Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hong Kong rules (also Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland

The Heritage Foundation has issued its 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, in which only the five headlined countries achieved a "Free" rating. (Hong Kong is a bit of an anomaly, since it's not really a country, and is being dragged kicking and screaming into the economy of 139th-ranked China.)

And where is the United States in this competition? We lost our "Free" rating in 2010 after just one year of Mr Obama's regimen of tax, spend, regulate, and demonize the successful. We're number twelve, just after Denmark and just ahead of Britain (also called the United Kingdom, though it's not really a kingdom and not terribly united). The Heritage Foundation finds some reason for cheer in the fact that at least we have not dropped any further than twelfth, and indeed improved our stats over last year (though not enough to displace Denmark at number eleven).

The other nations who scored better than the U.S.: Canada, Chile (a dictatorship not long ago), Estonia (part of the Soviet Union not long ago), Ireland, and Mauritius (a British colony not long ago).

Let's see: 7, 8 -- um, what happened to 9?

I just recently got my Windows 7 desktop running satisfactorily. (I know--I'm slow, but the Windows 8 upgrade was so obviously awful that I decided to grab 7 while it was still available. Alas, the new machine wouldn't run my ancient but magnificent WordStar program, which I have used for writing articles and books for more than twenty years. It took a while to find a really good fix.)

For many years, Microsoft had a dependable policy of following a very good operating system with a very bad one. The winners are easy to catalog: Windows 98, Windows XP, and Windows 7. Just as reliably, the losers followed them: Windows ME (argh!), Vista (yuk!), and Windows 8 (you're kidding me, right--a touch screen?).

So we had every reason to believe that Windows 9 would be a winner. So what did Microsoft do? It has released Windows 10!

So which is it--is Windows 10 a winner because it follows 8, or was the winner the missing Windows 9, which means that 10 must necessarily be a loser?

For the time being, I shall stick with my handsome and steady (and WordStar-capable) Windows 7 machine. By the time it dies, Microsoft will no doubt be launching the twelfth (actually, tenth) iteration of its operating system.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The last novel about Auschwitz

I live in a university town, so I am accustomed to people giving "trigger warnings" whenever a listener might take offense. So here's a warning: don't read this wonderful book if you are easily grossed out, if you believe one should approach the Holocaust with folded hands and downcast eyes, or indeed if you think there is a clear distinction between comedy and tragedy.

While it outraged many reviewers and left others puzzled, this is the greatest novel I have read in a very long time. I read it compulsively over two or three days, grabbing every spare minute, and it left me literally breathless, as if punched in the belly.

Get it at Amazon: The Zone of Interest

(Mr Amis never names Auschwitz, which is the Zone of Interest, or Kat Zet, just as he never names Hitler, who is the Director. This too has annoyed some reviewers.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Let the kids Pay Their Fair Share

The president's latest brainstorm is to make chumps out of all those who save money for their children's education.

As a junior senator in 2007, Mr Obama socked away $240,000 for his daughters' future college expenses in a 529 plan, by which interest and dividends accumulate tax free if used to pay tuition and related expenses. Good for him! At least Malia and Natasha won't be grabbing off scholarships that might go to less privileged students.

But now Mr Obama has had a change of heart: no, wait!, let's TAX those 529 earnings! So those not rich enough to front-load their 529 plan, as he did, will now see their kids taxed on the money they withdraw. The tax won't be retroactive, of course, so his own 529 accounts are protected from the ObamaTax.

Even more astonishing, last month the president signed the ABLE action, which authorizes a 529 for any disabled kidswho can't attend a conventional college. So what he gave in December he wants to take away in January: let the little rascals Pay Their Fair Share!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"so liberal and diverse and tolerant”

The madness in American universities has reached new heights at Vanderbilt, where a student is trying to silence a professor by organizing protests against the teacher, who wrote an op-ed critical of Islam. As the student (who is Muslim) explained to a reporter:

 “What I’m really trying to show her is that she can’t continue to say these kinds of things on a campus that’s so liberal and diverse and tolerant” 

That is a marvelous encapsulation of 21st Century academic thinking on the subject of free speech. It deserves to be engraved over the entrance to every university administration building in America.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Switzerland rules

When I was hitchhiking through Europe in 1955, a British pound cost $2.80 and a Swiss franc cost 25 cents. Yesterday they traded at par.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Journal Irrespressable