stimulated your development of hybrid vehicles four years ago. If the best you can come up with is licensing their older technology for existing products that don’t sell well, then you aren’t familiar with the term “investments”. Investments are made by the market in places where it can actually generate a return. The problem is, you’ve been developing crap that nobody wants, because apparently you use Homer Simpson as your market tester. You stubbornly hung on to SUV production even as your lunch was being eaten everywhere else. Instead of using that profit to shore up your other lines, you bet the farm on a type of car that any schmuck could have told you would disappear the second gas prices got even a little high.

You don’t need any tax breaks to do what your competition has been doing: innovating. You might be surprised to know that innovation doesn’t happen in Congress, it happens in the lab. If you can’t get money from the markets because you’ve proven you can’t sell air conditioners to Floridians, well, that may be a signal that you don’t have what it takes. The only thing that’s going to turn that around is to plunge all your R&D effort into finding something that someone will buy. All the images of farmers driving F-250s is great, except that less than 3% of the population of the US is involved in farming.

Your customers don’t need tax breaks either. In fact, since the Prius costs so much, it’s arguably people to whom tax breaks least matter that have been buying them. Here’s a thought: make a really slick version of your Focus with decent handling, a nice interior, amenities, and a hybrid engine, and go toe-to-toe with Toyota. Or take the Focus, strip it down even more, find a way to make a hybrid engine cheaper, and start taking out the Echo market. Or ignore hybrids and use composite materials to make your mid-sized cars get better mileage by reducing their weight. Try joining the rest of the universe and bring back a sport wagon instead of Yet Another SUV. Let your European designers style your American cars. Fire anybody who was on the US Contour design team.

See, there are lots of things you could do to stimulate fuel efficiency. You don’t need anybody’s permission. I don’t know if anybody told you, but you’re CEO–you can actually make this stuff happen if you want it. Try it! Give an order right now. Ask for coffee. See? Look at that power.

Do it, convince people that you can actually build something that people want to buy that is fuel efficient. And do it back in Detroit, not DC.

Old AIM Conversation with Wyatt

Eh, Steve!
Wherein I unsuccessfully attempt to turn Wyatt to the dark side. Also, my icon was based on the image to the right.

Wyatt Ammon: what’s up with the hat man icon?
Wyatt Ammon: it kind of creeps me out
Wyatt Ammon: is it a hat?
Wyatt Ammon: it looks like it has four little legs…
Wyatt Ammon: or two? is it wearing pants?
Sandy Smith: it’s “eh, steve!”
Wyatt Ammon: oh, of course!
Sandy Smith:
Wyatt Ammon: WOW.
Wyatt Ammon: what’s not to understand?
Wyatt Ammon: from now on when I refill my drink I’m going to say, “I’m going to re-nog.”
Wyatt Ammon: and not care that nobody gets it.
Sandy Smith: ah, and thus it begins–you see something so cool that you must reference it, and ten years later, you’re me
Wyatt Ammon: LOL LOL LOL
Wyatt Ammon: oh please God! NOOOOO
Wyatt Ammon: thankfully I have no memory.

Oh Yes, Let’s Put These People In Charge of the Internet

More evidence, if you needed it, that the an intergovernmental body is not the organization to replace ICANN as the arbiters of the Internet’s domain name system–which will, like all UN-style organizations, suffer mission creep to cover more and more facets of the system:

Controversy has continued to dog a UN net summit in Tunisia as a head of a France-based media freedom group was blocked from entering the country.

Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) head Robert Menard said Tunisian security officials had not allowed him to leave the plane after his arrival from Paris.

My suggestion? A privately-funded foundation entirely outside of government control, with a strictly limited mission. If they get out of line, you can always replace their root servers with others. The government of Tunisia won’t like that, but that’s probably a good thing.

Why Are UFO Reports Declining?

Tyler Cowen offers his hypothesis:

I doubt if people have fewer delusions, so presumably they have moved into stories which cannot so easily be refuted. This would include delusions about the future (e.g., extreme forms of transhumanism?), delusions about politics, and delusions about religion.

Or maybe it was a fad among a certain type of people, and they’ve moved on to trying to debunk evolution. And it was never that easy to refute them: trust me, I’ve seen the attempts, and their belief was absolute–until the next thing came along, and now they can’t be shaken in their new beliefs, possibly until George Bush leaves office.

I suspect the decline of the fad may have something to do with the end of the Cold War. Now terror arrives in truck bombs and hijacked planes, not missiles from the sky.

But at some point, I predict, the fad will rise again. Maybe not in the same form, but it will be back. In the form of alien abduction stories, it was going pretty strong during the run of the X-Files, and that wasn’t so long ago.

Now we can turn our attention to serious problems, like El Chupacabra.

Wyatt Ammon, RIP

I learned late last night that my friend Ginger‘s brother Wyatt, who used to work and hang out with me before he decided to go into the Peace Corps, died after an accident in Zambia. It was relatively innocent, just horsing around in a hotel when he slipped and fell out a window.

I’ve been having to tell everyone I know who used to work with him. We’ll probably do a memorial site and hold some type of gathering for his friends here in DC. I had to do this two and a half years ago with a coworker I didn’t even know as well as Wyatt, and I’m getting really tired of having to do these things–could everybody just stop dying for a bit?


Update 11-19-05: Here’s the official Peace Corps press release on Wyatt’s death. And later today our memorial site will go up, thanks to the efforts of Nyk and Jo.

Ways Being a Libertarian in DC is Cool

  1. Talking about what it’s like to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court with a guy who has done it (and lost, and in so doing, created a backlash)
  2. Being able to chat with him and a cute young lass you’ve already met about neurology versus psychiatry, as well as wonder at how people can relentlessly defend Bush.
  3. Chatting with several people you have read articles from for years.
  4. Shall we say, conversing with the editor of your favorite magazine about what about women you each find attractive. We will leave it at that.
  5. Finding that the hottie writer for said magazine really is that hot and being able to chat with her before the night’s over. About bird flu. And how we’re all gonna die.
  6. Getting a couple of unexpected business leads because apparently people really are interested in what I do, not just the fact I’m there as a reader.
  7. Having the guy who set up one of your favorite blogs buy you a beer (I owe him one, or at least a couple of emails’ worth of free consulting).
  8. Enjoying Boddington’s with zero guilt: priceless.

If a Fire Hits the CBN Network Headquarters, Call God

…because you have rejected science, and science is the basis for the Fire Department.

I suggest that the Reverend Pat Robertson stay in his office and call God, and order his employees not to show lack of faith in God by invoking the devil-worshipping science-whores at the Fire Department. After all, if you reject something, you’re opening yourself up to disaster, and then, you can’t call what you just rejected, eh, Pat?