Monthly Archives: February 2018


The Economic Freedom of the World: 2017 Annual Report, co-published by the Fraser and Cato Institutes, features a wealth of new data on economic freedom worldwide—and for the first time, the report adjusts for inequality in economic freedom in countries that do not afford equal rights to men and women.  Since restrictions on the economic freedom of women significantly limit the size of that country’s markets and its potential growth.

While many countries were not affected by this adjustment, some countries, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, saw their ranking drop by more than 20 places.  The index’s authors based their adjustment on World Bank data on gender disparity, which considers questions such as whether men and women have equal property rights and equal inheritance rights and whether married women can open bank accounts, get jobs, and sign contracts in the same way as married men.  The report also reviews the trends in gender disparity since 1970—gender equality has been on the rise in the past few decades, and they find a positive relationship between economic freedom and gender equality.

The United States ranked 11th in this year’s report—up a bit from last year’s 13th (when adjusted for gender disparity), but still far below its 2000 ranking, when it stood in 4th place.  Hong Kong and Singapore remained the top two most economically free countries, followed by New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, Georgia, Australia, and Estonia.

The report also features a timely chapter on the relationship between economic freedom and support for anti-immigrant populist parties.  Many believe that the success of these parties follows from high immigration levels, or from increased economic liberalism, which creates more competition and gives rise to nativist sentiments.  But the authors do not find support for these theories.  Instead they find that countries with less economic freedom and high welfare spending are more likely to support nativist, populist parties.

The Economic Freedom of the World report continues to demonstrate the clear connection between economic freedom and other types of freedom and prosperity.  The income of the poorest 10 percent of a country’s population is much higher in economically free countries, for example, and greater economic freedom is associated with more political rights and civil liberties.

Here in the United States we’re often surprised, as our rank in economic freedom slid from #2 in 1980 to #16 in 2013.  A bipartisan effort!  But this obscures the fact that over that same time period, the world’s average economic freedom score has jumped almost 20%.  To put that in perspective, in 2013 a score of 5.31 would place a country as the 149th most economically free (just ahead of the Central African Republic), while a score of 6.86 would place 87th (right behind Iceland).  Thus, the encouraging trend of the last 200+ years continues in dramatic fashion:  the world is becoming more free.

The foundations of the freedom index are personal choice, voluntary exchange and open markets.  Freedom of exchange and market coordination provides the fuel for economic growth and prosperity.

Here is a sample ranking of the Freedom Index in our states.

The top five include New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Indiana, North Dakota and Alaska.  The bottom five include New York, California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The overall rankings by the authors are compendium of personal and economic freedoms.  They scored each of the states on 200 policies encompassing fiscal and regulatory policies.  In addition to personal freedom, they weighted public policies according to the estimated costs that government restrictions impose on their citizens’ freedoms.

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My attitude, as well as my experience, with cruising has evolved over the years.  Aging has probably helped, I guess.

In the beginning of our 80 plus country visits, we took a short two-day rafting trip on the Kern River and an eight-day journey through the scenery and rapids on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.  They were fun, exciting and very interesting, but you could hardly call either one cruising.

We were very committed to land and bike tours because we felt you could see and experience more of your destination and the people than on a cruise.

Our travels bore that out.  The thought of being penned up in a confined boat space with a few thousand people did not seem very appealing.

In 2002 we took our first journey on Cruise West (CW); unfortunately, they are no longer in business.  They tried to expand too fast.  The compromise to our bias was that it was a small boat.  It had about 100 passengers and we loved traveling through the inside passage of Alaska.

It was only seven or eight days and we tacked on a land extension to Denali National Park and Fairbanks.

Had a great time and so we changed our mantra a bit and said small ships will be okay, but what we saw on the larger city size ships reinforced our bias on that score.

Two years later we happened upon Sea Dream Yachts and took a seven-day cruise with 90 or so guests down the west coast of Italy.  It was terrific and luxury compared to CW.  We followed up with a week in Sicily.  The combination worked well again.

Sea Dream still does these super, seven-day, luxury-style cruises, but now it’s a little more on the pricey side.

Comfortable with our new outlook on short, small boat cruises with a tack-on land tour, the next year we engaged CW again to go through the Panama Canal and on to Costa Rica, where we spent an extra five days.

In 2006 we decided to expand our horizon a little with a Viking River Cruise that housed about 150 passengers and took us from Moscow to St. Petersburg.  We followed that up with a second Sea Dream cruise from Dubrovnik to Athens.

We enjoyed Viking, although the food was kind of Russian.  Sea Dream was again a real treat.

Now we were feeling our cruise oats, so to speak, so the next year we took a Quark Expedition from Ushia, Argentina to Antarctica and then a CW cruise around Japan.

Antarctica was fabulous once we got there.  The Japan cruise offered some of the most beautiful gardens.

All in all, we were definitely enjoying our version of cruising.

In the following years we took a number of cruises.  Here’s a capsule look at each and what we liked on a scale of 1-to-5 (5 being best).

In 2008 we took a new Regent cruise with 480 of my closest friends from Dubai to Mumbai, India (2) and added a land package of India highlights (5).

The following year we joined 150 people on a Tauck river trip from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland (5) with small add on to Berlin (5).

2010 had us on two Travel Dynamics cruises with 150 people.  The first one was across the Great Lakes (4) with the addition of Toronto and Quebec (5) and then in the fall we went down the west coast of Africa (4) with a fascinating trip through Mali (5).

In 2011 we took our first Oceania cruise with 1,250 guests.  Went to the Caribbean which wasn’t much (2) but we loved the boat (5).

The next year we joined 250 passengers on a Seabourn journey from Venice down the Adriatic (2)—poor choice of ports and tours, with an attitude.  Adding Vienna was (5).

Come 2013 we joined Holland America with 1,250 passengers to Alaska with our adult kids (5).  About the same time Gabriele and kids took National Geographic to Alaska with 30 guests (5).

Then in 2014 we took an amazing trip on the Upper Amazon on National Geographic (5) followed by an add-on to Machu Picchu (5).

The next two years we went back with Oceania, 680 passengers, from Lisbon to Rome (5) and then Miami to L.A. through the Panama Canal.  Exciting the second time (5).

In 2016 we tried Ponant, success to Travel Dynamics to Iceland (3), after a stop in Amsterdam (5)—mediocre food and tours.

Come 2017, we were back on Oceania, Miami to Rome (4).  Eight days at sea were a delight.

The small ships get up close and can dock at most ports.  The big ships need bigger ports and often have to use tenders to get people ashore.  The small ships in places like Alaska and Antarctica get into more places and can watch the calving of the icebergs, for example.  The big ships look at it from a distance.

Although not super small, you can tell we really like Oceania.  We’ve been on four of their cruises.  We even like their bigger ships more than the smaller ones.  They’re casual, comfortable and well organized.  The food is good in a variety of dining venues.

In addition to the main dining room, there are up to four specialty restaurants at no extra charge; a buffet available for all three meals; an ice cream bar and hamburger/sandwich café.  They have laundry facilities, a good gym and overall ambiance at a modest price.

Overall, it’s been a great adventure on the high seas that we’ve enjoyed very much.

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Here are three things I found of interest this week.

Japanese-American Internment

On February 19, 1942, in what is now considered one of the worst mistakes of his presidency, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which cleared the way for the internment of tens of thousands of people of Japanese descent.

The order came ten weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Up and down the west coast, posters appeared declaring that “all persons of Japanese ancestry will be evacuated.”  Some 110,000 Japanese-Americans were uprooted and moved inland to internment camps in remote locations scattered across seven states.  Nearly two-thirds of these “evacuees” were American citizens.

Security concerns prompted the drastic step—the U.S. government worried that people of Japanese ancestry might be spying for Japan.  Mexico and Canada took similar actions.  But the ugly truth is that hysteria and racism were also at work.  Many Americans, with images of burning ships and dead sailors at Pearl Harbor seared in their minds, looked at Japanese-Americans and saw the enemy.

Many internees spent two and a half years in the camps, which were hastily constructed miniature cities, full of wooden barracks and surrounded by barbed wire.  After the war, they faced the task of rebuilding their lives.

In no way can the internment camps be compared with Nazi concentration camps or Stalin’s Gulag, where millions died.  But the terrible fact remains that loyal Americans who had done no wrong lost their property and, temporarily at least, their liberty.  It’s an ugly blot on our nation’s history.

In 1988, President Reagan signed a law that offered a national apology to Japanese-Americans and $20,000 to each person who had been interned in the camps.

Many Medical Questions About Cannabis Remain

Thomas B. Strouse, MD, of the Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, talks about what is known and what remains to be determined.

“For what conditions do we know cannabinoids are effective?

“The FDA approves pharmaceutically processed cannabinoids for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea, and evidence shows that they are effective for that, although there are not studies to suggest that they are superior to other antiemetic drugs.  Some evidence, though not strong, indicates that they may help to treat cachexia, also known as wasting—the loss of lean body mass associated with advanced illness like AIDS or cancer.  Studies also indicate that plant-derived cannabinoids can help to reduce pain, particularly nerve pain, and that they may have a role in cases of treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy.  For everything else you hear about—such as insomnia, anxiety, multiple sclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases, to name a few—the evidence comes from anecdotes, small case series and generally is not based on high-quality studies.

“Is that because it’s been studied and not shown beneficial for these conditions, or is it that it just hasn’t been well studied?

“I would say the later—mostly it’s just understudied.  It has been very difficult to perform high-quality cannabis studies in the U.S. regulatory situation—remember that cannabis is still classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule I substance, which means the DEA considers it to be without valid medical use and highly addictive or dangerous.

“Beyond investigating potential benefits for certain conditions, what other issues need further study?

“There are many.  For one thing, most people who use cannabinoids get them not in the pharmaceutical preparations but in a whole-leaf form at a dispensary, where there is very little, if any, mandatory quality or safety control.  Whole-leaf cannabis has 400-to-500 compounds, and we know almost nothing about most of them.  We also need to learn much about basic safety issues around chronic use.

“Is it correct to say that anecdotal reports about the benefits of cannabis to alleviate certain condition would not be sufficient, from a doctor’s point of view, to demonstrate efficacy?

“It is a risk-benefit analysis.  If you’re a young person whose brain is still developing, it seems pretty clear that the risks of regular and/or heavy marijuana use, whether recreationally or to treat a symptom, probably outweigh the benefits.  It’s a very different analysis if you’re a 70-year-old with Alzheimer’s disease or late-stage cancer.

“What are some of the potential negative health effects?

“Any rational discussion of this topic has to acknowledge the well understood risks to the developing brains of young people who use marijuana regularly before their mid-20s.  This includes potential effects on memory and cognition, decreased motivation and the potential for hastening or worsening of a psychotic disorder for individuals who may be prone to developing one.

“In light of the current crisis with opioid addiction, is there any potential benefit to cannabinoids as a substitute for people who are seeking pain relief?

“The short answer is probably yes.”

UPS Maintenance Shows Us How To Resolve Problems

After every flight, UPS pilots fill out a form, called a “gripe sheet,” which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft.

The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form so that the pilots can review the gripe sheets before their next flight.

Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, UPS is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident…

P:  Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel.  Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from the midget.

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Someone at lunch one day asked if you could impeach an appointed, non-elected Cabinet Secretary.  I didn’t think so, but several other people did.  I thought it was an interesting question along with the notion I’ve had for some time that the criteria for impeachment might be a little too high, so I decided to investigate.  Here’s what I found out.

Impeachment in the U.S. is an expressed power of the legislature that allows for formal charges against a civil officer of government for crimes committed in office.  The actual trial on those charges, and subsequent removal of an official on conviction on those charges, is separate from the act of impeachment itself.

Impeachment is analogous to an indictment in regular court proceedings, while trial by the other house is analogous to the trial before judge and jury in regular courts.  Typically, the lower house of the legislature will impeach the official and the upper house will conduct the trial.

At the federal level, Article II of the U.S. Constitution (Section 4) states that “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”  The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, while the U.S. Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments.  The removal of impeached officials is automatic upon conviction in the Senate.  In Nixon vl. United States (1993), the Supreme Court determined that the federal judiciary cannot review such proceedings.

That’s a pretty high bar.

Maybe the definition should be broadened so it would be easier, more practical to achieve or maybe we should consider other alternatives such as employed in the Parliamentary System; a vote of “no confidence” or a “motion to censure.”

Impeachment can also occur at the state level; state legislatures can impeach state officials, including governors, according to their respective state constitutions.

In our history there have been 19 impeachments of federal officials; 15 were judges, including 13 District Court Judges, one Court of Appeals Judge and one Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Chase in 1804.

In addition, there was one Cabinet Secretary and one U.S. Senator, John Blount of Tennessee in 1797 impeached.

Filling out that number were two presidents:  Bill Clinton in 1988 and Andrew Jackson in 1868.

Contrary to popular belief, both Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were not impeached.  They resigned before impeachment might have taken place.

Over the years, political scholars have recognized the difficulty the country faces when the president or other high government official, because of deleterious behavior, has created a constitutional crisis.  Impeachment is difficult to come by.  The definition is a very high bar to meet.

One alternative scholars proposal is to broaden the definition of impeachable offenses to include grievous errors in foreign affairs or inattention to the duties of their office.

Two other proposals have been offered which have been utilized in parliamentary governments and would certainly be easier to achieve in our system.

A motion of no confidence is a statement or vote which states that a person in a superior position in government is no longer deemed fit to hold that position.  This may be based on said person falling short in some respect, failing to carry out obligations, or making choices that other members feel are detrimental.  As a parliamentary motion, it demonstrates to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in (one or more members of) the appointed government.

A censure motion is different from a no-confidence motion.  “No Confidence” leads to compulsory resignation, whereas “Censure” is meant to show disapproval and does not result in a resignation.  The censure motion can be against an individual or a group of officials.  Censure motions need to state the reasons for the motion while no-confidence motions to not require reasons to be specified.

Either of these proposals would require an amendment to the Constitution, which in and of itself would be difficult to achieve, but it might be interesting and beneficial to have some alternatives to impeachment.

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