December 31, 2008

I'm Not Going Crazy

The real crazy ones always point to another crazy person that thinks the same way as proof.

I saw a Pepsi Commercial and thought they were cashing in on Obama (it would be great if somebody could!) Evan Coyne Maloney agrees:

If Pepsi is invoking Obama’s campaign materials deliberately—and I have no reason to believe that they are—then maybe the folks behind it see some business sense in doing so.

Judging from the volume of painted plates and limited-edition coins being hawked on TV ads that gush about Obama’s “kind eyes and warm smile,” the Merchandising of the President-Elect might be the only growth industry left.

Here in NYC, you can’t walk a block in midtown without passing several street vendors pushing Obamawear.

Click through -- he's got pictures. Hat-tip: Instapundit

2008 Posted by John Kranz at 1:47 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

That's it. That's *%#@ing it. I'm going back to Diet Coke.

I avoid the absurd crowds of Times Square for good reasons, and now I have one more. I already feel like vomiting when I pass the street vendors he mentions -- it's true!

But you see, even this libertarian would buy of their wares, if only they'd just sell Obama sock monkeys...

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 31, 2008 2:53 PM
But jk thinks:

Hmmm. Obama sock monkeys? Could work.

Trust me, the TV commercial is worse -- you keep waiting for "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message."

Posted by: jk at December 31, 2008 3:51 PM

Fellow Lab Rat

One last whine about the FDA in 2008? Thanks. In addition to actually killing Americans with bad policies, impeding science, and reducing investment in biotech, the FDA approvals process also forces rules that directly interfere with participants' treatment.

Fellow lab rat, Gideon J Sofer has a guest editorial in yesterday's WSJ that spells it out:

Under the Fifth Amendment's guarantee that "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law," a critically ill patient should have access to a potentially lifesaving drug that has been deemed safe for human consumption, if the patient agrees to bear the risks involved. But earlier this year, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case on the issue, denying countless patients their right to pursue life.

FDA rules have a scientific foundation, but the slavery to the double-blind study needlessly interferes with self-directed treatment. Sofer suffers from Chron's Disease and his life is under threat. I suffered the same fate. If my case is less severe, it's not really less severe to me.

I was surprised -- though I should not have been -- when I completed a three-year clinical trial, I was not allowed to discover what treatments I had received over the trial. The drugs I took are now commercially available and it might have made sense for me to try something that I took in placebo form or a very low dose.

I read a great article in Reason that complained that the rules are stacked to provide a good supply of desperate people for clinical trials. I don't think that's the plan but it is a consequence that feeds back into the system. Hey, you can die or you can participate in this trial is pretty compelling.

When you're done, thanks for your time but don't expect any information that you might use to select future treatment. We're the FDA and we have a public to protect!

Posted by John Kranz at 9:01 AM | What do you think? [0]

December 30, 2008


I submit that there are two true meritocracies left: professional athletics and jazz musicianship. The WSJ Ed Page wishes Congress were held as accountable as NFL coaches: "Three of the league's 32 coaches got the sack yesterday, following three who were fired during this season, and there are undoubtedly more to follow."

NFL coaches are highly paid celebrities who know the perils of their trade, so it is hard to feel sorry for them. But in this age of government failure and corporate bailouts, there is something refreshing about a line of work that is so unforgiving about performance. In the phrase of Bill Parcells, the head of football operations for the (11-5) Miami Dolphins and former Super Bowl coach, "You are what your record says you are."

Pop music of all flavors can be pretty capricious, with the talented and not seeming to get equal distribution of spoils, but I suggest that in the realm of "serious" jazz, all those who make a living at it are pretty damn good. It's less obvious, but I suspect that guys who can play at the top level do not lack for gigs. I know plenty of really good players who struggle, but I doubt that there is a Joe Pass out there who can't find work.

I remain enchanted with Nicholas Nassim Taleb's "The Black Swan," and I plan to change my life to accommodate some of his theses. But he indirectly implies that there is no meritocracy (I may be misreading this, I encourage all ThreeSourcers to read this book and tell me if I am wrong). I suggest NNT grabs himself a brew, puts some Django on his iPod, and watches the NFL playoffs with the sound turned down.

(The non-appearance of my beloved Broncos could be cited as proof -- but I don't see the Chargers as being far more deserving. Colts by 20. And, hey, Go Iggles!)

Posted by John Kranz at 6:20 PM | What do you think? [9]
But jk thinks:

I don't think there are a lot of Raiders fans to upset around here, but I'll let you know if I get complaints.

Owners are not selected by merit because they're pretty difficult to fire (cf, Davis, Al). I thought of including classical musicians in the meritocracy pool but I don't know that sector well enough to make a call.

With Country, you do have a fight on your hands. I like good country music but the contemporary Nashville scene seems no less capricious than pop or hip-hop.

As soon as I heard about Mike Shanahan, I wanted to retract and expunge this post. Yet it proves the point: Shanahan won one playoff game in ten years. I wouldn't have let him go, but Pat Bowlen did. And yet our 535 incumbents-in-chief are giving themselves a big raise and settling into their offices.

Posted by: jk at December 31, 2008 1:44 PM
But Keith thinks:

jk: I *did* put that "with some noteworthy exceptions" to cover both some recent (and past) aberrations in country as well as classical (cf. Salonen, Esa-Pekka). You're not the first, either, to take note of the recent changes in country - which I blame on country's own success, which has made country a destination for some artists in other genres with some talent (cf. Rucker, Darius), and some without (cf. Simpson, Jessica); as well as the increased demand for the product leading to the lowering of the bar for the supply of talent.

I was going to avoid naming names, but hey, shouldn't New Year's Eve come with fireworks?

Should I not have the opportunity to join in again before the end of the day, here's wishing the entire Three Sources blogbrotherhood the very best of New Year's celebrations, and all the best in the coming New Year -

Posted by: Keith at December 31, 2008 3:08 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

@Kieth: Country? Meritocracy? Have you heard a single song by Taylor Swift?

I generally agree with JK's assesment. Country has devolved into a pop music with a fiddle.

~T. Greer, blaming CMT Music Videos

Posted by: T. Greer at December 31, 2008 4:59 PM
But sugarchuck thinks:

Wow, a post on the Broncos and country music all in one convenient location! We watched Shanahan's press conference today and as my wife quietly wept I felt this coach was the embodiment of Hemingway's "grace under pressure." I hope that Mr. Bolen's exercise in creative destruction works out but if Shanahan winds up in Kansas City he will be doing a Shiva like two-step on the hearts of Bronco fans for years to come.

Speaking of the two step, it is important to remember, when discussing country music, that in Nashville, in the shadow of the CMT building, real country musicians play real country music on Lower Broadway. The same Cashville Gnats who turn out drivel for triple union scale during the day go down to broadway and play for peanuts at night, just to do something real. These two universes, living in parallel, have always been there. Keith points out that Nashville doesn't know how to handle it's success and this awkwardness has also always been there. The fact is that there is no greater place to see meritocracy at work than in Nashville. The greatest musicians and not just country musicians flock there and only the best of the best get to gig. They have the best pickers, song writers, singers and facilities and yet they seldom fail to disappoint. They have a glorious history and they seldom fail to piss all over it, driving the likes of Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn out of the industry while simultaneoulsy trying to ride their coattails. Thankfully others like Rick Rubin and jack White allowed these giants the opportunity to record some of their most compelling work when Nashville turned it's back on them. The sorry fact about Nashville is that's it run by Al Davis.
I will stop the diatribe with a short reading list. "How Nashville Became Music City USA- 50 Years of Music Row" by Michael Kosser is a good place to start. "Dreaming Out Loud" by Bruce Feller is depressing but informative and for something uplifting, try Mark Zwonitzer and Charles Hirshberg's "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone" a great biography of the Carter family. And buy any and every damn record you can find by Buddy Miller. That's country.
Wishing all the Three Sources folks and happy and healthy New Year, it's your old cousin Sugarchuck pickin' and a grinnin'.

Posted by: sugarchuck at December 31, 2008 5:59 PM
But jk thinks:

We do aim to please, sc. Best of 2009 to you and yours.

I briefly considered trying to make this a universal post by asking if anybody saw President Bush seated next to George Jones last night at the "Kennedy Center Honors." Maybe get immigration and the FDA in there, we'd be on to something.

I haven't spent a ton of time in Nashville but I spent a lot of time in Austin, TX. Sixth Street is covered with awesome awesome awesome super fantastic guitar players who are not making money while the pretty boys (and girls) on CMT are raking it in. That ain't meritocracy.

I must admit Alan Jackson did a nice job on "He Stopped Loving Her Today" as Mister Jones looked on. I can be a little harsh.

Posted by: jk at December 31, 2008 6:23 PM
But sugarchuck thinks:

Hey JK, I wonder if we don't actually have a problem with free markets here. More people want Shania Twain records than want Redd Volkheart. More people want to watch fishing shows on t.v. or poker tournaments than hockey. Maybe those guys are getting ahead on merit and we can't see it, being the snobby elitists that we are. Well, actually you are the elitist with all that jazz music; I am a hillbilly.

Posted by: sugarchuck at December 31, 2008 7:11 PM

Brave Sir Obama

Unforunately, we were treated to Mr Obama's opinions for two years about how things were wrong. Now that world watches his every move, he has the temerity to say, "there is only one president at a time."

Meanwhile, the world waits.

World leaders, including Gordon Brown and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, have called for an immediate ceasefire.

Mr Ban even said that Israel’s response attacks from Gaza amounted to an ‘excessive use of force’.

But Mr Obama has made the decision to leave all comments to outgoing President George Bush, who has so far chosen only to attack Hamas.

On the golf course, his security team even turned away a letter from pro-Palestinian campaigners urging him to help stop the four-day-old violence.

Pensioner Robert Steiver, 65, of Honolulu, said he was disappointed that the president-elect was not echoing the condemnation of other world leaders.

He told the Honolulu Advertsier: ‘I don't think he's taking a vacation, he's preparing to be the next president.

‘I'm deathly afraid he'll continue the failed policies of the Bush administration. I've been suffering with the Palestinians for years.’

But jk thinks:

Still time for one last disagreement with my blog brother ac in 2008 -- awesome. (Maybe I misread...)

I'm actually pretty pleased at both his deference to President Bush and his allowing Israeli operations to continue. The World and the Daily Mail readers eagerly await somebody to stop Israel. And I fear next January 20, the new Sherriff in town will be more likely to kowtow to the good opinion of the Daily Mail editorial board.

Posted by: jk at December 30, 2008 12:22 PM
But AlexC thinks:

My disagreement is not with Bush or his response, it's correct.

My complaint is that Obama is laying low.

He should be agreeing with Mr Bush and his administrations policies towards Israel.

I fear that his silence is driven by knee-jerk "dont agree with Bush-ism"....

Posted by: AlexC at December 31, 2008 2:07 AM
But jk thinks:

Good point. I guess I am so relieved that he is not attacking President Bush in this, and championing appeasement that I am handing out props. You're right. Happy New Year.

Posted by: jk at December 31, 2008 11:34 AM

December 29, 2008

The Spirit of Bailouts Past

Tyler Cohen makes a good case that the 1998 "Bailout" of Long-Term Capital was both a bad precedent and sowed seeds of moral hazard in the very companies we had to bail out a decade later.

At the time, it may have seemed that regulators did the right thing. The bailout did not require upfront money from the government, and the world avoided an even bigger financial crisis. Today, however, that ad hoc intervention by the government no longer looks so wise. With the Long-Term Capital bailout as a precedent, creditors came to believe that their loans to unsound financial institutions would be made good by the Fed — as long as the collapse of those institutions would threaten the global credit system. Bolstered by this sense of security, bad loans mushroomed.

I don't know that I am completely convinced, but it is a solid case and a solid cause for concern. If that blossomed into this, than shall this become -- ooh, I don't like to think of it!

Hat-tip: Professor Mankiw, who is gaining converts to his bleedin' Pigou Club all the time...

Best Magazine Article of the Year?

If nominations are open, I'll suggest Matt Lebash's Paean to Detroit: The City Where the Sirens Never Sleep.

It's long and difficult. You'll feel like hell when you're done. What else can I say? Hat-tip: Terri

UPDATE: His Weekly Standard colleague, Jonathan V. Last, has some nice words for the piece as well on Galley Slaves.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:21 PM | What do you think? [2]
But HB thinks:

What are these things you call 'magazines'?

Posted by: HB at December 30, 2008 10:39 PM
But jk thinks:

Funny, I subscribe to the Weekly Standard but saw this piece online first. You're not unfamiliar with the area -- does he go too far?

Posted by: jk at December 30, 2008 11:42 PM

Quote of the Day

Hollywood hotshot Benicio Del Toro is not a stand-up comic, but he seemed to be playing one earlier this month when he said he found the role of Cuban Revolution hero Ernesto Guevara, in the new film "Che," like Jesus Christ.

"Only Jesus would turn the other cheek. Che wouldn't," Mr. Del Toro explained. Right. And Bernie Madoff is Mother Teresa, only she wasn't into fraud. -- Mary Anastasia O'Grady

The entire editorial is a good refutation of the new wave of crap we will have to hear from Hollywood as they "celebrate" the 50th Anniversary of the Castro Revolution.
The miserable Argentine was killed in 1967 in the Bolivian Andes while trying to spread revolution in South America. But his vision of how to govern lives on in the Cuba of today. It is a slave plantation, where a handful of wealthy white men impose their "morality" on the masses, most of whom are black and who suffer unspeakable privation with zero civil liberties.

There is something rich about the supposedly hip, countercultural Hollywood elite making common cause with Cuba's privileged establishment in 2008. Its victims -- artists, musicians, human-rights activists, journalists, bloggers, writers, poets and others deprived of freedom of conscience -- would seem to deserve solidarity from their brethren living in freedom. Instead, the ever-so avant-garde Soderberghs side with the politburo.

Cuba Posted by John Kranz at 1:09 PM | What do you think? [0]

Christmas Tree Pix

With all respect to blog friend Perry Eidlebus, I pretty much never wish I lived in New York City.

The one exception is every year when he posts his pictures of the tree at Rockefeller Center. Way cool.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:20 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I wouldn't want to live in the city, either! I actually live in a clean, quiet suburb. Work and play in Manhattan are enough for me.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 29, 2008 3:07 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

NYC is a wonderful city to visit. Love the theater, love the restaurants - and love to come home.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 30, 2008 12:08 PM

December 27, 2008

More From The Telegraph

Will Fleet Street burst into flames? TWO complementary articles about our departing President in as many weeks! Today, they run a piece by Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. And the chattering classes shall surely burst.

Much of the condemnation of his policies though is driven by a venomous hatred of Bush’s personality and leadership style, rather than an objective assessment of his achievements. Ten or twenty years from now, historians will view Bush’s actions on the world stage in a more favourable light. America’s 43rd president did after all directly liberate more people (over 60 million) from tyranny than any leader since Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Widely seen as his biggest foreign policy error, the decision to invade Iraq could ultimately prove to have been a masterstroke. Today the world is witnessing the birth of the first truly democratic state in the Middle East outside of Israel. Over eight million voted in Iraq’s parliamentary elections in 2005, and the region’s first free Muslim society may become a reality. Iraq might not be Turkey, but it is a powerful demonstration that freedom can flourish in the embers of the most brutal and barbaric of dictatorships.

The success of the surge in Iraq will go down in history as a turning point in the war against al-Qaeda. The stunning defeat of the insurgency was a major blow both militarily and psychologically for the terror network. The West’s most feared enemy suffered thousands of losses in Iraq, including many of their most senior commanders, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Qaswarah. It was the most successful counter-insurgency operation anywhere in the world since the British victory in Malaya in 1960.

My blog brother jg and treasured common-tater tg both say no "worst presidents list" would be complete without him. Reason devoted a special issue to ensuring that he did not leave office without some sneering contempt from his intellectual betters on the right. Gene Healy's Cult of the Presidency and David Boaz's Politics of Freedom devote multiple chapters to blistering attacks. A good lefty friend says that it will take several presidencies to undo all the Bush and Cheney evil.

I don't think I'm a cheerleader at the end of term two. But I am not going to do an Andrew Sullivan on y'all and decide that the Bush Presidency that I cheered was a disaster. He leaves us with a solid Supreme Court, seven years of safety in a troubled world, and two democracies in the Middle East.

Even Sharansky turned on him at the end. I will not

Hat-tip: Jules Crittenden, who adds:

Because war and the defense of freedom, contrary to the misty Hallmark rearview of people unwilling to take any action to do so, is not a pretty or an easy thing. I’d add that it is with tremendous grace that George Bush has accepted his designated role as villain, fall guy, punching bag, even as president-elect Barack Obama picks up where Bush is leaving off. Maybe someday they’ll look back at that small footnote, Bush’s magnanimous handling of the not-so-friendly fire, as another sign of his great statesmanship. Much as Lincoln, revealed as an “ape” by lesser pols and small opinionmongers in his time, is today the statesman, commander in chief and champion of freedom everyone wants to be compared to.

But T. Greer thinks:

JK- I just saw your reposte. I have to go at the moment, so I will reply to it later!

~T. Greer, trying not to ignore his many critics. ^_^

Posted by: T. Greer at December 30, 2008 12:15 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

tg: You've brought up many issues, and JK has answered several of them well. So, let me address a couple of the items that seem more aggregious.

"FDR did much more than make the decision to free millions. He made a prolonged and well thought out effort to do so." Are you kidding? When Hitler took power in his putsch, FDR did nothing. when Japan invaded China, FDR did nothing. When Japan invaded Burma, FDR did nothing. (Gradually, he placed sanctions on Japan, which led to their attack.) When Hitler invaded the Sudentenland, FDR did nothing. When Hitler invaded Poland, FDR did nothing. Same for the Low Countries, Norway and France. (By nothing, I mean nothing of consequence.) Only after Japan bombed the sh*t out of our Pacific fleet and after Germany declared war on us did he take action. The US military was woefully unprepared for WWII, despite years of enemy build-up. The Refugee will humbly submit that this was not "prolonged and carefully thought out." Had Japan waited a year to attack, it's conceivable that Germany would have defeated Britain and Russia and we'd have a fascist Europe to this day, with no thanks to FDR. There is also ample evidence that he ignored credible intelligence regarding the Nazi concentration camps.

Although the analogy between Iraq and stopping fascist Germany/Italy was not intended, I will nontheless stand by it. Radical Islam is a fascist movement bent on world domination, killing the Jews and any other infidels that refuse to submit. Their methods may be different, but their goals are eerily similar.

WRT to the Lyndon Johnson analogy, there is nothing similar between the prosecution of the Vietnam war and Iraq. The US military was not permitted to engage the enemy if they crossed over into Cambodia, so of course that's exactly what they did to evade US firepower - and cross back over at night, guns-ablazing. We also carpet bombed Hanoi. The objective was not to defeat the North Vietnamese, but rather "hold the line" and not allow it to defeat the south. This was assinine. There are two outcomes in war: victory and defeat. GWB understands this; JFK and LBJ did not.

"Russia- At the point of Bush's election, Russia was a tentative friend or the U.S. Now, Russian and American relations are at a tension not seen since the Cold War. Part of this is due to internal Russian politics, and part of this is due to Bush's inability to develop a coherent and consistence Russian policy." If getting Russia on board with US policy is the criterion for success, then every president since 1917 has been a failure.

And, that last element is kind of the point. Presidents must pursue a strategy with incomplete information, coordinate with allies that have different agendas and whom he does not control, with enemies that will subvert our efforts on general principles all while protecting the people from bad guys who want to kill us. This is not a Harvard case study or a video game. It is flesh, bone and blood where the consequences are real. With apologies from The Refugee, an assessment from what appears to be a purely academic perspective that does not acknowledge real-world realities seems more suited to a liberal cocktail party.

Nevertheless, we can agree to disagree. Curious Refugee minds what to know: who would you rank as the worst five presidents in history?

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 30, 2008 5:52 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

I think I will hit BR's objections first:

BR, you are missing the point. I am not championing FDR's decision to enter WWII-- I am championing how he went about waging a war once he made that decision. Now, I agree with you, it was fundamentally a just and brave decision on Bush's part to do so. However, that is not enough. We do not celebrate Washington for his decision to lead the Continental Army, but for his successes while doing so. We do not celebrate Lincoln for his decision to carry out a war with the Confederate States, but for his ability and judgment in the prosecution of that war. Likewise, I cannot celebrate Bush for deciding to go to war, when every subsequent action of the man brought us closer to defeat.

This is not all Bush's fault-- I would place more of the blame on a certain SecDef and his advisors than the President himself. But as the chief executive, he still holds responsibility for the mistakes made by those in his administration, particularly when he allowed them to go on for so long.

Now, it is real easy for me to play the armchair general 5 years later. Presidents work in real-time environments, and they face pressures I certainly do not. However, that does not excuse them for their sins. And Bush's were bad. Johnson's strategic thought might have been "Lets hold the line", but Bush's was never more than "We will have victory." But WHAT victory, Mr. Bush? How are we to define 'victory'? How are we to achieve it? Who - and how many - will fight for it? Do we have the troops, infrastructure, or institutions to do so? And please, Mr. Bush, tell me WHO the enemy is that we should be fighting against.

Bush never did any of this. He (very publicly) failed to secure international backing for the invasion of '03, he failed to exercise oversight over a ballooning military, he failed to come up with a strategic vision (much less short term goals)for either occupation, he failed to develop a consistent policy for relations with Afghani/Iraqi assets and officials, he never even attempted to patch up alliances that were broken over this war, he failed to designate who our enemies in this conflict were, and he failed to change course until Iraq fell into a civil war and the Republican Party faced a clear electoral defeat.

In short, Bush recognized the need for victory, but never developed nor pursued a plan to ensure such.

These are all things Bush should have done, these are all things he could have done, and they were things he was told to do by every dozens of policy experts and military personal.

Now, on to Jk’s objections (and I will include BR's Russia quibble here):

I included a lengthy list to demonstrate that I was not just picking the bad apples out of a good orchard. I apologize for not showing this intent more clearly.

*Aye, Churchill did cozy up to Stalin, but both were facing existential threats at the time, were they not? Besides, this misses the point: the Bush foreign policy was characterized by the removal/intimidation of regimes termed "evil." Those who do not define "evil" by the deeds or presence of despotic governments, but by the level of anti-Americanism found in their statesmen, are simply pharisaical. Treating Syria and Venezuela as enemies but blessing Egypt and Saudi Arabia as friends betrays American values, and shows the rest of the world our hypocrisy.

*I think we are going to agree to disagree here. In my mind, the decision to place missile defense (which is next to useless anyway) over Georgian and Ukrainian NATO membership to be one of the worst lapses in judgment Bush has had. But if you wish to equate the death of 4,000 Georgians to the Macarena, be my guest.

*I broadly agree with you on Russia, but it was hardly an unsalvageable situation. I would contrast Bush's role here to that of Bush Sr. (BR, this is for you!) Bush Sr. managed the disintegration of the Soviet Empire, convinced the Russians to let a reunited Germany enter NATO, and received Russian support for the First Gulf War- and all this within one term. Granted, it cost him monthly face-to-face meetings with Gorbachev (and an election, now that I think about it...) but he still did it.

*I think you might be underestimating world opinion. While you are right, Western leaders are a bunch of Americophiles, this does not mean that we are guaranteed pro-American policies. A hypocritical or tyrannical U.S. (see my comments about the Saudis above or past conversations we have had about torture here on Three Sources) is often the determinate of whether there is a young Jordanian detonating an IED in Afghanistan, and if the men targeted are German or American.

Finally, here are my Presidential lists. I really hate this exercise, but will go ahead and do so because BR asked politely.


A. Johnson
Bush Jr.


F. Roosevelt

Now, I have a question for JK- I have seen you reference Coolidge and Fed 10 a dozen times now. Perhaps I am just unfamiliar with the Coolidge administration, or I might be reading something funny in into Fed 10, but I do not understand the connection you are drawing between the two. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

~T. Greer, list-maker.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 31, 2008 3:48 PM
But jk thinks:

Mea Maxima Culpa, tg. You do catch me in error. I remember #10 as being Madison's call for a forceful C-in-C and #69 as calling for Executive restraint in legislation. I have 69 right but not 10 (67?). Sorry, color me embarrassed.

In Meacham's "American Lion" I loved that Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun were horrified that President Jackson would veto a bill just because he didn't like it. They were convinced, and got Madison to privately concur (sort of), that this was overreach. The veto was for unconstitutional legislation -- and this crass business of energizing public opinion against legislation, why this must not stand! It hasn't really been uphill since then, has it?

Bad citations aside, I consider Coolidge the last of the "Chief Magistrates" as opposed to "King of the Universe" presidents. (And the maligned Harding was 2nd-to-last).

We'll agree to disagree on "my points" but I am appalled by your response to br. You've got into my head on this. I am a worse military tactician than academic. But the unproductive butchery in the Civil War and WWII are well documented. I respect Lincoln's firm leadership as an exact parallel of my appreciation for W. I even salute the war leadership of FDR though I hate his domestic heresies. But to say that either had a better plan or made fewer or less costly mistakes is to torture history.

I'll stand by my sentiment that Churchill, Reagan, and Bush all cozied up to unpleasant leaders to continue the fight against a worse foe. History has borne out Reagan and Churchill; perhaps it's too soon to call Bush, but I think time will be kind to the idea of keeping alliances with Muslims in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan to fight (Hussein's) Iraq, Iran and Syria.

(Is Venezuela an enemy? We buy gobs of oil and allow him to speak at the UN.)

I don't consider missile defense worthless. We can disagree there. I cry for the squashing of nascent democracy on Russia's borders but I can't look you in the eye and say I was ready to enforce NATO obligations against her last year.

To end the year on a happy note: yes, opportunities were missed to improve Russian relations. And thanks for the word "pharisaical." That's awesome. Happy New Year, my friend.

Posted by: jk at December 31, 2008 6:58 PM
But T. Greer thinks:


Lincoln had definite goals and procedures in waging war. Lincoln sacked generals who did bad, and for more than just not liking him. Lincoln developed rules for the treatment of Southern civilians and slaves. Lincoln developed a broad plan for victory, and knew what needed to be accomplished (and more importantly, had an idea of how to do it) before he would end the fighting. While doing all of this, Lincoln managed some tough diplomacy with Great Britain and France.

Washington created and standardized an army from the ground up. He developed a sound logistics train and officer core, and convinced the state governments to give him the troops he needed to fight with. Likewise, he developed a broad strategy for victory over the British force which was applied by all Continental generals.

FDR determined what would constitute victory and pursued such with (again!) a well thought out strategic vision. To do this, he revolutionized the American war-machine, played some smart diplomacy to keep various allies on board and in check, and developed rules for the treatment of the enemy and resistance groups.

In each of these cases, the man in charge defined what they would accept as victory, developed a long-term strategic plan to achieve victory, and successfully dealt with the logistic and diplomatic problems facing the war effort.

It is my proposition that Bush failed on all three counts.

I do think we will have to put the matter of American values vs. American friends off for a different day- I am sure that I can write pages on the matter, and I do not want this to overwhelm the discussion. (However, if you wish to continue on this line of thought, I will be glad to oblige.)

--Well, I would characterize the relationship between Venezuela and the U.S. and mutually hostile. I will remind you that we allowed Ahmedinijad to speak at not only the UN, but Columbia University. ---

~T. Greer, trying to find a good place to put that word for more than a week now.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 31, 2008 8:04 PM
But jk thinks:

We're almost off the page here. Nature's way of telling you to stop beating a dead horse.

I don't remember saying that President Bush was better than Lincoln and Washington. I expressed real astonishment that you and jg called him one of the worst.

You may not have liked Bush's plan, style, diplomacy, treatment of combatants, and definition of victory but it is specious to claim that he did not have them. And ahistoric to claim that Lincoln excelled in these areas.

War opponents complained that he moved the goalposts from "a free, democratic Iraq" to "a stable Iraq at peace with its neighbors and an ally of the United States in the War On Terror." In neither of those do I not hear a clear definition of victory.

I think Bush, Rumsfeld, & Co. were too patient after the Golden Dome of Samara (sp?) was bombed. There are times for patience and staying the course, but they should have acted sooner. Beyond that, I think the war was justified and pretty well prosecuted. Not perfect, but when I manage a perfect software project I'll start asking American Presidents to project power halfway around the world without error.

Funny, reading your list I think "Bush did that." He defined victory, worked out a plan with his Generals and SecDef, and managed extremely delicate relations in the UN and with hesitant allies. He even rebuilt the military into the light footprint, high-tech, distributed command force of which you disapprove.

Bush "developed rules for the treatment of the enemy and resistance groups." You may not like them, but you cannot claim that he ignored. His rules have been adjudicated in the Supreme Court several times. If you think they're too harsh, fine. But I humbly suggest you do not bring up Saint Franklin Delano Lets-lock-up-everybody-who-looks-like-our-enemies Roosevelt as the gold standard. (I'll see your Hamidan v. Rumsfeld and raise you a Korematsu v. United States).

When I read David Frum's "The Right Man," I was convinced that President Bush would be remembered as one of the best. Frum has abandoned him and I have cooled. But I will still put the dude in the top half.

And I expect to miss his integrity and his willingness to take a tough stand.

Posted by: jk at January 1, 2009 12:25 PM

December 26, 2008

Top Ten Failed Climate Predictions

From the (Australia) Herald Sun:

GLOBAL warming preachers have had a shocking 2008. So many of their predictions this year went splat.

Here's their problem: they've been scaring us for so long that it's now possible to check if things are turning out as hot as they warned.

Linked from a James Lewis post in Pajamas Media that makes my favorite comparison. Lewis describes a heated exchange between Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, whom he describes as a "former anarchist street fighter during the infamous ‘68 riots — who is now a big Green honcho in European politics. Said Danny the Red to Vaclav Klaus: 'You can believe what you want, I don’t believe, I know that global warming is a reality.'"
And there you have it, folks, the voice of skeptical reason assaulted by militant dogma, ready to burn as many witches as may be needed to defend the One True Faith. If this sounds familiar, just think of Galileo and Pope Innocent III, who did not want to peer through Galileo’s telescope at the night sky, having a rock-hard faith that made evidence unnecessary. Danny the Red, shake hands with the Renaissance Pope. Two peas in pod.

But it does not matter whether their science collapses -- they've won the election.

But johngalt thinks:

They've won THIS election.

It's now time to establish an Official DAWG Record for every American politician: Where do they stand now, as the evidence continues to mount that the whole thing was at best a monumental misjudgement or, possibly even an epic swindle. Those who still insist that "global warming is a reality" may well have exposure on legal fraud charges. At the least, they should never again receive serious consideration for elective office.

Posted by: johngalt at December 28, 2008 8:15 PM
But jk thinks:

Wow. You're a lot more confident than me. I'd love to celebrate swift retribution and look forward to the televised trials. But, ahem, we're still considered the kooks, not they.

Popperian epistemology has not been employed to engender skepticism, but it will be employed to keep this theory afloat. We will never be able to disprove DAWG. I expect it will hang around, like recycling plastic milk bottles, long after it is shown not to have merit.

Posted by: jk at December 29, 2008 12:05 PM
But jk thinks:

Even less sanguine after reading this list of scientific illiteracy among the bright and beautiful. Demi Moore recommends "highly trained medical leeches" to detoxify your body. What was that about bad ideas sticking around?

Posted by: jk at December 29, 2008 1:31 PM

December 24, 2008

Bees on Blow

Terri @ I Think ^ (Link) Therefore I Err seems to imply that the government is not getting its money's worth studying the effects of cocaine on bees:

Normally, foraging honey bees alert their comrades to potential food sources only when they've found high quality nectar or pollen, and only when the hive is in need. They do this by performing a dance, called a "round" or "waggle" dance, on a specialized "dance floor" in the hive. The dance gives specific instructions that help the other bees find the food.

Foraging honey bees on cocaine are more likely to dance, regardless of the quality of the food they've found or the status of the hive, the authors of the study report.

I agree with Terri. Really, we learned all about that just watching John Belushi...

Merry Christmas

Hans von Spakovsky tells the story of Christmas 1919, celebrated by his father and 16 others as they skied across the arctic to escape Communism.

I will not excerpt, you'll want to read it all.

Whom We Put In Charge

Quote of the Day? You decide. The following is from a WSJ news piece:

Rep. Stark also advocates giving the secretary of health and human services -- Mr. Obama's pick is former Sen. Tom Daschle -- the authority to negotiate prices of prescription drugs covered under Medicare and the new government program. "This idea that we just pay anything pharmaceutical companies are going to charge is ludicrous," Rep. Stark says of Medicare's current drug benefit.

Ludicrous. That private companies charge what they feel is appropriate for the products that they develop. It is so obvious to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's health panel that Government should be setting prices for pharmaceuticals.

I think there is much to be said for Charles Krauthammer's theory that President-elect Obama's centrist picks on economics and foreign policy -- which I have met with approbation -- represent a desire to make those things "go away" so he can remake the energy and health care sectors in a top-down, government model.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 12:05 PM | What do you think? [5]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

It's this idea that one man decides what to pay pharmaceutical companies that's ridiculous.

Don't like the price, don't pay it. Companies ask prices because that's what they calculate enough people will pay to maximize profit.

Liberals say that our fears are overblown, because somehow -- they claim -- Obama isn't pushing for government-run health care. When government is dictating the price, how is it not government-run?

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 25, 2008 11:20 PM
But jk thinks:

Yeah. Government is going to compete with private business and dictate prices for the millions it provides for already -- but they say this is not a government takeover.

Posted by: jk at December 26, 2008 11:07 AM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Apparently, The Refugee is going to have to take the dissenting viewpoint on this one.

It is certainly worth arguing whether or not the government should be in the medical insurance business in the first place. But that's not the issue here, and government is in the insurance business whether we like it or not.

Therefore, it is only prudent business that the government, as the payer of the claim, negotiate the best possible price. The government negotiates prices on every piece of business via competitive bid, why not negotiate on pharmaceuticals? Indeed, it is The Refugees money (and JK, and PE, etc. etc.) they darn well should negotiate the best possible deal! "List price" is often just a starting price for negotiations, with the seller calculating that the savvy buyer will negotiate down to a number more representative of the "market." If the government will pay whatever Big Pharma demands, then why should they not add another zero? And another? Rational businesspeople would do so.

The boys and girls at Big Pharma are grown-ups. If the price demanded is too low, they can always say, "Sorry, I can't sell it to you at that price."

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 26, 2008 12:18 PM
But jk thinks:

I cannot disagree more, spirit of the holidays notwithstanding.

Big Boys at Big Pharma can say no as long as a vibrant private market remains. I fear the government is soon on its way to monopsony power in pharmaceuticals. In addition, private firms can elect to peg their maximum cost to the government price.

Secretary Daschle will have outrageous bargaining power but he will not have good information. His prices will be based on politics -- a real bottom -up market would be priced on need.

Posted by: jk at December 26, 2008 12:32 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

If it were a case where the government said, "You'll sell it to us at this price - or else," The Refugee would be right with you. But that's not the case - yet.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 26, 2008 12:55 PM

Economic Theory and Bailouts

ThreeSources friend Josh Hendrickson (the Everyday Economist) has an excellent column in TCSDaily on "What macroenomic theory has to say about the financial crisis."

The work of Robert Barro, Charles Plosser and John Long as well as Nobel laureates such as Milton Friedman, Franco Modigliani, Finn Kydland, and Ed Prescott have much to say about the impact of macroeconomic policy.

Unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions, the work of these economists has received scant attention during the current crisis. Nonetheless, their work remains important in explaining the futility of much of the current policy prescriptions. Equally disturbing is the return of self-professed Keynesians with policy prescriptions that are wholly inconsistent with both Keynes and modern macroeconomic theory.

He explains several theories that speak to expected efficacy of stimulus plans. If there's a common thread, it's that none of them predicts much success for the proposals under consideration.

Oh well, Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2008

Quote of the Day

I don't understand why there's so much opposition to Caroline Kennedy for the NY Senate seat. From reading the Newsbuster's item linked below, she has a sense of entitlement, doesn't know the issues and generally works about two hours a week.

Seriously, what more could you ask for? It's almost as if she's already been there for years.-- Dan Riehl

Posted by John Kranz at 4:52 PM | What do you think? [0]

You Read Blogs Too Much

If you get this, you need a life: Jeffry Goldberg in his Atlantic blog:

This is James Bennet, editor of The Atlantic.

Most readers know that the views expressed on Jeffrey's blog are his own and don't always reflect the views of The Atlantic. Such is the case with regard to Jeffrey's comments on the relative merits of hummus and baba ghanoush. Our institution has partnered with the makers of baba ganoush, as well as tabouleh and fattoush, on a number of projects, and we have a great deal of respect for their excellent work product, including the entire spectrum of Middle Eastern salads and paste-like foods, with the exception of halvah. We at The Atlantic do not take sides in the ongoing dispute between partisans of hummus and partisans of baba ghanoush. These food products are key leaders in the Middle East food products industry, and we look forward to eating them in the future.

Yes, I read blogs too much, I think it is hilarious. Backstory.

December 22, 2008

On the Mootness of Legislators

Blog friend T. Greer sends a link to George Will's column Making Congress Moot. The column is unsurprisingly well crafted and reminds me why I appreciate Will in spite of his Conventional Wisdomness. Will rubs salt in the wounds opened by Gene Healy's book.

If TARP funds can be put to any use the executive branch fancies because TARP actually is a blank check for that branch, then the only reason no rules are being broken is that there are no rules.

In spite of the dubious merit of bailing out the Detroit Buggy Whip industry and its deeply flawed business model, Will is dead on that the arrogation of power to the Executive is complete. Purse strings for policy are clearly to be controlled by the House of Representatives. Yet, when Congress demurred, the Bush Administration took the money out its AIG Widow's and Orphan's fund.

TG sends the link, an excerpt, an incendiary quote form his CNN interview, and a link to my I [Heart] W post, asking "Why was it again, that you can love this guy?"

Well, the post linked was about personal virtue, which I feel our current President has in spades. I would say the same about President GHW Bush, with whom I had even more policy disagreements. President (GW) Bush's capacity to take the heat and do the right thing are worthy of admiration. And, as my post said, I think will be sorely missed.

Will's point of Executive power expansion is a fair cop. Unlike Healy, and Reason Magazine, I have a difficult time blaming President Bush for this. This is a structural, systemic flaw in the Constitution as we practice it. I don't know how to fix it, but don't expect Bush to be the guy fighting clean on Pro Wrestling. The game is fixed and Rove/Bush had a way to play it.

I'll provide one example. My hero, President Coolidge’s response to the 1927 flood of Louisiana earned him a line in a Randy Newman song.

President Coolidge come down on a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note pad in his hand
President say "Little fat man, ain't it a shame?
What the river has done to this poor cracker's land?"

That was Coolidge's Katrina. President Bush went in with an army of FEMA agents and, well an Army, and -- because he was two days late -- his administration was deemed incompetent. I say that he never recovered. War is always unpopular and he was destined to lose support in Iraq. But Katrina removed the perception of competence and left all policy subject to criticism.

What would Kanye West have thought if Bush had pulled a Coolidge? He would have been impeached! It's well and good for Healy and Will and Reason and even my great friend TG to complain about The Imperial Bush Presidency, but the people demand it. They gave a landslide victory to a successor who promised even more involvement in the markets.

I'm enjoying Jon Meacham's "American Lion" biography of President Jackson. Though we recovered from Jackson and Lincoln, it is interesting to watch early expansion of Executive Power -- and twice as interesting to see how it is considered heroic by the historians.

Individual parts of Bush policy have been debated around here. And I come to the end of the second term less enthused than ever about "big government conservatism." Again, I won't call it treason. It was an experiment: give the people the government they want (look at the polls, they do want it) but build it on market mechanisms like HSAs and private Part D administration.

I'll listen to intelligent criticism from the right or left, but I cannot look back and wish that we had elected President Gore or Kerry.

As I type this, another blog friend sends me ammo. Ed Gillespie's Myths and Facts About the Real Bush Record. Well worth a read in full, though it targets typical left criticism, I find myself drowning in contempt from the right.

I worked pretty hard to elect Governor Bush in 2000 and harder to re-elect President Bush in 2004. There have been disappointments, but I am not regretting those efforts. Yes, he has flaws. No, he does not represent all my beliefs. He was the best electable candidate in 2000 and 2004 and I will not abandon him at the end.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:20 AM | What do you think? [6]
But T. Greer thinks:

JK, I just don't know if this convinces me.

For one, the problem is much larger than the expansion of the Executive Branch. I will repeat the quote I attached to the letter for those who did not receive it: "I HAVE ABADONED FREE MARKET PRINCIPLES IN ORDER TO SAVE THE FREE MARKET SYSTEM."

In my mind, nothing else needs to be said to consign Bush to the bowels of the "worst President ever" list historians like to make in their free time.

But, you do bring up an interesting point. Bush is just waltzing past congress by giving the TARP money to the Big Three. I guess this incident encapsulates all of my problems with Jr. Here we have an imperial Presidency, disregard for the rule of law, and faux capitalism all in one happy bundle! Other than the *idiotic* idea of a small-footprint warfare, what is missing?

~T. Greer, fed up with W.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 22, 2008 8:59 PM
But jk thinks:

It may have escaped your otherwise keen attention, tg, that President Bush is sometimes not the most articulate spokesperson for his beliefs and ideas. If you're going to take a single quote and dub dubya the "worst President ever" I suggest you buy one of the popular "Bushism" books and be done with it.

Many gripes against this President from the right are well founded. I cannot think of one that is likely to get any better under President Obama. I had some hope for less Jovertesque drug prosecutions, but with AG Holder, umm, not so much.

Okay, worst President ever. Who is great and would any of the greats have a chance of capturing a single delegate in a modern election? Brother JG said "worst" or "one of the worst" in a recent comment as well. I will admit to being stupefied at that. President Bush has not been a solid advocate of small government. Stack him up against Wilson, Nixon, LBJ, FDR, and *ahem* TR, I think he comes out pretty well. I'd have zero problem putting him ahead of Clinton, GHWB, Carter and Kennedy. Bubbling up close to the top of the 20th Century Presidents.

Lastly, to continue our orthogonal thought: small footprint warfare was an awesome idea; small footprint nation building failed.

Posted by: jk at December 23, 2008 11:58 AM
But T. Greer thinks:

Touche. (I probably should buy a Bushism book now that I think of it..)

However, my problem with the quote is that it is not just words -- it truly reflects our President's actions. He has given his whole-hearted approval to what the folks here at Three Source's call "outright socialism." And not only that, but he has trampled across the constitution to do it!

I have trouble accepting the "people of America demand it" argument. To put it lightly, Mr. Obama has received a heavy dose of criticism on these pages. Considerably less vitriol has been thrown at Mr. Bush -- despite the fact that they are doing the same things, for the same reasons. Your acknowledgement that Bush is expanding the executive branch far beyond its bounds and while suffocating the market for the sake of public demand seems at odds of your perception of Bush as a virtuous man. Would a man of virtue bow to the mob as you say he is?

You do hit head on the nail when you note that things will be no better under Obama. Policy wise, things will get quite a bit worse. But there will be a silver lining with the loss of Mr. Bush: the words, terms, and images surrounding free markets, limited governance, and the GOP might just be separated from the sitting President. For in truth, Bush has done more to damn conservative policies than all of the elocutions Obama could dream up. His faux conservatism has been deemed the real thing, and nothing short of a colossal screw up on the other side will bring about a change of heart.

As for the worst Presidents lists- honestly, I think the whole exercise is a bunch of crock. The challenges faced by Presidents, an individual President's power, and the metrics by which we can rate them vary so widely from Presidency to Presidency that drawing up little lists seems kind of childish. With that said, I can hardly call Bush's two terms a success. If we are looking at long term influence, Bush has very likely doomed any chance of true conservative policies to be implemented for quite a while. Either way, I would not say he was a "good" President in any true sense of the term.

Finally, I would suggest that the problem implicit with small foot-print warfare doctrine is that it assumes small foot-print nation building will be able to clean up the messes it makes.

~T. Greer, still not convinced.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 23, 2008 1:31 PM
But jk thinks:

While it does not refute anything you say, read Bill McGurn's piece. When I speak of expecting to miss him, this monstrous amount of personal integrity and decency come to mind.

It is extremely frustrating to hear Bush's policies related as the apogee of small-government and lassiez-faire. I blame the media for that and not the President. They will find sins just as egregious when President Bush is back home in Texas.

I disagree with the President on the automotive bailout as I have disagreed with him many times. But I applaud the Justices he has appointed to SCOTUS, respect his veto of the SCHIP extension and his attempted veto of the farm bill. No he's not the lost love child of Ayn Rand and Lysander Spooner, but when Secretary Daschle is installed in HHS and the government moves to take over 17% of GDP, I'm going to miss the guy who vetoed SCHIP.

I provided a list of worse Presidents to ask you if you stood behind your statement that he was the worst. You don't have to rank Taft against Hayes. But I'd like to hear you say that you really think Bush worse than Wilson, Nixon, FDR, and LBJ.

Posted by: jk at December 23, 2008 7:19 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

You ask a fair question. Is Bush worse than Wilson, Nixon, FDR, and LBJ? Well, I would say that depends on what metric you use.

If we judge our President's by their ability to accomplish what they have sent out to do, then the only one of those fellas worse than Bush is LBJ.

If the we judge our President's by how much better or worse off a country is after they have completed their terms (this is a completely arbitrary metric in my opinion, but it is used) then Bush gets beat out by FDR and Wilson.

If we judge our President's by the long term effect his Presidency has on the country, then it is pretty much impossible to make any accurate judgments for 20 years. Still, from the perspective of 2008, it looks like Mr. Bush has done more to hurt American democracy then anyone else since FDR.

At the same time, I have no trouble placing all of the President's you mentioned before (GHWB, Clinton, Kennedy) ahead of Bush on all three counts.

~T. Greer, wannabe Presidential Historian

And for the record: I think TR beats the snot out of Bush when it comes to a Presidential record. ^_~

Posted by: T. Greer at December 23, 2008 9:15 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

P.S. I should probably clarify this: I do not think 43 is the worst. I just think he belongs on the list of the worst.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 23, 2008 9:18 PM

December 21, 2008


If you look forward to getting your meal from a dumpster, you're not some form of environmental nobility.

You're a frigging bum.

You don't get celebrated.

You don't feted.

You're a stinking bum.

Veneration of these guys
gets on my nerves.

But jk thinks:

It should bug you, ac; you have a righteous cause against the Freegans. I have little problem with those who want to do live that way. It doesn't grab me but I'll call it a valid "lifestyle choice."

Yet I wholeheartedly (hoof hearted?) agree that those who celebrate them as heroes are the people Karl Popper warned would send up back to the caves. We spent thousands of years developing the affluence that the Freegans can take for granted. Rather than innovate and contribute, these urban hyenas will live off the surplus of those who do.

Posted by: jk at December 22, 2008 11:15 AM
But T. Greer thinks:

I just think the word is funny. freegan

Try and use it in a sentence with a straight face.

"To guard against freegans, Whole Foods put up a fence."

See? You just cannot do it. I laugh everytime I say the word.

~T. Greer, not a freegan. Hehe.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 22, 2008 11:53 AM

December 20, 2008


The headline caught my eye: Obama signals new approach to science Popperian epistemology is out? Huh, what?

It turns out that President-elect Obama is -- well, let the AP tell you:

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama today named a Harvard physicist and a marine biologist to science posts, signaling a change from Bush administration policies on global warming that were criticized for putting politics over science.

Both John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco are leading experts on climate change who have advocated forceful government response.

The Bush science people were political, but Holdren is a scientist!
Colleagues say the post is well-suited for Holdren, who at Harvard went from battling the spread of nuclear weapons to tackling the threat of global warming. He's an award-laden scientist comfortable in many different fields.

The hopelessly-pro-Bush partisans at the New York Times, however, may not be so keen on the pick. John Tierney asks "Does being spectacularly wrong about a major issue in your field of expertise hurt your chances of becoming the presidential science advisor? Apparently not..." Tierney mentions -- and the AP and Denver Post omit -- Holdren's experience in scare-mongering and junk science:
Dr. Holdren, now a physicist at Harvard, was one of the experts in natural resources whom Paul Ehrlich enlisted in his famous bet against the economist Julian Simon during the “energy crisis” of the 1980s. Dr. Simon, who disagreed with environmentalists’ predictions of a new “age of scarcity” of natural resources, offered to bet that any natural resource would be cheaper at any date in the future. Dr. Ehrlich accepted the challenge and asked Dr. Holdren, then the co-director of the graduate program in energy and resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and another Berkeley professor, John Harte, for help in choosing which resources would become scarce.

In 1980 Dr. Holdren helped select five metals — chrome, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten — and joined Dr. Ehrlich and Dr. Harte in betting $1,000 that those metals would be more expensive ten years later. They turned out to be wrong on all five metals, and had to pay up when the bet came due in 1990.

This is great because I love to bring up Paul Ehrlich to fervent DAWG believers and you know I love a good segue. Ehrlich's catastrophic and catastrophically wrong predictions seem comical today. It's not about the strike price of Tungsten. Ehrlich thought we'd all starve to death in the 1990s.

It seems fitting and proper that an Ehrlich associate would be promoted to science advisor in an Obama Administration (where's that in the Constitution again?) but absurd that we have to read about his appointment as a triumph of science over politics.

Read the whole Tierney piece just as much as you can stand of Hope Yen's AP story.

Automotive History

Megan McArdle offers a comprehensive description of TheBigThree's troubles, and some dark predictions for their future outlook. In addition to the familiar oligopoly story, there are quite a few new details that I had not considered: the function of the dealers, the incentive structure during the oligopoly days, and the double-edged sword of profitable financing divisions:

But perhaps more importantly, Detroit turned from making money on cars to making money on financing. Detroit didn't make a big profit by selling you a Ford Taurus. It made money on financing your Ford Taurus; often, the car was sold at a loss in order to get the finance business. The Big Three were banks manufacturing cars as a loss leader.

That's why they could afford to pay their workers above market wages. They were not trying to make a profit on the manufacturing process. The UAW wages and benefits were not compatible with profitability in the auto business five years ago. Or ten years ago. Or fifteen years ago. The UAW is not being asked to bear the pain of returning the company to profitability in a tough market. The UAW is being asked to get their wages back to where they would have been in the first place if they hadn't been subsidized by the now-unprofitable financing arms. Detroit has spent decades buying labor peace with increasingly desperate ploys that have finally run aground.

Good stuff! Hat-tip: Instapundit

December 19, 2008

Can We Call Him a Denier?

All Hail Professor Mankiw! He links to an AP report claiming "Only one outside economist contacted by Obama aides, Harvard's Greg Mankiw, who served on President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, voiced skepticism about the need for an economic stimulus, transition officials said."

Clearly the Economics is settled and Mankiw is just some flat-earther from the Bush administration! They probably just asked the old man to be nice. Mankiw points out:

Skepticism, rather than unequivocal opposition, is the right word. When contacted, I said the same things I have been saying on this blog: that monetary policy is not out of ammunition, and that tax cuts are potentially more potent than spending increases. I could have added that a spending-based stimulus to address the current short-term crisis might lead to a long-term increase in the size of government, but I doubted that concern would sway Team Obama. In general, I think economists need a large dose of humility when evaluating alternative proposals to deal with the current downturn, as there is still a lot we do not understand.

I am sure I am not the only person in the economics profession skeptical of spending increases to stimulate the economy. See, for example, GMU economist Tyler Cowen. If the new administration wanted to find more skeptics of stimulus spending among professional economists, I could have come up with some possible candidates for them, but the Obama economists probably already know who those likely skeptics would be.

Nixon was wrong. We're not all Keynesians now. He should have said "We're all Keynesians except for N. Gregory Mankiw." Thank all that is good and decent in the world that there is one.

Millions of Green Collar Jobs!

Candidate Obama promised his administration would create millions of "green collar jobs," and to most it was a successful platform. Myself, I heard "Wasted $Billions and stifled innovation from government intrusion" but I am a partisan hack.

I'd bore whoever would listen with "when the government picks winners in the energy sector we get Synfuels and Ethanol." Let the Senators decide what projects get funded and don't be surprised if we're all driving our cars on Iowa's major export. Had Senator Craig had not been busted, I suppose we'd be developing a potato-fuel infrastructure.

In addition to creating more greenhouse gases, costing more, and adding to volatility in world food markets -- how's that Ethanol decision panning out? Instapundit links to this story about the collapse of North Dakota's ethanol industry and the evaporation of subsidies promised to keep the economically unviable industry afloat:

North Dakota has an annual capacity of 333 million gallons of ethanol. Due to this year’s excessive commodity fluctuations, VeraSun, the state’s largest producer (which recently filed for bankruptcy), is itself eligible to claim a full $1.6 million from just one quarter’s worth of production. Over the past two months the price of corn has dropped sharply, leaving producers with very expensive inventories.

It remains to be seen if this fund is essential to North Dakota’s ethanol producers and if they can weather the storm without it.

But Keith thinks:

Denier? Pshaw. Think of him as that kid with enough nerve to point out that the emperor was out parading in the buff.

Being the only person in the house to see the truth and act on it does not make one wrong.

Posted by: Keith at December 19, 2008 6:59 PM

The Lure of New Law

The Everyday Economist has a brief, trenchant post on Madoff and Regulation. Among other virtues, it contains a Wikipedia link to Charles Ponzi, infamy incarnate. One assumes his progeny must change their name or avoid employment in the financial sector. "Herb, this is Harry Ponzi, he has a new idea for a hybrid credit-swap derivative that I think you should look at. Hello? Herb? You There?"

I digress, again. The important point is that there are laws on the books against fraud. Every time there is a high-profile case -- a Gaggle of Legislators introduce new legislation -- at great cost to the business community. Yet, the problem, more frequently, is lax enforcement of existing regs.

1.) Regulation is important and we need rules in place against such schemes. Free enterprise operates best when there are rules (whether enforced by government or private entities).

2.) Regulation is only useful if it is actually enforced. One point that I have made regarding the financial crisis is that it was not merely a failure of regulation, but also of regulators. Decisions within regulatory agencies to relax the regulatory standards renders such standards useless. Thus, even with regulation in place, we need regulators who will actually do their job. The Madoff scandal highlights the fact that the regulatory agencies have become nothing more than a joke in terms of enforcement.

My desire for lassiez-faire too frequently has me cheering for business at all costs. But every time a crook gets away with something, a new law is passed that saddles the next honest innovator. Thusly can little-l libertarians appreciate tough law enforcers like Rudy Giuliani and Charles Evans Hughes. Prosecutors need to follow the rules and use discretion. But more competent enforcement is the best protection against the rapid expansion of new regulation.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 10:49 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US patent office in 1899 famously said, "Everything that can be invented has been invented." If The Refugee might be so bold, he would like to coin a phrase, with apologies to Mr. Duell: "Everything that can be regulated already has been regulated." Unfortunately, our Congressmen like our entreprenuers seem to have endless creativity.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 19, 2008 11:31 AM
But Keith thinks:

"The important point is that there are laws on the books against fraud. Every time there is a high-profile case -- a Gaggle of Legislators introduce new legislation -- at great cost to the business community. Yet, the problem, more frequently, is lax enforcement of existing regs."

It's "feel-good" legislation - legislation that makes the legislators feel like they're "doing something" rather than doing nothing, and leaves the voters with the false impression that their legislators are taking the situation seriously and working on their behalf (rather than meddling in the natural course of the economy to its detriment, like the amateurs they are).

We already have the laws on the books necessary to have prevented this situation; they merely need to be enforced.

I once proposed that there should be an article of the Constitution, forbidding the passing of any law unless it was accompanied by the repeal of two others. Silly, perhaps, but if you stop and think about it...

Posted by: Keith at December 19, 2008 12:02 PM

December 18, 2008

Lexus, Schmexus...

At at loss for what to get the Spousal Unit for Christmas, The Refugee chanced upon a small ad in the WSJ from Avantair. "Give the gift of travel," it says. Fifteen hours of private jet travel for just $72,750 all with the convenience of a card. Sure. He'll slip one of those little beauties into The Mrs.' stocking. Won't she be surprised.

Media and Blogging Posted by Boulder Refugee at 6:06 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

If Mrs. Refugee gets 15, I suppose the blog brothers will be settling for the 10 cards this year. Sigh, I guess we are in a recession.

Posted by: jk at December 18, 2008 6:18 PM

The Loss of Freedom

A lot of people think I am nuts. And I sincerely hope they are right. We focus, 'round these parts, on right-vs-left arguments, with a liberal smattering of internecine right-on-right. Yet for the bulk of people I know, the question is "why do you worry so much?"

I say that the Obama Administration, supported by solidly Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will curtail freedom. My friends on the left have been waiting for these policies, but my moderate friends think that nothing will change, it never does, vote for the tall guy with the nice hair and everything works out okay.

I tip a hat in my bio to Moss Hart's play "You Can't Take it With You." I loved Steinbeck and Vonnegut without ever embracing their collectivism. As I told Sugarchuck, I've even listened to Willie Nelson without nostalgia for an 18th Century agrarian economy. But I have never shaken Hart's dastard message that productive people are dull. If I may yank another line out (from memory) Grandpa Vanderhoof recalls a distant past election and said that he was quite agitated at the time over who won but that it doesn't matter now.

I certainly think they all matter and that people who do not will just see their liberties diminished before it is too late. I don't expect people in the stockades (well -- unless they fail to recycle) but it is coming. The WSJ Editorial Page discusses a bill that Rep. Barney Frank is anxious to submit. The bill would "protect consumers" from having their rates increased. What it will really do is force those with good credit to subsidize the abusers. As a result, we lose access to flexible and cheap credit.

Scolds in Congress such as Barney Frank have long sought to clamp down on the credit-card companies. Mr. Frank seems to believe that credit terms that Americans freely accept when they apply for a card are nevertheless predatory, and he has had a bill ready for years that would put in place the same restrictions on interest rates that the Fed is now proposing. So there's little doubt that the Fed's proposed rules are the result of pressure from Mr. Frank. The new rules will also appeal to those who think Americans spend too much, and save too little, and blame credit cards for encouraging the trend.

Likewise, we'll soon see bankruptcy judges (or the FHA) redictating terms on existing mortgages. And we will lose access to cheap mortgages that have been a huge boon to people in all income quintiles.

Not with a bang but a whimper (can I mix Moss Hart and T.S. Eliot in one post?) we pass on a far less free world to the next generation. A more union-structured workforce that will be less dynamic and reduced access to innovative financial vehicles (only Frank and Dodd Approved®)

As a net result, people will have to lead duller lives of less risk and less potential. And so few will know what they are missing,

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 12:40 PM | What do you think? [3]
But T. Greer thinks:

"The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? "

~Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.

Posted by: T. Greer at December 18, 2008 1:46 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Great post, JK. The Refugee shares your concerns about the loss of liberty under the incoming administration. But, he must admit that the current administration has done more to promote socialism in this country than anyone since Lyndon Johnson. The moniker "Big government conservative" should be an oxymoron, but is apt label for GWB.

Nevertheless, The Refugee sees a different microeconomic outcome. If Barney's bill becomes law, credit companies will either deny credit to marginal consumers because they cannot get a fair return for the associated risk, or they will severely limit the amount of credit available to lower income consumers. Either way, it hurts precisely the group that Barney professes to champion.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 18, 2008 2:34 PM
But jk thinks:

I agree that "poor and minorities will be hardest hit." I'd guess that most legislation hurts those it aims to help.

But I'd caution against thinking that a market will remain for good credit folk. The providers (predators) know that they can raise rates on a customer who becomes delinquent, or whose scores suffer. This allows them to offer lower rates across the board. They will have to price you not as you are but as bad as they can imagine your becoming.

Looking too much at my own life, cheap credit helped me pursue entrepreneurial ventures. My scores are pretty good today, but I was not the only guitar player with a few credit stains. Taking that away removes the freedom of another young person to pursue a music career, small business, or educational opportunity.

I would not recommend that any young person follow my circuitous career path. But it saddens me that the simple freedoms that I enjoyed will not be available to my nieces and nephews.

Posted by: jk at December 18, 2008 3:22 PM

December 17, 2008

Bush's Fault

I read about Lou Dobbs all the time, but I never watch him. Here, the doyen of domestic border security calls for the impeachment of President Bush -- over tomatoes!

This earns the populist a #4 in The Media's Top 10 Worst Economic Myths of 2008. Great stuff! Hat-tip: Samizdat Jonathan Pearce

But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Apparently the guy really is a dumb as they say. Of the millions of pounds of fruits and vegetables that come over the border, he wants to impeach Bush for not finding the few pounds tainted with a microscopic organism. The Refugee suspects, however, that Dobbs views Mexican-grown tomatoes in the same light as illegal aliens.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 17, 2008 7:25 PM
But jk thinks:

Was it Federalist #10 or #69 where the Executive was charged with making sure nobody ever eats anything bad? I get all those mixed up.

With the new guard, I suppose we'll have the department of bad cheese stationed in our homes to sniff the milk and check the sell-by dates.

Posted by: jk at December 18, 2008 12:05 PM

Y'Know, Children Are the Future

Wow, the new incoming administration seems really, really devoted to education. WaPo's Dana Milbank shares a couple examples in "No Comment -- and NoDoz:"

Yesterday, the president-elect began with opening-statement platitudes: "If we want to outcompete the world tomorrow, then we're going to have to outeducate the world today. . . . We need a new vision for the 21st-century education system."

Obama followed that by allowing the vice president-elect to deliver one of his trademark meanders: "My mom has an expression -- and you all are tired of hearing me say this all through the last couple years -- that children tend to become that which you expect of them. . . . These kids, Mr. President, are the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft."

I can't think of a thing to say that hasn't already been said by Gov Blagojevich.

Posted by John Kranz at 4:01 PM | What do you think? [3]
But Keith thinks:

"If we want to outcompete the world tomorrow, then we're going to have to outeducate the world today. . . . We need a new vision for the 21st-century education system."

Well, that explains the selection of Arne Duncan, the architect of the success of Chicago's public school system, to serve as Secretary of Edumacation. He's done SUCH a great job there...

I'm going to defer to one of my betters to insert a comment about the Bill Ayers philosophy of education here.

Posted by: Keith at December 17, 2008 6:06 PM
But jk thinks:

Don't b'lieve you have a better around here, Keith. But shouldn't we be glad the President-elect did not pick Ayers as SecEd? Saving him for Homeland Defense, I suppose.

Posted by: jk at December 17, 2008 7:06 PM
But Keith thinks:

OUCH. I didn't even think of Homeland Defense (Though I suppose under Ayers it might become Homeland Offense?). On the other hand, I'll see you and raise you - put him in charge of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

I have to confess - my paying day job is in the same tall building in Glendale, CA that houses BATFE. I regularly wind up sharing an elevator with one of them, and when the doors open on their floor, you can't miss their impressive lobby carpet with the expensive departmental seal.

"Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, huh?" I ask innocently.

"Yes, sir," comes the usual humorless response.

"Ought to be a convenience store, not a gov'mint agency," I give them, usually laying on the Southern drawl a little thicker than usual. One time I got a laugh; most of the time, I get a funny look - the one that says they probably have a file on me somewhere.

A man's got to do what he can to keep himself entertained.

Posted by: Keith at December 17, 2008 9:55 PM

I Don't Know, We Amended in '92...

Inspired by Blog Friend T. Greer, I became a Facebook fan of The United States Constitution. Tack it right on the end after Joe the Plumber and AlexC's dog Kielbasa. I was amused by the standard Facebook line under the picture:


Posted by John Kranz at 2:59 PM | What do you think? [0]

Jackson Jr. Sings Like Bird

According to Fox News, Jesse Jackson, Jr. has been singing to the Feds for years about Blago and others. The Refugee wants to know: in politics, is better to be a crook or a squealer? When it comes to Chicago, The Refugee thinks he knows the answer. Jackson's career is done.

Politics Posted by Boulder Refugee at 11:52 AM | What do you think? [3]
But jk thinks:

You have got to respect a Chicago squealer. Like many, I was concerned that our President-elect had no record of standing up to corruption. Well done, Rep. Jackson!

Maybe this is the start of a "Chicago Awakening?"

Posted by: jk at December 17, 2008 12:50 PM
But AlexC thinks:

four or six years of singing?

how many arrests?

sounds like he's just keeping his nose "less dirty"

Posted by: AlexC at December 17, 2008 2:49 PM
But jk thinks:

Okay, so the bar's a little lower for Illinois Democrats. I'm just filled with the spirit of the season, ac.

Posted by: jk at December 17, 2008 3:08 PM


I have split with my mentors at the WSJ Ed Page twice this week -- and it's only Wednesday!

The hard money crowd is understandably not happy with a Fed Funds rate less than 25 bps. The title of the lead editorial this morning is "Bernanke Goes All In."

If the current Fed believes there are limits to monetary policy, you can't tell from yesterday's Open Market Committee statement. The 10 members voted unanimously to take its target fed funds rate down to between 0% to 0.25%, from 1%. With Treasury bills already trading at close to zero as the world flees toward safe investments, the practical impact of this rate cut is negligible.

Many have recalled 1990s Japan with its Zero interest rate and government infrastructure projects, and this is certainly worth fearing. Nor is comforting that the Obama Team is reading books about FDR's first 100 days (and none, I expect, will read Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man).

But I'm onboard with the FOMC based on something Don Luskin said the other day. (YouTube on his site). By having a 1% rate, the Fed basically offers a safe overnight rate on cash that banks cannot get anywhere else. What planet have I landed on that considers a 1% riskless rate as being market-distortingly high? But there it is.

So the lower rate won't necessarily create liquidity but it will keep the Fed from mopping up the liquidity that is out there. Sounds right to me, and I can hardly see the inflation ramifications of 1% vs. 0 - .25%

Crazy days, kids. Crazy days.

The Lost Christmas Eve

The Refugee has always been a sucker for a good Christmas album and decided to take a flyer with the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Grabbing the easiest thing on the shelf, he got their newest album, "The Lost Christmas Eve." He was not prepared for the heavy metal nature of some of the cuts. "This sounds like Christmas-meets-Tommy," he muttered upon listening to the first two tracks. Upon further investigation, he learned that it is indeed a rock opera, proving that The Refugee has not lost his keen eye for the obvious.

After getting his head around the idea that it is not a traditional Christmas album, the Broadway-style format kind of grew on him. He gives the album a 4 1/2 creshes out of a possible 5 and recommends it to ThreeSources looking for something a bit different. He cautions against cueing it up right next to The Carpenters, however.

Music Posted by Boulder Refugee at 11:01 AM | What do you think? [0]

December 16, 2008

Happy Beethoven's Birthday

I meant to mark the Maestro's birthday today, but I did not have a hook until now. Pillage Idiot marks the occasion to link to an older post: Starting with Nothing

What makes Beethoven great? [Claude] Frank asked. Well, he said, it's his melodies, right? And he sang the opening of the theme of the slow movement of the Seventh Symphony: C, C-C, B, B, B, B-B, C, C.

Well, it's his rhythms, right? And he sang the theme: Long, short-short, long, long, long, short-short, long, long.

All right, well, maybe it's his harmonies. And he sang: Tonic, tonic-tonic, dominant, dominant, dominant, dominant-dominant, tonic, tonic.

And he had made his point -- that Beethoven was able to create the most sublime music out of the most rudimentary materials.

Many more keen insights if you follow the link. This stupid blues and jazz boy won't offer musical insight, but I will recommend Edmund Morris's excellent biography from the Eminent Lives series of short (256 itty bitty pages) biographies.

This was the first of a coincidental string of four biographies (Beethoven, Adam Smith, Tocqueville, Chief Justice Roger B Taney) of great people who accomplished much in spite of poor health. I've stopped playing guitar because MS has taken my edge away. Ludwig wrote symphonies after going deaf. Taney thought his life almost over at 46 and celebrated the modest successes of being a successful lawyer and AG of Maryland. He didn't realize he would be USAG, Sec of the Treasury, Chief Justice -- and start the Civil War. Surely there is some trouble out there for all of us. The deafness is famous but Beethoven was in poor health most of his life.

Giants walked the Earth. Happy birthday, Maestro.

UPDATE: Attila writes that he has updated the post with a YouTube link of the movement discussed. Nice.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 6:52 PM | What do you think? [0]

The Telegraph Imitates ThreeSources!

You wait long enough, you see everything. Toby Harnden gives our President props for his handling of flying footwear:

Barack Obama may be the new Mr Cool on the block but you have to give President George W. Bush his due for a supremely self-composed and dignified reaction to the Baghdad shoe thrower.

Not only did he duck two fast-moving and pretty well aimed pieces of footwear but he discreetly waved away his lead Secret Service agent, who was ready to bundle him out of the room. Bush then quipped: "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me you may want to know."

Then, Harnden picks up a couple of points I thought would be limited to the wingnuts at ThreeSources:
No doubt much will be made of the irony of the Iraqis hitting the downed statue of Saddam Hussein with their shoes when Baghdad fell to US forces on April 9th 2003 and then, five years and eight months later, shoes being hurled at Bush.

But ask yourself this question: How would al-Zaidi have fared if he'd hurled a pair of shoes at Saddam?

Yeah, it's the Telegraph, but we're still talking British press. Then, the website offers the video of Shoeless Joe al-Zaidi juxtaposed with the American military reception I posted.

Merciful Zeus! Hat-tip: Instapundit

Jacques Plante Journalism

Montreal goaltender Jacques "Jake the Snake" Plante was known for great goaltending, being the first NHL goalie smart enough to wear a mask, and the occasional bon mot. Having worked between the pipes myself, I kept one of his quotes taped to my monitor for several years: "How would you like a job where, if you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?"

I wonder if Secretary Rice feels that way. Long time readers know my fondness for her knows few bounds. She has been one of the most articulate spokespeople for the administration’s foreign policy. (Okay, that’s not too hard.) She also has a compelling biography which has given her an appreciation for civil rights and the true non-duck-huntin' meaning of our Second Amendment rights.

The striped-pants crowd at State has ameliorated her Sharanskyite stance for freedom more than I'd like, but she has been a rock on Iraq and a staunch friend of Israel. On Iran and North Korea, the administration has not been able to achieve all of its goals. Jacques Plante did not shut out his opponents every game either.

The WSJ Ed Page lights the red lamp today and leads the boos with Condi's Korean Failure. My boys have been pretty tough on Rice. Ambassador John Bolton is held in high esteem there. Bolton, whom I admire for promoting American interests in the UN, doesn't realize that the country does not hunger for his bellicosity. He wants to take a tough line on Iran and North Korea, fine. The administration used all of its political capitol holding the line on Iraq.

I think that was the right choice. The six party talks were a good idea, outsourcing a little diplomacy to China. Diplomacy did not work, surprise. There were not many other options. I'd like Ambassador Bolton, and the WSJ Ed Page to admit that.

But Boulder Refugee thinks:

The Refugee generally shares Blog Brother JK's favorable view of Condi. (He points out, with some pride, that Condi, Sec. Gale Norton, Sen. Pete Domenici and The Refugee all hail from the same Alma Mater, Denver University. Of course, so does Sec. Madeleine Albright, but you can't win 'em all.)

However, he must diverge with BB JK on the DoS assessment and side with the WSJ. Condi's tenure has seen no improvement in State's proclivity for appeasement and an unwillingness to call out the world's dictators. We continually "pay it forward" only to get an "NSF" in return. "Foggy Bottom" is more than a locale - it's our negotiating strategy with enemies.

JK is correct that N. Korea and Iran are essentially impossible to negotiation with. However, throughout the 20th/21st century history of Secretary of State, we have yet to have one with the integrity and backbone to say, "Having no deal with these thugs is the best we could negotiate, and no deal is better than any deal."

To close out the hockey theme, The Refugee would like to point out that the seven-time national champion DU Pioneers are currently on a seven game winning streak and ranked 5th in the nation for NCAA hockey. Oh, and one more thing: CC sucks!

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 16, 2008 4:12 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, they're really my brother's Tigers, not mine, so I'll let the last line slide -- Go Pioneers!

The Refugee sets a pretty high bar for Secretary Rice. She has not cleaned up the Aegean Stables at State nor improved the proclivities of a mind-numbing bureaucracy. She didn't develop a cure for Cancer either.

But she did pave the way for the President's policies in Iraq and, as documented by Kim Strassel (her tinfoil hat repels John Bolton's poisonous thoughts), left substantive improvements in many of the world's trouble spots.

I put Bolton in the same category as the Free-Tibet and fix Darfur crowd. There is a distinct limit to our possibility to "fix things" and far less domestic appetite for additional intervention.

Posted by: jk at December 16, 2008 5:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:

johngalt's dad was a DU engineering professor in the '60's and '70's so I got to go to a few games as a tyke. I loved the little bearded man ('Boone') in a 'coon skin cap mascot for the "Pioneers." Now, the PC police are running him out of town to be replaced with a stylized pigeon.* Sigh.

Nonetheless, GO PI's!

* I searched for 20 minutes and couldn't find a better link than this one.

Posted by: johngalt at December 18, 2008 12:58 AM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

JG hits a nerve with the Refugee, as Boone was the mascot while he attended school. Chancellor Coomb recently killed Boone for all time because "It does not reflect the cultural diversity that we desire," or some such excuse. So, Chancellor, white guys with beards embarrass you? Besides, how does a hawk/chicken/stylized pigeon reflect these values better - what type of student are you recruiting? Are pinfeathers an entrance requirement?? Yeesh.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 18, 2008 3:48 PM

December 15, 2008

Teachable Moments - Who's Getting the Lesson

While some Iraqi's support those who throw shoes at a foreign head of state, and the one who gave them the ability to rear back, no less, the WSJ editoral page highlights growing, open dissent in Iran. Could it be that that bit of tinder we call Iraq is igniting the cause of freedom throughout the middle east? That may be wishful thinking, but a raging inferno starts with but a single spark. The editorial is not conducive to pulled quotes, but it's short so give it a read.

Even though the dialog in the video are meaningless to the Farsi-challenged among us, the pictures are worth a thousand words.

Iran Posted by Boulder Refugee at 3:29 PM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

I read the editorial earlier but the video is stirring!

Hollywood folk love to call themselves courageous for making their 394th anti-McCarthy film. But this is what courage looks like. This young man puts his life on the line for freedom.

Posted by: jk at December 15, 2008 4:02 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Uh, am I seeing things, or is the one on the left holding a giant foam hand?! "Go Revolutionary Guard"?

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 16, 2008 9:04 AM

Freedom on the March

Blog Brother Boulder Refugee hopes the reflexive anti-Bush partisans take a teachable moment from the shoe tossin' Muntadhar al-Zeidi. My sanguine-meter is set pretty low on this one, but you have to admit, Iraq is looking pretty free and democratic. Here's the WSJ news pages:

Iraqis Rally in Support of Man Who Threw Shoes at Bush

BAGHDAD -- Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets Monday to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, as Arabs across many parts of the Middle East hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the unpopular U.S. president.

I remember the President throwing a strike on a ceremonial first pitch a few years ago. Maybe he should have challenged Zeidi to shoes at 20 paces.

Recycling as Sacrament

John Tierney of the NYTimes wonders if we are raising children to be scientists or garbage collectors. Accolades pour in for the WV Second Graders who want to keep recycling even though the school wants to abandon it. But Tierney has concerns:

My colleague Andy Revkin suggests that the West Virginia students might be learning something useful about the interplay of economics and ecology, but I fear they and their teacher have missed the lesson. The reason that public officials cut back the program, as Matt Richtel and Kate reported, is the market for recyclables has collapsed because the supply vastly exceeds the demand. This could be a valuable learning experience for the students about markets and about the long-term tendency of prices of natural resources to fall while the cost of people’s time rises.

Instead, the students are being taught that saving resources is more important than saving human time, and that recycling is such a righteous activity that it deserves to continue even when it costs money and time to do it.

Education Posted by John Kranz at 12:06 PM | What do you think? [3]
But insane modern liberal thinks:

or why not raise them to be both?

mr. tierney was troubled because one third-grade class spent “the whole period” collecting and analyzing garbage instead of learning something “more profound” in science class. if teachers are eschewing the entire year’s photosynthesis lessons in favor of trips to the garbage dump, then we might have a problem – but i doubt that this is the case. my guess is that this was one lesson among many for the year, and that the kids were able to relate what they’d learned about recycling to their other, more traditional lessons.

after all, learning about recycling actually teaches kids quite a bit about science (how different materials break down, how even something as hard as glass can be melted and reblown if you get it hot enough, how certain kinds of bacteria can actually break down a lot of the things in our garbage cans, why it takes less energy to melt recycled aluminum than to create new aluminum, and so on), not to mention history (why many governments encouraged citizens to recycle during the world wars), consumption patterns (where things come from and what happens to things when we throw them away), economics (how cities and business can actually make money by recycling, why they’re not profiting now, and why many of them have chosen to continue to recycle anyway because the cost of paying for recycling is still less than the cost of trash disposal), and even civics/government (the kids in the article learned about our legislative process when they wrote letters to their mayor and governor to keep their recycling program alive... and don’t worry about them missing that more profound photosynthesis lesson – apparently they chose to write their letters during recess).

seems like those WV students have been doing quite a few useful things with their time.

Posted by: insane modern liberal at December 15, 2008 5:14 PM
But jk thinks:

Welcome to ThreeSources! (I actually know this insane modern liberal.)

If I believed that your suggested lesson plan was followed, I would be completely on board. All the things you describe represent valuable instruction. (Not sure I agree with your municipal economics data, but maybe these second graders will elucidate me.)

Tierney's trouble -- and mine -- is students "who fought for the right to keep recycling trash even after it became so uneconomical that public officials tried to stop the program." And "their teacher was proud of them for all the time they spent campaigning to keep the recycling program alive."

I hear the whole word cheering for these plucky lads and lasses. Fight the power! Recycle or Die! (Perhaps they are training to be Community Organizers -- that can lead to important promotion prospects.)

But my favorite lesson is Tierney's: human labor is valuable and will always attain more value. Used glass and old milk bottles will rise and fall against virgin commodities but will trend lower in value.

Posted by: jk at December 15, 2008 8:23 PM
But johngalt thinks:

"It will indeed be a great day when our schools use all their money for academic needs and will have to hold a bake sale in order to fund feel-good recycling programs."

Posted by: johngalt at December 16, 2008 12:51 PM

No Shoes Were Harmed in Making Thnis Video

I've seen the shoe-throwing video a few times and cannot fault any news director anywhere for showing it. But if anybody is looking for a little balance:

Hat-tip: Instapundit who also links to Roger Simon, who sees the incident's representing the inchoate free society that Iraq is:

while they were sneering Iraq has inched forward toward a democracy. It’s even turning into a (somewhat) decent place to live. That buffoon-like shoe chucker - his name is Muntazer al-Zaidi from Al-Baghdadia channel which broadcasts from Cairo - proved it. No matter what happens to al-Zaidi now (and it won't be much if anything), it will be nothing like what would have happened to him if he had hurled a shoe at the president during the previous Iraqi administration of Saddam Hussein.

But Boulder Refugee thinks:

There could not have been a more brilliant illustration of how far Iraq has come since Saddam was toppled. The Refugee hopes the left wing is not too busy chortling to get this larger point.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 15, 2008 12:34 PM

We're Way Beyond Moral Hazard, Boys

We've had a rare, united front against the automotive bailout around here. Imagine my surprise to see Don Luskin (video at the link) on Kudlow saying to let it roll.

I don't think the ghost of Senator Stabenow visited him and changed his mind, but he makes a few reasonable points. First that the amount of money is "a rounding error in a Farm bill;" next that the continuation of "an orderly unwinding of manufacturing jobs" would be well received by the equities markets who would find it difficult to weather another shock; and the line I stole for the title "we're way beyond moral hazard, boys." whether we will commit an additional $16 Billion after AIG, Citi, and TARP is not worth the distraction.

You don't have to like any of those points, but they are all hard to refute.


Our Minnesota commenting contingent can laugh if they choose, but we've had two record breaking cold days in a row in Colorado. Denver dropped to -19F last night (-22.4 at Atlantis Farm), and it was seven below for doggie walking this morning.

I did not hear that VP Gore was in town, did I miss the announcement?

Posted by John Kranz at 10:34 AM | What do you think? [4]
But johngalt thinks:

Thank you for noticing that our rural temperature was colder than the "official" readings taken in more urban areas JK. I considered blogging it as "Sarah Palin's revenge" since the cause was an artic cold front. Unfortunately, of the upper plains states that were affected only Colorado went blue in last month's elections.

For the 12/15 archived readings that show our record low and the afternoon high of 0.9F (-17.3C for you metric-heads) use this link.

And for more on the "urban heat island effect" and it's role in the myth called "global warming" stay tuned for a future post. Those of you who've already read 'State of Fear' already know what I'll be saying.

P.S. And for those who are worrying... yes, were fine. Some frozen pipes in the insulated but unheated barn because some dunderhead (yours truly) left the door open all night but otherwise OK.

Posted by: johngalt at December 16, 2008 12:43 PM
But jk thinks:

[Insert "closing barn door" joke here...]

I completely agree on urban island effect. One thing that intrigued me this spell was that the "official" Denver temperature was moved to DIA from Stapleton after the new airport was completed. The difference with downtown was as much as 15 points. This would go against heat-island bit points to the difficulty of historical comparison.

I question whether the Earth’s temperature or average Earth temperature is a valid concept. But I am adamant that it was not accurately recorded in 1951, 1927, or 1898 -- if it can be today.

Posted by: jk at December 16, 2008 1:54 PM
But johngalt thinks:


And even though the official "raw data" temperature records are "corrected" for the UHI effect, how can anyone correctly calculate a correct correction factor? In the old days we called this a "fudge factor." Now, it's called conclusive evidence.

Posted by: johngalt at December 18, 2008 12:31 AM
But jk thinks:

Thank NED the science is settled. We don't have to worry about these little data thingies -- we can go right to the solutions.

Posted by: jk at December 18, 2008 11:57 AM

December 14, 2008

Opposing Auto Bailouts == Slavery

A very good friend of this blog trolls the fever swamps of the mad Internet left so you and I don't have to. He feeds me a good stream but I must agree that this one is top drawer. Ron Dzwonkowski of the Detroit Free Press editorial page sees the last battle of the War Between the States -- in the US Senate:

It just grinds you, doesn't it?

I mean that a handful of senators from former Confederate states could so summarily sign a death warrant for the Michigan economy. A bunch of self-serving Republicans who will now go around blaming the United Auto Workers for killing the auto industry rescue plan.
Certainly this defeat was payback for the UAW's traditional support of Democratic candidates. But maybe it ran even deeper, back to 1861 when President Abraham Lincoln exclaimed "Thank God for Michigan!" as 798 men from this state arrived in Washington to defend it against advancing southern troops early in the Civil War.

Thursday's Senate session gave this southern cabal a chance at long last to say, "To hell with Michigan!"

Dzwonkowski closes by quoting of the Senate's leading economic and intellectual lights (cough, cough!) Sen. Debbie Stabenow. She compares the financial rescue to the auto bailout and decides: "They always focus on the supply side. We're on the demand side. They say help the people at the top, and it will trickle down. But it never does."

And I didn't even excerpt how it is "sort of, you know, un-American" to decide "wages paid by the imports ought to be the industry standard." And how the UAW wages are just the last issue they can cling to after Congress has worked everything else out.

UPDATE: Megan McArdle, whom, out of deference to Perry, I will present with no adjectives, has a better take. If the UAW thinks they have fixed the problems by agreeing to reductions in 2011 "Fine, let them have the money in 2011."

This seems so elementary to me that I cannot even believe we are arguing about it: the reason Gettlefinger needs to take a haircut along with everyone else, is that if he doesn't take a haircut, GM will be back in 6 months asking for more money. There is absolutely no way whatsoever that GM has any hope of profitably making a car with labor costs higher than their competitors. Their labor costs should be lower than their competitors, because they have to sell their cars at a steep discount. Even if we somehow magically revolutionize the management tomorrow and get them steep discounts on their debt, it is going to take them years to rebuild their brand to the point where they can charge comparable prices to Japanese cars. GM cannot afford to pay its workers more than the competition in that situation.

UPDATE II: The Everyday Economist finds -- and refutes -- another overwrought column, this time from Mitch Album.

The NYTimes's Vision for Iraq

“That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.”
Don Surber calls it "Despicable." "But Bush stood tall."

I got the special eight-year-commemorative-Bush-Bashing issue of Reason last week and I have been absorbing all the AP-MSM proclamations that President Obama is inheriting a World destroyed by President Bush. And I may have mentioned that Gene Healy ends his otherwise excellent, important book with a three chapter jeremiad on the evil that is W.

He's no President Coolidge, mind you, but I will be throwing some soft cheers through the end of his term. I recommend Elizabeth Strassel's exit interview with Secretary Rice. Chris Wallace had a great one last Sunday with her as well. The Bush Years have not been a model for limited government and fiscal discipline, but he leaves two solid SCOTUS justices and a world that thankfully does not match the NY Times's vision of the Middle East. The number they don't mention in the War stats, observes Surber, is 24 million Iraqis liberated. I would add Afghanistan and the Palestinian controlled areas even though they have not made the best use of self-directed government.

A Week

... and counting.

If the Obamoids don't figure out how to handle distractions, it's going to be a fun four years.

December 12, 2008


(I think that's the last line of Slaughterhouse 5 but I'm quoting from memory.)

I'm not sure I grab Twitter (the WSJ Ed Page says it's for those who don't feel they can fill a whole blog post) but I am 'berkeleysquare' if anybody is inclined to follow or be stalked.

Technology Posted by John Kranz at 4:47 PM | What do you think? [0]

Nifty Photographs

So says Samizdat Jonathan Pearce, offering this site in lieu of commentary.

I was going to think of something profound to say about the news headlines, but every time I read the words "Gordon Brown" these days, a small part of me dies.

Methinks we're in for four similar years over here.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 3:29 PM | What do you think? [0]

December 11, 2008

Che was an inspiration to me

I think ThreeSourcers will dig this:

“Che was an inspiration for me,” D’Rivera tells “I thought I have to get out of this island as soon as I can, because I am in the wrong place at the wrong time!” D’Rivera did escape Cuba, and so far he’s won nine Grammy awards playing the kind of music Che tried to silence.

Paquito D'Rivera's 100 Years of Latin Love Songs is an album for the desert island, though some might prefer some of his more energetic stuff. What a treat to find a great artist who appreciates freedom.

Cuba Posted by John Kranz at 7:39 PM | What do you think? [0]

Ready To

The estrogen-challenged "brothers" at ThreeSources have avoided l’Affaire Favreau. But Terri at I Think ^(Link) Therefore I Err is ready to move on:

Yes, he’s apologized.
No, he’s not going to lose his job.
No, NOW is never going to speak up.
Yes, Clinton has let it go.

Get over it people. Life is unfair. Sexism still exists. GOPism exists in the media. There isn’t that much to say on this subject, so why is it continually in the news??

I guess I am all for any embarrassing coverage of Obama staff as I can get, but I'm glad Terri has discovered Hope and Change. On the serious side, I think there are quite a few in the Clinton camp who feel that sexism was employed -- successfully -- against Senator Clinton and Governor Palin by the Obama Campaign which inoculated itself against any attacks as racist.

Maybe she's right. There isn't a lot to say about it. But we can all look at the embarrassing picture one more time.

Posted by John Kranz at 1:18 PM | What do you think? [0]

Getting Our Asses Kicked in Piano

May I please use the childish locution "puh-leeze?" Puh-leeze.

Professor Reynolds links to a story in the Asia Times, full of gloom-and-doom. "Americans really, really don’t have a clue what is coming down the pike." Thankfully, Spengler (One name, kind of like "Cher") is here to warn us:

In another strategic dimension, though, China already holds a six-to-one advantage over the United States. Thirty-six million Chinese children study piano today, compared to only 6 million in the United States. The numbers understate the difference, for musical study in China is more demanding.

It must be a conspiracy. Chinese parents are selling plasma-screen TVs to America, and saving their wages to buy their kids pianos - making American kids stupider and Chinese kids smarter. Watch out, Americans - a generation from now, your kid is going to fetch coffee for a Chinese boss.

Kids, I think your Chinese boss might prefer tea -- I'd learn how to prepare both if you want a robust career.

Now I don't mean to downplay the sorry state of the American education system. It might well doom us if most of our future generation doesn’t know anything more than recycling and global warming. It's a tragedy, and I cannot contradict those who call it the civil rights issue of our time. But there is a cottage industry for people who extrapolate the end of American leadership based on days in school, or math classes. This is the first I've heard of the piano gap.

Inferiority in math and music will hurt the opportunities of individual American workers (and keyboard players) but some of our foul mouthed kids who play Guitar Hero will still exert their competitive advantage in marketing and entrepreneurship.

This is not a call for complacency. But the skill we should be worried about is critical thinking. We can always hire some Chinese piano players.

Education Posted by John Kranz at 11:01 AM | What do you think? [6]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

What a complete freaking MORON. This "Spengler" wouldn't be Stephen Roach, would it? It's the same tone. It's the same idiotic thinking, shared by our incoming president, that "OMG most Americans can speak only English!!!"

When we have to learn Chinese and Indian dialects, then maybe we should worry about our competitiveness. Till then, the rest of the world wants our business so much that they practically grow up learning English.

Oh, and when we peg our currency to China's, instead of the other way around, then maybe I'll worry.

If we followed certain economists' advice and (if it weren't impossible) became an export powerhouse like China, I'd certainly worry. It might sound good to save 50% of our national income, but the Chinese do that for much more than their retirement. It's forced savings because the government needs collateral: we think we're in trouble now, when the Chinese have been bailing out their corrupt banks for years!

And when you're the major nation most dependent on its exports for income, that's a problem because you're depending on everyone else's income. You're not exporting high-value goods, either: you're exporting low-cost goods to be bought by people with greater incomes. In other words, you're the national equivalent of the fruit peddler on the street. I'm not worried about the Chinese.

Supposedly music lessons improve concentration, intelligence, yadda yadda, if you want to believe the self-serving music teachers. Six points in IQ is nothing, and it's pseudo-science for merely putting out an average. Which children are taking music lessons but actually have lower IQs than those who aren't? It's all another post hoc fallacy: these studies cannot actually measure a child's intelligence before and after. So kids who are already a little bit more intelligent are the ones who get music lessons. And?

I had a couple of piano lessons when young, and one voice lesson as a teenager. I have a better voice than most, a good ear, and I'd put my intelligence up against most anyone.

Even were it were 6 million Chinese finishing college at 16, with degrees in business and science, I still wouldn't be worried. Where are they going to get jobs? I'm not moving to Shanghai, so any of them who would be my "boss" would have to move here. They'd have to compete with Americans who have a very big advantage: knowledge of American life and how to live it. Outsourcing can do only so much. Who remembers "Gung-Ho" starring Michael Keaton?

Americans as a whole are pretty goddamn stupid and callous, but in the end they still have to eat. There are too many who aren't pulling their own weight, but still enough of us who are economically productive to make this the greatest country.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 11, 2008 12:10 PM
But jk thinks:

I was waiting to be chastised for my complacency. I guess there's still time.

I have been spending a lot of time lately getting up early or staying up late to deal with programmers in India. India will be more competitive because they are freer; China cannot possibly be an intellectual power and not allow her citizens to read the Internet.

Indians will certainly take a lot of jobs, but we are back to Ricardo again. Americans will be able to create and market new, exciting products because the formerly scarce resource of developers' time is now abundant.

Who's bringing whom coffee? (Mmmm, coffee...)

Posted by: jk at December 11, 2008 1:02 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I've been meaning to blog about...the joy of the French press! Now that's coffee at its finest. Our Flavia coffee at work is crap, and fire marshal rules prevent us from having our own appliances, so I had to do something. I tried a French press and have never looked back.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 11, 2008 3:00 PM
But jk thinks:

Oh, yeah. Tocqueville, Bastiat, and the french press.

I was looking to open a coffee shop a few years ago and a friend brought me in to meet his friend Gene Kay who started Silver Canyon Coffee. As he gave me the tour, he scooped beans hot out of the roaster. We went to the conference room where he ground them coarse, let the water cool down to exactly 190F, gave it four minutes, and plunged. Mercy! I still dream about that.

At home, I like the convenience of the Senseo. It makes a good cup, one at a time so it is always fresh. But on Sunday I'll get out the press...

Posted by: jk at December 11, 2008 3:17 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Can a "French press" be openly discussed on a family-oriented blog?

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 11, 2008 3:45 PM
But jk thinks:

Don't know. If I come across any family-oriented blogs, I'll ask.

Posted by: jk at December 11, 2008 3:55 PM

December 10, 2008

Defending Democracy

Somebody has to do it. I will tentatively defend the institution of little-d democracy, clear my throat and call for keeping the 12th and 17th Amendments. Pull up a chair.

First, I have a suggestion for James Taranto's "Great Orators of the Democratic Party" feature:

Blagojevich was reportedly caught on a wiretap explaining that a Senate seat "is a f***ing valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."

I understand the tyranny of the majority, friends. Hot off of Gene Healy's "Cult of the Presidency," I must admit that most of our problems seem baked into the cake. Blog brother AlexC asks why we can't all agree that employer-provided health care is the problem? But the article he links to mentions "A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll this summer, for example, found that only 17% of Americans said they would prefer to buy insurance on their own." Not very electorally enticing, izzit? Aggravating 83% is not healthy to incumbency.

Reading Healy and some eloquent antagonists of the plebiscite at ThreeSources, I was thinking that the 12th and 17th Amendments were wrong. I don't know how to fix it (repeal the 24th and bring back poll taxes?), but a listen to the vulgar Governor from Illinois doesn't make me want to devolve the power from an uninformed electorate back to corrupt local power bosses.

At least the plebiscary might be rallied to throw the bums out on occasion. Not in Illinois, of course, but some places.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 1:11 PM | What do you think? [0]

The American Magazine

I have bored ThreeSourcers for a few years with suggestions to subscribe to and read The American Magazine (formerly The American Enterprise). I laughed when Johngalt and Dagny talked it up a few months ago.

But it pains me to say that editorial quality is slipping. Nick Schultz took over as editor several issues ago, and I have a world of respect for Schultz from his TCS days. But the last issue disappointed and today's featured email story shows why.

Desmond Lachman states "Now is the time for a bold new economic strategy. Let's hope that Team Obama delivers one." Lachman is a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, suggesting he has an IQ way above mine and a more serious education. (To be fair, there are some better educated squirrels, but you see what I'm saying.)

Turning to the article to see Lachman's "bold new economic strategy" one finds it missing. He offers a three point strategy for new SecTreas Timothy Geithner. The first I disagree with:

First, there must be a large fiscal stimulus package, worth at least $500 billion, designed to boost consumer spending and aggregate demand in the short run.

I guess we're all Keynesians now, President Nixon. This is the AEI? The second and third points are not worked out in much detail. Or any:
Second, the strategy must include clear prescriptions for unclogging the credit markets and rejuvenating bank lending. This will entail a wholesale rethinking of the Treasury Department's Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), which has failed to deliver its intended results.

Third, the strategy must include a plan to curb the sharp decline in U.S. home prices that continues to erode consumer confidence and compound bank losses.

After we throw half a trillion out of the sky, we'll have to rethink TARP and fix falling home prices. Are you getting this down, Mr. Geithner?

I don't mean to beat up on Lachman. But this briefly awesome magazine now reads like a sequence of blog posts. This story I complain about is 640 words counting the pull-out quote twice. I read blogs all the time and look forward to a magazine to get a little more depth on a story. The subject certainly deserves it.

On Health Insurances

... and here I was. The only one, I thought, who rants and raves to his co-workers about the employee-provided health insurance fetish that American workers are accustomed to.

There's much too much to excerpt here.

Why Tie Health Insurance to a Job?: One thing we can all agree on is that portable coverage is more secure.

I come at this topic from the 1099 perspective. As a sole-proprietor, I pay all those "benefits" out of pocket. Health insurance, retirement, "social security" benefits, etc. But I own those products, and they are portable to me, and I can select the level of coverage that suits me.

Your company doesn't pay your car or homeowner's insurance. Why should it cover a trip to the doctor?

But jk thinks:

It's not the heat, it's the demagoguery!

Both President Bush and Senator McCain had excellent proposals to make it tax-neutral to buy your own insurance, ending the bias that preserves the current system. President Bush even understood the plan.

"Senator McCain wants to tax your health benefits for the first time ever!" screamed the ads. I salute Wyden for coauthoring this piece (Maybe Sen. Salazar is not the least worst Democrat), but the American voters did not select tax neutrality; President-elect Obama and HHS Secretary Daschle are not looking for free-market reforms. Everybody relying on business or government is a nice foundation for the upcoming power grab.

Posted by: jk at December 10, 2008 12:50 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Good piece all-around. He mentions that it's government tax policies that artificially cheapen company-subsidized health insurance, because buying your own insurance is with after-tax dollars. That's the chief point.

As I've pointed out before, Americans' typical thinking that "I might as well use the coverage I have" is a big factor in driving up health care costs. Supply and demand. Someone figures he's covered for $X a year, so he'll use every penny. The insurer then has to raise rates, and people stupidly wonder why they're paying higher premiums. They think they can get $X worth of health care per year when their premiums are lower.

I just signed up for my employer's new high-deductible plan, which is mostly what I've been waiting for. It makes me "eligible" for an HSA account. Yeah. "Eligible" to save my money, tax-free, by jumping through the hoops that government holds up.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 10, 2008 2:04 PM
But jk thinks:

The Ownership Society in action, Perry!

Actually, I would dig an HSA. I have a "flex-plan" which is the same deal, only there are more hoops and if I don't spend as much as I've saved in a single year (only a government program) I am penalized by losing the difference. Boom.

Posted by: jk at December 10, 2008 2:17 PM
But AlexC thinks:

oh, i'm also for removing automatic withholding taxes from W-2 employees.

you should get a bill from your government, or be prepared to estimate your tax payment.

but the government fears that.

Posted by: AlexC at December 10, 2008 4:37 PM

December 9, 2008


Don Luskin links to this Reuters story, saying "Here's a new crisis for you, Paul." I'm trying to keep my humor as well, but this is a real article from a "real" wire service. I'll give you a taste, but you should swallow a couple TUMS® and read the whole, nightmarish thing:

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Add another economic worry to inflation and deflation: ecoflation, the rising cost of doing business in a world with a changing climate.

Ecoflation could hit consumer goods hard in the next five to 10 years, according to a report by World Resources Institute and A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm.

Companies that make fast-moving consumer goods, everything from cereal to shampoo, could see earnings drop by 13 percent to 31 percent by 2013 and 19 percent to 47 percent by 2018 if they do not adopt sustainable environmental practices, the report said.

The costs of global warming are showing up now in the form of worse heat waves, droughts, wildfires and possibly more severe tropical storms but they are not yet reflected in consumer prices, said the institute's Andrew Aulisi after the report's Dec. 2 release.

But T. Greer thinks:

This does not make a whit of economic sense. Consider this paragraph:

"Companies that make fast-moving consumer goods, everything from cereal to shampoo, could see earnings drop by 13 percent to 31 percent by 2013 and 19 percent to 47 percent by 2018 if they do not adopt sustainable environmental practices, the report said."

This simply does not work. Lets go ahead and assume that a changing climate will create an uptick in storms, damage ports, and generally hurt international infrastructure.

Sustainable environmental practices will not stop that.

According to the IPCC Working Group 1, we could cut the electricity to every factory and power plant, ground every boat abd plane, and kill every methane-releasing mammal on the planet and still have all of those same problems. Cutting emissions does not have an affect on global tempurature until at least 2045- by which time all these businesses will have failed due to the horrible problems of global warming anyway, right?

~T. Greer, incentive seeker

Posted by: T. Greer at December 9, 2008 5:26 PM
But jk thinks:

What you say has some verisimilitude, tg, but this is a scientific paper and a Reuters story. Therefore, I am going to demand a salary increase effective immediately, to counteract the ravages of ecoflation.

Posted by: jk at December 9, 2008 5:37 PM
But johngalt thinks:

That wasn't the definition of "ecoflation" I expected to read. I do believe the phenomenon is real but it is actually a situation where costs for real goods and services rise due to taxes and regulations intended to "protect" the ecology of the earth, the latter being a mostly "virtual" reality.

Of course, I really shouldn't have expected to read this "real" definition on a "real" news wire, since "everyone knows" that global warming "science" is "settled." (I'm on page 313 of Chrichton's 'State of Fear.' Great story!)

Posted by: johngalt at December 9, 2008 7:46 PM

Ditka For Senate

Charlie on the Pa Turnpike commenting on Fitzmas on Facebook:

There could be an easy way to appoint an untainted Senate candidate to fulfill Pres. Elect Obama's seat: name a Republican

Yes. Brilliant idea.

We need Iron Mike in the Senate.

From an old 'cooler post:

remember that he was going to run against Senator Obama a couple years back. Instead the Illinois GOP picked carpetbagger Ambassador Alan Keyes.

Iron Mike for President? It could be a match up of “what could have been.” Ditka is an “ultra-ultra-ultra conservative.” Apparently we’re not being served by the current crop of candidates.

But Ditka for Senate! thinks:

"This is the land of opportunity, not a land of handouts!" - Mike Ditka

Posted by: Ditka for Senate! at January 4, 2009 2:09 AM

Hope & Change

Merry Fitzmas, Republicans.

Federal authorities arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich [Democrat] Tuesday on charges that he brazenly conspired to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama [Democrat] to the highest bidder.

[Democrat] Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field, according to a federal criminal complaint. In return for state assistance, [Democrat] Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.

A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

It struck me as rather obvious that the next Senator from Illinois would have been someone like Jesse Jackson Jr, in order to retain the "only black Senator" factor.
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering."

"They allege that Blagojevich [Democrat] put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator," Fitzgerald said."

But jk thinks:

Al Franken has money -- y'know, if that Minnesota thing doesn't work out...

Posted by: jk at December 9, 2008 11:58 AM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

This is really a purely personal matter and it's clear that Republicans are on a policially motivated witch hunt. Moreover, it is a obviously racist attempt to disenfranchise black voters from the Senate.

Separately, There is no truth to the rumor that William Jefferson, (former D-La.) had offered to rent available space in his freezer to Blagojevich.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 9, 2008 1:00 PM
But The Heretic thinks:

I can’t in the right mind condone these allegations. But the “[Democrat]” plastered all over prompts me to ask if the Republican memory is short lived enough to forget Messrs Craig, Stevens, Libby, Foley, Delay and Cunningham to name a few?

Posted by: The Heretic at December 10, 2008 3:21 AM
But jk thinks:

Heretic, when the newspapers ran stories about Craig, Stevens, Foley, and Cunningham, the news media were pretty generous with R's (albeit not in boldface). I think brother AlexC is having a bit of fun.

Stevens and Cunningham are crooks plain and simple and deserve to share a cell with Governor Blagojevich. Foley propositioned a minor from a position of power.

I hate to spend a lot of letters in defense of Rep. Delay because I hold him responsible for the destruction of the Republican Party. But I don't think he was ever convicted, was he?

Senator Craig and Scooter Libby were victims of overzealous prosecution. I hope Blagojevich [Democrat] is treated better by Mister Fitzgerald than Libby [Republican]

Posted by: jk at December 10, 2008 11:39 AM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Heretic: Don't you mean "Democrooks"?

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 10, 2008 11:40 AM

Worse Than I Thought

I posted last week that President-elect Obama's apparent centrism on foreign policy and economics should not hide the leftward lurch of Senator Daschle at HHS and the drive for universal health care.

The WSJ Ed Page today reinforces that view. The lessons learned from HillaryCare were how to better push something though, not to inculcate any squeamishness about taking over 17% of GDP:

And since the lessons they learned from the HillaryCare fiasco are political, and not substantive, they are already moving full-speed ahead.

This mentality is nicely captured by Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader who Barack Obama has tapped to run Health and Human Services. "I think that ideological differences and disputes over policy weren't really to blame," he writes of 1994 in his book "Critical," published earlier this year. Despite "a general agreement on basic reform principles," the Clintons botched the political timing by focusing on the budget, trade and other priorities before HillaryCare.

President Obama will not let the niceties of democratic process and people's representation get in the way this time. The editorial describes how sympathetic members are being installed in the Congressional Budget Office to give it a favorable score, and how a coalition of rent-seeking businesses has been allied with unions and AARP to clear the way.
Most disturbingly, Democrats are talking up "budget reconciliation" to pass a health overhaul. This process was created in 1974 and allows legislation dealing with government finances to be whisked through Congress on a simple majority after 20 hours of debate. In other words, it cuts out the minority by precluding a filibuster. Mr. Daschle writes that reform "is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol," and Mr. Baucus has said he's open to the option.

I'll end it with that to leave a little cheer in this dire post. Senator Tom Daschle says reform "is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol." You slay me, Tom.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 11:44 AM | What do you think? [0]

December 8, 2008

Bite the Wax Tadpole!

The prestigious Max Planck Institute publishes the journal MaxPlanckForschung. The current issue focuses on China. "To honor the theme of the issue, the editors asked one of the journalists who worked for the magazine to find an elegant Chinese poem to grace the cover."

Follow the link to see the very attractive cover. It's a fine piece of design. After the issues were printed and mailed, however, the elegant poem was translated as:

With high salaries, we have cordially invited for an extended series of matinées

KK and Jiamei as directors, who will personally lead jade-like girls in the spring of youth,

Beauties from the north who have a distinguished air of elegance and allure,

Young housewives having figures that will turn you on;

Their enchanting and coquettish performance will begin within the next few days.

I love stories like this. Hat-tip: John Derbyshire at The Corner

Posted by John Kranz at 1:43 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Reminds The Refugee of those trendy Asian tattoos that translate to "beef with broccoli."

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 8, 2008 4:40 PM

Dude, Where's My Recession?

The Everyday Economist links to a solution to the "recession conundrum." We are told by politicians, news media, and now the NBER that we are in a recession. Yet the GDP numbers don't seem to want to cooperate. Casey Mulligan posits a credible explanation:

You may have noted the contrast between this year’s employment performance and GDP performance. When productivity grows, output can grow even while employment falls. We are in a recession (and have been since late 2007) by the employment definition (NBER uses this) but not yet by the GDP growth definition. We likely will finish 2008 with more GDP than in any year in history, yet less employment than in 2007. The GDP and productivity performance is quite different from “severe recessions.” What is severe about the 2008 economy is the news coverage, and the assault on the taxpayer!

So, it's one of those expanding-contracting economies izzit? I don't make light of 500K+ of job losses, and I am emotionally incapable of laughing at my 401(k) balance. Yet, like several bloggers, I cannot help but notice huge crowds at stores and mall parking lots. I read how disappointed they were with 3% YoY sales growth. There seems a huge line between disappointing growth and contraction. Bad times, yeah, but the mall really doesn't look like Depression 2.0.

But Boulder Refugee thinks:

The Democrats and their media enablers have a vested interest in making sure that people believe this is the worst economy since 1929. This sets the bar so low, they hope, that even Obama can't trip on it.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 8, 2008 12:20 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

My father lived overseas for the better part of the 1960s, all of the 1970s and the early 1980s. He missed the anti-war violence, the stagflation, the high gas lines, and most of all, Jimmy Carter. He didn't repatriate until after the necessary '81-'82 recession as monetary policy stabilized, but he was still quite aware of the economic woes back home. He missed some of the worst economic years this country ever saw. To put it in perspective, we think it's bad now, but it was worse in the 1970s in NON-recessionary years, in terms of inflation and unemployment.

What he didn't miss was the Great Depression. As I've mentioned on my blog and maybe in comments here, he was 11 when the Crash of '29 occurred. Were he still alive today, he could personally assure all of you that this is nothing, NOTHING like the 1930s. When there are children who are selling fruit on street corners just to survive (not so they can buy the latest Wii game or a new PSP), when there are parents making moonshine (as my grandmother did) -- and because they can't do anything else, not because it's profitable -- then maybe we can say things are bad.

Last night I saw a commercial by those "Feed the Children" scammers, showing children who were saying their stomachs hurt, they feel sick, etc. They looked more scared than hungry, probably because they were threatened unless they looked suitably wretched. Now, you show me a child in that situation, and I'll show you a lazy parent. There are jobs out there, but a lot of these single mothers expect us to foot the bill for their teenage promiscuity, and because they expect to raise a family on a 40-hour work week.

We may have "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," but how well are our lives going on? Pretty goddamn good.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 9, 2008 2:51 PM

December 5, 2008

A Toast!

To the 21st Amendment, ratified by Utah (go figure!) this day in 1933.

The WSJ features an awesome guest editorial which suggests that we learn the liberty and crime lessons of the 1930s (not that it looks like we learned the economic ones...)

But let's hope it also serves as a day of reflection. We should consider why our forebears rejoiced at the relegalization of a powerful drug long associated with bountiful pleasure and pain, and consider too the lessons for our time.

The Americans who voted in 1933 to repeal prohibition differed greatly in their reasons for overturning the system. But almost all agreed that the evils of failed suppression far outweighed the evils of alcohol consumption.

Blog Friend Perry and I have had some chatter of late about what constitutes a "true" libertarian. I would rank, very highly, opposition to the War on Drugs. I don't think any sentient grown up is "for" drugs. I've watched them kill or ruin the lives of too many of my friends.

Yet I think this issue divides the conservatives from the libs. Bill Bennett and Paul Gigot and a bunch of people I respect think that the Government is doing a good job or at least having a positive impact. Bill Buckley saw, and the boys at Reason see the costs to liberty as being too high and lacking Constitutional or moral grounding.

I object to locking up Angel Raich and I object to the entrapment of Tommy Chong and I object to government intrusion into the market's providing a rent-seeking opportunity for violent teenage gangs, giving them the money to recruit young men into a dangerous occupation.

You don't have to like it, you don't have to use it, you don't even have to believe that it has medical value. But you cannot allow the government to continue this intrusion into non-Interstate commerce and personal behavior and call yourself a friend of liberty.

Happy 21st Amendment Day -- Bottoms Up!

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 7:01 PM | What do you think? [0]

Let the speculation end!

Vice-President-elect Joe Biden announced his pick for the newly created post of VP Economic Advisor:

CHICAGO – Vice President-elect Joe Biden on Friday named Jared Bernstein as his chief economic policy adviser, a new post created as the nation faces a recession.

Bernstein, a senior economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, has been an informal economic adviser to President-elect Barack Obama's campaign. He also served as deputy chief economist under Labor Secretary Robert Reich during the Clinton administration.

In a written statement, Biden called Bernstein a "proven, passionate advocate for raising the incomes of middle class families."

Kudlow fans are likely concerned that Bernstein is getting even this close to power. Bernstein has been a frequent guest based on his ability to take a reflexively, leftist, collectivist position against the show's voices of reason.

But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Anytime you hear the EPI mentioned, watch out: socialism hides beneath the surface claims of "equality" and "fairness."

Someone from the EPI was "informally advising" Obama. Why am I not surprised?

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 5, 2008 4:25 PM

Quote of the Day

Christmas is when kids tell Santa what they want, and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want, and their kids pay for it. -- Thanks to Jameson Campaigne via Don Luskin
Posted by John Kranz at 3:19 PM | What do you think? [0]

Merry Christmas, My Friend

There is hope this season. On of my leftiest, most Bush-despisin' friends emailed me a poem and a link to a snopes story about it. From Snopes, I learned that the author is Corporal James M. Schmidt, USMC. It has circulated the Internet adapted to Army, Navy, and perhaps Zoroastrian versions. But here is the original, as it appeared in Leatherneck in 1991.

'Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I'd just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

The Dark Side of the Elections

I've been full of good cheer. The holiday season, pride in my country's peaceful transfer of power, maybe a little hope and change running up my leg -- I don't know. President-elect Obama's early picks for his economic and foreign policy teams have been superb.

Thankfully, I've a couple of links to bring you down.

Senator Daschle is speaking in my hometown today. Our next Secretary of HHS isn't going to let a little Depression get in the way of spreading socialism:

WASHINGTON -- Former Sen. Tom Daschle, who is slated to oversee health-care policy in the Obama administration, is kicking off the effort to pass a comprehensive health-care plan.

In a speech to be delivered Friday in Denver, Mr. Daschle will say, "The president-elect made health-care reform one of his top priorities of his campaign, and I am here to tell you that his commitment to changing the health-care system remains strong and focused."

Mr. Daschle will emphasize the importance of moving forward even amid the economic crisis, noting that rising health-care costs put more pressure on businesses and must be addressed. The speech does not lay out any specific timetables for action on health care by the Obama administration.

There are some videos up at, and they have been getting all kind of good ideas from the public.

First, S.D. from Delaware tells a sad story of his mother who had bone cancer. She got her medication free from the Pharma companies on the Patient Assist Programs. But in a (admittedly horrible) mix-up, the free drugs stopped coming. S.D. knows when the government starts handing out free drugs, there will never be an interruption of service or paperwork run-around.

[A neonatologist who treats premature infants in Pennsylvania is] concerned about the curtailment of services for special needs children and hopes the new administration will be able to provide access to care for “ALL children regardless of the parents’ income.”

The strains on the current system are leading a lot of young people to question whether they can truly afford to pursue a career in health care. K.J. is in her second year of medical school in South Carolina.

Young K.J. hopes that government will take over health care so that she can look forward to living la vida loco as a public service bureaucrat after she has completed the rigors of Med School and Residency -- you go girl!

The company I work for will be a prime target for the new pay-or-play rules. We have 300 employees and the heath benefits are, let me say, less than spectacular. Many ThreeSourcers have worked or still work at the same place and I think I hear their screams as they read my understatement. No doubt 298 will applaud Secretary Daschle ordering the big bad Corporation to pay. Yet the next time they would like to hire somebody to help in their department, or feel they deserve a raise, they'll have less of a chance (Monsieur Bastiat, call you office!)

The jobs numbers are off 533,000 today. On what economic planet do they think mandating benefits will reverse this?

UPDATE: Adjusted the jobs number down from 575K. I don't want ThreeSources to be accused of peddling gloom-and-doom.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 11:26 AM | What do you think? [0]

Sorry about the Outage

Senator Bob Dole called and asked "where's the outage?"

Our server was moved from LA to San Diego last night. I got a warning mail but forgot to post it.

Sorry for any inconvenience, like maybe having to read a book or talk to your family or something. It doesn't happen too often.

Posted by John Kranz at 11:00 AM | What do you think? [0]

December 3, 2008

Fabulous American Treasure

"Fabulous American treasure" and blog brother AlexC gets his props in Extreme Mortman today.

But AlexC thinks:

Howard Mortman, God love 'm.

Posted by: AlexC at December 3, 2008 8:13 PM

And The Cars Are Cooler

Insty links to another good column out of the Reason 40th issue. Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch on "The Libertarian Moment." Not sure their political prognostications are on target, but the same theme of a palpable increase in freedom shines through:

We are in fact living at the cusp of what should be called the Libertarian Moment, the dawning not of some fabled, clichéd, and loosey-goosey Age of Aquarius but a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives, from 401(k)s to hot and cold running coffee drinks, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to online dating services. This is now a world where it’s more possible than ever to live your life on your own terms; it’s an early rough draft version of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s glimmering “utopia of utopias.” Due to exponential advances in technology, broad-based increases in wealth, the ongoing networking of the world via trade and culture, and the decline of both state and private institutions of repression, never before has it been easier for more individuals to chart their own course and steer their lives by the stars as they see the sky. If you don’t believe it, ask your gay friends, or simply look who’s running for the White House in 2008.

This new century of the individual, which makes the Me Decade look positively communitarian in comparison, will have far-reaching implications wherever individuals swarm together in commerce, culture, or politics. Already we have witnessed gale-force effects on nearly every “legacy” industry that had grown accustomed to dictating prices and product and intelligence to their customers, be they airlines, automakers, music companies, or newspapers (it was nice knowing all of you). Education and health care, handicapped by their large streams of public-sector and hence revanchist funding, lag behind, but even in those sorry professions, practitioners are scrambling desperately to respond to consumer demands and compete for business.

The political pursuit of liberty since 1971 has failed, yet the advancement of liberty has not.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 3:35 PM | What do you think? [6]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

In a free market, no industry is incapable of dictating anything beyond what its customers will accept.

"The direction of all economic affairs is in the market society a task of entrepreneurs. Theirs is the control of production. They are at the helm and steer the ship. A superficial observer would believe that they are supreme. But they are not. They are bound to obey unconditionally the captain's orders. The captain is the consumer." - Mises, "Human Action"

For this reason, certain conservatives are fools to blame things like pornography, when pornographers couldn't ply their trade if consumers wouldn't want it. Nobody's being forced.

But if you want to talk about who has the power to dictate, that's government. Only government could enforce fuel efficiency standards that forced consumers to buy smaller cars with weaker engines than they'd otherwise want.

Airlines cannot force passengers to accept small seats, poor or no food, or baggage check fees. Consumers can reject any of these if they aren't to their liking. The fact that people still fly doesn't mean they're "forced," but that the benefits of flying are worth a few or several hours of unpleasantry.

These two twits might be libertarians but are pretty damn confused when it comes to understanding market forces. Music companies didn't "force" anything on us. Technological innovation simply spurred competition that gave the consumer more options. It's no different than ~3500 years ago when a Hittite trader could offer an iron blade as the new alternative to Egyptian copper blades.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 3, 2008 10:56 PM
But jk thinks:

Awesome Mises quote.

I don't have a quarrel with anything you said, Perry, but you fall into my favorite trap. I pay so much attention to Government (keep your enemies closer) that I forget it is still not what defines our lives.

An expanded, globalized, productive market provides freedom, and has been increasing it faster than our tyrants in Washington have been able to usurp it. I fear for both sides of that equation in the next few years but feel Gillespie and Welch are right to celebrate these achievements.

Posted by: jk at December 4, 2008 3:00 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I pay so much attention to Government (keep your enemies closer) that I forget it is still not what defines our lives.

Not sure what you mean by that.

They're right to celebrate our prosperity, but for the wrong reasons. I don't mind that they're "on our side," but I wish they'd understand *why* and learn about the real market forces at work. If they think that any seller of goods or services is capable of "dictating prices and product and intelligence to their customers," then they don't believe the consumer has ultimate power, and they are wrong.

The ability to "dictate" comes only with force, like when certain members of the Japanese felt they'd have to march into Washington to "dictate terms." In voluntary transactions, because of the implicit freedom to choose, neither side has the ability to "dictate" anything. As an example, a friend the other day was complaining that milk prices are still so high, that even with gas prices going down, dairy farmers and dairy companies are still "making us pay higher prices."

You don't "have to" pay the higher price. You can buy your own cow. You can buy substitutes like goat milk and soy milk. You can choose not to consume any milk at all. No one is "dictating" anything.

If someone (let's name him John) were to die in exactly 5 minutes without a certain medicine, and the only seller (let's name him James) demands everything John owns, James is still not "dictating" the price, nor is he "forcing" John to pay. Most people don't understand this, because they'll argue "But John has no choice, he needs it or he'll die!" Yet John most certainly still has a choice, in terms of logic and real economics: he can choose to die.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 8, 2008 12:01 PM
But jk thinks:

My ill-explained statement means that the market is giving us freedom -- not just prosperity -- even though government is not.

I'm surprised to find myself defending the Reason cats, but here goes. Gillespie and Welch are stating that we have moved away form a regulated market in planes, trucking and media that allowed fewer licensed players to "dictate" prices without competition. And that now market forces have taken this away. I'm not sure you and they are on opposite sides here.

Posted by: jk at December 8, 2008 2:48 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I never thought I'm on an opposite side from them, only that they don't understand market forces.

If they're talking about industries that relied on government protectionism for any "market power," that's one thing. But I just don't see that. They specifically mentioned "airlines, automakers, music companies, or newspapers," then referred to companies having "to respond to consumer demands and compete for business." Barring government interference, these industries were already responding to consumer demands as part of competition. They weren't "dictating" anything -- other than what customers were willing to accept.

Even if there's only one seller of a particular good or service, that's still competition. If the company does not provide what will satisfy its customers and prospective customers, then someone else will rise up and offer a substitute good or service. But if there's a single provider of something, and government is not assisting it in any manner, then by definition it's competitive in providing what people want. Thus competition does not require many, multiple or even two participants. In fact, government breaking up a company (e.g. Standard Oil, Ma Bell) destroys competition by denying the consumer the freedom to buy from a company he otherwise would have.

It appears that these principles of markets are lost on these two. They might be libertarians, even good ones, but let them understand why libertarianism works. It's a lot more than chanting "Legalize drugs! Protect free speech! Stop subsidies and welfare!"

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 9, 2008 3:13 PM
But jk thinks:

Amen. I think they are happy to conflate airlines, which did have government price setting, with newspapers, which had a standard oligopoly.

Posted by: jk at December 9, 2008 3:31 PM

Bureaucracy at its best

The New York Daily News reports:

In one of the biggest heists in American history, the Daily News "stole" the $2 billion Empire State Building.

And it wasn't that hard.

The News swiped the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper by drawing up a batch of bogus documents, making a fake notary stamp and filing paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property.

Some of the information was laughable: Original "King Kong" star Fay Wray is listed as a witness and the notary shared a name with bank robber Willie Sutton.

The massive ripoff illustrates a gaping loophole in the city's system for recording deeds, mortgages and other transactions.

The loophole: The system - run by the office of the city register - doesn't require clerks to verify the information.

Less than 90 minutes after the bogus documents were submitted on Monday, the agency rubber-stamped the transfer from Empire State Land Associates to Nelots Properties LLC. Nelots is "stolen" spelled backward. (The News returned the property Tuesday.)...

...Of course, stealing the Empire State Building wouldn't go unnoticed for long, but it shows how easy it is for con artists to swipe more modest buildings right out from under their owners. Armed with a fraudulent deed, they can take out big mortgages and disappear, leaving a mess for property owners, banks and bureaucrats.

I think I will just let that speak for itself.

But jk thinks:

But they will excel at providing health care and choosing our country's best energy sources.

Posted by: jk at December 3, 2008 11:27 AM

December 2, 2008

I Thought It

I thought it, but Blog Friend Perry Eidlebus says it: "NBER are a bunch of lampshades who inhale air conditioners through their anuses."

If NBER can define a recession to mean whatever the hell they want, then I can also use words to mean whatever the hell I want. Remember that this is the same group that finally admitted in December 1992 that the recession had March 1991. They deliberately waited until after the election so Bubba could win on a "bad economy" platform, when the truth was that the economy was already recovering.

There haven't been the two consecutive quarters of decreased GDP (the traditional definition of recession), but we might find out that the 4th quarter will fulfill that. NBER can't risk that, though. They need a recession under a Republican president, so that an incoming Democrat can take credit for "fixing the economy." So they're just changing the rules to fit their agenda.

Actually, my thought did not include air-conditioners...but it did seem somehow convenient to call the recession during Bush's term.

The Food Is Certainly Better

The central question in Reason Magazine's 40th Anniversary issue is whether we are more free than in 1968 or less. As much as big-L libs love to look at the dark side, about all of them were pretty upbeat. Veronique de Rugy highlights the conundrum "Government has grown, but freedom has grown faster."

As Milton Friedman showed in Capitalism and Freedom, such wealth both feeds and is a byproduct of freedom. On one hand, freedom in economic arrangements produces wealth. This, in turn, produces a demand for more liberty, which then produces more prosperity. Thus, increasing wealth is usually correlated with increasing economic freedom. The deregulations of the airline, telecom, and trucking industries in the 1970s, and the marginal tax rate cuts and control of inflation in the ’80s, contributed to the widespread prosperity of the ’90s.

Yet, the wealth accumulation of the last 40 years has also made the government bigger. Real federal spending increased from $774 billion in 1968 to $2.5 trillion in 2008—a 225 percent increase—and federal spending per household grew from $11,800 to roughly $21,000 over that period, in constant dollars. This forms a libertarian paradox: economic freedom and wealth breed not just more political freedom, wealth, and choice but also more government.

David Boaz's book of his collected essays is likewise pretty upbeat. JohnGalt once suggested a freedom meter. Like the end-of-the-world clock, we could dial it up or down based on elections, legislation, and our moods that day.

I watch a nephew discover Ayn Rand and the liberty movement (I gave him my 40th Anniversary issue). I feel sorry that he did not discover the movement when Ronald Wilson Reagan was President. On the other hand, he gets the Internet. Ultimately, I have to accept that the additional wealth is a good tiebreaker for 2008.

But Keith thinks:

I'll play the contrarian - color me partially unconvinced.

I've read the article, and what stands out to me is that there's no satisfactory definition of "economic freedom" stated. I'm left with the idea that the writer sees "economic freedom" and "having more money to spend on more stuff." Indeed, if we're going to measure economic freedom by the number of poor people (as defined by the Census Bureau) who own air conditioning, color televisions, and refrigerators, then she is right - and it's time to declare victory in the War on Poverty so they'll stop taxing my income to death and using the revenue to buy air conditioners, televisions, and refrigerators for the so-called poor. We have the richest poor in the world here.

But "economic freedom" must also mean "the freedom to spend the money I rightfully earn in the ways I see fit, or to not spend it at all if I so desire." If I own an asset (let us say a plot of land) that I cannot use in a sensible way as I see fit (such as to build a business, as a result of the government declaring it a wetland), then I have wealth but no economic freedom in that regard.

The same applies to what should be called individual unfunded mandates. If I have ten extra dollars, then I have more wealth; but if the government outlaws cheap incandescent light bulbs and requires me by law to spend an extra twenty dollars a year on compact fluorescents, I have less economic freedom. If my wife, who (bless her heart) loves pork rinds, suddenly cannot enjoy them because the nannystate's diet wing bans them now that we can afford to add them to the grocery list, then we lack economic freedom.

Look at the whole concept of Tax Freedom Day. With some fluctuation, Tax Freedom Day has advanced later in the year as time goes by, and that does not take into account those individual unfunded mandates. It also doesn't take into account the effect on the cost of goods purchased with my increased wealth due to government meddling in markets and production. Finally, it doesn't take into account the federal debt, which is a bondage - though a bondage postponed.

Wait until the government gives us universal health care and starts nationalizing industries, and see how much economic freedom we lose.

I see it as a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. I doubt that "wealth accumulation of the last 40 years has also made government bigger." Instead, I see it more as a matter of, as Americans created more wealth, our government became greedier and demanded a bigger and bigger piece of it. Government does not create wealth; at best, it can provide an environment where the citizens can create wealth. Our government, as a result of its felt need to regulate and dictate more and more aspects of our lives, has cost us freedoms, both economically and politically.

I'll wait until later in the day to scroll down the page and play village contrarian on the issue of immigration.

Posted by: Keith at December 2, 2008 4:02 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

The problem is that you cannot quantify freedom. You're either free or you're not. (Austrian economists like me tend to reject quantification of abstract concepts like "good" and "bad," which we hold cannot be measured objectively.)

We were not truly economically free under Nixon's wage-price controls. We're certainly not truly economically free today. But how do you assign a value to gasoline lines and stagflation versus a federal bailout and New York's mandate that all health insurance cover everything (meaning men are insured for hysterectomies)?

Different times, same BS, same problem. Don't be satisfied today just because you have your iPod, hi-def TV and other toys. A gilded cage is still a cage, so the saying goes. Be willing to demand freedom, even if it means having less wealth.

Ask yourself: do you love wealth more than you love liberty?

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 3, 2008 11:20 PM

Change of subject

Obviously, the entertainment quality of Fox's '24' is too much to handle. In the holiday spirit, I will change the subject. To immigration.

Though it was not a key issue in 2008, my pals on the WSJ Ed Page, point out that "the political reality is that Republicans who thought that channeling Lou Dobbs would save their seats will soon be ex-Members."

Virginia Republican Congressman Virgil Goode's narrow loss to Democrat Tom Perriello became official last week, and it caps another bad showing for immigration restrictionists. For the second straight election, incumbent Republicans who attempted to turn illegal immigration into a wedge issue fared poorly.

Anti-immigration hardliners Randy Graf, John Hostettler and J.D. Hayworth were among the Republicans who lost in 2006. Joining them this year were GOP Representatives Thelma Drake (Virginia), Tom Feeney (Florida), Ric Keller (Florida) and Robin Hayes (North Carolina) -- all Members of a House anti-immigration caucus that focuses on demonizing the undocumented.

"Republican share of the Hispanic vote fell to 31% this year from more than 40% in 2004." As the GOP struggles to define itself and its positions, I hope the caucus will choose freedom. Pretty soon, the Tancredo wing will be on the outside looking in. That will be a plus. It is bad economics, bad philosophy, and bad politics.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 12:12 PM | What do you think? [22]
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

JK makes his financial decision without realizing that The Refugee can be 10X more productive than a Sonoran, so JK would be crazy not to hire him!

Immigration is currently a loser issue for Republicans. However, with all due humility, The Refugee thinks that a proposal that combines a modicum of free market principles, controlled immigration and reasonable enforcement, such as his above, would turn it from a loser to a winner. Now, he'll count on all Three Sourcers to tell him why not.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at December 3, 2008 6:47 PM
But The Heretic thinks:

Thanks BR for the eloquently intro. For the record, we strive to raise our children as Indian-Americans. It is important to us that they draw upon the goodness of their heritage, as much as they cultivate the American values.

Getting back to the point of this discussion, the Heretic has no objections (and as a matter of fact would welcome) setting some standards on who is allowed in and who is not. Many of these categories exist today. The problem really is with the bureaucracy and quota limits per year and by country. Further, the quota's for family based immigration is much higher than that of labor based -- thus leading to long waits and ultimately of two outcomes, talent moving on to other greener pastures or illegal immigration.

The Heretic does not believe legislation and building walls (in this case fences) alone will curtail the illegal immigration problem. People will move to where the jobs are. That is just the reality. In this regard BR's proposition of job seeking vs. citizenship seeking immigrants is a good way to consider and solve the problem.

However, The Heretic doesn't necessarily buy into private sector labor arbitrage. There is lot of room for abuse and consequently, something this group hates - regulation. Someday, in an appropriate context, we can debate real life examples.

, the Heretic has long admired efficiency of the immigration system in Singapore. One of my relatives, decided to go to school there. The selection process into the school, as I understand, was at least as rigorous as those of many of the marquee Universities in the United States. However his having to prove his worthiness ended there. By the time he had graduated, the govt. had automatically given him his work permit and he had an invite to apply for his permanent residency. After he found a job and had paid into the tax system for about a year, he was invited to apply for his citizenship. Entire process completed online and in approx. 18 months. Total cost Sing. $500 (approx. USD 71). The system has figured a way to recognize and keep talent. Arguably, they haven't done too bad for themselves.

Posted by: The Heretic at December 3, 2008 6:50 PM
But sugarchuck thinks:

Hey I've been on this ride before and I think I got dizzy and threw up. Go to itunes, spend a buck and listen to Willie Nelson's "Living in the Promiseland."

Posted by: sugarchuck at December 3, 2008 6:55 PM
But jk thinks:

BR is invited to spend some time with a Ricardo text or play The Desert Island Game. It is not your productivity vis-a-vis our southern friend, it is about the most productive use of your time, which is pretty danged unlikely to be lettuce picking.

Yeah, SC, we have been around these parts but we have some new players and new ideas. I have enjoyed the ride quite a bit this time.

I fear for BR's solution because President Bush and Senator McCain came up with a very workable version -- and Rush Limbaugh, Rep, Tancredo, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and their evel minions killed it!

Posted by: jk at December 3, 2008 7:42 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

(marrying Perry or JK seems to be a job Americans won't do)

Technically it isn't the mere act of marrying, but a lifetime commitment of marriage. And in my case, I couldn't find an American girl who was right for me. One would be gold-digging, another too flirty to be trusted in future fidelity, and for another, I was the wrong religion. In the end, I found someone who had both a comparative and an absolute advantage in being a good wife to me.

But you're designing a plane that doesn't account for gravity. "When we get rid of gravity, it'll fly real good!"

Actually, no. Gravity is a natural property of matter that exists with or without human action. The welfare state is a human construct that we had to create before it existed.

So your analogy would be correct if it were something like, "When we get rid of the bureaucrats and the lead weights they make us use for flaps, it'll finally fly."

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 3, 2008 11:32 PM
But jk thinks:

I hoped I knew Perry well enough to get awaty with that joke! My lovely wife spent almost all her life here and was sworn in in the 3rd grade. She is comfortable in both cultures and I have certainly enjoyed being a "big, white Filipno."

Posted by: jk at December 4, 2008 11:46 AM

December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving, CCXIV

A note from a Navy Seal:


Hat-tip: Hugh Hewitt

Justice Brandeis, Call Your Office...

A good friend of this blog sends an interesting link:

Pick our fights and move to the states

My central insight in my recent disagreement with Patrick is that the creativity will take place in the states. While there will be some very important fights in Washington over the next 2-4 years, in particular health care, card check, and bailouts, another equally important fight will happen in 40 or more states over that time period. In the federal fights, our answer is likely to be simply: NO.

But at the states, something else will happen.

The article refers, specifically to upcoming budget crises as states reconcile boomtime spending with busttime revenue. But, generally, it is an awesome idea.

I have often saluted Blog Brother AlexC for his attention to state and local politics. It's much better soil to till -- especially now that national issues are even further out of control. It's also a good way to build a base and elevate future leaders and issues.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 3:36 PM | What do you think? [3]
But Keith thinks:

jk: I agree with the strategy, but I'm having a "yes, but..." moment on where it will lead. As an act of full disclosure, I'm going to admit before shooting my mouth off that I'm a strict constructionist on the Enumerated Powers, and a huge fan of the Tenth Amendment - which means that I don't see the Federal government obeying the Tenth Amendment a great deal.

I get a huge kick out of national politicians ducking issues (for example, homosexual marriage) by saying "that should be an issue for the states." Yes, that worked out really well for capital punishment and for abortion, didn't it? When the federal government poked its nose in and trumped all the state laws, they ceased to be merely state issues.

For this strategy to work effectively, restraint at the federal level is mandatory. I'm not seeing it. For example, were more and more states to ban homosexual marriage, I would fully expect to see an increasing demand for federal intervention to guarantee rights for homosexual marriage.

Caveat: I'm not intending to use this to discuss the merits of abortion, capital punishment, or homosexual marriage - they're merely examples to illustrate the blurred distinction between state and federal jurisdiction. For that matter, the article cites "in particular health care, card check, and bailouts." On what basis - on what Constitutional grounds - does the Federal government rightfully poke its nose into any of those three issues (and I roundly reject any answer that includes the Commerce Clause).

Yes, I suppose that makes me a States' Rights guy.

I'll go so far as to say on the record that using distribution of tax dollars to enforce the federal will on states is an illegitimate use of power. The Federal government can, instead of enacting an unconstitutionmal national speed limit, simply withhold revenues for highway repair from states that themselves refuse to enact a speed limit law with which the federales are satisfied - and so we replace legislation with extortion.

Of course, the solution is that levying taxes for highway repair must be done at the state level and not at the federal level. Why should Michiganders pay for Arizona highways?

So yes, the strategy of moving issues from the national level to the state level is one with which I agree, but unless we prevent the Federal government from intervening, we leave the losing side with an end-around.

Posted by: Keith at December 1, 2008 6:03 PM
But jk thinks:

Keith -- Actually, I am thinking of tactics more than philosophy. For what it's worth, the Ninth and Tenth are among my favorite ignored Amendments.

But I saw the piece as a call to engage at the state level. Instead of fighting an overwhelming collectivist majority in Congress and the Executive Branch, lovers of liberty would be advised to focus time/energy/money on more localized politics. This preserves liberty and at the same time might elevate some new ideas and new leaders into the national forefront down the line. Justice Brandeis's "State laboratories of Democracy writ large."

Posted by: jk at December 1, 2008 6:56 PM
But Keith thinks:

Noted and agreed. But the Federal government has this annoying habit of striking down things they don't like.

Nonetheless, if conservatism is going to grow, the state level more fertile (and more rightful) ground than the federal, on that you're right. Here in California, Tom McClintock is probably our last best hope - and given the disaster which is our budget, they may be foreclosing on the whole state if we elect anyone else...

Posted by: Keith at December 1, 2008 7:47 PM

Never Saying You're Sorry...

I don't have to remind ThreeSourcers of my high esteem for Instapundit. Professor Reynolds gets the lion's share of my hat-tips and I find it hard to imagine his equal in effectively voicing a pragmatic, little-l libertarian philosophy.

We differ on immigration, but I accept that. I differ with many I respect on that topic.

But I remain muchly vexed with Reynolds's unequivocal support for flex-fuel mandates, specifically the Zubrin Plan. I join him in looking forward to powering our cars and trucks on kudzu. But I wholly reject the idea of government mandates in the name of "energy independence."

To his credit, he offers the flip side today, if without mea culpas:

For the 2008-2009 period, fully 61% of vehicles had exemptions to run on gasoline. The mandate resulted in flex-fuel vehicles purchased for Puerto Rico and Hawaii, where E85 pumps don’t exist as it’s quite expensive to ship large quantities of ethanol. In some locations, said pumps are nearby but don’t accept government credit cards. So, despite all good intentions, the result is an increase in government gasoline consumption. Not mentioned in the article was that the billions of dollars in purchases went almost, if not wholly to the Detroit 2.8, as import manufacturers (still) don’t offer many flex-fuel cars or trucks.

Perhaps we could recoup the energy of Hayek spinning in his grave. Government does not have the information to dictate automotive design, nor would I trust them to make the right decision if they did. When those 0.99/gallon KudzuCo stations start opening up, consumers will demand flex-fuel vehicles where they are appropriate.

Oil and Energy Posted by John Kranz at 11:51 AM | What do you think? [3]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

"a pragmatic, little-l libertarian philosophy."

If Reynolds were a real libertarian (capital L or not), then he wouldn't be supporting government mandates of any kind. Where is the liberty in forcing fuel standards on me or anyone else?

With that post today, he can't even admit the failure of his "pragmatism," can he? He can call himself a libertarian until the day he dies, but he's just another pseudo-libertarian who wants the government to regulate certain markets he thinks are failing/can fail. Real libertarians know that free markets work and can fix themselves better than any government bureaucrat can (Hayek, knowledge problem, Q.E.D.). Real libertarians don't want the government intervening, not just in things I like that don't harm others, but *especially* in things others do that I personally dislike but do no harm to others.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 1, 2008 4:04 PM
But jk thinks:

I wondered if he would relate that post of his to his ongoing support for the Zubrin Plan. I even sent him an email (there go my chances for a link in 2009, eh?)

To be fair, Perry, I think he would be the last one to stake a claim to being a "real" L|libertarian. And I think he does a great job advancing little-l philosophy. The race for the purest Libertarian fills the most comical pages of Brian Dougherty's Radicals for Capitalism: only the purest is allowed to stay in the room.

I still support the Iraq War -- excuse me, I mean "The Debacle in Iraq" -- so it's pretty clear from reading Gene Healy and David Boaz last week that I'm not invited to the party. I still believe in the importance of Deepak Lal's Liberal International Economic Order and will support blood and treasure to preserve it.

I do think the most trenchant description of libertarianism ever occurred on Instapundit when a reader said "I dream of an America where millions of happily married gay couples have closets full of assault weapons." That remains a good, quick definition for me.

Posted by: jk at December 1, 2008 4:54 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

And I think he does a great job advancing little-l philosophy. The race for the purest Libertarian fills the most comical pages of Brian Dougherty's Radicals for Capitalism: only the purest is allowed to stay in the room.

You don't have to be "pure," just not so diluted. Reynolds is to real libertarians what a light beer is to San Miguel. There are superficial similarities until you realize the difference in depth and complexity.

Sean Hannity has claimed "We're pretty libertarian on this show," and witness the emergence of "libertarian Democrats." It only goes to show the term is losing all meaning. It has to have clear definitions. It has to mean something.

I still support the Iraq War -- excuse me, I mean "The Debacle in Iraq" -- so it's pretty clear from reading Gene Healy and David Boaz last week that I'm not invited to the party.

It's a matter of why you supported the Iraq War. Do you believe in pre-emptive wars and nation-building? I felt Saddam was still a threat to the U.S. and have mixed feelings only because of how we handled the aftermath. By and large, we *were* welcomed as liberators. We just didn't know what to do once we toppled his government.

A libertarian can justify the action because Saddam had previously kidnapped Americans and was continually violating the cease-fire. If Saddam had not done those, then I couldn't have justified toppling him. But Ron Paul was right: we should have dropped all the political pretenses and had Congress formally declare war. If anything, it would have prevented the Kerryism of "I voted as a last resort, I didn't think we'd actually do it!"

Of course, all this would be irrelevant if Bush Sr. hadn't been a UN-heeding pansy, and Bubba was worse. There's nothing in libertarianism that says you can't retaliate in full force when your citizens are kidnapped, e.g. Jefferson's response to the Barbary pirates.

I still believe in the importance of Deepak Lal's Liberal International Economic Order and will support blood and treasure to preserve it.

Which isn't quite what Lal is talking about. The state can protect people, but the extent of what you're talking about is giving far too much credit to the state for protecting people. The danger is that people start relying on military protection of land and sea trade routes, much like Americans rely on police instead of themselves.

"I dream of an America where millions of happily married gay couples have closets full of assault weapons."

That's his own individual opinion, you see. The real libertarian way puts it more generally. I forget how Jefferson put it so wonderfully succinctly, but this is an expanded version: "I dream of an America where people have their unalienable rights to life, liberty and property: essentially, the freedom to do what they want -- including but not limited to forming legally enforceable contracts with homosexual partners, or owning whatever weapons they so desire -- so long as they do not infringe on the unalienable rights of others."

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at December 2, 2008 10:25 PM

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