June 30, 2013
From My Cold Dead Hands, Governor!
Too early for the BBQ, but I did make it to Pri-Paired.
Please come join us for Midnight Magazine Madness.
I bought two, 30-round, .223 magazines as a statement of liberty and for a gun I might buy someday. It is either the coolest or most pointless thing I have ever done; I am still deciding.
Open until Midnight!
One argument for feminism was that we were wasting the potential of half of humanity. We're no better off if we just waste the other half.That's from Helen Smith's Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters . Readers of Instapundit and of Dr. Helen will be familiar with the thesis of this book. She sees lower participation of young men in education, marriage and the workforce as evidence that they are "going Galt:" that subtle -- and not so subtle -- biases against men have given them a rational interest in avoiding institutions that are hostile.
Most men are not acting irresponsibly because they are immature or because they want to harm women; they are acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives today's society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers. In addition, many are going on strike, either consciously or unconsciously, because they do not want to be harmed by the myriad of laws, attitudes and backlash against them for the simple crime of happening to be male in the twenty-first century.She draws the comparison to Atlas Shrugged (don't worry, it's much shorter), so I will keep with it. I cannot point out a single item in the entire book and say "no, she is wrong." Yet, I find myself strangely not on board. "Men on Strike" does not match my personal life experience. I worked in a male-dominated industry and missed, by advantage of birth year, the worst of what Smith lays out.
She and her husband are steeped in academia, which I posit is the worst offender. I would share this book with a young man and I would consider counseling him to avoid a traditional campus education if he were at all ambivalent about his goals. In my day, college was a pretty good place for a moderately ambitious young person to "find himself or herself." You might change your major or meet a soulmate or transfer, but you would be racking up credit hours. Now between Dr. Helen's book and Glenn's Higher Education Bubble [Review Corner], I don't think that is still true. You're instead racking up debt and potential rights abuses.
On these hollowed pages we champion the right of risk-taking provided the risks are known. This book is eye-opening for risks. I was surprised by some of the paternity cases judged against men who were not the father, or were tricked, or in one case were essentially assaulted. That is grim reading and calls for action.
I was aware -- probably thanks to her blogging -- about the lack of due process afforded young men on campus if accused of harassment or even sexual assault. It is deeply disturbing that one's Fifth Amendment rights are discarded casually (like First and Second, but I digress...). Likewise, I agree that the alimony and custody procedures are anachronistic and in need of reform.
I do split off when the discussion turns to depictions in media. When Pizza Hut jokes about "Dad can't cook -- it's Pizza Night!" it really isn't Selma for me. I think men are ridiculed because they're the last group you're allowed to tease. No, that's not fair. But I'd rather see us lighten up about women, Jews, Blacks, gay Armenians and Mormon pole dancers rather that get more uptight about white dudes. Just me.
While it does not match my life and while I would still counsel a young man toward marriage (Yes, there are a million bad stories, but it's winning the lottery when it works), I cannot ignore or discount the dangers she exposes:
As one of my insightful readers, David, said, "the issue of marginal men is something that should be looked at from the point of view of innovation and advancement being replaced by a stalled nation. A stalled nation has its men in idle. Highly active men in a town of 50,000 can do remarkable things--that's all the Renaissance was. What can a small town do when the street corner is littered with men and feral dogs? Risk aversion does not a 'Start-up Nation' make."
Though-provoking and a great read (and probably a good buy for one's nephews...) Four stars.
June 28, 2013
Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain known for its chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and Christian evangelism, has once again positioned itself at the center of America's gay marriage debate, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Still no news on what the President of Burger King has to say on Citizen's United v FEC, but I think we can guess Jack-in-the-Box's displeasure over Raich v Gonzales
How Libertarian is jk? Well, according to Bryan Caplan's Libertarian Purity Test 78/160, or:
51-90 points: You are a medium-core libertarian, probably self-consciously so. Your friends probably encourage you to quit talking about your views so much.
June 27, 2013
Quote of the Day
Mr. Obama fancies himself a constitutional lawyer, yet as President he has exhibited an odd view of his powers. He's invited Congress to limit his authority on national security where it is constitutionally the strongest, yet he has sought to steal power from Congress via regulation when his legal right is dubious. The Justices have an opportunity to give Mr. Obama a refresher course. -- WSJ Ed Page
The founder/proprietor of Pri-Paird.com is a Liberty on the Rocks -- Flatirons regular, ex-military, ex-cop, friend of freedom.
They're having a little do to ring out the last day of Second Amendment rights in Colorado:
Please come join us for Midnight Magazine Madness.
I got to thinking . . . once we split off and instantiate "North Colorado," we will need some firearms regulations. I am thinking "no magazine under ten rounds allowed." If you have one manufactured and purchased before the law goes into effect, you may keep it as long as it stays "in your continuous possession." Sorry, but we take safety very seriously in NC.
June 26, 2013
Project for Awesome
Segue machine, Engage! The previous post lamented that cheap money could not "create new technologies. It can't make older people younger."
Project for Awesome, originating in the Colorado Springs area as far as I can tell, shows us what can do - both of those.
[Wanted to embed but seems to be broken, or disabled.]
Cheap Money and its Critics
We have a family joke that originated with former Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, explaining why his team had lost a particular game, saying, "I can't run the ball, I can't catch the ball, I can only throw the ball. I can't do everything." So now, to "Richie can't DO everything" we can add, "Cheap money can't DO everything."
Robert Samuelson, a man I don't recall agreeing with ever before, explains on the IBD Ed page:
Cheap credit addresses none of these problems directly and, indirectly, does so only weakly. It can't erase the memories of the financial crisis. It can't create new technologies. It can't make older people younger.
Who says there ever was a consensus? Ah yes, "The economics is settled."
June 25, 2013
Bag Fee Bingo
Reader, prepare thyself. I'm going to unload on the city government of Boulder, Colorado. I know, completely out of character for me.
I read today, in a Boulder Daily Camera dot com banner ad no less, that Boulder's grocery bags will come with a shiny new 10 cent per bag tax starting Monday, July 1. So it adds a buck to the monthly family grocery trip, I mused. Big deal. Then I read the city's justification for the new "Disposable Bag Fee."
Fee proceeds will be used to offset the impact of bags in our community. For more information please see the "Frequently Asked Questions" link below.
"Impacts?" Yes, friend. The lowly grocery bag has a societal "impact."
Boulder currently uses approximately 33 million checkout bags a year, or about 342 bags/person/year. Plastic bags are produced from non-renewable resources, are very difficult to recycle (they cannot go in Boulder’s curbside bins), and contaminate our recycling facility equipment, leading to increased operating costs.
Bingo! Boulder's recycling facility, mockingly dubbed the "Taj Mahal of Trash" by then Boulder Weekly editor Wayne Laugensen, costs a lot to operate. And with the supply of recycled material on the rise, market value is surely falling. How can Boulder afford to keep the doors open? I wonder.
33 million bags per year is 3.3 million dollars collected from grocery shoppers, assuming an inelastic response to the paltry dollar per visit cost. An earlier version of the linked page cited a trash load of about 781 tons of bags per year. So after the 4 cent per bag payoff to the, pardon the pun, "bag men" who extract the "fee" from shoppers, almost $2 million goes to the city each year. If those 781 tons were landfilled [blasphemy!] the offsetting cost per ton would be $2560.
On my last visit to the landfill I believe the dump fee was less than 1 percent of this amount. I'm wondering, when will someone calculate and devise a way to cope with the impact of city government in Boulder's community? Oh well, at least I debited the program one more click fee for the banner ad.
Quote of the Day
Take the new gut-string out for a spin...
UPDATE: Never turn down a request! Permalink
June 24, 2013
Life Imitates ThreeSources
In a Madisonian system, the only reason to have a party is to get a plurality of the vote. If you don't have a consistent shot at 50.0000001%, you have a PAC, a club, a 527, a 501c(n), or a Facebook page. Semper Fusionism, Libertario Delenda Est!
Quote of the Day
Of course, since Ben Bernanke is almost certainly a short-timer, such radical action is hardly worth the bother. And in truth, the suggestion isn't a serious one. If Washington or any other rich economy dumped central bankers for every mess-up, their longevity would be roughly that of a Spinal Tap drummer. -- James Pethokoukis
Damn Republicans! They have finally screwed up the immigration bill so badly that even I must withdraw my support.
I was prepared for a total hash and have been riding along. A bad bill is better than no bill. It will have some good parts and some bad parts, but the GOP as a party can move on, and any extra immigration allowed will contribute to economic growth.
But I cannot get on board with what the WSJ calls "Checkpoint Carlos." This is not the border of a free nation:
Though peace between the U.S. and Mexico has been unbroken since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Senate Republicans are making contingency plans in case of another Pancho Villa. In an amendment to the immigration bill that comes to the floor Monday, they now promise a "border surge" akin to the military campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I was indeed prepared for bad stuff. But this is an arms race with House Republicans demanding more and more militarization and Democrats and deal makers offering it up in spades to get an agreement.
I reluctantly withdraw my support. Let us be the party of slower growth and impeded freedom before we become East Germany.
June 23, 2013
"This is gonna be so much better than the Tea Party"
The TEA Party provokes a response in consumer advertising.
Hat-tip Blog friend SC. Today's selection was spotted on his shelf: The Rational Optimist (P.S.) by Matt Ridley.
Yet, I am a big fan of his work, and it fits eerily perfectly in my Deutsch-McCloskey-Lal-Hubbard examination of economic history and our specie’s elevation from privation. It's truly a wonder I missed this -- it was published in 2010.
Ridley doesn't contradict the others. He does recognize more activity at the left tail. Most works of this ilk start the wonder at The Enlightenment, or Industrial Revolution, or some Capitalizable Date. Ridley looks a bit further back at incremental if not explosive growth and innovation leading up, such that the Industrial Revolution becomes more an inflection point than a launching pad.
And what launched this incredible ride from living as animals to living like people? Ideas having sex. (I do remember reading reviews or compilations of this -- that's a memorable phrase). Unique to man is not ideas so much as sharing them. An asexual creature can evolve, but the mutation and selection process is exponentially accelerated by sex. So too does innovation happen when I see your hay baler and think how I could make a metronome along the same lines.
Neanderthals had all of these: huge brains, probably complex languages, lots of technology. But they never burst out of their niche. It is my contention that in looking inside our heads, we would be looking in the wrong place to explain this extraordinary capacity for change in the species. It was not something that happened within a brain. It was some thing that happened between brains. It was a collective phenomenon.
If I were to give my Facebook friends one book to explain me -- well it wouldn't really matter because they wouldn't read it -- but this book would be a great choice. Like Deutsch, Ridley is a big fan of affluence and modernity. He looks at a pastoral hamlet setting of 1800 in much the same way I would. There's a warm fire in the hearth, Father is reading from the Bible and the children pour water from an earthenware jug as Mother prepares dinner
Outside there is no noise of traffic, there are no drug dealers and neither dioxins nor radioactive fall-out have been found in the cow's milk. All is tranquil; a bird sings outside the window.
And a happy Earth Day to you too, Mister Ridley! He nods to Deirdre McCloskey, but seeks to flip causation: perhaps wealth comes first:
Contrary to the cartoon, it was commerce that freed people from narrow materialism, that gave them the chance to be different. Much as the intelligentsia continued to despise the suburbs, it was there that tolerance and community and voluntary organisation and peace between the classes flourished; it was there that the refugees from cramped tenements and tedious farms became rights-conscious consumers -- and parents of hippies. For it was in the suburbs that the young, seizing their economic independence, did something other than meekly follow father and mother’s advice. By the late 1950s, teenagers were earning as much as whole families had in the early 1940s. It was this prosperity that made Presley, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Brando and Dean resonate. It was the mass affluence of the 1960s (and the trust funds it generated) that made possible the dream of free-love communes. Just as material progress subverts the economic order, so it also subverts the social order -- ask Osama bin Laden, the ultimate spoilt rich kid.
Though optimistic about the prospects for reason and continued growth, he worries about threats to reason from climate change, GMO food opponents, and locavores. He demolishes each bit of nonsense expertly, with a long chapter on agriculture. Continuing the genius of Norman Borlaug with today's tools will allow us to feed the whole world well -- and return a hunk of today's farmland to wilderness. You and Ridley would think the hippies would like that, but if they don't kill it with organic food, locavorism, and opposition to GMO crops, a wondrous world awaits.
Borlaug’s genes, sexually recombined with Haber's ammonium and Rudolf Diesel's internal combustion engine, have rearranged sufficient atoms not only to ensure that Malthus was wrong for at least another half-century, but that tigers and toucans can still exist in the wild.
And do not worry, brother jg, Ridley is on board with "brown energy:"
Fossil fuels cannot explain the start of the industrial revolution. But they do explain why it did not end. Once fossil fuels joined in, economic growth truly took off, and became almost infinitely capable of bursting through the Malthusian ceiling and raising living standards. Only then did growth become, in a word, sustainable.
Ridley does fear "The wrong kind of chiefs, priests and thieves could yet snuff out future prosperity on earth." As do I. But without "a globalised retreat from reason," things don't look too bad:
The more you prosper, the more you can prosper. The more you invent, the more inventions become possible. How can this be possible? The world of things -- of pecans or power stations -- is indeed often subject to diminishing returns. But the world of ideas is not. The more knowledge you generate, the more you can generate. And the engine that is driving prosperity in the modern world is the accelerating generation of useful knowledge.
Five Stars and an Editor's Choice Award.
June 22, 2013
Five Stars and Two Snaps!
Be troth, ne'er have I gone to th' cinema with more rais-ed hopes! Yet verily twas I, and indeed the lovely bride, bewitched by the Bard's tale as by Mister Whedon spoken.
It was awesome! Shakespeare and Whedon really are a great match. This film is predominantly funny, but has dark characters and intensely dramatic sections: like Buffy in blank verse.
Five stars. Don't wait for the video -- get thee to thy local art cinema!
June 21, 2013
O Say, Can You See?
Is there an Afghani Francis Scott Key? NYTimes reports on a hurdle in the Taliban Peace Talks:
Diplomats were still engaged in discussions about how the Taliban are presenting themselves at their new office here. After Afghan officials angrily announced they would not participate in the talks because the Taliban raised their flag along with a banner reading "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," American officials asked the Qataris to get the Taliban to remove such emblems of legitimacy.
Not quite the drama of Fort Henry, but we work with what we have. Hat-tip: Jim Geraghty
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg "Anyone Notice We Lost a War?"
But even under the rosy scenario -- under which we leave having accomplished . . . Something To Be Specified Later other than having successfully completed the process of "Afghanization" (AKA Vietnamization) --- all that will stand between us and defeat will be Hamid Karzai. I used to like Karzai. I loved the outfits. He always dressed like he was leading a diplomatic delegation on Star Trek; all he needed were a few ridges on his forehead and maybe some cat eyes. But now he inspires as much confidence as a paper-maché submarine.
June 20, 2013
A Power in Decline?
Mon Dieu! I believe France has indeed conquered us! A Heh to a certain law blogger:
Quote of the Day
President Obama's words may well have pleased his German government hosts, content to see a United States whose ambitions as a military power have been significantly clipped since George W. Bush left office in 2009. But Barack Obama underscored again why he is no JFK or Ronald Reagan. In front of the Brandenburg Gate, Obama sounded more like the president of the European Commission than the leader of the free world. It is never a good sign when a US president parrots the language of a Brussels bureaucrat when he is supposed to be a champion of freedom. Obama’s distinctly unimpressive speech in Berlin was another dud from a floundering president whose leadership abroad is just as weak as it is at home. -- Nile GardinerTough Room.
Giants Walked the Earth!
Happy Birthday, Chester!!!
Embedding disabled, but click to hear Chet Atkins play Autumn Leaves. Certifiably awesome!
ObamaCare®:Worst Idea Ever?
Nothing new here. Those of you with work you're not trying to procrastinate can skip to the next post. But Elizabeth P Foley and David Rivkin have an interesting guest ed in today's WSJ.
In light of the IRS, NSA, Benghazi, and suggested expansion of inter-league play, Death Panels truly have a corporeal context:
The board, which will control more than a half-trillion dollars of federal spending annually, is directed to "develop detailed and specific proposals related to the Medicare program," including proposals cutting Medicare spending below a statutorily prescribed level. In addition, the board is encouraged to make rules "related to" Medicare.
Or, "...only providers and developers with good lobbyists will provide services..."
The ObamaCare law also stipulates that there "shall be no administrative or judicial review" of the board's decisions. Its members will be nearly untouchable, too. They will be presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed, but after that they can only be fired for "neglect of duty or malfeasance in office."
Hey, Lois Lerner is looking for satisfying work!
Fusionism: Today's Reading
I can't say I agree with everything in Henry Olsen's NR piece, Rand Paul's Party. But:
a) he gets bonus points for opening with a LOTR reference (that's Tolkien's magnum opus, not our basement beer klatch).
b) he pours a little cold water where it needs be poured.
The story then comes to the present day. Look around you, they say. You all know people just like yourselves: educated; hard workers; makers, not takers. They like low taxes and smaller government. But your friends think conservatives are weird. Why? Because they are turned off by the GOP's fondness for foreign military adventure and disagreements on gay marriage. Remove those barriers and -- voilá! -- an instant new voting bloc appears, just as it did for the blue-state GOP governors.
I hear that every day on some level. My libertarianish buddies wonder why we can't throw these old fuddy-duddies into the creek and go out there and win us some elections!
I'll raise his Tolkien reference with a Buffy quote. Like Spike: "I may be Love's bitch, but at least I am man enough to admit it!" I'd love a coherent liberty party that I'd be proud to associate with, that I wouldn't have embarrassing quotes from low level offices or unvetted candidates thrown in my face. That would be really swell.
But we would never win any elections. Yes, my young and sophisticated friends are turned off by the GOPs position on abortion. But if I wave my magic policy wand and make the Republicans pro-choice, do we get their votes? Hell no -- they're voting "free contraception" thank you very much. In the meantime, we chase away a most dedicated voting block who will crawl over broken glass on election day and vote for the guy who fired their brother and stole his car -- if he is the pro-life candidate.
I am ranting but I am in concert with the linked post. Olsen says the imagined power voting block is projected to be libertarians plus what he calls "Post Moderns." His bad news is that the Post Moderns don't love liberty more than eight inches from their genitalia (my words, not his, this is National Review fer cryin' out loud!)
This leaves us where I have been for years. Before Tea Parties and before (the, ahem, pro-life) Rand Paul's emergence as a GOP Rock Star. We are a 10-19% voting block -- quite powerful, but not on our own. We need to find the least distasteful coalition partners that can get us into office.
President Bush -- Miss Him Yet?
Our debonair, sharp-creased, citizen-of-the-world President is in Europe. So glad we won't be embarrassed by that arrogant Texan anymore, aren't you?
BBC.com provides the helpful; caption: "UK chancellor George Osborne, left, US soul singer Jeffrey Osborne, right"
UPDATE: Heh, the Sun is a bit less formal than the Beeb: ChanSOULer
June 19, 2013
Put that in you Milton Friedman pipe and smoke it!
Don't trust anyone under 24
In fact, particularly if you're 15 or younger, you can commit capital murder and be on the streets at 43. That was the fate of Indiana's Paula Cooper:
Cooper was 15 years old when she used a butcher's knife to cut Ruth Pelke 33 times during a robbery in Gary that ended in Pelke's death. Her three companions -- one only 14 --received lighter sentences, but Cooper confessed to the killing and was sentenced to death by a judge who opposed capital punishment, said former prosecutor Jack Crawford, who sought the death penalty for Cooper. Crawford is now a defense lawyer in Indianapolis and no longer supports capital punishment.
Enter European "human rights" activists, the Pope and the Supreme Court, and this confessed murderer's fate takes a U-turn.
Two years after Cooper was sentenced to die, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case that the execution of young people who were under 16 at the time they committed an offense was cruel and unusual punishment and was thus unconstitutional. Indiana legislators then passed a state law raising the minimum age limit for execution from 10 years to 16, and in 1988, the state's high court set Cooper's death sentence aside and ordered her to serve 60 years in prison.
The Supreme Court seems to be sure, as does Indiana's former attorney general:
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute anyone who is younger than 18 years when they commit an offense.
And, it now seems, essentially get away with it.
Quote of the Day
Tocqueville would not recognize America today. Indeed, so completely has associational life collapsed, and so enormously has the state grown, that he would be forced to conclude that, at some point between 1833 and 2013, France must have conquered the United States. -- Niall Ferguson
Surprised to be first, but I'll play. I've seen a bit of discussion on Barbara Oakley's Concepts and implications of altruism bias and pathological altruism. If that doesn't scream ThreeSources, you're hearing impaired.
Taranto discussed it and I know I saw references elsewhere, but Ronald Baily provides a short and excerpt-rich summary.
The above list of pathologies afflicting public policy sounds all too familiar. Although Oakley doesn't bluntly say so, the modern welfare state can be conceived of as being largely a collection of enterprises conjured into existence by pathological altruism. Social security -- discourages citizens from saving and is going bankrupt. Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, ObamaCare, employer based health insurance -- a dysfunctional system of third party payments that boosts overall health care costs without fostering improved care or services. AFDC (now defunct but replaced by lots of other programs) -- encouraged single motherhood and near-permanent unemployment. Subsidized student loans -- enable university bureaucracies to enlarge without improving educational outcomes. Obviously some people have benefited from these programs, but it is at least arguable that the unanticipated consequences, e.g., bankruptcy, dysfunctional families, higher unemployment, worse medical care, and so forth, are likely to overwhelm the good intentions behind them.
The crushing rational advantage that Judaism has over Christianity is that the Jew is responsible (as this neither Talmudic nor Biblical scholar understands it) for the actual results of his charity, not just the intentions. No points for trying. Don't give the junkie enough "food money" to buy his overdose.
I think that changes the world more than a thousand copies of "Atlas Shrugged." I cannot tell you any place where Rand is wrong. But explaining it is a fat lot of unpleasant work, and I lack the gifts of a Yaron Brook.
Yet Oakley's Pathological Altruism -- I can sell that. Look at the housing projects we're now blowing up. Look at the disconnect from family that Daddy Sugar has facilitated. Even Vonnegut had a character who's day was made by doing a simple repair with his own hands.
I sense some people may not be pleased with some implicit concessions that elevate the pragmatic over the philosophical. But this has captured hearts at Reason, the WSJ Ed Page and National Review. This my friends, is a keeper.
June 18, 2013
Edward Snowden: Is he a Winter or an Autumn?
I remain convincible on the NSA program. It is a fine example of Arnold Kling's Three Languages of Politics [Review Corner]. There is a question of civilization/barbarism: we should use tools to keep Miss Alabama safe. OTOH, there is liberty vs. coercion. I am willing to sign off on the program if someone can credibly convince me that it was 100% non-complicit in outing General Petraeus's affair. Ellen Nakashima shows how metadata ("we're not listening in to your calls...") was used. That, my friends, is troublesome; the defense that "I am not doing anything wrong" is greatly expanded in context and scope. (This guy out in Weld County seems to visit a lot of websites with Indian Rosewood guitar components. Better have the Fish & Game SWAT team on alert...)
I don’t always agree with Alan Dershowitz, nor does he always agree with me, but I think that he is right on the money when he laments at The Daily Beast that, with the outcry against the NSA program, we are witnessing a return to a form of paranoia that has too often marred American politics. Dershowitz here is not arguing whether we do or do not need a government program; he is describing the level of trust that we put in government.
Richard Epstein and Alan Dershowitz: a couple more Jack Bauer Fans.
UPDATE: Epstein and Pilon not speaking for CATO.
How Much was that Sequester Thingy Again? Part II
More Serious than the NSA
The title puts me in a mood to make a list: love, poetry, the Designated Hitter can all be called more important than the NSA scandal. More seriously, I worry that the IRS scandal, which I consider more serious, is losing media oxygen as we debate "Is Edward Snowden a Virgo or an Aquarius?"
But the title was supposed to introduce an excellent A. Barton Finkle post which ties the scandals together into a much larger question of asymmetrical government capacities and a free people's ceding their rights to an unelected "regulatory branch" of government.
The principle animating democratic and republican government is accountability to the governed. Yet more and more government action lies beyond the citizens' reach. As law professor Jonathan Turley explained in a Washington Post piece that appeared before the surveillance leaks, "our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch of government, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency." (Viz., the NSA.)
The NSA, EPA, IRS, and the DH (see how I snuck that last one in there?) operate entirely outside of "the consent of the governed" or citizen oversight. Fans of John Stossel's TV show know he keeps a (rather ginormous) pile of just the Federal rules on set.
You're in tinfoil hat country when you opine about the tyranny of the Red Wing Minnesota Municipal Building Code Inspectors ("I've seen grown men tear their own 'eads off before facing the RWMMBCI...") but it is a piece of a larger bit of tyranny.
June 17, 2013
Quote of the Day
Any attempt to reform the system will run into just the problems that Yandle points out. If you explain the economic inefficiencies, the moral wing of the coalition will smite you: "Don’t you care about the environment?" And if you show that post-consumer retail mandatory recycling is actually bad for the environment, the smooth corporate lobbyists of the economic wing will cite figures that show that recycling creates jobs and employs people in local communities. This new version of the Broken Window fallacy actually goes so far as to claim that after you break the window, you should recycle the glass! -- Michael Munger, in a great Baptists & Bootleggers look at mandatory recycling.UPDATE: Fairness (huh? on ThreeSources?) dictates that I link to a recent post from the same author.
Almost everything that’s said about recycling is wrong. At the very least, none of the conventional wisdom is completely true. Let me start with two of the most common claims, each quite false:He then lists two claims. One of which is what everybody in Boulder thinks to be true. The second is what I
June 16, 2013
Historians have a tendency to declare some theories determinist just because they are overtly quantitative, a common and wrong-headed complaint Paul Kennedy faced as well. To be sure, our approach is quantitative, recommending a new metric of great power, but the rhyme of history that we observe, a parade of decline, should not be seen as the inevitable destiny of America. Although the ominous pattern of Great Power imbalance follows from institutional decline, it must also be said that many, many times in history empires and nations did reform their institutions.That's Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane in Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America. Kane and Hubbard define a new quantitative metric of economic power, then apply it retroactively to historical and modern economic powers: Rome, China, Ottoman Empire, Spain, Japan, Britain, Europe, California and the United States.
Though I enjoyed the book mightily, I'm not certain that the metric succeeds. Both are serious wonks and the book does not lack for data and analysis. The measurement is introduced early and with great fanfare as a foundation. It seems the authors wander off and lose interest in favor of qualitative comparisons and policy discussion. Still a great book -- just interesting that they abandon their stated purpose.
The book certainly succeeds on many fronts. First as historical economics, which I seem to be reading much of late. Hubbard and Kane hold contrarian views. The great freshman history lesson where great powers rise, then overextend, and inevitably decline which we have heard from a hundred know-it-all-college hippies and -- admit it -- have probably said ourselves, comes into question.
I enjoyed the book in the scope of Deirdre McCloskey, Niall Ferguson, Deepak Lal, David Deutsch, et at (and Matt Ridley's Rational Optimist currently on Kindle). What causes, facilitates, perpetuates and terminates economic growth and innovation? The authors hold a Lal-ian view of power and a Fergusonian appreciation for institutions:
The technological achievements of Rome are sometimes overlooked. To be sure, there was no Age of Enlightenment akin to the seventeenth century. Concrete may seem to be Rome's only major invention, but that is if we limit our definition of inventions to hardware. The software of Roman society-- its professional army, federalist governance, property rights-- actually matter more for economic growth. And one should not ignore the impact of concrete! It enabled commercial growth in two major ways. First, concrete made possible increasingly dense urban areas with taller buildings, better sanitation, and water from the aqueducts. Second, intercity trade was enhanced with stronger roads, while underwater concrete enabled better ports for sea trade.
As we attempt to migrate the George W Bush Presidency from the political to the historical, we do see in his former OMB Director an appreciation for global economic stability (Professor Lal, call your office!), allowing that it is built on hegemonic power:
The Mongol power of the khans, notably Genghis Khan, reinforces the idea that military power rests on an economic foundation. Genghis "all but invented globalization," as the Economist claims. He freed his lands from internal tariffs, with the express goal of establishing a trade corridor from Korea to Syria. Moreover, the Mongols ensured public safety for traders and commoners alike. According to Jack Weatherford, a leading biographer: "It was said that during this time a virgin could cross the length of the Mongol Empire with a pot of gold on her head and never be molested."
Not only are these powers not undermined by "overreach," the authors hold that most of them declined when they turned inward to recover from institutional stress. Rot from the inside, and use isolationism to try and recover (Smoot-Hawley anybody?)
More fundamentally, we disagree with [Paul] Kennedy’s core conclusion that America's military expenditures come at the expense of economic vitality. This conclusion, the overstretch hypothesis, assumes a zero-sum pie of resources that a nation distributes between investment and protection.
I come to the end of my typing and readers' attention without capturing the breadth of this superb work. I've focused on some subtopics of interest to ThreeSourcers. But the great thing about this work is its sizable scope of analyzing many ancient and modern economies, and its conclusion of policy recommendations for modern America. Looking back, there are larger and more sophisticated comparisons to Rome than bread and circuses and Hadrian's Wall through Britain. Rome also tried currency debasement, the Ottoman Empire turned its back on innovation, the Ming Dynasty eschewed trade.
MEET THE NEW PRAETORIANS Economically, the implacable fiscal crisis of California may resemble modern Greece, but politically the parallel is thousands of years older. The Roman army usurped control over imperial succession in the third century A.D. "An emperor would be chosen by a gang and would rule only so long as he pleased the assassins," explained historian Charles Van Doren. The Roman Senate had no control. The emperor himself had no control. All power during Rome's political crisis was in the hands of a self-serving Praetorian Guard. Could interest groups in Sacramento be a temporary Praetorian Guard?
Great stuff! Five stars!
June 14, 2013
Quote of the Day
In a much-discussed essay for Salon, Michael Lind asks: "If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?"
Video Review Corner
Now on DVD and Amazon Instant Video:
While it is about Andrew Breitbart, it captures -- perfectly -- the heady Tea Party days of 2010. I remember every quote, every frame of video, and the excitement that "New Media" was going to break the stranglehold that "Old Media" had on ideas. We're three years older and a little wiser after Candy Crowley and the 2012 elections. But this will rekindle something deep in all you racist teabaggers, I guarantee.
De motuis nil nisi bonum and all. I will confess that sometimes Andrew Breitbart's pugnacity was a bit much for my mild temperament. Yet, he was the perfect man at the perfect time, showing up right when he was needed. He left when he was still was needed, of course, but he left some big goddam cracks in the wall.
June 13, 2013
How Much Was That Sequester Thingy Again?
President Obama will travel to sub-Saharan Africa and the price tag for the trip clocks in between $60 million to $100 million. The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig got access to classified documents outlining the trip.
ObamaCare®? I Quit!
Lawmakers and their aides are running for the exits! Term Limits? Scandal? Nope, it's ObamaCare. Those who retire before Jan 1, 2014 get to keep their groovy government health plan. After that "It's
Democratic and Republican leaders are taking the issue seriously, but first they need more specifics from the Office of Personnel Management on how the new rule should take effect -- a decision that Capitol Hill sources expect by fall, at the latest. The administration has clammed up in advance of a ruling, sources on both sides of the aisle said.
If only these people had had some political power to prevent this issue before...
Many point to the IRS Scandal (to our lefty readers I mean, of course, the "so-called scandal") as a reason to abolish the IRS.
I vote yes. Real tax reform, whether a flat tax or consumption tax, or The Herman Cain's NINE, NINE, NINE provide a transparency that instantly eliminates 90-99% of Shenanigans. But my pragmatic side peers cautiously over the current, exegetic political landscape and sees little hope of victory. President Obama is going to sign something that disarms his devoted army of Lois Lerners? It is a great idea and a superb anecdotal data point, but it remains out of reach.
The real live actual lesson from [that thing that those wacky conservatives continue calling] the IRS scandal is the folly of Campaign Finance Reform. It remains -- irrespective of poll data -- the greatest abridgement of our First Amendment Rights. I'm a 1st Amendment absolutist and accept porn, flag burning and Westburo Knuckleheads as the price of freeing speech from government control.
But, as has been said a hundred times on these pages, the real reason we have a First Amendment is to protect political speech so that self-government can operate in a marketplace of ideas. This is so obvious I would suspect even that five Supreme Court Justices could get it (as they did in Citizen's United v FEC but not in McConnell v FEC).
These organizations exist only because of our Nation's long War on Democracy. Freedom to support any candidate or cause however one chooses obviates them and precludes favoritism in their acceptance or rejection. Everything less is a license from the government to speak -- approved by Lois Lerner.
UPDATE: Nowhere is CFR more pernicious than a local level. Run a recall campaign and do not accept more than $800? Small groups pursuing referenda or small matters are shut down with complexity and fearful consequences of arcane CFR regulations. Therefore, only rich people may have a voice in politics -- not quite the intended consequence. IJ:
The scowly surly face of government abuse has quite a past. George Will discusses the testimony of Al Salvi, should he be invited to speak to Congress. Will suggests that Salvi would not take the Fifth, but would tell the story of his run for the House in 1986 against now Senator Dick Durbin (Fiend - IL).
In the fall of 1996, at the campaign's climax, Democrats filed with the Federal Elections Commission charges alleging campaign finance violations by Salvi's campaign. These charges dominated the campaign's closing days. Salvi spoke by phone with the head of the FEC's Enforcement Division, who he remembers saying: "Promise me you will never run for office again, and we'll drop this case." He was speaking to Lois Lerner.
As government gets larger, we're asked to trust more and more power to Lois Lerners.
The case against the NSA is: Lois Lerner and others of her ilk.
Even though I have excerpted half, read the whole thing. (Hat-tip: Insty)
June 12, 2013
Where jk Defends Ed Markey (Moonbat - MA)
End days. But <clenched teeth>Dude's right.</clenched teeth>
Insty links to a short David Bernstein post that anecdotally summarizes every gorram thing that is wrong with this great nation's government. Eulogizing the dear departed nonagenarian Garden State Senator, his friends praised his using "his pull" to secure plane seats and alter train schedules (Ayn Rand, call your office...Ms. Rand, Line One!)
UPDATE: How much more I would have admired Lautenberg if his friends could relate that "we begged him to use his clout as a former Senator to get us back to our families, but Frank was adamant that his friends and acquaintances were no more important than anyone else trying to get back home, and that he wouldn't abuse his status as former senator on our behalf."
ThreeSources is in danger of becoming the Grumpy Cat of the Internet. We rag on the Dalai Lama and Gandhi. But it is nice to have a place where one feels safe expressing contrarian viewpoints.
Pull up a chair, a torrent of invective follows for . . . fire victims.
Not the victims. I feel bad for them and worse for their animals. (If you can, donate to Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region. I just gave $100, so before you call me too many names, I offer that as mitigation.)
Three big fires are burning in Colorado, and the weather could hardly be worse for fighting them. I wish the best for those affected and salute the firefighters. But -- and I confess it is a poor time to talk about it -- the fires are treated and funded in a manner consistent with surprise. It's on par with shock over rain in Seattle. It is going to happen.
And when it happens we should be prepared. The western states' sharing of equipment and manpower is a good model to direct resources when needed. But the State and Federal Emergency funding is "wrong as pants on a trout."
The currently largest fire is Black Forest Fire in El Paso County East of Colorado Springs. One hates to go OWS on ThreeSources, but every home they show costs way over a million dollars. The homeowners have the benefit of living in a heavily wooded high-altitude location. Yet I share in the risk of fire.
People should live where they want, but need to bear the risk of their decisions. John Stossel admits that government insurance allowed him to rebuild his beachfront home and be able to insure it. He is honest enough to ask why less affluent residents in New York (and the USA) should support his lifestyle.
I propose a Statewide fire protection risk assessment that taxes property owners pari-passu with their probability of requiring expensive fire protection services. Pay for equipment and personnel out of that fund and raise the rates when it is empty. Those who buy or build in these areas need to foot the bill.
Next week: kittens are not really that cute...
June 11, 2013
Oh No NoCo, Don't Go!
On the heels of it's dismissive editorial, which I linked in the comments on yesterday's post about an 8-county split from "Old Colorado" to form a new state, comes this spin-heavy "news" piece that clearly shows a nerve has been struck in D-town.
Mazurana said the process of breaking way from the state and starting a new one, is long and difficult. Both the state legislature and the U.S. Congress would have to approve.
I'm thinking of a new 501c3 application: "Colorado Wingnuts for Liberty and Property Rights"
Quote of the Day
This may be a story with no heroes. A government system designed to protect the citizens starts collecting all kinds of information on people who have done nothing wrong; it gets exposed, in violation of oaths and laws, by a young man who doesn't recognize the full ramifications of his actions. The same government that will insist he's the villain will glide right past the question of how they came to trust a guy like him with our most sensitive secrets. Who within our national-security apparatus made the epic mistake of looking him over -- completing his background check and/or psychological evaluation -- and concluding, "Yup, looks like a nice kid?" -- Jim GeraghtyThe sound you hear is my falling off the Edward Snowden bandwagon. I thought Larry Kudlow was harsh last night.
This Jeffrey Toobin piece in the New Yorker (h/t Robert Tracinski) got me.
Honorable mention: the pole-dancing girlfriend -- this is just gonna get better, isn't it?
"Surely there will be villainous pirates, distracting mermaids, and tides of change in this new open water chapter of my journey," [28 year old Lindsay] Mills--who refers to Snowden as "E" and herself as a "world-traveling, pole-dancing super hero"--added. "But at the moment all I can feel is alone."
June 10, 2013
North Colorado/South Colorado?
Carolina and the Dakota Territory have done it. Perhaps Virginia and West Virginia are a better example. Commissioners of Weld County, Colorado, the third largest county in Colorado and third most productive in the nation, are publicly contemplating a split from the remainder of Colorado. Seven neighboring counties would possibly join us.
Commissioners said Thursday that failed legislative efforts to crack down on oil and gas, as well as increases in rural renewable energy standards were "the straws that broke the camel's back."
He's just being polite. Weld and other rural counties are the makers, Denver and other urban counties are the takers. This could be a win-win for the urbanites, who could finally wash their hands of the coal, oil and gas energy they so disdain. We'll just take our cheap, reliable energy and go away. Heck, we won't even ask for another star on the flag. Just give us the liberty that our ancestors were born with, and our descendents deserve to enjoy.
Gotta love economists. No. Really.
Mark J. Perry shows a different way to look at his AEI associate James Pethokoukis's concern over "Waiter and waitress nation: The May payrolls report shows the US creating jobs, just not many good ones."
More restaurant jobs implies more people are eating out, and that is a sign of wealth. Though few aspire to a career in dishwashing, I have frequently trotted out in immigration debates that a new restaurant also hires an accountant, a web-designer, a graphic artist, an interior designer. Its founders may build or gut a building, print menus, purchase art and maybe even give a cut-rate troubadour a gig.
Prof. Perry ends by quoting comments and emails
1. The truth is unless you are a surly sociopath working in a some dive or are completely unwilling to make any real effort in a job you feel is beneath you, you ought to be able to bring home nearly a median hourly wage waiting tables. And if you can land a gig in one of the more upscale places, which seem much more numerous than they were "back in the day," you can probably do better than some of the numbers I've seen for recent law school grads.
Quote of the Last Friday
How did I miss this?
Here's another theory: Maybe the Times softened the editorial on the advice of its tax accountants. -- James Taranto
Mick and Keef -- Tea Partiers?
Maybe if you add a bit of Jack Daniels to the tea...
The Stones are famously tax-averse. I broach the subject with Keith in Camp X-Ray, as he calls his backstage lair. There is incense in the air and Ronnie Wood drifts in and out--it is, in other words, a perfect venue for such a discussion. "The whole business thing is predicated a lot on the tax laws," says Keith, Marlboro in one hand, vodka and juice in the other. "It's why we rehearse in Canada and not in the U.S. A lot of our astute moves have been basically keeping up with tax laws, where to go, where not to put it. Whether to sit on it or not. We left England because we'd be paying 98 cents on the dollar. We left, and they lost out. No taxes at all." -- From Andy Serwer's "Inside the Rolling Stones Inc." in Fortune magazine, Sept. 30, 2002. Also, today's "Notable & Quotable"
Is it Legal to smack the VP like this?
Ow! That has gotta sting! Mary Anastasia O'Grady DEMOLISHES VP Biden's recent OpEd on free trade.
But count me a skeptic. The protectionist, anti-development and collectivist agendas of Big Labor, green radicals and the ideological left are woven into Obama administration policy. Democrats rely heavily on these groups for financing, and the Obama administration can't afford to offend them. It's hard to believe that it is ready to walk away from some of its most generous donors in exchange for an expansion of free trade that will make individuals less reliant on government.
One which Senator Biden voted against, long before the Administration he was taking a victory-lap for moved into the White House.
Read the whole thing -- but after that, she is not so nice and understanding. Owww!
June 9, 2013
A Change in Media Tone?
Searching for an old review corner, I came upon a great post from blog brother AlexC. I will have to warn our more delicate readers that it includes a word that some might find vulgar. It seems ac is upset, because in a story of great consumer confidence and employment news, the beloved media have concocted a new statistic to tarnish the optimism.
That's great... but it wouldn't be an economic story without a "but." And it's a doozy.
I think it fair to complain that there is a different tenor and tone when the party in the White House changes. Oh, and that made me curious, What was the unemployment like in 2006?
Well, yeah -- but they were hard to get.
Scientists know the first exoplanet discovered in 1995 as "51 Pegasi b," but the madding crowd insists upon sticking with Greek mythology, and informally they have named it for the ancient slayer of monsters Bellerophon. One exoplanet I am particularly interested in is formally known as HD 209458b. But the online hoi polloi have already dubbed it Osiris. The world of exoplanets, like a lot of the sky, just won’t hold still for proper scientists, anymore than any Wild West’s frontier town waited for the Chamber of Commerce.That is a genuine random page quote from Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character by Jack Hitt. And it introduces the thesis as well as I could. Or, "I could of named those exoplanets if it weren't for you meddling kids!"
I have to compare this to Glenn Reynolds's "Army of Davids" [Review Corner], James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds [Mentioned in a peculiar context] and Craig Anderson's The Long Tail [Review Corner]. The trend of greater contribution from the less credentialed is in all four. Hitt ties it to an American character, documented by Tocqueville, and tracing its roots to the iconic American amateur, Ben Franklin.
When Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart-- both of whom pose as "serious newsmen"--first appeared on cable news, it was widely understood by the traditional media to be mere comedy. But fairly soon there appeared articles worried that these "fake anchors" were more than phony blowhards. People were actually getting their news from them. The comedy was working on several levels. The real anchors on television fretted about what this all "meant," and the actual blowhards on cable, like Bill O’Reilly, got angry and called them all stoners and subversives. The line from the improvisations of Ben Franklin to the comedy of Stephen Colbert is as American as pie.
That's a substantive insight but it also exposes the flaw in this interesting work. Hitt has no compunction against letting you know his personal thoughts. And, neither do I, but were I to attempt a book of this seriousness, I would shut it off or hire a good editor to quietly expunge. He -- anachronistically, the book was released in 2012 -- takes several potshots at President George W. Bush. If I am reading The New Republic in 2008, I would not bat an eyelash. But I put the book down and ascertained that it was recently released. I thought it was newer than last summer, but still....
Even where I agree. He describes a fascinating conflict between professorial anthropologists and weekend warriors. It is well written and supports the book's thesis. Then he graces you with a dozen pages on what he thinks. Well, this is real interesting and all, Jack, but could you share with us some of your personal views on life?
It detracts from a superb book. If it were crummy, I would be more forgiving. But the Benjamin Franklin frame is genius: the book opens with John Adams and Franklin as archetypes of the correct and credentialed versus the effective yet intemperate.
Between the two of them were twin impulses, one more improvisational and experimental, the other more tradition-bound and knowing. There is no fixed American meta-narrative, but there is this ebb and flow between Adamsian veneration of piety and Franklinian love of improvisation, between Calvinist certainty and Deist doubt, between head and heart, virtuocracy and meritocracy, good character and cunning action, between security and freedom, between professionalism and amateurism.
Good stuff, no? Then, several modern amateur groups are highlighted: DIY gene-splicers, astronomers, birders: colorful characters involved in serious discussions. Franklin comes back at the end for a poetic finish that made me weep: the likely apocryphal nature of the key and the kite:
He did it by invoking an image that is at once playful and profound, practically the logo of the amateur's childish spirit, of liberty, of leisure-- the emblem of the lightness of being, where creativity thrives. It can be American, not out of nationalist pride, but because this sense emerged at our founding and is the inheritance of anyone born or driven to come here. While we might list the great liberties-- speech, assembly, due process, trial by jury-- the one that goes unstated, almost presumed, is the revolutionary decision to abandon one's past and one's self, as well as one’s culture, tradition, and history. To walk away from everything that one is-- whether it's fleeing a repressive nation for this new place or simply out the back door for the garage-- that is real freedom.
Miltonian heights, sullied by a few Olbermanian lows. Four stars.
June 8, 2013
Soul of Atlas
Man oh man, the things I find in my email inbox. Is that a receipt from the NSA?
Blog friend sc sends a link to an interview of a guy who is writing a book...oh how can I put this?
A Christian scholar and author has taken the experience of growing up under the influence of a stepfather who cherished the objectivism philosophy of Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged) and his biological father who became a follower of Jesus Christ, to write a book about two world views that he feels can come together for the good of society.
A very sincere effort.
June 7, 2013
Can You Hear Me Now????
My friends are fighting. The WSJ, and the default Larry Kudlow position is to defend those that defend us from a mean world. I am sympathetic -- to a point -- to that view. Yes, there is a mean ol' world out there. (You may not be interested in War, but it is interested in You -- Trotsky?). And, I understand Big Data concepts: searching for patterns in metadata or Google-sized video samples does not compromise privacy. I get that.
Yet, I have been having more fun than a camel on hump day on Facebook over this. I likely would defend President Bush's committing the same infraction. Partly because I am a partisan hack, but mostly because that is what he stood for. He was going to push the line to keep all of y'alls safe. Privacy groups and an adversarial press would push back. Broncos vs. Raiders, everybody can tell who's playing for whom.
President Obama campaigned on "the fierce moral urgency" of dismantling things like this. Senator Obama introduced legislation to preclude it. Quis custodet? Privacy groups are muted and the press is quiescent.
And, whichever party has their collective ear to the other end of my call, it is time to wind down the extraordinary response to terror. Vigilance abroad, yes. Not naming complete incompetent liars to head the NSA, sure. But let us return domestically to an aggressive reading of the Fourth Amendment.
Jim Geraghty has an important philosophical point against it:
We in the general public have no idea if the algorithms work, if they're fair, if they're putting a lot of innocent Americans under suspicion or on watch lists, etc. This is simply not the way criminal investigation or even counterintelligence has ever worked in this country under our Constitution; it's working backwards. Those we have entrusted with the duty of our protection always previously started from the wrongdoing (or a tip of wrongdoing) and work their way out from there; it has never been "collect every bit of information they can on absolutely everyone, and then sift through it until they find what they're looking for."
That makes much sense to me. Sorry, WSJ, y'all lose this one.
This Looks good!
Bob Zubrin debates anti-Humanist Professor Phil Cafaro. There is video at the link which I look forward to watching. And Zubrin's admittedly one-sided account of the evening (not sure he really saved that child with the Heimlich Maneuver while raising $11 Billion for clean water in Africa...)
Many many ThreeSources tropes are raised and debated. I'm considering inviting some lefty pals to watch the debate over some beverages somewhere.
Zubrin points to a graph of per-capita-GDP versus carbon use (hello ThreeSourcers!):
Now this is so obviously good, who could oppose it? Cafaro does. He says, repeatedly, in his writings that "the last thing the world needs is more Americans." Well, I say that the first thing the world needs is more Americans. And here is why: Because we need to ask ourselves who did this [pointing to the line on the graph rising from $180 per year in 1800 to nearly $9,000 per year in 2010]? Who is responsible for this miracle? Well, for the first part [pointing to the region of the graph from 1800 to 1875], the answer is, the British. There are others who play a supporting role, including Americans and continental Europeans, but in the main, this is a British show, and it's a great achievement, raising the world from $180 per year to $500 per year. But after that [pointing to the graph from 1875 to 2010], it's the U.S.A. It's America, inventing oil drilling, and light bulbs, and recorded sound, and centrally generated electric power, and telephones, and airplanes, and motion pictures, and mass-produced automobiles, and radio, and television, and nuclear power, and modern agriculture, and computers, and transistors, and micro-electronics, and all the rest. We are 4 percent of the world's population, but for the past century we've been responsible for half the world's inventions. That's why the world needs more Americans.
UPDATE:Fascinating! I sent the link to a couple liberty lovers. Both find Zubrin's position lacking (& I am being kind) because he does not refute Cafaro's central premise that too many people == too much global warming. I am gonna have to watch that video...
Headline of the Day
IRS apologizes for lavish conference spending, plastic fish -- Susan FerrechioOr, as Douglas Adams would say "So long, and thanks for all the fish!"
June 6, 2013
Is the World Becoming ThreeSources?
Welcome to our world, oh mighty NYTimes Editorial Page:
Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.
I Don't Like to Judge
The true lover of liberty allows his or her fellow citizens to engage in uncoerced commerce that he or she feels is deplorable. We don't have to like others' choices, but we allow them to make them and live with any consequences.
But Insty today links to an Amazon sale:
Man, I just don't know...
Never ever ever gets old
Ronald Reagan: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.
Truly one of the great speeches in all our nation's history. Hat-tip: Blog friend sc who adds "The Boomers on the other hand, gave us Woodstock and Obama." That was so funny I didn't even ask permission to share.
June 5, 2013
What the IRS Scandal is About
Co-founder of the Watumpka, Alabama Tea Party -- and face of the IRS scandal, Becky Gerritson.
I had heard people talking about this and saw a clip. But if you have not watched it coast-to-coast yet, do yourself a favor and spend 7:53 with a great American. (Can't you just imagine a roomful of NYTimes writers hearing the phrase "Watumpka, Alabama Tea Party?" Makes one weep.)
Hat-tip: Robert Tracinski [Subscribe]
Look, what are you saying?
"Broad?' Is that a weight joke? Me too sensitive?
June 4, 2013
Pretty Good Commencement Address
I think the good professor is mashing up two of his favorite topics:
This Could Make "Review Corner" Obsolete!
Arnold Kling adapts his own "The Three Languages of Politics." [Review Corner] to an AEI article. He might explain his book a little better than I do.
Tribal Politics in the 21st Century Well worth a read.
Wait, you mean health insurance is going up?
If only somebody had been able to predict this before the law was passed...
The WSJ pounces on the leftes' walkback from the discredited California report on insurance prices.
They now concede that individual costs will rise but claim that it is unfair to compare today's market to ObamaCare because ObamaCare mandates much richer benefits. Another liberal rationalization is that the cost-increasing regulations are meant to help people with pre-existing conditions, so they're worth it.
Fraught with Peril
Yes, I am adding a "2016" category. Dammit Jim, I 'm a pundit not a chronographer!
I break with my Tea Party Brethren and Sisteren in that I am game to give Gov. Chris Christie (R - NJ, spilling into parts of PA and NY) a serious listen should he enter the arena in 2016. Sucking up to the President in an Emergency is on any Governor's To-do list. The timing was unfortunate, but...
But, as Larry Kudlow reminds, he is a pro-growth conservative who gets 70% in the über-blue Garden State. And he gives passionate, clear, and eloquent voice to principles of freedom. I'm not his for the asking, but I certainly have not ruled out supporting him.
Daniel Foster pens a nice column on the different considerations in replacing Senator Frank Lautenberg (D - NJ - RIP).
Whom Christie selects to take Lautenberg's seat in the interim will both affect and be affected by these considerations. Does he go with a placeholder with no intention to run to retain the seat? Does he pick a serious contender who can at least mount a credible challenge to Booker, and hope to boost that contender's chances with his own coattails? Does he appoint a Democrat, with an eye on conceding the Senate race to boost his own bipartisan credentials for 2013 (and 2016)?
Foster enumerates and handicaps the choices. Game on!
June 3, 2013
Quote of the Day
Then, according to Daniel Klaidman of The Daily Beast, Holder read the details of this operation in The Washington Post over breakfast and the reality began to "fully sink in." "Holder knew that Justice would be besieged by the twin leak probes," says Klaidman, "but, according to aides, he was also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse."
June 2, 2013
Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies...
While the graduating class at Harvard has to endure junk scientist Oprah Winfrey, the graduating class at Berklee School of Music got:
UPDATE: Berklee 2, Harvard 0. Charles C W Cooke reviews Oprah's speech and finds it wanting.
What do you get if you cross a collection of witless Hallmark platitudes, a fairly strange and inordinately rich woman who has lived in a bubble for 30 or so years, and a congregation of people virtually begging to be told that they are wonderful?
I enjoy most of what you see reviewed here. Dreary and turgid though some of it may be, it is interesting.
I'll confess, however, that I had a stack of "homework." Three books I really did not look forward to reading. And I do mean stack: While I prefer Kindle books, these were corporeal incarnations of guilt. First was "The Blueprint" reviewed last week. That wasn't bad at all.
Second was Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. That was the one I really wanted to avoid. And it is awesome! I have decried the Progressives' lack of a canon. This is a beautiful and well thought out book. Let's hit the plusses:
Alinsky on the always-interesting topic of "Self Interest:"
Self-interest, like power, wears the black shroud of negativism and suspicion. To many the synonym for self-interest is selfishness. The word is associated with a repugnant conglomeration of vices such as narrowness, self-seeking, and self-centeredness, everything that is opposite to the virtues of altruism and selflessness. This common definition is contrary, of course, to our everyday experiences, as well as to the observations of all great students of politics and life. The myth of altruism as a motivating factor in our behavior could arise and survive only in a society bundled in the sterile gauze of New England puritanism and Protestant morality and tied together with the ribbons of Madison Avenue public relations. It is one of the classic American fairy tales.
I hear my Randian pals parsing words to contradict (they parse very loudly), but compare this to a screed from a Rachel Maddow, Paul Krugman, or E. J. Dionne. And that honesty is a consistent and compelling theme.
I will turn to Rand, however, for the BIG minus. Rand tells rational men in honest disagreement to "check their premises." And Alinsky has built his beautiful prosaic edifice on a weak philosophical foundation: zero sum economics.
But let us go deeper into the psyche of this Goliath. The Haves possess and in turn are possessed by power. Obsessed with the fear of losing power, their every move is dictated by the idea of keeping it. The way of life of the Haves is to keep what they have and wherever possible to shore up their defenses.
I have always held that if you really believe this -- and I know many who do -- Progressivism, wealth redistribution -- hell, even Communism -- is legitimate. Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mister Rosewater" espouses this. Everyone is born in some proximity to the money river, and the whole morality play is how to pass it around form those fortunate "Haves" near the river to the "Have-Nots" further inland. (This is my überlefty brother's favorite Vonnegut book and my least).
If this is not your first trip to ThreeSources, you'll know I fulsomely disagree. Wealth is created; its distribution is far less interesting than its growth and its totality. Or as President Bush put it so eloquently: "make the pie higher!"
Once you are imbued with this bad idea, however, Alinskyism makes perfect sense. If Mom has three candy bars and three kids, egalitarianism has a place. Alinsky is clever -- and far more moral than a Bill Ayers -- in getting Mom to do things fairly:
TACTICS MEANS doing what you can with what you have. Tactics are those consciously deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them. In the world of give and take, tactics is the art of how to take and how to give. Here our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves.
A beautiful and fundamentally wrong book. But it should be read by everyone. Four stars.
June 1, 2013
Right Problem, Wrong Solution
James Pethokoukis is correct. The topic of global warming is fraught with peril for the GOP. Being intransigent, fighting "science," and appearing indifferent turns off a lot of voters -- especially young voters. Especially, well, all the voters all the GOP schemes seek to attract.
And yet, Pethokoukis points out, Republican primary voters want to hear "it's a hoax." With significant tailwinds on size of government and Democratic miscues, the GOP -- on a minor issue -- is set up to be unable to nominate anybody who could win. In my best Mr. Mackey voice, I say "That's bad, mmkay?"
Pethokoukis offers some bold solutions. Even he admits they will be a tough sell. Trading a carbon tax for significant reductions in regulation and corporate tax reform has its charms, but it is a hard sell even to me. So, JimiP, we're going to tax the great engine of what Deepak Lal calls "Promethean Growth" and further establish government as the arbiter of what is good ('lectric cars, ethanol) and what's bad (stinky oil, raw milk, tea party groups...).
In addition, it is pretty easily demagogued; "Gas Tax" like "Amnesty!" has the power to reduce intelligent debate to shouting. ("Advantage TT")
Worse -- and readers know I am a HUGE fan of Pethokoukis -- I think he understates the hard sell to the left. They may have some fears of oceans' rising, but status quo policy is working very well for them. Schooners of money for research, EPA control of everything, a winning political issue.
Pethokoukis's other solution is geoengineering. I will admit that that is my favorite solution if DAWG pans out to be real. Shoot seawater into clouds or reflective sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere. My favorite, not mentioned, is iron particles on the surface of the ocean to enable plant growth. But all of these solutions have to win over a left wing that fights vaccinations and GMO crops and fracking on junk science -- they're going to buy in on atmos-tampering?
On the other side, you're convincing me that the UN should be in charge of the weather. Is that a really good idea?
I applaud his taking this on. I agree that a plan is needed, that leadership is good. Yet how do you ask the party of less government to mobilize legislation against n externality that is not quantitatively understood?