May 31, 2008
2.8 Cheers For the Dismal Science!
As it regresses to the mean... Say what you like about economists, they look pretty good to me in the 2008 Copenhagen Consensus Conference. Reason Magazine reports:
Eight leading economists, including five Nobelists, were asked to prioritize 30 different proposed solutions to ten of the world's biggest problems. The proposed solutions were developed by more than 50 specialist scholars over the past two years and were presented as reports to the panel over the past week. Since we live in a world of scarce resources, not all good projects can be funded. So the experts were constrained in their decision making by allocating a budget of an "extra" $75 billion among the solutions over four years.
The top ten are practical and cost-efficient real solutions to real problems. Getting Vitamin A and Zinc to children in developing countries tops the list. DAWG mitigation clocks in at 30:
So what proposed solutions are at the bottom of the list? At number 30, the lowest priority is a proposal to mitigate man-made global warming by cutting the emissions of greenhouse gases. This ranking caused some consternation among the European journalists at the press conference. Nobelist and University of Maryland economist Thomas Schelling noted that part of the reason for the low ranking is that spending $75 billion on cutting greenhouses gases would achieve almost nothing. In fact, the climate change analysis presented to the panel found that spending $800 billion until 2100 would yield just $685 billion in climate change benefits.
Even the believers in the bunch (Bjorn Lomborg, call your office!) see the greater value in more realistic projects. I think if you empanelled a group of serious anthropologists, environmentalists, or geographers, you'd be certain to get Global Warming in the top five. And unless Lomborg was seated, you wouldn't likely get much else of consequence.
May 30, 2008
More On Algae
I tried but failed to sell JohnGalt on being an early adopter for Algae farmin' (or is that Ranchin'?)
Just choosing which kind of algae to start with is a herculean task. There are well over 100,000 species, each adapted to grow in different environments at different rates, and each capable of producing different amounts of oil—or none at all. The government collected more than 3000 different strains from all over the world in the 1980s, 300 of which were deemed promising. Today, many algal strains have been engineered into genetically modified superplants—the secret formulas of biofuel startups—but there is, as yet, no proven winner. Not to mention, there remains the small matter of how to make the algae flourish, how to cheaply dry several million gallons of subsequent slush, and how to get the oil out of minuscule cell walls and into the metaphorical barrel.
At the end, I have to think that straight photovoltaics offers a rosier path, with T.J. Rodgers saying that Moore's Law will apply to PV. Yet I still find the algae story intriguing.
Obama: The Hits Keep Coming
Another problem from Obama's Church.
When did churches become so political at the pulpit? As a life long active Catholic, I've never seen that style of preaching.
In the video, Pfleger wipes his eyes with a handkerchief and suggests Clinton wept because she thought that as a white person and the wife of a former president, she was entitled to the presidency.
Senator Chope did distance himself from the comments, saying he was "deeply disappointed."
In not entirely unrelated news, in 1996, then Citizen Barack Obama sought (and received) the endorsement of a Marxist third party for his State Senate run.
The New Party's modus operandi included the political strategy of "electoral fusion," where it would nominate, for various political offices, candidates from other parties (usually Democrats), thereby enabling each of those candidates to occupy more than one ballot line in the voting booth. By so doing, the New Party often was able to influence candidates' platforms. (Fusion of this type is permitted in seven states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont -- but is common only in New York.)
In the meantime, Hillary is slugging back whiskey as the last days of her campaign wind down, looking forward to the "i told ja sos" and 2012.
May 29, 2008
A good friend of ThreeSources sends a link to a piece by Stephen Malanga in RealClearPolitics. Malanga is studying the income distribution in the NFL and finds it maps pretty closely to the US labor force in dreaded "income inequality."
In football, it seems that while all incomes have risen, those for top talent have risen faster (Alan Reynolds, call your office!)
Facing such a dynamic in the labor market, there are a few things a society may be able to do to narrow the income gap for some people, like ensuring that public schools do the best job possible preparing kids for college, so that those with the potential for college don’t get their aspirations quashed because they’re stuck in a bad system.
You have to read this one in full. My emailer suggests a better world if we were to all learn from football parables and suggests "What is Lombardi's render unto Lombardi..."
May 28, 2008
Greenhouse Guesses: The New Socialism
The president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, spoke to the National Press Club yesterday (May 27) regarding his book, "Blue Planet in Green Shackles." The key point, from the Refugee's perspective, is that he drew similarities between communism and the current green movement.
In trying to find a text of the speech, the Refugee had difficulty Googling any coverage of it. Given the venue, you would think that it would get plenty of ink. However, even right-of-center journalists such as Fox News' Brit Hume dismissed his remarks more or less as a conspiracy-theory-too-far. Only Charles Krauthammer (whom the Refugee places on a pedastal for his original and insightful thought) gave it any credibility.
After considerable reflection, the Refugee thinks there may be some fire hidden by all the smoke (and hopes that he does not need carbon offsets because of it). The environmental movement was borne from the obvious need to stop the Cuyahoga River from burning and breath new life into a dead Lake Erie. From there, however, it seems to have been hijacked by the ultraliberal left. With all of the cap-and-trade, carbon rationing and other proposals, the left may be able to impose socialism through regulation where it would otherwise be impossible through the ballot box. The carbon regulations will restrict producers, stifle innovation, redistribute weath and, most importantly, allow central planners to dictate economic winners and looser. Follow the money - and power.
Now, the Refugee is no conspiracy theorist and believes that suggesting a conscious, coordinated effort is giving enviros too much credit for intelligence. Instead, the current situation is a product of opportunity that has grown legs. What makes the effort so effective, and insideous, is that everyone supports clean water and clear air. People will allow their freedom to be usurped if it avoids a hideous death-by-ice-melt. Moveover, it can be imposed worldwide (except for the Chinese who can recognize totalitarianism when they see it.) Brilliant!
The only speedbump on the green road to worldwide socialism is an honest debate of climate change science. If the body politic doesn't buy the premise, the prescription is vapor. Which is why it's hard to read anything about Vaclav Klaus. Or why Al Gore says the debate is "over." And why theory is presented as fact. Look, weather forecasters only have a 30% chance of getting tomorrow's high temperature correct, so why is the worldwide temperature forecast 100 years from now unimpeachable?
Does anyone remember the old leftist bumper sticker "Question Authority"? Sound advice indeed when listening to leading enviromental "authorities."
According to the sobering report, the disproportionate distribution of soda-can wealth is greater than ever before, and has become one of the worst instances of economic inequality in the nation's history. Data showed that over-salvaging of cans by a small and elite group of can-horders has created a steadily growing and possibly unbridgeable gap between the rich and the mega-poor.
Hat-tip: Don Luskin, who wonders "Where's Paul Krugman When We Need Him?"
May 27, 2008
Prof Althouse Has Lost It!
I'm a fan and can almost appreciate her being a libertarian and supporting Senator Obama for President. I said "almost."
Her flip-flop on the Amazon Kindle®, however, cannot stand. By all Jeff Bezos holds dear, I must protest.
Althouse had been favorable toward the Kindle and now says she doesn't like it because she misses books' smell (I do give her ten points for using a Buffy reference to back herself up. But Giles was wrong).
I have started a Review Corner post about my Kindle a couple of times and have not finished. There is not a lot to say that has not been said already:
That about handles the bullet points. I have been a big eBook fan through several generations of product (Althouse's vlog captures the hits). I took my Gemini Rocket eReader to the UK with me the first time I went and was giddy to have nine or ten books loaded up in less weight than a typical hardcover. The Kindle is the PowerBook to the Gemini's Atari 400.The Kindle holds hundreds and takes SD cards for additional storage.
But the great thing about the Kindle is what they call whispernet. This thing is on the Sprint cell network and you can download books anywhere you could make a phone call. Two bucks a month gets you an Instapundit subscription updated several times each day. An "experimental" rudimentary browser lets you surf, access GMail or other Google apps.
Maybe Amazon will sell book scent in a bottle you can spray on your Kindle. I like books as much as the next guy, but I like text and ideas. I've got a 1935 copy of Carl Swisher's biography of Roger B. Taney. And I was finally able to score a reprint of a rare book on Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis written by his brother, George Ticknor Curtis. This softcover was made by copying one of the existing editions.
I'm happy to get both, but the Taney book falls apart in my hands and I hate to even stick post-it flags to mark sections to transcribe. The Curtis book is a reduced size copy of an old book. Both are pretty tough sledding for me to read. The Kindle, conversely, lets me choose the font size, bookmark, and look up words in an online dictionary.
I can email it a PDF or a word document so that I can comfortably read a long technical white paper or proposal. If you buy a computer book, you can download new revisions, usually free of charge, when errors are fixed or material is revised.
The batteries are good, the screen is readable, the weight is -- awesome. You can save money on books, you don't have to move your library.
It's great. Five stars. You want smell, get a dog.
Democrats and Gas Prices
The truly scary thing is that Democrats might actually use their stance on energy to augment their leads in the House and Senate. Even NYTimes writers are laughing at them:
The lawmakers played their parts, too — showing mostly outrage and fury. “You all are gouging the American public and it needs to stop,” declared Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee. Other Democratic lawmakers openly questioned whether the companies were illegally fixing prices to hoard profits and voiced suspicions that they were in cahoots with Vice President Dick Cheney to enrich the energy industry.
Hat-tip: Gregory Mankiw, who excerpts Rep. Waters's quote and says "Oh Yeah, That Should Work"
Stop the earth - I want off.
Seriously, didn't most people have that same reaction to the 1970's nutjobs who wanted to outlaw drilling for oil in this country because it was "dirty?" Leave the idiots alone and look what it gets you - politicians who say things like "gasoline prices are not based on supply and demand, they're being driven up by reckless speculators and obscene oil company profits" and "we can't drill our way out of this problem" when, in fact, that is the ONLY way to bring gasoline prices down. And it makes us "less dependent on foreign oil" at the same time.
We Don't Need No Thought Control...
As the good folks in Washington State are being sued by the teachers' union for underfunding public education, the union has forced the schools to turn down a $13.2 million grant from Bill Gates's and Michael Dell's National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI).
Earlier this month NMSI announced that a $13.2 million grant slated for Washington state was being scrapped. Why? The contract ran afoul of the union's collective bargaining agreement. NMSI wanted to compensate teachers directly and include extra pay based on how well students performed on AP exams. But under the teacher contracts, the union is the exclusive agent for negotiating teacher pay and union officials refused to compromise. They were willing to turn away free money for their teacher members rather than abide this kind of merit pay.
The WSJ Ed Page wonders if just perhaps "...union chiefs care more about protecting their monopoly than what students are learning?"
I missed this post over the weekend. ThreeSources friend Josh Hendrickson at The Everyday Economist takes on the Pigou Club. Many economists, most notably L. Gregory Mankiw, become captivated by the efficiency and the seemingly free market mechanisms of Pigouvian taxation. The question is: "who decides what is bad enough and how bad it is?" (And do we want government deciding?)
The problem inherent in any such analysis is the view of societal benefit and societal loss that is assumed to be easily calculated and dealt with through Pigouvian taxation. The ability to identify the social cost of a particular action is extremely difficult as each individual has his or her own subjective valuation. The problem is communicating each of these preferences in aggregate form to some central authority. This is a distinct problem in terms of both Hayekian knowledge and a neoclassical framework (Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem). In the absence of this ability, setting the tax rate is extremely difficult.
Quote of the Day
If Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe were clever, he would emphasize the "core inflation" rate--i.e., not count food and fuel. Things wouldn't look nearly as bad then. -- James Taranto, referring to Zimbabwe's 1,063,572 percent inflation rate.That's my gift to the ThreeSources inflation hawks. I'm still a core CPI believer.
On May 1, Pennsylvania state troopers arrived at the home of Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt, seizing a reported $20,000 to 25,000 worth of farm equipment and placing Nolt under arrest. His crime? The illegal sale of unpasteurized milk and other dairy products. And Nolt isn't alone. In February, federal investigators subpoenaed two employees of Mark McAfee's Organic Pastures Dairy in California. Though the subpoenas do not indicate the purpose of the investigation, McAfee told me the feds were seeking evidence that his dairy was selling unpasteurized milk for human consumption across state lines.
I could go for a couple pieces of sashimi right about now.
But raw milk? A crime? C'mon.
May 26, 2008
Eagles 20 - Broncos 5
Chase Utley drove in a career-best six runs, Jamie Moyer had a season-high seven strikeouts and the Philadelphia Phillies scored their most runs in nearly a decade, a 20-5 rout over the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.
May 25, 2008
Real Estate News
Moved into the new place and the Comcast® guy hooked up my 8Mb/sec Internet. Many thanks to all who kept the ThreeSources home fires burning during the dark period.
The realtor and the title person were talking at our closing about how busy they have both been of late. You hear a lot of horror stories about people who cannot sell their house and I don't want to call them liars, But I have to think that -- outside of some inflated markets -- that the housing crisis is perhaps not quite as bad as you read about.
May 23, 2008
Half Gallon Pricing
As $4 per gallon gasoline becomes reality in Pennsylvania, Gov. Ed Rendell today announced that he will allow older gas stations to display half-gallon prices. This will not change the price of gas.
Also included at these service stations, guys in snappy white suits to check your oil and your windshield washer fluid, and "regular" gas, so if your car is a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good.
Tony Phyrillas is calling for a gas tax holiday.
The governor could provide Pennsylvania residents immediate relief from the state's 32-cent gas tax, but that's not likely to happen. Instead, the governor is now going to allow gas stations to sell gas by the half-gallon.
As much as I loathe taxes, that's not the solution for the current high gas prices for two reasons.
Increased demand (due to lower prices and typical summer demand) on the same supply will drive prices right back up. Exactly how much the swing will be is a question for the invisible hand, however.
Secondly, once the holiday is over, we're screwed even harder when the tax comes back... which they will.
I'm all for cutting the taxes on gas down to sales tax level... and keeping them there though.
Exit questions: On stations that charge for half gallons, will gas now cost $2.00 4/10ths per gallon? or are they getting the extra half penny due to the rounding? Will a gas pump display anything but a 9/10ths? ... and why is that even there to begin with?
Staying True to Principles
Fred Thompson, my first choice for GOP candidate has an piece in the Wall Street Journal decrying the chicken-littles who are marking the end of conservatism. (again)
Conservatives should stay true to their principles and remember:
Read it all
The People's Choice: Hillary!
The Inquirer's Jonathan Last continues to crunch the numbers.
[C]ould Clinton take over the lead in all of the popular-vote tabulations? Quite possibly. In Puerto Rico's last major election, two million people voted. Let's assume that turnout for this historic vote - Puerto Rico has never had a presidential primary before - will be equal to or greater than that turnout.
Best takeaway line?
Clinton's path is both obvious and simple: Win the popular vote and force Barack Obama and his cheerleaders to explain why that doesn't matter.
If winning the popular vote mattered in 2000, surely it must still matter!
Lying to Win
"I'll tell you my impression. We really in this last election, when I say we...the Democrats, I think pushed it as far as we can to the end of the fleet, didn't say it, but we implied it. That if we won the Congressional elections, we could stop the war. Now anybody was a good student of Government would know that wasn't true. But you know, the temptation to want to win back the Congress, we sort of stretched the facts...and people ate it up."
Democrats lying about the war for electoral gain? You're kidding!
Read the whole post, and watch the video.
May 22, 2008
Picking Obama's Running Mate
The AP reports:
To the Dems, failure marks success. You can't lose 'em all! Right?
May 21, 2008
Better Than Europe
I thought I was way too much of a snob to ever say anything good about "American Idol." I have a lot of low-rent pursuits and plebian passions, but the reality genre just doesn't grab me.
Don Surber links to this video of the expected winner of the Eurovision song contest. Frozen frickken' NED on a stick! Surber recommends viewing with the sound off, but then you'll miss the American Exceptionalism Of The Day. She sings that flat and is poised to win? What I've seen of Idol, the winners can at least carry a tune.
UPDATE: Also from Surber: Hitler Sings The Jeffersons Theme. This is why we have an Internet.
Posted by John Kranz at 7:00 PM
Koch May Back McCain
I don't link to Newsmax.com a lot, but I do get their email alerts and this story caught my eye. Former NYC Mayor, Ed Koch, says that he might back McCain against Obama.
In an exclusive Newsmax interview, Koch says McCain “has no equal” when it comes to opposing Islamic terrorism. Though Koch says he disagrees with most of McCain’s positions on domestic issues, he could support him because of his strong national security credentials.
What a mensch! Seriously, one has to wonder how many even überliberal American Jews will be comfortable backing Senator Obama with his perceived weakness in opposing Israel's enemies and his years in the pew of an anti-Semitic church.
May 20, 2008
The AP reports Court: Paper money discriminates against the blind.
When will our robed masters realize how badly money discriminates against the frivolous and non-vigilant?
Posted by John Kranz at 6:21 PM
I've Been Stimulated
Okay. I have not been a big fan of the stimulus. In some comments, it was suggested that I shut up and cheerfully accept any tax money the government was going to refund me. I still groused.
Let the record show that my check was deposited last Friday and was a welcome sight as I seek to husband all liquid resources in time for this Friday's closing.
So Thank You, President Bush!! In using my stimulus check to purchase a new condo, I think I single-handedly prove what a brilliant idea this was. Thanks to all you loyal ThreeSources taxpayers for making this possible. Thank-you, Speaker Pelosi, for your swift action and bipartisan bonhomie.
What a country! On the other hand, they now charge $1.00 to change your address at the post office. I don't mind paying, but I can't imagine that it does not cost the government $5.00 to process my credit card online. Paranoid?
An Excellent Charity
Spirit of America helps the US Military to help in Iraq and Afghanistan. They get school supplies, and soccer balls, and clothing that US forces can use to help in the communities they serve. I invite you to peruse the website and see the great projects.
It seems that they have a special opportunity to raise funds before Memorial Day, in the form of a matching grant.
Greetings Friends and Supporters!
It is an awesome and very deserving charity. You can give here.
May 19, 2008
Iran Poses No Serious Threat
Whew. I was worried about Iran, but I have just learned that it is a "tiny" country (compared to the Soviet Union) and it "does not pose a threat to us" (again, the threshold is set to C.C.C.P.)
Hat-tip: Hugh Hewitt
Okay, Now I'm Offended
Not really. More Amused. The man who puts the "Junior" in Junior Senator from Illinois said:
"What it says is that I'm not very well known in that part of the country," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle."
I laughed earlier at this map. "Can the man who wants to be President please tell us why Arkansas is somehow closer to Kentucky than Illinois?"
Ann Althouse has a virtual link to Mickey Kaus, wondering about the implicit condescension of those "states in the middle."
This guy has political gifts but they have so far masked his tin ear. Perhaps his $500/hr handlers can tease that out of him in time for the General Election.
But perhaps not. Reporting from Colorado, this is jk...
The Audacity of Government
As the sun shined down, the warm air was decorated with a cool breeze. A sea of faces stretched as far as the eye could see. Approximately seventy-five thousand faces, in fact, each waiting in eager anticipation for the greatest orator in a generation to grace their presence. Even the speaker, Sen. Barrack Obama, seemed astonished by the size of the crowd. To some, the crowd signified a new interest and optimism toward American politics. In reality, however, the size of the crowd reflects what is wrong with politics and the voting public.
It should be clear that what is wrong with politics is not Sen. Obama himself. I have not a horse in the race. Thus a heavily populated speech by Sens. McCain or Clinton would be abhorred just the same. The problem is not the person that the public fawns over, but rather that such a person exists in the first place.
It is not surprising that Sen. Obama has emerged given the current circumstances. The war in Iraq has been mired in mismanagement, housing prices are plummeting, inflation is rising, and globalization is causing uneasiness among laborers who must now compete with cheaper and qualified competition. Perhaps equally important is the fact that Obama is the anti-George W. Bush. He speaks well, oozes charisma, and promises a new dawn in Washington.
Yet turning to an individual is nothing more than misplaced hope. One can give speeches about change, hope, and optimism, but so long as these promises are predicated on the expansion of government, they are unfounded and unhealthy for the future of our nation. Take, for example, the recent “crises.” The food crisis has largely been the result of farming subsidization in developed countries and trade protectionism. The invasion of Iraq went smoothly, but the mismanagement in the aftermath has been disastrous. Critics have been quick to place this blame on the incompetence of the Bush administration, but in reality the fact remains that central planning – no matter how smart the planners – is impossible. No single mind (or group of minds) in the United States government or amongst its populace is equipped with the combined knowledge (cultural and otherwise) of the Iraqi people and businessmen. The housing crisis is also a result of interventionism. A Federal Reserve that kept rates too low for too long and a legislature that pushed for easier standards for those who were not deemed credit worthy by the market test artificially increased the demand for housing only to come crashing down when interest rates returned to more accurate levels. Even the adverse effects of globalization derive from the fact that the government had previously created artificial job security.
The problems that we face are largely the result of government intervention. Nevertheless, the American public is in search of a messiah to lead a government to correct for the previous failures. I am afraid that no matter whom they choose, they will be disappointed.
The folks at Samizdata had been discussing a line from the P.J. O'Rourke column in CATO's Letter.
Now, if you're electing Democrats to control government spending, then you're marrying Angelina Jolie for her brains.
Some closet Virginia Postrels came out and suggested that just because Ms. Jolie is attractive does not mean that she is not intelligent. I'm going to duck that question. And not even post a picture. When O'Rourke is on form, as he is in this piece, almost any paragraph can be pulled for a Quote of the Day or a Blog Post. Professor Mankiw likes this one:
I have a 10 year old at home, and she is always saying, “That’s not fair.” When she says that, I say, “Honey, you’re cute; that’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off; that’s not fair. You were born in America; that’s not fair. Honey, you had better pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.”
I can excerpt too -- how about the intro:
Well, I wish I had better news for you, but the barbarians are at the gates. We are besieged by pagans—savage, brutish worshippers of big government. Theirs is not even a golden calf. They’ve abandoned the Gold Standard. They worship the taxing and spending of a fiat god, all the more dangerous for being both false and imaginary.
Must. Read. Whole. Thing.
May 18, 2008
Fine with me, Sweetie!
At this rate, I'll be endorsing Obama pretty soon...
Let the record show that Senator Obama's calling a reporter "sweetie" does not disqualify him from the Presidency. Bridget Johnson is a bit disturbed. She thinks it is part and parcel of an arrogant attitude:
To properly assess Sweetiegate, you have to go back and fill in the blanks. Obama was not addressing Agar with any measure of affection; rather, he was annoyed that she was interrupting his grandstanding with a question and thus waved her off.
Johnson has a good style, but points out "If John McCain had called a reporter "sweetie" he'd be castigated as a dirty old man hurling sexist remarks." Perhaps. I think they both have different personalities and can each get away with different things.
It is not going to be a pretty election year for a lover of liberty, but my one hope is that we might have an ideological election. Senator Obama wants to expand the size, scope, power, and cost of government. Senator McCain is not Jeffersonian, but he is pushing reduced spending, lower taxes, free trade, and a free market solution to health care.
I'll call Senator Obama a pile of names, but Misogynist ain't one. If the father of two little girls cannot shake the habit of calling women "sweetie," I'm prepared to deal with it.
May 17, 2008
Quote of the Day
Instapundit links to a San Diego Christian leader who wants to organize a boycott of Starbucks over its new (old) logo. "According to Mr. Dice, the new image 'has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute. Need I say more? It's extremely poor taste, and the company might as well call themselves Slutbucks.'"
Commenters on the Amazon Al Dente blog point out that it is the original logo, that the slut is actually a mermaid, et cetera. But this comment really hit home:
Vile Starbucks Siren, wafting forth her burnt caffeine aroma, luring poor hipsters to their overpriced doom.
UPDATE: This Internet Thingy might really take off. Here's an informative history of the Starbucks logo.
Those Remarks are NOT Offensive!
Nice to have our friend LatteSipper back 'round these parts. I'm a cappuccino man myself, but it's good to get another point of view.
I'll cross the aisle on this insane outrage that accompanies every opponent's statement. I did not appreciate Senator Obama's umbrage when the President dared to disparage the great tradition of appeasement. Let me roll my eyes at one of Senator McCain's spokesmen:
A McCain spokesman said Harkin's remarks were offensive and showed that Democrats are out of touch with Americans' values.
It's a hard fought and only-partially--partisan competition for biggest Senatorial Whackjob and the great State of Iowa fields two solid contenders. I think Senator Harkin was wrong to disparage the McCains' military service. And I agree that it speaks to Democrats' being out of touch with American values.
But Senator Harkin's comments were not offensive. Faux outrage is not conducive to debate and I hate to see it used to impede expression on either side.
May 16, 2008
Dude's Just Humble
Ed Driscoll realizes this doesn't quite rise to Snipergate, but still highlights this video that contradicts a well worn Stump speech:
Senator Obama is right if he claims that I wasn’t clapping.
Hat-tip: The Corner
Uninteresting backstory: I have been a proud DishNetwork customer for several years -- cleaning out the crawl space unearthed a receiver from each EchoStar generation. I have been extremely pleased, but the new place faces Due North and so we're going to have to "start seeing other people." After careful consideration, I selected the lowest rent cable package and added a TiVo. The TiVo will better approximate the PVR I am used to, and going to a cheaper package will free up some funds to buy programming from Amazon Unbox.
The real review: Being an Unbox shopper now, I followed a "People who bought Xxxx, also bought Yyyy" link and listened to some samples of Sophie Milman's "Make Someone Happy." I bought the CD based on a couple of great tunes.
The first time through, I thought that this is a little too Easy-Listening for me. Let the record show I am a ballad man with a high tolerance. After a few runs through, however, I have really fallen for her voice and phrasing. Yesterday, I searched for more information about her, and now find myself completely smitten. She is 25 years old. She was born in Russia, raised in Israel, and now lives in Canada -- singing American Jazz. Let's hear it for globalization! I also did not know -- honest -- that she is preternaturally attractive.
UPDATE: Here's a video from her first CD:
May 15, 2008
... And he smote them...
The Refugee is sure you'll hear the following quote many times if you haven't already. However, it's worth repeating. During an address to the Israeli Knesset on that country's 60th anniversary, President Bush said,
“Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history,” the president said.
This is the best "money line" of this campaign. It lays bare the foolishness of Obama's foreign policy in a way that even the most partisan cannot deny (although they will try to change the subject). The volume of Democrat howling is testament to its accuracy and effectiveness.
GWB can serve a very effective role this election by framing the argument in a way that McCain cannot. Let's hope he keeps it up.
Numbers Two Through Five
May 14, 2008
An opinion piece written in the Wall Street Journal by Mark Helprin on Tuesday, May 13 2008 urges Americans to not take our military superiority for granted. He sites a number of statistics regarding China’s rapid GDP growth and its ability to spend significant resources on military hardware in the coming years. His solution is for the United States to roughly quadruple our military capabilities including aircraft carriers, other combat ships and F-22 aircraft. While Mr. Helprin is no doubt more knowledgeable than Your Humble Blogger, this Boulder Refugee feels compelled to disagree with his pining for the launch of a new Cold War. The reasons are numerous.
The Chinese GDP growth rate is unsustainable – While some economists predict that Chinese GDP will equal the US by 2026, John M. Berry of Bloomberg News makes a pretty good case that this is highly unlikely. With China’s current GDP at $1.93 trillion and a growth trend of 11% (9% real, 2% inflation) and the US GDP at $11.73 trillion and a historic growth rate at 5.5% (3.5% real, 2% inflation), it would take 35 years for the math to add up. However, as Berry points out, sustaining 11% average growth over 35 years is almost impossible. At some point, the economy is so large that it is impossible to increase productivity that much. As we learned from the Soviet “experiment,” foreigners trying to keep up with the General Jones’s will go bankrupt.
The world is still MAD – “Mutually Assured Destruction” still defines traditional military clashes between titans. Unlike some crazy mullahs, the Chinese have no death-wish. While the US may still have significant technological superiority, we’re not spoiling for a fight with the Chinese, nor are they interested in a direct military entanglement. Even if one accepts the straight-line projection of military power that Helprin submits, it will be an unimaginably long time before they had such overwhelming force such that we would simply give up without a fight.
We’re not in it alone – As the recent Japanese consideration of starting a nuclear weapons program demonstrates, the Japanese would never allow a Chinese hegemony. They would join the arms race. So, it is not just our GDP that China must eclipse. Tally Japan to our side… and South Korea… and Taiwan… and Australia… and India.
Chinese range of motion – China’s desire for influence seems largely confined to Asia (although this is an opinion from the Refugee’s very limited perspective). Although China could cause trouble in the region and enable rogues around the world, it’s hard to imagine that China would risk a direct confrontation with the US over Thailand or even South Korea. Taiwan maybe, but the Chinese know the price would be huge. (Side note: an Obama administration might change Chinese calculus vis-à-vis Taiwan. They know Obama would never go to war over the ROC.)
Inevitable social change – Chinese society cannot remain unchanged as the economy skyrockets. The Chinese have historically been strong entrepreneurs. As the middle class grows and demands more freedom, the communist government cannot keep the freedom genie in the bottle forever. Once out, it’s out for good. The emergence of a middle class also lessens China’s advantage of cheap, abundant labor.
One must also remember that Mao unified a regionalized China with different languages and customs. A Balkanized China is not an unthinkable scenario. Internal evolution, or even revolution, is a far greater threat to the central government than US military intervention.
Finally, China is an ecological disaster in progress. Those chickens will come home to roost within the next two decades in the form of social discontent and costly clean-up.
Central planning – No government planners can ever keep up with market changes the way a more capitalistic system can. Despite the efforts of our government to implement ever more onerous regulations that hamstring American business, we are still light-years ahead of China. China has figured out how to steal secrets and mass-produce cheap knock-offs, but has yet to prove that it can create even a modicum of innovation.
Does anyone remember MITI, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry? In the 1980’s, pundits and politicians alike shouted that the US needed such an agency to facilitate similar financial-manufacturing partnerships and long-range planning. Japanese-style 25 year plans were all the rage. (This Refugee even bought into the hype and took a Japanese language class.) Although Japan has some notable successes (e.g., Toyota), This Refugee believes that is more a result of our execution problems (e.g., the auto industry) than the success of MITI. Contrary to projections at the time, the cumbersome Japanese model could not keep up. (Similar argument applies Germany.)
This Refugee won’t dispute that China will become an even more significant power in Asia and maybe even another super power. However, there is no need to panic and quadruple our defense spending now; we would only be creating soon-to-be-obsolete weapons at a time when we are not threatened. Chinese culture is famous for having a patient perspective that encompasses generations while westerners reputedly can’t think past the next news cycle. Ironically, time is on our side. This is one case where we can out-wait them.
AC Is The Hip, Mac Guy; I am the PC Dweeb
My experience with Vista® has been pretty good. I bought it preloaded on a new box and have liked it. I have a few old programs that don't run or don't run well on it, but I will pay that price for progress.
It's running on an HP desktop, and HP has a small application that checks in for new drivers and releases and patches. I would complain that it is difficult to decline a new driver -- it will keep asking you to install it everytime it checks for new downloads. This is HP's problem and not Microsoft's.
So I said yes to a video chipset driver even though I did not have the issue it fixed. It downloaded and installed and now the display reverts to 800x640 everytime it hibernates or is restarted. Just a few clicks to restore the old settings, but by then all your windows are resized tiny to fit the VGA screen.
Larry Kudlow says he's buying a Mac. I had thought the Vista problems were overblown, now I am wavering.
Posted by John Kranz at 7:35 PM
Don Luskin links to these. I'm sure that eco-friendly John McCain gear will be all the rage around Boulder County this year. Luskin says " Hey, I'm all for pandering, if it will keep Obama out of the White House. But this is just plain stupid."
Loving v Virginia
I guess I am a whiner, but I find it easy to rattle off a dozen Supreme Court decisions that I think are evil, affronts to liberty or just totally whacked. Lochner, and Korematsu, and Dred Scott and Plessy v Ferguson all live in infamy, I hope the bulk of their work is ignored because it is so good.
When asked to name unambiguously good SCOTUS decisions, I always lead with Loving v. Virginia. The 1967 case has been in the news of late because Mildred Loving has recently passed away. Kim Strassel did a nice segment on the FOX News Journal Editorial Report, and the NYTimes has an interesting article today with some interesting backstory.
The Supreme Court ruling underscored the stupidity and unfairness of segregation. And the case drew back the curtain on the secret history of race in the South. But for Mildred and Richard this struggle was not about changing the world. It was about fighting for the right to be married to one another and then returning to the community that was their home.
An unalloyed good -- from the Warren Court, no less! I find it hard to name others. No doubt Brown was the right choice, but look what its remedies have done. I like Beck, and Bakke, and Schechter Poultry Corp v United States, but then I run out of good ones.
Kind Words for Mitt!
But honor, the value that underlined Mr. McCain's stand, is no use on an issue like global warming. Here, he could use a little more Mitt Romney, his vanquished nemesis whose name has now resurfaced in the veep sweepstakes.
Famed Republican strategist Joni Mitchell said "You don't know what you got 'till it's gone." I'm not yearning for Mitt! but Jenkins is right -- and right that the thing that used to bother me about Governor Romney, data over principles, can come in handy.
Well, the data part at least. It would be nice if Senator McCain had used data or principle before choosing Cap & Trade.
Yaay team! Go GOP!!!
May 13, 2008
First Cap and Trade and now this. Say it ain't so...
Quote of the Day
Steve Forbes on Kudlow & Company:
The only way you overcome the Obama effect is not with atmospherics—he’s going to outdo you on eloquence and that kind of thing. The only way you can do it is with substance. That is, sharply contrast taxes. [Obama] wants to raise them, McCain wants to cut them. Social Security—Obama wants more taxes, McCain wants to allow private accounts to supplement Social Security. Healthcare—more patient control, which McCain wants, versus Obama having Katrina-like bureaucrats run the system. These are very basic differences. And if people recognize them, I think not only can McCain beat Senator Obama, but also inoculate even a Democratic Congress from going down that road.
"Katrina-like bureaucrats" running the health care system. That's a good grace note -- the kind of line collectivists seem so good at using.
Ms. Rand Call Your Office!
David Bernstein, at Volkh Conspiracy, joins Professor Norman Levitt in taking a whack at "Science Studies," the specialty of the Lecturer at Dartmouth who sued her students for thinking.
One clear advantage to this methodology, obviously, is that it gives its practitioners leave to dismiss scientific findings they find discomfiting without the necessity of developing significant scientific arguments against them. If science is a phantom constructed by a cabal with social interests opposed to yours, you have only to utter a few magic words from the science-studies canon and, poof!, the offending ideas go up in smoke. One can see this at work in the supposed findings of many authors, from Helen Longino, who doesn't like the fact that exposure to hormones in utero can affect the behavioral propensities of young children, to Vine Deloria, the American Indian activist who simply despises western science root and branch and asserts that it has no authority to dispute Native American lore.
I don't know that it will surprise any ThreeSourcers, but the brazen capacity of academe to deny truth and reason should astonish -- we must not inure to it.
The Wall Street Journal Ed Page nails all the failings of Senator McCain's proposed Cap and Trade program for carbon credits:
The problem is that once government creates an artificial scarcity of carbon, how the credits are allocated creates a huge new venue for political rent-seeking and more subsidies for favored industries. Some businesses will benefit more than others, in proportion to their lobbying influence and how well they're able to game the Beltway. Congress itself will probably take the largest revenue grab, offering itself a few more bites out of the economy and soaking politically unpopular businesses.
Where I am not sure they are right is the politics:
But he will never be green enough for the climate-change fundamentalists. The Obama campaign and Democrats were already dinging Mr. McCain yesterday for half-measures. His concessions won't help him much in November, but they will make his governing decisions in 2009 that much more difficult if by some chance he does win.
My YouTube question for the GOP Debate was to ask which, if any, of the candidates would stand up and say that climate change is not sufficiently proven to threaten disruption of the energy markets. I was looking for somebody brave enough to say that it might be "hooey."
But we have the best candidate for 2008. I sure wish Senator McCain would propose something less intrusive than C&T, but I will concede that the "denier" I was looking fir would not have a chance in this "tick! tick! tick!" climate. It's Game Over and we have lost. I'd rather elect a free trader even if he is badly misguided on this issue.
May 12, 2008
They put the Class in Class Action
Tired of seeing the little guy get ripped off, some brave class action lawyers have stepped up to protect the binary impaired. At a fee of only $900K (that's decimal), they have acquired coupons -- yes, real, bona fide coupons -- for fools who bought 40GB MP3 players, having been defrauded into thinking they were 40 GB.
The fraud allegation hinged mainly on two different definitions of gigabyte. According to the decimal definition (the only one I knew until today), a gigabyte is 1 billion (109) bytes. According to the binary definition, a gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 (230) bytes. While Creative used the decimal definition in its advertising, the settlement says, "certain computer operating systems report hard drive capacity using a binary definition." On those systems, a 20GB Creative Zen player would register as only 18.6GB or so, about 7 percent less than advertised.
Glad they cleared that one up. Those people really got ripped off!
Hat-tip: Galley Slaves. Jonathan V. Last points to a comment:
Just goes to show, there are only 10 types of people that understand binary. Those who do, and those who don't.
Posted by John Kranz at 7:26 PM
O My Gosh!
I'll second that, Mister Kudlow:
I guess we all knew this was coming from Senator McCain. Perhaps we have been in denial about the issues connected to it. But here the McCain plan is, unveiled in Oregon, with emission caps by 2020 — only twelve years from now — that will somehow move carbon levels back to where they were in 1990.
He called the oil companies "evil" in his O'Reilly interview. He called the Pharmaceutical companies "evil" in the debates (my only overwhelmingly positive moment for Governor Romney was when he said "no they're not.")
I can whine, but I don't believe a lover of liberty can be apathetic between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. All the same, many uncomfortable moments lie between now and November. O my gosh.
UPDATE: Club For Growth concurs. In a press release:
Washington – McCain’s cap-and-trade bill to limit CO2 emissions is badly flawed and would do great damage to the economy. Although McCain promotes the cap-and-trade plan as a market-based solution, it is just another heavy government regulation with tremendous costs to American businesses and economic growth.
May 11, 2008
Prosperitarian Exit Strategy
<Senator Clinton Voice>Y'Know,</Senator Clinton Voice> pundits keep asking Senator Clinton and her staff why she is still in the race, asking the campaign to show the math whereby she gets the nomination. Empathy for the dirigisme poster child is not my normal state, but I am starting to feel for her. I've had a worse few days than she.
I'm not out $21 Million, but I've received a lot of political bad news. And if pundits found me newsworthy, they'd be asking me about exit strategies: "With all due respect, Mr. Kranz, how do you see the math working that will preserve freedom and prosperity in this country?" I'd have to stammer and say that I believed my policies to be best for the country, and hope they cut to commercial.
The first wave of pessimism was a fun chat with an old friend (who might be blogging around here in a bit). Looking at the bleak electoral landscape in November, even I -- Mister Optimist -- could not come up with a rosy scenario.
Second was David Brooks's NYTimes Editorial this week. I always liked David Brooks, but he has an elitist, CW kind of conservativism, and has not found intellectual growth at the Times. I can normally shrug him off. But his call for an American Cameronism is too much to bear. Keep in mind I get most of my UK politics from Samizdata so I may be a bit jaundiced, but that doesn't sound like anything I want.
Third was the cover story to Reason "Cult of the Presidency." I found the issue buried under some mail -- it may have been out a while. Gene Healy says "Who can we blame for the imperial White House? Look no further than you and me.:" Healy looks at the Constitution, founders' intent, and the early President through TR, and wonders how we came to demanding a President that is so actively involved. Senator Clinton is quoted that "I'm ready to be Commander-in-Chief of our economy on Day One." Ow. The article opens by quoting ThreeSources Deity, Phil Gramm, saying "I ain't running for National Preacher," then pointing out that he finished fifth in the first primaries with a lot of money and name recognition.
Fourth is Senator Lamar Alexander’s Energy Plan, best summarized by this commenter (linked by Insty):
Good Lord, now we've got Republicans proposing Five Year Plans and Seven Step programs like some 1930's Soviet Beet Kommissar. The last thing we need is the know-nothings in Congress pretending they have the expertise required to plan the future of a market segment as huge and critical as energy. They have no such knowledge because that knowledge doesn't exist anywhere as some type of accessible whole. It takes a market with millions upon millions of people, each with their own intimate knowledge of their own needs and capabilities, participating in an open energy marketplace with free prices to coordinate such an unimaginably huge, ever-changing body of knowledge and action.
I have bemoaned that only 9% of the electorate is libertarian -- I don't know that even that many yearn, like I do, for a "Silent Cal" type President who would not pretend to run our lives.
I can't draw the map or count the delegates to show how we get there, but like Senator Clinton, I'll keep on campaigning.
May 10, 2008
I don't think I've done this in five years of blogging, but I am seeking opinion on beds -- I mean "sleep systems" -- and need to ask for help.
I am looking to purchase a new bed for the new home and it seems that my wife and I are pretty good candidates for a Gucci-bed: a Tempur-Pedic, sleep number, or something like that. I am leaning toward the Tempur-Pedic, specifically a Boulder knockoff Sensur-pedic.
I cannot do extensive shopping, and am going to have to roll the bones and buy something online or make a quick visit to ascertain that something works, Driving around and trying a bunch of things won't work for me. Anybody have a recommendation or string feelings on a particular brand or style.
The United States of Heinz
57 flavors, baby!
Tip to Dean Barnett who writes:
This faux pas is beyond weird; I know the guy is tired, but “How many states are there in America?” is the kind of question they ask you at the hospital after you've had a seizure to see if your brain is still working. I speak from personal experience on this matter, by the way. When I had a random seizure in 1996, the guy at the emergency room asked me how many states there were and then who was president. I responded with a ten minute rant on Whitewater - he urgently ordered up more tests.
May 9, 2008
I've Done a Few Stupid Things
I voted for John Anderson in 1980. I have shown up to gigs without a guitar a couple of times. But all my foibles pale compared to this:
NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A Grammy-nominated violinist who left his $4 million, 285-year-old Stradivarius in a taxi repaid the driver who returned it with a free concert at an airport taxi stand on Tuesday.
Oh, dang it! I left my $4 Million Stradivarius in the cab. It's one of those days.
Posted by John Kranz at 6:12 PM
The reciprocal is more accurate?
I enjoy doing arithmetic in my head and am modestly good at it. I'm not Rainman, but I'm pretty good. Driving three European friends around in the states, I remember their inquiring about fuel efficiency of the various vehicles they saw. They'd point at a Hummer and I would not only have to guess its mileage (say 10-12 mpg), but I would also have to convert that to liters required to go 100km. That's pretty good therapy if you smack your head on a hybrid or something.
Patrick Bedard in Car And Driver thinks that we should change to gallonage instead of mileage.
If, instead of our customary miles per gallon, we rated fuel economy in gallons consumed over 100 miles of travel, as the Canadians and Europeans do (well, they calculate liters per 100 kilometers), "we wouldn't be having this discussion," German says. If we used a gallonage standard instead of a mileage standard, everyone could see that 11.111 gallons per 100 miles of the pickup is a big deal compared with the 2.222 gallons of the hybrid.
Is that a more intuitive comparison? I am not convinced; it is certainly not worth trading the inculcated understanding of mpg ratings. He offers it in an article concerning the inaccuracy of EPA estimates, implying that somehow "your gallonage may vary" will be more acceptable.
I'm very wary of introducing new things because they are "European." I would like Canadian/European currency (dollar coin, two-dollar coin, smallest bill is a fiver) and I do find a duvet more comfortable than layered overtucked bedsheets. But when people start buying SmartCars, and watching soccer, full-tilt socialism is not far behind.
May 8, 2008
Pigou Club -- Just Say No!
It's me against a famed Harvard economic professor in a battle of wits. Wagers, anyone?
I have undying respect for L. Gregory Mankiw. His blog is a must read every day. But every two or three days, he promotes his "Pigou Club." The Pigou Club is named after the economist Arthur Cecil Pigou and the premise is that a direct "Pigouvian" tax on gasoline would be the most efficient and fairest means of reducing consumption. Whenever somebody proposes or extols the benefits of a gas tax, Professor Mankiw says "Welcome to the Pigou Club."
When his blog allowed comments, I would sometimes leave a short, respectful, comment that taxes are to raise revenue and that social engineering was a slippery slope even if one agreed with a gas tax to prevent global warming (which I did not). He no longer allows comments (related?), so I have to object here.
Today he offers A Graphic for the Pigou Club from a WSJ article.
But my main beef with today’s Pigouvians is that they cherry-pick a case here and there — taxes on gasoline, primarily — without fully pursuing the implications of the analysis. If increasing gasoline taxes is efficient, why stop there? What other market failures should the state be empowered to remedy? Here’s my question, specifically:
Quote of the Day
People who are unstoppable and ambitious, and psychopathically power-worshipping, are not bruised by a little thing like North Carolina or Indiana. -- Christopher HitchensFrom an interview with Hugh Hewitt.
I approve of his word choice, but disagree. I will proudly stand with the conventional wisdom that Senator Clinton's campaign is toast. I don't know the exit point, but it is over. To paraphrase ac: if she's lost McGovern, she's lost the Democrats.
May 7, 2008
Potential Vice Presidents
Now that the nominees are set (even if Hillary won't admit it), the talk of vice presidential nominees will begin to pick up. So ThreeSourcers, who should get the nod in each party? Who will actually be chosen?
Do You See The Light?
Support for Ethanol subsidies are now out of favor with the green elite. According to a WSJ editorial, the WaPo and TIME magazine have both "concluded that food-to-fuel mandates have failed."
All we can say is, welcome aboard. Corn ethanol can now join the scare over silicone breast implants and the pesticide Alar as among the greatest scams of the age. But before we move on to the next green miracle cure, it's worth recounting how much damage this ethanol political machine is doing.
Just because everyone now knows it's a sham, don't look for subsidies to be repealed, mandates to be lifted or tariffs on imported Brazilian sugar cane to be reduced. And that's another trouble with gub'mint solutions. Perhaps the mandates might be scaled back, but the subsidies will be around 'till the end of time. As far as I know, the Federal government still subsidizes mohair because it was a vital component in WWI military uniforms.
Will anybody learn? It was clear from Senator Obama's speech last night, that the Democrats are poised to double down and harness the power of Government to "create millions of green jobs, &c..." I love Megan McArdle’s' take:
Gack. Now Obama is ranting about how he's going to make the corporations give us super fuel-efficient cars, find awesome new sources of oil, make renewable energy affordable, and invent a really delicious fat-free ice cream. However did we manage to get through the first 200 years without Barack Obama to beat some progress out of the corporations that have been holding us back?
May 6, 2008
Taking Libertarianism Mainstream
I just read an amusing (read: leftist) review of Ron Paul's new book. Here is my favorite part:
By "makeover" does she mean more statism?
The review continues...
Allow me to outline the leftist manifesto:
1. One must fail to distinguish between the concepts of total and marginal.
2. Government is bad and oppressive.
3. Government is the answer to our problems.
4. Believe it or not numbers 2 and 3 do not seem to contradict one another. Number 2 refers to civil liberties and war. Number 3 refers to redistribution of income and government regulation.
5. Intentions rather than results are what matters.
6. Incentives? What incentives?
7. Tax it. Regulate it. Regulate it some more.
8. Those who do not favor an expansion of government should be mocked. No explanation or counter-argument is necessary.
9. Belief in freedom and free markets is naive. Belief in the benevolence of government is ideal.
10. If it fits on a bumper sticker, it fits on the platform.
Getting. Dumber. All. The .Time.
Blog Brother AlexC is flying (one of them newfangled Wye-Fye planes, I guess) and sends a link to MyDD:
Make it against the law for oil companies to pass the price of the windfall profits tax on to consumers, and then audit the oil companies' books. It is not a difficult accounting exercise to tax excess profits above a certain gross percentage per barrel of oil, or gallon of gas. Every major oil company has sophisticated profit segmentation reports that go to the very senior management of the company. These reports identify revenues, costs and profit at each level of the vertically integrated operation, broken down on a per barrel basis by product type, marketing region, you name it.
And if they pass along the cost of this tax, we'll...
1,147th. Dumbest. Idea. Ever.
ThreeSources friend Everyday Economist has signed an Open Statement Opposing Proposals for a Gas Tax Holiday.
Being a fair guy, he also provides a link to Bryan Caplan, who disagrees.
The American people want to "do something," and Hillary's tax cut will at least do little harm.
I think I'll throw my lot in with Caplan on this. I think the holiday is a gimmick and I think it will be completely ineffective and likely counterproductive and it's stupid and it will never happen. But this is campaign season with daily displays of foolish gimmicks and bad policy. I don't know that I'd pick this one to sign a petition. (In fairness, ex-guitar player would not be sufficient academic credit if I wanted to.)
Having three active candidates provides a bad idea every eight hours. The summer gas tax holiday seems, like Caplan says, one of the least harmful. The discussion around it has been rather informative. Senator McCain all but admits that it's a gimmick, but he just wants to give a little guy a little break. Senator Clinton wants to "pay for it" with a big tax on oil companies. Senator Obama gets points for recognizing its gimmickry, but I take a couple off for laughing that "it will only save 28 bucks!" If you live in a $3M mansion, $28 per person may seem laughable. But to masses of bitter white trash, Senator, that's a lot of arugula down at Whole Foods.
Stupid, yes. Compared to cap-and-trade for CO2, socialized medicine, re-importation of pharmaceuticals, windfall profits taxes, it seems pretty harmless.
May 5, 2008
Quote of the Day
"These giant worms are trouble," said Jimmy Cabbigat, a 61-year-old Ifugao farmer.Those would be the "slithering, silent invasion of worms -- up to 2 feet long and as thick as thumbs -- boring into the rice terraces in this misty, mountainous area of the northern Philippines for 40 years."
It seems rising rice prices might provide the impetus to do something about it. Supply and demand writ large.
Dumbest. Idea. All. Week.
Don Luskin ups the ante. In a rare display of Internet understatement, he thinks this qualifies only for worst idea of the week:
The time has come for the nation's wealthiest colleges and universities to rescue its leading newspapers — resources almost as vital to higher education's purpose as libraries, laboratories, classrooms, and concert halls. The plan I have in mind would call upon the richest institutions to set aside 3 percent of their endowments to buy The New York Times. That's for a start. Additional purchases of other newspapers by other endowments should follow.
Man, why didn't we think of that?
You Can't Make This Up!
Mark Halperin, Time:
Hillary Clinton enthusiastically picked a filly named Eight Belles to win the Kentucky Derby and compared herself to the horse. Eight Belles finished second. The winner was the favorite, Big Brown.
Hat-tip: Mickey Kaus who fears this is "a thought born embalmed as a cliché, already tiresome from anticipated over-expression before being sincerely expressed in the first place"
I ain't afraid of no cliché -- ain't a cliché that can't be rode!
Tale of Woe
Convinced that private lenders were making too much profit on federally insured loans, Democrats enacted changes last fall that rendered most new student loans unprofitable. As numerous firms abandoned the market amid the credit crunch and just before the peak of college financing season, the anxious pols realized their blunder and are now seeking a bailout of the same lenders they had just finished punishing.I suggested Ethanol subsidies were a perfect, archetypal microcosm of government intrusion into free markets. I blogged that our grandchildren would study the folly and tease us about it. But why wait? The WSJ lead editorial (quoted above) captures it perfectly well today.
No need to worry about the risk for taxpayers in direct lending, however. Congressman Miller is so confident that the bureaucrats can manage everything this time that he is now trying to amend the law to eliminate some regular audits of the program. This auditing refinement, which has passed the House but not yet the Senate, specifically eliminates the requirement to report how much the program contributes to the national debt. If no one is counting, then no one can say it costs the taxpayers any money, right?
I'd encourage a thoughtful reader to read the whole thing.
May 4, 2008
Dumbest. Plan. Ever. WSJ's Take.
Here's what the WSJ editorial page has to say about Obama's election year plan to lower gas prices by raising the marginal corporate tax on oil companies ABOVE it's present level of 35%:
Mr. Obama is right to oppose the gas-tax gimmick, but his idea is even worse. Neither proposal addresses the problem of energy supply, especially the lack of domestic oil and gas thanks to decades of Congressional restrictions on U.S. production.
And about energy policy politics in general:
This tiff over gas and oil taxes only highlights the intellectual policy confusion – or perhaps we should say cynicism – of our politicians. They want lower prices but don't want more production to increase supply. They want oil "independence" but they've declared off limits most of the big sources of domestic oil that could replace foreign imports. They want Americans to use less oil to reduce greenhouse gases but they protest higher oil prices that reduce demand. They want more oil company investment but they want to confiscate the profits from that investment. And these folks want to be President?
But there is hope:
Late this week, a group of Senate Republicans led by Pete Domenici of New Mexico introduced the "American Energy Production Act of 2008" to expand oil production off the U.S. coasts and in Alaska. It has the potential to increase domestic production enough to keep America running for five years with no foreign imports. With the world price of oil at $116 a barrel, if not now, when?
So does the AEPA have a chance of passing instead of the CREPPA? The chances may be slim but as Wayne Gretzky used to say, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
May 2, 2008
I'll Stand Up For Grandpa
The Wall Street Journal Ed Page discusses the Rockefeller Scions who are beating up on Exxon-Mobil for, well, selling oil.
One luxury of being a Rockefeller is that you are wealthy enough to live in style even if Exxon's performance starts to slide. The same can't be said of millions of pensioners and small investors for whom Exxon's profits may be the main source of a secure retirement. If John D.'s heirs aren't satisfied with Exxon, they're welcome to invest elsewhere. Our guess is that few will, given how much money they've made over the decades on fossil fuels.
Companies create value for shareholders, that's their highest calling. I defended Google against freedom lovers on that account, I certainly will defend XOM against whiny, pampered heirs. Larry Kudlow tore into the scions last night: "they've never seen an oil field, they've never worked a day in their life..." (Especially Senator Jay, I'd add.)
But I come to praise John D. We call him a robber baron, but he made his money bringing heat and light to poor people. Bastard! Rich folk could buy wood or whale oil and have servants to tend it. Rockefeller brought five cent gallons of kerosene to the masses, who could now read or work past dark. He used more of the harvested oil than his predecessors who cracked it for a small part and threw the rest away.
Then, of course, he devoted much of his fortune to philanthropy. We should be building statues and not calling him names. And, as the WSJ says, if the grandkiddies want to invest in windmills or perpetual motion (algae maybe?) they certainly can.
May 1, 2008
Dumbest. Plan. Ever.
Senator Obama has a plan to raise oil prices 10% or so.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's proposal for a windfall profits tax on oil companies could cost $15 billion a year at last year's profit levels, a campaign adviser said.
I don't say this as an oil company shill, but c'mon. Corporations don't pay taxes, they collect them.
... and it's going to be passed on to you.
Biofuel from algae? Selective hydrocarbon out? This seems pretty cool:
The highlight says "[W]e could grow all the fuel the United States needs using 1/10th of the land space of New Mexico." My musical career used to entail criss-crossing the great state of New Mexico. One tenth of its area is pretty big. All the same, it sounds more efficient than Ethanol. Maybe some of the "Big Algae" Senators will step up to the plate and subsidize this!
Hat-tip: His Instyness.
WASHINGTON - Soaring prices for food, gas and other everyday needs pushed consumer spending to a faster pace than expected in March.
NYTimes: Low Spending Is Taking Toll on Economy
For months, beleaguered American consumers have defied expert forecasts that they would soon succumb to the pressures of falling home prices, fewer jobs and shrinking paychecks. Now, they appear to have given in.
UPDATE: The Associated Press has changed the headline to "Soaring prices for food, gas push consumer spending higher" I'm sure they apologize for any implied optimism.
Headline of the Week
Larry Kudlow mentioned it on his show last night, and Instapundit links today:
Jimmy P: Dude, Where's My Recession?
Of course, even the +0.6 growth didn't stop Kudlow's permabears from asserting recession on the show last night.