"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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January 17, 2017

So much sagacity, so little time

This election has been difficult at times.

If I haven't said it recently, I fiercely appreciate the blog authors and commentariat. I spend too little time reading old threads. In our near-14 year run it would detract from work and life to relive old posts.

But when the occasion arises, I am always delighted at what I find.

I got an email asking if I would update a link on a post from Jan 11, 2012. The link target has moved onto a new domain and kindly asked if I would repair the link. I was certain it was spam, then a hoax, then a phishing attack, then a virus . . . I carefully typed in some urls and BOOM, their story checks out. Link fixed!

But I cannot lie, I enjoyed OUR FRIEND, THE VULTURE

Thanks for being you, ThreeSourcers!


Trump Revolution, Indeed

I mentioned my skepticism with the category title Trump Revolution. My first comparison was to "Reagan Revolution" and Peggy Noonan's still-awesome-after-all-these-years book What I Saw at the Revolution. While cautiously hopeful, I am not fond of the comparison between 40 - 45. Reading Reagan's GE speeches and early columns, he had a deep devotion to political philosophy and policy. I think it fair to say I find that wanting in the President-Elect.

But there was also the French Revolution: great upheaval with mixed changes both positive and negative. So, I am onboard and hoping the guillotines stay locked in the cellar of the Bastille.

I say this to actually introduce two overwhelmingly positive stories in the continuing wonder of some of his superb personnel picks. But my optimism will always be cautious. Now to the nice part:

-- Betsy DeVos! Every day I like that pick more. By her enemies and friends shall ye know her, and Sen. Bob Casey's enmity is an asset in my world. Harvey Silverglate [Review Corner] takes him to task for attacking her contributions to FIRE.

Civil-liberties advocates have long defended free speech and fair procedures. Often that means standing up for the rights of people who hold odious views or have committed grave crimes, including sexual assault. Those whose views are merely unpopular, and the innocent who are wrongly accused, depend on the same protections.

If confirmed, Mrs. DeVos will have the opportunity to improve the climate for fairness and accuracy in campus judiciaries at universities that have obliterated due process for fear of losing millions in federal aid--to make American higher education free and fair again.

-- And Mitch's wife might kill the train to nowhere.

The Obama Administration gave California $3.2 billion to build the 500-mile bullet train from San Francisco to Anaheim, which seven years later still isn't shovel ready. The $10 billion in state bonds that voters approved in 2008 for the $64 billion (and counting) train have been tied up in litigation. Meanwhile, Democratic legislators have been loath to appropriate funds beyond a fraction of the revenues generated by California’s cap-and-trade program, which is also under legal challenge.

So the Obama Administration has repeatedly eased the spending and construction deadlines in federal grant agreements. Last year the White House provided a cash advance rather than require the railroad authority to match federal funds dollar for dollar.

Yet according to the FRA document, the rail authority still won’t meet its June deadline for spending stimulus funds.


Liberté, Egalité, Non Choo-choo.

UPDATE: I knew there was a third great Trump Cabinet pick, but I just couldn't remember...

RandPaul_RickPerry.jpg

Cheap shot -- Perry is an awesome pick.

But johngalt thinks:

I was indeed thinking more "Do You Hear The People Sing" revolution than trying to compare the former Democrat, reality television star Trump with the former Democrat, B-movie actor Reagan. Sorry if I rankled inadvertently. In my defense, while Reagan was certainly more schooled in the principles of liberty, Trump may prove to be more successful in implementing them.

As for the California Train to Nowhere, Randall O'Toole penned articles on the three reasons why people don't ride transit. Enjoy at your leisure.

Posted by: johngalt at January 17, 2017 2:45 PM

Quote of the Day

ADDENDA: You might think the Clintons would keep the Clinton Global Initiative going for another year, just to dispel the perception that it was a backdoor way for wealthy foreign citizens and foreign governments to buy access and goodwill. You would be wrong. -- Jim Geraghty
But johngalt thinks:

My dad made another observation: Closing the foundation allows any and all records to be destroyed - something that the New York State Attorney General has loudly and publicly prevented in the case of the Trump Foundation.

Posted by: johngalt at January 17, 2017 2:25 PM
But jk thinks:

Suddenly, nobody cares about AIDS, or children's education, or Haiti, or earthquake relief. What was it James Carville shouted "People are going to die!"

Shame the Clintons will allow all this heartache and misery to proceed unabated because she lost a silly election.

Posted by: jk at January 17, 2017 4:04 PM

January 16, 2017

Otequay of the Ayday

Look, I don't care if the Trump fan-bots rail against me, Trump is an unreliable chap, to put it mildly. He doesn't know what he doesn't know and he throws away his promises too easily and a lot of his instincts are leftist in the worst way. Everything he's done so far could be scuttled on the rock of his personality.

But that hasn't happened yet and every day is another day. And today, after eight years of a dishonest, undemocratic, anti-American scold in the White House, I am feeling gleeful. Almost pretty. Okay, gleeful.

Andrew Klavan - 'My Strange Trumpian Glee'



Quote of the Day

Meanwhile, in a nine-page questionnaire to Ben Carson, who is being sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Elizabeth Warren wanted to learn what the doctor thought about "C0 2 and other greenhouse gas emissions," because extreme weather like flooding poses "a significant risk to public housing."

"What other actions will you take to adapt to or prevent climate change while you are HUD Secretary?" Ms. Warren wondered. Maybe Dr. Carson's tenure will be the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal. -- WSJ Ed Page

But johngalt thinks:

I thought that moment had already, famously, occurred - in 1998.

Posted by: johngalt at January 16, 2017 4:04 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And as President Obama leaves office, the crises of extreme weather and sea level rise are also well under control.

Posted by: johngalt at January 16, 2017 4:06 PM

January 15, 2017

Review Corner

Now, I don't have a view either way on where the price of gold is going next, but it's pretty clear that this tweet is absurd, and thinking about how money needs to be a good unit of account tells us why. If Rickards wants to buy a hamburger, or a suit, or a car, he'll find that the dollar hasn't been volatile at all: the prices of these things have changed slowly when measured in dollars. They have gyrated wildly when measured in ounces of gold-- which is why gold is not money, at least not at the moment. It may be a good investment or a bad investment, but that's a different question.
Tim Harford's Messy [Review Corner] continues to intrigue me. I've bored a dozen people with the Keith Jarret story, and recommended it to a few who actually bought and read it. I think of it pretty constantly and retroactively bestow an Editor's Choice Award. [Insert VP Biden Presidential Medal of Freedom joke here if so inclined - ed]

I clicked on a Kindle recommendation button to purchase his The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run--or Ruin--an Economy and enjoyed it if not quite as much as Messy.

In Strikes Back, Harford makes you, the reader, king of economic and fiscal policy, right in the first chapter. He then answers your questions and gives you guidance -- but it is always advice, your decisions are in the end your own.

If the introductory quote rubbed your Ron-Paul, gold-bug beliefs roughly, you're going to be challenged in the first section. He provides a gasp! defense of Keynesian Monetary Policy which sounds quite like all the arguments I have made on the topic, except cogently stated and perfectly spelled.

It is a splendidly succinct view of money and monetary policy. That alone makes the book truly worth the price and time. He provides the three functions of Money. Now, I happen to know the three functions of money from John Considine's Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics. [Review Corner], where the author answers the question "Could Milhous actually become money in the juvenile hall?"

One of these is a "unit of account." I recall Milhous faired pretty poorly on this. Bitcoin, and gold to Harford's thinking, do not fare better.

In a more recent example, Nico Colchester, a journalist at the Financial Times, pointed out that the Mars Bar was a fantastically stable unit of account-- a veritable ingot of milk, sugar and cocoa. Colchester showed that all sorts of prices had stayed stable over the decades, provided that the Mars Bar was used as the unit of account.

The style of advice/Q&A allows Harford to humorously use the economist's vice of always presenting "...on the other hand.." (President Truman quipped that he was looking for a one-handed economist.)
Let me recap, then. In Chapter 2, you told me it's sometimes a good idea to print money. In Chapter 3, you’ve told me it's never a good idea to print too much money. I’m sure you can guess my next question: How much money should I print?

We'll answer that in Chapter 4. But I’ll spoil the surprise now, if you like: the amount of money you should print is just enough.


Harford shares my fear of deflationary shocks. We both would prefer NGDP targeting, but can live under a Bernanke-esque, inflation targeting regime. (He'd up the target from 2 to 4%!) He presents a Classical Economics position that is more Austrian, but not with as much conviction.

The fun parts are his examples from mini-economies. A Washington D.C. group prints script for babysitting services. I watch your little monster and you give me two tokens; Henrietta watches my angels and I pass the script along to her. At first, it was a disaster, because all the participants hoarded script. This was fixed by literally frickken' printing money, making it a favorite story of NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman. But it worked.

Likewise, the cigarette-denominated affairs of a POW Camp in Germany are investigated. The prisoners actually exported some of their Red Cross rations to local restaurants and imported items from guards. (I think Adam Smith was on to something about our desire to trade..) But these microcosms provide real data on the effects of monetary policy.

The question we have to answer is whether more recessions are like babysitting co-op recessions or like POW camp recessions. When we try to understand the economy, should we start with the assumption that it functions smoothly, like the prison camp, but is buffeted by external shocks and hamstrung by policy errors? Or should our starting point be that the economy itself is, like the babysitting co-op, prone to malfunction -- and needs Bill Phillips-style tinkerers to keep it running nicely?

SIDE NOTE: In an adjacent browser window, I am arguing with a great lefty buddy who shared a hagiographic post on Henry Ford's high wages and working hours. That got me in a sharing mood:
let me tell you a story about Henry Ford-- the man who invented unemployment.

Invented unemployment? Don’t you mean factory production lines, or the Model T?

Those, too-- and OK, it's an exaggeration. But it has a kernel of truth. Here's the story. At the start of 1914, Henry Ford, the founder and majority owner of the Ford Motor Company, introduced a new minimum wage of five dollars a day-- more than twice the previous wage-- while reducing the day from nine hours to eight.


Swell. But missing from my friend's was that they rioted to get those jobs and got the fire hoses turned on them in the freezing Detroit winter. Sociologists deemed whether workers were wholesome enough. It's not really a fairy tale. But it was profitable, and we are probably all beneficiaries.

I'll give it 4.75 stars. It's a very good book and a fun, accessible way to grasp some sophisticated economic concepts.


January 13, 2017

"Trumpcare?"

The obfuscation surrounding Trump's promise to "repeal and replace" Obamacare is thick, and it has only just begun. I read principled friends criticizing the "replace" part of the promise as just another version of government interference in the health care market. I hear left-leaning pundits brag that Obamacare "insured 30 million Americans" who weren't previously covered, and keeping them covered can't be done without all of Obamacare's spending. President Obama has even waded in to the spin game, saying he has no objection to "Obamacare being transformed into Trumpcare."

But according to Hudson Institute Fellow Jeffrey Anderson, the good Republican alternatives to Obamacare are fairly straightforward. The fourth paragraph of the linked article is heavily hyperlinked to references on such alternatives. But I emphasized the adjective "good" above for a reason:

To be sure, there are some Republicans who want to pass an alternative that spends nearly as much (or every bit as much) as Obamacare; that provides direct subsidies to insurance companies instead of tax credits to individuals and families; and that even lets the government "auto-enroll" Americans in insurance they didn't choose, sending taxpayers' money to insurers to cover the bills for these unrequested plans. But a good - and conservative - alternative to Obamacare would cut federal spending by more than $1 trillion, and it would cut taxes even versus the pre-Obamacare status quo.

For example:

1. Repealing Obamacare's direct outlays to insurance companies ($900 billion) and its Medicaid expansion ($1.1 trillion) would save $2 trillion in federal spending over a decade.

2. Repealing Obamacare's "coverage and revenue provisions"—basically its spending and taxes—would reduce deficits by $950 billion on a dynamic basis over a decade ($750 on a static basis).

3. Repealing Obamacare would increase deficits only if its Medicare raid ($1.1 billion) were repealed—whereas even if, say, half of the Medicare raid were stopped, the result would be a $400 billion budgetary surplus ($950 billion from repealing Obamacare's spending and taxes, minus $550 billion from stopping half of Obamacare's Medicare raid).

Anderson's conclusion is quite emphatic:

In sum, repealing and replacing Obamacare with a good conservative alternative would save 13 digits' worth of federal spending. It would also restore liberty and revive a health insurance market that the federal government has ruined.

Making Western Water Great Again

President Trump is not even President yet and he's already inspiring positive change to the drought conditions in the western United States. Almost all of the average precipitation measurements on this map of the west shows readings between 100 percent and 200 percent of normal for the last three months.

Colorado is doing nearly as well as California, as evidenced by the map below. (Source)

#DrainTheDrought

Sources found at The Water Report's snowpack research page.


January 12, 2017

Living and Dying at the InstaHome

It would save the trouble of having Helen shoot them. As our daughter told one of her cousins years ago, "If someone broke in, Daddy would shoot them because that's the thing to do. But Mommy would shoot them because she wanted to." -- Insty
Posted by John Kranz at 11:27 PM | What do you think? [0 comments]

dilbert back on track

Scott Adams' has rediscovered his humor bone (he'd had me worried, where humor was missing from his 1st debate review); describing with good humor how our President-of-the-better-deal outflanked his erstwhile critics and "scrambles the frame.

Denying the Hitler branding won't work either. That would just make people debate the details and harden the association by reputation. In the 3rd dimension, where persuasion matters and facts do not, brains recognize "Bob is totally NOT like Hitler" as "Somehow Bob and Hitler are connected." So denying doesn't work. Not even a little. ... there's no solution if you operate in the 2nd dimension. That dimension is out of ammo. But the 3rd dimension is not. A Master Persuader neither ignores nor denies.

He plays offense and scrambles their frame.

But the best humor is - in a heartening twist showing how the Vox Populi are replacing the MSM as arbiters of reality - in the comments section, in brevity I post only the best (apologies in advance for pun panners: it's toxic!!)

ConeJacket -- 13 hours ago
I did nazi that coming

patrickkell ConeJacket -- 10 hours ago
Don't worry, everything will be all reich

Reef Blastbody patrickkell -- 10 hours ago
The press seem to be goebbeling it up.

Timmah Reef Blastbody -- 10 hours ago
And goering up for a response.

MortyTheDestroyer Reef Blastbody -- 10 hours ago
These puns need a final solution.

Clean4Gene MortyTheDestroyer -- 10 hours ago
If these puns are bad, Mein Kampf get any worse.


and the best for last:

Red Bubba Gothwalker -- 9 hours ago
It's a concentration of camp

Posted by nanobrewer at 12:57 AM | What do you think? [2 comments]
But jk thinks:

Heh. In fairness to Adams as well, I think he was one of the first to seriously (well, for him) predict a Trump victory.

I surely did not see it coming.

Posted by: jk at January 12, 2017 10:05 AM
But johngalt thinks:

LOL at comments.

I know Adams lobbied for a Trump victory, at least. And if he was one of the brave and crazy ones who predicted his victory, did he also predict it would be with more than 300 electoral votes? That was me, since I've probably let you forget since November 9th. My bad.

Posted by: johngalt at January 12, 2017 2:12 PM

Don't click this. Comments (2)