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Tim Kern, Talking Sense

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Location: Anderson, IN, United States

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Post Writer Gets Facts, Blows Story

Why do so many of the elites in this country assume there's something wrong with making a buck? The quest of self-improvement (profit) is what drives people to get out of bed in the morning, to provide what people want, and (ironically enough) to hold prices to as low a level as possible. Washington Post writer Greg Timberg, moved by one poor lady's quest for food for her baby in Niger, blames the 'market mentality' for her troubles, when those problems are quite obviously (according to his story) due to big players' getting into the game, buying up scarce supplies, and bidding up their prices. [ref: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/10/AR2005081001946.html?referrer=email&referrer=email]

He even laments that Niger is progressing to an approximation of the model in over-the-border "...Nigeria, where an aggressive entrepreneurial culture has created the economic powerhouse of West Africa." He's just against the formation of another 'economic powerhouse,' I guess; he'd like Niger to be forever impoverished.

Knowing that this letter will ever be published in the Washington Post, I wrote it anyway:


Craig Timberg (The Rise of a Market Mentality Means Many Go Hungry in Niger August 11, 2005; Page A17) got his facts and then blew the story. It’s not a “market mentality” that causes prices to rise, and it’s not high prices that make people starve.

He notes, “Some traders… have raised prices in anticipation of the arrival of aid groups, which often buy food locally to save on transport costs.” Additionally, “…the government has provided [he probably means, ‘purchased’ rather than ‘delivered,’ since his story is about starving people] 42,000 tons of free and subsidized food to ease hunger.” Worse yet for the poor people, “The United Nations is attempting to provide food to 2.7 million people in Niger.”

Here’s what happens when lots of money goes chasing limited supplies: prices go up, as those with money (the government, aid organizations, and the UN, in this case) try to buy lots of food. These organizations, well-intentioned as we must presume them to be, are making the problem worse.

It’s apparent that their efforts aren’t helping the lady in Timberg’s story: where is the food? The government’s monopolizing food has drawn many of her fellow rural dwellers into the cities, impoverishing the subsistence farmers, giving them the apparently false hope of getting (free) food. Now, these people are off their land (which will suffer from inattention) and homeless, totally broke (they spent their last money on bus fare, etc.), and still without food, unless those of the ruling classes deign to be generous!

On the flip side, Timberg notes that there is plenty of food available, for those who have money (like the government, the UN, and the wealthy foreign do-gooders). Without the money as an incentive, there wouldn’t be as much food available, at any price. Mr. Timberg needs to understand how things work before injecting his story with anti-free-market invective.

Friday, August 05, 2005

NASA and Accountability: Likely?

[It's a sad commentary that NASA, today one of the most touchy-feely recipients of taxpayer dollars, is likely to do the bureaucratic thing, again showing that its long-standing policy of finger-pointing doesn't produce results, and that career NASA-ers will forever be protected from their actions. I sent this as a letter to the editor, to several newspapers, local and national. We'll see where/if it gets published. --TK
Note: it was published August 11, 2005, in Winter Haven (FL) News Chief: http://polkonline.com/stories/081105/letters_blame.shtml ]
It's a good thing that Stephen Robinson and the rest of the Discovery and Space Station crews are talented and patient, and that he removed two gap fillers that protruded an inch or so from the tiles. Otherwise, NASA says, the orbiter could have burned up on re-entry.

Now, I want to know which chowderhead NASA is going to fire.

Will NASA fire the technician who left the gap fillers in place, for not following regulations? Maybe NASA will fire the tech's inspector, or the inspector's supervisor.

Possibly, NASA's procedures don't mention removing the gap fillers. If so, whoever wrote, reviewed and approved the procedures should be axed.

Did anybody look at the shuttle before launch? If the gap fillers were apparent when the shuttle was in space, they should have been more so, on the ground. Let's fire the stream of people who looked, and didn't see -- or who should have looked, and didn't.

My guess: NASA will take the entire embarrassing incident (that required extremely dangerous and expensive in-flight remedial work) into some meeting room, whence they will issue a statement and then... nothing will happen. It's all about accountability, and today’s NASA doesn't do accountability.