Been a while since I gave one to George Will. But spring training is in session:
To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they--unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted--are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.
Time was, the progressive cry was "Workers of the world unite!" or "Power to the people!" Now it is less resonant: "All aboard! -- George Will
Being a law-and-order libertarian means having no real friends. I certainly want to empower citizens to utilize the full extent of their rights. And I don't shy away from criticizing law enforcement when they go too far.
But on a scale of Reason readers, I bet I am close to the top of the list in support for one's hometown Police Department. Charlie Martin accuses the Denver PD of siding with union lawbreakers against, well, him and Michelle Malkin. He sends Professor Reynolds the following email. I have no other knowledge of the incident:
UPDATE: Charlie Martin emails: “You might recall that when Alex Jones and his mob was attacking Michelle Malkin -- and giving me a blind-side kidney shot as I protected her -- the Denver police were not interested in intervening in the slightest. I eventually got an apology from the DPD, but if Jones had the physical strength to match his mouth I’d have been peeing blood.”
I'll be the first to suggest that it is disconcerting to consider law enforcement's "taking sides" in a union vs. taxpayer contretemps. And I know not what Martin's apology admitted. But I suspect that in Martin's telling, the incident acquires overtones more political than they actually were. I suspect that there is good cause to be slow to escalate a disturbance in a large crowd.
Well, maybe not "you guys" but I tell people FDA stories, even about Erbitux, which got a lot of media play thanks to Martha Stewart -- I mean Convict#3847XSZ. They agree my concern is compelling (it's the way I tell it) but even friendly, liberty loving people think "this cannot really be going on in this country, why haven't I heard about it?" less friendly, liberty loving people think "what kind of goof-assed, rightwing nutjob, black-helicopter, crap blogs is jk reading that feeds him this wacko b******t?"
The answer to both is the WSJ Ed Page. Every editor in its illustrious history would proudly proclaim the page's dedication to free people and free markets. It's not a partisan-free, even-handed source. But none can say that it is not a serious enterprise devoted to facts and journalistic standards.
And, it happens, they are the highest visibility source on the beat. Today, they have a lengthy, fact-filled story on the cancer drug pixantrone. Please let me know if you would like me to email it over Rupert's wall. It is worth a complete read.
The FDA is about to withdraw Avastin as a treatment for women with terminal breast cancer, and then there's a drug that most readers probably haven't heard of, called pixantrone. Like Avastin, its story reveals an agency that cares more about its regulatory prerogatives than about the thousands of patients who might benefit and will die waiting.
In May 2010, the FDA rejected pixantrone for treating non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer that kills nearly 12,000 Americans a year. The agency's veto came not because pixantrone failed in a clinical trial—in fact, it was a qualified success. Instead, the FDA determined that the trial was not "flawlessly executed," as its regulations demand.
If perfection is the standard for new cancer drugs, then we may as well give up hope of ever getting another one. As destructive, the FDA went out of its way to railroad pixantrone and make an example of the drug's maker, Cell Therapeutics, in order to send another warning to the drug industry to jump through the right bureaucratic hoops.
One can accept that procedures are important and that Pharma companies have learned that managing approvals is as important as managing their labs (typing it, that is perhaps the worst part of the problem). But we have a system in which tinhorn bureaucrats put i-dotting and t-crossing above lives, and the structure of the system and oversight supports it.
No regulator will ever be called in front of Congress to explain why this promising cure was pulled from tens of thousands of dying cancer patients and yet, one 114 year-old has a heart attack on VIOXX®...
Yesterday I wrote about thousands of "clean energy" jobs that could be eliminated if Colorado's largest power company cuts its solar power subsidy in half (per installation). I suggested that those jobs probably wouldn't have existed without the subsidy, which distorted market signals to create economic activity for an economically unviable product.
Building this new economy starts with understanding how clean energy legislation can create jobs. During my four-year term in Colorado, I signed 57 pieces of clean energy legislation. In 2007, for example, we doubled the proportion of energy in the state that is required to come from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2020. In 2010, we increased that to 30 percent for our biggest utility. As a result, Colorado now ranks fourth among the 50 states in its number of clean energy workers per capita, and 1,500 clean energy companies call our state home — an 18 percent increase since 2004. Wind- and solar-energy companies that have built factories and opened offices in Colorado have brought in thousands of new jobs.
But governor, have you not heard that the American economy is no longer robust enough to support elective boutique energy "just in case" environmental scientists might be partially correct? It's about as popular with voters right now as free pensions and sweetheart health insurance for unionized Wisconsin teachers. Feel-good energy layoffs are happening now in the U.S. European plants are closing now. Why not just wait until the science and technology is sufficient for sustainable energy to be sustainable? It will save a lot of wasted money and effort building new plants and then closing them.
With all due respect, I think some bloggers need to get out more.
Happy to read on Instapundit that the MoveOn.Org rallies were a MISERABLE FAILURE (Professor Reynolds adds a qualifying question mark before three links and an email).
MISERABLE FAILURE? Prof. Jacobson: 50-State Union Protest Falls Far Short Of Predicted Turnout.
UPDATE: Dems Left Red-Faced; Protesters Fail to Materialize at National MoveOn Rallies.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Troy Hinrichs emails: "It seems that unless government workers get a paid day off (from us) they're not too interested in taking their unpaid days off to protest."
MORE: DaTechGuy notes that it's all about maintaining the fiction.
Glad to hear. Only that does not seem to match the story I saw:
DENVER -- An estimated 1,000 teachers, students, community members and health care workers gathered Saturday at the Colorado State Capitol to protest efforts to eliminate nearly all the bargaining rights of public employees in Wisconsin.
The event was one of more than 50 planned around the country in opposition to the Republican Gov. Scott Walker's recent legislation on public workers' rights.
No video at the link and the summary does not capture the flavor of the televised story. The 1000 estimate was presented as a triumph. The Wisconsin Bill was summarized in the most unfavorable light and, for a balancing opinion, they showed one lone fruitcake with a Gadsden flag, identified him as "A Tea Partier" and pointed out that he was removed.
There's a bit of Baghdad Bob in the Blogosphere -- I'd say everybody who does not read Instapundit considers these rallies to be a huge success. No word of unions, busing, astroturfing, or MoveOn. Just a bunch of teachers (a moment of silence to praise their sainted occupation) coming out to stop Wacky Republicans from eating babies.
The U.S. effective corporate tax rate on new investment was 34.6 percent in 2010, which was the highest rate in the OECD and the fifth-highest rate among 83 countries. The average OECD rate was 18.6 percent, and the average rate for 83 countries was 17.7 percent.
America's political addiction to ethanol has consequences, from raising the price of food to lining the pockets of companies like Archer Daniels Midland. So we're delighted to see another prominent booster--Bill Clinton--see the fright.
"We have to become energy independent" but "we don't want to do it at the expense of food riots," the former President told an agriculture conference Thursday. He urged farmers to consider the needs of developing countries--the implication being that the diversion of corn to ethanol production limits food supplies and artificially raises prices.
Yes, he opens with the un-Ricardian sop to "energy independence," and one suspects an ADM donation to the library may have swayed #42 steely resolve. But I think we might be nearing a turning point.
Synfuels and Mohair are ancient history to people today. But the environmental movement watched ethanol, rooted for it, and supported its subsidies. Now it is a perfect poster child for all that is wrong with government intrusion: more expensive, worse for the environment, and now contributing to global famine! A trifecta!
Cui bono? Why Archer Daniels Midland, of course! You cloth-eared-gits have sold your soul to further the profits of a multinational corporation. It really doesn't get any better. Enviros can see what a sham it is and how difficult it is to dismantle. Of course, the ones I know still believe the next government energy pick will be good. But baby steps. Baby steps.
Governor Palin -- in more couched terms than those who will quote her -- suggests a NATO No-Fly Zone in Libya?
Gaddafi is a brutal killer and Libya -- not to mention the world -- would be better off if he were out of power. Now is the time to speak out. Speak out for the long-suffering Libyan people. Speak out for the victims of Gaddafi's terror. NATO and our allies should look at establishing a no-fly zone so Libyan air forces cannot continue slaughtering the Libyan people. We should not be afraid of freedom, especially when it comes to people suffering under a brutal enemy of America.
Hat-tip Simon@ClassicalValues via Insty who says "you know what the 'Peacemongers' will say."
I guess I am a peacemonger. And a defender of AG Holder. What a strange day...
"This is a scheduling issue. The president will meet with Secretary of State Clinton this afternoon. We will have something to say out of that meeting. If possible, the President will speak this afternoon or tomorrow," White House press secretary Jay Carney said of President Obama's lack of response to the crisis in Libya.
This goes beyond giving the wrong answer at three o'clock in the morning.
To be fair, the folks at Volkh Conspiracy are Constitutional scholars with great history of defending liberty. And I have played guitar in many bands. Yet I find myself with the President and AG Holder on this one.
In my view, the basic problem with the Obama Administration's position on the DOMA litigation is the same problem we had in the Bush Administration with its adoption of John Yoo's theories of Article II. Recall that John Yoo's theories of Article II power rested on a highly contested set of views about Article II power. By adopting a contested constitutional theory inside the Executive Branch, the Bush Administration could pursue its agenda without the restrictions that Congress had imposed. In effect, the simple act of picking a contested constitutional theory within the Executive branch gave power to the Executive Branch that none of the other branches thought the Executive Branch had (and which laws like FISA had been premised on the Administration not having). It was a power grab disguised as academic constitutional interpretation.
Orin Kerr affirms that gay rights is incomparable to wiretapping and torture, but I don't see that as the difference.
The DOJ functions as the prosecutorial arm of the Executive and is entitled to prosecutorial discretion. I submit that they are choosing not to pursue vigorous enforcement and that is clearly in their purview. Kerr's Yoo/Bush/FISA example accuses the Executive branch of enforcing laws not legislatively enacted -- that is overreach, the Obama Administration is going for under-reach. I'm fine with that (in fact I'd like to see a lot more of it).
In my mind, the comparison is not to FISA but to Angel Raich. AG Ashcroft elected to prosecute, Holder has deferred.
This post has a surfeit of canned worms to explore. I'm not sure the Bush Administration overstepped on FISA, I know there's little love for gay marriage or medicinal marijuana among the ThreeSources Cognoscenti. And I think we all oppose Executive overreach.
This sharing of powers in wage determination and conditions of employment through the negotiation process has in turn diminished public officials' authority in other areas of policy involving organized employees.
The net effect has been to create what amounts to a two-chamber local government. One chamber is made up of elected representatives and chief executives--aldermen, councilmen, county board or commission members, mayors or other chief executives--the traditional decision-making body for local government. The other chamber comprises the organized public employees who have gained official recognition to negotiate. The public business on wages and conditions of work, and therefore indirectly on policy, cannot be carried on without mutual agreement between these two Chambers. . . .
The implications of this new method of reaching decisions in local government put an entirely different aspect on the sovereignty of councils and executives and elected officials as well. The challenge of organized public employees can mean considerable loss of control over the budget, and hence over tax rates and over government programs and projects.
The gravity of the challenge was recognized by some municipal officials at least ten years ago, but most of them took the position that to study the new phenomenon was to encourage it. As is usually the case, the ostrich stance was a mistake: When employee organizations suddenly burgeoned, municipal officials were not prepared with effective rejoinders before legislatures and in negotiations.
That is the former Socialist Party mayor of Milwaukee, Frank Ziedler, in a 1969 magazine article. (It is reprinted today in the WSJ's Notable and Quotable.)
In accounts of the political unrest sweeping through the Middle East, one factor, inflation, deserves more attention. Nothing can be more demoralizing to people at the low end of the income scale—where great masses in that region reside—than increases in the cost of basic necessities like food and fuel. It brings them out into the streets to protest government policies, especially in places where mass protests are the only means available to shake the existing power structure. -- George Melloan
Okay, Mister Bernanke, you have to keep the US at full employment, keep the currency stable, and preserve peace in the Mideast. For tools, we give you the discount window, bond purchases through the FOMC, and in extreme circumstances you may expand the Fed's balance sheet through other asset purchases.
For a bunch of philosophical geeks, we sure gave short shrift (interesting digression on what the hell a shrift is and how long it should be) to a rather important milestone, namely a computer's kicking men's assess in their own game of Jeopardy. (Duuh, duh duh, d-d-duh duh duhnt...)
U Cal Berkeley Philosophy Professor John Searle has a guest editorial today in the WSJ, that claims no big. I'll credit his observation that Watson doesn't "know" he's won. And I'll avoid the Kurzweilian rush that we have seen the singularity. I'll nod to Brother AlexC's Facebook allusions to "SkyNet."
But at the end we saw a fantastic display of technology that holds incredible promise. I'll even accept a little Ludditism from the concerned wing. It is not the end of the world but it is a big deal.
I worked four years on a startup that dreamed of being Watson someday. We selected cutting edge AI and Natural Language Processing technologies from research organizations. The hope was to combine them into a useable and saleable toolkit to perform training and tech support. Even an incredibly stupid Watson, limited to a certain domain of material, with a good portion of the questions and answers available ahead of time was a huge challenge.
We ran out of investor patience just as we were starting to exploit synergies between different approaches. I don't have a ton of regrets in life, but I wish we would have had another year to play -- the system was just assembled as we closed shop.
Searle provides a philosophy professor's analogy.
Imagine that a person—me, for example—knows no Chinese and is locked in a room with boxes full of Chinese symbols and an instruction book written in English for manipulating the symbols. Unknown to me, the boxes are called "the database" and the instruction book is called "the program." I am called "the computer."
People outside the room pass in bunches of Chinese symbols that, unknown to me, are questions. I look up in the instruction book what I am supposed to do and I give back answers in Chinese symbols.
Suppose I get so good at shuffling the symbols and passing out the answers that my answers are indistinguishable from a native Chinese speaker's. I give every indication of understanding the language despite the fact that I actually don't understand a word of Chinese.
I think he badly misses the mark here. Watson provided answers that were not in "the database" and missed some that were. A pretty famous clip reveals that the programmers were often surprised.
Chess skills capitalize on the machine's ability to play out billions of scenarios and statistically score them. Impressive, but not Jeopardy.
Moore's Law has come back into currency, and reporters are dutifully noting that the massive server farm that was Watson will be small and cheap in the future. With the rush to the cloud, I think people are overestimating the time it will take by looking at 1990s mantissas.
I don't know that it's SkyNet, but it could well be the next Internet. The scene of an experienced Nurse or medical technician with a Watson-House-Doctor at her side is intriguing and game changing. Place that pattern across multiple industries and Misters Huxley and Shakespeare, our "Brave New World" is here.
In the final round, I made up ground against Watson by finding the first "Daily Double" clue, and all three of us began furiously hunting for the second one, which we knew was my only hope for catching Watson. (Daily Doubles aren't distributed randomly across the board; as Watson well knows, they're more likely to be in some places than others.) By process of elimination, I became convinced it was hiding in the "Legal E's" category, and, given a 50-50 chance between two clues, chose the $1200 one. No dice. Watson took control of the board and chose "Legal E's" for $1600. There was the Daily Double. Game over for humanity.
It would be one thing if this were just overwrought hysteria, but Ann Althouse went to the trouble of interviewing one of the sign carriers, who really does believe that Scott Walker is just like Hitler. Yeah? I would like to see her explain to elderly concentration camp survivors and people whose parents were gassed and burned by the Nazis how the horror of what happened to them was the moral equivalent of ending the automatic deduction from state workers' paychecks and making the unions collect the dues themselves. -- Eric Scheie
Allison Luthe, a community organizer with Jobs for Justice in Indiana (and apparently on the fast-track to POTUS) commented on right-to-work efforts in states including Indiana:
"Businesses look at right-to-work as, like, number 24 out of 25 in their decision-making," she said. Asked about what the proposal could do to union membership, Luthe said it would be "devastating" but that it's not just a membership issue."
Sure, it's not a membership issue. She's admitting that workers would leave unions in droves if not forced to belong by antiquated laws.
So goes the reality of today's Washington, especially after Mr. Obama dropped his budget this week that does almost nothing about everything. To call it a punt is unfair to the game of football.
Honorable Mention (same article):
"The way I look at things is if you want to be good at this kind of job, you have to be willing to lose it. Number two, the times require this. And number three, if you don't believe in your principles, and applying those principles, then what's the point?" He mentions limited government and economic freedom. "I believe these are the best solutions. I believe they will result in growth and opportunity for the country."
The Refugee was forwarded this communique from the Wisconsin teacher's union rep, who encouraged members to send it to family and friends:
--- On Sat, 2/19/11, OEA Secretary wrote:
From: OEA Secretary
Subject: Two separate polls - please VOTE
Date: Saturday, February 19, 2011, 12:24 PM
I am resending these two polls as I was shocked to see the votes currently are in Walker's favor. Vote as you see fit but it seems odd to me with so many passionate people at Madison rallying for Walker to "talk" that it would not bear out in these polls. Pass it on to everyone you can.
This is a poll to find out if you agree with Walker's proposal for removing bargaining rights:
This is a different one.
JS Online is conducting a survey about Governor Walker's
Budget Repair Bill.
Please vote: JS Online Survey
Takes 30 seconds. Keep the pressure on them -- get them out to friends, family and members..
We'll keep you posted throughout the day.
Steven Cupery, Lakewood UniServ Director
13805 W. Burleigh Road
Brookfield, WI 53005
Member 800 number: (800)403-5843
The link does indeed point to an online poll, so The Refugee weighed in. After casting a ballot, you will see the running total. Very encouraging indeed. Go for it.
One More Time, Why Aren't the Unions a Special Interest?
The Facebook posts are going up. A former coworker shares a link to "Thank Wisconsin's courageous state senators who have joined with protesters to block the Republican attack on public employees."
Amazing. Inspiring. This is what people power can do.
When Republican Governor Scott Walker attacked state workers and threatened to call out the National Guard if they protested, it sparked a popular uprising in Wisconsin. And now the extreme proposal to take collective bargaining rights away from public employees is temporarily blocked as a result of mass protests.
Guess it wasn't "people power" when all those people went to the polls last November.
Plus my brother and two others, all on the union side -- I have not seen one supporting Gov. Walker except from the crazy-ass right wing sites I "like" like Tea Party Patriots, CATO, Heritage, &c.
But I am tempted to share this jewel from Tom Carney at The Washington Examiner:
The ferment in Wisconsin is no workers' uprising against the rich and powerful. It is instead political muscle-flexing by a well-funded special interest group, which is limbering up for President Obama's re-election bid. Obama's campaign, operating as Organizing for America, is bussing protesters to the state capitol and manning phone banks to apply pressure to state legislatures. Obama himself has called Gov. Scott Walker's bill curbing government-sector collective bargaining "an attack on unions."
While liberal writers wax romantic about a workers' uprising (former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote on Twitter "Wisconsin is spreading to Ohio -- America's microversion of Tunisia and Egypt. People are taking to the streets to get their rights"), what we're really seeing is the labor movement acting as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.
I'm a BIG tipper. My hero is the Steve Martin mobster character in "My Blue Heaven" who tips the flight attendant $100 for a drink. Rick Moranis (FBI character) asks him why he is so intent on tipping. He says "I'm not -- I believe in over-tipping."
I'm not that good, but I'm a good tipper, and a big believer in supporting those things in which I believe. Yet I have never once, I don't think, hit a blogger's "tip jar." I consider it a bad business model and am reluctant to support it. I did give Andrew Sullivan money in his first couple pledge drives -- and look at how that investment came out. I bought some blogads on Day By Day for the band and the blog and the coffeehouse that were not 100% media buys.
But "please hit my tip jar?" Never.
Until today. I don't know that a big time Law Professor in the famously generous Wisconsin public sector needs my $20, but I remain impressed at Ann Althouse's on the street reporting and promotion of an important local story with huge national implications. I posit that this would have gone nowhere without her. A commenter led the charge to reward her for doing "what the MSM won't." I could not agree more. There is a PayPal button and an Amazon search on her home page.
UPDATE: Professor Althouse emails "Your contribution is appreciated and encouraging." Now Mom can get that operation, I suppose...
The Refugee's eldest sister happens to be a elementary teacher in Wisconsin. She is also a member of the teacher's union as a condition of employment. Fortunately, she shares political proclivities with The Refugee.
During a recent union meeting with hundreds of attendees, members were asked to fill out a form to indicate what they could do to help with the protests. Only four members, including The Refugee's sibling, quietly left the meeting without completing the requested forms.
"Am I happy to be paying more?" says she. "No, but I understand that the state is out of money. I also realize that we teachers really have a pretty good gig."
"You can quote me, by the way," she concluded. "Just don't use my name. I don't want my house firebombed."
I think a few kind words for Professor Althouse are in order. According to her posts, these reforms will cost her about $10,000 a year. Yet, she has been on the front lines and driven this story. I'm not certain it would have crossed the St Croix without her reporting. Cheers, Professor!
Lileks waxes poetic on his adopted home state and firebrand Rep Michelle Bachmann. I was going to give him quote of the day for ppg#2:
In 2010, the House and Senate of the local legislature flipped to the GOP; the people also elected a Democrat governor, Mark Dayton, who promptly proposed taxes on the "rich." He understands what it's like to struggle, having sold off a Renoir to help fund his campaign. Folks like that man-of-the-people stuff. The state sent Keith Ellison, famous for taking the oath of office on Thomas Jefferson's old Koran, back to the national House -- and re-elected Michele Bachmann, who is anti-matter to Ellison. If they shake hands, the universe explodes.
100 proof Lileks. I didn't know whether to tweak our Minnesota friends with their ascension to "Highest Tax State in the Union" (on next year's license plates) but I am fascinated by their political dichotomy. Colorado, of course, sent Tim Wirth and Bill Armstrong to the Senate, so it does not seem completely foreign.
Lileks nails it at the end. If I used words like "Zeitgeist" I'd say he captured it.
What do Franken, Ventura, Wellstone and Bachmann have in common? They speak their minds. They’re authentic. Minnesota may look confused, but whether it's Republicans or Democrats, voters here are more likely to back the person that isn’t pretending to be what they're not.
America is feeling Minnesota this year. People love candidates who express their party's core principles without hesitation, and care about the small issues as much as the big ones. The right, in particular, is tired of the go-along-to-get-along types, and they suspect Bachmann would agree to head the Department of Education in Chris Christie's cabinet under one condition: she’d be allowed to abolish it.
From Walter Russell Mead's blog about the events in Madison:
We might be able to stave off collapse for a little while if we retreated to protectionism and fortress America: ban cheap imports from overseas and otherwise cut ourselves off from the global system we have done so much to build. I will save the case against this strategy for another series of posts; suffice it to say for now that it is harder to imagine a surer road to misery, poverty and global wars on an unprecedented scale than for the US to take this dangerous path. It is probably the most destructive as well as the most evil and unjust thing that we could do. The results would be devastating on a scale that could eclipse the horrors of World War Two — both for us and for all the people around the world who rely on American power and economic health to preserve what fragile stability and prosperity human beings have managed to achieve.
ThreeSourcers have been taking some mighty whacks at the Wisconsin teacher's union these past days, so The Refugee thought they might like to hear from The Loyal Opposition. Jane McAlevey writes a piece in The Nation titled, "Labor's Last Stand." (If we were only to be so lucky.) If ThreeSourcers want insight into the union/Liberal/Progressive mindset, this is a great read. She starts out thusly:
Emboldened by November's election results, corporations and their right-wing allies have launched what they hope will be their final offensive against America's unions. Their immediate target is government workers' unions. While New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie has gained national fame by beating up on public school teachers, the threat to unionized workers is playing out in all fifty states, to the drumbeat in the media about states going broke because of government workers’ wages, pensions and benefits.
Never mind that states are going broke and that the majority of their deficits are related to pensions and wage increases on autopilot. There is no such thing as economic reality to these people.
The entire house of labor and all progressives must understand that we have not had a moment as threatening as this in our lifetime. The right is making the connections--attacking public employee unions and public services at the same time in order to wage complete war on the poor, people of color, and the working and middle classes of this country.
Of course, the dispute has nothing to do with unfunded liabilities measured in trillions or the fact that some public sector union members want to live large at the expense of their taxpaying neighbors. Nope, it's those racist, homophobic, misogynistic Republicans. Nazi bastards.
It's a long read, but if you want to understand the opposition's playbook then take the time. Might want to keep a bucket handy, however. Finally, a memo to Ms. McAlevey: there was an election. We won.
"Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government....The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service." -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
This story might actually have legs. Kudlow covered it last night. He had Wisconsin State Rep. Robin Vos, co-chair of the state's Joint Finance Committee on. Vos is an articulate voice for freedom, but I fear he was enjoying the personal threats too much. The brave State rep gets a police escort through the capitol hallways in Madison... If you're fighting tea partiers that may work, lads, but no media will cover threats by union goons. Play the hand you're dealt.
I don't link to Rush Limbaugh very often, but I'll give him "Headline of the Day:"
Wisconsin Liberals Starve Children
As Coloradans have learned recently, school is the only place poor kids can eat.
Brother jg is probably right here. Three days off school now, drumming and shouting, Gov. Walker = Hitler signs, we might be seeing the union overstep a wee bit. I'm still fuming but I assure you it's a righteous anger.
Those pu**y Wisconsin Democrats might run from a fight, but Centennial State residents know that their Senior Senator is on the job. Senator Udall's newsletter just arrived.
I, of course, wondered what he was doing to reign in spending and address the protests in the Middle East.
Today, I reintroduced the bipartisan Ski Area Recreation Opportunity Enhancement Act. Behind this somewhat lengthy title is a very simple idea that will help create jobs and boost the economy in our mountain communities.
Every winter, over 10 million skiers and snowboarders flock to Colorado to enjoy the ski areas that have made Colorado an international icon for winter recreation. Ski areas are a critical part of our state's recreational and tourist economy -- but many struggle to provide jobs during the summer months.
Those of us who live in Colorado year-round know that opportunity to enjoy the outdoors does not end when the last snowflake falls. My bill would make a small change to the rules governing the permitting of ski areas on National Forests, making it clear that biking, concerts and other recreational activities are welcome where the Forest Service finds them appropriate. With additional summertime activities we can help bolster these local economies with year-round jobs and help to provide some seasonal stability for our mountain communities.
As always, your input is greatly appreciated. Please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and don't hesitate to contact me through my website if you have questions, comments or concerns.
I'll sleep easier tonight knowing the brave Udall brothers are in the Senate, keeping the West properly promoted for summer biking.
By the way, newly-elected Congressman Sean Duffy from Wisconsin made one of his first efforts in Congress a bill that returns non-obligated stimulus funding to the taxpayers. Now his bill has been included in the continuing resolution the House is working on this week. It’s great to see our efforts to end government overspending become the core of actual legislation and not just something we all rally for.
Maybe this is getting a little play. WaPo (okay, blog) reports that the President has weighed in:
Obama said that while some measures, such as pay freezes for those employees, are "the right thing to do" to combat budget shortfalls, "some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like an assault on unions." He added that "it's important not to vilify" public workers.
Time to "go PATCO on their asses!" If I remain angry it is because I know no one will.
JK did a great write-up on the Wisconsin revolution against state employee union looting of the treasury. As I thought about covering the same story I had some phrases in mind: Here comes the sun... It's always darkest before the dawn... Finally, hope and change! Stuff like that.
But how can something like this happen in Wisconsin? Home of the U of W in Madison, birthplace of the AFSCME union and a long-time leftist bastion? Check the leadership:
If Castle had its series finale tomorrow and Fox said to you and Joss: "We screwed up, let's try doing Firefly again." Would you do it?
Yes. Yes. I would examine very closely Fox's reasoning -- I'm a little gun-shy. If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet. -- Nathan Fillion
It's apparently all over the Wisconsin State Capitol building.
It has been a long time since a story has angered me as much as the Wisconsin Teachers' Union protest in Madison. The worst part is that it is one of those "blog stories" that nobody else you meet will have ever heard of. Katie Couric is not going to show you any of this.
To sum up:
1) The good people of The Badger State elect a responsible Governor, and enough responsible members of the state legislature to pursue real reform of public worker contracts and pensions.
2) The teachers "call in sick" to attend a protest in sufficient numbers that school is cancelled.
A three-day-long stand-off at the Wisconsin state capitol between union supporters and those backing the Republican governor’s budget cuts just went to another level Thursday as Democratic senators apparently fled the state to prevent a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill, which would cut public employee union collective bargaining rights and require them to contribute to pensions and health care.
Law enforcement has been sent to find missing Democratic lawmakers, according to a Madison, Wis. ABC affiliate. State Sen. leader Scott Fitzgerald said only one Democrat is needed for quorum to vote on the controversial bill, which is expected to pass a Republican-majority Senate. The "Sergeant of Arms is going door to door to find Democratic senators."
Don't Want to Throw "the H word" around Lightly...
But Florida Gov. Rick Scott is having a Hoss moment, rejecting a high-speed rail boondoggle jobs-producin'-federal-stimulus project.
My decision to reject the project comes down to three main economic realities:
-- First -- capital cost overruns from the project could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion.
-- Second -- ridership and revenue projections are historically overly-optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur. (from $300 million – $575 million over 10 years) — Note: The state subsidizes Tri-Rail $34.6 million a year while passenger revenues covers only $10.4 million of the $64 million annual operating budget.
-- Finally --if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C.
Brother Keith says he doubts rail, but here's one that brings in 16.25% of its operating budget from passenger revenue. Man, where can I get in on a deal like that?
Sweeping hand gestures were the order of today as President Obama defended his budget at a news conference, reflecting widespread skepticism over the seriousness of his spending "cuts." At last, bipartisanship to believe in.
And runner-up goes to Speaker Boehner:
The president apparently believes a $607-billion budget deficit is 'living within our means.'
A very good friend of this blog sends a link to a Der Spiegel story on "Islam's Dear Abby"
He also speaks out against the systematic castigation of wives. He calls the practice unwise, saying: "Blows are not effective with every woman, but they are helpful with some." In other cases, the sheikh insists on equal rights. For example, he says, a woman does not have to ask her husband's permission to blow herself up in an Israeli cafe.
Germane because this televangelist is the spiritual leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood ("a largely secular group" quips our friend).
The American Spectator profiled Chris Christie's latest New Jersey crusade to break the Imperial stranglehold that the judiciary has on the state.
Beginning in 1973, the N.J. Supreme Court saw fit to interject itself into education policy and to force tax hikes onto local residents in an effort to bring funding for poorer school districts into greater parity with wealthier districts. It was at this point that the concept of self-government as it was expressed in the Declaration of Independence became inoperative in New Jersey.
Where does the N.J. Supreme Court derive the authority to reshape public policy in such a profound manner without popular consent and without legislative approval? Gregory Sullivan, a practicing attorney who writes a column for the Trenton Times, sees an "imperial judiciary" at work that has violated the separation of powers.
"How much money is spent and where has nothing to do with the constitution," Sullivan said. "It has everything to do with determinations by legislators and governors who are electorally responsible for their decisions. By contrast, it is essentially impossible to hold any court accountable for the squandered millions that have been judicially ordered for decades."
Under New Jersey law, the Governor has the right to reappoint or dismiss a Supreme Court justice every seven years. Christie has done just that and the Court is fighting back by refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Christie nominees.This sounds like a Constitutional crisis to me where one branch refuses to recognize the authority of another branch.
Christie is not backing down. He encouraged residents to reject court-mandated budget hikes at the ballot box, which happened in 58 percent of the districts.
"Revolution is a good word to describe what Governor Christie is trying to do," said Thomas A. Gentile, a New Jersey attorney who is active in the Federalist Society. "Christie campaigned for governor on his unabashed promise to end the New Jersey Supreme Court's decades of over-reaching. His ultimate goal is to restore to the governor and to the legislature the constitutional powers that Supreme Court decisions such as Abbott and Mount Laurel have entrenched in the hands of the judiciary."
Our German allies are reassessing the Bush Presidency in the shadow of Egypt:
Suddenly it seems everyone knew all along that President Mubarak was a villain and the U.S., who supported him until recently, was even worse. However it was actually former President George W. Bush who always believed in the democratization of the Muslim world and was broadly ridiculed by the Left for his convictions. . . .
Painful as it may be to admit, it was the despised George W. Bush who believed in the democratization of the Muslim world and incurred the scorn and mockery of the Left for his conviction. Everyone was sure--without knowing any Muslims--that the Western model of democracy could not be applied in a backward society like Iraq. Everyone knew that the neo-conservative belief in the universal desire for freedom and progress was naive nonsense. It is possible that the critics were right, albeit for the wrong reasons. The prospect of stability and order seems to be at least as important to many people.
Whadd'ya think? I stayed up late and thought that up all by myself.
Maybe the Tea Party sentiment is somewhat overblown, but the new budget from President Obama completely ignores any concerns about government growth or spending. I guess he nods to the deficit with massive tax increases ("Again, Bullwinkle? That trick never works!") but it's more of the same from Status Quo-bama:
This fact puts some perspective to the comments of Obama's Republican critics. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., remarked that under Obama's plan, "the president's vision of a future of trains and windmills is more important than a balanced checkbook." Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said that "President Obama's budget should have been printed in red ink instead of black." Three months after Americans expressed their deep anxiety over the unwarranted and dangerous explosion of federal spending and power under Obama by giving Republicans their biggest midterm congressional election victory since 1938, Obama is still demonstrating that he doesn't get it -- Americans want government spending cut, government debt eliminated and Washington politicians in both parties to wise up or be replaced.
UPDATE: The WSJ Ed Page is a bit more serious (though they tie their headline to a rap song):
How unserious is this budget? Although the White House trumpets $2.18 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, those savings are so far off in the magical "out years" that you can barely see them from here. More than 95% of the savings would happen after Mr. Obama's first term in the White House is over, and almost two-thirds of the promised deficit reduction would arrive after 2016. Pretending to cut deficits by pushing all real cuts into the future is Budget Flimflam 101.
Messrs. Obama and Biden argue that the U.S. has to invest in high-speed rail to stay competitive with the world. Only if we're competing in the Debt Bowl. Two high-speed railways in the world have broken even, and those are in densely populated areas of France and Japan where people drive less because gas prices are twice as high as in the U.S., and many foreign intercity highways levy tolls.
Two. And they didn't so much make money as break even.
Rep. Paul Ryan made an interesting comment on FOX News Sunday yesterday. Pressed about differences in the severity of budget cuts among different factions in the GOP, Chairman Ryan (I still like the sound of that) expressed hope that the conversation in Washington has shifted from "how much to spend" to "how much to cut." The blog optimist swoons.
We've discussed the required severity of cuts and structures going forward. I hold that the best hope is to change the tide of the conversation.
Example numero dos: the Obama Administration -- as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up -- offers plans to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The WSJ Swoons.
Our view is that there should be no federal housing guarantee. If Congress wants to subsidize housing for the poor, it ought to do so explicitly through annual appropriations. One lesson--perhaps the most important--of the financial crisis is that broad policy favors for housing hurt every American by misallocating capital and credit. The feds created incentives to pour money into McMansions we didn't need while robbing scarce capital from manufacturing, biotech and other uses that might have created better jobs and led to a more balanced and faster growing economy.
Being the Obama Administration, they offered three options with varying levels of government intrusion. But, again, the talk is how much to remove, not how much more to spend to increase home ownership.
Regular readers will know I don't go for piling on President George W. Bush just for sport. But this is a superb case against "compassionate conservatism." Home ownership is "a conservative value" ergo we should use tax dollars to improve minority and poverty ownership rates. Sounds good but in the end, it is a market distortion and concomitant misallocation of capital.
I had the ruby slippers all along. Lew Rockwell's site -- which I have maligned over the years -- has the complete text of Ludwig von Mises's "Socialism." I had been highlighting sections on my Kindle to share with my ThreeSources brothers and sisters but had no way to copy. After finishing the book yesterday, I now find the text online. I may go back and post some favorites in lieu of a Review Corner. I can review corner it in two sentences: It is the best book ever written. Five stars.
Today's LvM QOTD is from the conclusion. Near and dear to all ThreeSourcers, the struggle of ideas and the path forward. I think you'll hear a bit of Ayn Rand and some Michael Novak in there:
Nor have these disciples of Liberalism been any more fortunate in their criticisms of Socialism. They have constantly declared that Socialism is a beautiful and noble ideal towards which one ought to strive were it realizable, but that, alas, it could not be so, because it presupposed human beings more perfect morally than those with whom we have to deal. It is difficult to see how people can decide that Socialism is in any way better than Capitalism unless they can maintain that it functions better as a social system. With the same justification it might be said that a machine constructed on the basis of perpetual motion would be better than one worked according to the given laws of mechanics--if only it could be made to function reliably. If the concept of Socialism contains an error which prevents that system from doing what it is supposed to do, then Socialism cannot be compared with the Capitalist system, for this has proved itself workable. Neither can it be called nobler, more beautiful or more just.
It is true, Socialism cannot be realized, but it is not because it calls for sublime and altruistic beings. One of the things this book set out to prove was that the socialist commonwealth lacks above all one quality which is indispensable for every economic system which does not live from hand to mouth but works with indirect and roundabout methods of production: that is the ability to calculate, and therefore to proceed rationally. Once this has been generally recognized, all socialist ideas must vanish from the minds of reasonable human beings.
The 2011 CPAC preference poll for president was released today. Ron Paul won again. So since that poll is a self-selecting joke, I'll talk about the scientific polls instead. The RCP average on Republican 2012 Presidential Nomination from November through January 23 shows Huckabee as the leader by 0.1 points - not really a lead but a tie for the lead with Romney.
1) Other than Gingrich and Paul, all are former state governors. (Not a senator in the bunch, nor a McCain.)
2) Christie's not running, and Paul is, well, Paul. Pawlenty is sort of a newcomer to the game so may be expected to poll only 4 percent but it's hard to imagine his paint-drying personality making him a desirable national figure. This leaves the top four as pretty much "the field" as of today.
And then there is today's Fox News poll. This one didn't ask for a single preference, but a thumbs up or thumbs down on fourteen different prospects.
The same names are in the top four, and some of the other names on the list do better than Christie and Pawlenty. This cattle call is deep enough to include even Jon Huntsman, though Ron Paul didn't make the cut at Fox HQ. But most interesting to me is how well the other female prospect is doing despite only recently being added to the list. Michele Bachmann is showing respectable cred. And speaking for myself now, other than the sitting New Jersey governor there isn't a single person on that list I'd more like to see take on President Obama head-to-head for the general election. She's clean, articulate, intelligent, and a genuine fiscal conservative. In many ways she is Sarah Palin without much of the negative baggage. (Has this ever happened before? Two women vying for the same party's nomination in the same election? Not that I can recall.)
So let's make the most of it! Of course, my analysis and my preferences mean nothing in Iowa and New Hampshire but I'd be totally jazzed by a Bachmann-Palin (or Palin-Bachmann) ticket. I think they compliment each other well and since none of the GOP hopefuls is polling well versus the president right now we may as well go all-in with a no-compromise candidate, or candidates.
Dagny likes the idea. She says, "The men have screwed things up for a long time. Let's see if the women can do any better."
With the 'Atlas Shrugged' movie [thanks for the link KA] set to open in just two months it is nice to see favorable treatment of the book in the press. This short column by Michael Smith of the Panama City News Herald includes one of the most objective summaries of the plot that I've ever read. But the main point is to show how the 1957 fictional plot so closely mirrors 21st century current events.
Hayek and Rand provide examples that are simplified views of our current times and the evolution of governmental control using collectivist policies in a "crisis" as an effective approach to problem resolution. A similar march toward a predictable endgame pitting the "looters" against the "producers" of value is clearly visible today.
And yes, he does also quote Hayek. (Now you can't resist clicking through, can you!)
While looking for publication numbers for Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' I found the data on this review page. It included this sarcastic quip by the New Yorker magazine in their review of the book upon its release:
The review in the New Yorker called the theme unbelievable and pointless. "After all," wrote the reviewer, [in October, 1957] "to warn contemporary America against abandoning its factories, neglecting technological progress and abolishing the profit motive seems a little like admonishing water against running uphill."
Nah, those things could never happen in contemporary America.
The EPA has proposed examining every aspect of hydraulic fracturing, from water withdrawals to waste disposal, according to a draft plan the agency released Tuesday.
Does this come as any surprise? With so much new oil becoming accessible through the new process the energy nazis at EPA have to find some way to put a halt to it.
The EPA proposal notes that 603 rigs were drilling horizontal wells in June 2010, more than twice as many as were operating a year earlier. Horizontal wells can require millions of gallons of water per well, a much greater volume than in conventional wells.
One point of contention is the breadth of the study.
Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, said he understands the need to address any stage of the fracking that might affect drinking water, but he's skeptical that water withdrawals meet the criteria.
Here are a few words of advice to the fellows behind the "No Labels" movement:
Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking:"
"The man who refuses to judge, who neither agrees nor disagrees, who declares that there are no absolutes and believes that he escapes responsibility, is the man responsible for all the blood that is now spilled in the world. Reality is an absolute, existence is an absolute, a speck of dust is an absolute and so is a human life. Whether you live or die is an absolute. Whether you have a piece of bread or not, is an absolute. Whether you eat your bread or see it vanish into a looter's stomach, is an absolute."
It's even more pointed if you continue reading...
UPDATE: Yes, the word "break" instead of "bread" (underlined) was a typo. My 21st printing copy has it correctly. The error must have been imposed on the electronic version I own and excerpt from.
"There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who shoves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube."
When I think of Esquire Magazine, my first thought is its support of great American fiction. A place where Hemmingway could pick up some money to finance a trip to Spain.
Which is very good inter-millennial branding, because it is just a porn magazine now, isn't it? I mean, I sport a libertarian sentiment on pornography and all. Like Justice Blackmun, I know it when I see it.
And you won't see anything untoward in their special feature preview of March's cover girl: Angel/Firefly/Sarah Connor sweetheart, Ms. Summer Glau.
I'll give Larry Kudlow credit: he had this story on his show the night before last. The WSJ gets to it today.
But I was <Sen Tom Daschle voice>saddened and disappointed</Sen Tom Daschle voice> to hear Larry take a populist, nationalist, anti-free trade stance. Kudlow's a free trader, but he liked this deal about as much as Green Bay would like a Chinese purchase of the Packers. He had former SEC Chief Harvey Pitt on to explore avenues to hold up the deal through regulation and litigation.
The NYSE is a holy temple to Kudlow, I can dig that. But if you believe in what it stands for, and not the symbol, you must say "willkommen" to a firm that has the capital and thinks it can provide comparative advantage, no matter where it is located.
Kudlow's guests didn't push back, but most voiced the concerns of today's WSJ Editorial. The problem is that we starved the golden goose, not a Teutonic penchant for goosemeat.
If the merger proceeds, the temptation in Washington will be to fret about foreign ownership of U.S. financial assets. But far more constructive would be some reflection about Washington's contribution to sending these assets and trading offshore. The Dodd-Frank law requires mountains of new rules that will further burden U.S. financial players, not least in the new derivatives regime emerging from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. We would not be surprised if the NYSE Euronext managers view the Deutsche Börse merger as a potential refuge for its derivatives business if CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler realizes all of his regulatory ambitions.
I think everybody would agree on the WSJ's conclusion:
For most of the last century, America could count on the size of its economy and quality of its technology to give it a competitive edge. No more. If we want the U.S. to be home to the next great financial institution, or even to keep the ones we have, our politicians need to make America a more inviting place to trade and do business.
"Peak oil" has been forecast for about as long a stingy-haired, berobed sandal-wearers have been holding signs on street corners warning that the end is near. Somehow, technological advances just keep proving the predictions wrong.
Yesterday, the AP carried a piece describing new drilling techniques that could open reserves in the mid-US that exceed the Gulf of Mexico. This is the Niobrara formation under Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado.
This new drilling is expected to raise U.S. production by at least 20 percent over the next five years. And within 10 years, it could help reduce oil imports by more than half, advancing a goal that has long eluded policymakers.
Petroleum engineers first used the method in 2007 to unlock oil from a 25,000-square-mile formation under North Dakota and Montana known as the Bakken. Production there rose 50 percent in just the past year, to 458,000 barrels a day, according to Bentek Energy, an energy analysis firm.
In the Bakken formation, production is rising so fast there is no space in pipelines to bring the oil to market. Instead, it is being transported to refineries by rail and truck. Drilling companies have had to erect camps to house workers.
Unemployment in North Dakota has fallen to the lowest level in the nation, 3.8 percent — less than half the national rate of 9 percent. The influx of mostly male workers to the region has left local men lamenting a lack of women. Convenience stores are struggling to keep shelves stocked with food.
Within five years, analysts and executives predict, the newly unlocked fields are expected to produce 1 million to 2 million barrels of oil per day, enough to boost U.S. production 20 percent to 40 percent. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates production will grow a more modest 500,000 barrels per day.
Of course, back during the ANWR debate, 1,000,000 barrels per day was "insignificant" and the 10 years-to-market was too far in the future to be meaningful. Never mind that such production would be online today and boost domestic production another 10 percent.
Neoclassical theory certainly allows for agents to have high disutility of work (i.e., to be "lazy") and high discount rates (i.e., to be "short-sighted"). The logic of neoclassical welfare economics still applies to those at the extreme tails of the preference distribution: expanding the opportunity set of the lazy and short-sighted makes them subjectively better off. -- Scott Beaulier and Bryan Caplan
From a very interesting paper: Behavioral Economics and Perverse Effects of the Welfare State. (Hat-tip: Nick Shulz.)
Practice with me: "I am not lazy, I have a high 'disutility for work,' and can, on occasion, 'have a high discount rate.'"
UPDATE: And I'll pass out a Quote of the Day to the same paper:
It is wise to pursue paternalistic reasoning cautiously. (Glaeser 2006) There is a risk of redefining all behaviors you disapprove of as "self-control problems," and all beliefs you disagree with as "judgmental biases." The danger you pose to yourself is probably trivial compared to the danger of living under the veto of a randomly selected behavioral economist.
For proof that Chrysler can produce an ad that reminds viewers of more positive connotations of the 20th century than the Welfare State in maximum overdrive, check out the other commercial they made in time for the Super Bowl. Note how swanky the visuals are, and how they're geared towards such style icons (real and imagined) as Don Draper, Grace Kelly, Sinatra and JFK, rather than Eminem.
Of course, this ad's slogan is neatly answered by the Super Bowl ad. Whatever happened to style? It got mugged on a side street by a wannabe Detroit rapper in a sweatshirt and hoodie.
Michael Milken perhaps wins some award for rags to riches to rags to riches cycles. The poster boy of 80s "greed" rejuvenated himself -- and to some extent greed -- as many Americans realized he was right. The man succeeded in battling Altruism and Cancer, he should be a ThreeSources hero.
Today, he's on the case of Pharma innovation. He sounds like me with a good editor as he decries the abysmal P/E ratios in the sector:
Consider companies that make consumer products--things like soft drinks, detergent, cosmetics and beer. While their price-earnings ratios will vary, in today's market their average will most likely be in the neighborhood of 20. But the average P/E of the largest American pharmaceutical research companies (Abbott Labs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck and Pfizer) was recently near 10. Investors must have concluded that pretzels and eyeliner produce faster profit growth than prescription medicines.
Lower Pharma P/E ratios are a recent phenomenon. A generation ago, drug firms regularly topped magazine lists of the most-admired companies in America, a reputation usually reflected in their stock prices. But facing the specter of regulated returns, enterprise values dropped sharply during debates about proposed health-reform legislation in 1993. When the proposals failed in Congress, valuations eventually recovered. In the last decade, Pharma P/E ratios dropped again.
Contributing to these lower valuations are patent expirations, regulatory complexity, uncertainty about litigation exposure, and high U.S. taxes on repatriated foreign income. These factors undoubtedly influenced the decision by Procter & Gamble to leave the pharmaceutical business entirely in 2009 and concentrate on consumer products.
Procter & Gamble responded rationally to clear market signals that discouraged development of life-saving drugs. But for people whose health, and perhaps survival, will depend on these medicines--that includes you and me--the implications of the disparity in market valuations are ominous.
Pretty good stuff. So what is Milken's answer to "patent expirations, regulatory complexity, uncertainty about litigation exposure, and high U.S. taxes on repatriated foreign income?" Clearly, the answer is more Federal spending and regulation.
Sorry if that last paragraph induced whiplash, but I'm serious. He wants to increase the FDA's budget rather than shrink its mission. He wants to increase NIH spending (whatever, we do much worse things...) Support prevention (I think all that's left are mandatory, random, government colonoscopies). Match other countries' tax breaks (who is this guy?)
He clearly identifies the problem of too much government, enumerates its costs in dollars and life. Then, curiously, calls for more government to fix it.
Rep. Jeff Flake, (HOSS - AZ), voted against the Appropriations Committee's proposed budget cuts.
The 27-22 vote broke down by party, with two notable exceptions: GOP Reps. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) and Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.) joined with Democrats and voted 'no' in protest over cuts they viewed as insufficient. Republicans very nearly lost a third member. Freshman Rep. Tom Graves (R., Ga.) had also threatened to oppose the measure, but was won over at the last minute.
Dey was too small.
He certainly didn't sign up for the Appropriations Committee to make friends.
James Pethokoukis says it's "time for a Milton Friedman break." I concur:
But the doctrine of "social responsibility" taken seriously would extend the scope of the political mechanism to every human activity. It does not differ in philosophy from the most explicitly collectivist doctrine. It differs only by professing to believe that collectivist ends can be attained without collectivist means. That is why, in my book Capitalism and Freedom, I have called it a "fundamentally subversive doctrine" in a free society, and have said that in such a society, "there is one and only one social responsibility of business--to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud."
Part III, Chapter 7 - "This is John Galt Speaking:"
"We, the men of the mind, are now on strike against you in the name of a single axiom, which is the root of our moral code, just as the root of yours is the wish to escape it: the axiom that existence exists."
"Existence exists -- and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.
"If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness.
"Whatever the degree of your knowledge, these two -- existence and consciousness -- are axioms you cannot escape, these two are the irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake, in any part of your knowledge and in its sum, from the first ray of light you perceive at the start of your life to the widest erudition you might acquire at its end. Whether you know the shape of a pebble or the structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same: that it exists and that you know it."
This is the foundation of my philosophy and world view. What's yours?
Maybe it was the country-western music or maybe it was just too loud to sleep. Either way, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials succeeded over the weekend in shooing away a hibernating bear after it was found holed up under a residence on Boulder Community Hospital property.
This facility used to be devoted to outpatient rehab, and I know it well from the lovely bride's 10 week stay. It is right at the edge where the town ends and the mountains begin. Not too suprising that a bear would be there.
Where the hell is Algore and why didn't he tell us he was coming for a visit?
Yes, I knew that snow was forecast to begin around 11 pm tonight. I was finishing up some work on the indoor arena footing with the skidloader around 9 pm and noticed horizontal snow outside the open doorway. Funny, I didn't recall the forecast including WIND.
So my plans to mount the plow blade on my riding mower and deliver to dad's place in town before the snow hit were scuttled. Instead, just taking the trash can out to the road felt like something out of Admiral Byrd's "Alone" with the barbed wire fence serving as my lifeline to get back to the house. (Well, it wasn't really that bad since I could still see the porch light but I'm taking artistic license.)
The Atlantis Farm weather page doesn't show it but the wind chill reading dropped below zero around 10:30 and is still dropping with the thermometer (down 20 degrees in 90 minutes) while winds hold steady around 20, gusting to 30. It's exhilirating to experience these weather events in such an isolated domicile. It's definitely got a frontier feeling to it.
While I'm on my soapbox seems like a good time to tell Mr. and Mrs. Refugee that while unloading 6 cubic yards of wood shavings by hand (345 scoops of the grain shovel) and moving sand into the corners of the arena I came to the conclusion they are probably responsible for creating more actual jobs than has President Obama! (Mrs. Refugee brought her equestrian training operation to our barn for the winter months, along with a half-dozen or so horses.) But I love the work and we're glad to have them. Maybe one of these days the Refugee himself will come out for a visit!
Some of you may have viewed the much touted Bill O'Reilly interview with the president before the Super Bowl. Here's the passage that caught my attention:
O'REILLY: Do you deny the assessment? Do you deny that you are a man who wants to redistribute wealth.
O'REILLY: You deny that?
OBAMA: Absolutely. I didn't raise taxes once, I lowered taxes over the last two years.
O'REILLY: But the entitlements that you championed do redistribute wealth in the sense that they provide insurance coverage for 40 million people that don’t have it.
OBAMA: What is absolutely true is I think in this country, there's no reason why, if you get sick you should go bankrupt. The notion that that's a radical principle, I don't think the majority of people would agree with you.
First of all, "I lowered taxes" is not a defense against being a redistributionist. What he couldn't say was that he lowered taxes equally for everyone, because he didn't. He lowered taxes on low-income earners, effectively increasing redistribution of wealth ... the original charge he tried to deflect.
But O'Reilly didn't call him on that, and since the cuts were so small it is sort of small potatoes. When Bill asked the president about redistribution in Obamacare he deflected. Effectively he said, "Redistribution is OK if the majority of people agree with you."
Other than that though, no, President Obama is "absolutely" not a man who wants to redistribute wealth.
Christie, Daniels, Palin, Huckabee, who cares? Chris Cillizza at the WaPo has decided the 2012 GOP Nomination is "not worth having."
Fast forward three months, however, and the president's approval ratings are up, the unemployment rate is down and Democrats are feeling a whole lot more confident about Obama's chances of keeping hold of the White House next November.
Which prompts the question: Is the Republican presidential nomination worth having?
Which prompts the question "Is Cillizza old enough to have seen the SNL that joked about Democrats declining the nomination to avoid the 1992 reelection juggernaut of President George Herbert Walker Bush?" Yes, to his credit Cillizza is not Ezra Klein and realizes that American History goes back before last Thursday. He doesn't reference the SNL skit, but:
Those stratospheric numbers kept some of the biggest-name Democrats -- Mario Cuomo, anyone? -- out of the Democratic race and allowed a Southern governor named Bill Clinton to emerge as the nominee against a incumbent president whose approval rating stood at just 33 percent in October 1992. (For you non-math majors out there, that's a 46-point collapse in under 18 months.)
So, February 2011 is too early to call the 2012 election. As Taranto would say "out on a limb." But any suggestion that the current occupant is unbeatable is suspect.
For those who've not yet heard, former Avalanche great Peter Forsberg (age 37) has re-signed with the team ($1M) for the remainder of the season. The team's next game is 7:30 pm tonight in Phoenix (Altitude 2). But he can't play until he gets an immigration work visa. Unless a miracle is pulled off today it looks like his first start will be Wednesday in Minneapolis.
That is, to journalists, this story never gets old. "Oh, our BlackBerrys and Laptops mean that we never leave work and why can't it be 1802 again?"
In "Who's the Boss, You or Your Gadget?" the NYTimes opens the story with three great examples of people using technology to be able to participate in important personal activities without missing important work activities. You'd think Andy Riley-Grant, Karen Riley-Grant and their fetching baby daughter Margot would be thrilled to be connected to the grid. As soon as they are voted the "Stuff White People Like Family of the Year" they will be able to immediately update their Facebook status. And yet, it seems there is some discontent in Arugulaville:
But all of this amped-up productivity comes with a growing sense of unease. Too often, people find themselves with little time to concentrate and reflect on their work. Or to be truly present with their friends and family.
There's a palpable sense "that home has invaded work and work has invaded home and the boundary is likely never to be restored," says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. "The new gadgetry," he adds, "has really put this issue into much clearer focus."
Palpable, huh. That sounds bad.
People now have choices. That's good. Some people will make bad choices, that's too bad. But these constant cries to go back to the caves annoy me to no end. I just went from a touchscreen almost-a-smartphone to a Windows 7 HTC-Surround (sorry, AlexC!) Working from home, I love being able to go somewhere and know that I can be found if needed. That lets me go (like the first four paragraphs), more than it ties me down (the rest of the article).
Governor Christie seems pretty sincere in his presidential demurrals. But as the great political consultant, Yoda, said "there ...is...another." And it's Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
Governor Daniels is in the WSJ Ed Page today with a clear and passionate refutation of ObamaCare based on its effect on State budgets and sovereignty.
For state governments, the bill presents huge new costs, as we are required to enroll 15 million to 20 million more people in our Medicaid systems. In Indiana, our independent actuaries have pegged the price to state taxpayers at $2.6 billion to $3 billion over the next 10 years. This is a huge burden for our state, and yet another incremental expenditure the law's authors declined to account for truthfully.
Perhaps worse, the law expects to conscript the states as its agents in its takeover of health care. It assumes that we will set up and operate its new insurance "exchanges" for it, using our current welfare apparatuses to do the numbingly complex work of figuring out who is eligible for its subsidies, how much each person or family is eligible for, redetermining this eligibility regularly, and more. Then, we are supposed to oversee all the insurance plans in the exchanges for compliance with Washington's dictates about terms and prices.
One is forced to compare this clear thinking with Governor Mitt Romney's Massachusetts albatross. I score it Mitch 1, Mitt 0.
Okay, let's put the persiflage aside and talk about important things. I thought the commercials were pretty good last night.
The exception was the Chrysler full length feature film spot. I'm not ragging on it, but I felt that they really tried too hard. It's a fine line to walk. Advertisers must craft a masterpiece without looking like they were trying. I'm not saying it's easy, but other guys hit it.
Upon leafing through my morning blogs, Professor Reynolds reminds with a link that taxpayers paid $9 million for that ad and now, the company needs more. That certainly does suck, but I disagree with Reynolds that the ads in genera; did. I tried to dislike the GM spots because of my avowed enmity for Government Motors. But, no, they had some good spots.
My favorite was from one of the world's greatest companies: the Hyundai hybrid ad that pictured a world "what if we always accepted the first thing that came along?" Joe Schumpeter, call your office, people were using brick-sized cell phones and CRT screens.
It was a great whack at the Prius and Honda hybrids, but it was an equally good whack at Socialism. Mises would have approved.
A long and detailed interview by David Feith in the WSJ Ed Page:
In the book, Mr. Sharansky argues that all people, in all cultures, want to live in freedom; that all dictatorships are inherently unstable and therefore threaten the security of other countries; and that Western powers can and should influence how free other countries are. Rarely have these arguments been dramatized as during the past weeks—in Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen and especially Egypt. So late Wednesday night I interviewed Mr. Sharansky to hear his explanation of our current revolutionary moment.
As mentioned before, Sharansky has become disillusioned with President Bush. But I think it is clear that Iranian or Egyptian dissidents cannot look to the US for even solidarity. My libertarian friends celebrate this, I cannot.
Paul, who sits at Henry's desk, grappled with the pair's legacy. Henry Clay, he noted, is a darling of historians, but it is Cassius Clay, an unapologetic agitator, who captures his eye. "A venomous pen was his first weapon of choice, a Bowie knife his second," Paul said, smiling slightly. "He was so effective with the one, he found it wise to have the other handy."
At the risk of spoiling the ending, this Kentucky Senator thinks there's too much compromise on budget cuts. And he's ready to take out his Bowie knife.
Public intellectuals who beat the wealth disparity drum have an argument that goes something like this: Inequality is bad; there is correlation between bad things and inequality; ergo, the U.S.A. is trucking down the Pan-American Highway to banana republicdom if Congress doesn't repeal those pesky Bush tax cuts and go back to '60s cartel economics. -- Josh Brokaw, Reason.com
... at least until a court higher than Vinson's says otherwise.
Here's something that I missed on the day of the ruling, and that JK and even the Washington Examiner missed when the former declared Judge Clyde Roger Vinson "our hero." (I agree, by the way. If his ruling survives higher court scrutiny he could be as great a hero to individual self-government as was George Washington in his day.)
The Examiner concluded: "Ultimately, these issues will likely be decided by the nine justices of the Supreme Court -- unless the 112th Congress beats them to it."
But Vinson himself has already beaten them to it. The media makes much of the fact that in its short life the Obamacare law has been ruled in favor of by two judges (Democrats) and against by two others (Republicans.) But the judiciary is not a democracy (usually.) It only takes one court to invalidate a law (ask California voters) if its ruling is sufficiently broad. With the severability issue, the wizards of smart who wrote Obamacare behind closed doors gave Vinson the power to do exactly that.
Judge Vinson found that there was no need for an injunction, since the declaratory judgment that the entire law was invalid was sufficient. In effect, there is nothing left to enjoin, since no part of the law survived. By contrast, in the ruling in Virginia last year invalidating the mandate, the Judge severed the mandate from the rest of the law (but denied an injunction preventing the rest of the law from taking effect).
Here is the key language from the Order showing that Judge Vinson expects the federal government to obey the declaration that the law is unenforceable in its entirety:
"...there is a long-standing presumption “that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, the declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.” See Comm. on Judiciary of U.S. House of Representatives v. Miers, 542 F.3d 909, 911 (D.C. Cir. 2008); accord Sanchez-Espinoza v. Reagan, 770 F.2d 202, 208 n.8 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (“declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction . . . since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court”) (Scalia, J.) (emphasis added).
There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here. Thus, the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief is not necessary."
In this sense, this decision is far more sweeping than the Virginia case, and presents a greater problem for the Obama administration which arguably does not have authority to implement any aspect of Obamacare.
Lest you think the President is the only guy who wants us all ridin' trains, The Denver Post reports:
The Metro Mayors Caucus is pushing for an election this year to double the current 0.4 percent FasTracks sales tax so the financially troubled transit project can be completed by the end of this decade.
The caucus, which represents about 40 mayors in metro Denver, coalesced around the 0.4 percentage-point increase after hearing poll results Wednesday that suggest area voters would pay a higher tax if they are convinced it will deliver FasTracks as promised by the Regional Transportation District seven years ago.
MONORAIL!......MONORAIL! ..."But Main Street's still all cracked and broken!"..."Sorry, Mom, the Mayors have spoken!"
Draconian Budget Cuts of a Magnitude that will Harm Critical Services
WaPo: Those mean ol' Republicans want to cut $30 Billion. I guess they don't like kids or something.
The figure represents a sharp reduction from President Obama's most recent budget request, and Democrats have dismissed the proposal as draconian, arguing that cuts of that magnitude would harm critical government services.
Stark, clear differences -- I'm all for it. The Democrats want to be the party that voted 100% not to repeal ObamaCare® and the party of the unlimited Gravy Train. Let's go.
Hey, I love Democracy and wish it upon my Egyptian brothers and sisters. But, as usual, their problems are more centered around the lack of rule of law and property rights.
Hernando de Soto was hired by the Egyptian government in 1997.as part of a USAID project. The results went unstudied after a cabinet shakeup, but are germane today:
-- Egypt's underground economy was the nation's biggest employer. The legal private sector employed 6.8 million people and the public sector employed 5.9 million, while 9.6 million people worked in the extralegal sector.
-- As far as real estate is concerned, 92% of Egyptians hold their property without normal legal title.
-- We estimated the value of all these extralegal businesses and property, rural as well as urban, to be $248 billion—30 times greater than the market value of the companies registered on the Cairo Stock Exchange and 55 times greater than the value of foreign direct investment in Egypt since Napoleon invaded—including the financing of the Suez Canal and the Aswan Dam. (Those same extralegal assets would be worth more than $400 billion in today's dollars.
All the tools that a populace could use to advance are denied. As possibly the last Sharanskyite on the planet, I suggest that Egypt might be a good candidate for U.S. interest (sorry big-L libertarians!)
A long term ally and peaceful neighbor to Israel, Egypt is the right location for a model middle eastern democracy. She boasts an educated, mostly secular populace that has seeds of western friendliness.
Yes, there will be a backlash for our long term support of Mubarak. Certainly the exercise is fraught with peril. All the same, compared to Iraq and Afghanistan, it could be a low cost path to a free and powerful nation in that difficult neighborhood.
In December, US Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, vowed to introduce a bill by last month that would give the FDA “new tools” for require drugmakers to contact the FDA as soon as they believe a supply problem exists (see the statement). The idea is to give the agency additional time to locate other suppliers, including from outside the US. So far, though, Klobuhar has not introduced a bill.
"New tools to require..." I really like that locution. I'm thinking of the Angel episode where the torture expert solemnly lays out his pliers and saws, prepping just like a dental hygienist for prophylaxis. The problem is not mentioned in the article, but the first commenter nails it. Government has pushed the prices down for generic drugs, more tightly regulated the producers, and it is no longer a profitable industry.
In the article JK linked on Ayn Rand's birthday the author lamented how even those who derive personal inspiration from Rand's opus 'Atlas Shrugged' "engage in the same tried-and-failed tactics of behind-the-scenes lobbying and appeals to the "public good" that have led to the shrinking of economic freedom over the past century."
Cue the Heritage Foundation, who compiles a worldwide Index of Economic Freedom each year. In the 2011 edition the USA is ranked #9, having been surpassed by Denmark last year and avoiding by 0.1 points being #10 behind ... Bahrain.
Administration opponents enjoy acc - cent - tu -at - ing the negative. Much as I love Professor Glenn Reynolds, he's a good example. His "CHANGE: " series has had a lot of value, especially when many media outlets were too enthusiastic in finding the cheeriest economic data.
But you can't fight the tape, and I posit it is wrong to cherry pick the worst data. It will spoil your beer and ruin your investment portfolio. The DJIA is well over 12K and the S&P500 over 1300 as I type. Life has got to be somewhere between Reynolds and Kudlow.
And this, from Mark Perry, is the greatest thing I have seen in a long time:
We have recovered ALL our pre-recession production without recovering employment. Now I feel for every American who struggles to find work. But productivity gains are where wealth comes from.
Of course, there are limits to efficiency gains, and as we soon reach those limits, hiring will pick up and the jobless rate will decline. But for now we can consider it a testament to the resiliency and efficiency of the U.S. economy, employing the world's most productive workers, that we were able to amazingly produce a record level of output in 2010 with 7 million fewer workers than in took three years ago to produce that same amount.
Alex Epstein suggests businessmen should thank the author.
Methinks [really? we're now starting paragraphs with "Methinks?"] Epstein makes a common fallacy equating businessmen with free market proponents and entrepreneurs. For every Fred Smith, there are a pile of Jeff Immelts. The current crop of rent seekers leading the Fortune 500 does not strike me as very John Galtish.
Tongues off the post kids, Five below at Atlantis Farm and it is not supposed to get above zero today.
When we had the honor of meeting The Everyday Economist last month, I suggested that perceptions of cold in Denver were overblown. A few Monday Night Football games got us a reputation that I enjoy, but that the Front Range does not really deserve. Dagny gave me icy stares throughout the peroration: feeding horsies in subzero a handful of mornings is plenty chilly for a former Seattle resident.
We're paying today, and I understand it is headed toward our friends in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Enjoy!
UPDATE: Avs game cancelled in St. Louis. Governor Rendell is gonna blow a gasket!
Vinson said the government even conceded that its interpretation of the Commerce Clause to support the individual mandate "breaks new legal ground" and is "unprecedented." He concluded, "If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party ... it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place."