May 30, 2009


A good friend of this blog emails a link to Pravda. We haven't linked there in a while (ever?) but Stanislav Mishin sounds like a ThreeSourcer as he takes a victory lap in American capitalism gone with a whimper.

Then came Barack Obama's command that GM's (General Motor) president step down from leadership of his company. That is correct, dear reader, in the land of "pure" free markets, the American president now has the power, the self given power, to fire CEOs and we can assume other employees of private companies, at will. Come hither, go dither, the centurion commands his minions.

So it should be no surprise, that the American president has followed this up with a "bold" move of declaring that he and another group of unelected, chosen stooges will now redesign the entire automotive industry and will even be the guarantee of automobile policies. I am sure that if given the chance, they would happily try and redesign it for the whole of the world, too. Prime Minister Putin, less then two months ago, warned Obama and UK's Blair, not to follow the path to Marxism, it only leads to disaster. Apparently, even though we suffered 70 years of this Western sponsored horror show, we know nothing, as foolish, drunken Russians, so let our "wise" Anglo-Saxon fools find out the folly of their own pride.

If you read the whole thing, you will see that Mishin goes well over the top on a few points, which cuts his credibility. You will be compensated, however, with the most interesting collection of banner ads -- think "Weekly World News" meets "Jugs!"

Beyond the hyperbole, some of his lines hit home pretty hard. He ends with a warning to Russian Capital:

The Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at this and the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left.

The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker


Posted by John Kranz at 11:22 AM | What do you think? [1]
But Keith thinks:

Whaddaya know - there is truth in Pravda after all. Next thing, there will be news in Izvestia.

"The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight..." My gosh, that hurts.

The whole article reads like a morality play, under the title of "learn from our mistakes, before you have to learn from your own."

Posted by: Keith at June 1, 2009 12:46 PM

Review Corner

First: Netflix vs. Blockbuster by Mail. Netflix has the coolest Internet, instant viewing service. If you have a TiVo or an XBox or buy a dedicated player for $99 you can watch any of their digital downloads at any time if you have a current subscription. Very very cool and sufficient to lure me away from Blockbuster's Blue to Netflix Red. But, I have to confess that Blockbuster -- true to nomenclature -- does a better job getting you the hot new movies when they come out.

I was the last guy in the nation to see "Slumdog Millionaire." By the time I got it, I had heard so much approbation I was let down. It's a good film but it did not hold up to the hype. Good story and all, but none of the characters were complex and the cinematography was rather conventional, though the Ballywood touches were entertaining (three stars).

By comparison, I watched "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" last night and was enthralled. A great Fitzgerald story, a superb performance by Brad Pitt -- but, most notably, a masterpiece in filming. We go from the end of WWI to Hurricane Katrina and the richness of each era is captured in the lighting and style. There are great grace notes of little homages to films of each era; I trust those who know and follow movies more than me would have caught many more.

I haven't given five stars in a while, but I will here. I plan to watch it one more time before I send it back, If you missed it, check it out,

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:59 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 29, 2009

Rational Economic Actors

Hat-tip: Don Luskin

Environment Posted by John Kranz at 5:31 PM | What do you think? [0]

Way More Patriotic Than You

There is nothing a libertarian enjoys more than a trip to the DMV -- it validates everything he believes. I even had the good fortune of going from the hospital (drug study visit -- I be fine) to the Weld County Clerk & Recorder Del Camino extension east of Longmont. Trust me, the medical folks are still better, though I know there are plans to "fix it."

When number 93 was finally called, I must confess that the woman who served me was courteous and professional. When I told her I was picking up "Support the Troops" plates, she told me how beautiful she thought they were and how popular they are (I don't think we're in Boulder any more, Toto!) But the wait and the impersonal feel, and the uncomfortable chairs do validate my beliefs. You'd never go here unless you had to. For any other purpose, you would find another venue.
But, I do have my "Support the Troops" plates proving -- once again -- that I am way more patriotic than anybody around here. Have a great weekend!

May 28, 2009

Reading for the Pigou Club

Dan Henninger hits a philosophical home run for ThreeSourcers today in the WSJ. It's a great column, funny, sad, and true.

Funny is his list of suggestions for the President's iPod playlist. Henninger feels that a little Beach Boys, Ronnie and the Daytonas, and Commander Cody music might clarify American culture to a President who says "everybody wins" when we all drive 39mpg biodiesel subcompacts.

Sad is a poignant look at how the scolds are going to redesign our lives:

We are being offered a different world now. One designed, defined and driven by a new set of un-fun obsessions -- carbon footprints, greenhouse gas and alternative energy. This large transition passes before us, barely seen, as the gray water of public policy. Hardly anyone notices how much is being changed.

To put a stop to the new sin of spending too much time out on Highway 9, we are getting the mark-up hearings this week in Washington for the Waxman-Markey climate bill. It's 900 pages long, dripping with thousands of Mickey-Mouse rules to reorder how we live. A Senate Finance Committee document last week on the Obama health-care plan proposes "lifestyle related revenue raisers." Lifestyles like drinking beer. This is the "taxing bad behavior" movement. They get to define what's bad.

True is that last line. Certain Harvard Economics Professors (I'm not naming names) praise the efficiencies of Pigouvian taxation without fully appreciating the power they cede to government.

Whole Read Thing Me Trust The.

Grand Opening

The Virtual Coffeehouse is a go:


But Boulder Refugee thinks:

The Refugee is not a big jazz guy, but he has really enjoyed these cuts. Well done, JK! Of course, who can forget the Tom and Jerry episode that used this "Is You Is..." soundtrack.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 29, 2009 11:53 AM
But jk thinks:

Thanks, br!

Posted by: jk at May 29, 2009 3:29 PM

May 27, 2009

The Wait is Over

Rapper Kanye West has written a book.

His book is 52 pages -- some blank, others with just a few words -- and offers his optimistic philosophy on life. One two-page section reads, "Life is 5% what happens and 95% how you react!" Another page reads "I hate the word hate!"

West would rather write a book than, well, read one:
"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed," West said. "I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph.

"I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life," he said.

West, a college dropout, said being a non-reader was helpful when he wrote his book because it gave him "a childlike purity."

I think I'll wait for vacation, so I can take some time to get deeper into this book's complexities. Hat-tip: @mkhammer

Posted by John Kranz at 7:26 PM | What do you think? [0]

Is This True? Does it Matter?

Some rather spectacular charges have been hurled at the Obama Administration. I saw a little bit on this over the weekend, and now Gateway Pundit has a roundup:

** Earlier it was reported that the Obama Administration may have targeted GOP donors in deciding which Chrysler dealerships would have to close their doors.
** Last night it was discovered that a Big Dem Donor Group was allowed to keep all 6 Chrysler dealerships open.... And, their local competitors were eliminated by Obama's task force.
** The closings also tend to be in "Red" Counties where Obama lost.

Now this...
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla) lost his Chrysler dealership in Florida.

I'm the last guy to buy into a big conspiracy theory, and these are about the worst charges that have been leveled at the Executive Branch since our third VP had a little disagreement with our first Secretary of the Treasury, I expect they will not amount to much.

The problem is that they could be true. When you let gub'mint into something, you invite politics in. We have seen that in spades with the Chrysler bondholders -- why not the dealers? Just the fear that this could happen should be enough to dissuade people from seeking this level of Federal involvement.

Hat-tip: Instapundit

But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I always treat something with great skepticism when I first hear/read it. It's a healthy and scientific approach. However, we've already seen this administration at work. Look at the leverage exerted against Chrysler's creditors, a perfect example of the finest Chicago thugocracy. Obama & Co. couldn't possibly surprise me anymore.

Yet in the end, don't expect any accusations to stick. "Teflon Don" John Gotti must be burning with jealousy almost as much as from hellfire.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 27, 2009 3:39 PM
But Keith thinks:

Perry: I didn't think I'd ever quote from Wiklipedia, but:

"In the politics of the United States, a spoil system (also known as a patronage system) is an informal practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a system of awarding offices on the basis of some measure of merit independent of political activity.

"The term was derived from the phrase 'to the victor belong the spoils...' by New York Senator William L. Marcy..." ("Spoils System," Wikipedia)

Gentlemen, we're now seeing the Administration restoring the spoils system ("I won...") as it moves the auto industry from the the private sector into the public sector and divvies up the carcass based upon campaign donations and party affiliation. Apparently both the legislature and the judicial branch are broken, since neither one is doing anything to stop our elected dictator.

By the time the midterm elections come around, we'll be too deep in debt to climb out of this hole, investing in whatever is left would be foolish, and any opponents the Administration has will have been intimidated or compromised - and no one would dare donate to the opposition candidates, for fear of losing their own livelihood, just like the car dealers.

What are our options, brothers?

By the way, as long as Perry brought up John Gotti, let me say we'd have been better off if we'd put the Mafia in charge of running the country:

* At least they'd be running it for a profit.
* Hugo Chavez? Just another rival don. Tonight he sleeps wit' da fishes.
* There would have been no bailout; AIG couldn't afford the vig.
* Bouffant-headed pipsqueak in North Korea would abandon his nuclear weapons efforts as soon as he was told that Secretary of State "Hilly Cankles" Clinton is prepared to "go to the mattresses."
* All hostilities in the Middle East cease when news gets out that Israel is no longer receiving American foreign aid; instead, Israel is paying for protection.

Posted by: Keith at May 27, 2009 4:52 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Under the rules of postmodernism both of the questions you posed can each have different answers depending on who you ask, and even on who does the asking.

Under the rules of our grandfathers the answers would be "let's get to the bottom of the facts" and "you bet your sweet a _ _ it does!"

But in an era where an economics reporter for the New York Times spends beyond his means and ruins his credit rating because "the money was there, and I was in love" the popular answer will likely be "Who can know these things?" and "Pshawww!"

Posted by: johngalt at May 28, 2009 12:32 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Keith, funny you should put it that way. I've privately said that at least when you pay protection money to Tony Soprano, you can get something out of it. It's not always the case, of course, but it isn't entirely a romantic, exaggerated notion of organized crime. As I've elaborated a bit before, the Mafia, as odious as they are, had an origin of necessity. They were already and always murderers and bandits, yes, but there were enough people willing to "hire" them -- preferring to pay up to be left alone rather than refusing and fighting, or paying up in the belief that actual protection could come out of it.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 28, 2009 1:28 PM
But jk thinks:

...and it does appear that contradictory evidence is coming out. So the narrative will be "all the right wing wackos jumped the gun and made false accusations." I humbly submit that my point holds: why provide temptation to politicians?

And props to Keith for tying "Spoils" to Marcy. I'm in the middle of a great biography of President Polk and Marcy is the Sec of War (oh, for the days we called things what they were) and I think he comes back as Buchanan's Sec of State.

Posted by: jk at May 28, 2009 1:28 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Maybe, jk, but in my defense, all I said was, "Obama & Co. couldn't possibly surprise me anymore." They rule like Romulans, trading "honor" and loyalties in back rooms.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at June 1, 2009 4:38 PM

Quote of the Day

No, I'm not sucking up and I do not intend to ask blog brother jg for a loan. But this line from his comment is a gem:

This plays right in to a discussion of the idea that our nation should be ruled by its laws and not ruled by men - or by wise latina women.

Environment Posted by John Kranz at 1:55 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

I can't take credit but I can't give a full attribution either. I heard a guest on Fox News this morning say this:

“The issue at the very heart of this nation’s founding, the reason we fought for independence from Britain, was the idea that we would be a nation ruled by laws and not ruled by men – or ruled by wise Latina women.”
Posted by: johngalt at May 27, 2009 7:43 PM

Chief Justice Taney is Smiling

I'm pretty certain that several of our early-19th-century Justices shared Judge Sotomayor's belief that their race (white) and gender (male) made them particularly suitable for the elevated responsibility of serving on the nation's highest court. But, I had hoped that we had left that thinking in the past.

The lead editorial in the WSJ today prints a longer version of the quote we have all been reading:

In a speech published in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal in 2002, Judge Sotomayor offered her own interpretation of this jurisprudence. "Justice [Sandra Day] O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases," she declared. "I am . . . not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, . . . there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

The WSJ Editorial Board and I are not convinced.
This is not the same as taking justifiable pride in being the first Puerto Rican-American nominated to the Court, as both she and the President did yesterday. Her personal and family stories are admirable. Italian-Americans also swelled at the achievement of Justice Antonin Scalia, as Jewish-Americans did at the nomination of Benjamin Cardozo.

But these men saw themselves as judges first and ethnic representatives second. Judge Sotomayor's belief is that a "Latina woman" is by definition a superior judge to a "white male" because she has had more "richness" in her struggle. The danger inherent in this judicial view is that the law isn't what the Constitution says but whatever the judge in the "richness" of her experience comes to believe it should be.

That nails the difference between "modern" judges and constuctionalists. I part company with Professor Reynolds pretty warily, but I see a clear case in Judge Bork's "Tempting of America." And while not many Justices have risen to the ideal, the ideal of a strict, textual reading of the Constitution cannot be abandoned.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 11:18 AM | What do you think? [5]
But johngalt thinks:

While I privately described Judge Sotamayor as "a disaster" prior to her nomination I'm actually pleased with her nomination. (We'll see how pleased I am if she is actually confirmed.)

President Obama has serenaded us for months that he wants a Supreme Court justice who considers the practical realities of day-to-day life when forming her legal opinions. It's as though his mind was set long ago to nominate Sotamayor and he's been trying to soften public opinion to the notion of subjective legal justice.

While Republicans on the Judiciary Committee may be loathe to oppose a hispanic for political reasons, they owe it to our civic discourse to ask her some objective questions about her judicial philosophy. There should be no harm in this. After all, in the hue and cry about "litmus test" questions on specific issues we were lectured that questions should always be general in nature. This plays right in to a discussion of the idea that our nation should be ruled by its laws and not ruled by men - or by wise latina women.

Posted by: johngalt at May 27, 2009 1:52 PM
But Keith thinks:

Strangely, I wasn't under the impression that the Supreme Court was the place where we're supposed to have a cross-section of America and all its component, balkanized identity groups represented. I thought the place where the population of America was supposed to be represented was the House of - (wait for it) - Representatives. I thought the Supreme Court was the place where we were supposed to to put the nine smartest, wisest, most qualified people at reading the Constitution and applying its words to real-life situations. Congress was supposed to take a cross-section of the fat part of America's bell curve; the Supreme Court was supposed to be to upper far end of it.

But, I suppose, now that we live in a post-Constitutional America, where the government suddenly has the right to take over whole industries, hire and fire corporate CEOs at will, erase decades of contract law and bankruptcy law at a whim, and even decide who keeps and who loses auto dealerships like a gigantic spoils system, I should learn to accept that it's more important to pander to our identity groups (or pretend to in order to install the one who will reliably cough up the Prezznit's desired decisions) than to find the most brilliant parsers of the law of the land. Since we don't actually seem to have a meaningful Constitution any longer, finding a justice who can apply is would be pretty moot anyway. Why not decide cases based on our subjective life experiences?

Posted by: Keith at May 27, 2009 1:58 PM
But Keith thinks:

Every Senator who waxes prosaic about how wonderful it is to be supporting Sotomayor because of her ethnicity had better be able to explain why Miguel Estrada got blocked from the DC Circuit.

Posted by: Keith at May 27, 2009 2:04 PM
But jk thinks:

I have a calm, cool head much of the time Keith, but the discrepancy you highlight has made me madder than a wet wasp at a kid's party. The Senate Democrats savaged a brilliant jurist with just as compelling a life story as Judge Sotomayor. After three years, he was forced to withdraw his nomination. Now they and Obama claim to be breaking barriers for the Hispanic community.

You'll never hear that anywhere but here (or an equivalent wacko site). The myth will live on.

Posted by: jk at May 27, 2009 3:07 PM
But Keith thinks:

Sorry, jk. If it's any comfort, you can be pretty sure I'm as aggravated as you are if I'm making a comment in the form on one growling sentence instead of my usual random speechifying.

Posted by: Keith at May 27, 2009 7:21 PM

May 26, 2009


I have an ongoing (~9 years now) argument with blog brother and token ThreeSources Democrat "Silence Dogood." He concedes that the left has socialists who threaten our economic freedom, but is surprised that I can sit still while some on the right are so deleterious to personal liberties. He is a bright guy and the arguments reach much higher subtlety, but he laughs that "he can handle the commies in his party better than the religious wackos in mine."

I try to be fair and have ceded a certain amount of relativism to Silence and other friends on the left who make the same argument. I don't see an equivalence, but I shrug my shoulders and stress my little-l beliefs.

Shannon Love, on da Chicago Boyz blog, offers this chart, and the suggestion that they are using sex to sell the loss of freedom. Here is Love's scorecard:

Freedom Left Right
Consumer Goods
Medical Care
Free Trade
Property Rights
Parental Rights
National Security
Police Powers
Recreational Drugs

Being Mister Fair, I'd add a line for "Privacy" and give it to the left as well. But I find the other llines difficult to argue with, and that still gives the right wing wingnut wacko nutjobs a 13-2 freedom advantage over the left wing moonbats.

Yay team! Hat-tip: Instapundit

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 12:08 PM | What do you think? [10]
But jk thinks:

Thanks, Keith, 'ppreciate it!

I thought that that was odd as well. I would hope that libertarians would be assumed to be "blue" on all (and I would've used checkmarks instead of blue and red).

But while we've all had our nits to pick, I don't think anybody can say that the Democratic Party or the broad left of today has a superior position on freedom on many categories of contested liberties.

That may be a little "duh-worthy" around here, but I don't think it is accepted by many on the left. I would like to have a copy of this at the bar during an argument and ask a reasonable interlocutor to dispute the scoring.

Posted by: jk at May 26, 2009 7:16 PM
But jk thinks:

UPDATE II: Overnight, Mister Magnanimity (is that a .44 Magnuminity?) has come to agree with tg: remembering the Bush FCC and the Wardrobe malfunction contretemps, my homies cannot claim a clear win on speech. 12-2.

Posted by: jk at May 27, 2009 11:14 AM
But T. Greer thinks:

12-3 if we include privacy rights.

However I am not sure if I am prepared to cede that to the left. I left a comment similar to the one here over at Chicago Boyz, and this was the response Shannon Love (creator of the graph) left me:

"Not really. As a practical matter, the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders have signed off and continued almost all the Bush era invasions of privacy. The Clinton administration created the NSA’s Echelon system which is the heart of our modern communications surveillance. It was Democrats who inserted many of the banking provisions into the PATIOT act so they could track down tax evaders. The Department of Homeland Security was envisioned by Gary Hart. Clearly when they fear being blamed for a terrorist attack, the real-world leftist politicians suddenly discover the virtues of a strong intelligence system.

More importantly, leftist only show concern for privacy in matters of national security. For example, they favor a hyper detailed tax code which requires that people report their economic affairs in minute detail. For people who itemize, you can reconstruct their movements and activities in detail from their tax records. Leftist also support the state having full access to people’s medical records, work records etc all in the interest of managing social welfare programs. I could go on.

I think it safe to say that leftist think of privacy for most people only in terms of sexuality. They also value the economic privacy of articulate intellectuals such as lawyers, journalist and academics. Anything else is fair game. They don’t believe you have right to economic privacy or privacy relating to any assistance the government might force you take.

As by others above, leftists tend support freedoms until such freedoms become inconvenient for them. I think the Democrats apparent sea change on anti-terrorist methods is part of this pattern."

So privacy can be filed under "wash" as well, methinks.

Posted by: T. Greer at May 27, 2009 12:03 PM
But jk thinks:

To paraphrase Senator Moynahan, you can have your own opinions but not your own score. I get to 12-2 by calling speech a wash and giving them privacy. Love's arguments are compelling but I consider the leftified ACLU's defense of privacy of communication and library records, &c. as a win in their column. President Obama's performance does not nullify their work in this area any more than President Bush's steel and soft wood tariffs nullify the Right's edge on free trade.

Posted by: jk at May 27, 2009 12:27 PM
But johngalt thinks:

If the ACLU applied their privacy ideal equally to all defendants you'd have a better argument, but they don't. Further, the privacy invasion by congressional Democrats in general and the Obama administration in particular reveal a clear pattern of infringement on individual privacy (gun registration? serial numbered bullets?) except in cases of sexual behavior, which was your own original point.

Posted by: johngalt at May 27, 2009 12:45 PM
But Keith thinks:

Privacy? When the Prezznit appoints his "Internet Czar" later this week, we can revisit this issue of which camp wins on privacy.

Assuming our overlords allow this blog to continue its existence, I mean.

Posted by: Keith at May 27, 2009 2:10 PM

O'Sullivan's Law and Outrageous Ingratitude

Before I get to the bone-crunching ingratitude part, I would like to offer a shout out to many friends who have raised money for MS on my behalf. ThreeSources own Boulder Refugee walked, a long time reader is training for a 100+ mile bike ride in the Texas summer sun, and I think I heard something about some young ladies in Minnesota. I am humbled by your thoughts and it has been an honor to toss in a few dollars to sponsor you.

O'Sullivan's law states that "All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing." In a great column, John O'Sullivan provides the ACLU among other examples. Alert readers see where this is going.

I just received the following email from the MS Society. Your walking and biking and my money is buying this:

World MS Day GOAL:
50,000 letters to Congress
by midnight on
Wednesday, May 27th!

Demand quality, affordable health care for Americans living with MS.

Click here to send a letter to your elected officials:

Rep. Jared Polis
Sen. Mark Udall
Sen. Michael Bennet

Dear John,

May 27 marks the first-ever World MS Day and over 100 nations around the globe are joining together to build awareness for multiple sclerosis. One of the greatest overarching needs around the world is for quality, affordable health care to ensure all people with MS can lead a life of possibility, dignity and fulfillment.

Here in the United States, for the first time in nearly 17 years Washington leaders appear serious about fixing our broken health care system. Tell Congress that now is the time to fix health care. Help us reach our goal: 50,000 letters to Congress by midnight on May 27th!

We have an incredible opportunity to make our voices heard in support of accessible, affordable health care coverage for all. Our legislators need to know that it is time for the right reforms right now.

As I write this, National MS Society staff and volunteers are meeting with members of Congress about the Society's health care reforms principles. These principles need to be incorporated into new health care policies if people with MS are going to be able to move forward with their lives.

In honor of World MS Day, let us unite to support these efforts with a national wave of grassroots action. Will you help? Write your legislators and speak out for quality, affordable health care by midnight on World MS Day, May 27th.

Decisions your elected leaders are about to make will impact how we receive our health care for generations to come. We can't miss this opportunity!

Below is the set of health care reform principles developed by Society volunteers and activists. With your help, we can put these principles in front of our policymakers. They include:

Accessible health care coverage
Affordable health care services and coverage
Standards for coverage of specific treatments
Elimination of disparities in care
Comprehensive, quality health care available to all
Increased value of health care
Access to high-quality, long-term supports and services
Take action now - tell your legislators to create health care policies that work for people living with MS and their families.

If we can deliver 50,000 letters to Congress by midnight on World MS Day, we will send the message that we are united on behalf of all people affected by MS.

Thank you for standing with me at this important moment,

Scott Hanson
MS Activist, diagnosed in 1998

What a complete and utter crock! MS patients need the innovation from a robust pharmaceutical sector. This will come with property rights and reduced government interference. Every single one of Mister Hanson's goals would be counter-productive to MS patients.

Thundering ingratitude time. Thanks everybody and enjoy your current plans; next year, don't. I do not suspect that any other "disease" group is much better. By O'Sullivan's Law, they won't be for long. And, to be fair, they do help families who are caring for MS patients and I have little doubt much of the money is well spent. But, thanks-but-no-thanks boys, I am not giving another dime to promote socialized medicine.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 11:28 AM | What do you think? [3]
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Hmmm, that is a conundrum. I recall that my father had a similar dilemma with AARP. They offer great benefits for seniors, but are one of the most liberal organizations on the planet and actively work to elect Democrats. Perhaps a better solution would be for those of us who have/do support the MS Society to have a letter campaign of our own to Mr. Hanson?

Beyond that, I'm intrigued by your idea of having an NRA-like org for free market ideas. How do we get started?

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 26, 2009 12:11 PM
But jk thinks:

On our freedom advocacy group, I was thinking that we apply for a government grant...

Glad you're still speaking to me, br. There are shades of gray in the MS Society but the AARP is evil incarnate. That discount hotel room requires too high a price in liberty -- you see their collectivist TV and magazine ads. One year from today I plan to mail them a shredded membership card and a very long letter.

I did have a thought of 500,000 letters to Hanson, but I have no doubt the sentiment runs through the entire organization. I surrender, sorry.

Perhaps I should start a "Gimps Against Government" group. I have what the media call "Moral Authority" on the issue. My single, non-joke, appearance on Best of the Web was on this topic.

Posted by: jk at May 26, 2009 12:40 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I had a similar epiphany when I received an email from asking me to write my congressman asking for credit card reform. (They want laws to regulate the revolving credit industry, thus diminishing market forces and competition.) This combined with my belief that Consumer Reports magazine is largely responsible for the false belief of the superior quality of Japanese cars to anything else on the planet may be enough for me to cancel my web membership with them.

Posted by: johngalt at May 26, 2009 1:42 PM

What's Phase 2 Again?

Bret Stephens at the WSJ Ed Page makes a South Park reference count today (on Matt Stone's birthday, no less!), relating the Obama Administration to one of my favorite 30 minutes of television:

Consider the 1998 "Gnomes" episode -- possibly surpassing Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" as the classic defense of capitalism -- in which the children of South Park, Colo., get a lesson in how not to run an enterprise from mysterious little men who go about stealing undergarments from the unsuspecting and collecting them in a huge underground storehouse.

Stephens points out that Obama seems to be missing "Phase 2" in dealing with North Korea, as well as in domestic pursuits:
In Gnome-speak, then, Mr. Obama's energy policy goes something like this: Phase One: Inaugurate the era of "green" energy. Phase Two: Overturn the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Phase Three: Carbon neutrality!

Take any number of Mr. Obama's other initiatives. Rescue Detroit? Phase One: Set a national mileage standard for passenger cars of 39 miles per gallon and force auto makers to make the kind of cars that drove them to bankruptcy in the first place.

Reduce the deficit? Phase One: Approve $3.5 trillion in government stimulus, and then await the mythical Keynesian multiplier.

Pay for a $1.2 trillion health-care reform? Phase One: scrounge around for about $60 billion in new "sin tax" revenue.

Read the whole thing, preferably with a cup of Tweeks Coffee, gentle as a late spring rain...

May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Posted by John Kranz at 10:31 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 24, 2009

Man After my Own Heart

This recession is really brutal. WSJ:

A man on a mission to visit every Starbucks in the world has a problem: Starbucks Corp. is closing scores of stores he has yet to visit.
He has been to more than 9,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S., Japan, Lebanon, Turkey and 13 other countries in the past dozen years, a trek chronicled on his Web site, He gained some notoriety mid-decade, when he was the subject of media reports and a documentary film, "Starbucking." He has "mildly obsessive-compulsive tendencies," he concedes, and a "mild addiction" to coffee.

These tendencies are growing more acute as he tries to stay a step ahead of Starbucks' corporate offices.

A software developer (natch!) he goes by the name "Winter." All hail, Winter!

Posted by John Kranz at 7:04 PM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

Of all the ways to waste one's life, this "every Starbucks" business is near the top of the idiotic list. Better to do this (I saw Lee headed North out of Denver last Monday. We exchanged waves as I passed him in my minivan.)

Posted by: johngalt at May 25, 2009 12:33 PM
But jk thinks:

I do not see why Lee's pursuit is better than Winter's. Both are making choices, both are using their own money (Winter has no tipjar, but I suppose if I sent him a check he'd cash it.)

Posted by: jk at May 25, 2009 9:51 PM
But johngalt thinks:

It has to do with how their time is spent, in comparison to each other, and what they've accomplished when they are "finished."

So Winter can say he "visited every Starbucks (except the ones built since I reached my goal and stopped)" while Lee has no such artificial goal. He's simply on walkabout, as Crocodile Dundee would say. I would never choose to spend my time the way Lee does. It is simply too little productivity resulting from too great an investment in time. But I still admire him for choosing to live his life actively and self-sufficiently doing something he enjoys. The greatest way this differs from what Winter is doing is that I consider "visiting every Starbucks franchise building in existence" to be an idiotic choice for "something he enjoys." If this is just an excuse to travel the country then it amounts to little more than "I want to travel in conventional ways to conventional places in every corner of the country." OK, so he sees lots of sights in his journey from one Starbucks to the next. But Lee's pursuit is the journey itself. In contrast to seeing what fragrance of urinal cakes is used in east-coast Starbucks Lee decided to go and see if his High School sweetheart was as sweet as he remembered her, and to her, him. The answer was, predictibly, no. But now he knows.

The importance of this entire subject is: A semi-rare opportunity to reflect upon how we choose to live our lives. Time is fleeting and the roads chosen often exclude other roads not traveled. To invest any of that time in logging which coffee shops I've visited and which not is to me, idiotic.

P.S. I still like Starbucks coffee. I get mine wherever I happen to be.

Posted by: johngalt at May 26, 2009 1:22 PM

May 22, 2009

What if global-warming fears are overblown?

Gee, is that even possible? I thought the "evidence is in" and "the science is settled?"

Lest anyone think my prior post is nothing but mere invective, read this interview by Fortune magazine's Jon Birger of veteran climatologist and IPCC contributor John Christy (who has no ties to "Big Oil"). Birger learned that...

...the surface temperature readings upon which global warming theory is built have been distorted by urbanization. Due to the solar heat captured by bricks and pavement and due to the changing wind patterns caused by large buildings, a weather station placed in a rural village in 1900 will inevitably show higher temperature readings if that village has, over time, been transformed into small city or a suburban shopping district, Christy says.

The only way to control for such surface distortions is by measuring atmospheric temperatures. And when Christy and his co-researcher Roy Spencer, a former NASA scientist now teaching at UA-Huntsville, began analyzing temperature readings from NOAA and NASA satellites, they found much slighter increases in atmospheric temperatures than what was being recorded on the surface. Christy and Spencer also found that nearly all the increases in average surface temperatures are related to nighttime readings - which makes sense if bricks and pavement are in fact retaining heat that would otherwise be dispersed.

Birger concludes by asking Christy,

What about the better-safe-than-sorry argument? Even if there's a chance Gore and Hansen are wrong, shouldn't we still take action in order to protect ourselves from catastrophe, just in case they're right?

Christy: The problem is that the solutions being offered don't provide any detectable relief from this so-called catastrophe. Congress is now discussing an 80% reduction in U.S. greenhouse emissions by 2050. That's basically the equivalent of building 1,000 new nuclear power plants all operating by 2020. Now I'm all in favor of nuclear energy, but that would affect the global temperature by only seven-hundredths of a degree by 2050 and fifteen hundredths by 2100. We wouldn't even notice it.

Hat Tip: A colleague of jg's college-professor dad who emailed the link to him with a note, "Maybe you were right all along." Click 'Continue reading' to see what dad said to him in reply.

(Is Fortune Magazine considered an MSM outlet?)


Of course I am right, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever. The computer models used to predict climate change and the computers used to run them are not sufficient to model what is already known and mitigating factors that we would call negative feedback, that makes the climate systems stable, are not well understood and are almost completely neglected. Whenever one of these climate researchers want to publish a paper all they have to do is alter a parameter in their computer program and speculate about the results. The government funds practically no research to on climate research other than to prove man is causing it; which he isnt. Anyone in this research community including John Christy who says anything counter to the accepted facts is all but ignored. John Christy is too high profile to have his funds cut-off; he is the Governments token critic. The present administration has much it wants to do and uses climate crises to cry wolf. Hopefully, the inmates will ultimately be put back into their cages and sanity will reign. Maybe it will happen before they bankrupt the country, but I am not at all hopeful.

But T. Greer thinks:

This last point cannot be stressed enough. If we listen to the numbers coming from the IEA, we will need to build 32 nuclear plants, 17,000 wind turbines, and 215 million square meters of solar panels every year in order to hit a 50% decrease in emissions by 2050.

Hansen, et. al. say we need to reduce emissions by 80% to make a difference.

Posted by: T. Greer at May 23, 2009 8:45 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Yes, quite. To put this in a perspective we can understand, if the proposed carbonless energy sources were "invested" for the next 50 years instead of only 40 they would produce the same amount of energy as is contained in just under 3.5 CMO (cubic miles of oil.) Remember that 1 CMO is approximately the annual world oil consumption. So this 40-50 year investment could be replaced by increasing world oil production by 7 to 9 percent over the same time period.

All of that extra "investment" for just 0.07 degrees of cooling?

Posted by: johngalt at May 25, 2009 12:48 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Upon reflection, my conclusion should be stated from a different perspective. The 40-50 year "investment" in carbonless energy doesn't need to be "replaced" as I said by 7 to 9 percent increase in oil production. Instead this is the amount of current oil production that the massive proposed expenditure would replace.

In other words, after untold trillions of dollars of other people's money is spent by government bureaucrats for 40 years we'll still consume at least 91% of the oil we now use (and the earth might be 0.07 degrees cooler than it would otherwise have been.

Posted by: johngalt at May 28, 2009 12:07 PM

Three Warriors

I have not linked -- positively -- to Peggy Noonan in some time. I think you have read enough of my negative links that I won't go into. Besides I come to praise our Margaret, not bury her.

She brings her sweetness and love of country to her column today. And it is a great warm up for Memorial Day weekend.

The category of military herowarriorfell off a bit, in part because of the bad reputation of war. Some emerged of heroic sizeGens. Pershing and Patton, Eisenhower and Marshall. But somewhere in the 1960s I think we decided, or the makers of our culture decided, that to celebrate great warriors was to encourage war. And we always have too much of that. So they made a lot of movies depicting soldiers as victims and officers as brutish. This was especially true in the Vietnam era and the years that followed. Maybe a correction was in order: It's good to remember war is hell. But when we removed the warrior, we removed something intensely human, something ancestral and stirring, something celebrated naturally throughout the long history of man. Also it was ungrateful: They put themselves in harm's way for us.

For Memorial Day, then, three warriors, two previously celebrated but not so known now by the young.


Orwell predicted Albert Gore Jr.

For your Friday enjoyment, here's a great new Global Warming video from Competitive Enterprise Institute.

There are some good fact/fiction counterpoints if you follow the original link.

Hat Tip again to This is an excellent blog with many current stories on the topic. Highly recommended. Blogroll candidate.

WARNING: The recommended site is dot ORG. The easily confused site at dot COM is a kool-aid site. For example, they warn:

The prevailing counter opinion is that all that is presently perceived to be global warming is simply the result of a normal climactic swing in the direction of increased temperature. Most proponents of this global warming ideology have definitive social and financial interests in these claims.

HA! Pot calls kettle black! (I wonder if they recognize the irony that their site carries the dot COM, i.e. commercial, URL extension? Probably not.) At any rate, the first defense they offer is an ad hominem. Sad.

May 21, 2009

They Look Great Together

Blog Brother AC shares an email from VP Biden, endorsing "My Friend Arlen."

Have a paper bag handy before you click...

Pennsylvania Posted by John Kranz at 6:54 PM | What do you think? [0]

The California Earthquake

Jimmy P (James Pethokoukis) has a new home, blogging for Reuters now (Thanks to The Everyday Economist for the tip). And he not uncharacteristically makes a good point about the vote in California and possible repercussions:

Ive talked to loads of investors, pro and amateur, who think the game is up. They think the American economy is doomed to downshift into a permanent slow-growth mode. Massive budget deficits, more regulation, more taxes. My standard reply points out that global current, debt and equity investors would punish, sooner rather than later, any nation that follows such a course. The financial vigilantes would prevail in the end.

Oh, and the voters might have a say, too as they did in California, giving a thumping to tax-hiking referendums. I mean, the common wisdom here in DC is that Americans need to pay higher taxes. And for awhile, many here believed that Americans would accept this perceived reality, despite the fact that President Obama was elected as an (overall) tax cutter. Some polls showed the same thing.

But actual voters sent a different message. Its the same message that is also cutting the knees out of the Obamacrats plans for a cap-and trade system. Americans, facing reduced net worth and a terrifying job market, dont want government imposing higher costs whether through taxes or regulations. (Especially when the dont think that government is particually well run or efficient.) And higher taxes for healthcare, too? Plus, if those Obama middle-class tax cuts arent extended, many folks will be getting a tax hike in 2011. There seems to be a complete disconnect here between the political class and the rest of the country

Posted by John Kranz at 6:11 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Related: "Stunning New Survey Shows Americans Oppose Expensive-Energy Bill"


* 58% of respondents say they are unwilling to pay any more than they currently pay for electricity to combat climate change.

* Respondents are aware that climate change legislation will likely cause their electricity rates to go up.

* Interest in protecting the environment and fighting climate change has dropped from a low priority (8%) in 2007 to receiving virtually no attention (3%) in 2009.

Hat tip: (NOT .com)

Posted by: johngalt at May 22, 2009 12:14 PM

Quote of the Day

I found a High School friend on Facebook. Seeing that he listed US Navy as an employer, I said "Thank you for your service." He replied:

Hi John, thanks for the comment about military service. It means a lot. As I live in Australia there is a lot of anti-American and anti-military sentiment. I also recall a comment years ago from someone we went to primary school with. She ripped into me about being in the military. I suppose that is easy to do when you watch the news and see negative stories. The story behind the news story is pretty amazing and most who have been there have a great deal of pride in their service. Sorry for writing a book. Thanks for the comment.

Many things disappoint in life. But the thought that these people are not treated like the heroes that they are. That chaps my hide. Thanks to all who serve!

But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Here, here!

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 21, 2009 11:45 PM

Sneak Peek II

A couple of new videos this week at the virtual coffeehouse.

We'll have that Grand Opening someday...

But johngalt thinks:

You are to be commended for selecting two tunes that even a neophyte such as I have heard of. Very enjoyable.

Posted by: johngalt at May 22, 2009 10:41 PM
But jk thinks:


Posted by: jk at May 23, 2009 11:06 AM

May 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

A Golden State friend of the blog has this up on Facebook:

"What is best in life? To crush your enemies' ballot propositions, to see them driven out of Sacramento on a rail before you, and to hear the lamentation of the girlie-man governor and the left-wing journalists who fawn over him."

I don't have permission to post it, so I won't give a name. I'm sure you'll never guess.

UPDATE: Okay, okay, it's Keith! And he said I could.

Posted by John Kranz at 6:19 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Keith thinks:

jk: you may borrow at will; or as we say here in the official language of California: "mi status es tu status."

I may have to take back my previous comment about Californians being stupid. Instead, I think we're schizophr - skitzofrehn - I think we have split personalities. We vote conservatively on issues in the propositions but keep re-electing the same big-spender leftoids (second cousin to reptoids) into office. So we're not a tax-and-spend state in the eyes of voters; we're more of a spend-and-pray-for-a-bailout states.

We're such tools.

Posted by: Keith at May 20, 2009 6:40 PM

Got Your Hope and Change Right Here

Presented without commentary. If you need some, Allahpundit has you covered.

Hat-tip: @mkhammer

Posted by John Kranz at 6:01 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Can Obama be sued for plagiarism?

Posted by: johngalt at May 23, 2009 11:03 AM


The overwhelmingly negative "Obama at the Auto Buffet" post below inspired me to look up this gem from yesterday. Frank J. Fleming is not afraid to look at the dark side of things:

Let me put it in all caps: DOOOOMED! The economy was already collapsing, and now Obama has loaded it into an old Chevy facing a cliff and placed a brick on the accelerator. And while the country is falling apart on the inside, our enemies are getting stronger externally. Any day now, were going to be nuked by Iran, North Korea, a Taliban-controlled Pakistan, or all three at once with the backing of Russia and China. Then again, after Obama buzzed New York with Air Force One, would it be too surprising if he accidentally nuked us himself? His whole administration obviously has no idea what theyre doing, and with sixty votes in the Senate there is no stopping them. None.

It's pretty funny if you can laugh...

Economic Stimulus

IMing with a workmate, we were kidding about the wisdom of buying a big three car now, before the UAW/US MotorCo turns them all into Yugos. Folks are stocking up on guns and ammo, incandescent lamps, &c. I'm a little-car guy myself, but might now be the time to get that eeevil SUV while you still can?

I will not go into President Obama's fuel efficiency inanity, except to link to two superb WSJ Editorials. First Car Crazy:

Obama's fleet-mileage partners yesterday included the two auto companies that have fallen into his arms, Chrysler and GM, still-independent Ford, the major foreign manufacturers, United Auto Workers chief Ron Gettelfinger, and beaming representatives from the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

All that's left to arrive at the President's new destination for the American way of driving are huge, unanswered questions about technology, financing and the marketability of cars that will be small and expensive.

Then click next door to Holman Jenkins's Obama at the Auto Buffet
The administration at least understands the conflict it has set in motion. Under a reported new Chrysler contract dictated by the White House, the union surrenders its right to strike for the next six years. A redolent fact, though, is that Ron Bloom, the administration's real acting car czar in this case, was a principal in the now-defunct investment banking firm of Keilin & Bloom, which secured the 55% stake for the unions in United Airlines in the mid-1990s.

United's pilots did not strike in pursuit of what eventually became the richest contract in the industry. They did engage in work slowdowns that led to thousands of canceled and delayed flights and ferocious anger among the airline's customers. Pilot leader Rick Dubinsky told management in 2000: "We don't want to kill the golden goose. We just want to choke it by the neck until it gives us every last egg." United filed for bankruptcy two years later.

The buffet theme comes from the sad truth that there are no constraints on this power grab. If the President wants to eat all the metaphoric shrimp at the buffet, there's nothing to stop him.

Dark days. My IM correspondent is not a political guy, but he ended with a reference to "cars made by the USSA." Maybe he should not go for another plate of shrimp after all.

But johngalt thinks:

But there is a "green shoot" of "hope" for liberty, property rights and law (read: Americanism). A few of Chrysler's secured creditors are starting the chain of appeals to higher courts to intervene in the illegal and unconstitutional actions of Treasury. It may not be long before we know if there are still three branches of government to check each other in this country or only two.

Posted by: johngalt at May 20, 2009 5:26 PM
But jk thinks:

Damned speculators! The White House Press Corps will ruin them -- then they'll be sorry they thought about asserting their property rights...

Posted by: jk at May 20, 2009 5:55 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Appealing to a higher court...yes, that worked well for Susan Kelo.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 21, 2009 9:10 AM
But Keith thinks:

... which in turn makes me dread the choice the Prezznit will make for the Supreme Court vacancy. The ones I've seen floated are not the ones I'd trust to umpire a minor-league baseball game, much less any case worthy of the court's attention.

Wake me when it's over...

Posted by: Keith at May 21, 2009 10:57 AM
But jk thinks:

No, Keith. We will beat up the SCOTUS picks when they come, but there is so little good news in life, take comfort that President Obama cannot possibly pick somebody worse for liberty than Justice Souter and there is a chance that he might get "Soutered" himself.

We cannot lose. It's unlikely we'll win, but we cannot lose.

Posted by: jk at May 21, 2009 11:52 AM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I don't know about "can't lose." We'll still get raped, just not any worse than before.

We're only seeing the beginning of what this administration will do to dismantle everything good that made this country so prosperous.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 21, 2009 2:50 PM

May 19, 2009

May have to get cable back...

I remember not thinking too much of this guy's FOXNews show, but watching his ReasonTV interview, I will give it another shot.

He makes the Penn Gilette error of promoting libertine as much as liberty, but he is dead on on DAWG, media, and Bill Maher. Woo Hoo.

Hat-tip: Instapundit

UPDATE: By the way, I can watch FOXNews (and Kudlow and ESPN and..) on my wife's cell phone. Not a bad deal.

But AlexC thinks:

Gutfield & Red Eye are the only thing I watch on Fox.

I DVR it, it's a really fun show...

Posted by: AlexC at May 21, 2009 1:00 PM

Graphic Metaphor

If Michael Steele cannot turn this into a good GOP commercial, he really does have to step down.

At issue are "virtual colonoscopies," or CT scans of the abdomen. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of U.S. cancer death but one of the most preventable. Found early, the cure rate is 93%, but only 8% at later stages. Virtual colonoscopies are likely to boost screenings because they are quicker, more comfortable and significantly cheaper than the standard "optical" procedure, which involves anesthesia and threading an endoscope through the lower intestine.

The WSJ Ed Page is making a serious point about allowing the government to ration health care. Once they decide that a it's cheaper to rotorooter everyone's ass (it's part of serious political commentary -- I don't say these things to be prurient!) than the less intrusive procedure will go away.

Chairman Steele, it's up to you, although a YouTube® contest inviting people to submit their own ads might be a start...

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 11:59 AM | What do you think? [0]

Limited Government

We had a spirited and interesting discussion a few posts down.

I went hunting for the exact quote I was looking for from James Madison, hampered badly by expecting it to be John Quincy Adams: "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

I found it as a reference in a Walter Williams column from 2006. Professor Williams, of course, makes my argument about limited government far better than I:

Each year since 2004, on Sept. 17, we commemorate the 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution by 39 American statesmen. The legislation creating Constitution Day was fathered by Sen. Robert Byrd and requires federal agencies and federally funded schools, including universities, to have some kind of educational program on the Constitution.

I cannot think of a piece of legislation that makes greater mockery of the Constitution, or a more constitutionally odious person to father it -- Sen. Byrd, a person who is known as, and proudly wears the label, "King of Pork." The only reason that Constitution Day hasn't become a laughingstock is because most Americans are totally ignorant of, or have contempt for, the letter and spirit of our Constitution.

I think we are seeing what happens when you believe that government should do whatever it wants, as long as it is swell. FDR had to fight off the Hughes Court, LBJ had a far more divided Congress. President Obama's supra Constitutional escapades are meeting far less organized resistance.

I don't see how we can forcefully object to his trampling of private property and contract rights as we support the adoption and enforcement of unconstitutional powers that we like. It's a short piece, well worth the read.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 11:00 AM | What do you think? [3]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I presume WW shortened the quote from Madison's Federalist #45 because of length limitations:

"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State."

But hey, Madison only wrote much of the thing himself, so what did he know?

I once had an overtly socialist political science professor justify social welfare programs to our class, saying, "The Constitution gives Congress the power to tax and spend to promote the general welfare." And most Americans are state-worshipping enough to believe this. As I've pointed out, until 1865, the federal government derived most of its revenues from a quite modest (i.e. not to the levels of Whig/Repuglican protectionism) tariff.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 19, 2009 3:11 PM
But Keith thinks:

Perry: I've always thought one of the cleverest parts of the leftward slouch was slapping the label "Welfare" on the redistribution of tax money from earners to non-earners, since it would lend legitimacy to the payments in the eyes of the public. But I've always thought the specific choice of the words "general welfare" meant "the welfare of all" rather than "the welfare of a few at the expense of others," and that it referred to things that would benefit all, such as roads.

Also, the phrase "general welfare" is from the preamble, not from any specific section, and therefore is not an enumerated power.

Would you say that rationale is valid?

Posted by: Keith at May 20, 2009 7:23 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Absolutely correct. "Welfare" has been so perverted over the last several decades. I realized this as a teenager, when I read some idiotic bleeding heart op-ed decrying welfare cuts, saying that welfare "was a concept considered so benign that the Founding Fathers put it in the preamble to the Constitution." That's complete poppycock, as anyone who's read Madison can tell you.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 21, 2009 9:13 AM

May 18, 2009

Yet Another NRA Win

I suggested a couple of weeks ago that the NRA model would be far better for libertarians to follow than the big-L Libertarian Party.

The WSJ Ed Page provides one more example of how the NRA has changed the debate.

Amid so much other news, a Senate vote last week to allow loaded guns in national parks slipped under the media radar. The vote shows how the political cause of gun control is as dead as a mounted moose.

By 67-29, the Senate passed Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn's amendment to let law-abiding visitors carry legal firearms into national parks. This overturns a 1983 federal rule requiring that firearms be kept unloaded and in an inaccessible place such as a trunk of a car. The provision (now part of credit-card legislation) protects Second Amendment rights, and it preserves the right of states to pass firearm laws that apply consistently, even on federal lands.

As recently as the 1990s, guns in parks legislation would have provoked a Congressional uproar. But gun control has proven to be a consistent political loser, and last year the Supreme Court cast doubt on state gun bans. No fewer than 27 Democrats voted for Mr. Coburn's amendment, and the ayes included Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is up for re-election in Nevada next year.

Congressional liberals are furious, and are threatening to hold up the credit-card bill, much as they have held up Washington, D.C. voting-rights legislation to which Republicans attached gun-owner protections. Holding up both bad bills forever would be fine with us, but in any case it's clear liberals have lost the gun control debate even within their own party.

My favorite NRA moment is when they were pushing the "I'm the NRA" campaign. Lot's of young moms and reasonable businessmen highlighting the group's diversity. I saw a bald, tattooed, camo-clad redneck hop out of a 20-year old Ford pickup with an "I'm The NRA" sticker. "Whoa duse, this is not the image they intended!"

In spite of this and several other missteps -- they thought D.C. v Heller was premature -- the NRA has moved the playing field. They are not tied to a single candidate or party, as in "we'll have freedom again when we find another Reagan." This is a good model for the liberty lover.

But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

"But I dare you to suggest an organization that has more thoroughly achieved its objectives in the past 20-30 years."

I presume you mean besides the Democratic Party, ACLU, Planned Parenthood...

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 18, 2009 11:10 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

"PE is incorrect that the NRA tries to make this a issue about sportmen and hunting."

It would be a better world if I were wrong, but I'm not. What I said is correct: every time the NRA talks about hunters or sportsmen, and it does, it's creating a red herring. Any talk about "gun rights" needs to from a pure understanding of liberty. That's why the NRA begs government to "allow" weapons, instead of demanding that government cease infringing upon people's rights (the proper negative view of liberty).

Again, compare them to the JPFO, which is strictly about the right to defend oneself against aggressors (including your own government).

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 18, 2009 11:19 PM
But jk thinks:

"I presume you mean besides the Democratic Party, ACLU, Planned Parenthood..." Serious touche, Perry!

I call myself the pragmatist and my point holds that the NRA has effectively changed the playing field. The JPFO (not, I hope, associated with the Judean People's Front) sounds like they have the right idea and I salute your supporting them. But the money that folks have given to the NRA has achieved substantive objectives.

On that point, Perry, I come back to my thesis. That libertarians should copy the NRA's tactics of supporting rather than fielding candidates. The LP can somewhat rightfully craw about its purity of thought, but they have accomplished nothing in forty years.

Posted by: jk at May 19, 2009 10:57 AM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

PE, it's a minor point but I have to set the record straight. The NRA takes the idea of gun ownership as a fundamental freedom very seriously and one that was put there by the Founders as the last defense against a tyrannical government.

My father was a director in the NRA for a number of years in the '90s and intimately involved with it dating back to the days of Harlon Carter in the '70s. He was also the chairman of the National Firearms Museam until his death in 2006. Although I can understand your perception based on media attempts to frame the argument (they're the ones that pull the quotes), I can assure you that it is a misperception.

The NRA has been criticized by some members by being too focused on the Second Amendment as a Constitional issue (you can't please everyone). As a practical tactic, however, you have to fight Congress one law at a time. You also have to personalize the argument to be effective, which is why hunting and home defense is woven into the argument.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 20, 2009 12:14 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

J: Remember God's promise to spit out the lukewarm church. Similarly, I've grown tired of compromising by throwing my lot in with "mediocre but at least they can win" candidates. I'm willing to lose while I stick to my principles, rather than water them down so that someone .

The Anti-Defamation League cites the Holocaust and says, "Never again." The JPFO looks at the Holocaust but also the Warsaw Ghetto, and says, "Never again."

BR: I can return your assurance by saying I'm going by the NRA's own publications, so it's not that I'm unaware of their "true" positions. It's almost insulting to see you accuse me of falling for the MSM's perceptions, when I of anyone

Again, I'll spell out the flaws in the NRA's "rights" arguments. First, they can cite the Second Amendment until Armageddon, but to what end? It's talk about "gun rights," but not in the most important sense. There isn't much talk at all about RKBA to defend oneself against aggressors, including our own government, because they're afraid it'll make them seem like loons. But in that case, Jefferson was also a loon, so they'd be in good company.

Look back again at what I said: "Second, the NRA talks about "sportsmen" and other such nonsense." One more time, this creates a red herring. The only argument is about freedom: life, liberty and property, which implicitly include the right to use any force to defend one's rights. If that means a shotgun blowing off an intruder's nuts (heaven help anyone who tries to invade my home, because I'll take my time), or a bazooka to blow up a tank sent to subjugate my neighborhood, that's all legitimate.

Once you say, "I justify my guns because I like to hunt," liberals will counter in the same way they do "I need a car so I'm free to drive around as I need." Liberals reply that, well, you don't need a powerful rifle, or armor-piercing ammunition, to go hunting. So here's a tiny, underpowered rifle with all the rounds properly registered and distributed only as the government sees fit, just like here's a tiny, underpowered car that the government says is all you need to drive yourself around.

This ties in to my second point that I'll repeat. The NRA views "gun rights" as positive liberty, otherwise they wouldn't have pushed for "allowing" firearms. The proper wording would be for government to cease infringing upon this a priori right. It's a common fallacy among most Americans, though, not just the NRA. Maybe your father is an exception, but he'd be a rare one.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 21, 2009 10:37 AM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

P.S. I don't fight for just one right at a time. When you do, government makes you expend all your efforts on that single front, allowing it to seize the rest of yours while you don't notice.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 21, 2009 10:42 AM

May 15, 2009

A Good Thing About the Obama Administration?

President Obama's new drug czar said some very intelligent things:

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country."

Gil Kerlikowske, the new White House drug czar, signaled Wednesday his openness to rethinking the government's approach to fighting drug use.
Mr. Kerlikowske's comments are a signal that the Obama administration is set to follow a more moderate -- and likely more controversial -- stance on the nation's drug problems. Prior administrations talked about pushing treatment and reducing demand while continuing to focus primarily on a tough criminal-justice approach.

The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone, with treatment's role growing relative to incarceration, Mr. Kerlikowske said.

Larry Kudlow loves to quote the old Reagan joke about the young man who gets a big box of manure for Christmas and gets all excited, saying "there must be a pony around here somewhere!" That's optimism.

After making campaign noises about a more relaxed attitude to domestic wars, the appontment of Eric Holder at DOJ was seen as a big step back. I have to say Kerlikowske sounds like a step forward.

But jk thinks:

By defining what a citizen is (a national citizen) the Feds clearly have arole in granting or denying its license.

I'm not a fan of the 14th, br. President Lincoln had Federal troops stationed in some Southern States and ratification was clearly coerced. The idea of US Citizenship really begins in the 14th. I'm suggesting that states offer State citizenship.

Posted by: jk at May 18, 2009 5:20 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

My father-in-law would love you. He despises Lincoln and the 14th Amendement. We've had many a fine debate. He's a big-L Libertarian, but smart enough to vote Republican as a matter of practicality.

I am generally a fan of the 14th Amendment, because I find it unlikely that the Southern states would have granted anything close to liberty for blacks. And, it's not OK to abbrogate (lovin' that word today) individual liberty in the name of State's Rights. I will concede, however, that "equal protection" has been used and abused as elastically has "general welfare."

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 18, 2009 5:42 PM
But jk thinks:

I agree that it was required and that the southern states lost some authority to object. But I dislike the Federal power grab -- why not have an amendment that says the government will enforce equality of state citizenship?

Posted by: jk at May 18, 2009 6:23 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Not clear how the notion of "state citizenship" would work. Does that mean that I can be a citizen of Colorado without being a citizen of the US? Moreover, I thought impetus of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, was to assure that no government could usurp the "inalienable rights endowed by our Creator." Does that not apply to US citizens, not "state" citizens?

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 18, 2009 7:29 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

This thread grew too fast before I could jump in before now, but here are a few things.

1. There's actually no Constitutional power over immigration, which was supposed to be free. Congress did have, under Article I, Section 8, to pass laws regarding naturalization. The two are extremely different. Even after the 14th Amendment was ratified, immigration was extremely free.

Conservatives can foam at the mouth about open borders, but in a proper world where there's hardly any government and public property, immigration becomes a matter of people trespassing on your private land. That means you can detain them, and shoot them if necessary.

2. JK is correct. "I'm not a fan of the 14th, br. President Lincoln had Federal troops stationed in some Southern States and ratification was clearly coerced. The idea of US Citizenship really begins in the 14th. I'm suggesting that states offer State citizenship."

The idea of federal citizenship for state citizens did not exist until 1868. Until then, you were a federal citizen only if you resided in a federal territory, e.g. the District of Columbia, and the pre-state Oklahoma and Utah territories.

Patrick Henry said unequivocally that "I am an American," but he meant it to disclaim being under the British Crown's authority. He was saying he wasn't an Englishman, not that he said he was a citizen of all states under the Continental Congress.

And yes, the 14th Amendment was forcibly ratified. If anyone doubts that, read your history: the Southern states' legislatures were occupied by the northern military once they refused to ratify.

3. "I find it unlikely that the Southern states would have granted anything close to liberty for blacks." BR, there you go again with the fallacial positive notion of liberty. Proper government can grant no rights.

For this reason, it doesn't matter if you're a citizen of a state or a federal territory. Your rights simply cannot be infringed by any government, federal, state or local.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 18, 2009 11:46 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Very good comments, PE, and I will accept your admonition that governments cannot grant rights and liberty that are inherent. However, they sure as hell can inhibit, infringe and usurp those rights. I find it unlikely that (most) Southern states would have restored those inherent right to black citizens without the 14th Amendment and the point of a gun.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 19, 2009 5:33 PM

For Sale: The Golden State

I really wanted to include a little graphic showing the state of California with a FOR SALE sign planted in it right about at Sacramento. Well, just use your imagination.

California's Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed selling a number of state landmarks (state ownership of which is in some doubt) to raise cash and balance the state budget. One-time proceeds are estimated at $1 billion. The budget shortfall is $15.4 billion, just for the next fiscal year. Obviously state officials need more stuff to put in their garage sale. Hmm, I wonder what California has that someone might be willing to pay cash for (other than federal bailout dollars, that is.) Gee, that's a tough one!

According to this handy interactive graphic the total government lease royalty revenue that would result from lifting current oil and gas production moratoria is $1695 billion and of that amount, $1386 billion of it comes from the outer continental shelf (Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf regions combined.) A summary report here provides numerous tables showing the breakdown by area but none were clear enough for me to cite specifically. Let it suffice to say the California budget shortfall, at $15.4 billion, is a bit over 1 percent of the possible OCS government windfall. If the Governator would simply work toward responsible development of his state's natural resources he could balance its budget overnight, and for decades to come.

As an added bonus, the productive half of America might even throw in legalization of pot!

But jk thinks:

I'm just happy the Governator is listening to Reason TV as they point out some of the goodies that are available.

Great point on the revenues from energy production. If we could duct tape Senators Boxer and Feinstein in a box* for a couple of days and override the bans, would the Golden State's production be viable at current prices?

*ThreeSources does not recommend or condone violent behavior directed at legitimately elected officials. This was merely a dramatic device to suggest possible passage of legislation that the current Senatorial representation of California has long opposed.

Posted by: jk at May 15, 2009 11:42 AM
But Keith thinks:

California going bankrupt while refusing to pump all that nice, shiny, revenue-producing oil isn't far removed from half a billion people starving in India while porterhouses and top sirloins on four legs walk around unmolested and uneaten on their city streets.

THERE'S a worthy run-on sentence to make a well-deserved point. The picturesque tone of voice is just a fringe benefit.

All that being said, I must once again apologize to the whole nation for my state. Let's just face it: we're heap plenty stupid. We gave you Feinstein, Boxer, Schwarzenegger, Waters, and come next Tuesday, we'll see whether we're still stupid.

I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry.

Posted by: Keith at May 15, 2009 4:32 PM
But jk thinks:

A feller in the 2nd Congressional Colorado district is not going to cast any stones (not without a permit, Kieth).

The Reason video reminded me the hope I had for Ahnold. All humor of the video aside, it underscores just how bankrupt (philosophically) the system is. Watch those union folk -- those teachers "Ain't got none attention of giving nothing up!"

Schwarzenegger was a rare chance: he had the star power to get elected as an individualist in a collectivist-leaning state and he had toughness to stand up to the opposition. The California Public Union Sector trained him like a puppy. Is there another one left, Yoda?

Posted by: jk at May 15, 2009 5:02 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I see today evidence that the "sell Cahl-ee-fohrn-ya's state landmarks" proposal was little more than a campaign stunt. It was aimed at bolstering support for tomorrow's tax increase ballot measures (which Keith alluded to in his comment.) The half-dozen or so initiatives would raise taxes to collect, as I understand it, an additional $6 billion per year for 3 years from CA taxpayers (read: those "white people" who gathered on Capitol steps nationwide last month). If they fail, as the polls suggest most will, the supposed result will be "deep spending cuts."

Good NED, can we get some of those ballot measures in OUR state too??

Posted by: johngalt at May 18, 2009 1:36 PM
But Keith thinks:

johngalt: for more on tomorrow's wacky ballot measures in California, see here:

I did an update yesterday pointing my readers back here, and we have a lively conversation going among my readers in which you're always welcome to participate. Heaven knows a good lesson in free-market economics and the proper role of government is sorely needed by Californians, especially our elected overlords...

Posted by: Keith at May 18, 2009 1:55 PM

May 14, 2009

Mark Steyn

I highly recommend the Hillsdale College "Imprimus." It's a free mailing usually adapted from a speech at Hillsdale. They are very good, and it is free to sign up.

Glenn Reynolds links to Mark Steyn's April 2009: Live Free or Die. I'll treat you to two excerpts. First his contretemps with the "human rights" commissions in Canada:

it seemed bizarre to find the progressive left making common cause with radical Islam. One half of the alliance profess to be pro-gay, pro-feminist secularists; the other half are homophobic, misogynist theocrats. Even as the cheap bus 'n' truck road-tour version of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it made no sense. But in fact what they have in common overrides their superficially more obvious incompatibilities: Both the secular Big Government progressives and political Islam recoil from the concept of the citizen, of the free individual entrusted to operate within his own societal space, assume his responsibilities, and exploit his potential.

Awesome. Can any ThreeSourcer not weep at the simple power of that? Then he makes a point I always try to make on spending. Let's say he makes it pretty well:
But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.

It only gets better.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 4:57 PM | What do you think? [0]

Headline of the Day

Earmarks Crash Computer, Chairman Accepts Less Transparency -- Sunlight Foundation
I dont know what amuses me most, that this happens at all or that this happens every year. The computer system designed to handle earmark requests at the House Transportation Committee crashed after lawmakers uploaded their earmarks to it.
Hat-tip: Mary Katherine Ham on Twitter. If you are not following mkhammer, you are nuts. If you have put off Twitter waiting for a reason, I offer you @mkhammer.
Posted by John Kranz at 1:51 PM | What do you think? [0]

Thou Shalt Not Think Anti-Stosselian Thoughts

I am a big fan of The Speculist blog. But I think Phil Bowermaster uncharacteristically misses today on an Insty-linked whack at John Stossel.

I'll sit still for a few criticisms of Stossel, even though he is the only light of liberty on network TV. I thought his flagship efforts to get daredevils to foot the cost of their rescues was, if not wrong, the wrong place to put emphasis. We are talking small beans and local control; I cannot get really worked up over it and realize that I might very well do something stupid someday...maybe...

But Bowermaster goes after Stossel's assertion that "America Needs to Do Less for Its Senior Citizens." He parses a paragraph pretty closely to make his point that end-of-life health care is extremely expensive and having just had his father rescued from Cancer, that we might look for ways to provide it instead of vilifying geezerdom.

Fair point, but his argument gets pretty personal. Stossel is painting Seniors as "The Other" (oh jeez, we're doing LitCrit on 20/20 now?) And his comparison of 6:1 spending on seniors vs. children is some Pelosiesque attempt to accuse them of stealing from children.

I will quote that great champion of the Right Wing, Garrison Keillor. Even he lambasted the AARP once as a group of folks who lobby kids to provide more than we'd ever agree to give even our own parents. I think you could suggest that Stossel took the wrong track on Medicare but you cannot look me in the say that his premise is wrong. We are set to bankrupt the country and strangle wealth creation because no legislator dares ask that maybe Warren Buffet could pay for his own doctor or that some of us might have to gasp! consider working past 62.

It is intergenerational theft through state coercion. Nice that it makes Bowermaster feel good, but I am going to have to go with Stossel on this one.

But mdmhvonpa thinks:

Garrison Keillor ... Right Wing? SIR! You jest!

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at May 15, 2009 12:00 PM
But jk thinks:

Jest I do, mdmh. My point was that even a loony lefty like Keillor saw the AARP agenda as a step too far.

In fairness, I must admit that I went on an internet search for the exact quote. Searches for Garrison Keillor and AARP turn up many many links to fawning articles in the AARP magazine and no links that I could find to his disapprobation.

It seems we have always been at war with Eurasia...

Posted by: jk at May 15, 2009 12:48 PM

May 13, 2009

Now That''s Inconvenient!



We'll Pick Winners, We're Just Not Good at It! has a little fun with the Obama Administrations abandoning funding for Hydrogen cars. He links to a WSJ blog with the sorry scoreboard:

Were very good at starting programs. Were not so good at delivering on the promises made by those programs, Mr.[Robert] Fri said. For example, President Nixon called for a low-emissions car in 1970. Jimmy Carter urged the reinvention of the car in 1977. The Clinton administration started the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles in 1993. President Bush launched the FreedomCar project in 2003. Meanwhile, General Motors only put Hummer up for sale this summer, when gasoline hit $4 a gallon.

Quote of the Day

If you find this funny, you read blogs too much:

Developing: Should the editor of kausfiles ever come close to attaining a position of actual public influence, such as a "real" MSM job, kf interns have devised a "doomsday" strategy of sorts to immediately sabotage his career. According to sources in the inner circle, it could involve distributing the text of his unpublished novel about welfare reform. ... Update: "Ibrahim," cashier at a Venice, California 7-11, claims the so-called doomsday strategy is "complete BS." "I don't think there is an hour Kaus isn't in here," he says. "If there was a doomsday plan, I guarantee you we would know about it." ... 5:48 P.M. -- Mickey Kaus

Posted by John Kranz at 12:52 PM | What do you think? [0]

Great Post on Monetary Policy

Blog friend The Everyday Economist has a great post up yesterday that I would highly recommend.

It's a serious look at monetary stability and the plusses and minuses of different targets for Central Bankers. It is certainly accessible to any bright person irrespective of economics training and gets nicely to the heart of an under-discussed topic: what are the goals of central bankers?

EE got me hooked up with Bernanke's textbook, and I remain very comfortable with the idea of inflation targeting. I think the problem with the FOMC is the so called "dual-mandate" to target price stability and employment. I think a firm commitment to inflation would be sufficient. EE makes some good points for income targeting and I wouldn't object. But I think the problem is more the dual mandate which contains an intrinsic acceptance of the Phillips Curve rather than any difference between a price and income target.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

But johngalt thinks:

Whew. I'm not sure that word "accessible" means what you think it means.

But consider this: "Scott Sumner believes that we could have avoided the recession and simply experienced a burst of the housing bubble had we followed a nominal income target. I actually think that we might not have even had a housing bubble if we had a nominal income target (that allows for falling prices)." Alternately, could we have avoided both the recession AND the housing bubble with JK's October 1, 2008 'first, do no harm' prescription of government anti-meddling? [Like anti-matter, we can imagine it but can't seem to find it.]

"If you get the time machine and can go back, Terminator style, to fix our current problems, I would suggest:

1. Rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Set the way-back machine far enough to prevent their birth if you can, but at the very least pass the reforms that President Bush and (some) GOP legislators proposed in 2004 and 2005. Cut their leverage in half and you cut the current mess to a fourth.

2. Get Andrea Mitchell to dope Greenspan's tea and get him to raise rates to at least 2% before handing the reins over to Princeton Boy.

3. Strangle mark-to-market accounting in the crib. Bank regulation makes accounting a legal endeavor. These rules are too harsh and give short sellers too powerful a tool to take a bank down.

4. Laugh the Community Reinvestment Act out of Congress. Do not require banks to make bad loans, they seem to do pretty well on their own.

Get halfway there on all of those and there's no panic."

Posted by: johngalt at May 13, 2009 1:42 PM
But EE thinks:


Thanks for the link. Also, it is somewhat ironic that I got you hooked on Bernanke's inflation targeting book when I am now unconvinced with that approach. However, there are elements of inflation targeting that I like. For example, the explicit goal allows the market to understand what the central bank is going to do as well as giving it the ability to evaluate whether or not they are successful.

The reason that I favor the nominal income target is because an exclusive focus on inflation can be misleading (perhaps I should write a post on that). What's more the nominal income target also serves to satisfy the dual mandate -- and without the inflationary bias.



In all seriousness, Sumner's point is basically that we could have avoided the recession in spite of the bursting of the housing bubble. I am not convinced that this is the case.

I will echo your point that government policy has not been anywhere close to ideal (see here, here, here, here, and here).

[Shameless plugging!]

Posted by: EE at May 13, 2009 2:46 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm a serious skeptic on that one too, EE. Not only is housing a high value segment of the economy, it was (necessarily) tightly coupled with financial markets and institutions.

I'll leave serious critique of inflation vs. income targeting to Perry but what irks me about inflation targeting - as I understand it, the Fed manipulates the money supply to maintain a small positive rate of inflation in order to promote stability and prevent recession - is that the rate of inflation acts as a fee for the priviledge of using the currency. The collector of the fee is the issuer of the currency (the Federal Reserve Banks) and it amounts to a profit at the expense of the entire dollar based economy.

Am I off base here?

I'm not opposed to private business making a profit, except when it is a government protected monopoly. How about "Federal Reserve Dollars" competing with "Halliburton Dollars" and "General Electric Dollars" and "Uncle Eric's Gold and Silver Backed Dollars" none carrying the backing of the United States government?

Posted by: johngalt at May 13, 2009 3:15 PM
But EE thinks:


You are correct in your critique of central bank-issued currency in that it generates revenue for the monopolist issuer. However, I don't know whether that fee is substantial enough to be my primary concern. I would prefer zero inflation, or more appropriately falling prices in a growing economy. For an accessible, yet thorough discussion of this view, see here:

This type of outcome can be accomplished using a nominal income target or through the method that you proposed -- free banking. I think that there is much to like about free banking. If you have a keen interest in this topic, I would recommend George Selgin's text, The Theory of Free Banking, and also his recent interview with the Richmond Fed.

Posted by: EE at May 13, 2009 3:29 PM
But jk thinks:

I feel a bit hoist on my own petard with JG's quote. I'll stand behind it as a way to avoid the panic. But I'd have to swap #2 with #1 and admit that Inflation Targeting generally allowed the Greenspan Fed to provide easy money without setting the trip wires.

On free banking: I'm sorry gents, but Mister Hamilton's train left the station a couple hundred years ago. Perry and Josh will laugh that I root for Taney and Jackson against Nicholas Biddle when I read history, yet I get less excited about "fiat money" than any other guy in the land with a subscription to Reason.

I'll have to read more on income targeting, but I am concerned that it would have squeezed the life out of the 1990s expansion. Near and dear to my geeky, technological heart is the belief that the Internet bubble was an unalloyed good. I'll trade a brief and shallow 2001 contraction for the fruits of the dot-com days any day of the week.

Posted by: jk at May 13, 2009 4:04 PM
But EE thinks:


Jackson is the hero in that story.

I'm am not sure why you think that a nominal income target would have restrained the 1990s boom. If real GDP is growing because of changes in productivity as it was during the 1990s (which I know will come as a shock to those on this blog who think that it was the Clinton tax policy), prices would fall. Thus, suppose that the nominal target is 3%. If rising productivity causes output to rise and prices to fall, you could have real GDP growing above the nominal target rate.

Again, Selgin's work is excellent on this point. This monograph specifically.

Posted by: EE at May 14, 2009 3:01 PM

Dear Senator Bennet

I'll give some rare props to my two, new Frosh-Democrat Senators. Their outreach and constituent communication is pretty good. I don't suppose I will agree with many of their votes, but Senator Udall's office called me to be on a telephone town hall about Iraq and Afghanistan, and both have pretty good email newsletters.

I didn't agree much with Mister Udall when he was my congressman, and Senator Bennet's newsletter today doesn't give a lot of play to free market solutions. I sent this to Bennet and will modify it for Senator Udall. I think it is well worth a letter to see that national health care does not pass 51-48.

Senator Bennet:

Thank you for the email newsletter on health care.

You open by saying "As we move forward in the debate over health care reform..." but I am concerned that the Senate will not be allowed to debate health care. I am concerned that the House-Senate budget reconciliation process will be used to pass substantive changes in heath care without allowing full deliberation in the Senate. While this would allow the plan's proponents to pass it without a filibuster-proof majority, we are discussing not only 17% of GDP -- but something that is vital to most of our lives.

I am guessing that you and I will not see eye-to-eye on health care, Senator. I favor free-market solutions like interstate insurance, an expansion of private HSAs, and more transparency in medical billing and pricing. Even if you ultimately cote for a government health care bill, I would ask that you respect the principles of limited government and ensure that the process gets a full hearing the Senate.

Thank you for your time,
John Kranz

Posted by John Kranz at 11:06 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 12, 2009

We're From the Government...

And these are the people we want to run our health care system?

Millions of Americans on Social Security are receiving $250 checks as part of the president's stimulus plan -- including an Anne Arundel woman who died more than 40 years ago.

The woman's son, 83-year-old James Hagner, said he got the surprise when he checked his mailbox late last week.

"It shocked me and I laughed all at the same time," Hagner said. "I don't even expect to get one my own self, and I get one for my mother for 43 years ago?"

His mother, Rose, died on Memorial Day in 1967.

Social Security representatives said there is a good explanation. Of the about 52 million checks that have been mailed out, about 10,000 of those have been sent to people who are deceased.

But jk thinks:

"US Department of Wellness and Vitality representatives said there is a good explanation. Of the about 52 million doses of Murthazine provided, only a little over 10,000 of those have been given to people with a fatal reaction."

Posted by: jk at May 13, 2009 11:06 AM
But jk thinks:

I Thought I was kidding about Murthazine. Then again:

The other nephew - Robert C. Murtha, Jr. - a former Marine, runs a company in Glen Burnie, Maryland, called Murtech Inc. According to The Washington Post, “Last year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services.”

Posted by: jk at May 13, 2009 12:13 PM

Missin' Clinton

Bill McGurn makes an interesting point in his WSJ column today. While the Obama Administration (and their MSM cheering section) likes to portray this administration as "the anti-Bush," it is really the achievements and policies of President Clinton that are being dismantled.

Welfare is the obvious one, but McGurn compares the two Democrats on trade:

To begin with, Mr. Obama has yet to deliver a major address on trade -- especially telling, given the global economic uncertainty. In sharp contrast, barely one month into office, Mr. Clinton heralded America's global leadership on trade as one of the most important challenges of our day. To underscore the importance of his message, he chose for his venue American University, where his hero JFK had delivered a famous address on peace in a nuclear age. There Mr. Clinton called for American leadership to open up markets abroad, not just to boost opportunity for Americans but to advance freedom and democracy for all people.

Second, Mr. Obama has yet to even ask Congress for fast-track authority -- legislation that gives a president greater flexibility to negotiate trade agreements. Again, in sharp contrast, at this same point in the Clinton presidency Congress was putting the final touches on fast-track legislation that Mr. Clinton would use to help complete the successful Uruguay Round of trade talks.

Finally, though Mr. Obama's trade representative, Ron Kirk, recently announced that the administration planned to finish up outstanding trade agreements with key U.S. allies -- Colombia, South Korea and Panama -- he gave little but lip service for a forward agenda. On the White House Web site, trade isn't even listed as an issue. By contrast, not only was Bill Clinton working to conclude the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) at this point in his presidency, he and his senior administration figures were already talking about expanding Nafta to other Latin America nations.

Never expected to be missing President Clinton...

Posted by John Kranz at 11:10 AM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

The differences between the current and former Democrat president on trade are most easily understood when one considers that while Clinton's swing constituency was "soccer moms" Obama's was labor union muckety mucks.

Posted by: johngalt at May 12, 2009 1:55 PM
But jk thinks:

I don't want to get out the crying towels, but I'll agree and go one step farther: President Clinton had significantly more courage. He waffled on trade when the dirty hippies stormed Seattle, but he held pretty firm on trade against traditional Democratic constituencies. President Obama, as the kids say "not so much."

Trade advocates must step up to complement President Clinton on this and attribute a large portion of 1990s prosperity to his expansion of trade.

Posted by: jk at May 12, 2009 2:58 PM

May 11, 2009

Sneak Peek

There are a few small bugs to fix and a few content delays before I am ready for the big Grand Opening of the virtual coffeehouse, but we are getting close. I put a couple of test videos up, and am open to any suggestions of the look and feel.

In full open mode, the plan is to post a new video every Thursday featuring Brooke and I, and a guest video every Tuesday. Here are a couple of guest vids to get the ball rolling.

ThreeSourcers will be most interested in the May 5 posting which includes blog friend SugarChuck. We hid him behind a music stand to preserve his anonymity and protect him from the forces of darkness and statism.

Posted by John Kranz at 7:45 PM | What do you think? [6]
But johngalt thinks:

Nice! Really, I dig it. It's culture for urban refugees. Lookin' forward to more soon.

Question: Are you (can you) recording (record) the audio multitrack so that it can be re-mixed?

Posted by: johngalt at May 12, 2009 11:03 AM
But Terri thinks:

What fun JK! You sound great. Thanks

Posted by: Terri at May 12, 2009 11:05 AM
But sugarchuck thinks:

I might add that no diminished scales were harmed in the making of this video!

Posted by: sugarchuck at May 12, 2009 11:12 AM
But jk thinks:

Thanks for the kind words. I confess to being really excited about this project. I stopped playing for a couple of years and this is a good venue for me.

@jg: Yes, I am recording the audio on a multi-trackable device. But I don't intend to use it. The idea is a live, coffeehouse feel. The integrity of that feel might be compromised with too much fixin' -- plus I could never get two tunes out a week if I seeked perfection.

@sc: Serious heh. That solo is a thing of beauty which rescued this bad-video bad-audio clip from the digital graveyard.

Posted by: jk at May 12, 2009 11:26 AM
But johngalt thinks:

OK, I get the live feel thing, and I don't mind too much when I can't hear your vocals ... ;) ... although the feeling on "If I Had a Brain" seemed heartfelt (hmmm, I'd better stop digging). I'm sure Brooke will belt it out of the Coffeehouse.

P.S. For those who don't know, my musical talents go as far as basic walking bass lines in A or E and that's about the extent of it. Alternately, watching these two is a treat.

Posted by: johngalt at May 12, 2009 1:41 PM
But jk thinks:

Oh, yeah -- of course you can complain about the mix! (I think that's in Article VII...)

"Brain" had the vocals and guitar on different tracks. Not enough separation for an overdub, but plenty of opportunity for more or less vocals. The SC tunes (and you may look forward to two more) were the maiden voyage: one ($79 Flip) camera, no separate audio -- live it gets babies!

Posted by: jk at May 12, 2009 2:53 PM

Fuel Economy Buffoonery

It was bound to happen: The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid - "The most fuel efficient mid-sized sedan in America." EPA rated 41 mpg city/36 mpg highway.

You read that right, brother. It is supposedly MORE fuel efficient in town than on the open road. ("Smart" drivers will doubtless pull over and stop every mile or so to improve their highway mileage.)

But Keith thinks:

I'm assuming - more efficient in town than on the four-lane because in town, the carbon-based engine shares duty with the electric motor, while freeway speeds on the four-lane require full-time use of the gasoline burner, because battery power can't push you along at a speed needed for freeway driving?

Alternative cynical theory: getting out and pushing can be done on city streets only.

Posted by: Keith at May 11, 2009 4:36 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Yes, more or less. And the salient point is this: What is the battery's state of charge at the beginning and end of the test?

Posted by: johngalt at May 11, 2009 5:17 PM

The Greatest TV Year Ever?

Instapundit links to an E! "Save Our Show" Poll that puts "Terminator: the Sarah Commor Chronicles" first. (I had to view a cached copy of the story).

Los Angeles: CA (CNS) - The fans have spoken. Out of all the shows currently on the fence for the Fall 2009 season, they want 'Terminator" to be back. Save One Show, a poll conducted by E! each year, asks television fans what's their pick for the show in danger of cancellation which needs to be saved. After 300,000 votes, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" led the pack with 53% of the vote.

The runner-up, NBC's "Chuck" was a far second with 25%. "Dollhouse" followed with 10%, while "Life" earned 8% and "Privileged" another 4%. Previous winners of the Save One Show poll include Angel, One Tree Hill, and Veronica Mars.

I cannot say I have too many second thoughts about my new post-Cable existence, but fairness dictates that I mention a couple of downsides. One: even though I had been watching digital channels with a digital TV set, as stations have been converting to all digital, they have been going dark or losing quality. I live outside the city and I do not know whether they intend to provide reception out here.

Secondly, and this is the real point of the post, I have to admit to having benefited by the greatest TV season of all time. Folks get very nostalgic for some "golden days" of TV, whether it is when little Ricky was born or when Sammy Davis Jr. kissed Archie Bunker. I would have loved to have been watching the night FOX ran Buffy's Fool for Love and Angel's Darla episodes back to back. (Non Buffy folk: they are A/B episodes which show many of the same scenes from a different viewpoint. When both shows were on the same network, they used to do a lot of interplay between the show and the spinoff.)

But, I daresay that there were never this many good shows on broadcast television all at once. I have a thought which is half theory and half parlor game: that every decade brings two good pop music stars and two good tv shows. The parlor game is to argue which ones are picked for each decade, but it is hard slogging to suggest that two per ten years underestimates quality (some decades it is hard to think of a second).

So, what are the odds of a year with Sarah Connor, Dollhouse, and Heroes? I like Hugh Laurie enough to watch House, though I cannot rank it with the other three. Dollhouse took some time to grow on me, but the last few episodes of the season were pure dynamite (starring our little firecracker...) Jonathan Last said, before it aired, that its Friday slot ensured it would not be renewed.

The newest Season of Heroes was certainly not the best, but I'll tune in when it comes back. Rather, I'll buy it; Channel 7 went dark the day they went digital. The plan was always to buy more programming with the huge savings from not buying cable. Having four watchable shows on free broadcast tv was a bonus -- but one that looks like it won't be repeated.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:49 PM | What do you think? [0]

May 9, 2009

The Refugee Walks for MS


The Boulder Refugee could not have had a more bucolic day for a triumphant return to the land of his birth. He joined 473 other people for a leisurely 3-mile walk to raise funds for MS research. His pledges totaled $425, slightly below goal but well above average. Many thanks to Three Sourcers for their financial support and encouragement!

But jk thinks:

Great Picture! The MS patient-wing of ThreeSources applauds your efforts!

Posted by: jk at May 10, 2009 10:38 AM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Fortunately, the Boulder authorities seemed preoccupied with capturing Jon-Benet's murderer and did not notice The Refugee slinking across the border.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 10, 2009 7:44 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'll vouch for the character of the Boulder Police Department. (The DA's office though ... "I don't stand with them.")

Jon-Benet may never receive justice, but it looks like Susannah Chase finally will. (Although this murdering (*^#47$&(&$ would never have been caught either if he hadn't tried it again with another victim.)

Posted by: johngalt at May 11, 2009 1:20 PM


Follow the link or "Continue Reading." The embed autoplays and drives me mad. But trust me, you really want to see this.

Hat tip: Tom Elia via Instapundit

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 5:00 PM | What do you think? [0]

John Stossel

Well, I don't really get the station that carries 20/20. But has sections on the web:

-- How to save endangered species? Eat them!
-- Let athletes use steroids
-- Elderly Rob Younger Generation

All Hail Stossel!

Posted by John Kranz at 2:18 PM | What do you think? [0]

Quote of the year

On FNC's 'Forbes on FOX' show this morning, in response to editor Bill Baldwin's question, "Listen David, I want an answer to this question: What do you do when somebody's got a twenty thousand dollar a month cancer problem, and the insurance companies and even the states are going to be playing hot potato. 'I don't want that, dump it on somebody else.' "

John Rutledge fired back:

"That's easy, Bill. If you have nationalized health care you make them stand in line until they die."


But Keith thinks:

Huzzah! The rejoinder from which there is just no coming back.

Posted by: Keith at May 10, 2009 1:07 AM

May 8, 2009

John Lennon's Got Nothing on Us!

[I]magine a world in which long-sealed court documents remained sealed during elections, and Star Trek producers didn't hit on married actresses.

Jim Glass of dares to imagine a world where a young community organizer loses his bid to become the US Senator from Illinois. Hint: the young family's finances do not fare well. Glass links to a NY Daily News story:

[...] the Obamas were living off lines of credit along with other income for several years until 2005, when Obama's book royalties came through and Michelle received her 260% pay raise at the University of Chicago.

This was also the year Obama started serving in the U.S. Senate ... Michelle explained, "It was like Jack and his magic beans."

Don't let the little kiddies fret! The Prince wins the Senate seat, gets his wife the 260% raise. There's a lucrative book contract. And we all live happily ever after.

Hat-tip: Don Luskin -- and I invite you to check out all of (soon coming to the blogroll).

UPDATE: Welcome to the blogroll:, complete with a picture in which "The late, great, Nobel economist Friederich Hayek demonstrates how to grab Inflation by the balls."

Oh Deary Me!

This will anger a lot of ThreeSourcers, but it's pretty funny:

Limited government, gang. Protecting rights, rule of law and enforcing contracts are valid and necessary functions of government. Still pretty funny, Hat-tip: Sugarchuck (blame him!)

Posted by John Kranz at 10:27 AM | What do you think? [5]
But Terri thinks:

That's hilarious. If the left had this sense of humor every day I wouldn't be so cranky all the time.

Posted by: Terri at May 8, 2009 11:22 AM
But jk thinks:

If you follow to the YouTube page, Terri, they're not lefties -- they're apologetic libertarians.

No, the collectivist sense-of-humor remains elusive...

Posted by: jk at May 8, 2009 11:34 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I tried to laugh. Really, I did!

But isn't it interesting that alternatives to socialism are typically portrayed as a complete and total lack of government, while the "virtue" of socialism is nearly always explained as a "balance?"

Posted by: johngalt at May 8, 2009 11:35 AM
But jk thinks:

JG: that is because we have lost the commanding heights of media, entertainment and academia. The only place most Americans can hear a reasonable portrayal of liberty is a John Stossel special or South Park.

Posted by: jk at May 8, 2009 11:55 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Or, with any luck at all, from their local GOP candidate in 2010. For every Democrat candidate in any race for any office in the nation, large or small, there is always a Republican one. We only have to reach that relative handful of individuals in order to spread our message of freedom and prosperity to every American who actually counts - the ones who vote.

Posted by: johngalt at May 8, 2009 12:27 PM

May 7, 2009

Seventeen Billion Dollars

The Obama Administration has identified $17 Billion in possible budget cuts. Now I know what you're thinking: "Whew, at least my children will not be saddled with all that debt from the $3 Trillion budget! The President has trimmed MORE THAN HALF A PERCENT off it!" "Glory freaking be!"

But, wait. Congress is not necessarily on board for this cut-to-the-bone frugality. And many of these cost savings have been proposed before by that uncool, Texas guy that used to live there.

If there was a theme to Obama's cuts and spending initiatives, it was to continue to provide generous increases to domestic programs that had been squeezed during the eight years of the Bush administration while reviving oft-rejected Bush-era proposals to cut programs that critics say have outlived their usefulness but still have important support on Capitol Hill.

To recap: Obama identifies something like 0.566% of the budget for cutting and is destined to fail at accomplishing even that.

UPDATE: Everyday Economist brings two quotes of the day on this topic.

But johngalt thinks:

In announcing his powerful and sweeping initiative to "End Bad Habits" the president said, "We can no longer afford to spend as if deficits don't matter and waste is not our problem."

Wow, Obama the spending hawk! What a difference 100 days makes: Obama: Spending is Stimulus. That's the Whole Point!

But if more spending stimulates economic recovery isn't it irresponsible to cajole congress to slash billions and billions of dollars of stimulative spending just when our nation needs it the most?

He closed by reiterating all of the ways the Administration has fought for fiscal discipline already, from supporting "pay as you go" rules, to ending sibsidies for insurance companies, to empowering government employees to find and suggest efficiencies. He pledged that this was just the beginning.

I sure am glad he supports "pay as you go" rules. I look forward to seeing the explicit funding sources for the president's economic Progress achievements.

Posted by: johngalt at May 8, 2009 11:21 AM

You know you're in the Econ Dept When...

One Harvard professor recommends a George Will column to another Harvard Professor. Take a moment, let that sink in.

On the serious side: while I have taken a few well deserved whacks at Mister Will, today's column is all the way live -- or as he might prefer -- hit out of the park. The Obama Administration plans to extract "Sunbeams from Cucumbers."

It is Demagoguery 101 to identify an unpopular minority to blame for problems. The president has chosen to blame "speculators" -- a.k.a. investors; anyone who buys a share of a company's stock is speculating about the company's future -- for Chrysler's bankruptcy and the dubious legality of his proposal. Yet he simultaneously says he hopes that private investors will begin supplanting government as a source of capital for the companies. Breathes there an investor/speculator with such a stunted sense of risk that he or she would go into business with this capricious government?

Posted by John Kranz at 4:35 PM | What do you think? [0]

Specter of Bipartisanship

Speaking of the Democrats duplicitous treatment of Senator Specter...


Politics Posted by JohnGalt at 3:18 PM | What do you think? [0]

Quote of the Day

To put it another way, we could have taken the $8 billion or so we gave to Chrysler and given every one of the company's employees $133,000 to start their own War on Poverty, while still providing much of their pensions through the PBGC. Of cours, the new Chrysler is going to cut many of those jobs, so the cost of actual jobs saved will probably top $200K per. For as long as the company lasts. Which most analysts do not expect to be long, given that their super secret surprise scheme for turning everything around is to have Chrysler sell retooled Fiats to a country with one-seventh the population density and almost twice the birthrate of Italy. -- Megan McArdle
Sorry, Perry, she's still my favorite Obama supporter. Hat-tip: Instapundit
Posted by John Kranz at 12:12 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

She's a broken clock, and using the same analogy that others -- others smarter than her -- have been using since the original bailouts.

You can consider her your "favorite Obama supporter." That itself is not contradictory. But a libertarian Obama supporter is another thing entirely. That creature, by definition, does not and cannot exist.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 7, 2009 1:30 PM

The Bill That's Too Liberal for Senator McGovern

The Bill That's Too Liberal for Senator McGovern gets new life with the addition of our newest superannuated Democratic Pennsylvanian. The man who carried his home state in 1972 takes to the WSJ Ed Page today to point out yet another horrible feature of the "Free Choice Act.:

The recent news that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has become a member of the Democratic caucus has given new life to legislation that many thought had been put to rest for this Congress -- the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Last year, I wrote on these pages that I was opposed to this bill because it would eliminate secret ballots in union organizing elections. However, the bill has an additional feature that isn't often mentioned but that is just as troublesome -- compulsory arbitration.

This feature would give the government the power to step into labor disputes where employers and labor leaders cannot reach an agreement and compel both sides to accept a contract. Compulsory arbitration is bound to trigger the law of unintended consequences.

Huh? You think the guys who just stole billions of dollars of equity from Chrysler bondholders to give to the unions -- you think they'd dare get political in a forced arbitration?

111th Congress Posted by John Kranz at 11:56 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Three Sourcers have no doubt noted that "Cool-hand Arlen" has been stripped of his seniority by Democrats (how's that for gratitude?). They will "re-evaluate" his status in 2010, which is code for, "Vote with us on card-check and healthcare or else." It's the Democrat version of a re-education camp. "I've got my mind right, boss! I'm a-shaking, boss, I'm a-shakin'!" Harry Reid needs a pair of aviator sunglasses.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 7, 2009 1:18 PM
But jk thinks:

You're not suggesting that a principled legislator like Senator Specter would betray his firmly held principles over a plum committee assignment, are you? Hello? BR?

Posted by: jk at May 7, 2009 1:26 PM

John Stossel

The MSM's one voice of sanity has a special this week: You Can't Even Talk About It!" Taboos include:

AMERICA NEEDS TO DO LESS FOR ITS SENIOR CITIZENS. You thought Bernie Madoff ran a Ponzi scheme? Medicare makes Madoff's look small. Maybe we should call Medicare: "Bernie Madoffcare." ...

PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION LAWSUITS. "Sometimes the laws that are intended to help women like me actually end up hurting women like me. All of a sudden, a potential employer is looking at me and thinking ... 'she just might turn around and sue us. That makes it less likely that I'm going to get hired.'"

International bans on the trade of rare animal parts (tiger organs, elephant tusks, rhino horns) have been about as successful as the international war on drugs...

RESCUING IDIOTS. Thrill-seekers hoping to surf the most difficult ocean wave, bushwhack through treacherous back-country terrain or catch the biggest ice-water fish sometimes take unnecessary risks, disregarding weather forecasts or warning signs. If they need to be rescued, let's bill them for the cost of the rescue. New Hampshire does that. I confront the rescued, who say "no!" tax dollars should pay.

LET THEM DO STEROIDS. After years of hand-wringing over 'roids in baseball, the Olympics, and other sports, isn't it time to acknowledge that athletes will always look for ways to get a competitive edge ... and instead of treating them like children, let them go ahead and JUST DO IT? ...

RADIATING FOOD MAKES IT SAFE TO EAT. The CDC says that every year, millions of Americans get food poisoning. 5,000 die. Last month President Obama told us the fact that 95 percent of food is NOT inspected by the FDA, is " a hazard to the public health " But he didn't mention that there is one way to make food safe: irradiate it.

May 6, 2009

This Time, It Will Be Fine!

WASHINGTON Trying to curb home foreclosures, the Senate voted on Wednesday to make it easier for homeowners with risky credit to switch to a lower-cost mortgage backed by the government. The bill, passed 91-5, also would give banks a break by encouraging reduced fees they must pay for the government to insure deposits.
Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat! Again? That trick never works! Nothin' up my sleeve...Presto!

Guess I better buy a new hat.

Posted by John Kranz at 7:07 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Keith thinks:

Bullwinkle? Bull-something, anyways. I predict a rocky future for all of us.

How do I know this? Eenie-beenie, chili-beanie, the market is about to speak!

Posted by: Keith at May 6, 2009 11:56 PM

Quote of the Day

Next time, just order in so we can lose the momentary diversion and get back to the important stories, such as whether Chrysler will be bought by Fiat or whether it will be run by Obama's fiat. -- Nick Gillespie, unimpressed with the Executive Branch's photo-op burger run.
Posted by John Kranz at 3:51 PM | What do you think? [0]

This Socialism Stuff is Great!

A good friend of this blog (rhymes with violence-slew-wood) sends a link to a NYTimes magazine story by Russell Shorto.

The magazine length article is a thoughtful and well written look at the social model of Holland. I don't want to give away the ending, but Shorto is an ex-pat from the Keystone State who has gone native and enjoys the European safety net. My response is not well sructured -- it's a quick email to a friend with details to be sorted out over BBQ at The Old Man on 120th Avenue some day.

But I present the article and my weak response as a challenge. For all the benefits of First Principles and liberty, life in Europe can be pretty enthralling. It is not too well suited for digesting and responding when you're busy, but I think it will be important to "elevator talk" against this -- as this is clearly the model that our current majority political class has in mind. The best written response gets a free lunch at the Old Man. I said:

My first thought is to object on First Principles. Sure, people can be happy without being free, and people can have a certain level of prosperity for a certain time without being free. That may be fine for some. It strikes that all the happy folks quoted use an awful lot of government services. Me the writer, my friend the potter, he doesn't quote a childless hedge-fund manager who has to pay for everybody's schoolbooks.

But these people are more subjects than citizens. Who chooses what schoolbooks qualify for reimbursement? Which procedures or medications are offered at the hospital? Who can stay in public housing? Do you get kicked out for assault? Thievery? Insulting King Gustav V? Insulting Allah? I associate that with the torpor he feels. At the very least, it is not what I would choose -- and why must I let my Dutch countrymen choose for me?

I have been thinking about your aversion to "unfettered Capitalism." Watching some BBC costume drama about just-barely-post-Dickensian mills in the North of England. I was struck by the "abundance of poverty." One can look back on Scrooge and Rockefeller as a failure of wealth distribution, but it is really just the complete absence of enough wealth to go around.

Yet Rockefeller brought heat and light to the masses. And the WSJ Ed Page loves to point out that Scrooge's non-fictional counterparts brought capital to the Industrial Revolution. Economies got to walk before they can run and the wealth was generated in the US, UK -- and The Netherlands -- through liberalism.

I think the Dutch are stealing future wealth from the next generations. If the progressive era had kicked off 20 years earlier and handed Rockefeller's, Gould's, and Vanderbilt's money to less productive citizens, we would be much poorer today. By the same token, I imagine what we might have had today had the TR-Wilson-FDR-LBJ axis not succeeded. It is a form of intergenerational theft to take growth from our children to make ourselves cushy today.

Then bla, bla, bla, let's go to lunch, bla, bla, bla...

Elevator Talk Posted by John Kranz at 3:21 PM | What do you think? [7]
But jk thinks:

Terri's point on the military parallels one of mine on innovation. Europe's technology and health care systems benefit from innovative gains from the cowboy free markets of America. When we go socialist (which could be weeks now, it's not like it's imminent), there will be no free markets left to free ride in.

Posted by: jk at May 6, 2009 5:02 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The linked "case for euro-socialism" is persuasive only to feeling and not to thinking readers.

Example: "The Dutch seem to be happier than we [Americans] are." This claim is based on a 2007 Unicef study (biased?) of the "well-being" of children and the preposterous assumption that "children's happiness [I thought it was a study of "well-being?"] is surely dependent on adult contentment." And this malarky comes just 7 paragraphs after the writer cites a line from "Myth of Sisyphus" to describe his impression of Dutch adults: "A man is talking on the telephone behind a glass partition; you cannot hear him, but you see his incomprehensible dumb show: you wonder why he is alive." For my part I would say he isn't alive.

The best case against emulating this example of citizens as "slaves to consensus and conformity" and "a cultural tendency not to stand out or excel" is this: Between comfortable socialism or risky capitalism, which system best encourages progress, innovation, prosperity? Is one more responsible for the modern "necessities" we all enjoy than is the other? Does aggregate productivity differ between the individuals under one system compared to the other? In times of natural hardship, which group would be more likely to starve? Ignoring popular stereotypes and comparing the two systems objectively, which would you consider to be "reactionary" and which would be "liberal?"

I've quipped before that 'socialism is for ants' and this favorable treatment of the Dutch system does little to refute the idea. But for 240 years Americans have not been ants - we have been men. Where the majority of us have taken Morpheus' red pill, the majority of Europeans chose blue. For the Dutch the social compact seems to be that they all agree not to try any harder than their fellow man. This is what really makes their mix of statism and individualism "work."

Posted by: johngalt at May 7, 2009 3:11 PM
But jk thinks:

I am glad you responded, jg. I'll confess one of the reasons that I posted this link was my belief that you would not be able to resist it.

I cannot say, however, that I am completely sated with your answer. I personally agree with every thing you say. Completely.

But the challenge was not to convince me. The challenge is to persuade the blue pill folk (I confess I have not seen the movie -- pardon if I mis-allude). One of the things you and I must accept in this argument is the appeal of European life and the comfort that Shorto describes.

I winced at the happiness study as well. You're right that that is totally specious. What is not is the general contentment of a typical European with his circumstance. The Obama supporter says "this time it won't be Lenin and Pol Pot. We're going to 'do it right.'" You and I say "Where? It cannot be 'done right.'" Now they say "Holland."

Boring argument. But if you don't value liberty qua liberty (and most do not) what do you lose to have health care for everybody, six weeks vacation, and subsidized school supplies? You say freedom I say half the rate of growth of GDP and double the unemployment.

I'm with you and liberty qua liberty. But a hundred people I know are still dissuaded. Even if I were poorer, they say, I would still be content and I would not have to worry about things and I would feel good knowing that the little kiddies were all getting their school supplies and health care.

A ThreeSources commenter once asked me on Facebook "Why in the world I would live in Boulder?" I'm a mile East of the County Line now, but in truth I will live in or near Blue counties as long as I live. I'm not trading Starbucks for Dunkin' Joe whatever the tax rate. Holland is an extrapolation. One I wouldn't make no matter how good the coffee. But one I find it harder and harder to contradict as a "thinking reader."

I feel peculiar to have harshed on something I agree with. As a peace offering, I truly thought your Twentieth Century Motors link was a superb response. Maybe this Cliff fellow who writes those notes gets the lunch.

Posted by: jk at May 7, 2009 7:02 PM
But johngalt thinks:

YES! I knew there really was no such thing as a free lunch!

JK said, "The challenge is to persuade the blue pill folk." Yes, you really must see the movie. Once they choose the blue pill they no longer have any knowledge of the alternative they rejected. It's analogous to the story told by a "TEA Partier" of her neighbor who has actually "blocked" Fox News from his cable box - as though it were pornography or something. I like the way Rand put it: "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny its existence cannot be swayed by it."

The "blue pill crowd" isn't really as big as it looks. It only seems that way if you watch television or read newspapers (or in your case, go to family reunions.) And before you can even begin to "reach" them you must first get them to admit that A is A (or that the real world exists with real consequences and is not merely a Platonic computer program playing out in our brains.) If that basic step is unachievable then you may as well just walk away.

Forget about "persuading" everyone. Instead, focus on the 70 percent of Americans who believe we're better off in a free market economy. Brooks (and PE and dagny) have it right: Ethical behavior is still popular; redistribution is immoral; individual freedom is the only standard of good that should be applied to governmental decisions.

What I tried to explain in my previous comment is that most Americans really do want to participate in the risk/reward game of life. These people only buy in to the government's 'social safety net' business out of abundance of compassion for others, not for whatever goodies it may pay out to themselves.

Finally, don't forget that the Starbucks closest to you is actually in Weld County, not Boulder.

Posted by: johngalt at May 8, 2009 12:21 PM
But jk thinks:

Okay, that's really good -- I'd say you have earned lunch. I should perhaps get permission to share some of the email thread that ensued between me and Silence. I sent the Cliff's Note link and the Forbes article on the right to contract.

Our friend says [I am going to start paraphrasing without permission here, please direct any hostility at my providing devil's advocacy] he is becoming more socialistic as he gets older because his time in corporate America has shown that the best projects do not get funded, the best people do not get salary increases, the best products do not get to market. Much of my love of liberty is predicated on meritocracy. If -- as Taleb posits -- there is too much luck (or too many Black Swans) then the foundational logic crumbles.

Said friend is not immune to logic. We should go to The Old Man and see if we might reason with him.

Posted by: jk at May 8, 2009 4:17 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Socialism is inherently seductive, and its modern purveyors are better than ever at selling it. Caring, thoughtful, and even pro-competition people can easily be taken in by the promises of "social security and reasonable liberty kept in a careful, modern balance." But even the caring and thoughtful among us, and I do count myself in that category, owe it to ourselves and our posterity to recognize the fundamental flaw with socialism - the lack of an inherent controlling feedback mechanism. The only thing that can possibly preserve "balance" is bureaucratic control, and those animals will ALWAYS act to make themselves and their favorites "more equal than others."

The counter argument you made to free market capitalism is that socialism is an appropriate cure toward funding "the best" products or better compensating "the best" people. That it is somehow an antidote to corporate cronyism. But what is socialism except government cronyism?

The market for products and the less tightly-coupled market for corporate investment are not perfect, but they do impose a natural cause and effect relationship between merit and reward. Socialism, in contrast, offers only influence peddling as a mechanism for seeking and granting reward.

Posted by: johngalt at May 9, 2009 1:34 PM

Where Do I Sign?

Designed in Italy, built by the UAW with management from the Federal Government:


What could go wrong?

Posted by John Kranz at 2:19 PM | What do you think? [24]
But jk thinks:

It needed to be said. Thanks, jg. (I think this post wins the meandering comments award.)

Posted by: jk at May 7, 2009 2:11 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

The Refugee must raise a toast to JG's sentiments as well, having been raised on Coors. Given that his father was a 29-year veteran of the company, this is true both figuratively and literally. Moreover, the Coors family has always been reliably conservative, respected individual rights and treated employees as close to family as any company can.

The Refugee's favorite beer of all time is Herman Joseph's 1868. It was sadly discontinued after a few years of brewing in the '80s, but recently brought back to a few select restaurants. Where did the name come from you ask? Adolph Coors' full name was "Adolph Herman Joseph Coors" and he arrived at Ellis Island from Germany in 1868.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 7, 2009 2:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Ah yes, HJ's. I remember it well from my high school years. I liked it too, and if I got 2 free 6-packs of any Coors product every week, as I understand is the tradition for every Coors employee, it would have been my favorite too.

(Just doin' my part to make this the most commented post in blog history.)

And one more thing: Please don't feel chastised brother Keith. You only opened the door for a hearty defense of our "Colorado Kool-Aid."

Posted by: johngalt at May 7, 2009 4:01 PM
But Keith thinks:

No chastisement felt, brothers - though I can't recall the last time I've been in the company of more than one person in a group that would defend Coors - the beer, not the man or the company, both of which having reputations worthy of respect. Should any of you have opportunity to visit, I will try to remember to lay in a supply of Coors, if it doesn't mind sharing a refrigerator shelf with Sam Adams, Newcastle, San Miguel, or the occasional Foster's.

Here's a scenario that will add to the comment chain: instead of fiddling with carmakers (where this thread started), imagine that TARP funds had been used to bail out brewers - and instead of discussing whether the government was going to mandate we all buy the unholy offspring of Chrysler and Fiat, this discussion were about the government requiring us to drink Pabst or Old Milwaukee or - horror of horrors - Red Stripe.

Once you're all done retching, feel free to discuss...

Posted by: Keith at May 8, 2009 11:31 AM
But dagny thinks:

OK, one more before this falls off the page.

JK, notes above that we don't purport to be a, "values," site. Maybe not, but we clearly have values. We value Horsepower. "Big four-legged or fuel-injected."

BR (and any others that are interested) Saddlebreds are not my area of expertise, ours are all drafts and draft crosses, but you and the Spousal Unit are invited to the farm for a ride, a target shoot, a beer, a little conversation, or any combination of the above.

Posted by: dagny at May 9, 2009 6:05 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Dagny, that would be fun. Although the Spousal Unit specializes in Saddlebreds and saddle seat equitation, she currently has three Clydes in the barn; a 3-yr old, 2-yr old and a yearling. She has broken the first two to ride and drive. (They belong to Molly at Spectra.) I've told her that she needs to train the first gated Clyde - put one of those things at the rack and everyone would get out of the way, if you know what I mean! It would be fun to come over to see your beasts and quaff a cool one.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 11, 2009 4:44 PM

May 5, 2009

Libertario Delenda Est

Another in the series (and I remain open to suggestions or grammatical corrections to the name).

I was toying with a post idea this morning. And now that I have found a segue, I must continue. Will Wilkinson pens (and Instapundit links) a serious look at different levels of libertarian buy-in for politics. He takes a few friendly whacks at libertarians of all stripes. While I don't want to pile on, I do want to segue. He ends the piece strongly:

Most libertarians dont want to move to man-made islands. Most don't even want to help take over New Hampshire. If libertarians are going to shift the politics of the countries we live in, we've got to get it through our thick skulls that many people have considered libertarian ideas and have rejected them for all sorts of decent reasons. We've got to take those reasons, and those people, fully seriously and adequately address them. Otherwise, we should probably just accept that libertarianism is a niche creed for weird people and reconcile ourselves to impotent, self-righteous grousing. Or get serious about life on the sea. For my part, I'm going to continue to try to convince people that free markets and limited goverment are better than they might have thought.

Here is my take. The Libertarian Party should cease operations as a political party. Instead, it should model itself on the National Rifle Association.

Look at the gains made by the NRA from what I call "Norman Lear America" to today. Archie Bunker, in the early seventies, got big laughs from his plan to end hijackings. I quote from memory: "Pass out pistols to everyone as they board -- and the hijacker will be afraid to get up and use the tourr-let!" I think gun control was at its apogee in the 70s, with a liberal post-Watergate Congress ready to try to turn Texas into Great Britain.

Today, the NRA has completely changed the frontier of discussion. Only protected legislators in certain districts can afford to be seen as anti-gun. District of Columbia vs. Heller went in our column -- in spite of some severe NRA miscalculations -- and the national electorate has been educated on rights issues and efficacy. Pretty good 30-something years.

Reason Magazine just took a 40-year victory lap and I conflate them with the LP just for time purposes. They boast progress in innovation and society but concede that government has grown larger and more intrusive under their watch.

Had the NRA fielded candidates, we'd have background checks for slingshots. Instead, the NRA educated and lobbied; recruited, funded, and rated candidates from both parties. This worked and the organization remains politically powerful today. The Libertarian Party could educate and lobby; recruit, fund and rate candidates from both parties and become a powerful organization. Nine percent of voters as a potential swing block is a game changer. Nine percent who may or may not be "into the system" enough to vote at all or for the LP candidate is just a game.

But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Sounds like a great idea on first reading. Not splitting votes would help in close contests. However, how would this organization differ from the numerous Libertarian think-tanks and educational organizations that exist today?

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 5, 2009 10:26 PM
But jk thinks:

I had thought of that. I'd suggest Cato has done a lot more to promote liberty than the LP. But I cannot think of an organization that would support the candidacy of a gasp! Republican or double gasp! Democrat if they were well dedicated to principles of liberty.

Thinktankery is valuable, but I would like to see a more active lobbying and political presence than the AEI or Cato would condone. Club for Growth is close -- a similar organization that would promote the libertarian social agenda as well as economic.

Posted by: jk at May 6, 2009 12:14 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I don't want to see government or politics involved in ANY social agenda. I would prefer to see a "Liberty and Freedom Association" that simply advocated for removing government from the social fabric of the nation. Religious organizations should promote morality and hippies should promote hedonism and both should be free to do so without government interference or aid.

Beyond that then yes, rename the Club for Growth the American Freedom Association and follow the NRA's model. I'd join and make donations to that. It will be more challenging however to maintain a clear focus on a principle of individual freedom than one of individual gun ownership.

Posted by: johngalt at May 6, 2009 2:58 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

Does anyone know if Cato/AEI deploy lobbyists?

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 6, 2009 4:03 PM

Regulation by Thuggery Department

"Do things our way or we will come after you!"

Insurers are trying to head off creation of a government insurance plan that would compete with them something many Democrats favor but which private insurers say would drive them out of business.

Instead health insurers have offered to submit to a series of restrictions they contend would add up to a fairer marketplace and cut into the ranks of the 50 million uninsured.

The latest came Tuesday as the head of the leading private insurance group told senators that women should no longer be charged more than men in the individual market, as long as all Americans are required to get insurance coverage..

I wonder why "Health care costs for women tend to be higher during childbearing years." Obviously, it is pure discrimination. That damned patriarchy again. Somewhere, Helen Reddy is roaring.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 2:38 PM | What do you think? [4]
But Keith thinks:

jk: I just go crazy when I read stuff like this about health insurance.

First, let's admit that one of the biggest causes of the increasing cost of medical treatment is insurance, especially government insurance. Were medical care subject to the same constraints that everything else in the household budget already are, and the individual went from being a beneficiary to a consumer, demand would go down, and so would prices. But when the one using the service isn't the one paying for it, there is no incentive to curb overutilization.

Second, on those rare occasions I visit the doctor, I generally find there are (this isn't an exact count, just an impression) four women in the waiting room for every man. Actuarily speaking, any insurance carrier has to price risks based on expected losses. If women use more treatment (which is my assumption, and I would love someone to produce numbers on this), then of course their premiums should be higher than those of men.

Third, the masses simply do not understand the simple principle that any insurer, including a health insurer, has to take in in premiums and investment income at least as much as they pay out in losses and costs. If not, they would be fools to be in business, wouldn't they? Why would they voluntarily operate at a permanent loss? If the average American is going to use $3,600 in medical care a year, he's going to have to pay $300 a month in premiums to get it.

Fourth, this stuff about all these poor uninsured people makes me crosseyed. A little truth about all these millions of people is in order:

Fine, I'm uncompassionate. So sue me. The above ought to be more than enough to ignite a healthy, market-based discussion.

One last bleat: " long as all Americans are required to get insurance coverage..." is a statement that ought to make you all cringe. When that happens, grab your wallets tightly, because it will drive all costs up, not down.

Posted by: Keith at May 5, 2009 6:09 PM
But jk thinks:

I heartily recommend Arnold Kling's Crisis of Abundance. Among its virtues are are a serious look at insulation from costs. The rest of the book is great as well. Kling sees a government role in providing care for both the very poor and the very sick, and I don't know that all ThreeSourcers would be on board. But his definition of the trade-offs is vital to the discussion.

My favorite examples are laser eye-correction and maternity care. Both of these fields which have market forces: Lasik is not covered by most insurance, and consumers of maternity care have a few months to plan and select. In both of these fields, the quality of care has increased while the costs have plummeted. It's almost as if that market thingy works or something.

Posted by: jk at May 5, 2009 6:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

"Uncompassionate?" Do you not wish the best for your fellow man?

No, you are not "uncompassionate" as the statists charge. To meet their test for "compassionate" you must be willing to enter certain of your neighbor's homes and commit theft, then use that stolen wealth to compensate bureaucrats who then enter certain of your neighbor's businesses and force them to give medical care to anyone who makes that demand upon them, regardless of their ability to remit compensation.

The name for the mindset that can condone this is not "compassion" but "resentment."

Posted by: johngalt at May 6, 2009 3:17 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Keith, +1. It's much of what I've been saying for ages.

A lot of things become self-evident once you apply a little thought. What clued me in on insurance driving up health care costs was overhearing some schmuck saying, "If you've got coverage, you might as well use it."

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 6, 2009 3:26 PM

The Ranking of Debt Holders

Megan McArdle knocks it outta the park today:

Thus, swatting the secondary buyers means higher interest rates for the primary fundraiser. There's a reason we order the seniority of claims by how secure the loan was, rather than how much we like the creditors.

Still no mea culpas for supporting Obama, but at least she has been willing to take some whacks at their stupider moves.

Posted by John Kranz at 12:33 PM | What do you think? [0]

Happy Birthdays

I had no idea that today was the birthday of my hero, FA Hayek. Curiously, it is also the birthday of Karl Marx (think we can finally put that astrology thing to bed?)

Posted by John Kranz at 12:15 PM | What do you think? [5]
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Hayek would forgive you. After all, as he'd tell you, you were radically ignorant (perhaps rationally if someone ever asked you about his birthday and you chose not to find it out) because you had lots more important information to worry about. :)

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 5, 2009 1:06 PM
But jk thinks:

Good point. I had to tease a relative who is much happier sharing a birthday with Herr Marx than Hayek.

Posted by: jk at May 5, 2009 1:54 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And, it turns out, with my dear dagny. Happy birthday again, love of my life.

Posted by: johngalt at May 5, 2009 2:29 PM
But Keith thinks:

I join in toasting dagny's birthday - very best regards, and here's wishing you many more joyous birthdays, each one better than the one preceding it!

At dittos to jk on the astrology thing...

Posted by: Keith at May 5, 2009 6:14 PM
But johngalt thinks:

dagny tells me that Wikipedia lists Hayek's birthday as May 8, not the 5th. Re-checking your original source reveals an UPDATE to that effect.

Sad to say, JK's relative (and astrology) wins again.

Posted by: johngalt at May 6, 2009 3:21 PM

Job Creation

I heard a figure on teevee news the other day, that the Obama Administration had claimed a certain number of jobs had already been created or retained by the stimulus, I winced but have not seen this in print where I could follow up at all. I recall they scored a retention for every State worker that would have been laid off with stimulus grants to the states. Sure.

The Everyday Economist presents a less partisan look at these claims, differentiating between net and gross job creation:

I have no doubt that these types of initiatives create jobs. After all, Jeff Daniels tells me that the MEDC creates jobs in all of the commercials. However, this is gross job creation whereas I am concerned with net job creation. In other words, as Bastiat would argue, these programs highlight what is seen and ignore what is unseen.

To give an example, when President Obama was pushing the stimulus package, he repeatedly highlighted the fact that moving health records to an electronic form would create jobs. Of course this is true. There must be somebody who accomplishes this task. However, isn't it also true that those who do the filing in doctor's offices around the country will no longer be necessary. Thus, it is not clear whether this creates jobs on net. This is not to say that this policy is undesirable, but rather that the "jobs creation" justification is not entirely clear. (Also, I am not singling out the Obama administration. I chose this example because it has long been a political talking point.)

Posted by John Kranz at 11:11 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

This is because the premise of the "job creation" argument is all wrong. The correct approach is to focus on productivity gains. Increase productivity and the resulting wealth creation will generate jobs beyond our politicians dreams. Spending $50,000 in tax dollars to create a $50,000 job does not create productivity. (More accurately, the "stimulus" spends $75,000 to create a $50,000 job because of bureaucratic overhead, thus a net loss of productivity.) But, politicians who've never met a payroll will never get it.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 5, 2009 12:08 PM
But johngalt thinks:

More precisely, the "stimulus" spent $500,000 to create each of those 150,000 jobs.

I'm not sure $50,000 is a fair estimate of the salary to insulate old houses though. $25 per hour? I doubt it.

Posted by: johngalt at May 5, 2009 2:32 PM

May 4, 2009

Cinco de Cuatro at Casa Blanco

My Democrat friends told me if I voted for John McCain i'd have a bumbling fool in the White House.

... and they were right!

President Barack Obama's joke wasn't lost in translationeven though he referred to a Cinco de Mayo celebration as "Cinco de Cuatro."
Obama jumbled his words as he welcomed guests to the White House to observe the Mexican holiday, sending the crowd into laughter before he referred to the day correctly.

"Welcome to Cinco de CuatroCinco de Mayo at the White House," said Obama, in what appeared to be an attempt to note they were celebrating on the fourth of May instead of the fifth.

Cinco de cuatro means "five of four" in Spanish.

"We are a day early, but we always like to get a head start here at the Obama White House," he said.

During the presidential campaign, Obama acknowledged his Spanish skills weren't great.

"My accent's always been good," he said. "It's just that I only know 15 words."

Other examples include "Pak-ee-stan" and "Tal-ee-ban."

I always thought that those people who dont speak a language yet pretend to know how to pronounce the words were pretentious douchebags. Alex Trebek is on top of that list.

But jk thinks:

Yup, that Bush guy sure was an idiot!

Posted by: jk at May 4, 2009 7:56 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

When Obama was railing that Americans needed to learn another language during the campaign, I always wondered why the press never asked the most obvious follow-up question: "How many languages do you speak fluently, Mr. Obama?" The answer is apparently "one" but only with a teleprompter.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 5, 2009 10:24 AM
But Keith thinks:

"Five of four." What's that supposed to be, his place in the Borg collective? And will every American have one once we're assimilated? Is that the plan?

Posted by: Keith at May 5, 2009 11:18 AM
But jk thinks:

You guys are being too hard on the President for a small error. Just have a Happy Cinco de Cinco and get on with it!

Posted by: jk at May 5, 2009 11:43 AM
But johngalt thinks:

In defense of brothers BR and Keith, someone has to "be hard" on the president. The fourth estate certainly hasn't the stomach for the job. They're busy being "enchanted."

Posted by: johngalt at May 5, 2009 2:35 PM
But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

Obama does speak a little of a second language, enough to recite the call to prayer.


Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 6, 2009 10:17 AM

New Protectionism

Hey, that tax revenue ain't gonna raise itself! President Obama is going to "take away the tax breaks that reward companies for moving jobs overseas." 'Bout damn time, huh? Who could possibly be against that?

When the President is speaking, hang on to what is left of your wallets and liberties. Professor Mankiw links to a Mahir Desai paper that exposes it as the "New Protectionism" that it is:

Tax policy toward American multinational firms would appear to be approaching a crossroads. The presumed linkages between domestic employment conditions and the growth of foreign operations by American firms have led to calls for increased taxation on foreign operations - the so-called end to tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas. At the same time, the current tax regime employed by the U.S. is being abandoned by the two remaining large capital exporters - the UK and Japan - that had maintained similar regimes.
Similarly, the weight of the empirical evidence is that foreign activity is a complement, rather than a substitute, for domestic activity. Much as the formulation of trade policy requires resisting the tempting logic of protectionism, the appropriate taxation of multinational firms requires a similar fortitude.

Why Sir? Why?

Well, the answer is "Teachers' Unions." But the question is very much worth a watch:

Education Posted by John Kranz at 4:01 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Apparently Mercedes Campbell is somewhat of an aberration. According to this "National Coalition for Public Education" summary report, "Using a voucher has not improved the academic achievement of the targeted students."

For the real answer to your question: 1,700 voucher students, divided by 3,200,000 NEA members equals 0.053125 percent. Or, put another way, it is a ratio of 1882 to 1. Just ONE of those voucher students is offset by more than the total number of them with competing interests: Namely, maintaining and promoting the status quo in public education.

See how much fun math can be?

Posted by: johngalt at May 4, 2009 5:09 PM

Requiescat in pace

It is easier to find heroes among writers, pundits or academics than legislators and politicians. Thinkers are far less prone to temptations and pragmatism. President Reagan remains an exception, as does his economic inspiration, Rep. Jack Kemp.

Kemp, who died Saturday at age 73, was among the most important Congressmen in U.S. history. He wasn't powerful because he held a mighty post, and he never served in the House majority. He helped to transform the Republican Party though he was never its Presidential standard bearer. His influence sprang from the power of his ideas, and from the sincerity and enthusiasm with which he spread them.

A celebrated pro quarterback, Kemp was an unlikely intellectual. Yet amid the economic troubles of the 1970s, he immersed himself in the details of fiscal and monetary policy. Along with a handful of others, many of whom wrote for this newspaper, Kemp became a champion for the classical economic ideas that challenged the Keynesian orthodoxy of that time. He also had to mount an insurgency inside the Republican Party, which for decades had been dominated by budget-balancers who saw their fate mainly as moderating and paying for liberal excess


Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 10:54 AM | What do you think? [0]

Government Intrustion 101

Today's Denver Post featured this story about a couple of young entrepreneurs in Salida, Colorado. These kids, nine and ten respectilvey, spent their winter building bird houses to sell in the spring. The enterprise was encouraged by their father.

Hunter's dad, Eric Beem, dreamed up the idea for his son's birdhouse business as a way to teach him things like self-reliance and money management.

"It's hard for parents," he said. "When kids want something, it's easier to shell out money" than to figure out how to teach them how how to leverage their talents for pocket change.

Sounds quintessentially American. Unfortunately, the long arm of government stepped in, which is also becoming quintessentially American.

It all stopped when the code enforcer told them they could get a ticket for peddling products without the proper paperwork.

Then she handed them a business card with a number at city hall to call for information about the license and how much it would cost.

For now, the kids are shut down. The Salida City Council is considering and ordinance change. Wow. Responsive government in action.

Of course, that's just the beginning of the lesson. Soon, the kids will learn that they need to register their business with the State of Colorado. As part of that process, they'll need to get an Employer Identification Number from both the IRS and the State. They must also call the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and get a separate UI number.

As a seasonal business, they'll need to determine their filing status and likely file form 941 on a quarterly basis. Failure to file can result in penalties, interest and criminal charges. At the same time, they need to file form 1000-100 with the State on a quarterly basis for state withholding. In addition, they must file and pay the Quarterly Unemployment Wage Report on the first $10,000 of income per annum based on a rate provided by the state. This must be paid by the business and cannot be withheld from employee's paychecks, and no one is exempt. At year end, send all employees a W2 and all contractors a 1099. Then, send form W3 to the IRS, Social Security Administration, and the State Department of Revenue. Be sure to file on time to avoid penalties and interest.

They also must not forget to obtain worker's compensation insurance as mandated by the State. As business owners, they can exempt themselves from coverage, but must file the appropriate affidavit. Appropriate notifications and posters must be posted in a conspicuous location so that all employees can see their rights regarding unemployment and worker's compensation. Failure to do so can result in fines. They must also select a state-approved healthcare provider for all worker's comp injury examinations and claims.

It's not a bad idea for them to look into a general business liability umbrella policy as well. Should one of the wires holding the bird house break and the house hit someone on the head, there could be signficant business liability.

The bird houses were almost certainly made using saws, so OSHA has oversight regarding workplace safety. The fire marshall is also entitled to inspect the premises annually, without notice. Failure to comply with any related regulation can result in closing the business and fines.

The bird houses probably were painted or varnished to protect against the weather. OSHA can determine whether or not adequate ventilation and personal protective gear is available. If not, see above regarding business closure and fines. EPA and state agencies have oversight regarding the disposal of the empty paint/varnish containers and paint brushes. They must be disposed of in approved locations.

Because bird houses are often handled by kids, the houses must be tested and certified as lead-free. Any inventory that has not been tested must be disposed of as directed by EPA.

There you go, kids - have fun! Learn what America, the Land of Opportunity, is all about. Of course, you might consider a lemonade stand, but then we'd have to get the health department involved...

But jk thinks:

Awesome post. Many people don't connect with the abstract freedom I talk about. This is what a government managed economy looks like.

Posted by: jk at May 4, 2009 4:25 PM
But T. Greer thinks:


Thank you for this. I can't help but think this is one of the best posts I have seen on this site.

Well done.

Posted by: T. Greer at May 4, 2009 5:24 PM
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

I blush...

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at May 4, 2009 5:55 PM

May 1, 2009

Thinking of Brother HB

I had my monthly MRI this morning, as required by my drug trial. Every time now, I think of the Vonnegut story (and of course our own blog brother who took it as his name d'Web). The random noises seem perfectly calibrated to provide the attention interruptions subjected to above average thinkers in 2081. I try to run down historical lists and self-manufactured memory quizzes to see if I can overcome the --BZZZZLT!! -- um, where was I again?

A good excuse, if you needed one, to re-read this priceless gem.

Posted by John Kranz at 5:53 PM | What do you think? [0]

Isn't this a national holiday yet here in Obamaland?

Lest we forget amongst the pressing news of the day, happy May Day.

History Posted by JohnGalt at 3:18 PM | What do you think? [0]

Specter An Impediment to Liberal Souter Replacement?

Oh the irony.

Does Arlen Specter's defection from R to D strengthen the President's hand in Congress? Perhaps overall but not on judicial appointments because breaking (the equivalent of) a filibuster in the Senate Judiciary Committee requires the consent of at least one member of the minority. Before today, Specter was likely to be that one Republican. Now what?

More from Bill Jacobson:
Now this is interesting. Specter could allow a nominee out of committee if Specter was a member of the Republican minority, but as part of the majority, he's just another vote. Here are the other Republicans: Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn.

The weak link is Lindsey Graham, who was a member of the Gang of 14. If Graham says the course, the Republicans may not be able to stop runaway spending, military retrenchment, and an interrogation witch hunt. But Specter may have handed Republicans a gift.

But Perry Eidelbus thinks:

I doubt it. "In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens you can bet it was planned that way." This is a popularized false quote of FDR, but it's still true.

In politics, there are no coincidences. No justice on the SC, especially a partisan hack like Souter, is going to retire without first consulting party leaders. Souter didn't just wake up the morning after Specter's "defection" and think, "I'm going to retire." The announcement probably wouldn't have been made for a while, either, except that some anonymous source told the press, "Hey, I think Souter's retiring, because he hasn't hired any clerks." It was impossible to contain after that.

If the Democrats were so dependent on Specter, they'd have told him to wait until after the confirmation process. It would have given Specter an additional excuse about not wanting to stay with the "partisan GOP," etc. But evidently the Democrats are confident, and why shouldn't they be, that at least one Republican will wave on Souter's successor.

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at May 1, 2009 9:36 AM
But AlexC thinks:

I thought Souter was a Republican... he was nominated by Bush 41. ;)

Posted by: AlexC at May 1, 2009 11:39 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I have it on good authority that Arlen's first concern is Arlen's re-election in 2010. Even if the Dems did ask him to wait until after Souter's replacement is nominated I think he told them to pound sand.

Posted by: johngalt at May 1, 2009 1:02 PM
But johngalt thinks:

On second thought (I'm almost embarrassed that it took me a few minutes to realize this) if all Arlen has to do to become a Democrat is issue a press release he can just do the same thing in reverse on the morning of the committee vote and become a "RINO for a day." If he won't do it then I'm sure one of the other highly principled Dems on the Judiciary Committee would do so.

But it may be moot. According to the Judiciary's web site Arlen is still a RINO anyway. "It must be true - I saw it on the internet."

Posted by: johngalt at May 1, 2009 3:18 PM

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