"During my long journey through the world of evil, I had discovered three sources of power: the power of an individual's inner freedom, the power of a free society, and the power of the solidarity of the free world."-- Natan Sharansky, "The Case for Democracy"

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August 31, 2014

Review Corner

Muddy used to say that there were two kinds of players: those who are born to it, and those you can "build with a hammer and nails." I’m sure Muddy was the first kind, and though I may have a little talent and much desire, I’m the second kind. I am indebted to the carpenter.
Muddy is, of course, Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield), and the author is his long-time guitarist, Bob Margolin. Margolin picks and writes. He has a degree in Public Relations from Boston University about which he says "now a 41-year-old virgin because it’s never screwed anyone." He wrote regular columns in blues magazines and dabbled in "blues fiction" creating characters and situations around players who died too soon, imagining their being alive today.

In Steady Rollin', he assembles these columns and stories into an eBook with updates where needed and a conversational, bloggy banter to tie them together. "I'm just sharing my thoughts on my musical experiences in a conversational, friendly way."

The in-depth look at Muddy Waters and Pinetop Perkins is worth the price of admission ($6.99 on Kindle as I type). I've read a bit on Muddy but did not know much about Pinetop. Margolin contrasts the two with Muddy's being the serious, punctual, professional bandleader and Pinetop's taking life as it comes. He shows up to the gig on time, but he doesn't sweat it.

Margolin credits this for Perkins's longevity. Muddy, Pinetop, (and my Dad) were all born in 1913. Pinetop lived to be 97 and Muddy only 70. Muddy really takes Bob Margolin under his wing and teaches him Chicago Blues -- sometimes quite sternly "That note made my dick hurt, don't ever play it like that again."

The band somewhat famously breaks up and Margolin goes on to other things. I don't think he lives like Mick Jagger, but every blues guitarist knows him well. He's on Facebook and is a regular guy. Just a regular guy who has played with all my heroes. A regular guy who was in The Last Waltz that I watched 50 times when I was 17. A guy I saw tour with Muddy when I was 18.

Margolin and I share a love of dogs, and he shares a great story of when Hubert Sumlin came to his house.

But our porch jam was a revelation for my "faithful" dogs. As soon as they heard Hubert play, they knelt at his feet, as attentive to the exquisite nuances in his picking as a gaggle of Blues guitar worshippers, but with sharper hearing. They raised their eyebrows and told me coldly to let Hubert take all the solos. They cocked their heads and asked why I don’t sound as good as Hubert. They looked down their noses at me and told me pointedly that they’d never love me like they love him. Now whenever he sees me, Hubert asks, "How are my dogs?"

The book is full of good stories and deep affection for Muddy, Pinetop, Hubert, BB King. In a grimy, grisly industry, Margolin finds and shares the love of some very good people.
His 97-years-long life was a blessing for his music and his sweet personality as well as a miracle of improbable survival. Pinetop smoked since 1922 and ate at McDonald's every day. He hung out in Blues bars every night. He drank until he was eighty-five. If he sat in with a band at Antone's in Austin on a Monday night, he gave the same show that he might be paid $10,000 for, headlining a festival in Europe the next weekend. He looked great in what he called his "Daniel Boone pimp" sharp clothes, flirted boldly with five generations of women, and was quick to make a silly or clever pun or laugh at himself.

I used the word bloggy because the book is unedited, it is available in eBook only, and the presentation can be a little rough. If that scares you away, so be it. If not, belly up and I think you'll dig it. Four stars.

August 29, 2014

Moral Ambiguity, Meet Moral Certainty

Despite numerous high-level voices in his administration giving clear signals that Islamic State is unambiguously evil and should be dealt with swiftly and forcefully, President Obama said yesterday that, "we don't have a strategy yet." And, really, who is surprised at this development, given that his response to the decapitation murder of James Foley was to say of ISIS: "People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy."

Daily Beast contributor Stuart Stevens writes what essentially occurred to me the moment I heard that:

"But it seems incredibly naïve and American-centric not to grasp that the Islamic fanatics of ISIS are very much about building - building a new world in their vision."

Stevens explains:

As a post-Cold War figure who matured through "movements," Barack Obama is drawing from a distinct tradition. He is clearly more comfortable talking about "justice" than "evil." The "oppressed" to him are much more likely to be victims of society's prejudice than communism. Some on the right argue that Barack Obama rejects the concept of America as a force for good but I think that's a misjudgment. It's more that he defaults to a fundamentally different test than his predecessors.

More often than not, Barack Obama defines America's moral worth - our "goodness" - by comparing America's past to some future in which the values in which he believes will be the norm. In that matrix, it's not about us versus them - it's about what we are versus what we can be. It's us vs. us. America is "good" because we are getting "better." We are at our best not when we fight the evils of the world, but the "injustice" of our society, primarily prejudice, for which there is an evolving test.

This explains the Progressive apology for Islamism wherein their heinous acts are caused, not by an innately barbaric interpretation of a "pure" principle, but by the "injustices" visited upon them by prosperous westerners and their governments. They are supposedly "radicalized" in response to our prosperity. (And "inequality" perhaps?)

But moral ambiguity is not a condition which afflicts the Islamists. Right or wrong, they know what they want and they believe they are justified in doing anything to achieve it. That kind of moral certainty is a very powerful motivator. It can provoke millions of people to vote for you, if you articulate it in a political contest. It can also provoke a convicted mass murderer to seek to join your movement, as former Army Major Nidal Hassan reportedly attempted:

""It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don't compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers."

Would but the President of the United States be so certain as to say, "Anyone on this Earth may believe anything he wants, but there is no justification to initiate force against anyone else. You don't have to get along with us, but you most certainly may not kill or injure us, except in physical self-defense."

The Moral Case for Fixing Economic Inequality

A friend of dagny's has shared the TED article The Four Biggest Reasons Why Inequality is Bad for Society and she disagreed with what the article says. I am told her friend, whom I also know but not as well, would like to discuss it with others at length so dagny asked me to post it here where, hopefully among others, "jk will do Austrian vs. Keynsian economics with him all day long." Personally I think most of the objections are philosophical rather than economic, but not all of them. I'll break with my typical modus operandi and restrict my opinions to the comments section.

The author is T. M. Scanlon, Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity at Harvard University. He also references Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' which was discussed here a few times. Most seriously, perhaps, here.

And now, if you please, engage!

But dagny thinks:

I am very sad to say that my attempt to get this conversation started here is failing. On the other hand, a fascinating conversation on this exact topic is currently on my Facebook page and currently includes at least 6 different commenters.

Posted by: dagny at August 29, 2014 5:08 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Heh, you should have PMed me the link, not put it on your wall. ;)

Posted by: johngalt at August 29, 2014 5:21 PM
But dagny thinks:

Also of interest is the fact that the commenters range in age from 18 to 77.

Posted by: dagny at August 29, 2014 5:45 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, looking at it from a neo-Monetarist perspective... (You people are so mean to me.)

Here is my comment exactly as it appears on FB:
I think Scanlon, like many of this genre is unpersuasive on the evils of inequality qua inequality.

Certainly the poor should have more. I believe that respect for rights, enlightenment values, and free exchange to capture comparative advantage will make the poor less poor. I highly recommend William Easterly's "The Tyranny of Experts--" especially as an antidote to the linked Peter Singer TED talk.

But I have very pad news. The solution -- the world tested and repeatedly proven solution -- to helping the poor actually helps the non poor. Inequality myopics must answer the question: "If I doubled your salary and your company's CEO's salary, would you be sad?" That would likely increase the inequality between you and that fat, monocle man in the pinstripes in the corner office. Yet, I would cheer.

Scanlon offers many good reasons to dislike poverty, but his reasons to distain wealth are less compelling. Mal-distribution of political power? Ask President Forbes and President Perot about that. Better opportunities in school? I don't see Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates trading on their old school ties.

A stratified society is to be distained only as much as the pathways from one caste to another are closed off. And that lack of dynamism generally is the product of top-down organizations' dictating "fair" outcomes.

So I say double everyone's wealth! That will all but double inequality, but I won't complain. I'll be too busy playing my new guitars.

Posted by: jk at August 29, 2014 6:43 PM
But dagny thinks:

OK well, JK just did this way better than me, but I’m going to post anyway since I wrote it all down:
There are 2 very important and clear distinctions that come to mind immediately between the government class and the rich. Many in government are rich too but the distinctions are between government and private sector rich.
1) Everything government does is basically done involuntarily. Tax collection is backed up by the power of the law and men with guns. While private sector rich got that way by voluntary exchange. No one held a gun to my head the last time I went to Starbucks or McDonalds or bought an iPHONE.
2) Government is parasitic on the wealth of a society. It creates nothing. I am not an anarchist and I believe government IS necessary but it does not add to the wealth of society. The wealth of a society is represented by its stuff, its art, its leisure time and it is still increasing in this world at a tremendous rate. Money is only a medium of exchange, it is NOT the wealth itself. The wealth itself is this magical device in my hand that allows me to argue with friends and tell my husband to pick up milk on the way home. The private sector rich mostly create wealth. Government invariably diminishes it.
So the question here is whether involuntary redistribution (through taxation) is a good idea. Part of the question is whether it is moral but lets put that aside for a minute and look at what actually happens. The wealth is moved from productive uses to unproductive ones. And I’m NOT saying those at the bottom of the income scale are unproductive, I’m talking about the tremendous loss in government overhead ($600 hammer anyone?)
Also this method of running a society hurts those at the bottom of the scale more. For example the guy at McDonald’s that Paul mentions above cannot decide that since what McDonald’s is paying him is insufficient to meet his needs, he is going to open his own hamburger joint. The government imposed barriers to entry are too high. To open a hamburger joint he needs FDA, EPA, OSHA and whatever else alphabet soup approval that costs so much, he can’t even get started.
So we have this income inequality problem (which BTW, I don’t think the inequality itself is really the problem) but only that those at the bottom are struggling is the problem. If I am happy and not struggling to feed my family, why would I care how much stuff my neighbor has???
Government interventions to try to reduce inequality have downward pressure on real wealth, resulting in things being worse for all which matters less to those at the top than it does to those at the bottom.

Posted by: dagny at August 29, 2014 7:03 PM

August 28, 2014

Private Schools for the Poor

I have worn ThreeSourcers' patience threadbare with constant harangues to read "The Beautiful Tree" by James Tooley [Review Corner].

He has a lengthy column on the same topic in The Independent Review.

The accepted wisdom is that private schools serve the privileged; everyone else, especially the poor, requires public school. The poor, so this logic goes, need government assistance if they are to get a good education, which helps explain why, in the United States, many school choice enthusiasts believe that the only way the poor can get the education they deserve is through vouchers or charter schools, proxies for those better private or independent schools, paid for with public funds.

But if we reflect on these beliefs in a foreign context and observe low-income families in underprivileged and developing countries, we find these assumptions lacking: the poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on Earth have managed to nurture a large and growing industry of private schools for themselves.

Send Those Residuals to "JK c/o ThreeSources..."


Homo Economicus

I'm intrigued by the economics of air travel. Discomfort is in the news thanks to deployment of a "knee defender" and the concomitant contretemps. [You get the editing you pay for at ThreeSources. More correctly "ensuing" and better omitted...]

But. While everyone complains, I do not think efforts to "buy up" comfort have succeeded at all. In short, we all holler about being packed in like sardines, but we all get on expedia.com and pick the flight that costs 124.75 over the one that is 135.50.

I did buy up a prime package on United last time that gave me one checked bag and a near door seat with some extra room. That was really nice even on a short flight and I was disappointed when it was not offered on the return trip. I've speculated on a "2nd class" (still focus-grouping the name) that is 1.5 to 2x the price of coach but gives you a little gorram room. I would go for that, and I would pay for a guaranteed empty middle seat when the lovely bride and I travel together. Five or ten X for business or first class is not "on my color wheel" but I am both big and medically prone to discomfort.

Perhaps that cannibalizes business and first class for carriers that offer. But Southwest? Frontier? A $300 flight with space vs. $179 in the cattle car?

Bright though I consider myself, at the end of day, surely some very smart people who do this for a living have looked at this and found it wanting The minor improvements like I mentioned or that Frontier was pushing don't seen to take hold. I have to accept that the economics are just not there. And it follows that the whiners are a bit hypocritical.

Rant Posted by John Kranz at 2:47 PM | What do you think? [1 comments]
But johngalt thinks:

I think the phrase you're searching for is "the price elasticity of comfort and dignity." I view it as an exercise in altruism - flying commercial is the closest thing to self-flagellation I will ever do.

I also think the whole notion of a reclining seat is an anachronism. If seats are mounted that close together, they should all be "exit row" seats, i.e. non-reclining.

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2014 3:47 PM


Seth Mandel nails it in Commentary. The IRS Scandal is about media. The Administration trusts that they will not be held accountable. And I suspect they are right.

If the latest revelations about the IRS are correct, then its officials have approached the abuse-of-power scandal with a clear strategy, pretty much from the beginning. They have been betting that, since their illegal targeting campaign against those who disagree with President Obama has had the backing of Democrats in Congress, they needed only a media strategy, not a political one.
Indeed, it would go beyond the sadly all-too-routinized forms of corruption, which are bad enough. The newest round of revelations describe a government agency (and its elected allies) not only thoroughly corrupted but also insistent on its entitlement to stand above accountability. The allegations warrant front-page headlines from the country's major newspapers, surely. So where are they?

I was 12-13 through the Watergate years, and one thing I remember is the absolute tedium. Every day's news tidbit was placed in 60pt bold type -- erosion and attrition were as important as any actual investigation. Every day was a drip of guilty, guilty, guilty.

We clearly need a return to the partisan, Francis Blair / Nicholas Butler media. We have been ill served by feigned objective outlets. I daydreamed yesterday that if I made a pile of dough on a startup, I'd resuscitate the Rocky Mountain News and hire all these great local bloggers. That would be fun and would advance the cause of liberty.

But johngalt thinks:

I'm with ya, Gail Wynand!

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2014 2:40 PM
But jk thinks:

Wouldn't it be great if we had "The Rocky" instead of our (beloved) blog? Maybe the Koch Brothers or Karl Rove's Crossroads would bankroll that. Long term. it would be a better buy than ads.

Posted by: jk at August 28, 2014 3:21 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Yes, and no. Our blog is free. Our readership is, what, single digits? Twice that? You already know what Gail Wynand learned the hard way - the public isn't interested in what we write about. They want NATALEE HOLOWAY PICTURES! BRAD AND ANGELINA WED! TIM AND FAITH SPLIT! BRITTANY DRUNK RANT! LINDSAY IN JAIL, AGAIN!

You know, important stuff. And it took me almost ten minutes just to remember all of those names. Oh, but we could hire reporters who are experts on that stuff I suppose.

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2014 3:55 PM
But jk thinks:

I think you're missing some things.

1) Sponsorship. We're going to lose what I consider a lot of money. Seth Lipsky did this with the NY Sun. We'll need a deep-pocked benefactor. We'll not be moochers; we will be a cost-efficient mechanism to drive Koch-ian values.

2) We'll cover Natalee Holloway stories. I'm more interested in the Editorial Page, but we'll have general interest on the news pages.

3) My target isn't ThreeSources, though my brothers and sisters will get the first employment offers. My thought is to take Complete Colorado, add syndicated features and wire service content to make it a paper. Then give it the imprimatur of a once great Denver Daily.

All this inspired by condo neighbors who were gone a few days. Looking for someone to pick up their papers while travelling, they offered a few "free" days of the Denver Post. Sweet and dear people of the DP demographic (mid to high 60s), the gift was more a chore. It got me to thinking of the glory days of a two-paper town.

Ergo, 4: Could we really be worse than the Post?

Posted by: jk at August 28, 2014 5:15 PM
But johngalt thinks:

You're right, I missed all of that. Let's see if my next pitch is another hanging slider:

Your implied purpose was to get all the political scandals on page 1, everyday, not just the scandals that reflect poorly on Republicans. That may help to "give light and the people will find their own way" in the Centennial State but not so much nationally. Are you suggesting the Brothers Koch fund fifty money losing newsprint cyclers?

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2014 6:41 PM
But jk thinks:

My implied purpose is to be as biased as the Post but in the opposite direction: a label I think I apply fairly to FOX News. They're no less biased than CNN, though I think they do many things more fairly.

This will get government scandals adequate coverage. It will also provide factual information on fracking, vaccinations, GMO crops, climate change, and the FDA's body count (which will be an info-graphic).

Don't think we need fifty. The Rocky will cover Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado where it is needed, plus Kansas, Wyoming, and Utah where it is not (we endorse Mia Love!) New York has the Daily News; California may be beyond salvage. If our model works, Charles & David* may want a few more in purply areas.

Just hit me: the grandchildren in the Beatles' "When I'm 64: Vera, Chuck, and Dave. Suppose they're the Kochs?

Posted by: jk at August 28, 2014 7:59 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Nice to see I'm not the only one dropping Beatles references in the last couple of days, though I think mine was more satisfyingly obscure.

Los Angeles is, sadly, another one-paper town that used to be a two-paper town. The Herald-Examiner was killed off in the Eighties by the labor union, leaving only the Times, which is a famously biased rag and not even of worthy to be used to train my dogs.

Should you get started with this and find yourself in need of a California correspondent, I'd gladly fire up the keyboard, with the proviso that I might be somewhat sporadic; my life being what it is, you know I recently have been limited to intermittent contributions followed by days of absence.

If I may be so bold as to suggest: consider doing an online version first and see what kind of readership you build. It would be a great sample for your Koch-worthy benefactors to use to justify their investment, and would be more cost-effective up front; you might even find that staying online-only is a preferable medium.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 28, 2014 8:23 PM
But jk thinks:

Brother Keith:

Thank you for your kind suggestions. But I wish to spend bucketfulls of money. In my original post, I suggested my own as a retirement vehicle after Google buys out livetathecoffeehouse.com or some other vehicle of mine.

Other people's money would be a great second choice.

As for a frugal, third, online choice -- I daresay it's been done.

We, therefore, regret to inform you that frugality and proven effectiveness does not meet the current needs of our pipe dream.

Yours most sincerely,

Posted by: jk at August 29, 2014 1:57 PM

August 27, 2014

Truth now lacing up second shoe

The first shoe was Michael Mann's Climategate. The second may well be, Rutherglen-gate.

Temperatures measured at the weather station form part of the ACORN-SAT network, so the information from this station is checked for discontinuities before inclusion into the official record that is used to calculate temperature trends for Victoria, Australia, and also the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The unhomogenized/raw mean annual minimum temperature trend for Rutherglen for the 100-year period from January 1913 through to December 2013 shows a slight cooling trend of 0.35 degree C per 100 years. After homogenization there is a warming trend of 1.73 degree C per 100 years. This warming trend is essentially achieved by progressively dropping down the temperatures from 1973 back through to 1913.

Stay with me here, this is a bit tricky. It seems one must be a climate "scientist" in order to comprehend the validity of the, umm, "technique."

Sometimes weather stations are moved, you know, geographically, from one place to another place in the same vicinity. This can produce a "discontinuity" in the recorded temperature. So this "homogenization" algorithm was invented to, you know, correct the "errors" that result when the data is inserted into computer climate models. Well that raw data from Rutherglen was causing a whale of an error. It showed that the observed temperature trend over most of the 20th century was downward, when every climate scientist knows that the globe really warmed during that time, and is still warming today because there aren't enough wind farms. It's a settled consensus it is, dontcha know.

There's only one problem: (Okay, there's more than one problem, but this is the biggest problem.) "There are no documented site moves."

The Bureau has tried to justify all of this to Graham Lloyd at The Australian newspaper by stating that there must have been a site move, its flagging the years 1966 and 1974. But the biggest adjustment was made in 1913! In fact as Bill Johnston explains in today’s newspaper, the site never has moved.

Surely someone should be sacked for this blatant corruption of what was a perfectly good temperature record.

Related: Just coming to this story I hadn't realized that Rutherglen is only one site where data has been "remodeled." There is also Amberley and Bourke.

I understand that by way of response to Mr Lloyd, the Bureau has not disputed these calculations.

This is significant. The Bureau now admits that it changes the temperature series and quite dramatically through the process of homogenisation.

I repeat the Bureau has not disputed the figures. The Bureau admits that the data is remodelled.

What the Bureau has done, however, is try and justify the changes. In particular, for Amberley the Bureau is claiming to Mr Lloyd that there is very little available documentation for Amberley before 1990 and that information before this time may be “classified”: as in top secret.



Urban Dictioonary Word-of-the-Day


Martina was shocked to find out that there was a church in her neighborhood, so she telephoned her network of Proglodytes and they all agreed to burn it down so the church members wouldn't promote hate mongering.

Well this sucks.

Cheap headline, but you get what you pay for.

I read a few good articles on Obama's backdoor, sidestep, pen-and-a-phone treaty to fight global warming. Last time advise and consent was sought, the Senate voted 95-0.

Yet without switching 62 of those nays and driving the other five in for a vote, how will we join the enlightened Europeans?

Consumers are only now noticing Regulation 666/2013, adopted by the European Commission last year and taking effect next month, which bans the manufacture or importing of vacuum motors whose power output exceeds 1,600 watts, with the limit dropping to 900 watts after Sept. 1, 2017. Thank the climate-change lobby for your dirty floor: The measure is intended to help the EU meet its energy savings target for 2020. Consumers are snapping up more powerful vacuums while they still can.

The regulation is classic Brussels. The 11-page, jargon-ridden text of the directive contains barely any cost-benefit analysis and fails to consider that consumers will simply use weaker vacuums for longer to achieve the same cleaning result.

Meanwhile, as consumer groups complain about less choice for no discernible benefit, the European Commission has persuaded itself that its regulation will be good for European vacuum manufacturers. "EU industry adapts quickly to higher requirements, which is often less the case of companies outside the EU," a spokeswoman wrote on an EU website recently.

Those plucky ee-you-vians! Bless their grit, spunk, and perseverance!

But johngalt thinks:

666? You made this up, right? Onion?

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 7:00 PM
But jk thinks:

Ze Honion as you say is powerless against Brussels!

Posted by: jk at August 27, 2014 7:54 PM

That Constitution Thingy...

"Obama Unveils New Plan to Work with Foreign Governments to Ignore the Constitution" screams the headline. I do get a lot of wacko emails. But this is from the partisan-yet-measured Jim Geraghty and he notes the difference:

There are a lot of nonsensical or highly exaggerated chain e-mails accusing the president of working with foreigners to subvert the U.S. Constitution. But this time you've got the foreigners and administration officials themselves confirming it on the front page of the New York Times!
"There's a strong understanding of the difficulties of the U.S. situation, and a willingness to work with the U.S. to get out of this impasse," said Laurence Tubiana, the French ambassador for climate change to the United Nations. "There is an implicit understanding that this not require ratification by the Senate."
"The difficulties of the U.S. situation" is a reference the fact that we have a Senate that opposes the treaty.

And, if you're looking, it's Article II, Section 2:
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;

Doesn't sound like a suggestion to me.

UPDATE: All Hail Taranto:

In order to "sidestep" the constitutional requirement that laws be made by lawmakers, the Times continues, "President Obama's climate negotiators are devising what they call a 'politically binding' deal that would 'name and shame' countries into cutting their emissions."

But johngalt thinks:

Watch for this simple solution to Obama Administration and foreign governments' problem - "Hello, this is Barack Obama calling, please take a pen and change the word 'treaty' to 'pact.' Thank you very much. Hey, I think I'm next off the tee."

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 11:30 AM

August 26, 2014

All Hail Taranto!

But johngalt thinks:


Or how about this:

"America's federal government has grown so tyrannical that even monarchs have tired of dealing with it. Fare thee well, Burger King."

But seriously, why does BK find it good business to spend millions of dollars in this tax avoidance effort? Because unlike more complex business entities - like 3M and General Electric - BK can't arrange its balance sheet to show minimal profit and thereby slash its tax liability. Without that technique, America's corporate giants would have themselves fled before now.

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 11:24 AM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

"Q: Difference between Burger King and Obama? A: One's a creepy king known for whoppers, and the other's a fastfood chain bolting high taxes."

These very nearly write themselves, don't they?

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 27, 2014 12:42 PM
But dagny thinks:

LOL! OMG 3srcs needs a like button! That's funniest thing I've seen all week.

Posted by: dagny at August 27, 2014 12:48 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Thou art too modest, KA. You DID write that!

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 1:16 PM
But jk thinks:

We cannot possibly have a "Like" button because Brother Keith would collect a disproportionate amount of likes.

Instead: everybody gets a trophy at ThreeSources!

Posted by: jk at August 27, 2014 1:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

How about a "that was a gratuitous tweak" button?

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 3:51 PM
But johngalt thinks:

When BK becomes a Canadian entity, will they rename it Burger Queen?

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 3:52 PM
But jk thinks:

What are the odds on my dragging this thread toward serious?

Review Corner en route for Helen Raleigh's "Confucius Never Said." Chinese restaurants frequently have royal references: "Chef King" "Jim-bob's Szechuan Palace," &c. I'm going to make the bold leap that the reverence for authority is a manifestation of their acceptance of hierarchy. Taranto's tongue-in-cheek revulsion bespeaks our reverence for individuality and equality.

Posted by: jk at August 27, 2014 5:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I won't jump on your "equality" reference, but only because of the context vis-Ă -vis royalty. Instead, I'll try to drag it toward the original subject.

I've detected a new political divide across which we all are separated: Whether we boo or cheer every time a taxpaying entity lowers its tax liability. As a capitalist, I cheer. As democrats, Buffett's pals foam at the mouth. I also suspect the root cause is more fundamental than simply how much revenue Leviathan has to spread around for its various purposes. Didn't the President say he doesn't care if higher tax rates means lower tax revenues, since raising rates on the rich is more "fair?"

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 6:20 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Burger Queen, JG? Well, I suppose it would be fitting, in a sense, because that creepy Burger King never talks, and we all know, Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, but she doesn't have a lot to say...

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 27, 2014 11:41 PM

Democracy, Capitalism, Limits Therewith

Some time back we considered a variation on the "pick one" voting scheme that was dubbed "approval voting." I mention this as evidence that democracy is broken. It has many flaws as a system of governing free peoples.

Yesterday I asked on Facebook, Why are so many so quick to condemn "unlimited capitalism" while at the same time advocating for unlimited democracy? Obviously neither does, has, or possibly even can exist, so my point was whether one should have more limits at the same time as the other has its limits diminished.

An interlocutor suggested that "everyone puts limits on democracy too" thus indicating, I suppose, he has no quibble with limits on capitalism. So I searched for any organized group that advocates for "unlimited democracy." The highest search engine result was Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (California.) Natch.

The most dangerous threat to democracy is the mistaken belief that the US is a democracy. People and communities need assistance and support to believe we have a right to resist corporate rule and to see that a democratic world is not only possible – but necessary for the survival of life on earth. Our education work provides an historical and analytic framework for understanding the mechanisms ruling elites have used to manipulate our laws, our government and our culture in order to maintain their power.

Replace the word "corporate" with "private" for a clearer understanding. So the United States is not a democracy, but "a democratic world is possible - and necessary - for the survival of life on earth."

These folks certainly don't seem to place any limits on democracy.

Okay, fringe leftists from Cali. I get it. How about the national Democratic Party? How is the tension between Constitutional limits and their namesake principle holding up?

From democrats.org:

"We're leading the charge to expand the vote, because it's not enough anymore for us to simply protect against voting restrictions."

Q: Not enough, for what?
A: Manufacturing a bigger majority with which to impose their will... on everyone.

Genghis Khan wishes he thought of this.

Union Update!

An update on "Look for the Union Label" post, with a hat-tip to WSJ's Notable & Quotable

The picketers lobbed sexist, racist and homophobic slurs at the rest of the cast and crew for most of the day, the website reported, and when production wrapped, the "Top Chef" crew found that tires were slashed on 14 of their cars. Milton police confirmed that the union members were "threatening, heckling and harassing" but said no arrests were made. . . .

For years Hollywood avoided the Bay State because of the heavy-handed tactics of the local Teamsters. The union's past has included convictions for money laundering, extortion, racketeering and shaking down movie producers who tried to film in Boston. [Local 25 President Sean] O'Brien has said the Local has cleaned up its act and now has a great working relationship with most of the productions that film here. -- Columnist Gayle Fee writing at bostonherald.com, Aug. 21:

Glad to see they have that all cleaned up...

Quote of the Day

As Justice Clarence Thomas correctly pointed out in dissent, "[T]he'logical' assurance that a 'temporary restriction... merely causes a diminution in value,'... is cold comfort to the property owners in this case or any other. After all, 'in the long run we are all dead.'"24 This observation is not hyperbole; writing shortly after [Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc., v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency] was decided, one legal scholar noted, "Of the 700 or so ordinary people who started on this journey, 55 have since died."25

Levy, Robert; William Mellor (2009-12-01). The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom (p. 179). Cato Institute. Kindle Edition.

Okay, Now jk is Scared

I've been deferential to the Fed -- incredibly so for a libertarian -- and have quietly acquiesced to loose money policies. I've had underlying concern but the lack of monetary inflation has kept me off the "OMG we're all gonna die" bandwagon.

But this is disturbing. George Melloan asks "How Would the Fed Raise Rates?"

A question mostly unasked at Jackson Hole is a crucial part of today's when-will-it-happen guessing game: Exactly how would the Fed go about draining liquidity if a burst of inflation urgently presented that necessity. The traditional mechanism used by the Fed no longer looks to be serviceable.

Before the "zirp" binge began in 2008, the Fed's primary monetary policy tool was the federal-funds market, overnight lending among banks to balance their reserves in compliance with the Fed's required minimums. The Fed withdrew liquidity by selling Treasurys to the banks and increased it by buying Treasurys. Fed-funds rates moved accordingly, becoming the benchmark for short-term lending rates throughout the economy.

But thanks to the Fed's massive purchases of government and mortgage-backed securities from the banks over six years of "quantitative easing," the banks no longer need to worry about meeting the minimum reserve requirement. They're chock full of excess reserves, to the tune of $2.9 trillion. For all practical purposes, the federal-funds market no longer exists.

The rest of the column speculates about different mechanisms which might be employed; these range from the ineffective to the downright coercive. "Mopping up liquidity" was always a concern, and I accepted that it would be done a little too late -- certainly with Janet Yellen as FOMC Chair. But at first glance, Melloan makes me question not so much how as whether it could be done.

Look at the bright side, we'll have probably nationalized the banks by then.

UPDATE: Fixed Freudian typo "have quietly acquiesced to lose money policies" to "have quietly acquiesced to loose money policies." Even my bad typing cracks me up.

But johngalt thinks:

Buy rubles!

Posted by: johngalt at August 26, 2014 1:53 PM

August 25, 2014

Federalism-dictated bifurcation

Virginia: it's for lovers!

West Virginia: I-79 BACK OPEN: Chickens and ammo to blame for shutdown

David Plouffe, Rehabilitated?

I'm placing this under "internecine" because some of my blog brothers have yet to find enlightenment on the glories and intrinsic liberty of self-driving cars. That said, we'll likely all agree on the wisdom of keeping a watchful philosophical eye on key members of the President's campaign staff.

The WSJ Ed Page saluted David Plouffe for his vocationally inspired epiphany on the evils of overregulation, both in a column last week and on their weekend FOXNews show. Today, Gordon Crovitz adds "[...] who ran Barack Obama's campaign in 2008 and served as a senior presidential adviser. Too bad Mr. Plouffe didn't discover the virtues of deregulation before leaving government."

Crovitz's column is about regulation of self-driving cars. We will pay -- in tens of thousands of needless deaths -- for every year this technology is delayed by a Federal apparatus that defaults to "no."

The Obama administration's standard reaction to technological innovation has been to block change via regulation: The Federal Aviation Administration bans commercial use of drones, the Food and Drug Administration restricts gene-testing suppliers such as 23andMe, and the Federal Communications Commission is considering massive regulation of the Internet in the name of "net neutrality."

Federal regulators are also putting the brakes on self-driving cars, which are closely related to the Uber innovation--enabling riders to order a car service using their smartphone app. If fast-moving technology hadn't collided with slow-moving regulators, this might have been the last summer you'd have to drive your own car.

In fairness, the bias toward impeding innovation preceded President Obama's election by several decades. I had been concerned that the tort bar and excessive litigation would stop this technology. Perhaps I can rest easy knowing that the government would never allow it anyway.

Crovitz closes with a historical-fiction-counterfactual that Mister Plouffe returns to Washington as an advocate against over-regulation. I think it more likely he will lobby for additional impediments to self-driving cars. Why, they could affect the bottom line of his new employer...

Quote of the Day

The Perfesser is feeling a bit hawkish...

I'm thinking that a useful paradigm for dealing with ISIS is, what would Gen. Curtis LeMay do if he were serving under President Andrew Jackson? But I could be mistaken. -- Glenn Reynolds

But Keith Arnold thinks:

I'll see that and raise: what would General "Black Jack" Pershing do if he were serving under Winston Churchill?

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 25, 2014 1:04 PM
But johngalt thinks:

What would Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey do if he were serving under Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes instead of President Obama?

Posted by: johngalt at August 25, 2014 5:16 PM



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