"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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February 10, 2016

That'll Catch Millenials

Gramma's AOL ad:


Hat-tip: Weekly Standard

"Hey Washington: You shut the hell up. We'll save America."

Are we ready to take Trump seriously yet? We'd better be, because he is being thrust upon us by the Republican electorate. A plurality of that group is so completely and totally fed up with big government cronyism - the "Washington cabal" if you will - that it is willing to throw a grenade into the administrative branch in the form of a walking-talking comb over who "must be telling us the truth because who in his right mind would say those things unless he believed them?"

But that is only half of today's political story. The other half is that a plurality of the group called Democrats feels the same way. Except it is completely and totally fed up with big bank and big government cronyism, and the "inequality" that they are somehow responsible for.

Veteran Democrat pollster Doug Schoen penned the article that came to my mind this morning: Trump and Sanders win: We are witnessing a full scale revolt, America There's nothing particularly quote worthy, but it validates my observation that, well, I'll quote him after all:

And he may not be able to win a national election, but we are seeing an electorate so starved for an honest and trustworthy politician that they will make allowances for ideologies that they may not have considered before.

The most important result from New Hampshire's "first in the nation" primary election is not the attributes of the two candidates who won, but the attributes of all of the other candidates, who didn't.

February 9, 2016

Read and Weep

The kids love Bernie.

Abandon all hope for the future. Even the Atlantic covers the rally with an air of "Socialist SJWs in the Mist."

But johngalt thinks:

The girls may not be with Bernie because the boys are, but the boys are definitely with him because the girls are. The only thing Gloria Steinem got wrong was, who came first.

So why are the girls really there? I'm not certain, but I do think it largely has to do with this:

"Patriarchy is something I think about a lot," said Natalie Cooney, a 20-year-old English major. "Rape culture is something we have to fight against. The idea of women being blamed socially for their sexuality—it speaks to the greater sexism of our culture and it needs to be destroyed." Cooney said she considered Sanders "more pro-woman" than Clinton.

So, like I said, I'm not certain how or why, but I think this is the what.

Posted by: johngalt at February 10, 2016 12:57 PM
But jk thinks:

Hear, hear.

As proof of Nash Equivalence, I could not excerpt or comment on one item in such a target-rich environment. But I was haunted last night with one paragraph:

"I try to get people to recycle, because I care about what happens to the earth," said Nicole Rode, a junior biology major, who wishes she could stop having political arguments on Facebook but can't help herself. "I hate water bottles--it's just pollution! I don't identify with a religion. I care about the earth more than anything imaginary."

What a stunning failure of education. You can argue about politics or policy, but I suspect this is exactly what "junior biology majors" are taught.

Sweet child, we dig stuff out of the ground, use it and put it back in the ground. While that might seem ultimately unproductive it is the "use it" part in the middle which counts. You see pollution; I see wealth, convenience and health. I went to a medical appointment today and grabbed a pollution of H2O out of the refrigerator (mine runs on Diesel...)

In spite of the text presented in junior biology, there is neither a shortage of stuff to dig up or places to put it after.

I know some bright and well educated Sanders supporters, but the swaying masses and their boyfriends and girlfriends would be diminished in number if biology students were exposed to, say, Science.

Posted by: jk at February 10, 2016 2:15 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Hear, hear. Or "I, Pencil."

There was another breathtaking quote, since I have a few more lines here before the reader loses interest:

The kids believe in freedom, but only to a point. "Freedom of speech is valuable, but we also can't persecute people because there's something about them we don't like," said Joseph Stallcop, a 19-year-old sophomore at Keene State. "Those things have to be balanced. It can't be all one or the other."

The Founders made freedom of speech part of the First Amendment for a reason. And the words "except" or "but" do not appear.

Posted by: johngalt at February 10, 2016 2:29 PM

We're From the Government

... and we're here to help!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a regulation to prohibit conversion of vehicles originally designed for on-road use into racecars. The regulation would also make the sale of certain products for use on such vehicles illegal. The proposed regulation was contained within a non-related proposed regulation entitled "Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles--Phase 2."

Ah yes, the CO2 emissions from the drag strip. Killing Mama Gaia.

But Keith Arnold thinks:

So much for my plans to take that Checker Marathon cab to the Demolition Derby. The government just hates me having fun.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at February 9, 2016 5:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

"If it stops even a single knuckle-dragger from having fun, really, isn't it worth it?"

Posted by: johngalt at February 9, 2016 6:41 PM
But jk thinks:

Is it sporting to take a Checker to a Demolition Derby? Strikes me as worse than juicing at Le Tour de France.

Posted by: jk at February 9, 2016 7:06 PM

February 8, 2016

Dipping Toes in the Fever Swamps of the Left

I don't know the value of "Are you freaking kidding me?" posts. You can tell me to stop.

This was posted by my biological brother. He's probably a good deal smarter than I am. I'll say in his defense that he read Atlas Shrugged and pushed back on his friends that it is actually "subtler than [they] think" and of value.

He's a true believer. He put a "Jesse Jackson for President 1984" on his guitar and boasted that he is "a tax and spend" liberal. He feels the bern quite intently.

But. On what planet? "Senate Republicans To Flint Poisoning Victims: It's Too Expensive To Help You, You're On Your Own." All the tropes are present in this Occupy Democrats piece by Colin Taylor. Half a Trillion for the military, surely they can send half a billion to Flint. And best of all, this multi-decadal cesspool of disrepair and corruption is of course, the fault of Republican austerity.

"Given the fact that we have about $19 trillion in debt, I think it's fair to ask: Do we want to have the federal government replacing all the infrastructure put in place by cities and states all across the country?" demanded Corbyn (sic) [That's Sen. John Cornyn, they cannot even get the #2 Senate majority voice correct]. Well, its (sic) clear that somebody is going to have to do it, and most likely, it will have to be President Obama who cleans up yet another Republican mess because years of Republican neglect to local infrastructure has set the stage for more crises like the one in Flint.

Oh that bastion of GOP power that is Flint. Oh, that deep understanding of enumerated powers, Article I Section 8. And grammar.

But: Republicans: mean. We got it.

But johngalt thinks:
In summary, Flint's environmental regulators were asleep at the wheel, but nobody wanted to call them out, because bad things happen to people who criticize the government. The horribly mismanaged water system was the result of government planning born of economic ignorance. So far, relief has come in the form of private corporations donating millions of bottles of water.

Has there ever been a more compelling case for privatization of publicly-run government services?


Posted by: johngalt at February 8, 2016 3:25 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

No TS'er will stop you from venting... far from it.

> Republicans: mean. We got it.

Oh, no, you haven't yet, as a storm is coming in terms of sexist pigs who'd never vote for a woman... and besides we (speaking broadly) have poopy-pants pulled up over our doodey/heads. To share my point of order, I save my powder for when your brother actually writes something... ignore any memes than can't be clearly disproven with a sentence or two, or better yet; a simple graph.

MY vent would be against CO's Health Co-Op who was my 'health' insurance provider until they were decertified by the DOI. I expected this as some 21-23 others have gone the same way, but I didn't expect the butt-kissing screed I got from the Board President, Chuck Holum, titled "Putting People before Profits."

It featured the predictable dig at unnamed Big Companies, as well as Cory Garder (without saying how he didn't help) and kudos to Dems Bennet, Perlmutter, DeGette (w/o saying how they helped), and OF COURSE, zero explanation of why they couldn't make a profit, nor why they even should. Sheesh, what a butt-kissing exercise at the experience of the taxpayers!

I've already got my powder dry for Bernie's "Healthcare is a Right" with

I teach my kids that every right comes with a responsibility. If healthcare becomes a right, what responsibilities will be placed on us by the IPAB (aka, the death panel)?

Posted by: nanobrewer at February 8, 2016 3:28 PM
But jk thinks:

UPDATE: Global warming causing boredom and depression in UK dogs.

I take it all back.

Posted by: jk at February 8, 2016 3:35 PM

Coming to their senses?

Who says there's no good news in the papers anymore? Robert Bryce [Review Corner] has a guest editorial in the WSJ today Juxtaposing Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I - Venezuela) calls for renewal energy with opposition in his home state of Vermont.

If Green Mountain Staters have tired of windmills, I pronounce them dead.

Why are so many Vermonters opposed to wind energy? The Sanders presidential campaign did not respond to questions. But Sen. [John S.] Rodgers told me by email that the state must protect its tourism industry. "People come here from around the world for our scenic vistas and rural working landscape." Asked whether concerns about climate change should trump the concerns of rural communities, Mr. Rodgers was frank: "Destroying the natural environment in the name of climate change is moronic."

Bryce lists several wind projects which have been recently been rejected.
In July the town board of Somerset, N.Y., voted to oppose a proposed 200-megawatt project known as Lighthouse Wind. And the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ban on large wind turbines in the county's unincorporated areas.

"Wind turbines create visual blight," said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. Skyscraper-size turbines, he added, would "contradict the county's rural dark skies ordinance which aims to protect dark skies in areas like Antelope Valley and the Santa Monica Mountains."

I've considered them visual blight for years, but the world -- particularly near Boulder, Colorado -- is not ThreeSources. Bryce is not an impartial observer, but it's good too hear the opposition is rising.

February 7, 2016

Review Corner

The engineers and the ecologists in their different ways embody the best of civilization. We do not have to side with either, but we can take the best of both. Our goal should be to eliminate big disasters, not small ones, to accept a bit more risk and instability today in return for more reward and stability in the long run.
To over-synopsize Greg Ip's Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe is to do it a great disservice. And Review Corner can be roughly categorized as OversynopsisRus.

Even my hero, Russ Roberts, in an EconTalk Podcast presents the book as an enumeration of items for which safety features have had unintended consequences: people drive more aggressively while wearing seat belts and take more chances in a bicycle or hit a football opponent harder with a helmet on. Oh, and banking and bailouts and moral hazard and stuff..

In the 1800s, with better statistical tools, insurers began to differentiate risks, for example, requiring medical exams for life insurance. The term "moral hazard" first appears in the 1860s, in The Practice of Fire Underwriting, wherein it was defined as: "the danger proceeding from motives to destroy property by fire, or permit its destruction."

All that is interesting. But the book really takes off when you realize he is intermingling those and playing them off each other -- where are they the same and where are they different?
As Alan Greenspan was fond of saying, "The optimal failure rate in banking is not zero. If we did not permit risk-taking, and therefore the possibility of failure, the banking system would not be in a position to foster economic growth." Aviation regulators suffer no such ambivalence about the optimal number of plane crashes: it's zero.

It is a book about risk: how we approach it, the methods we use to mitigate it, proper cost-benefit analyses -- and where we fail.

The proper optimal plane crash is probably not zero. You are in hundreds of times greater danger choosing to drive, and the asymptotic pursuit of perfection makes plane travel more expensive and less convenient.

As [pediatrician and specialist in biostatistics at the University of California at San Francisco Thomas] Newman later told me, "When someone tells a story like that, you want to be on their side. You want to help. These are actual human beings. The statistical ones who might waste their money on a plane ticket or end up driving? I'm never going to meet them." But he pressed ahead, and concluded that the cost per death prevented [by legislation requiring infants to travel in their own seat] was a staggering $ 1.3 billion. Is a child's life worth $ 1.3 billion? That's the wrong question. The life of any child is priceless. The right question is, If society is to devote $ 1.3 billion to saving lives, what is the most efficient way to do it?

All fascinating, but the major focus of the book is finance and capital markets. I can put it on the virtual Kindle shelf of all works which seek to characterize the financial crisis of 2008. Ip is non-polemical and quite pragmatic. He accepts the Fed's role as lender of last resort and would not lose a lot of sleep over philosophy if a bailout saved a lot of livelihoods and heartache.

But he says you have to have a fire now and then to make the forest work and prevent worse conflagrations down the line. Everybody knows that and only the stupidest cannot see the financial metaphor (it's in the bushes behind the Collateralized Debt Obligations). But he interviews actual personnel at Yellowstone: Do you have a fire this year? what of the people nearby? What if it escapes containment? Did you see Bambi for cryin' out loud?

Save Bear Sterns and let Lehman fail?

It's a great book because it looks at risk and response in many areas and ties them together very effectively. ThreeSourcers will be interested that Ip takes climate change concerns at face value. But then he asks why we don't pursue nuclear power when other forms a hundreds or thousands of times more dangerous.

These are important things to keep in mind when considering the lessons of the global financial crisis of 2008. In its wake, governments everywhere have vowed never to have another. But is it necessary that there never be another crisis? Is it possible that preventing another crisis will suppress so much risk taking that we end up poorer as a result? And should another crisis arrive, will our fear of moral hazard stop us from doing what we can to minimize the consequences?

Outstanding -- five stars.

February 4, 2016

If you think it's expensive now...

.... wait until they make if free, PJ O'Rourke famously said.

This comes to you courtesy of the tireless ones at PowerLine who found a Tufts study on the 5500+ page Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that was signed yesterday ... vewwwy quietly.

The summary is here, and highlights that the best results are

Widely cited projections suggest GDP gains for all countries after ten years, varying from less than half a percentage point in the United States to 13 percent in Vietnam.
Ahem, I'm not sure this sounds like a great idea, and will be digging deeper after seeing the title is Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Expect NPR to go with the first clause in that quote alone... and a convenient assum-er... preclusion:

[T]he CGE model used excludes, by assumption, TPP effects on employment and income distribution, thereby ruling out the major risks of trade liberalization.

While in the (slightly more) real world, Tufts employs United Nations Global Policy Model, which predicts
TPP would generate net losses of GDP in the United States and Japan. ... [increased inequality] and TPP would lead to employment losses in all countries, with a total of 771,000 lost jobs. The United States would be the hardest hit, with a loss of 448,000 jobs. Developing economies participating in the agreement would also suffer employment losses, as higher competitive pressures force them to curtail labor incomes and increase production for export.

Most alarmingly, in a presser, Jeff Sessions (not a friend of JK, AL) notes

the TPP also has a "living agreement" provision, guaranteeing that once implemented, Congress will have ceded its Constitutional authority to negotiate trade deals, permitting the negotiated TPP to be changed by a new international commission

whoops! living by rules not covered by our Constitution....I humbly suggest BHO sees himself and his similarly minded (if not credentialed) friends as the ones who'll be writing these new rules! Just might have to trade in my ARI institute card for a dirty, torn NATIVIST shirt from the Duck Dynasty folks!

But johngalt thinks:

I had to apply external pressure to help prevent dagny's head from exploding when Bernie Sanders said in the debate last night, "Of course I believe in trade but not unfettered, free trade. It has to be fair trade. I don't want American workers competing with foreign workers earning fifty-six cents an hour minimum wage. We can't have American companies shipping their jobs overseas."

I thought it might help if I paraphrased - "He wants to force American business to pay fifteen dollars an hour to people doing fifty-six cent per hour work. And he wants to force American consumers to buy goods made by overpaid workers, not the ones paid according to 'unfettered free trade."

Eventually she was fine, when we changed the channel.

Posted by: johngalt at February 5, 2016 8:50 AM
But jk thinks:

Q: "Why can't we have nice things?"

A: Bootleggers and Baptists. The cause of liberty is easily attacked from multiple directions, and coalitions of wildly disparate thinkers frequently overwhelm laissez faire.

I'm pretty tepid in my defense of TPP, but energetic in opposition to those who would kill any trade deal ever. And, I dare say, that club would include Sen. Sessions (no friend of jk - AL) and the "Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University."

I feign surprise that none of the studies from the Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University on Climate Change and Sustainable development have qualified for a ThreeSources post. I know: only so many hours in the day.

There is of course every chance that this paper is serious and important. But as the same web has a collection of anti-nafta articles on the 20th anniversary of that incredibly successful trade agreement, I am going to stick with my hasty first impression.

Posted by: jk at February 5, 2016 11:35 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Reading this [PDF] litany of the anti-environmental effects of TTIP I'm left to wonder... how can the most environmentalist-friendly President in US history be a party to this?

Posted by: johngalt at February 5, 2016 2:25 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

Obama not noting potential environmental impacts to one of his pet projects? Ahhh, the Unbearable Lightness of being Liberal!

Posted by: nanobrewer at February 9, 2016 12:16 AM

Not just a football game

Super Bowl 50 is more than just "Super." It will be an epic battle between good and evil.

"Use the force, Peyton!"


All Hail Taranto!


Never Gets Old

Bashing Elon Musk! An activity of which I will never tire.

The man is no doubt a genius. The Tesla cars are unquestionably works of aesthetic and engineering art. His past ventures include genuine entrepreneurship, most notably PayPal.

But the dude is an Ayn Rand villain -- and nobody but me and my friend Wendy notice.

Charles Lane of the Washington Post said: "Tesla owes its survival to subsidies from taxpayers, who are usually less well-heeled than its plutocratic customers." The average household income of Tesla owners is $320,000, according to Strategic Visions, a consumer research company.

Tesla buyers have also raked in $38 million in California government rebates (they receive a $2,500 rebate for each Tesla bought) and $284 million in federal tax incentives (they receive a $7,500 federal tax credit for each purchased Tesla).

The Los Angeles Times calculated that Elon Musk's three companies, Tesla Motors, SolarCity, and SpaceX, combined have received a staggering $4.9 billion in government support over the past decade. As Kerpen noted: "Every time a Tesla is sold . . . average Americans are on the hook for at least $30,000 in federal and state subsidies" that go to wealthy Tesla owners. This is crony capitalism at its worst.

I post items like this on Facebook, I get far worse pushback than any political post. "Dude's a genius!"

Well, so in his own way was Wesley Mouch.

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