August 31, 2014

Review Corner

Muddy used to say that there were two kinds of players: those who are born to it, and those you can "build with a hammer and nails." I’m sure Muddy was the first kind, and though I may have a little talent and much desire, I’m the second kind. I am indebted to the carpenter.
Muddy is, of course, Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield), and the author is his long-time guitarist, Bob Margolin. Margolin picks and writes. He has a degree in Public Relations from Boston University about which he says "now a 41-year-old virgin because it’s never screwed anyone." He wrote regular columns in blues magazines and dabbled in "blues fiction" creating characters and situations around players who died too soon, imagining their being alive today.

In Steady Rollin', he assembles these columns and stories into an eBook with updates where needed and a conversational, bloggy banter to tie them together. "I'm just sharing my thoughts on my musical experiences in a conversational, friendly way."

The in-depth look at Muddy Waters and Pinetop Perkins is worth the price of admission ($6.99 on Kindle as I type). I've read a bit on Muddy but did not know much about Pinetop. Margolin contrasts the two with Muddy's being the serious, punctual, professional bandleader and Pinetop's taking life as it comes. He shows up to the gig on time, but he doesn't sweat it.

Margolin credits this for Perkins's longevity. Muddy, Pinetop, (and my Dad) were all born in 1913. Pinetop lived to be 97 and Muddy only 70. Muddy really takes Bob Margolin under his wing and teaches him Chicago Blues -- sometimes quite sternly "That note made my dick hurt, don't ever play it like that again."

The band somewhat famously breaks up and Margolin goes on to other things. I don't think he lives like Mick Jagger, but every blues guitarist knows him well. He's on Facebook and is a regular guy. Just a regular guy who has played with all my heroes. A regular guy who was in The Last Waltz that I watched 50 times when I was 17. A guy I saw tour with Muddy when I was 18.

Margolin and I share a love of dogs, and he shares a great story of when Hubert Sumlin came to his house.

But our porch jam was a revelation for my "faithful" dogs. As soon as they heard Hubert play, they knelt at his feet, as attentive to the exquisite nuances in his picking as a gaggle of Blues guitar worshippers, but with sharper hearing. They raised their eyebrows and told me coldly to let Hubert take all the solos. They cocked their heads and asked why I don’t sound as good as Hubert. They looked down their noses at me and told me pointedly that they’d never love me like they love him. Now whenever he sees me, Hubert asks, "How are my dogs?"

The book is full of good stories and deep affection for Muddy, Pinetop, Hubert, BB King. In a grimy, grisly industry, Margolin finds and shares the love of some very good people.
His 97-years-long life was a blessing for his music and his sweet personality as well as a miracle of improbable survival. Pinetop smoked since 1922 and ate at McDonald's every day. He hung out in Blues bars every night. He drank until he was eighty-five. If he sat in with a band at Antone's in Austin on a Monday night, he gave the same show that he might be paid $10,000 for, headlining a festival in Europe the next weekend. He looked great in what he called his "Daniel Boone pimp" sharp clothes, flirted boldly with five generations of women, and was quick to make a silly or clever pun or laugh at himself.

I used the word bloggy because the book is unedited, it is available in eBook only, and the presentation can be a little rough. If that scares you away, so be it. If not, belly up and I think you'll dig it. Four stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:13 AM | What do you think? [0]

August 29, 2014

Moral Ambiguity, Meet Moral Certainty

Despite numerous high-level voices in his administration giving clear signals that Islamic State is unambiguously evil and should be dealt with swiftly and forcefully, President Obama said yesterday that, "we don't have a strategy yet." And, really, who is surprised at this development, given that his response to the decapitation murder of James Foley was to say of ISIS: "People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy."

Daily Beast contributor Stuart Stevens writes what essentially occurred to me the moment I heard that:

"But it seems incredibly naïve and American-centric not to grasp that the Islamic fanatics of ISIS are very much about building - building a new world in their vision."

Stevens explains:

As a post-Cold War figure who matured through "movements," Barack Obama is drawing from a distinct tradition. He is clearly more comfortable talking about "justice" than "evil." The "oppressed" to him are much more likely to be victims of society's prejudice than communism. Some on the right argue that Barack Obama rejects the concept of America as a force for good but I think that's a misjudgment. It's more that he defaults to a fundamentally different test than his predecessors.

More often than not, Barack Obama defines America's moral worth - our "goodness" - by comparing America's past to some future in which the values in which he believes will be the norm. In that matrix, it's not about us versus them - it's about what we are versus what we can be. It's us vs. us. America is "good" because we are getting "better." We are at our best not when we fight the evils of the world, but the "injustice" of our society, primarily prejudice, for which there is an evolving test.

This explains the Progressive apology for Islamism wherein their heinous acts are caused, not by an innately barbaric interpretation of a "pure" principle, but by the "injustices" visited upon them by prosperous westerners and their governments. They are supposedly "radicalized" in response to our prosperity. (And "inequality" perhaps?)

But moral ambiguity is not a condition which afflicts the Islamists. Right or wrong, they know what they want and they believe they are justified in doing anything to achieve it. That kind of moral certainty is a very powerful motivator. It can provoke millions of people to vote for you, if you articulate it in a political contest. It can also provoke a convicted mass murderer to seek to join your movement, as former Army Major Nidal Hassan reportedly attempted:

""It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier to a people and its leader who don't compromise the religion of All-Mighty Allah to get along with the disbelievers."

Would but the President of the United States be so certain as to say, "Anyone on this Earth may believe anything he wants, but there is no justification to initiate force against anyone else. You don't have to get along with us, but you most certainly may not kill or injure us, except in physical self-defense."

The Moral Case for Fixing Economic Inequality

A friend of dagny's has shared the TED article The Four Biggest Reasons Why Inequality is Bad for Society and she disagreed with what the article says. I am told her friend, whom I also know but not as well, would like to discuss it with others at length so dagny asked me to post it here where, hopefully among others, "jk will do Austrian vs. Keynsian economics with him all day long." Personally I think most of the objections are philosophical rather than economic, but not all of them. I'll break with my typical modus operandi and restrict my opinions to the comments section.

The author is T. M. Scanlon, Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity at Harvard University. He also references Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' which was discussed here a few times. Most seriously, perhaps, here.

And now, if you please, engage!

But dagny thinks:

Also of interest is the fact that the commenters range in age from 18 to 77.

Posted by: dagny at August 29, 2014 5:45 PM
But jk thinks:

Well, looking at it from a neo-Monetarist perspective... (You people are so mean to me.)

Here is my comment exactly as it appears on FB:
I think Scanlon, like many of this genre is unpersuasive on the evils of inequality qua inequality.

Certainly the poor should have more. I believe that respect for rights, enlightenment values, and free exchange to capture comparative advantage will make the poor less poor. I highly recommend William Easterly's "The Tyranny of Experts--" especially as an antidote to the linked Peter Singer TED talk.

But I have very pad news. The solution -- the world tested and repeatedly proven solution -- to helping the poor actually helps the non poor. Inequality myopics must answer the question: "If I doubled your salary and your company's CEO's salary, would you be sad?" That would likely increase the inequality between you and that fat, monocle man in the pinstripes in the corner office. Yet, I would cheer.

Scanlon offers many good reasons to dislike poverty, but his reasons to distain wealth are less compelling. Mal-distribution of political power? Ask President Forbes and President Perot about that. Better opportunities in school? I don't see Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates trading on their old school ties.

A stratified society is to be distained only as much as the pathways from one caste to another are closed off. And that lack of dynamism generally is the product of top-down organizations' dictating "fair" outcomes.

So I say double everyone's wealth! That will all but double inequality, but I won't complain. I'll be too busy playing my new guitars.

Posted by: jk at August 29, 2014 6:43 PM
But dagny thinks:

OK well, JK just did this way better than me, but I’m going to post anyway since I wrote it all down:
There are 2 very important and clear distinctions that come to mind immediately between the government class and the rich. Many in government are rich too but the distinctions are between government and private sector rich.
1) Everything government does is basically done involuntarily. Tax collection is backed up by the power of the law and men with guns. While private sector rich got that way by voluntary exchange. No one held a gun to my head the last time I went to Starbucks or McDonalds or bought an iPHONE.
2) Government is parasitic on the wealth of a society. It creates nothing. I am not an anarchist and I believe government IS necessary but it does not add to the wealth of society. The wealth of a society is represented by its stuff, its art, its leisure time and it is still increasing in this world at a tremendous rate. Money is only a medium of exchange, it is NOT the wealth itself. The wealth itself is this magical device in my hand that allows me to argue with friends and tell my husband to pick up milk on the way home. The private sector rich mostly create wealth. Government invariably diminishes it.
So the question here is whether involuntary redistribution (through taxation) is a good idea. Part of the question is whether it is moral but lets put that aside for a minute and look at what actually happens. The wealth is moved from productive uses to unproductive ones. And I’m NOT saying those at the bottom of the income scale are unproductive, I’m talking about the tremendous loss in government overhead ($600 hammer anyone?)
Also this method of running a society hurts those at the bottom of the scale more. For example the guy at McDonald’s that Paul mentions above cannot decide that since what McDonald’s is paying him is insufficient to meet his needs, he is going to open his own hamburger joint. The government imposed barriers to entry are too high. To open a hamburger joint he needs FDA, EPA, OSHA and whatever else alphabet soup approval that costs so much, he can’t even get started.
So we have this income inequality problem (which BTW, I don’t think the inequality itself is really the problem) but only that those at the bottom are struggling is the problem. If I am happy and not struggling to feed my family, why would I care how much stuff my neighbor has???
Government interventions to try to reduce inequality have downward pressure on real wealth, resulting in things being worse for all which matters less to those at the top than it does to those at the bottom.

Posted by: dagny at August 29, 2014 7:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:

A primary objection over on the other thread is that CEOs are paid "too much." After explaining that CEO's essentially earn profit from the labors of every worker, while each worker is paid only for his own labor, I did have some sense of a fundamental unfairness where, for example, a new CEO is hired to guide the helm of a major multinational corporation that he did nothing to create in the first place. That guy commands a huge salary because he's qualified to sit in that seat, for whatever reason, but why does the seat exist? Why is it beneficial for corporations to be mega-sized? Economies of scale and access to mega-sized development capital seem the best answers.

I will not advocate government limits on the size of a corporation, but is there a market solution for promoting the fragmentation of corporations? Is that even desirable?

Posted by: johngalt at September 2, 2014 12:55 PM
But jk thinks:

Statist! (Sorry, I had to...)

I do not think it is desirable to promote fragmentation. A board should decide how big a big a corporation is. They can spin off or sell units if it seems desirable to them.

I'm appreciating your desire to be reasonable, but I'll not join you. Peyton Manning gets paid a bucket to QB the Broncos because he is thought the best choice and because other teams would like to have his services. He did nothing to build the Broncos (in fact, he took us out in the first game of the playoffs how many years? Bastard!)

I'll do that analogy all day. There is a pretty select list of folks you'd hire to be a first string NFL quarterback, and there is a select list of people you'd put at the helm of AT&T, Walmart, Exxon-Mobil or The cost of the wrong hire is far worse than the cost of the right one.

Posted by: jk at September 2, 2014 4:46 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Okay, but I'm talking about mega-corporations. Kinda like Peyton Manning takes over as QB of the Broncos and then acquires the rest of the AFC teams in a leveraged hostile takeover. Now he's QB for 16 teams, but taking the same number of snaps and making the same passes and handoffs, but with 16 times the consequences and, sixteen times the compensation.

As principled a capitalist as I'll ever be, I don't think I'll ever admire the M&A specialist who takes perfectly well operating companies and melds them all together in an unworkable mess just to save the duplicative costs of the administrative staff (and compile some BS balance sheet org chart market share nirvana, with which to tempt a buyout by well-heeled rubes looking for a new hobby.) The productive capacity and happy, comfortable careers of countless engineers have thus been cast asunder more times than any of us knows.

In other words, businessmen make the economy go, but some businessmen couldn't give a crap about the actual business.

Posted by: johngalt at September 3, 2014 12:06 AM

August 28, 2014

Private Schools for the Poor

I have worn ThreeSourcers' patience threadbare with constant harangues to read "The Beautiful Tree" by James Tooley [Review Corner].

He has a lengthy column on the same topic in The Independent Review.

The accepted wisdom is that private schools serve the privileged; everyone else, especially the poor, requires public school. The poor, so this logic goes, need government assistance if they are to get a good education, which helps explain why, in the United States, many school choice enthusiasts believe that the only way the poor can get the education they deserve is through vouchers or charter schools, proxies for those better private or independent schools, paid for with public funds.

But if we reflect on these beliefs in a foreign context and observe low-income families in underprivileged and developing countries, we find these assumptions lacking: the poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on Earth have managed to nurture a large and growing industry of private schools for themselves.

Education Posted by John Kranz at 6:27 PM | What do you think? [0]

Send Those Residuals to "JK c/o ThreeSources..."


Homo Economicus

I'm intrigued by the economics of air travel. Discomfort is in the news thanks to deployment of a "knee defender" and the concomitant contretemps. [You get the editing you pay for at ThreeSources. More correctly "ensuing" and better omitted...]

But. While everyone complains, I do not think efforts to "buy up" comfort have succeeded at all. In short, we all holler about being packed in like sardines, but we all get on and pick the flight that costs 124.75 over the one that is 135.50.

I did buy up a prime package on United last time that gave me one checked bag and a near door seat with some extra room. That was really nice even on a short flight and I was disappointed when it was not offered on the return trip. I've speculated on a "2nd class" (still focus-grouping the name) that is 1.5 to 2x the price of coach but gives you a little gorram room. I would go for that, and I would pay for a guaranteed empty middle seat when the lovely bride and I travel together. Five or ten X for business or first class is not "on my color wheel" but I am both big and medically prone to discomfort.

Perhaps that cannibalizes business and first class for carriers that offer. But Southwest? Frontier? A $300 flight with space vs. $179 in the cattle car?

Bright though I consider myself, at the end of day, surely some very smart people who do this for a living have looked at this and found it wanting The minor improvements like I mentioned or that Frontier was pushing don't seen to take hold. I have to accept that the economics are just not there. And it follows that the whiners are a bit hypocritical.

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

I think the phrase you're searching for is "the price elasticity of comfort and dignity." I view it as an exercise in altruism - flying commercial is the closest thing to self-flagellation I will ever do.

I also think the whole notion of a reclining seat is an anachronism. If seats are mounted that close together, they should all be "exit row" seats, i.e. non-reclining.

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2014 3:47 PM


Seth Mandel nails it in Commentary. The IRS Scandal is about media. The Administration trusts that they will not be held accountable. And I suspect they are right.

If the latest revelations about the IRS are correct, then its officials have approached the abuse-of-power scandal with a clear strategy, pretty much from the beginning. They have been betting that, since their illegal targeting campaign against those who disagree with President Obama has had the backing of Democrats in Congress, they needed only a media strategy, not a political one.
Indeed, it would go beyond the sadly all-too-routinized forms of corruption, which are bad enough. The newest round of revelations describe a government agency (and its elected allies) not only thoroughly corrupted but also insistent on its entitlement to stand above accountability. The allegations warrant front-page headlines from the country's major newspapers, surely. So where are they?

I was 12-13 through the Watergate years, and one thing I remember is the absolute tedium. Every day's news tidbit was placed in 60pt bold type -- erosion and attrition were as important as any actual investigation. Every day was a drip of guilty, guilty, guilty.

We clearly need a return to the partisan, Francis Blair / Nicholas Butler media. We have been ill served by feigned objective outlets. I daydreamed yesterday that if I made a pile of dough on a startup, I'd resuscitate the Rocky Mountain News and hire all these great local bloggers. That would be fun and would advance the cause of liberty.

But johngalt thinks:

You're right, I missed all of that. Let's see if my next pitch is another hanging slider:

Your implied purpose was to get all the political scandals on page 1, everyday, not just the scandals that reflect poorly on Republicans. That may help to "give light and the people will find their own way" in the Centennial State but not so much nationally. Are you suggesting the Brothers Koch fund fifty money losing newsprint cyclers?

Posted by: johngalt at August 28, 2014 6:41 PM
But jk thinks:

My implied purpose is to be as biased as the Post but in the opposite direction: a label I think I apply fairly to FOX News. They're no less biased than CNN, though I think they do many things more fairly.

This will get government scandals adequate coverage. It will also provide factual information on fracking, vaccinations, GMO crops, climate change, and the FDA's body count (which will be an info-graphic).

Don't think we need fifty. The Rocky will cover Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado where it is needed, plus Kansas, Wyoming, and Utah where it is not (we endorse Mia Love!) New York has the Daily News; California may be beyond salvage. If our model works, Charles & David* may want a few more in purply areas.

Just hit me: the grandchildren in the Beatles' "When I'm 64: Vera, Chuck, and Dave. Suppose they're the Kochs?

Posted by: jk at August 28, 2014 7:59 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Nice to see I'm not the only one dropping Beatles references in the last couple of days, though I think mine was more satisfyingly obscure.

Los Angeles is, sadly, another one-paper town that used to be a two-paper town. The Herald-Examiner was killed off in the Eighties by the labor union, leaving only the Times, which is a famously biased rag and not even of worthy to be used to train my dogs.

Should you get started with this and find yourself in need of a California correspondent, I'd gladly fire up the keyboard, with the proviso that I might be somewhat sporadic; my life being what it is, you know I recently have been limited to intermittent contributions followed by days of absence.

If I may be so bold as to suggest: consider doing an online version first and see what kind of readership you build. It would be a great sample for your Koch-worthy benefactors to use to justify their investment, and would be more cost-effective up front; you might even find that staying online-only is a preferable medium.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 28, 2014 8:23 PM
But jk thinks:

Brother Keith:

Thank you for your kind suggestions. But I wish to spend bucketfulls of money. In my original post, I suggested my own as a retirement vehicle after Google buys out or some other vehicle of mine.

Other people's money would be a great second choice.

As for a frugal, third, online choice -- I daresay it's been done.

We, therefore, regret to inform you that frugality and proven effectiveness does not meet the current needs of our pipe dream.

Yours most sincerely,

Posted by: jk at August 29, 2014 1:57 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

Hi Y'all.

1. New Newspaper: um, isn't Commentary one?
OK, it's not national, but IBD is....

2. I agree with everything being said here: the Dem's want power and the media is aiding, abetting, and apparently, mostly cheering.

3. My idea was a new TV show, Denver-based, to get away from all the NYC-euphoria in morning TV and (a lot of recent movies): it's focus, AFTER covering Brangelina, and the K-cups (aka, Kar-trashians) would be Tech Talk, "High Touch" and (and how both can be used to uphold liberty) possibly new-celebrity goings on (Google's Serge, Bezos, et al) in and around Silicon Valley.

Posted by: nanobrewer at September 2, 2014 6:05 PM
But jk thinks:

I'm going to quit -- I cannot even sell pipe dreams around here! You're each correct, but I am thinking of having Jared Polis Money and what would I do? I should not have brought the Kochs (peace and blessings on their eternal Billionaire Souls...) into it. Just a way to waste money I don't have.

Tough. Damn. Room.

I agree with nb on the TV. Why, why, why has nobody done a Roger Ailes on local news? There are four-and-a-half in Denver and they are all exactly the same. Have one with a tough, bloggy sensibility and without the press releases from lefty NGOs leading the show...

...and 55% of the city would hate you! But you'd have the top ratings out of the other 45.

I think the only hold up is that all the execs came out of J-School and would rather tilt at windmills than make money.

Posted by: jk at September 2, 2014 6:47 PM

August 27, 2014

Truth now lacing up second shoe

The first shoe was Michael Mann's Climategate. The second may well be, Rutherglen-gate.

Temperatures measured at the weather station form part of the ACORN-SAT network, so the information from this station is checked for discontinuities before inclusion into the official record that is used to calculate temperature trends for Victoria, Australia, and also the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The unhomogenized/raw mean annual minimum temperature trend for Rutherglen for the 100-year period from January 1913 through to December 2013 shows a slight cooling trend of 0.35 degree C per 100 years. After homogenization there is a warming trend of 1.73 degree C per 100 years. This warming trend is essentially achieved by progressively dropping down the temperatures from 1973 back through to 1913.

Stay with me here, this is a bit tricky. It seems one must be a climate "scientist" in order to comprehend the validity of the, umm, "technique."

Sometimes weather stations are moved, you know, geographically, from one place to another place in the same vicinity. This can produce a "discontinuity" in the recorded temperature. So this "homogenization" algorithm was invented to, you know, correct the "errors" that result when the data is inserted into computer climate models. Well that raw data from Rutherglen was causing a whale of an error. It showed that the observed temperature trend over most of the 20th century was downward, when every climate scientist knows that the globe really warmed during that time, and is still warming today because there aren't enough wind farms. It's a settled consensus it is, dontcha know.

There's only one problem: (Okay, there's more than one problem, but this is the biggest problem.) "There are no documented site moves."

The Bureau has tried to justify all of this to Graham Lloyd at The Australian newspaper by stating that there must have been a site move, its flagging the years 1966 and 1974. But the biggest adjustment was made in 1913! In fact as Bill Johnston explains in today’s newspaper, the site never has moved.

Surely someone should be sacked for this blatant corruption of what was a perfectly good temperature record.

Related: Just coming to this story I hadn't realized that Rutherglen is only one site where data has been "remodeled." There is also Amberley and Bourke.

I understand that by way of response to Mr Lloyd, the Bureau has not disputed these calculations.

This is significant. The Bureau now admits that it changes the temperature series and quite dramatically through the process of homogenisation.

I repeat the Bureau has not disputed the figures. The Bureau admits that the data is remodelled.

What the Bureau has done, however, is try and justify the changes. In particular, for Amberley the Bureau is claiming to Mr Lloyd that there is very little available documentation for Amberley before 1990 and that information before this time may be “classified”: as in top secret.



Urban Dictioonary Word-of-the-Day


Martina was shocked to find out that there was a church in her neighborhood, so she telephoned her network of Proglodytes and they all agreed to burn it down so the church members wouldn't promote hate mongering.

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

Well this sucks.

Cheap headline, but you get what you pay for.

I read a few good articles on Obama's backdoor, sidestep, pen-and-a-phone treaty to fight global warming. Last time advise and consent was sought, the Senate voted 95-0.

Yet without switching 62 of those nays and driving the other five in for a vote, how will we join the enlightened Europeans?

Consumers are only now noticing Regulation 666/2013, adopted by the European Commission last year and taking effect next month, which bans the manufacture or importing of vacuum motors whose power output exceeds 1,600 watts, with the limit dropping to 900 watts after Sept. 1, 2017. Thank the climate-change lobby for your dirty floor: The measure is intended to help the EU meet its energy savings target for 2020. Consumers are snapping up more powerful vacuums while they still can.

The regulation is classic Brussels. The 11-page, jargon-ridden text of the directive contains barely any cost-benefit analysis and fails to consider that consumers will simply use weaker vacuums for longer to achieve the same cleaning result.

Meanwhile, as consumer groups complain about less choice for no discernible benefit, the European Commission has persuaded itself that its regulation will be good for European vacuum manufacturers. "EU industry adapts quickly to higher requirements, which is often less the case of companies outside the EU," a spokeswoman wrote on an EU website recently.

Those plucky ee-you-vians! Bless their grit, spunk, and perseverance!

But johngalt thinks:

666? You made this up, right? Onion?

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 7:00 PM
But jk thinks:

Ze Honion as you say is powerless against Brussels!

Posted by: jk at August 27, 2014 7:54 PM

That Constitution Thingy...

"Obama Unveils New Plan to Work with Foreign Governments to Ignore the Constitution" screams the headline. I do get a lot of wacko emails. But this is from the partisan-yet-measured Jim Geraghty and he notes the difference:

There are a lot of nonsensical or highly exaggerated chain e-mails accusing the president of working with foreigners to subvert the U.S. Constitution. But this time you've got the foreigners and administration officials themselves confirming it on the front page of the New York Times!
"There's a strong understanding of the difficulties of the U.S. situation, and a willingness to work with the U.S. to get out of this impasse," said Laurence Tubiana, the French ambassador for climate change to the United Nations. "There is an implicit understanding that this not require ratification by the Senate."
"The difficulties of the U.S. situation" is a reference the fact that we have a Senate that opposes the treaty.

And, if you're looking, it's Article II, Section 2:
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;

Doesn't sound like a suggestion to me.

UPDATE: All Hail Taranto:

In order to "sidestep" the constitutional requirement that laws be made by lawmakers, the Times continues, "President Obama's climate negotiators are devising what they call a 'politically binding' deal that would 'name and shame' countries into cutting their emissions."

But johngalt thinks:

Watch for this simple solution to Obama Administration and foreign governments' problem - "Hello, this is Barack Obama calling, please take a pen and change the word 'treaty' to 'pact.' Thank you very much. Hey, I think I'm next off the tee."

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 11:30 AM

August 26, 2014

All Hail Taranto!

But jk thinks:

We cannot possibly have a "Like" button because Brother Keith would collect a disproportionate amount of likes.

Instead: everybody gets a trophy at ThreeSources!

Posted by: jk at August 27, 2014 1:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

How about a "that was a gratuitous tweak" button?

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 3:51 PM
But johngalt thinks:

When BK becomes a Canadian entity, will they rename it Burger Queen?

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 3:52 PM
But jk thinks:

What are the odds on my dragging this thread toward serious?

Review Corner en route for Helen Raleigh's "Confucius Never Said." Chinese restaurants frequently have royal references: "Chef King" "Jim-bob's Szechuan Palace," &c. I'm going to make the bold leap that the reverence for authority is a manifestation of their acceptance of hierarchy. Taranto's tongue-in-cheek revulsion bespeaks our reverence for individuality and equality.

Posted by: jk at August 27, 2014 5:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I won't jump on your "equality" reference, but only because of the context vis-Ă -vis royalty. Instead, I'll try to drag it toward the original subject.

I've detected a new political divide across which we all are separated: Whether we boo or cheer every time a taxpaying entity lowers its tax liability. As a capitalist, I cheer. As democrats, Buffett's pals foam at the mouth. I also suspect the root cause is more fundamental than simply how much revenue Leviathan has to spread around for its various purposes. Didn't the President say he doesn't care if higher tax rates means lower tax revenues, since raising rates on the rich is more "fair?"

Posted by: johngalt at August 27, 2014 6:20 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Burger Queen, JG? Well, I suppose it would be fitting, in a sense, because that creepy Burger King never talks, and we all know, Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, but she doesn't have a lot to say...

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 27, 2014 11:41 PM

Democracy, Capitalism, Limits Therewith

Some time back we considered a variation on the "pick one" voting scheme that was dubbed "approval voting." I mention this as evidence that democracy is broken. It has many flaws as a system of governing free peoples.

Yesterday I asked on Facebook, Why are so many so quick to condemn "unlimited capitalism" while at the same time advocating for unlimited democracy? Obviously neither does, has, or possibly even can exist, so my point was whether one should have more limits at the same time as the other has its limits diminished.

An interlocutor suggested that "everyone puts limits on democracy too" thus indicating, I suppose, he has no quibble with limits on capitalism. So I searched for any organized group that advocates for "unlimited democracy." The highest search engine result was Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (California.) Natch.

The most dangerous threat to democracy is the mistaken belief that the US is a democracy. People and communities need assistance and support to believe we have a right to resist corporate rule and to see that a democratic world is not only possible – but necessary for the survival of life on earth. Our education work provides an historical and analytic framework for understanding the mechanisms ruling elites have used to manipulate our laws, our government and our culture in order to maintain their power.

Replace the word "corporate" with "private" for a clearer understanding. So the United States is not a democracy, but "a democratic world is possible - and necessary - for the survival of life on earth."

These folks certainly don't seem to place any limits on democracy.

Okay, fringe leftists from Cali. I get it. How about the national Democratic Party? How is the tension between Constitutional limits and their namesake principle holding up?


"We're leading the charge to expand the vote, because it's not enough anymore for us to simply protect against voting restrictions."

Q: Not enough, for what?
A: Manufacturing a bigger majority with which to impose their will... on everyone.

Genghis Khan wishes he thought of this.

Union Update!

An update on "Look for the Union Label" post, with a hat-tip to WSJ's Notable & Quotable

The picketers lobbed sexist, racist and homophobic slurs at the rest of the cast and crew for most of the day, the website reported, and when production wrapped, the "Top Chef" crew found that tires were slashed on 14 of their cars. Milton police confirmed that the union members were "threatening, heckling and harassing" but said no arrests were made. . . .

For years Hollywood avoided the Bay State because of the heavy-handed tactics of the local Teamsters. The union's past has included convictions for money laundering, extortion, racketeering and shaking down movie producers who tried to film in Boston. [Local 25 President Sean] O'Brien has said the Local has cleaned up its act and now has a great working relationship with most of the productions that film here. -- Columnist Gayle Fee writing at, Aug. 21:

Glad to see they have that all cleaned up...

The Union Label Posted by John Kranz at 11:37 AM | What do you think? [0]

Quote of the Day

As Justice Clarence Thomas correctly pointed out in dissent, "[T]he'logical' assurance that a 'temporary restriction... merely causes a diminution in value,'... is cold comfort to the property owners in this case or any other. After all, 'in the long run we are all dead.'"24 This observation is not hyperbole; writing shortly after [Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc., v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency] was decided, one legal scholar noted, "Of the 700 or so ordinary people who started on this journey, 55 have since died."25

Levy, Robert; William Mellor (2009-12-01). The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom (p. 179). Cato Institute. Kindle Edition.

Okay, Now jk is Scared

I've been deferential to the Fed -- incredibly so for a libertarian -- and have quietly acquiesced to loose money policies. I've had underlying concern but the lack of monetary inflation has kept me off the "OMG we're all gonna die" bandwagon.

But this is disturbing. George Melloan asks "How Would the Fed Raise Rates?"

A question mostly unasked at Jackson Hole is a crucial part of today's when-will-it-happen guessing game: Exactly how would the Fed go about draining liquidity if a burst of inflation urgently presented that necessity. The traditional mechanism used by the Fed no longer looks to be serviceable.

Before the "zirp" binge began in 2008, the Fed's primary monetary policy tool was the federal-funds market, overnight lending among banks to balance their reserves in compliance with the Fed's required minimums. The Fed withdrew liquidity by selling Treasurys to the banks and increased it by buying Treasurys. Fed-funds rates moved accordingly, becoming the benchmark for short-term lending rates throughout the economy.

But thanks to the Fed's massive purchases of government and mortgage-backed securities from the banks over six years of "quantitative easing," the banks no longer need to worry about meeting the minimum reserve requirement. They're chock full of excess reserves, to the tune of $2.9 trillion. For all practical purposes, the federal-funds market no longer exists.

The rest of the column speculates about different mechanisms which might be employed; these range from the ineffective to the downright coercive. "Mopping up liquidity" was always a concern, and I accepted that it would be done a little too late -- certainly with Janet Yellen as FOMC Chair. But at first glance, Melloan makes me question not so much how as whether it could be done.

Look at the bright side, we'll have probably nationalized the banks by then.

UPDATE: Fixed Freudian typo "have quietly acquiesced to lose money policies" to "have quietly acquiesced to loose money policies." Even my bad typing cracks me up.

Monetary Policy Posted by John Kranz at 10:43 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Buy rubles!

Posted by: johngalt at August 26, 2014 1:53 PM

August 25, 2014

Federalism-dictated bifurcation

Virginia: it's for lovers!

West Virginia: I-79 BACK OPEN: Chickens and ammo to blame for shutdown

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 4:19 PM | What do you think? [0]

David Plouffe, Rehabilitated?

I'm placing this under "internecine" because some of my blog brothers have yet to find enlightenment on the glories and intrinsic liberty of self-driving cars. That said, we'll likely all agree on the wisdom of keeping a watchful philosophical eye on key members of the President's campaign staff.

The WSJ Ed Page saluted David Plouffe for his vocationally inspired epiphany on the evils of overregulation, both in a column last week and on their weekend FOXNews show. Today, Gordon Crovitz adds "[...] who ran Barack Obama's campaign in 2008 and served as a senior presidential adviser. Too bad Mr. Plouffe didn't discover the virtues of deregulation before leaving government."

Crovitz's column is about regulation of self-driving cars. We will pay -- in tens of thousands of needless deaths -- for every year this technology is delayed by a Federal apparatus that defaults to "no."

The Obama administration's standard reaction to technological innovation has been to block change via regulation: The Federal Aviation Administration bans commercial use of drones, the Food and Drug Administration restricts gene-testing suppliers such as 23andMe, and the Federal Communications Commission is considering massive regulation of the Internet in the name of "net neutrality."

Federal regulators are also putting the brakes on self-driving cars, which are closely related to the Uber innovation--enabling riders to order a car service using their smartphone app. If fast-moving technology hadn't collided with slow-moving regulators, this might have been the last summer you'd have to drive your own car.

In fairness, the bias toward impeding innovation preceded President Obama's election by several decades. I had been concerned that the tort bar and excessive litigation would stop this technology. Perhaps I can rest easy knowing that the government would never allow it anyway.

Crovitz closes with a historical-fiction-counterfactual that Mister Plouffe returns to Washington as an advocate against over-regulation. I think it more likely he will lobby for additional impediments to self-driving cars. Why, they could affect the bottom line of his new employer...

Quote of the Day

The Perfesser is feeling a bit hawkish...

I'm thinking that a useful paradigm for dealing with ISIS is, what would Gen. Curtis LeMay do if he were serving under President Andrew Jackson? But I could be mistaken. -- Glenn Reynolds

But Keith Arnold thinks:

I'll see that and raise: what would General "Black Jack" Pershing do if he were serving under Winston Churchill?

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 25, 2014 1:04 PM
But johngalt thinks:

What would Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey do if he were serving under Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes instead of President Obama?

Posted by: johngalt at August 25, 2014 5:16 PM



What a Wonderful World

I played this in torrential rain at my niece's wedding. Bob Thiele and George David Weiss ©1967

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


August 24, 2014

Review Corner

While our enterprise lay all in theory, we had pleased ourselves with delectable visions of the spiritualization of labor. It was to be our form of prayer and ceremonial of worship. Each stroke of the hoe was to uncover some aromatic root of wisdom, heretofore hidden from the sun. Pausing in the field, to let the wind exhale the moisture from our foreheads, we were to look upward, and catch glimpses into the far-off soul of truth. In this point of view, matters did not turn out quite so well as we anticipated.
On a tip from Nick Gillespie, of all folks, I purchased Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance. Though a free one was available, I plunked down 99 cents for the Illustrated edition. That's just how I roll. It's rather like a night out on the town with Jay-Z.

Gillespie reviews the 1852 novel for Barron's and blogs about it on Reason:

If you're looking for a summer beach read, this is one worth checking out; it's funny, sexy, and sad. And if you're a progressive or neo-con reformer, put down down your slide rule or whatever instrument you're using to create the parameters of your nouveau Great Society and pick this up immediately.

Our protagonist joins a socialist commune in 19th Century New England, and telegraphs immediately that things are not going to end well. I cannot get past Rupert's phalanx of a pay wall to read the full review, but the exceprts imply that the work is a bit autobiographical and that Hawthorne, like protagonist Miles Coverdale, did sign up for a back to nature community to escape writers' block.

Whether it is based on fact or not, Hawthorne makes its outlandish characters extremely real. And -- as Gillespie asserts -- spins a great yarn that is funny and engaging. It is one of those "one more chapter before I put it down" books that will destroy your productivity until complete. It is not very long, so that is a temporary flaw.

Each of the main characters has a good deal of mystery that is slowly revealed over the course of the book. The two served straight up from the start are the narrator-protagonist and Mr. Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth, like Mrs. Jellyby from Dickens's Bleak House, is consumed by philanthropy to the ruin of people and things nearer.

But by and by you missed the tenderness of yesterday, and grew drearily conscious that Hollingsworth had a closer friend than ever you could be; and this friend was the cold, spectral monster which he had himself conjured up, and on which he was wasting all the warmth of his heart, and of which, at last,--as these men of a mighty purpose so invariably do,—he had grown to be the bond-slave. It was his philanthropic theory.

Hollingsworth is friendly and helpful, but he is involved in the Blithedale commune more to recruit members, raise funds, and scout locations for his planned home to reform criminals.
On this foundation he purposed to devote himself and a few disciples to the reform and mental culture of our criminal brethren. His visionary edifice was Hollingsworth's one castle in the air; it was the material type in which his philanthropic dream strove to embody itself; and he made the scheme more definite, and caught hold of it the more strongly, and kept his clutch the more pertinaciously, by rendering it visible to the bodily eye. I have seen him, a hundred times, with a pencil and sheet of paper, sketching the facade, the side-view, or the rear of the structure, or planning the internal arrangements, as lovingly as another man might plan those of the projected home where he meant to be happy with his wife and children.

In recent persiflage on these hallowed pages, I reflected on the surfeit of fictional works that celebrate philanthropy. Bleak House and The Blithedale Romance stand out for presenting philanthropy non-heroically. Mrs. Jellyby fails to bathe her children or attend a daughter's wedding for her singular devotion to the poor in Africa. She is a minor enough character to be presented comically. Hollingsworth is the second male lead here and is much more complex. But he struggles to connect with love, friendship, and purpose for an idea that is as abstract as Africa is to Mrs. Jellyby.

The sweet joy of labor, the simplicity of returning to the earth and the old ways and the fairness of communal living all take serious blows in Mister Hawthorne's able hands.

The truth was, the hot-house warmth of a town residence, and the luxurious life in which I indulged myself, had taken much of the pith out of my physical system; and the wintry blast of the preceding day, together with the general chill of our airy old farmhouse, had got fairly into my heart and the marrow of my bones. In this predicament, I seriously wished--selfish as it may appear--that the reformation of society had been postponed about half a century, or, at all events, to such a date as should have put my intermeddling with it entirely out of the question.
And, first of all, we had divorced ourselves from pride, and were striving to supply its place with familiar love. We meant to lessen the laboring man's great burden of toil, by performing our due share of it at the cost of our own thews and sinews. We sought our profit by mutual aid, instead of wresting it by the strong hand from an enemy, or filching it craftily from those less shrewd than ourselves (if, indeed, there were any such in New England), or winning it by selfish competition with a neighbor; in one or another of which fashions every son of woman both perpetrates and suffers his share of the common evil, whether he chooses it or no.

So there is no spoiler alert required that they did not establish a munificent arcadia and live there happily ever after. But the mysterious Zenobia and young Priscilla delight the reader with Coverdale's quest to discern their backgrounds. Who are they? Will they become entangled with either Coverdale or Hollingsworth? Will Blithedale survive? I'll leave each of these delights to the reader.

Four stars. Even if you buy the expensive Illustrated version, that is less than 0.25/star. Pretty damned good value.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:12 AM | What do you think? [0]

August 22, 2014

Quote of the postwar era

I do not feel that my choice of title is overwrought.

The whole questionable debate on American war weariness aside, the U.S. military is not war weary and is fully capable of attacking and reducing IS throughout the depth of its holdings, and we should do it now, but supported substantially by our traditional allies and partners, especially by those in the region who have the most to give - and the most to lose - if the Islamic State’s march continues.

From a must read article by General John R. Allen, USMC retired. He gives the President great credit for actions taken in the theater thus far, but makes a profound plea for his annihilation of Islamic State immediately.

For its part, the White House has finally unleashed the "t-word."

"When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack," White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters. "That represents a terrorist attack against our country, against an American citizen, and I think all of us have the Foley family in our thoughts and prayers."

Look for the Union Label...

#WarOnWomen Anybody? Bueller?

Insty links to two stories on this today. I have chosen the link that doesn't clean up the language because I think it is best enjoyed in the raw:

The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi's car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, "We're gonna bash that pretty face in, you fucking whore!"

It seems the Top Chef (Honestly, I don't get these shows at all but that is not germane to the post) crew allowed ... get this: non union production assistants to drive cars.

I know, you're shocked.

The Union Label Posted by John Kranz at 12:57 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

Just when I was about to quit looking for any of the racist, misogynist, homophobic angry white men with which the GOP is supposedly monolithic, you show us evidence that they're openly advocating their beliefs in the Teamsters. "Dat's ok thouh, dey vote Demmycrap!"

Posted by: johngalt at August 22, 2014 1:11 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

It could have been spectacular. I mean, a bunch of the Teamster thug brigade, picking a fight with a dozen people who are famously good with knives, and once a season have to break down a pig or a side of beef on camera. I'd have put that on the pay-per-view.

I want to know where Tom Colicchio was in all of this.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 22, 2014 6:36 PM

New Cory Gardner Slogan

My darling bride should write campaign ads. This morning, watching a Mark Udall ad she blurts: "If you like your ObamaCare, you can keep your Obamacare -- vote for Mark Udall! I'm Cory Gardner and I approved..."

Erhmigawd, that's inspired!

Meanwhile, back in the Centennial State, it looks like partly cloudy with a 99% chance of more cancellations

The Colorado Division of Insurance has reported that there were about 2,100 health-plan cancellations in the state over the past two months, bringing this year's total to more than 6,150.

The division reported the figures for June 15-Aug. 15 to Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman last week. Senate Republicans have requested monthly on the numbers.

Since 2013, there have been about 340,000 policy cancelations in Colorado. Many customers received notices last fall as the Affordable Care Act was rolling out.

But johngalt thinks:

Heh. I just posted this to his wall. :)

Posted by: johngalt at August 22, 2014 12:55 PM

"I wanna control my own life, not yours"

Mondo cool.

From, where conservative ideals are [hopefully] presented in a non-threatening way to the liberals who, as one co-founder writes, "I despise Liberalism, but I love Liberals."

HT: Kris Cook's 'Grassroots Radio Colorado' program, 560 KLZ 6:00 hour today, 8/21.

But johngalt thinks:

I'd like to encourage viewing of this by not just unaffiliateds, but by conservatives who could use a refresher course in "that's her call, not mine."

Posted by: johngalt at August 22, 2014 1:19 PM

August 21, 2014


A new kind of politics is being born in the discussion over race and militarized policing in Ferguson. -- Nick Gillespie
Writing about Ferguson, object #1 is to write nothing I'll have to retract or apologize for. Object #2 is to contribute something to the discussion.

Arnold Kling wrote a goober-load of great books. The one that comes to mind in Ferguson is "The Three Languages of Politics" [Review Corner]. The Three Languages were L, C, and P (to fit Libertarians, Conservatives, and Progressives) and building on Jonathan Haidt, he created an axis for each. We cannot see the point of our othered-philosophied friends because they are measuring events on a different axis.

The Libertarian sees the coercive-freedom axis. My sister votes with me 99% of the time but cannot accept that smoking bans are a bad idea. I'm looking L-wise and seeing a property owner coerced, she enjoys (as I do) the ability to go out in Colorado and not choke to death. L person Nick Gillespie sees "The Libertarian Moment" as the world accepts long advanced Libertarian concerns on police militarization.

The C axis is order-barbarianism and I am not L enough to discount it. There is zero social justice element to stealing a flat-screen TV or breaking windows. This community -- with any other problems -- will have to outlive this image and re-attract investment frightened away.

The P axis is harm-care: a lot of residents likely have had terrible experiences with police. I don't want to outrun available facts but stealing cigars is not a capital offense. Without faulting the police, we can all agree that it is too bad it resulted in death.

Putting on these three lenses, looking at these three axes, I think the fundamental truth of Kling (and Haidt) is underscored.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 6:56 PM | What do you think? [5]
But johngalt thinks:

Well stated. But, the officer-citizen interaction did not concern the theft of cigars. I agree that it is too bad it resulted in the citizen's death, but every citizen needs to recognize the cardinal rule that states, never threaten an armed policeman with physical harm. If this citizen did that, as credible reports have described, then the deadly force used against the citizen by the policeman is - justified.

Posted by: johngalt at August 22, 2014 12:56 AM
But jk thinks:

Facts seem to dribble out that "question the narrative" but I think I am correct to synopsize the P view as "young, unarmed, African-American shot six times."

I was attempting to be fair though I generally subscribe to your view. This morning's read of Cato's blog turned up some interesting observations I had not seen. The short version is that Ferguson and some neighboring communities finance their government through small fines for petty offenses -- and Jovert-esque collection and prosecution methods. This poisons an already tense mood between the cops and citizenry.

Posted by: jk at August 22, 2014 11:12 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Fair point, but on the harm-care axis is there not visibility of "don't threaten cops with harm?" I'm saying that the "he's unarmed, so nothing else matters" crowd is missing more than just coercive-freedom or order-barbarism data points. They have a clinical case of yeahbutitis.

I agree that cops getting to keep the fines for tickets they write is a perverse incentive. It's not hard to see how inner city folks may dislike police as much as the TEA Party dislikes tax collectors.

Posted by: johngalt at August 22, 2014 12:21 PM
But jk thinks:

I still love David Mamet's Rabbi's admonition that you should be able to make your adversary's case to a level that he or she agrees that you have captured it. I'm not prepared to take their side in a full-on debate but I want to see where they are coming form. Said policeman is armed, badged, has a radio for backup, and will be given the benefit of the doubt in any future proceedings. There is an asymmetry between him and the young man walking down the street.

I'm not complementing them on rationality or consistence but if you find the "victim" and think "poor Treyvon|Michael|Gaza Gus|Sandra Fluke" you have taken a step into their world.

On a good day, go even farther than the good Rabbi and "do a Karl Popper" viz., strengthen your opponent's argument so that you attack it at its strongest point. Were I do that, I'd suggest that institutional racism in the service of the War on Drugs is the strongest reason to support the protesters. But I'm just looking at the L axis...

Posted by: jk at August 22, 2014 12:54 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Agreed. Everything except, "will be given the benefit of the doubt in any future proceedings." That may happen in some jury trials but if the judge does his job, evidence reigns.

But double agreed on the War on Drugs angle. Welfare benefit perverse incentives aren't the only things taking fathers out of homes.

Posted by: johngalt at August 22, 2014 1:15 PM

Umm, What's Second Prize?


If you must click....

But johngalt thinks:

Why only two?

F*&#ing elitist one-percenters.

Posted by: johngalt at August 21, 2014 5:52 PM

"Never Again..."

A Facebook friend compared the Islamic State movement [ISIS] to Nazism in 20th century Germany. Given the wholesale mass murder that both ideologies engaged in, I think the comparison is a good one, and completely leaps over Godwin's Law. I replied with the following comment:

The analogy between "ISIS" (Islamic Statists) and NAZI Germany is apropos, but I think there is a more timely analogy for IS - namely, the Ebola virus. Islamism is an ideological virus comparable to the biological virus. Both viruses kill or make carriers of the majority of people which they contact. Both are merciless, and have no goal but their own propagation. Both pose a threat of spreading to every nation on Earth. They are impervious to reason or "negotiation." - So why does Ebola warrant emergency efforts by our NIH and deployment of our latest experimental "weapon" the ZMAPP drug, while the rapidly spreading Islamic Statist movement is met only with "limited airstrikes?"


But jk thinks:

Michael Moynihan deliberately mentioned and then contravened Godwin's Law on The Independents last night, saying "This is Babi Yar."

Strong but undeniable words. There are no examples contradictory to equivalence.

I would certainly back the President on a forceful response, but I mistrust his judgment sufficiently to hope for caution. "Limited Air strikes" have been somewhat effective. A clandestine arming of the Kurds could be good politics and good policy.

Posted by: jk at August 21, 2014 5:31 PM


Jason Riley points out that the President's poll numbers are not only sagging on big issues, but also on smaller items like his education initiatives.

The Common Core state standards being pushed by Mr. Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are especially unpopular. In return for adopting the new standards, the administration promised states more education funding and exemptions from federal accountability provisions in place under No Child Left Behind. Forty-five states eventually signed up for the new standards, but many parents have rejected what they consider a federal intrusion into local schools that would reduce teacher flexibility. Some 81% of respondents in the poll had heard of Common Core--up from 47% last year--and 60% opposed it.

Even with the Internet Segue Machine™ set on "stun" it was easy to relate that to George Will's superb Unified Cupcake Postulate. You'll want to read all of Will's piece (free link), but the short version is that government both feels emboldened and empowered to regulate school bake sales while actual government functions are neglected or handled poorly.
Washington's response to the menace of school bake sales illustrates progressivism's ratchet: The federal government subsidizes school lunches, so it must control the lunches' contents, which validates regulation of what it calls "competitive foods," such as vending machine snacks. Hence the need to close the bake sale loophole, through which sugary cupcakes might sneak: Foods sold at fundraising bake sales must, with some exceptions, conform to federal standards.
Resistance to taxation, although normal and healthy, is today also related to the belief that government is thoroughly sunk in self-dealing, indiscriminate meddling and the lunatic spending that lards police forces with devices designed for conquering Fallujah. People know that no normal person can know one-tenth of 1 percent of what the government is doing.

Limited government. Limited corruption. Limited incompetence.

Where'd I Put that Neoconservatism Again?`

A stupid Facebook meme touched a nerve today. A brit friend (Britons of all political stripes are united in their hatred of President George W. Bush -- he truly is a uniter) posts a screenshot of the ice bucket challenge: Laura is pouring the bucket on George and the caption reads: "That awkward moment when ... you realize you just reminded everyone of your career waterboarding people."

Queue up the worlds smallest "heh."

Marine Brian Welke (rank not given) has a guest editorial in the WSJ today where he answers a frequent question.

Was it worth it? That's a question I've been asked no fewer than five times since large portions of Iraq have fallen to the murderous Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. As a Marine veteran who served a tour of duty in Ramadi in 2005-06, I understand that people are genuinely interested in how I now feel about my military service in Iraq.

When that question, which every veteran is inevitably faced with, rears its head, I respond with the same four words, albeit with the first two reversed: It was worth it. In my heart and mind, the answer doesn't matter whether Iraq stands on its own or collapses into a sea of blood and hate. It isn't an answer I have to hold for the future--to wait and see. A sacrifice's worth is not determined by outcomes.

I'll let the Randians the last sentence, but Welke stirs a little latent Sharanskyism, with a reminder of a majority's choosing self-direction.
It was in the sands of Ramadi that I learned most people want to be masters of their own fate. When we were providing area security for a week-long recruitment drive to re-establish the Ramadi police force, the turnout was overwhelming. More than 1,000 applicants stood in line when death approached in the form of a suicide bomber. The blast killed more than 60 and wounded at least 50. On that day, as on many days before and after, Americans and Iraqis were killed by the same enemy. They fell in pursuit of freedom. One for the other's; one for his own. No matter how things turn out, there was a time when Americans and Iraqis stood united against hate and evil.

You want fries with that big bowl of conflicted, jk?

What I do know is that if the "guy who made a career out of waterboarding" were President, we would not be seeing ISIS's territorial gains. You folks who want to celebrate that on Facebook, go right ahead.

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 10:39 AM | What do you think? [5]
But johngalt thinks:

Dubya would have intercepted ISIS, I have no doubt, but in the service of what goal? The rallying cry in Gulf War II was "democracy" for Iraq. That legacy has had a lukewarm reception from Iraqi's and utter disregard and contempt by ISIS (they and I call them simply "IS" or Islamic State[ists].)

Does it assuage your internal conflict to view Dubya's "adventure" as the right action for the wrong purpose? The stated objective should have been freedom, liberty, individual rights, not this BS weasel concept "democracy." Democracy is two Islamists and a Jew deciding how everyone has to pray.

But the power void left in Iraq has had a positive consequence, and I use the word "positive" advisedly. The utter savagery of IS, culminating with the decapitation murder of an American journalist, does more harm to the Islamic Caliphate movement than a million smart-bombs. It has almost completely destroyed any semblance of a moral justification for Islamism. "Conform or die" might even get the French to send troops this time. - And so, the toppling of Saddam was an unmitigated good, as were the various random Islamists who were killed in the aftermath. But the misguided and doomed effort of "nation building" should never have been attempted. Colin Powell was wrong: We should have broken it and left them to clean up the pieces, themselves, in complete self-determination.

Posted by: johngalt at August 21, 2014 3:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I forgot to discuss "sacrifice." If our military efforts had been expended in defense of their proper goal, they would not have been sacrificial. We properly fight in foreign lands to protect not merely "innocents" but a principle: The idea of fundamental birthright human liberty.

Posted by: johngalt at August 21, 2014 3:08 PM
But jk thinks:

I am with you on "break it and run like hell." Keep me out of Pottery Barn.

But I was not sure about your separation of Democracy and individual rights. On Facebook, I am happy to confront my friends' sloppy use of "Democracy." It is dangerous to think that majority rule somehow is responsible for the liberties and prosperity we enjoy. And I'm not the least bashful correcting another free individual on the finer points.

But I am completely comfortable with Natan Sharansky or President Bush using it as shorthand for self-directed government that respects individual rights and rule of law. Whisky, Democracy, Sexy remains a flag I can fight under -- in Iraq. In Colorado, we need remember that superior numbers do not supersede property rights.

Had W pushed for individual rights, I don't see a different outcome. Like the Chinese in Helen Raleigh's book, I worry that there is insufficient philosophical appreciation for individual rights to find purchase. The celebrated moderate and peaceful Muslims reject violence and beheadings but do they reject government's telling people how to pray?

Posted by: jk at August 21, 2014 5:20 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I agree that "individual rights" is on a higher plane of understanding than what one should expect to encounter in the third world. That's why I also included freedom and liberty in my formulation. My problem with "democracy" is it is a package deal concept - freedom and liberty for certain things, majority rule for the important stuff. It trades the authoritarianism of Allah and his Quran for the authoritarianism of Uncle Sam and his Code of Federal Regulations. The concept of "your rights end at the tip of my nose" is the principal one we must advance.

"Be democratic" sounds too much like "trade your culture for ours." Unfortunately, at the present, that is a case of the blind leading the blind.

Posted by: johngalt at August 21, 2014 5:48 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Liberty. Whiskey! SEXY!

Posted by: johngalt at August 21, 2014 5:51 PM

Quote of the Day

MoDo -- that's got to be a first. But she is disenchanted.

His circle keeps getting more inner. He golfs with aides and jocks, and he spent his one evening back in Washington from Martha's Vineyard at a nearly five-hour dinner at the home of a nutritional adviser and former White House assistant chef, Sam Kass . . .

The extraordinary candidate turns out to be the most ordinary of men, frittering away precious time on the links. Unlike L.B.J., who devoured problems as though he were being chased by demons, Obama's main galvanizing impulse was to get himself elected.
Almost everything else -- from an all-out push on gun control after the Newtown massacre to going to see firsthand the Hispanic children thronging at the border to using his special status to defuse racial tensions in Ferguson -- just seems like too much trouble.

The Constitution was premised on a system full of factions and polarization. If you're a fastidious pol who deigns to heal and deal only in a holistic, romantic, unified utopia, the Oval Office is the wrong job for you. The sad part is that this is an ugly, confusing and frightening time at home and abroad, and the country needs its president to illuminate and lead, not sink into some petulant expression of his aloofness, where he regards himself as a party of his own and a victim of petty, needy, bickering egomaniacs. -- Maureen Dowd

Hat-tip: Jim Geraghty

August 20, 2014

Still a piece of health care outside government control?

Mai non!

"A big part of our concern is not just Sovaldi, but all the other specialty drugs," said Mario Molina, the CEO of Molina Healthcare that runs Medicaid and ObamaCare plans in nine states, on a July earnings call. He added: "I think that the government needs to step in here and make sure that the market is rational. If we as a health plan want a rate increase, we have to go to our regulators and get it approved. There's no such thing going on in the pharmaceutical market. Right now, pharmaceutical companies can charge whatever they want, and I think there needs to be a rational basis for all of this."

Oh, dearie me.

For those who have not been watching closely, Sovaldi pretty much cures Hep-C. Not manages its symptoms, not prolongs life, cures.

The WSJ Ed Page points out that the typical complaints of "copycat" and incremental pharmaceuticals do not apply. Sovaldi is a breakthrough. At $89,000 it is pretty pricey. But the alternatives include liver transplants, and constant, intensive, expensive treatments to maintain and mange symptoms. If you'll pardon my "playing the Medical Card," were there an $89K cure for MS I would be both applying for loans and throwing a party.

I guess I can see why Mr. Molina's life sucks. The government sets his prices, offerings, profits and fat content in the cafeteria. How sad it must be to look out the dirty window at freedom. But let us not forget what brought us here.

To the extent drug prices are rising, one reason is because researchers are asking more challenging clinical and biological questions. Only two of every 10 drugs on the market ever earn back enough money to match the cost of R&D and FDA approval before patents expire. Successful drugs thus underwrite the uncertain, failure-prone, time-consuming and often wasteful and even random process of scientific invention.

Yes, Mr. Molina, we could spread dirigisme to the Pharma sector. Might I suggest we try freedom?

Renewable Energy Idea

IVANPAH DRY LAKE, Calif. (AP) -- Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays -- "streamers," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version.

I put on my engineer's hat and have come up with some improvements. (Granted, it is a software guy's hat, so I'll ask my hardware brothers to chime in.)

Solar plants torch birds and wind plants julienne them. Wouldn't it be better to cut out the middleman and just build large incinerators which burn birds for fuel? You could put bird seed and carrion around the edge, then have a fan that sucks them in: finches, hawks, eagles, condors, herons -- a clean and renewable fuel source.

First, I'm gonna need a government grant...

But johngalt thinks:

It's a feature, not a bug. Birds emit CO2 when they breathe. Killing a few hundred thousand of them a year will help to lower the Earth's greenhouse gas load.

Posted by: johngalt at August 20, 2014 5:53 PM

August 19, 2014

Libertarian Scolds

This is not a "classic" Libertario Delenda Est post. Those refer to the pragmatic politics and tactics that I feel will better promote the ideas Libertarians and I share. This is a darker disagreement.

You're not going to like or agree with fellow travelers all the time. But there is an underreported strain of crabbiness in the libertarian community. For all the libertine feelgoodism of a Penn Jillette, there is an equal and opposite amount of ill humor. The ideas hurt to find their "happy warriors."

Being Classically Liberal is an outstanding FB page. I do not agree at all times with posters Frank and M, but the retort to the obnoxious "Being Liberal" page starts them with 40 points, and they tend to rise from there.

Today though, some classic curmudgeonliness slipped out.

I despise the ice bucket challenge and I seriously wish people could find a less obnoxious way to raise awareness for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease. I mean seriously, why the hell would you want to accept a challenge anyone can complete IN ORDER TO AVOID DONATING TO CHARITY?

I voiced my disagreements in the comments. The short version is that this is non-coercive, good clean Toquevillian fun. I mentioned that the MS Society emails me frequently to demand more government $$$; getting $100 from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Peyton Manning and Jimmy Fallon seemed okay.

It's a fair disagreement, but the comments went better than 2:1 against me. I can even stand to lose, but the smug tone brought me down.

So instilling guilt and pressure on someone is the most efficient way to raise money for charity? Pressuring someone to donate takes the whole charitable aspect out of it.

People are sheeple and will do anything their favorite celebrities do. It makes me sick to see all of those videos of people showing their true colors in stupidity

I live in Southern California where the drought is the worst it's been in a hundred years. People are getting fined for using too much water while these guys dump it on their heads. I appreciate what they're accomplishing, but their message is out. Now it's just wasteful.

I could join a Progressive group if I wanted to be around killjoy scolds all day -- and they'd probably have better buffets.

UPDATE: Maybe we need a "Grouchy Libertarians" category...


But johngalt thinks:

Kinda puts a kink in their "we like everyone" sales pitch, don't it?

"We don't require any moral principles in order to defend freedom, because freedom is a good in and of itself, but some of you should be ashamed of what obnoxious things you do with it."

Posted by: johngalt at August 19, 2014 2:56 PM

404 of the week


UPDATE: LInky-fixy

Posted by John Kranz at 12:39 PM | What do you think? [0]

Remember "Fuzzy Math?"

President Bush accused VP Gore of using "fuzzy math" in the 2000 debates, causing great numbers of Floridians to vote for Pat Buchanan. Or something like that.

But the phrase popped into my head reading Megan McArdle's latest PPACAHSoTD. It seems IBD has reported high attrition rates in ObamaCare Exchanges.

But on net, they expect enrollment to shrink from their March numbers by a substantial amount -- as much as 30 percent at Aetna Inc., for example.

McArdle says this might be a big deal.
How much does this matter? As Charles Gaba notes, this was not unexpected: Back in January, industry expert Bob Laszewski predicted an attrition rate of 10 to 20 percent, which seems roughly in line with what IBD is reporting. However, Gaba seems to imply that this makes the IBD report old news, barely worth talking about, and I think that's wrong, for multiple reasons.

I'll leave the main point in McArdle's capable hands. But only in the halls of government is a 30% attrition rate "roughly in line with" an expected 10-20% When I went to school, 30% was three times 10% -- or roughly analogous to Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg's being three times over the legal limit when she was caught for DWI.

So it is somewhere between three times above and half-again. I'm a charitable and big hearted person -- let's just say it is double the expected attrition rate. I'm not charitable or big hearted enough to call that "roughly in line." As if we ever got the actual starting numbers. I suspect we got inflated values for the start and now double the expected attrition.

Nope. Everything's fine.

The Humanity!

Removing an option entirely does not help teach good decision-making skills, it’s just temporarily taking something out of the equation for 6 or 7 hours a day.

Yet another argument against prohibition, but this one is not in support of legalizing recreational drugs, or alcohol, or pharmaceuticals. This lunatic nut job is very seriously suggesting the radical idea of unfettered access to ... groceries.

The recent passing of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act was done with the best of intentions. The act, established as a way to promote healthy eating among kids and decrease childhood obesity, which is rising at alarming rates, sets nutritional standards for school lunches and snacks available to school-age children. That means the end of the elusive vending machine and the high-calorie snacks it contains.

But don't expect kids to give up their sugar fix so easily…

As The Atlantic reports, jonesing students have turned to the junk-food black market… some as dealers, others as addicts.

That's right, kids are smuggling in junk food, risking punishment, but making bank. The Atlantic reports that some kids are making upwards of $200 per week dealing in sugar, and it’s even hit student government. Yup, a student body vice president at one Connecticut school was forced to resign after buying contraband Skittles from a student "dealer."

That's "recently passed" as of 2011, but of interest today as it is back-to-school time. This is when it is most noticeable, with flyers coming home in packets of forms to complete. We've never been called into the office for sending our kids to school with Frito Lay products in their backpacks, but one does rehearse speeches in preparation for that possibility.

"We ask you to teach our children how to think for themselves but when it comes to the foods they may eat, you teach them that thinking is forbidden."

But jk thinks:

When Cheetos® are outlawed...

Posted by: jk at August 19, 2014 11:39 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Cold, dead, orange fingers.

Posted by: johngalt at August 19, 2014 12:42 PM

August 18, 2014


Everything is improved by competition. I cannot expect that the entire Internet is mine just to provide Review Corner. It was inevitable, really, that someone else would step in.

I was just not prepared for this discussion of Robert Heinlein's "Friday."

Whether it is SFW depends on where you work.

And, is that how you pronounce "Heinlein?"

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 5:08 PM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

Thank you for the link, and for being man enough to promote a competitor! Still hoping to make time for a thorough viewing in the company of the charming literature aficionado and Heinlein acolyte who deigned to accede my nuptial proposal some years back.

Posted by: johngalt at August 19, 2014 12:48 PM
But jk thinks:

Now, what I'd like is a video of Sister dagny's watching that video. That would score an embed whether SFW or not.

Posted by: jk at August 19, 2014 1:06 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Ummm, I think just the one video is enough. We're simple folk.

Posted by: johngalt at August 19, 2014 4:52 PM

America's First Woman President!

Why wait? NYPost:

The former first lady is already insisting on staying in the "presidential suite" of the world's finest hotels, typically traveling to them on nothing less than a $39 million private Gulfstream G450 jet before collecting a $250,000-plus speaking fee, a new report says.

Just like the president, she sends an "advance" team to check out her accommodations and speech set-up before she touches down, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reviewed her standard speaking contract and other documents related to an upcoming Nevada visit.

Hat-tip: Insty

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

Hasn't that title already gone to Valerie Jarrett?

Posted by: johngalt at August 18, 2014 2:55 PM

Quote of the Day

I think this pairs nicely with RAH's "bad luck" quote. It introduced a Chapter in Matt Ridley's "Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters"

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune -- often the surfeit of our own behaviour, -- we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion ... an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star. -- William Shakespeare, King Lear

August 17, 2014

Review Corner

This is an idea that goes right back to Aristode, who said that the 'concept' of a chicken is implicit in an egg, or that an acorn was literally 'informed' by the plan of an oak tree. When Aristode's dim perception of information theory, buried under generations of chemistry and physics, re-emerged amid the discoveries of modern genetics, Max Delbruck joked that the Greek sage should be given a posthumous Nobel prize for the discovery of DNA.
Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist" received five stars and among the first Editor's Choice Award. [Review Corner]. When a friend of a friend on Facebook listed his Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters as being a formative book, I rushed to pick it up on Kindle.

I had recently finished Dennis Bray's Wetware [Review Corner], so I was as up on genetics and cell biology as any time in my life (my tastes run towards Physics and Math, but one cannot help being intrigued). Ridley's takes the genome past genetics and actually does limn a history of life by reading changes in genes and comparing them across species and geography.

If the human genome can tell us things about what happened in the primeval soup, how much more can it tell us about what else happened during the succeeding four million millennia . It is a record of our history written in the code for a working machine.
I was born just five years after the moment when, and just two hundred miles from the place where, two members of my own species discovered the structure of DNA and hence uncovered the greatest, simplest and most surprising secret in the universe .

Mock my zeal if you wish; consider me a ridiculous materialist for investing such enthusiasm in an acronym. But follow me on a journey back to the very origin of life, and I hope I can convince you of the immense fascination of the word.

Well, yeah, Matt. Sign me up. To expand the concepts from genetics to other, superseding concepts, Ridley deftly explains evolution, politics, science, and even economics.
The habit acquired through the sexual division of labour had spread to other aspects of life. We had become compulsively good at sharing things, which had the new benefit of allowing each individual to specialise. It was this division of labour among specialists, unique to our species, that was the key to our ecological success, because it allowed the growth of technology. Today we live in societies that express the division of labour in ever more inventive and global ways.

Pardon the British spellings, but it recalls an interesting section where genetic similarity was compared to language which allowed the comparison of human migration with people bringing their language with them against the flow of ideas and languages among people who stayed put. That's as good an example as I can come up with to show how Ridley expands the genome beyond genetics

Not that there is not plenty of genetics. He ridicules books that "blame" genes for disease. He lists several genetic ailments but reiterates IN ALL CAPS AT ONE POINT that genes are not there to cause diseases anymore than the transmission in your car is there just to malfunction and cause an expensive repair. There is a chapter for each chromosome (with a small twist) and an example sequence to launch a discussion on History (Chromosome 3), Self-interest (Chromosome 8), Sex Memory, Death, Politics, Immortality, Eugenics, Free Will...

From The Rational Optimist, one can expect that when the subject matter drifts into the philosophical/political realm, the ThreeSourcer will not be left behind.

Indeed , the definition of the perfect meritocracy, ironically, is a society in which people's achievements depend on their genes because their environments are equal.
To think otherwise, to believe in innate human behaviour, is to fall into the trap of determinism, and to condemn individual people to a heartless fate written in their genes before they were born. No matter that the social sciences set about reinventing much more alarming forms of determinism to take the place of the genetic form: the parental determinism of Freud; the socio-economic determinism of Marx; the political determinism of Lenin; the peer-pressure cultural determinism of Franz Boas and Margaret Mead; the stimulus- response determinism of John Watson and B. F . Skinner; the linguistic determinism of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. In one of the great diversions of all time, for nearly a century social scientists managed to persuade thinkers of many kinds that biological causality was determinism while environmental causality preserved free will; and that animals had instincts, but human beings did not.

It is a wondrous work. He completed it before the Genome Project but was aware that its completion was immanent. In a later revision, he updates this. But nothing in the sequencing alters or contradicts anything Ridley has written, it just underscores the wonder and paves the way for a bright future.
For we, this lucky generation, will be the first to read the book that is the genome. Being able to read the genome will tell us more about our origins, our evolution, our nature and our minds than all the efforts of science to date. It will revolutionise anthropology, psychology, medicine, palaeontology and virtually every other science .

Five stars and a fulsome recommendation.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 11:09 AM | What do you think? [2]
But dagny thinks:

Oh Man!! I've got to find time for this! JK says, "my tastes run towards Physics and Math, but one cannot help being intrigued." I, on the other hand, can manage physics and math as necessary but biology was always what fascinated me.

P.S. It is one chapter per chromosome pair. Humans actually have 46 chromosomes.

Posted by: dagny at August 18, 2014 12:02 PM
But jk thinks:

I think you'd dig it. (The twist is that the first last Chapter is Chapter 22.)

Posted by: jk at August 18, 2014 1:36 PM

August 16, 2014

Form your own Headline

You have the words: Udall, Spox, Lie, Whopper, and 30 seconds. Go!

The winner is: DAMAGE CONTROL: Udall’s Top Spox Tells Whopper Of Lie

Is it time for Sen. Mark Udall to add another press person? One would think between the three he already has, they wouldn't commit the kind of mistakes you would expect from a dog catcher's campaign. Today, in a completely epic fail, Udall's spokesman Chris Harris, a Kansas City via Washington D.C. transplant unleashed this blatant lie:
.@CoryGardnerCO voted AGAINST bill to re-open government that included $450 million for flood relief. #copolitics

-- Chris Harris (@chris_p_harris) August 15, 2014

The problem is that Gardner not only voted for that bill, but he was also one of the major advocates pushing it. Udall even praised Gardner in a press release on the bill. Don't worry PeakNation™, plenty of screenshots out there of this one just in case Harris wants to go back and delete his boneheaded, blatant lie.

I don't know that this is the worst lie of the campaign, but I will suggest that Sen. Udall's three press persons' time would be better sent fabricating a record for their boss than for his opponent.

The Ithsmus Canal

It's almost enough to make a feller forgive President Theodore Roosevelt: today marks the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal.

The Erie Canal, which connected the Great Lakes with the Hudson River, opened in 1825, greatly shortening the distance between the burgeoning Middle West and the east coast. It quickly made New York City, "that tongue that is licking up the cream of commerce of a continent," and the greatest boom town in world history.

In the mid-19th century, the Suez Canal, originally 102 miles long, shortened the sea route between Europe and India by thousands of miles.

The Panama Canal route was much shorter than these three great canals, a mere 48 miles. But Suez was built in a level, low-lying desert. Building Suez was, therefore, essentially a matter of shoveling sand, although, to be sure, there was a lot of sand to be shoveled.

I know my adamantine recommendation of David McCullough's "Brave Companions" is tiresome, but my friends in the NSA mention that a couple of you have yet to order it. Insty asks "if we could do anything like it today" and I daresay no way in freakin' hell.

McCullough details brave adventures, but also bold projects like the canal and the Brooklyn Bridge which could not have been completed without many of the workers' dying. Nobody values human life more than me. But we cannot do a space launch that goes past 34th Street; we could not put guys under the ocean in wooden boxes to dig and pour bridge pylons; and we certainly could not dig the Panama Canal.

We could repeat these achievements safely with current technology but we'd never complete the paperwork. Yet risky pursuits like space travel are cordoned off. The paperwork jab is a joke -- but everyone knows it is not. Somebody would stop a canal, a bridge, a Dam -- yet we have prospered greatly from their completion.

UPDATE: Professor Reynolds provides the segue post as well: America's Forgotten Astronaut.

If there was a prize for the most isolated memorial to an America astronaut, the one for Maj. Michael J. Adams would win by a wide margin.

From Mojave, it's a drive of nearly 50 miles through the sagebrush and Joshua trees, around dry Koehn Lake, and through the old mining towns of Randsburg and Johannesburg before you reach the unmarked dirt road leading to the site. A half mile of bad road later, you arrive at the modest but heartfelt memorial to one of America’s forgotten space heroes.

It was on this spot where Adams and a large section of his X-15 rocket plane came to rest on Nov. 15, 1967. The vehicle had broken up in flight after Adams lost control of it while re-entering from a suborbital spaceflight.

A brave companion, indeed.

Technology Posted by John Kranz at 2:00 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Boulder Refugee thinks:

The Endangered Species Act, via the UN, would halt any similar project today. In addition, the indigenous peoples would block any development on ancestral lands amid cries of "Yanqui go home!"

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at August 18, 2014 5:07 PM

August 14, 2014

Bad Ideas from the Past

Right wing scolds. I get it, but I just don't get it.Gov. Huckabee and Senator Santorum have deep religious convictions which make it easier. I think they are wrong to push their way of life on me, but I understand the foundation.

Drug Czar Bill Bennett, by comparison, makes me open my eyes widely and cock my head to one side in confusion. He is a very bright guy who has been exposed to some very good ideas. Yet . . .

On a day tensions hove boiled over in Ferguson, Missouri, Bennett has a guest editorial on legalization madness.

The great irony, or misfortune, of the national debate over marijuana is that while almost all the science and research is going in one direction--pointing out the dangers of marijuana use--public opinion seems to be going in favor of broad legalization.

For example, last week a new study in the journal Current Addiction Reports found that regular pot use (defined as once a week) among teenagers and young adults led to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ. On Aug. 9, the American Psychological Association reported that at its annual convention the ramifications of marijuana legalization was much discussed, with Krista Lisdahl, director of the imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, saying: "It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth."

Bill, Krista: put me down as opposed to regular cannabis use in youth (or middle age. Willie, Nelson, by comparison, seems to be doing fine).

Read Bennett's whole piece and you'll see no reference to liberty or John Stuart Mill. "It's bad, and we've a public to protect." I agree it's bad and even I become exasperated by fellow travelers who will not admit that or who want to laugh it off. I have zero interest in arguing whether it is good or bad but I very much will defend anyone who says that it is not Sec. Bennett's right to tell me.

I don't want to oversimplify what is going on in Ferguson either. But if you were to remove all the adverse police-community interactions that represented enforcement of the War on Drugs, that would significantly lower the frustration -- and likely obviate the paramilitary equipment and tactics that the police have used in pursuit of its goals.

War on Drugs Posted by John Kranz at 3:35 PM | What do you think? [0]

Let's all pay off the national debt, together!

I'm from flyover country, and I'm here to help! Yesterday, President Obama explained to all Americans the basic balance sheet options for making ends meet in the national Leviathan that is the United States federal government.

"We're reviewing all of our options," Obama said. "The lost revenue to Treasury means it has got to be made up somewhere, and that typically is going to be a bunch of hard-working Americans who either pay through higher taxes themselves or through reduced services."

Many of us have selfishly urged, or demanded, that government balance its budget by spending less. Legislators and presidents have come and gone, election after election, never able - for some reason - to bring government spending under control or even, for that matter, reduce it by a single dime. Whatever the causes of this official recalcitrance, I now repent my prior demands and acknowledge the role President Obama reminds me that I play in balancing the federal government budget. I will do my fair share. Nay, I will do my full share. I do firmly pledge and promise, now and forever, to pay every possible penny into the Treasury "through reduced services" from this day forward.

Join me. It'll be easy if we can all stop being so selfish.

Confucius Never Said

LOTR-F for those unfortunate souls who missed it:

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 12:16 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

But Confucious did say, according to Ms. Raleigh, "Some people were born to be rulers and some people were born to be subjects." Are we done with Confucious now, at least in regard to political philosophy?

Her third of three purposes is to highlight the Ominous Parallels* between Mao's China and modern America. I wonder if Confucious would have also said it is proper for some people to tell other people the maximum size for commercial trade in soft drinks? And every government regulation from there on up.

Not quite the Chinese Rand but a lot of similarities.

* Title of Leonard Peikoff book on the similarities between modern America and Nazi Germany.

Posted by: johngalt at August 15, 2014 2:44 PM
But jk thinks:

I just started the book today; it is very good.

That's me giving her the high fastball over the plate at the very end of the video. She settles for a contact single in the gap, but the book is less bashful about claiming philosophical foundations.

Posted by: jk at August 16, 2014 2:12 PM

Don't Frack My Mother...

We're number eight!

In an annual report of the top 10 oil states put together by the financial website 24/7 Wall St., New Mexico supplanted Oklahoma with 965 million barrels of proven oil reserves.

Oklahoma actually saw its oil reserves increase by 55 million barrels in 2012, but it couldn’t keep up with the increase New Mexico made.

Here’s a look at the top 10:
2.North Dakota
5.New Mexico

Oil and Energy Posted by John Kranz at 11:33 AM | What do you think? [0]

August 13, 2014

Islam on Sex and the "rights" of "slaves"

Heh. Don't get many opportunities to use the "slavery" category these days but such is the gift that is the darkness of [they refer to it as, simply] IS. (Islamic State)

In the first comment to this oft-cited (at least by yours truly) post I riffed on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's claim in a WSJ piece that a central part of what the jihadists are about is the oppression of women.

The central issue here, morally justified by the "pure principles of the Prophet" is a profound illiberalism. One which permits one class - devout Muslim men - to do anything his heart desires to every member of any other group. A "license to rape" is a popular selling point to young men.

This idea was horrific enough in the antiseptic realm of the intellect. Today I find purportedly devout young Muslim men Tweeting about what a believer is permitted to do with his female slaves.

Islam allows "slavery". Women can be captured, men can be killed. The Prophet approved this ...

is their a limit to how many slave women can have?

I'm not sure there's a fixed limit.

that in islam u dont need to marry a slave to have physical relationship with her

a slave is not one of your wives, you can have relationship with her as long as she's your slave

Don't worry, though, because "slaves" have "rights."

Sex has to be consentual though and it only applies to concubines. Mut'ah [temporary marriage for pleasure] is a big no no

whats the definition of concubine, isnt it the same as a person u own, obvious in islam they have rights

But their intentions are "good" right? As AHA explained, "Boko Haram [and all Islamists, by extension] sincerely believes that girls are better off enslaved than educated." Noble even. With benefactors like that, who needs an evil overlord?


I can be provocative, too.

Holman Jenkins takes to the WSJ Ed Page for a few swipes at the left::

The "no blood for oil" crowd has piped up with surprising speed and noisiness in the short hours since President Obama recommitted U.S. forces to the fight in Iraq.

Steve Coll, a writer for the New Yorker, suggests in a piece posted on the magazine's website that "Kurdish oil greed," whose partner Mr. Obama now becomes, has been a primary factor in making Iraq a failed state. That's apparently because of the Kurds' unwillingness to reach a revenue-sharing deal with Baghdad. For good measure, he refers readers to a Rachel Maddow video, featuring Steve Coll, that argues that the U.S. invaded Iraq to gets its oil in the first place.

Our dear friends, the Kurds, would like to pump oil out of the ground and sell it to anyone who meets their price. This will empower and enrich free people and diminish the power of authoritarians in Russia and hostile Mideastern Countries. By contrast, ISIS/ISIL want to starve people, force conversions, flood whole cities, and bury people alive.

So, yeah, let's defend Northern Iraqi - Kurdish oil production!

Iraq Posted by John Kranz at 2:33 PM | What do you think? [0]

August 12, 2014

All Hail Taranto!

A crumb over the paywall (Rupert said it was fine):


Rep. Trey Gowdy

You're welcome.

But Keith Arnold thinks:

Holy hell - a good, old-fashioned lesson in Civics, delivered on the floor of Congress. Not since Davy Crockett sat in that chamber have I heard this (yeah, that's a reference).

Trey Gowdy, Jim DeMint, Nikki Haley - there's definitely a lot to make a Carolina boy proud these days. Y'all know that South Carolina was the first state to sign the Articles of Confederation, right?

Hey, you know what else South Carolina gave us? FORT SUMTER.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 12, 2014 7:03 PM
But jk thinks:

Good stuff. I just watched it again to show the lovely bride.

Blog friend tg and I are big fans of the triumvirate of Clay, Webster, and [South Carolina's] Calhoun. It's laughable -- and cryable -- to compare current members to men of their conviction, integrity and oratory.

But it is nice to hear an echo, is it not?

Posted by: jk at August 13, 2014 9:48 AM

Quote of the Day

Now Ron Fournier wonders if Americans would rally behind Obama after another 9/11 the way we rallied behind Bush, and I think the answer is no -- because Obama has spent his entire time in office flicking boogers at half the country. -- Glenn Reynolds
The Perfesser is commenting on a Megan McArdle piece which says something I thought from January 20, 2009: Sec. Clinton would have made a far better president.
But Keith Arnold thinks:

I'm going to be the bad guy and go a step further: I do not believe that Americans would rally behind Obama after another 9/11 like they did with Bush, because most Americans I know, including some who voted for Obama and in the main agree with him (yes, hard as it is to believe, I do have some friends in that part of the political spectrum that I haven't already completely alienated), because they understand something that is a critical difference.

When 9/11 happened on Bush's watch, it happened because the terrorists were fanatics that hate The Great Satan that is America. We were friends with Israel, we were (in their misguided fantasies) corrupting the Islamic Middle East with our imperialist Western ways, and all that rigamarole.

If another 9/11 happens, and this one on Obama's watch, people understand that it will be because we have emboldened the bad actors. Every decision we've made in the Middle East had been the wrong one - regime change in Egypt, Qaddafi in Libya, our role in Afghanistan, the pullout from Iraq, our stance in Syria, et cetera, ad nauseum, ad infinitum, amen.

Obama has weakened this nation, and the bad actors know it. To them, we are not seen as compromising or placating; to them, we are seen as vulnerable to attack. We lack will in our national leadership, our borders are more porous than ever, and we're doing nothing about it.

There is a very small but very strident cabal of people in this country who think that 9/11 was Bush's fault: inside job, fire doesn't melt steel, the Jews were forewarned, yada yada yada. If another attack happens now, a very large group of reasonable-minded people will already know that Obama had a hand in making it happen, and they will be right. Those people will rally together for the nation, but in doing so they will make Obama own it.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 12, 2014 12:33 PM
But jk thinks:

Echoing that -- and our Facebook persiflage where I once again pushed "Deepak Lal libertarianism," Judge Richard Epstein has an interesting piece: Pax Americana is Dead.

The second issue Friedman never addressed is the deterioration in world peace that has happened since President Obama became president. No one can claim that Iraq was at peace when George W. Bush left office, but the violence had been curbed. Since Obama has taken over, relative tranquility yielded to factional squabbling, followed by vicious aggression that caught the President woefully off guard. Iraq is not alone. The number of hotspots in the world -- including Gaza, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Ukraine and the China Sea -- is increasing. The President wrings his hands over how difficult it has become to find credible allies in the world to address these problems without ever asking why no one trusts him. So he resolves to hold back on the use of American force overseas. Armed with that certainty, every tin pot dictator and terrorist group thinks it has an open field in which to run.

The President's blunders remind us that we need Pax Americana in international affairs. If the United States maintains a large military force and is prepared to use it, the threat of American force could snuff out a large number of troublemakers and help decent people organize their own affairs. It was this policy that made NATO such a success in the immediate post-war years. It will also allow the United States to use force effectively when needed. But once our commander-in-chief neutralizes America's military might, weaker but more determined nations and groups know that they have a free hand to follow their own aggressive agendas. Worse still, this passive policy invites new thugs like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to propel themselves into regional prominence.

Posted by: jk at August 12, 2014 1:00 PM
But johngalt thinks:

In order to rally behind him, wouldn't he have to be in the lead? Waiting.

Posted by: johngalt at August 12, 2014 6:50 PM

August 11, 2014

The Science is Settled!

Warmin'? Coolin'? It's a conundrum -- but one with a chocolaty certain center.

Or, we have no freaking idea what is going on -- but, the science is settled!

The scientists call this problem the Holocene temperature conundrum. It has important implications for understanding climate change and evaluating climate models, as well as for the benchmarks used to create climate models for the future. It does not, the authors emphasize, change the evidence of human impact on global climate beginning in the 20th century.

"The question is, 'Who is right?'" says Liu. "Or, maybe none of us is completely right. It could be partly a data problem, since some of the data in last year's study contradicts itself. It could partly be a model problem because of some missing physical mechanisms."

But johngalt thinks:

By "settled" science don't they mean that they know what is happening?

"In the Northern Atlantic, there is cooling and warming data the (climate change) community hasn't been able to figure out," says Liu.

But perhaps there is consensus on something.

"The fundamental laws of physics say that as the temperature goes up, it has to get warmer," Liu says.

But certainly not everything. Or even, really, much of anything.

"Both communities have to look back critically and see what is missing," he [Liu] says. "I think it is a puzzle."

Dang, the DAWG illuminati really had better get this Liu character back on the reservation, and quick. There is definitely way too much plain and clear speaking going on here.

Posted by: johngalt at August 12, 2014 7:00 PM

Our own Ellsworth Toohey

When I read "The Fountainhead," I found Ellsworth Toohey to be unbelievable. Rand is frequently criticized that her heroic characters are too heroic, but my hang-up was with Toohey; what's in it for him?

Then, Don Luskin cast Paul Krugman as Toohey in his "I Am John Galt" and all of life made sense. What's in it for Krugman? The academic power of being held in high esteem by the pointy-heads that matter to him. The pulpit of the New York Times Ed Page.

Aaaaaand, he's at it. Taranto (and Dan Mitchell) make fun of him for his blanket assertions. From 2009:

In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We've all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.

Why? Paul says. Today's blanket assertion: the welfare state -- like the NHS -- is fine! No worries! Just a bunch of libertarians off the rails.
As Mike [Konczal] says, this notion rests on the belief that the welfare state is a crazily complicated mess of inefficient programs, and that simplification would save enough money to pay for universal grants that are neither means-tested nor conditional on misfortune. But the reality is nothing like that. The great bulk of welfare-state spending comes from a handful of major programs, and these programs are fairly efficient, with low administrative costs.

Like a gifted sommelier, Krugman pairs falsehoods with straw-men. Distortionary pressures and opacity are more central to the minimum income debate than administrative costs.

He thinks Rep. Paul Ryan is "in a fantasy world" for thinking we're living in an Ayn Rand novel. But . . . he's Ellsworth Toohey!

But johngalt thinks:

A work of rhetorical art: "Like a gifted sommelier, Krugman pairs falsehoods with straw-men."


As for Toohey, the more important self-interest payoff to him was the ability to harm men of greater ability than himself. To cut down the "tall poppy" as it were. This is the light in which to properly view government regulations like those of the EPA.

Posted by: johngalt at August 11, 2014 3:57 PM

Great Stagnation -- or Not

Northwestern University Professor Joel Mokyr is not buying the great stagnation theory. True, the low-hanging fruit of women's entering the workforce has been plucked as it were. And that Internet-thingy is pretty well baked in to GDP (that is not a mixed metaphor: GDP is a pie containing low-hanging fruit -- keep up with me, people!)

Mokyr suggests a one-word response: "technology." Like me, he sees nanotech and genetics and increased digital access to knowledge and data to be just as exciting as previous advances.

The breakthroughs are not "on the horizon." They are here. The economy may be facing some headwinds, but the technological tailwind is more like a tornado. Fasten your seat belts.

So: If everything is so good, why is everything so bad? Why the gloominess of so many of my colleagues? Part of the story is that economists are trained to look at aggregate statistics like GDP per capita and measure for things like "factor productivity." These measures were designed for a steel-and-wheat economy, not one in which information and data are the most dynamic sectors. They mismeasure the contributions of innovation to the economy.

August 10, 2014

Review Corner

What you are doing as an enzyme is analogous to what a transistor in an electronic circuit does (or a vacuum tube in one of Grey Walter's tortoises). The electrical current through the device can be thought of as the pipeline conversion by the enzyme. The controlling voltage, typically applied to the base terminal of the transistor, is like the small molecule that binds to the enzyme and regulates its activity. Small fluctuations in the concentration of B control the rate of A' production. And the quantitative relationship between the two need not be simple. Depending on the details of protein structure, the chemical output of the enzyme may be a highly amplified version of its input, as it often is for a transistor.
Dennis Bray has an entire book to provide nuance in Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell. I have bad typing skills and a distracted readership. Please set your "infer" dial on one or two. Bray is careful to ensure that readers are not taking leaps with his suggestions.

But you see what I did there? I made an analogy of the human brain to a computer. Bray is not suggesting amoebic sentience, but his rich portrayal of cell structure and processes shows these tiny life units to be far more complex than we imagine. Even more interestingly, the tasks they need to perform for survival require what is at least analogous to memory and cognition.

Now I can give bacterial memory a molecular explanation. Bacteria store a running record of the attractants they encounter. This tells them whether things are better or worse: whether the quantity of food molecules in their vicinity is higher or lower than it was a few seconds ago. It's a pragmatic strategy: if conditions are improving, continue swimming; if not, tumble and try another direction.

I may have mentioned that biology was not my strong suit in school. Bray describes the chemical processes in detail -- the book seems accessible yet comprehensive. He provides sufficient detail on what is going on, then draws his analogies and asks deeper questions. Bray's mechanical analogies to cells is bold and unexpected -- but when it comes to the inevitable mind-computer comparison he backs off.
A neuronal synapse reveals most clearly the distinction between living and nonliving computers. Since it carries information from one nerve cell to another, you might be tempted to represent it as a single transistor in a printed circuit-as a single bit of information. But this would be to miss the point. Far from performing in a rigid, stereotypical, predictable fashion, synapses are richly, almost infinitely, variable in their input-output relationships.

My start-up was attempting to commercialize cutting-edge AI research -- basically trying to provide a limited-domain "Siri" ten years earlier. Moore's Law or Cole's Law notwithstanding, computers look pretty simplistic compared to biology.
It is impossible, I think, for us to envision the richness and diversity of cell chemistry. The level of detail is atomic in dimensions but astronomical in variety. Every structure inside a cell is covered with a mosaic of chemical groups, positioned and maintained by the mechanisms just mentioned. Every protein molecule is subtly different, carrying not only the imprint of history, shaped by evolution over millennia, but also an echo of recent events.
The processes I've collected in this book under the term wetware include most of the chemical reactions inside cells. They include the transformations of small molecules familiar in energy metabolism and the synthetic reactions used to make large molecules; the modifications in structure of proteins by addition of phosphate and methyl groups; the assembly of proteins into large complexes; the turning on and off of genes; the transport of ions and small molecules across membranes; the generation of mechanical force and directed motion.

Wetware is informative and thought-provoking. By sheer accident, I moved from it to Matt Ridley's Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. Both are accessible, but I was glad to have the primer in proteins and cell chemistry from Wetware.

Four stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 9:48 AM | What do you think? [0]

August 9, 2014

Eastern Thought

After I posted my jingoistic screed against the deeply held spiritual thought that I find common in Eastern Religions, I finished Matt Ridley's awesome-on-stilts "Genome." Review Corner on its way but I had to share this quote from the last chapter:

The Maternal and Infant Health Care Law, which came into effect only in 1994, makes premarital check-ups compulsory and gives to doctors , not parents , the decision to abort a child. Nearly ninety per cent of Chinese geneticists approve of this compared with five per cent of American geneticists; by contrast eighty-five per cent of the American geneticists think an abortion decision should be made by the woman, compared with forty-four per cent of the Chinese.

Ridley, Matt (2013-03-26). Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (P.S.) (Kindle Locations 4841-4844). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

I cannot help but believe that this is not a byproduct of authoritarianism, but that authoritarianism and acceptance of the State's aborting a child have a common ancestor.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 11:08 AM | What do you think? [0]

August 8, 2014

Russ Roberts Call Your Office!

[For those who miss the arcane illusion, Russ Roberts wrote a fiction book which explains economic principles. The Price of Everything delights the serious economist with humorous allusions, while the main plotline illustrates some of the dismal science's counterintuitive predictions to those who have not encountered or understood them. The primary plot concerns a student protest against price gouging after a hurricane.]

Benjamin Zycher looks at complaints of gouging in the recent Lake Erie scare. The Demagogues are out to ensnare those who used supply and demand pricing to get reliable water supplies to those who best needed it.

Zycher asks the obvious question: how are you going to ration it? Let the first rapacious customer buy 20 pallets at 0.99/six pack and then he gouges the next guy? Or washes his dog while sick children suffer (you don't hate children, do you?) Limit sales to one bottle, so those with more time get more water? He also does a great riff that ThreeSourcers might enjoy, relating it to rights.

The last time I read the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, it said something rather sharply unfavorable about involuntary servitude. Are sellers of bottled water now to be forced to sell at prices approved by [Ohio Attorney General Mike] DeWine? Recall that during the natural gas crisis in the winter of 1977 -- caused not by some natural disaster, but instead by federal price controls -- the Ohio state police barged into people's houses to check their thermostats, without warrants, without statutory authority, without any constitutional basis whatever. When a real water crisis arises, will DeWine try to monitor and limit water consumption in people's homes? Someone ought to ask DeWine if that road is likely to yield greater "fairness." This kind of metastasizing government power as always will be characterized by ineptitude, ignorance, and an overriding instinct for political self-preservation. And unlike the entrepreneurs, who have to persuade people to buy their product at a mutually acceptable price, the DeWines of the world have little basis to claim that they "represent consumers."

But johngalt thinks:

Let's play 'Name that root cause.' My answer: egalitarianism

Posted by: johngalt at August 8, 2014 3:20 PM
But jk thinks:

I'm leaning toward "ignorance." Talking about innate human reactions, I think it "natural" to say "Damn, those greedy bastards are capitalizing on our misfortune!"

After reading Roberts's book, I think most would accept price as an allocation tool, but would not discard egalitarianism.

Posted by: jk at August 9, 2014 11:22 AM

August 7, 2014

Talkin' Obama Blues

That's the title of Dan Henninger's Wonder Land column this week. The whole piece is excellent, covering the Rorschach test that is our 44th President with a gift to make everyone think he is on their side. Henninger questions the "gift" as more world leaders discover -- at inappropriate times -- that President Obama is not actually in agreement.

But he hits on somethin' that has been drivin' me nutty, and that's how he's talkin'! We've seen g's dropped at NASCAR events or the Dallas Evangelical Prayer Breakfast. But our Haaavaaad educated Chief Executive has not voiced the seventh letter of the alphabet at the end of a word in some time.

It started with all those weird, dropped "g's." A cranial gong goes off when Barack Obama starts droppin' "g's." The American president who is seen discoursing eloquently at the African leaders summit hits the stump and suddenly he sounds like Gabby Hayes. "Folks like you are havin' a hard time makin' it when the wealthiest are grabbin' it all in for themselves."

What is worse, Mr. Obama has used his empathy gift only in one direction--to animate his base against opponents. It worked for him. He won re-election.

But the way Mr. Obama talks, and talks, has diminished his authority and credibility. The U.S. has a president who is capable of moving factions with words, but not a people. This is a president without a presidential vocabulary.

August 6, 2014

JK's Theory of the Source of Rights.

I very much enjoyed Helen Raleigh's talk at Liberty on the Rocks - Flatirons a week ago. She was promoting her book: Confucius Never Said.

The title comes from "Confucius Say.." jokes -- but Raleigh reminds us what he did not say: "All Men are Created Equal." The Eastern thought accepted a much more hierarchical and less individualistic existence. Her -- grisly -- tales of Mao's Great Leap Forward, the privations and famine, and the barbaric treatment of her family in her native China are sobering consequences of this omission.

I've railed against the uncritical acceptance of what I call "Eastern Thought:" an admittedly overbroad collection of different and substantive philosophies and religion. But I considered them connected by a shared acceptance of the mystic and spiritual over the rational and the communal over the individual. (In humility I must point out that I could not get the author to assent to a broad condemnation of Confucianism as a foundation of China's historical struggles.)

With that preface, here is my elevator talk for Western Enlightenment values that I have been mulling. Per the objectivist/source of rights discussion below, I offer my own source of rights.

I don't want to be jingoist to my Hemisphere. There has, I purport, only been one good idea in the history of man. It happened to be Western. Flip of the coin: 50% chance. I also don't claim credit because it happened 200+ years ago to those to whom I am unrelated. But the one good idea is "all men are created equal."

From this, I can derive all the Lockean Values: man has a right to life, liberty and property -- not given by God or enforceable by the world, but vis-à-vis other men. I cannot take your sandwich. A bear can still eat you. But you and I, being equal cannot claim another's life, liberty, or property.

From Lockean values, I can derive the full set of Enlightenment values. Free will is based on equality as my thoughts are as valuable as yours. Reason is based on free will; innovation, science, and Popperian epistemology all follow from reason.

Where "all men are created equal" has been applied, pari-passu with the purity of its application, it has produced innovation, affluence, and empowerment of the individual. America became richer when the domain was expanded, China became richer when it was applied even in a limited fashion.

Quod Erat Demonstratum?

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 7:02 PM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

"Only one good idea in the history of man?" For the argument's sake let's change that to "One idea in the history of man is better than all others." And it is a good idea. One which was more important in an era where men were granted "birthright" power over other men by virtue of the class status of their birth. But the idea has not, it seems to me, well borne the test of time and collectivist assault. You offer a good derivation of individual rights from the inherent equality, before the law, of all men. But the statist and the theist offer conflicting derivations of their own. And how do you reject their claims as less valid than yours? After all, they are rooted in the same fundamental idea and your own philosophy holds that, in the name of equality, your thoughts are as valuable as theirs (and vice versa.)

So I think we now see how it takes more than the ability to derive a theory of rights from an axiomatic principle in order to defend birthright individual liberty. It also requires an axiomatic principle from which liberty's enemies may not also derive a contradictory theory. A theory of community. A theory of divine will. A theory of human slavery.

Biddle names an alternate axiomatic principle in his essay: Man cannot live without thinking and acting rationally or, in the cases where he cannot or will not do so, living parasitically on the rational efforts of others. This axiom is an example of the identity theorem, that a thing is itself and only itself, not more than one thing at the same time. Man is man. A is A.

Admittedly it requires more thought, explanation and understanding to arrive at a principle of rights from this axiom than from "because: Liberty" or even from "all men are created equal." But doing so removes the moral sanction that statists claim as justification for all of their violations of your rights and is therefore a necessary step before mankind may ever reach a truly free and peaceful social order. [This is admittedly my own premise - feel free to challenge it.]

If it will make this easier to explain to others perhaps you might state it in summary as, "All men are created individual." If you can derive your same Lockean values from this it will suit your immediate purposes, while helping thwart the purposes of your philosophic enemies - the ones who ceaselessly claim some right to take rights from you.

Posted by: johngalt at August 7, 2014 1:53 AM
But jk thinks:

I may have to give you this round and concentrate on Craig Biddle's Libertarian post below. This was its maiden voyage and you have exposed a serious flaw in its "pervertability."

The target demographic of this argument is the Boulderite who believes that the world would be perfect if we followed Eastern wisdom and lived as Buddhists, Taoists, and Confucians and threw out all that wicked Western medicine and just got our Chi and Chakras in order.

I think it retains value for that, but as an overarching system of the source of human rights it needs a little work.

Posted by: jk at August 7, 2014 9:45 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Those advocates of Eastern wisdom might be right, if there were no such thing as pirates. (Or Ebola.)

Posted by: johngalt at August 8, 2014 12:24 PM

Libertarianism's fatal flaw

I have, of late, been at a loss to explain my philosophical differences with the Libertarian Party. Its siren song of "because: freedom" has a sweet, sweet sound, after all, and the threat of an all-encompassing government constitutes a desperate time, possibly justifying desperate measures like, say, voting Libertarian. But Craig Biddle's 2013 article in The Objective Standard is both thorough and precise in explaining the folly of libertarianism, with a big or small L. Essentially, Biddle explains, libertarianism is a political philosophy without a moral philosophy, thus making it "compatible" with multiple moral philosophies. Or so they claim.

Libertarianism is an effort to establish a big tent under which everyone who advocates "rights" or the "nonaggression axiom" can gather and get along and fight for "liberty" -- regardless of any moral or philosophic differences they may have. As Alexander McCobin, executive director of Students for Liberty, explains, "libertarianism is a political philosophy that prioritizes the principle of liberty":
[Y]ou can be a libertarian and be a Hindu, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Deist, an agnostic, an atheist, or a follower of any other religion, so long as you respect the equal rights of others. . . . Libertarianism is not a philosophy of life . . . or metaphysics or religion . . . or value, though it's certainly compatible with an infinite variety of such philosophies.16

McCobin is correct. You can be a libertarian regardless of any deeper philosophic ideas you might have. Libertarianism is precisely a big-tent ideology that is not concerned with deeper moral or philosophic issues. But this is not a favorable feature of libertarianism; it is a fatal flaw.

People cannot credibly, coherently, or effectively defend liberty if their more fundamental moral and philosophic ideas are in conflict with rights. And the fundamental tenets of most people's philosophies and religions flatly contradict the idea that rights should be respected -- or that they even exist.

I highly encourage reading the entire article here. It is long but, as I said, thorough. (If you're into that kind of thing.)

But johngalt thinks:

I agree they are heartwarming stories. They even warm my cold, cruel, secret-decoder-ring heart. And on top of that, I WANT TO KNOW WHY. I give a flip as to the causes of joyful emotions, because I really want to avoid sorrow.

What SC calls a "secret-decoder-ring" definition, Plato described as an extra dimension. Rand explained emotions as "print-outs, daily and hourly" generated by your subconscious mind, calculated according to your values - values which are consciously chosen or "programmed by chance - and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted." Morpheus offered Neo a choice - "believe what you want to believe" or "stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I'm offering is the truth - nothing more."

I am unaware of any ThreeSourcer who has taken the blue pill so I'll continue.

The idea that altruism is equivalent to love and compassion, with no nasty side effects, is programmed into us by all of the philosophies named by Biddle, each in its own unique way. But that idea is wrong.

The dictionary definition of altruism as "the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others" is incomplete. But the same dictionary offers the not-so-secret key, in the form of an opposite definition: egoism.

egoism (n) 1. the habit of valuing everything only in reference to one's personal interest; selfishness (opposed to altruism.)

So you may easily see that the complete definition of altruism, i.e. the opposite to egoism, is as follows:

the principle or practice of valuing everything only in reference to the welfare of others

At this point it is important to understand that the habit of valuing everything only in reference to one's personal interest leaves an open door to valuing the interests of others. But valuing everything only in reference to the welfare of others makes no reciprocal allowance for the welfare of, yourself.

"Oh you're just being overly literal, jg." True. But this is the complete principle of altruism, in opposition to the "evil" and "self-centered" egoism, and its accolytes are judged relative to the purity of their adherence to it. No matter how selfless you are, you are told to give more. But at some point, most men turn around and tell the looter, "No. That is enough. The rest is for me and the ones I love." The remainder are monks.

Tell me now - if you have made it this far without an emotional response that caused you to dismiss everything I have said - doesn't the true evil and self-centeredness dwell in the minds of men who keep telling you, "Give more?"

We think we like the stories where people learn the joy of helping others instead of achieving their selfish goals but what they are really doing is, choosing different selfish goals.

Posted by: johngalt at August 8, 2014 12:06 PM
But jk thinks:

Emotional? Nope "Now we're really havin' fun!"

I must defend the Secret Decoder Ring (SDR) as I brought it up. It was used against me and I have to admit its legitimacy. Even you, I'm going to point out, discard the dictionary definition for one of your creation. That's SDR.

"Altruism Bad" and "Selfishness Good" are purposefully provocative statements. Ayn Rand has whole books and preternatural expository skills to defend these points. When the poor acolyte (in this instance me) is called upon, it doesn't always go so well.

I wonder that it would not have been better to make up words. Provocative conversation-starters are swell, but you end up asking someone to discard their definitions of words and accept not only a new philosophy but also accept its terminology. Rand and Biddle are welcome to define and explain what "Objectivism" is. When they redefine words in frequent use, then they are fiddling with the SDR.

The only accusation is entomological (I hope that's words and not bugs, I often confuse them), not philosophical. You say altruism is bad -- but then every thing I say is altruism you say is not.

That is why I go to George Bailey. If that is not altruism, I am packing my bags and heading for Cleveland. He subsumes his prodigious talents and desires to live a life which frustrates him, working with dimwitted relatives in a trade he hates instead of joining his intelligent and ambitious friends. But at the end, we're told "it's all okay, because a lot of people really like him. And isn't that what really matters?" And then they give him their money.

I chose that as an unmistakable example and think Mister Dickens's close behind. I can provide about 654,391 more of these against about five of self-reliance (maybe six, Nick Gillespie's recommendation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Blithedale Romance" is shaping up very well).

That's just art and artists. I'm also reading Bob Margolin's superb "Steady Rollin' Man" and you'll be shocked to hear that the great blues guitarist is not a closet Hayekian. He's just played a Republican fundraiser and is stupefied that they do not have three heads and that they like, know and appreciate blues. He is more happily surprised that they buy out the cases of CDs he and Pinetop Perkins have brought -- even after paying the astronomical $75 to attend!

Pretty funny, but only a slight digression. I accept that art tends more Dionysian than Apollonian, but think that Objectivists need infer from this the existence of innate communitarianism and altruism.

Posted by: jk at August 9, 2014 11:58 AM
But johngalt thinks:

That is a fair criticism, if redefining words is really what I am doing. This is the first time I've taken this new explanation out for a spin and it may not work right. Let's look under the hood.

I linked a specific dictionary definition. I find it self-contradictory. It gives a "definition" and an antonym, or as they expressed it an "opposite," of egoism. But the definition is not precisely opposite. The culturally accepted definition is purposely vague. Why? If a man's fate hangs in the balance of a judgment based on this definition, how is it to be fairly decided? So is egoism its opposite, or not? And if egoism is not altruism's opposite, what is? Name that word that for centuries has been allowed to hide behind the "evil" word egoism.

Since the dominant western morality is founded on the principle of altruism, shouldn't it have a more precise definition than does pornography?

And is completing a definition really changing it? I added the missing words "everything" and "only." If more altruism is always better than less, is pure altruism not the ideal?

Posted by: johngalt at August 11, 2014 12:03 PM
But jk thinks:

All is exacerbated by starting with the generally accepted meaning of altruism which comes pretty close to "be nice." You have to move them to a more precise usage -- and then nudge it to the side which contains the disturbing implications.

I'm more interested in George Bailey. You and Nathaniel Branden rightly ask people to understand Rand and point out areas where you disagree (instead of just saying that she's wicked...) I think she is wrong to claim altruism is learned and egoism is innate.

Posted by: jk at August 11, 2014 12:35 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm not trying to explain this to "them" but to you. You mentioned your not buying in, but several of your answers refer to "we" and "them." I'm not inquiring whether you believe some group of people might understand this, but whether you do as an individual. And I encourage a cleave between understand and agree. Perhaps it is I who needs change his conclusion, if you can help me see the inconsistency through reason.

What does it mean to credibly, coherently, or effectively defend liberty?

Can it be done if your more fundamental moral and philosophic ideas are in conflict with rights?

I am saying that unless the proponent of liberty is prepared to place the principle of rights above the conflicting principles in whatever deeper moral philosophy he holds, he cannot expect others to do so when he attempts to defend liberty from their opposing principle. In fact, a libertarian will not even ask that question. Perhaps libertarianism is a stepping stone to a political philosophy that arranges liberty as the deeper principle, but it does not do that itself. Adherents seem to think that would be too confrontational and a barrier to entry in the movement. And they're probably right. But the more explicit philosphies continue to have greater appeal, even when they are flawed.


By the way, I believe I erred earlier when I implied that all of the "joy of helping others" stories embodied individuals changing their selfish goals to ones that also benefit others. The two examples you chose are excellent because I think that dynamic fits in the Scrooge story but not George Bailey. He clearly sacrificed his future goals because he thought that others needed him. He allowed the needs of others to place a claim on his life, and most of those who cheered did not ask why - nor did Bailey. But viewers were happy that the story took that turn, even if Bailey was not. If altruism is not learned, why are there so many lessons in it? You see ubiquitous stories as celebration of genuine human nature and I see it as a self-reinforcing perversion of human nature. If altruism is innate, why did Bailey struggle with the question, even for a moment?

I hesistate to ask another question here in comment #17 but maybe we'll reach a mutual understanding on one of them, without a secret decoder ring between us, so here goes: Why are there so many books and programs and debates about the origin of the universe, and so few about the origin of altruism? We could just as well accept the existence of the universe as innate, couldn't we? But a fair number of people do seem to ask some questions that, on their face, seem unanswerable. And I might add, have much less impact on their daily lives.

Posted by: johngalt at August 11, 2014 3:50 PM
But jk thinks:

Fair cop on pronouns. I'd like to explain to "them" the importance of individual rights without really being a "we" in accepting Rand's derivation of the source of these rights. Clearly Kimosabe should declare his antecedents.

Where we differ, it is more on your second question, "Can [defending liberty] be done if your more fundamental moral and philosophic ideas are in conflict with rights?"

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! That's where I part with Biddle. I could look to my personal friends, or ThreeSourcers, or even the brilliant founders of this great Republic. I see a great disparity in "fundamental moral and philosophic ideas" and yet a great commonality in their belief and capacity to defend rights.

Only a little flippancy causes me to ask whether philosophies "with greater appeal" are in-spite-of or actually because-of their underlying flaws and inconsistencies.

The victory of altruism in "It's a Wonderful Life," for the same reason I'm not ready to concede "A Christmas Carol," is that of course we want to be selfish (you've succeeded beyond your wildest dreams at establishing innate egoism). What is heroic is to want to travel the world and build dams and revolutionize industry -- but to overcome that and accept your duty to others. If it was not hard, it wouldn't be heroic. Liking ice cream is rarely the climax of fine literature.

I suggest the plotline resonates with an innate altruism in the reader/viewer. Yes there have been a thousand PBS cartoons on the joys and wonders of recycling, but this story transcends cultures centuries, and languages.

Not sure I get the final question (or I am frightened). I consider the universe innate but still enjoy books about its structure, workings and history. There is insufficient entropy around altruism to warrant too many books.

Posted by: jk at August 11, 2014 5:21 PM

Quote of the Day

All Hail! David Harsanyi is not too impressed with Jonathan Alter's "Loyalty Oaths" and President Obama's "Economic Patriotism."

Clearly I'm not the rock-ribbed patriot Alter is, because I hope corporations continue to use inversion to avoid taxation until DC is forced to pass reform that completely eliminates corporate taxes that unnecessarily burden consumers. Multinational corporations do not exist to be tax collectors. Now, if a person was going to get into the economic patriotism game, he might point out that rent-seeking companies that subsist on government subsidies and use their political connections in Washington as a cudgel against competition, are engaged in something far more un-American. And you can imagine the unholy cronyism that's likely to erupt once the executive branch begins deciding which companies deserved to be rewarded for their patriotism.

Hat-tip: Insty

Front Lines

Oh, to own a TV station in the Centennial State, that's the life for me. Rep. Cory Gardner (R - TV Star) is in every commercial. In Sen. Udall's, he is dark and grainy, moving in stroboscopic slow motion to rob the state of its ladyparts. In his, he is enjoying the clean mountain air with his cute daughter -- in Technicolor.

ThreeSourcers are used to my hyperbole. Clearly not every TV commercial in August is about the senate race. Some are about fracking.

The WSJ Ed Page sees capitulation as Colorado Democrats seek to disassociate themselves with the destruction of energy jobs without antagonizing their wealthy environmental base.

How worried are Democrats about the November election? Look no further than Colorado, where this week they leaned on their green supporters to mute their anti-natural gas drilling agenda that is proving to be unpopular even in a liberal-trending state.

Democratic Congressman and environmental activist Jared Polis on Monday announced--through gritted teeth--that he is withdrawing his support for two ballot initiatives that would have effectively halted the drilling technique known as hydraulic oil- and gas fracturing in the state. Mr. Polis has poured millions of dollars of his own cash to promote the measures, which the anti-fracking left has advertised as a national showdown over natural gas.

Yet Mr. Polis now says he'll settle for a blue-ribbon commission to study the issue, a walk-back that puts partisan interests above his green principles. Will he now be excommunicated from the church of global warming?

As Johnny Cash says "It's gonna be just gorgeous!"

UPDATE: Denver Post: Jared Polis gets an earful at townhall meeting.

Standing in the middle of a dense, frenzied huddle, Polis said he remains steadfast in his opposition to fracking close to homes, but that the timing was off in this instance.

"I stepped into a void and tried to move the issue forward. Next time we do this, it'll be a people-powered initiative," he said.

As the crowd chanted: "We are unstoppable. Another world is possible," "We don't need you, Jared Polis" and "Count the signatures now," Polis promised he'd try to organize a national summit to give them greater voice.

August 5, 2014

Quote of the Day

There’s no reason the nation of Africa cannot and should not join the ranks of the world's most prosperous nations in the near term, in the decades ahead. There is simply no reason. -- VP Joe Biden
Video (and a lot of annoying popups) at the link. Hat-tip: Insty.


Tempting to get the used one, but I wouldn't want some old thing that would just be a lot of problems.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 5:17 PM | What do you think? [0]

PPACAo2010 Horror Story of the Day

In video:

Hat-tip: Independent Institute

UPDATE: Okay, I had to embed this video referenced in my comment. Not everybody seems to love "Generation Opportunity:"

This from Sept 2013. I think the eevil Koch Brother Spawn have been proven right.

But jk thinks:

It's magical . . . it's mysterious . . . it's mandatory!

Posted by: jk at August 5, 2014 1:05 PM
But johngalt thinks:

This was produced by Generation Opportunity, whom I met a couple folks from at the inaugural Colorado Liberty Conference. I checked out their team page and I recall that it was Jonathan Lockwood and Daisy also looks familiar. I had no idea who they were until watching your vid and then looking them up. Good stuff.

Posted by: johngalt at August 5, 2014 6:10 PM
But jk thinks:

Very good stuff. One of the after-suggestions on YouTube was this one of a "Young Turks" video ridiculing them and showing another "creepy ObamaCare video." Spoiler Alert: it's pretty awesome, too! Hahahahaha.

Posted by: jk at August 5, 2014 6:34 PM

Easterly Quote....

There was a gooberload of great quotes I had highlighted but could not use in Sunday's Review Corner for William Easterly's The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. As threatened:

University of California at Berkeley economist Ross Levine has provided a whole career's worth of evidence for the central role of finance in development. Let me borrow his summary from a recent paper: Finance is powerful. It mobilizes savings , allocates those savings, [and] monitors the use of funds provided to firms and individuals. . . . How well financial institutions and markets perform these functions exert a powerful influence on economic prosperity. When financial systems perform these functions well, they tend to promote growth and expand economic opportunities. For example, when banks screen borrowers effectively and identify firms with the most promising prospects, this is a first step in boosting productivity growth. When financial markets and institutions mobilize savings from disparate households to invest in these promising projects, this represents a second crucial step in fostering growth.

I took an online economic course that highlighted the importance of innovation in finance and financial instruments. The anti-bank Mattdamonomics is particularly appalling because these people have no idea what the objects of their antipathy do, or what benefits they provide. It's easy to ridicule derivatives and options, but they get risk into the hands of those who can best manage it. They all buy life insurance, but allowing a small business to hedge commodity or currency risk is unholy.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:29 AM | What do you think? [0]

August 4, 2014

All Hail Taranto!

Un petit hors d'oeuvres for those on the wrong side of Rupert's brutal paywall:


Education Posted by John Kranz at 6:17 PM | What do you think? [0]

Official Facebook Science Dude!

You cannot argue with Science!

Science Posted by John Kranz at 6:02 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Boulder Refugee thinks:


Posted by: Boulder Refugee at August 5, 2014 10:55 AM
But jk thinks:

Amen. I never thought I'd be sharing NdGT videos on Facebook, but this one starts the trend. (My lefty friends are somewhat silent so far...)

Posted by: jk at August 5, 2014 10:59 AM

Bad Day for Liberty

The reality is the price to society is now too high to offer a blank check to anyone. The entire country has a stake in finding the pricing levels that support innovation without threatening the affordability and accessibility of the U.S. health-care system. That's the solution that health plans are working with drug manufacturers and health-care providers every day to deliver.
The author is Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade association with 1,300 member companies. The "blank check" is intellectual property protection for a firm that discovers a cure for a gruesome disease and can jump through all the government's gruesome hoops to offer it. Ms. Ignagni sees a different role:
The challenge here is that drug makers are given years of exclusivity for their innovation. With some of these new treatments, there is no competition, only monopolies protected by the government.

With this amount of government protection, it is reasonable to ask for transparency in the relationship between the price of a drug and the cost of its development

If the government is protecting your property rights, surely it can set your prices.

In energy news, Rep. Jared Polis (Bazillionaire, CO-2) has come to agreement with Governor John Hickenlooper. Instead of a statewide plebiscite to decide whether the property rights of mineral holders would be eviscerated, a Congressman and a Governor have agreed to a back room deal to see whether the property rights of mineral holders will be eviscerated. Jon Caldara points out that this is a big step forward for the industry which can manage a compromise but was not comfortable putting all its chips on a single vote.

But for liberty lovers, it's a bad deal.

UPDATE: Denver Post story

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 5:30 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Your Polis/Hickenlooper news reminds me of a definition of democracy I heard once: two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 4, 2014 7:01 PM
But johngalt thinks:
"With some of these new treatments, there is no competition, only monopolies protected by the government."

But my dear Ms. Ignagni, without government protecting the right of drug makers to profit from their innovation, THERE WOULD BE NO NEW TREATMENTS. Is this, in your mind, a preferred sort of monopoly? The monopoly of nothingness?


This whole business of deals, compromises and pulling ballot measures seems to contain a metric shitton of smoke and mirrors. While the sponsors of ballot measures claim they withdraw their support, ballot organizers proceeded to submit all their petitions to the Secretary of State for validation yesterday. So are they pulling the measures or not? We may not know for another month or so. In the meantime, it's looking like an old fashioned game of high-stakes "chicken."

Posted by: johngalt at August 5, 2014 3:50 PM

I Going to Cry Now

It seems Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were underserving the smug, smarmy, fake news segment. The free market, being ruthlessly efficient, brought in John Oliver. You know he is smart because he delivers fake news in a poncy british accent,

I hate this format more than Socialism and Ebola combined and am disappointed to see a third star rising. Perhaps it is no more damaging to this great republic than bad pop music, but my Facebook feed disagrees. "John Oliver PERFECTLY Destroys <subject>" reads a typical post. Then poncy-man lectures us wee folk for a few minutes on climate change or gun violence or whatever. I was inuring to it.

But today, the Wall St Journal's CMO Today includes a clip (eleven ghastly preening minutes if you've the stomach) in which Mr. Oliver lectures us on the pernicious effects of native advertising. Nasty Corporations ruining saintly journalism.

I think it may be a special outside the paywall page, but here is the Oliver Clip just in case.

The people who are destroying Journalism, rising to protect its integrity. Pass the barf bag.

But johngalt thinks:

Didn't someone have to replace Piers Morgan as the "effete international paternalist snob" in American media? I call it a net win that he went from CNN to HBO.

Posted by: johngalt at August 4, 2014 3:02 PM
But Keith Arnold thinks:

When despair sets in... when all seems lost... when you think things have hit rock bottom...

... then just remind yourself that the arrogant halfwit commentator serving up the editorials with a British accent could have been Russell Brand.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 4, 2014 5:46 PM

Denying the Right to Healthcare in the Nutmeg State

This misguided physician considers "keeping the lights on" somehow more important than providing health care.

Three insurers offered plans on Connecticut's ACA marketplace in 2014 and Gerard is only accepting one. He won't say which, but he will say it pays the highest rate.

"I don't think most physicians know what they're being reimbursed," he says. "Only when they start seeing some of those rates come through will they realize how low the rates are they agreed to."

Gerard's decision to reject two plans is something officials in Connecticut are concerned about. If reimbursement rates to doctors stays low in Obamacare plans, more doctors could reject those plans. And that could mean that people will get access to insurance, but they may not get access to a lot of doctors.

If only somebody had looked a little more critically at the PPACA, some of these things may have been predicted. (Hat-tip Jim Geraghty)

UPDATE: The perfect solution from Reason: The Physician Mandate. (So obvious, why didn't we think of it?)

Abiding by the individual mandate therefore constitutes what President Obama, in another context, recently called "economic patriotism." He was castigating companies that use overseas mergers to avoid U.S. taxes. "You know," he said, "some people are calling these companies corporate deserters."

Ominous language. Treating private enterprise as a conscript in service to the State is a philosophy with an ugly lineage. In liberal democracies, government is supposed to be the servant--not the master. In health care, however, the relationship is growing increasingly inverted. As a result individuals are forced to buy insurance, and insurance companies are forced to accept them. Now many people want to force drug companies to cut prices. And so on.

Forcing doctors to accept Medicaid patients would be an obvious, logical extension of these trends. If insurance companies can't turn people away, then why should physicians be allowed to? If drug companies can't charge more than people can afford, then why should doctors? So far, no elected officials have yet proposed reining in the limited liberty that doctors still enjoy. But such proposals could very well come, one of these days. Though probably not from John Foust.

But johngalt thinks:

Greedy money grubbing bastard. What about the teeming hordes, some of whom may be children (up to 26 years of age?)

Posted by: johngalt at August 4, 2014 2:18 PM
But jk thinks:

Good point. Some might even be women, a condition so rare and devastating to the patient, that it is usually treated without charge.

Posted by: jk at August 4, 2014 2:31 PM

Right Wing Nutjob Slams President Obama

But frankly, he should never have said as much as he did, that if you like your current health care plan, you can keep it, That wasn't true. And you shouldn't lie to people. And they just lied to people.
FOX News? Gov. Sarah Palin? Rep. Barney Frank?

August 3, 2014

Review Corner

We have reached another key moment in this book. Today's emphasis on material development --focusing on "what must we do to end global poverty?" while neglecting the unequal rights for blacks and whites and the unequal rights in the West and the Rest--goes back to this moment and other similar moments in the history of the development idea. Development at moments like this accepted the bargain of the autocrat. The autocrats and their expert advisers asked us to give up our concerns about rights in return for a promise by autocrats to alleviate poverty faster than free societies would.
William Easterly's "The White Man's Burden" received a glowing, five star Review Corner a couple weeks ago. To set forward The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, I will need to bestow a well-deserved Editor's Choice award.

Similar to Taleb's Antifragility and Black Swan, the newer book is a more general case that includes the earlier work. White Man's Burden describes the benefits of Hayekian, bottom up ("searchers" to Easterly) development solutions versus top-down ("planners.") Tyranny of Experts continues the Hayek and adds some Adam Smith to suggest that The West grew prosperous by respecting individual property rights, but that its development plans to lift up The Rest never include rights. Easterly asks about "the debate that never happened," citing prominent experts who respected rights, the many who did not, and why -- without debate or examination -- the authoritarian plans were accepted.

This section of the book (Chapters Three through Five) seeks to understand why and how the illiberal version of development had already defeated the liberal version by January 20, 1949. Our journey will take us from the early years in China to crucial years during and immediately after World War II in West Africa to the final triumph of official development in Colombia in 1948 through 1951.

From my fanboy prose and serial allusions to Hayek and Smith, you'd be forgiven for inferring Easterly as a champion of free markets. He saves plenty of criticism for benevolent autocrats who seek to impose markets. These top down planners of bottom-up solutions can be just as insensitive to rights and to the target people's history. It can be just another "blank slate" solution to recreate a society in the air-conditioned offices of a think-tank. At the same time, ThreeSourcers will find little to disagree with; the elevation of rights over markets does not fall harshly on 3src ears.

The entire work is well crafted, tying different times, places, and plans to a common theme of a blank-slate creation of society, and showing that the different motives of racism, national interest, and misplaced benevolence result in the same, rights-depriving, patronizing, authoritarian control. Development plans use the passive voice exclusively. "Standards will be raised," "production will be coordinated" &c. This allows them to omit the state as controller and enforcer.

[Dr. T.D.] Fong's development plan would appeal to the authoritarian Chiang Kai-shek. "Rationalization" of an industry sounds apolitical. Choosing conscious direction over spontaneous solutions does not say who is doing the conscious directing. Yet in practice, there was only one possibility --the national state-- which would need a lot of power to achieve comprehensive economic control. This sounded like a great approach to an aspiring autocrat like Chiang.
Fong in his new position again highlighted the "need for centralized, coordinated economic planning and control." His models for development in the late 1930s were "Germany and Soviet Russia," which "have attempted industrialization in a new manner which China . . . may simulate with profit." At the time, Fong could not have fully anticipated the awful realities we now know characterized his two models.
Gunnar Myrdal in 1955 cited a 1953 ECAFE Survey written by Fong in support of Myrdal's position that "the state will almost inevitably have to take the initiative." Fong had won the argument for authoritarian development on China. He never commented on how Mao's even more extreme authoritarianism had exiled Fong from his home country.

Got to break some eggs to make Egg Foo Yung, I suppose...
Authoritarian nationalism contributed to two world wars, which left it discredited in the rich countries. Yet authoritarian nationalism got a new lease on life from development in the poor countries. The rich countries' emphasis on the nation as the sole object of development efforts, born out of their own foreign policy needs as discussed in Part Two, coincided with national authorities' efforts to make national identity trump all other identities.

If White Man's Burden is a great intro to Hayek (and it is), Tyranny of Experts is as good an introduction to Adam Smith, the invisible hand, and the advantages of specialization
Suppose Roger Federer was too busy assembling his own iPad to play tennis, Beyoncé was too busy playing tennis for her own family to sing and dance, while Steve Jobs was too busy singing and dancing for his friends to make iPads. I think we are all grateful these three could instead specialize in their best area, what is usually called their "comparative advantage."

Easterly describes the invisible hand as a huge network of problem solvers which all free people can access. The founder of Hyundai was born on a small Korean farm with poor soil and poor irrigation. He found problem solvers who grew food for his family and he solved others' problems by using his exceptional mechanical skills to repair their automobiles.
Suppose I walked out of a building into a pouring rain and realized I had no umbrella, I then asked a stranger to give me his umbrella, which he quickly agreed to give me. Could this really happen? Surely the stranger would likely not agree: he is more likely to be surprised and offended at my bizarre behavior. Yet this did happen to me in downtown New York, and a stranger did give me his umbrella. The only additional details necessary to make it comprehensible is that I gave the stranger $5, and he was a street merchant. The market enlists a vast array of strangers in solving our individual problems.
Let's see how often these basic principles of economics are neglected in development today, starting with the idea beloved by Bill Gates, Jim Yong Kim, and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals: setting goals and then finding evidence-based ways to reach them.

Economics, Development and History. Yet, Easterly always returns to the foundation of rights. Deidre McClosky -- call your office:
But the population story is of no help in explaining why the Western edge of Eurasia would pull ahead beginning in the late eighteenth century and leave the Eastern edge far behind. Why did the West invent the steam engine and railroad, and not the East? We need something else. That something else is already on the table: the Western idea of the individual that emerged from the Enlightenment. That miraculous year 1776 is again the key symbol: Jefferson declares all men equal, Adam Smith declares all men free to choose, and James Watt installs his first steam engine. There are two key mechanisms by which the new Western idea of the individual helped innovation: the challenge to authority and the private return to innovation.

There is a virally popular video on Facebook these days which shows an African cocoa farmer tasting chocolate for the first time. This brings to mind a superb story of African farmers' discovering value and comparative advantage in growing cocoa -- not because of, but in spite of top-down autocracy.
Even after local farmers had introduced cocoa into the Gold Coast (Ghana), the British almost succeeded in killing it. The colonial government had an incentive to make the Gold Coast pay off for the colonizers. They thought cocoa should be grown on "modern" plantations on a large scale. They could not believe that primitive local farmers had already found the most efficient farm size. After six different attempts at plantations failed, with large losses for the colonial budget, colonial officials finally gave up. What the Akwapim knew, and the British did not, was that small holders could mix cocoa with food crops, making small plots preferable.

Another great device of the book is its historic look at Greene Street. A single block in what is now the SoHo section of Manhattan is traced from colonial times to the present. Farmland to sweatshops to bordello row to factories to skid row to art district to gentrified urban lofts. All the changes are Hayekian -- it miraculously escapes Robert Moses Development Aid -- I mean Urban renewal -- which would have precluded its modern successes.
Urban planning in the United States marked the last manifestation of the most enthusiastic New Dealers' wish to see experts plan the US economy. It also exemplified faith in technocrats who were appointed public officials, like Robert Moses in New York, with few checks on their power. The US Housing Act of 1949 endorsing "slum clearance" would give a technocrat like Moses the power to tear down whole neighborhoods and replace them with public housing. But the technocrat Moses would face some fierce democrats on Greene Street.

The 1946 plan recommended all of what is now SoHo for "clearance and redevelopment." In a phrase that sounds familiar from development, the plan said "the depreciation is so widespread that improvement cannot take place except by concerted action." The planners suggested coercion, using eminent domain "to prevent obstruction through holdouts."

But the lovingly documented changes on Greene and the economic and cultural forces which drove them are fascinating. I'd call it the best real-world example of spontaneous order. [Spoiler Alert:] The factories that escaped Moses' bulldozers were perfect for the art studios of Pollock, Warhol and contemporaries who needed to create and display exceptionally large paintings and sculptures. A loft the size of le condo d"amour on Greene Street sells for ~$2.5 million today.
The problem with technocrats is not only that they make the wrong predictions. Their even bigger problem is their confidence in their own predictions. In a seemingly unrelated event in 1947, the artist Jackson Pollock painted Cathedral. It was one of the first works in what would be a successful New York-based art movement called Abstract Expressionism. For the Greene Street block, what was important about Pollock's painting was not its content but its measurements: six feet by three feet. Large canvasses of this kind were common in the new movement, and both the artists and galleries had trouble displaying them in Manhattan's cramped spaces.

I weep to not share additional quotes (I might dribble them out this week as QOTDs) but we must all get to other things. This is a magnificent book. I happily bequeath five stars and an Editor's Choice Award upon it. Run, do not walk to Amazon to buy it.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:32 AM | What do you think? [1]
But T. Greer thinks:

The Ivory Coast coca story is an interesting one.

Posted by: T. Greer at August 3, 2014 5:32 PM

August 2, 2014

Waiting for the ECB meeting next week.

A French Euro-critic makes some incredibly interesting points. Todd lumps the "individualistic" French and Anglo-Saxon cultures versus the hierarchical German culture.

Hat-tip: Blog friend tgreer.

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