Sunday, January 7, 2007

Should They or Shouldn't They?

This stunner was in the Times Online:

Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear "bunker-busters", according to several Israeli military sources.

The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open "tunnels" into the targets. "Mini-nukes" would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout. "As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished," said one of the sources.

The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad's assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

There's much more on this rumored strike at the link. The question I'd like to pose to our readers is, should Israel go ahead with the attack if the rest of the world is content to let Iran continue to produce nuclear weapons? If not, why not?


Minimum Wage and Moral Grandstanding

There will be much talk on the news in the weeks ahead on raising the minimum wage. George Will instructs us as to why raising the minimum wage makes no sense, and why it will be raised anyway:

...raising the federal minimum wage is a bad idea whose time has come, for two reasons, the first of which is that some Democrats have a chronic and evidently incurable disease -- New Deal Nostalgia. Witness Nancy Pelosi's "100 hours'' agenda, a genuflection to FDR's 100 Days. Perhaps this nostalgia resonates with the 5 percent of Americans who remember the 1930s.

Second, the president has endorsed raising the hourly minimum from $5.15 to $7.25 by the spring of 2009. The Democratic Congress will favor that, and he may reason that vetoing this minor episode of moral grandstanding would not be worth the predictable uproar -- Washington uproar often is inversely proportional to the importance of occasion for it. Besides, there would be something disproportionate about the president vetoing this feel-good bit of legislative fluff after not vetoing the absurdly expensive 2002 farm bill, or the 2005 highway bill larded with 6,371 earmarks, or the anti-constitutional McCain-Feingold speech-rationing bill.

Democrats consider the minimum wage increase a signature issue. So, consider what it says about them:

Most of the working poor earn more than the minimum wage, and most of the 0.6 percent (479,000 in 2005) of America's wage workers earning the minimum wage are not poor. Only one in five workers earning the federal minimum live in families with household earnings below the poverty line. Sixty percent work part-time and their average household income is well over $40,000. (The average and median household incomes are $63,344 and $46,326 respectively.)

Forty percent of American workers are salaried. Of the 75.6 million paid by the hour, 1.9 million earn the federal minimum or less, and of these, more than half are under 25 and more than a quarter are between 16 and 19. Many are students or other part-time workers. Sixty percent of those earning the federal minimum or less work in restaurants and bars and are earning tips -- often untaxed, perhaps -- in addition to their wages. Two-thirds of those earning the federal minimum today will, a year from now, have been promoted and be earning 10 percent more. Raising the minimum wage predictably makes work more attractive relative to school for some teenagers, and raises the dropout rate. Two scholars report that in states that allow persons to leave school before 18, a 10 percent increase in the state minimum wage caused teenage school enrollment to drop 2 percent.

The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 1997, so 29 states with 70 percent of the nation's work force have set minimum wages of between $6.15 and $7.93 an hour. Because aging liberals, clinging to the moral clarities of their youth, also have Sixties Nostalgia, they are suspicious of states' rights. But regarding minimum wages, many have become Brandeisians, invoking Justice Louis Brandeis' thought about states being laboratories of democracy.

But wait. Ronald Blackwell, the AFL-CIO's chief economist, tells The New York Times that state minimum wage differences entice companies to shift jobs to lower-wage states. So: states' rights are bad, after all, at least concerning -- let's use liberalism's highest encomium -- diversity of economic policies.

The problem is that demand for almost everything is elastic: When the price of something goes up, demand for it goes down. Obviously were the minimum wage to jump to, say, $15 an hour, that would cause significant unemployment among persons just reaching for the bottom rung of the ladder of upward mobility. But suppose those scholars are correct who say that when the minimum wage is low and is increased slowly -- proposed legislation would take it to $7.25 in three steps -- the negative impact on employment is negligible. Still, because there are large differences among states' costs of living, and the nature of their economies, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., sensibly suggests that each state should be allowed to set a lower minimum.

But the minimum wage should be the same everywhere: $0. Labor is a commodity; governments make messes when they decree commodities' prices. Washington, which has its hands full delivering the mail and defending the shores, should let the market do well what Washington does poorly. But that is a good idea whose time will never come again.

Moral grandstanding is a good description of what we can expect to be subjected to from our political leaders over the coming weeks on this issue.


Ronald Numbers

Steve Paulson has a very interesting interview with Ronald Numbers at Salon Books. Numbers is a historian of science who has written extensively on the rise of creationism. Among historians not involved with either group he is probably the foremost authority on the history of creationism and intelligent design.

Numbers grew up in a strict Seventh Day Adventist family and attended Adventist schools until he went to Berkely to do his graduate work. At Berkely his faith crumbled and he describes himself today as a man with no religious belief, either theistic or atheistic. He himself is an evolutionist, but he is often trashed by other evolutionists because he treats creationists and IDers with respect in his professional writings.

His story is sad on several levels but especially when he talks about the effect his work had on his relationship with his father. While discussing Numbers' book titled The Creationists there is this exchange between Paulson and Numbers:

Paulson: That [the book] must have created trouble for you in your own family of Adventists.

Numbers: It did. And it created trouble for my father, who was a minister. Some church ministers were very harsh with him. Here I was, about 30 or so. They were telling him he had no right being a minister if he couldn't control his son. So he took early retirement.

Paulson: Because of your book?

Numbers: Yes. He was thoroughly humiliated by this.

Paulson: Did he try to talk you out of the book?

Numbers: Oh yes. We had hours and hours of argument. He had a limited number of explanations for why I would be saying this about the prophetess [Ellen White, founder of the Seventh Day Adventists]. One was that I was lying. But he knew me too well, so the only explanation left for him was that somehow Satan had gained control of my mind. And what I was writing reflected the power of Satan. For a number of years, he could not bear to be seen in public with me.

Very sad. Read the rest of the interview at the link.