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
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!
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!)
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."
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...
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.
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
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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:
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.
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%
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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.
“Che was an inspiration for me,” D’Rivera tells reason.tv. “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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, MY FRIEND
'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.
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 www.change.gov, 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.
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.
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 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 ended...in 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 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.
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.
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.
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.