The WSJ Ed Page reports $124.7 billion in last week's GAO report classified as "improper payments" and defines it as "Washington circumlocution for money that flows to someone who is not eligible, or to the right beneficiary in the wrong amount, or vanishes to fraud or federal accounting incompetence. "
The Government Accountability Office reported the new 2014 figure last week, which is a $19 billion or 17.9% year-over-year increase. The overall error rate ticked up to 4.5% of outlays from 4% in 2013. Improper payments are spread across 124 programs among 22 agencies, but some 65% are concentrated in three areas.
One is the earned-income tax credit, the transfer program meant for the working poor with its error rate of 27.2%. That means nearly three of 10 dollars were in some way undeserved--and the Treasury Inspector General thinks the real share is closer to four or even five of 10. The GAO says the causes are "inability to authenticate requirements, improper income reporting, and inability to verify income before processing returns." Is that all?
Naturally, the White House has proposed a major expansion of this credit, and there's bipartisan support in Congress.
Jay Cost [Review Corner] call your office! They may not know where the $124,700,000,000.53 went, but you can bet the body part of your choice that it went to constituencies.
She said the Bureau of Land Management study, known as the NTT Report, is "based on the best available science," while the Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation Objectives Team Final Report "would mean restrictions for the oil and gas industry in sage-grouse habitat."
"Any time there are any restrictions, whether it's for wildlife or health or safety, you hear the oil and gas industry complain," Ms. Spivak said.
The coalition's data challenges focus on three "highly influential" scientific reports, prepared by the BLM, FWS and U.S. Geological Survey, that rely on data from "an insular group of "scientist-advocates" who skew their research to advance "policies they personally support," according to the executive summary.
"The Reports were developed with unsound research methods resulting in a partial and biased presentation of information, and peer reviewers have found them to be inaccurate, unreliable, and biased," the summary says. "They contain substantial technical errors, including misleading use of authority and failure to address studies that do not support a federal, one-size-fits-all narrative."
For example, the coalition says the reports are quick to blame human activity for the bird's decline but fail to give proper weight to the impact of predators such as ravens, even though their population has increased by 300 percent and local raven-management efforts in states like Nevada have shown success in boosting grouse habitat.
The three reports "all fail to recognize predation as the single most important factor affecting the abundance” of the Greater sage grouse," according to one of the coalition challenges.
"Restrictions" on industry based on the "best available science." Not irrefutable science, or even accurate science. Merely, "the best we have at the moment."
What would we do without scientist-advocates? Live long and prosper, that's what.
How do we list the calorie content of our pizzas on a menu when we have 34 million different variations of pizza? -- Dominos CEO Patrick Doyle
You should've thought of that before you opened stores in the United States of America, Bucko!
It's a textbook case of a mindless and arcane regulation, of Washington bureaucrats imposing on businesses costs that will have no effect on public health. "We've been voluntarily doing menu labeling for over a decade," Mr. Doyle says. "We even have an online calorie calculator we call the 'Calo-Meter' for every possible pizza order, and it tells customers what happens if they substitute, say, sausage for mushrooms, because we strive to be very nutrition-conscious."
That isn't good enough for the feds. The Food and Drug Administration is now insisting that every one of the chain's 5,000 stores post menu boards on the wall with calorie counts. "It's crazy and it doesn't help consumers," Mr. Doyle says, because "90% of Domino's orders arrive by phone or Internet and are for delivery, so fewer than one of 10 customers will ever see these signs." The signs will cost about $2,000 at every store, and each change of menu will require new ones. That is about $10 million of extraneous costs nationwide for Domino's. Thank you, Washington.
Other than that, Mr. Doyle is having a good day when I visit him at the Domino's world-wide headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich.
I'm going to go one worse that that. If you're counting calories on your pizza order, you are doing things wrong. It's grand that they offer an online "Calo-meter" for those interested, but now that we've intruded on property rights, design accommodations, and budgets, I suggest calorie counting is an anachronism of a failed diet policy.
I think Gary Taubes put a fork in calorie counting pretty effectively, but I know there are still some adherents. Yet I don't think I'm wrong to assert that more and more diets are moving away to counting carbs, good carbs/bat carbs, fat grams -- whatever. Yet the calorie is enshrined -- mohair subsidy like -- on American menus for all times.
"A Republic No More." Mister Cost (and Dr. Franklin) nailed it.
UPDATE: I should have included this:
As for those who fret that only the rich are getting richer and upward mobility isn't possible, Mr. Doyle says they should pay more attention to what happens at Domino's. "Over 90% of our 900 franchisees started as an hourly worker in the store," he says. "Most of them started as delivery drivers at minimum wage. They work their way up. They become a manager. Then they come in, they apply to buy a store." So from earning $7 or $8 an hour, they now earn $80,000 to $100,000 by operating a franchise. Many have become millionaires. "This is absolutely a story of upward mobility in America."
That happened, umm, before they had to pony up $2000/store for calorie signage...
I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader where to file this. "Crazy s**t" does not yet exist as a category. I suppose "We're from the government, and we're here to help" is good.
Lenore Skenazy, HOSS and World's Worst Mom, provides an indispensable service, asking parents to do rational risk assessment. Yes, be cautious and protective, but understand there are costs to locking your child up in a Styrofoam room all day with his helmet on.
Description: This recall involves Kids Korner brand boy's, girl's and toddler's cotton/poly blend fleece zipper hooded sweatshirts with a front zipper, two front pockets and knit ribbing around the wrists and waist. The sweatshirts were sold in 62 different prints and solid colors in infant, toddler to children's size 4.
Incidents/Injuries: Kroger has received one report of a zipper pull detaching from the sweatshirt. No injuries have been reported.
No injuries. One out of 140,000 failed. I think more children were harmed by the poor spelling if "Kids Korner."
Government Which was Wrong for 50 Years on Diet Might Not Be Completely Correct on E-Cigs
Bad Government advice? Harmful Unintended Consequences? I'll wait for y'all to put on your shocked faces.
Review Corner this Sunday will address Randy T. Simmons's "Beyond Politics." [Spoiler alert -- it will do pretty well...] Simmons provides a trenchant economic case for the superiority of market solutions to government, even into some areas generally considered "public goods." One of Brother Bryan's many reading groups is slated to read and discuss for Public Choice theory in general. I already posted this Simpson meme to his timeline with "Randy T. Simmons, Call your Office!"
I know it is not news to ThreeSourcers, but spending a few hours with Simmons makes you hyper aware of all the things government does badly that it should not do at all. Four out of five stories I read could be put on Bryan's timeline with the same tag.
To choose just one: Michael B. Siegel is an anti-smoking advocate. A big-time anti-smoker. He takes to the WSJ Ed Page today to suggest that attacks on E-cigs and vapers are misguided.
But as I talked to many e-cigarette users, known as “vapers,” conducted research (Journal of Public Health Policy, 2011) and reviewed a growing body of scientific evidence, I became convinced that e-cigarettes have dramatic potential for reducing disease and death caused by smoking.
Yet many in the antismoking movement--in which I have been involved for decades--are conducting a misleading campaign against these products. And this campaign may be doing harm to public health.
Now, even Greeley Colorado -- the County seat for liberty-lovin' Weld -- a ban was passed, shutting down an existing business. (John Caldara did a great show but a link escapes me at present [see update]).
In short, people will not be allowed to choose whether this alternative is better for them -- government is. What could possible go wrong?
If I could sell one single idea, I would think it might be: "Government has no valid role in diet and nutrition."
You can attack it with consequentialist arguments: "they suck!" Or you can attack it with first principles: there is a very vibrant market in literature and ideas in the nutrition and exercise space; government is not needed.
But the Feds have fallen on their face, repeatedly, from the Four Best Lobbyists 4 Food Groups , the Food Pyramid. MyPlate.gov. Once again. Emily Litella style, they say "nevermind." This time on cholesterol. But rather than humility (I do kid myself sometimes), the new guidelines just airbrush out all the b******t they told you last time, while hectoring you on several new and very dubious fronts.
But the broadminded approach extends a little too far; now everything from environmental sustainability to helping immigrants adjust to a new food culture falls under the DGAC's purview. And the committee hasn't really abandoned its tendency to single out specific nutrients as special diet dangers, suggesting that drinks with added sugars are a good candidate for targeted taxation:
For all those who did not DIE (all caps and ****-ed out swear words, damn, this is a rant) from the previous Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recommendations, you now have to be hectored on environmental concerns as well:
In addition to recommending particularly dietary patterns based on their ability to promote health, the report for the first time notes the advantages of "sustainable diets"
All this for an industry with a most vibrant private-sector discussion. Walmart* does not wait ten years -- they offer low-carb dieters a marvelous bucket of meat and cheese and cheese wrapped with meat. Capitalism rules!
Crow and thousands of others like him preserved millions of acres of land in return for state income-tax credits they could either sell for cash or use to pay their own income tax bill.
Now, the state is forcing a handful of those landowners -- and hundreds of people who bought those credits -- to pay as much as $220 million in back taxes because the state says the land isn't worth what the landowners claimed.
"It's like a bait-and-switch scam," Crow said. "Now my land is worth nothing, and I'm broke because of it. The only one making out is the state."
Aren't we fortunate to have government intervening in the economy and smoothing over capitalism's "rough edges?" Imagine if people were left to buy and sell their property without "incentives" and "conservation easements" and such. People would only have to worry about one other party being a shyster.
"We have been thinking that if young children choose healthy food, they will eat it," said Susan Gross, a research associate at Johns Hopkins. "But our research shows that is not necessarily so." -- Kate Scanlon, Daily Signal
I wrote this essay in May 2003, comparing the private sector amenities available to a customer buying an oil change to those at the State-coerced Clean Air Colorado emissions test.
I endured the latter yesterday (hmm, reminds me -- I need the former) and decided that the essay needs an update. Indulge me and read the old one, even if only to see how little my prose has matured in 138 months.
To be fair, some things have improved. I still have to drive ten miles (spewing foul exhaust all the way there and back) but now, instead of Boulder, I can take pleasant country roads to the Weld County location and grab a Starbucks a half-mile away. The web site lists wait times and I did not wait long right before noon on the second to last day of the month.
Being Weld County, the people are more pleasant -- although I was never greeted or thanked. I was waved into a bay when it was time and told where the waiting room was. The cheap seats had seat cushions and there was thankfully no TV. When completed, it was parked for 10-15 minutes before someone came to print papers and take my money. O blinding hour, Oh terrible holy day -- they take credit cards now!
To be clear, nobody was surly or officious. My only complaint -- except being forced to take an hour out of my day for "emissions theatre" -- was the long wait at the end to get me out. But the last oil change I got was at a Jiffy Lube in Longmont. They had a Starbucks machine in the lobby, satellite TV, comfy chairs, and staff that respected your time.
And the Great American Tire location of which I spoke so lovingly? It has been empty for many years. The market has spoken. But, pacé Sec Clinton, State coercion is creating jobs:
Watched a nice bit of escapism the other night, "World War Z" (I'll give 2.5 stars for decent tension) where a UN "investigator" takes time away from being a soccer Dad to save the world from the undead, with the help of smart, determined people in a shiny WHO building (and the occasional SEAL, Ranger, female Israeli soldier and MOSSAD operative).
Now, cut to headlines where the real-world WHO was found to be "compromising rather than aiding" the Ebola response.
And the greedy, seedy capitalist world manages to make a safe haven for 8000 families right in the middle of hell, by using good common sense, tools at hand "based on the US model" and what must have been a fair degree of grit.
With billion-dollar budgets, why doesn't the NIH or CDC have an established program for dealing with national health emergencies? Umm, it does.
The Progressive belief that a powerful government can stop all calamity is misguided. In the last 10 years we passed multiple pieces of legislation to create funding streams, offices, and management authorities precisely for this moment. That we have nothing to show for it is not good reason to put even more faith in government without learning anything from our repeated mistakes. Responding to the missing Ebola Czar and her office’s corruption by throwing still more money, more management changes, and more bureaucratic complexity in her general direction is madness.
Betcha didn't know the US Government already has an Ebola Czar. Yessir, ol' what's her name.
"NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It's not like we suddenly woke up and thought, 'Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'" [Dr. Francis] Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. "Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready."
Gallup: Free Enterprise, Small Business, Viewed Positively by 90% of Americans
Ayn Rand summarized her system of morality this way:
"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."
And I have learned this week that, were she alive today, she would be required to replace the word "capitalism" with "free enterprise." At least until our misguided electorate learns what actual capitalism is.
Perhaps I missed the 2012 Reason Magazine article, that I outlined here and we discussed later here, when it first appeared. But I distinctly remember reading the 2010 Gallup poll that blog brother jk reprised yesterday. And yet the real lesson of its findings eluded me just as it eluded Gallup at the time, as they concluded:
It is apparent that "free enterprise" evokes more positive responses than "capitalism," despite the apparent similarity between the two terms.
Thus concluded their curiosity on the subject. I suppose then that I may be excused for taking so long to see it.
"Americans were asked to indicate whether their top-of-mind reactions to each were positive or negative. Respondents were not given explanations or descriptions of the terms."
"Capitalism," the word typically used to describe the United States' prevailing economic system, generates positive ratings from a majority of Americans, with a third saying their reaction is negative."
Egads, if the over-taxed, over-regulated, dysfunctionally central-managed economy we now labor under is what most Americans think is "capitalism," it's a minor miracle it scored as positively as it did! But my grandmother's capitalism - defined by Rand as "a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism -- with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church" - has not only an "apparent similarity" with free enterprise, it is exactly free enterprise. Or did nobody notice the word "free?"
My wise blog brother observes that libertarians are wrong to insist on pure principles and instead, we liberty and freedom lovers had better, "in our Madisonian system -- form coalitions and use our strengths wisely."
So if Libertarians are the party of liberty uber alles, Republicans the party of big business corporatism and Democrats the party of federal government corporatism where and how do we organize the party of free-market, free-enterprise, small business entrepreneurs? It would seem an easy thing to do inasmuch as it's membership includes over four-fifths of the entire electorate. And yet, we are brought to heel by the established, entrenched, neo-mercantilist statists. Where is the friggin' light switch?
I have advocated a takeover of the GOP. A replacement of all things "establishment" by either "Tea Party Darlings" or "Liberty Activists." We seem to be losing battles in that war at least as often as we win them, perhaps because the battle lines are so convoluted. So this may be a plan for the next primary season rather than any general election but the question for every voter needs to be: Are you with the backroom dealers in both parties who have brought us crisis after crisis, and riches to the well-connected, or are you with we entrepreneurs - the advocates of free enterprise, and the renewal of the American Dream we promise to bring to you?
I have discovered the secret to abolishing political partisanship once and for all. Simply read the linked articles by Sheldon Richman and Roderick Long and everything will be revealed!
Okay, perhaps instead I just didn't give a compelling enough summary.
America's contemporary political economy is a system of neo-mercantilism, replete with corporate excesses and government favoritism that enables and promotes them, which thus benefits a well-connected few at the expense of almost everyone else.
Champions of capitalism are heard by others to be defending and celebrating the contemporary system. Meanwhile, champions of socialism are really advocating nothing more than the opposite of this false-capitalism, the contemporary neo-mercantilist system.
So when I say, "free markets are the best solution" others hear, "I believe WalMart should pay slave wages and sell cheap crap at the lowest price so that they and their buddies can grow even richer." And when others say, "everyone should be paid a living wage" I hear "government should make every company hire people for more than they are worth" when instead we should both recognize that, "If government didn't meddle in the economy, thus making it "free", there would be more jobs and more choices and higher wages."
Mr. Hall is the author of Aftermath: The Unintended Consequences of Public Policies. Yesterday's Review Corner left out that little tidbit of the author's name, since corrected. Bad reviewer! No biscuit!
I gave the book props for covering four items in depth as opposed to a laundry list of goobered-up policies. Yet, I wish to throw some laundry in the hamper: cash-for-clunkers and subsidies for 'lectriccars. Someone on Facebook posted a good article on California's zero-emission credits.
Remarkably -- and prepare your shocked face -- the program takes money from the poor to subsidize play-toys for the wealthy (wait, no shocked face yet...) It further seems that the poor live in areas with higher pollution (not yet...) and that there'd be far more benefit were they to replace old rattlers with cleaner new cars -- if only they could have kept the tax money to buy the Google exec's Tesla. (Okay, shocked face now).
First there's 94582: San Ramon, California. Since 2010 the roughly 38,000 citizens and businesses of this prosperous Bay Area suburb, where the median household income is $140,444, have purchased 463 zero-emissions vehicles. Such vehicles receive major state subsidies; nearly $1 million of these subsidies went to vehicle purchasers in San Ramon. But San Ramon doesn't need the anti-pollution help. Despite being home to a large highway complex and a business park, the city scores in the cleanest 10 percent of California's ZIP codes, according to the California EPA's EnviroScreen index.
The second ZIP code is 93640, the Central Valley town of Mendota, population 11,800, with a median annual household income of $28,660, which is less than the $36,625 sticker price of a Honda Fit EV. Mendota is in the top 10 percent of California ZIP codes for pollution and vulnerabilities such as childhood asthma, according to the CalEnviroScreen. And how many vehicles were purchased there under state subsidies? Exactly one, a lone car whose owner received $2,500.
This being Slate, author Lisa Margonelli calls for replacing the 'lectriccar subsidies for San Ramon with new car subsidies for Mendota. But her stopped 24-hour clock is right once a day -- they plunder of the poor for the rich is bad policy.
That's the sort of guarantee we're all accustomed to when doing business with a private concern. Can we ask for, maybe, half our money back from government?
Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.
After all, 80 percent of the almost one triiiiilion dollars spent on Means Tested Welfare Spending each year is wasted.
I must caution myself against regarding this the key to a prosperous future of joyous non-partisanship, but it does seem to have that potential.
Somehow we seem to have missed this February, 2012 Reason article: Corporatism is Not the Free Market by Sheldon Richman. It's value is not so much embodied in the title subject, although that is necessary background. It's novelty is the way it explains the rise of hyper-partisanship in the 21st century. He quotes heavily from this article by the Libertarian theorist Roderick Long:
Long sees capitalism in its common usage as similar.
By "capitalism" most people mean neither the free market simpliciter nor the prevailing neomercantilist system simpliciter. Rather, what most people mean by "capitalism" is this free-market system that currently prevails in the western world. In short, the term "capitalism" as generally used conceals an assumption that the prevailing system is a free market. And since the prevailing system is in fact one of government favoritism toward business, the ordinary use of the term carries with it the assumption that the free market is government favoritism toward business.
Similarly for socialism, Long writes. He thinks most people mean nothing more specific than "the opposite of capitalism."
Then if "capitalism" is a package-deal term, so is "socialism" -- it conveys opposition to the free market, and opposition to neomercantilism, as though these were one and the same.
And that, I suggest, is the function of these terms: to blur the distinction between the free market and neomercantilism. Such confusion prevails because it works to the advantage of the statist establishment: those who want to defend the free market can more easily be seduced into defending neomercantilism, and those who want to combat neomercantilism can more easily be seduced into combating the free market. Either way, the state remains secure.
Other than to say the present neomercantilist system favors politically connected business, not business as a whole, I will leave further discussion to the comments. And for reference, I will include both a dictionary definition of capitalism and a more precise definition by Rand.
And I will plead guilty to having fallen into the trap of defending neomercantilism, unwittingly. If nothing else, by not explicitly stating up front that this is NOT what I am defending.
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.
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."
Dr. Gabriele Pfister of the NCAR said pollution can affect more than the air.
"It also can damage plants (and) it can damage crop yields," Pfister said.
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesman Garry Kaufman said the project will also track pollution from wildfires.
"We see emissions from across the ocean coming to impact Colorado's air," Kaufman said.
Experts say this is just the beginning, results will be useful for decades to come.
Your intrepid blogger, however, first read the scientific description of the study, complete with a cool graphic, on a NASA webpage.
Two NASA aircraft are participating in field campaigns beginning this month in Colorado that will probe the factors leading to unhealthy air quality conditions and improve the ability to diagnose air quality conditions from space.
The NASA aircraft will be joined by a research aircraft from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for flights July 16 to Aug. 16 from the Research Aviation Facility maintained by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.
The main study area extends along the Northern Front Range from the Denver metropolitan area in the south to Fort Collins in the north extending eastward from the mountains as far as Greeley. This area contains a diverse mixture of air pollution sources that include transportation, power generation, oil and gas extraction, agriculture, natural vegetation and episodic wildfires.
The region being studied often experiences ozone levels in summer that exceed national health standards. Ground-level ozone is chemically produced from the combination of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbon emissions in sunlight.
So glad to hear that when the next wildfires hit Colorado, only low-emission equipment will be employed. I'd hate to have, y'know, pollution...
A bipartisan group of 25 Senators led by Arizona's John McCain last Thursday sent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a letter demanding an explanation for the Pentagon's June decision to stop programs that supply federal equipment to states for fighting wildfires. DOD suspended the programs on grounds the equipment didn't meet the latest federal emissions standards. As if real fires aren't major air-polluting events.
Just when you thought you'd never again see a good-old light bulb because that mean nasty government made them illegal, geniuses at GE and Philips have found a way to make them all over again. [Thomas Edison - call your office.] They're called "eco-incandescent."
This is news, because they just hit the market, but it isn't a surprise as I explained it in a January 2011 blog post comment after carefully reading the 2007 federal law that "banned the light bulb." Bulbs could only be sold if they were more efficient than standard bulbs by, if I remember correctly, at least 20 percent. The new eco-incandescents are (magically) 28% more efficient.
They are also (less magically) several hundred percent more expensive. Thanks mean, nasty government!
Back in 2011 I accused lamp makers of manipulating the market via regulation, so that "Competitors can no longer undercut each other's cheapest products and saturate the market with them." But Hank Rearden, or is it the Chinese, is not deterred. "Eco-Smart" brand bulbs undercut more expensive models by GE and Philips. Depending on wattage, they are one to two bucks each.
Rather than grandstanding about terrorist atrocities in Iraq or even a flood of undocumented alien children across our southern border, every single Republican congressman or senator should be jointly focused like a period-full-stop laser beam on the most deadly serious threat to US civil society today: The likely use of federal government power to influence the outcome of an election, and the obvious cover up that attempts to obstruct investigation of the original crime. Harry Reid's hometown newspaper says it well:
This is not a partisan witchhunt. It is an inquiry to determine whether a federal agency conspired with elected members of a political party to influence the outcome of an election. And it already screams of a cover-up.
The full editorial is loaded with winks and eye rolling over the "accidents" which befell the evidence requested by congress. On any objective scale, Watergate was a misdemeanor compared to Obamagate. The only thing about the more recent of these two is the news media's curiosity.
A great American success story? Yes, but Gibson's very success made it a fat target for federal prosecutors, whom Juszkiewicz alleges were operating at the behest of lumber unions and environmental pressure groups seeking to kill the market for lumber imports. "This case was not about conservation," he says. "It was basically protectionism."
Two months before the raid, lobbyists slipped some arcane supply-chain reporting provisions into an extension of the Lacey Act of 1900 that changed the technical definition of "fingerboard blanks," which are legal to import.
With no clear legal standards, a sealed warrant the company has not been allowed to see too this day, no formal charges filed, and the threat of a prison term hanging over any executive who does not take "due care" to abide by this absurdly vague law, Gibson settled. "You're fighting a very well organized political machine in the unions," Juszkiewicz concluded. "And the conservation guys have sort of gone along." Hey, what’s not to like about $50,000?
Harvey Silverglate, author of There Felonies a Day [Review Corner], joins Gibson CEO in a radio interview with Bill Frezza. Reading Silverglate's book it was impossible not to think of l'Affaire Gibson.
A non-controversial role for government is police and the courts, and we see the importance of a well equipped police force in Nigeria, where such is sadly lacking. Some have sung the praises of Anarcho-capitalism on these very pages but I, for one, am not up for this:
A week after the abductions, some of the parents trekked into the forest, according to an account in the British newspaper The Guardian.
They armed themselves with machetes and knives but turned back after they were warned by locals in the forecast that they would be taken out by the sophisticated guns of the militants.
One of the young women who escaped abduction by jumping off the back of a truck told The Guardian about entering the forest.
"Each time we got to a village, they stopped and started shooting people and burning their houses," said the woman, Godiya Usman, 18.
"When we got to another village, they started shooting. I jumped down and I was expecting my friends to jump too, but they didn't. I just started crying and running into the bush."
Senator Harry Reid (Hypocrite-NV) vigorously defended federal funding for a Cowboy Poetry Festival in his state 3 years ago, slamming Republicans who sought to cut it from the federal budget as "mean spirited."
He might feel that move has come back to haunt him, as the manager of a ranch under siege by the Obama Administration's Bureau of Land Management for letting cattle eat desert grass, as the family has done since about 1870, seems to have benefited from the event.
"They're trying to take our stewardships,
And run us off the land that we love best.
But I think they'll find the hard way,
that we're still willing to fight for this here west.
I hope them fellers soon hump their holes
or some of us will lose our souls,
'cause killin' it ain't right
but don't expect to take this land without a fight.
The fire is ragin' once again in the western man's eyes,
and these eastern folks are gettin' thicker than flies.
We're tyin' our ropes into twelve-coil knots,
our guns are loaded and our hammers are cocked.
So you'd better help us find a solution
or pull your hats down tight and get ready for the western revolution.
-Derrel Spencer, Ranch Manager
I wonder who he would say is more "mean spirited" - Republican legislators or armed BLM agents engaged in cattle rustling?
GM's recent wave of recalls reveals the ugly truth: The brutal competition for car sales can lead automakers to cut corners, including in crucial safety gear like airbags, steering, and brakes. The bottom line is that some automakers can't be relied on to always put customer safety first.
In these situations, even the staunchest libertarian has to admit an uncomfortable truth: When all else fails, we ultimately rely on government regulators to ensure our safety on the road. Unfortunately, the still-unfolding GM scandal reveals that motorists can hardly rely on this last line of defense. That's because, like so many aspects of the US regulatory system, auto safety officials have more incentive to serve the interests of the automakers they are charged with watchdogging than to fulfill their public duty.
Well ain't I the staunchiest ever all of a sudden? I reject, flatly, that "we ultimately rely on government regulators to ensure our safety on the road"' and would suggest in a heartbeat that the Underwriter's Laboratory model would work well to replace both the FDA and the National Highway Transit Safety Administration.
States say you have to get insurance. I'll part with some staunch points to accept that (Murray Rothbard, forgive thy straying servant...) I suggest that State Farm or <stentorian_voice>Allstate</stentorian_voice> can refuse or overcharge for insurance if your car does not pass Johnny's Kwick Kar Kompany's substantive inspection.
Send the other lads home -- they terrorized Toyota for a non-defect and gave Gub'mint Motors (I'll accept a shade of conspiracy theory on this) a pass.
The 2009 economic stimulus package promoted by President Obama included $5 billion to weatherize some 607,000 homes--with the goals of both spurring the economy and increasing energy efficiency. But the project was required to comply with a statute called the Davis-Bacon Act (signed into law by President Hoover in 1931), which provides that construction projects with federal funding must pay workers the "prevailing wage"--basically a union perk that costs taxpayers about 20 percent more than actual labor rates. This requirement comes with a mass of red tape; bureaucrats in the Labor Department must set wages, as a matter of law, for each category of construction worker in each of three thou- sand counties in America. There was no schedule for "weatherproofers." So the Labor Department began a slow trudge of determining how much weatherproofers should be paid in Merced County, California; Monmouth County, New Jersey; and several thousand other counties. The stimulus plan had projected that California would weatherproof twenty-five hundred homes per month. At the end of 2009, the actual total was twelve. -- Philip K. Howard
At least, that's how Van Jones and Ward Churchill would describe it.
In 1905, Congress acted to reduce the size of Wind River by opening it up to homesteading by non-Indians, a decision affirmed in subsequent court rulings. It was determined that towns settled by homesteaders such as Riverton were not part of the reservation. To the EPA, both history and law are irrelevant.
Wyoming isn't sitting still for this.
"My deep concern," [Wyoming Governor Matt] Mead wrote in a statement issued last month, "is about an administrative agency of the federal government altering a state's boundary and going against over 100 years of history and law.
"This should be a concern to all citizens because, if the EPA can unilaterally take land away from a state, where will it stop?"
We too are concerned that an administration that has repeatedly ignored the courts, the Congress and the Constitution when the rule of law becomes too inconvenient in its pursuit of its fundamental transformation of America has now decided state sovereignty is an inconvenient relic.
Churchill can almost be heard, "Take that, bitches."
That is one of the two "biggest challenges facing the world in the 21st century" according to Patrick McCulley at international rivers dot org, who posted [in 2004] Twelve Reasons to Exclude Large Hydro From Renewables Initiatives. Spoiler alert: None of the 12 reasons is "Large hydro is non-renewable." To the contrary, reason #12 admits that it is, precisely, renewable:
12 - Large hydro reservoirs are often rendered non-renewable by sedimentation
Dam reservoirs are depleted over time by sedimentation, a problem that eventually
seriously impedes or ends the ability of a hydro plant to produce electricity. The
great majority of annual sediment loads are carried during flood periods. The high-
er intensity and frequency of floods due to global warming are therefore likely to
increase sedimentation rates and thus further shorten the useful lives of reservoirs.
No word on the required maintenance or "useful lives" of wind, solar or small hydro.
Does anyone remember the days when we could trust our government and measures like the following would be seen as helpful, not harmful, to American civil liberties? Perhaps we were just naďve then, but I sure don't feel I can trust it today. Reuters exclusive:
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.
Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract.
Had a little fun with this on Facebook (actually, somebody else started it). But it is Kim Strassel, and it cannot pass without post:
In March of this year, a small nonprofit in Cincinnati--the Music Teachers National Association--received a letter from the FTC. The agency was investigating whether the association was engaged in, uh, anticompetitive practices.
This was bizarre, given that the MTNA has existed since 1876 solely to advance the cause of music study and support music teachers. The 501(c)(3) has about 22,000 members, nearly 90% of them piano teachers, including many women who earn a modest living giving lessons in their homes. The group promotes music study and competitions and helps train teachers. Not exactly U.S. Steel.
The association;s sin, according to the feds, rested in its code of ethics. The code lays out ideals for members to follow--a commitment to students, colleagues, society. Tucked into this worthy document was a provision calling on teachers to respect their colleagues' studios, and not actively recruit students from other teachers.
That's a common enough provision among professional organizations (doctors, lawyers), yet the FTC avers that the suggestion that Miss Sally not poach students from Miss Lucy was an attempt to raise prices for piano lessons. Given that the average lesson runs around $30 an hour, and that some devoted teachers still give lessons for $5 a pop, this is patently absurd.
"I will happily pay you today, for a free lunch I don't eat before tomorrow"
In an apparent attempt to deflect attention away from the federal exchange portion of O-care, just as we are learning that the entire functionality of the system is not even built, much less tested, numerous democrats have cheered that the state-run exchanges are working well.
More than 55,000 people in Washington state enrolled in health coverage in October - most in Medicaid - and around 40,000 more applied for coverage, making the Evergreen State one of the brightest success stories in the rocky national rollout of the federal health law. Here in the home of online shopping giant Amazon.com, officials credit the exchange’s success in part to the Pacific Northwest's high-tech bent.
Colorado enrolled just more than 37,500 in the period. New York state - with a population nearly three times the size of Washington's - had enrolled just over 48,000 in health plans as of Tuesday, state officials announced. Kentucky enrolled more than 32,000 in its first month.
All are among the states that embraced Obamacare and crafted their own insurance exchanges rather than rely on the federal site, which has been riddled with breakdowns.
Wawazat? "most in medicaid?" Yup.
Mansfield and Rodriguez huddled together over a shiny new laptop in the busy trailer, setting up the older woman’s account. Rodriguez led Mansfield through a series of questions, typing in the necessary information about citizenship, tax filing status, family makeup.
Mansfield pulled out a letter from the Social Security Administration to prove how much money she makes each month. Rodriguez tapped a few more keys, then looked up, smiling.
"You qualify for Washington Apple Health," she told the uninsured woman, referring to the state’s expanded Medicaid program. And then she shared the best part: "At no cost."
"That’s it?" Mansfield asked, relieved and incredulous that the process was so fast and easy, and the result so comforting. "Wonderful."
And Colorado's metrics are very similar, with most enrollees being in Medicaid - 47,306 versus 6,001 in "private health insurance" through the first six weeks.
I don't know about you but I sure am relieved that, under O-care, no insurance company can interrogate me about my medical history. Now I only have to answer questions about "citizenship, tax filing status, family makeup" and "prove how much money [I make] each month."
But the LA Times story says nothing about website security on the state exchanges, which is what I was researching when I found that Connect for Health Colorado was so forward thinking on the issue that they sought a third party security review for the 2011 startup's flagship, nay, only ship, website way way back in ... June. The proposals were due in less than 3 weeks after the date of RFP and would be reviewed for a full week before awarding a contract, possibly not to the lowest bidder, or at all, before work could begin on July 22, leaving ten weeks and a day for the third party to "Provide additional inputs to the C4HCO team for risk management activities as the system Go Live date of 1 October 2013 approaches."
What could go wrong? No matter, since the result is so comforting. Wonderful! At least, until you try to see your, or any, doctor.
"Common-sense" is one of those adjectives politicians use to describe legislation they're afraid will get them fired either way: if they support it or if they don't. It means, "If you don't agree with this you are senseless" and it has to be employed because if they didn't cover it with that fig leaf, there's little other reason for voters to agree with it.
Vulnerable Senate democrats are running away from Obamacare as fast as they can. That includes Colorado's Mark Udall but since "he’s not viewed as being nearly as vulnerable as [Sen. Landrieu, D-Louisana] or Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas" he isn't running as far. Fox31:
"I share the concern that some health insurance companies are choosing to cancel thousands of Coloradans' plans. That’s why my common-sense bill will allow Coloradans the option to keep their current coverage if they want or to purchase new plans through the Connect for Health Colorado marketplace that may better meet their health care needs."
What a swell guy - he wants to "allow" Coloradans options! We shouldn't be surprised. After all, he is well known as a pro-choice politician.
But don't let that power of choice go to your heads, fellow Centennial-staters.
With support building for a plan introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, that would allow people mislead by the president's promise to keep their plans to actually do so indefinitely, Udall has come up with a scaled down version that would allow policyholders to keep their current plans, being cancelled under the new law, for two years.
"We're protecting the stability of the insurance market in the exchange while allowing people to hold on to their current plans a little bit longer," Joe Britton, Udall's deputy chief of staff, told FOX31.
So now we know that "common-sense" has an expiration date: 2 years.
I have a better idea. How about, instead, we "allow" the stability of the insurance market while "protecting" people to hold on to their current plans? But you shouldn't be surprised. After all, I am a well-known "extremist, hostage taking" TEA Partier.
Personally, as someone who pays through the nose for individual insurance in New York State -- a state where, historically, few individual insurance options have even been available == I can't wait to enroll in ObamaCare and see my premiums plummet, as they are expected to by at least 50% [hyperlink in original]
From the link:
Economists expected the law to significantly decrease premiums in the Empire State, which in 1993 prohibited insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, required carriers to charge "all consumers the exact same rate," but did not compel young and healthy people to enroll in coverage. As a result, insurers dramatically increased prices and enrollment in the individual market "steadily diminished."
Essentially, New York imposed some Obamacare rules on its own, resulting in massive rate hikes and subscriber flight. Now that Obamacare is here to "spread the pain around" New York's rates are expected to be relatively lower. Relative, that is, to what they had already soared up to. Why? Because of the individual mandate. No wonder delaying it was "non-negotiable."
Marlin Perkins has met Obamacare and boy, is he pissed
Okay, not Mutual of Omaha's 'Wild Kingdom' host, but Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini. And not pissed but at least, a Whole Lotta questions.
Asked if he would have delayed the launch of the exchange given its earlier problems, Bertolini said, "I would have, if I'd been in their seat." But, he added, "the politics got in the way of a good business decision."
However, Bertolini also said, "it's the law of the land, number one. Number two, public exchanges are going to be here to stay, so we need to make them work somehow. ... The question is: How do we get from here to there?" He said it could take three years or so before the marketplace's problems are fully sorted out.
But those are just the procedural issues. There's also the issue of fiscal sustainability [dared he to question "this administration's signature 'accomplishment."]
"I think the bigger issue is, will enough people sign up to make it work?" said Bertolini. Aetna, like other insurers, is counting on enough young and healthy people enrolling in the plans to offset the costs that come from providing benefits to older, sicker Americans.
Don't worry Mr. CEO, the government is always there to help you. When your profitablity disappears and your stock is delisted by the NYSE and you are either fired or go out of business, at least you'll be able to sign up for health care on the public exchanges. Who knows, you may even qualify for government subsided premiums, copays or maximum out-of-pocket limits!
Do y'all watch local TeeVee news? It's a particular form of torture, but one is rewarded with an inaccurate prediction of the local weather and an absolutely correct picture of the CW, low-information voter's worldview. And generally a couple of laughably bad stories on the evils of the Internet.
Government Shutdown: Day 10! aired last night and this morning. (I doubled down, don't know why.) Every day some important local impact -- always bad, of course -- of mean old John Boehner's petulance.
Day ten affects Colorado's flourishing craft brew industry. It seems that new seasonal brews may go unreleased because . . . wait for it . . . the Federal label approval process is shut down.
You can click the link and watch if you'd like. Several brewers are interviewed and the lovely bride speculates that each one of them voted enthusiastically for every candidate that ensured a Federal role in the design of beer labels. None dare suggest that maybe the problem is the avoidance of Article I Section 8 or the Tenth Amendment.
I think people of the right often overplay the "founders rolling in their grave" card. But I am pretty comfortable that Mister Samuel Adams at the very least would be distraught at this.
This chart from another federalist.com article - 8 Charts That Explain the Explosive Growth of U.S. Health Care Costs, shows how government medical spending, originally promised to help Americans afford care, has had the opposite effect.
Gosh, maybe we really do need another huge new federal health care program like Obamacare to "fix things."
"Motorists took notice when gas prices crept past $3 per gallon," continued Darbelnet. "Spending more on gas concerns consumers because it reduces savings and spending for everything else we need. Our leaders can help alleviate this economic burden by encouraging a national policy that stimulates production, limits price volatility, ensures greater efficiency and promotes alternative energy."
I have argued that Stealthflation contributes to higher fuel costs, but regulation is probably the larger culprit. Mandates and limitations on production, refining, blending and distributing all make fuel more expensive and less plentiful. The author previously concluded "the reality is that expensive gas is here to stay, which is tough on millions of people who need a car to live their lives" but if "our leaders" were to alleviate this economic burden, as he later suggested, then the 62% of people who believe gas is too high when it reaches $3.50 per gallon wouldn't have to "stop their whining." After all, the average household pays only about 4 percent of pre-tax income on gasoline. That's less than the portion it spends on food prepared at home.
The City of Chicago infamously blocked a Chick-Fil-A store last year, sending me to eat chikin sandwiches in solidarity with many folks whom I would normally oppose. While I support gay marriage, it is trumped clearly by right to contract and does not trump others' right to worship.
And: people, people, people. When you fight business we all lose. Here is the lot that could be offering 60 jobs to Chicagoans of all sexual preferences:
Moreno claimed "Aldermanic Privilege," to deny Chick-Fil-A a zoning variance which would have allowed subdividing an unused portion of a Home Depot parking lot to open the restaurant. As a result, an uproar over freedom of religion spanned across the entire country, as supporters of the fast food chain waited hours to buy chicken sandwiches in a massive show of support for the first amendment against Moreno's progressive-bully tactics.
Thanks to Moreno's prejudice against Cathy's First Amendment "protected" religious freedom, the proposed site for the restaurant, in a busy industrial and big-box commercial corridor, is sits for sale, vacant with no more than a pile of rubble and overgrown weeds, bordered by a dilapidated and incomplete chain link fence. It is estimated that as many as 200 temporary and permanent, full and part-time jobs could have been affected by Alderman Moreno's actions.
A representative from Chick-Fil-A's public relations department confirmed with Breitbart News, that on average, each of their freestanding restaurants employ more than 60 team members.
Aside from these personal fixes, there is a solution to put the country (including any wayward stragglers or stunted post-adolescents) back on the path of prosperity. Americans could stop supporting anti-growth politicians pushing agendas that strangle the economy, weaken the dollar, and surreptitiously erode civil liberties, but let’s be serious. 60% of those ages 18-29 reelected President Obama. So, what’s left? Keep checking feeds, going on pointless dates, and buying more gadgets? Frankl would tell the lost ones to find a will to meaning in this world, but finding purpose can be put off, even if the abyss persists and they pester the rest of the world as impotently self-involved non-starters, for lack of ever finding a self or a start.
Notable & Quotable, the WSJ's pale imitation of our beloved "Quote of the Day," today has a humdinger in the annals of political honesty. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown tells it like it is:
News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone.
We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it.
In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved.
The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there's no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.
In other news, the GOP now finds that its ObamaCare alternative will certainly have to cover "Pre-existing Conditions." Or: actual insurance is out.
The Louisiana Republican [Steve Scalise] said the plan would include protections for people with pre-existing conditions -- one of the main benefits of Obamacare.
"We address that to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions cannot be discriminated against," he said. But, he promised the bill would not "put in place mandates that increase the costs of health care and push people out of the insurance that they like," Scalise said.
I sympathize with the poor Republicans (you see, there's this giant gorram hole). But I wince at their language. Failure to offer cut rate insurance to a man whose house is on fire is "discrimination?" When you've lost the language that badly, you've lost.
Congrats to President Obama and the 112th Congress on their superb excavationary endeavors.
Milton Friedman was quick to remind people that government stimulus spending is taxation and a prosperity killer. Governments don't create resources; they redistribute resources.
While tax rates were raised during the Great Recession, they were raised a lot more during the Great Depression, which explains the difference in severity between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the modern Great Recession.
To push this point home, the highest marginal income-tax rate in 1931 was 25% and by 1938 it was 83%. Whoever heard of an economy being taxed into prosperity?
In 1967, under Gov. George Romney's leadership, Michigan initiated a state income tax, initially setting the highest rate at 2.6% using federal adjusted gross income (AGI) as its tax base. The state's income tax rate peaked in 1983 at 6.35% and is now down to 4.25%.
Even though a 4.25% maximum tax rate is a lot better than a 6.35% tax rate, those towering tax rates have surely damaged today's Michigan economy.
The state's corporate tax rate stands at 6%.
Then we come to Detroit itself. In 1962, Motown adopted a 1% net income tax for residents and 0.5% for nonresident income earners. In 1964, the city initiated a 1% corporate tax as well.
Detroit's income tax stands at 2.4% today, and the corporate tax is 2%.
Businesses that can locate outside Detroit do. In 1950, 1.85 million people lived in Detroit.
Today the population of Detroit would be lucky to top 700,000. You can't balance a budget on people who leave or are unemployed.
Imagine a boiler's heat is turned way up, its safety valves are shut off and you tap the boiler every five minutes with a little brass tap hammer.
By turning the boiler's heat way up and shutting off the safety valves, you have guaranteed the boiler will explode.
By tapping the boiler every five minutes with a little brass tap hammer, you're guaranteed you'll be there when the explosion occurs. Such is the case with Detroit.
Is it mere coincidence that, the larger the geographical scope of the taxing authority, the larger the tax rate? After all, it doesn't take as much taxation to drive producers from a city as from a state, or from a state as from a nation.
Detroit's failings are many and its debts staggering. Obama did not cause them. But his economic remedies and intervention have achieved little. And his unhinged enthusiasm about what was happening in Detroit in 2011, and how it fit into the larger story of American economic life, provides an inconvenient backdrop for Obama's economic address Wednesday and those that follow. -Major Garrett in Remember When Obama Said Detroit Was Coming Back?
A building block in my case that producers should refuse to do business with customers at odds with their production is this story out of Washington D.C. last week.
“We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.” Thus said D.C. council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), "a lead backer of the legislation, who added that the city did not need to kowtow to threats."
"I am proud of my company's product and the profit we make by selling it to others - freely, and to our mutual benefit. Since certain government entities have materially restricted my ability to produce and profit it is no longer beneficial for me to sell my product in the jurisdictions of those government entities. I therefore pledge that I will no longer sell my product through distribution channels that serve the state, county, or local governments that restrict or prohibit my ability to produce my product."
The idea here is that when the voters of, say, Boulder County, Colorado, find their gasoline prices spiking and supplies becoming scarce they will finally make the connection between their voting habits and the supply of daily conveniences that they have come to take for granted.
If you are interested in the supporting "rant" for this idea, read on below.
Ayn Rand said,
"Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man’s life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work—pride is the result."
Anyone who has ever felt the gratifying sense of an accomplishment after making or building something has a hint that this is true. But the central purpose? The central value? To answer those questions ask this one: What else, other than productiveness, gives man pride?
Just as the passage of the 2009 "Stimulus" Bill precipitated a civil uprising known as the TEA Party, the partisan overreach of Colorado's 2013 legislative session produced a movement advocating that many rural Colorado counties secede from the rest of the state. Practical problems with that idea spawned a call to rearrange Colorado's legislature such that every county is represented by its own state senator, regardless of population, as is the case regarding the several states in the United States Senate. But this too has a practical problem. The same problem that led to both the 2013 Colorado legislature and the 2009 United States legislature being controlled by a single political party. The problem is something Americans have long been taught to hold as a virtue. The problem is democracy.
Democracy is not the same thing as freedom. Democracy is the idea, not that people decide how to live their own lives, but that a large enough group of people can decide how everyone is to live his life. To understand if an idea is virtuous or not imagine its extreme. The extreme of democracy is ochlocracy. (Look it up.) The extreme of freedom is, liberty. And to understand just how mixed up and turned around political philosophy has become, consider the fact that those who once advocated for extreme freedom, whether from a monarch or from a religion, were called "liberals" but those known as liberals today are advocates of "social equality" and/or "environmental protection" via democracy - a decidedly anti-liberty prescription.
The men and women of rural Colorado have many reasons to seek separation from their neighbors in the urban counties but as one county commissioner said, "The mandate that tells us what kind of energy sources we may use was the last straw." And understandably so. In addition to producing food that feeds the urban county populations, many of the rural counties produce another valuable export product that results in billions of dollars in wealth creation and millions of dollars in tax revenues to state and local governments. That product, actually many products, is known as oil and natural gas.
For economic reasons the fastest growing process used today to extract oil and gas in the United States is hydraulic fracturing, or fracing. (Also spelled "fracking.") The only real difference between fracking and conventional drilling is that a water-based solution is pumped into the well after drilling and before pumping to create pathways through which the oil may escape to the well bore. That's it. It's not polluting and it's not sinister, although its detractors do everything possible to convince us, the people who vote, that it is both of those things. And many people are convinced. One such person is Washington County resident Steve Frey who said, "I don't want be [sic] in a 51st state. I don't want any part of their fracking that they're doing in Weld County."
I could not possibly agree more with Mr. Frey's contention that he has a right to be free from every aspect of the oil extraction process called "fracking" that he disagrees with, for whatever reason he chooses to do so. Industry must begin taking immediate steps, doing everything in its power, so that those who oppose its practices must not be forced to accept the severance tax revenues accorded to their local government by fracking. Unfortunately, government holds the reins on virtually every aspect of this unfair treatment of Mr. Frey and others similarly situated. Industry has but one thing it may control. Namely, to whom and to where it chooses to sell its product.
The school system decided to instead create its own lunch menu for next year.
The district lost about $100,000 trying out the federal menu, which offered such meals as "part" of a chicken patty on a minicroissant, EAGNews.org reported.
Yum! See if those local-yokels can be as imaginative as the First Lady's Office!
JWF presents this as a whack against Michelle Obama. Insty links and I won't rush to her defense. But it is a better window into government benevolence: people far away fixing a problem that you don't have.
Raw-milk proponents celebrated a Wisconsin farmer's acquittal on three of four counts related to selling unpasteurized milk and cheese, bolstering their hopes of legalizing the products in America's Dairyland.
Jurors found Vernon Hershberger, a 41-year-old Loganville, Wis., farmer, innocent of producing milk without a license, selling milk and cheese products without a license, and operating a retail establishment without a license. He was found guilty of one count of breaking a holding order issued by the state in June 2010, which barred him from moving any of the food he produced without a license.
The verdict means Mr. Hershberger can continue to sell his farm's products to members of the buying club he started, said one of his attorneys, Elizabeth Rich. He faces as long as a year in jail and $10,000 in fines for the one guilty count; a sentencing date has yet to be announced.
Will no one step up to protect the children! Milk is a gateway drug to goat cheese.
We're from the California EPA, and we're here to help
They gave us be-bop. "Soap doesn't work. Toilets don't flush. Clothes washers don't clean. Light bulbs don't illuminate. Refrigerators break too soon. Paint discolors. Lawnmowers have to be hacked. It's all caused by idiotic government regulations that are wrecking our lives one consumer product at a time, all in ways we hardly notice."
Surely, the gas can is protected. It's just a can, for goodness sake. Yet he was right. This one doesn't have a vent. Who would make a can without a vent unless it was done under duress? After all, everyone knows to vent anything that pours. Otherwise, it doesn't pour right and is likely to spill.
It took one quick search. The whole trend began in (wait for it) California. Regulations began in 2000, with the idea of preventing spillage. The notion spread and was picked up by the EPA, which is always looking for new and innovative ways to spread as much human misery as possible. -- Jeffrey Tucker
Do guns in "the hands of criminals and dangerous people" in the United States lead to gun violence in Mexico? President Obama seems to think so:
"Most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States," President Obama said during a speech at Mexico's Anthropology Museum. "I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms. And as president, I swore an oath to uphold that right, and I always will."
"But at the same time, as I’ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people. That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States. It’s the right thing to do," Obama added.
But the single greatest source of American guns in Mexico appears to be the U.S. Government. No, not via Fast and Furious, but via legal "direct commercial sales" authorized by the State Department.
Here's how it works: A foreign government fills out an application to buy weapons from private gun manufacturers in the U.S. Then the State Department decides whether to approve.
And it did approve 2,476 guns to be sold to Mexico in 2006. In 2009, that number was up nearly 10 times, to 18,709. The State Department has since stopped disclosing numbers of guns it approves, and wouldn't give CBS News figures for 2010 or 2011.
But the real outrage is Obama suggesting that the US Constitution has anything to do with Mexican gun "incompetence and corruption." The reason for this strawman is patently obvious.
Just make sure you're moving in the right direction. Interest-free loans are for children, siblings, and the occasional down-on-his-luck drifter who just needs someone to believe in him again, not for the U.S. government. There are crazy Asian central banks that are willing to lend to our government at negative real interest rates. You should let them be the ones to give Uncle Sam free money. Keep your own money in the bank, where it belongs.
Happy Tax Day advice from Megan McArdle suggesting that I adjust my withholding to stop giving Uncle Sugar a large loan. I am quite aware of the problem -- and no, Megan, I don't just do it so I have a big check to blow on a new TV. I get a huge refund every year of late. But am I supposed to make up kids I do not have to increase exemptions?
UPDATE: My blog brother laughs at deflation, and yet:
Obama Administration: 15 years of life after retirement "reasonable"
From Bernie Becker in "On the Money" THE HILL'S Finance and Economy Blog:
President Obama's budget, to be released next week, will limit how much wealthy individuals - like Mitt Romney - can keep in IRAs and other retirement accounts.
[For those of us who don't know what a "wealthy individual" is, Becker gives us a helpful example.]
The proposal would save around $9 billion over a decade, a senior administration official said, while also bringing more fairness to the tax code.
["Fairness" is the most offensive F-word I've ever heard.]
The senior administration official said that wealthy taxpayers can currently "accumulate many millions of dollars in these accounts, substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving."
Under the plan, a taxpayer's tax-preferred retirement account, like an IRA, could not finance more than $205,000 per year of retirement - or right around $3 million this year.
There's the American dream, boys and girls: Work hard (or get a plum "Obamacare Navigator" position) and invest wisely (or get a public defined-benefit pension) so that you can have a "reasonable" retirement of NO MORE than $205,000 per year for "right around" 14.63 years. THIS year.
The tax-law regulation's other exception had the biggest impact. Clubs that provided strictly instrumental music to which no one danced were exempt from the cabaret tax. It is no coincidence that in the back half of the 1940s a new and undanceable jazz performed primarily by small instrumental groups--bebop--emerged as the music of the moment.
"The spotlight was on instrumentalists because of the prohibitive entertainment taxes," the great bebop drummer Max Roach was quoted in jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's memoirs, "To Be or Not to Bop." "You couldn't have a big band because the big band played for dancing."
Now, there's some bebop I dig, but American Swing music was our gift to the art world for all eternity. Anything that cut that short is to be decried.
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves. -- T.S. Eliot
The quote ends a superb Cliff Asness piece in The American about the "No Labels" folks. I am confident every ThreeSourcer would enjoy it in its entirity.
The chart below comes from an article explaining why Filipino prize fighter Manny Pacquiao's chief adviser told Yahoo Sports that a match in Las Vegas is a "no go" because of the IRS top marginal rate of 39.6% on earnings in the USA.
The other options Pacquiao and his management team have considered are Macau and Singapore: both casino and gaming markets comparable to Las Vegas and ideal to host a grand boxing event.
Singapore's top rate is roughly half of America's, and they are reputed to have a balanced budget. Irrefutable proof that they "don't care about children or the underprivileged." Don't even get me started on Macau.
You folks keep the lamp of liberty lit. I just don't think I can take it anymore. Pursuant to the "anti-dog-eat-dog act:"
The Justice Department filed suit Thursday to block Anheuser-Busch InBev NV's $20.1 billion deal to buy Grupo Modelo SAB, saying U.S. consumers would suffer harm if the makers of Bud Light and Corona Extra merged.
The Justice Department said it filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to prevent the companies from merging. The deal "would result in less competition and higher beer prices for American consumers," said the department's antitrust chief, Bill Baer.
I should be glad they are doing their mischief out of the technology sector for a change; I assume that will be less harmful. But the beer cooler at DaveCo offers at least four or five different selections if my memory serves. I don't recall that market's being underserved.
How long has it been? Too long. Today's 'I Am Not Making This Up' entry prompts another quote from Heinlein's excellent 'Life-Line' short story, excerpted three times already on these pages.
There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.
Were it a Dave Barry column, no doubt this WSJ guest editorial would be so captioned. But as close as Burleigh C.W. Leonard can get is "You read that right."
When the farm bill (why do we have farm bills again?) expires, the rules reset to the New Deal's "permanent law." These are so awful as to present a fiscal cliff style food bomb.
Permanent law is embodied in the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938 and the Agricultural Act of 1949. It directs the federal government to provide financial help to farmers by artificially inflating the prices of the commodities they produce.
Price supports for eligible commodities are set according to a formula known as "parity," which is based on a price index from the period 1910-14. You read that right--permanent law's subsidies are calculated based on farming conditions a hundred years ago.
This formula does not take into account the technological advancements and productivity gains that have dramatically altered our agricultural system over time. Consequently, parity prices bear no resemblance to today's market prices.
Parity for corn is $12 per bushel versus an actual market price of $7.01; for wheat $18.30 versus $8.33; for rice $42.20 per hundred weight versus $14.80 and for milk $52 versus $21.10. The disparity between parity and market prices is even starker when one considers that current commodity prices are at historically high levels.
For all their faults, I think my bright but misguided Facebook Friends can understand this. I have most of them converted against ethanol subsidies. Here's the same deal and I suspect they'd say in their best Mr. Mackey voice: "That's bad, mmkay."
And yet -- how do you get them to make the leap to view whatever thing they're grinding for today: more education subsidies, free abortifacients, wind farms, &c. Mohair and ethanol subsidies are "bad," as are billion dollar checks to Ted Turner from the US Taxpayer. But their thing is good.
Politicians generally make noise or law, but rarely both at once. That's why I'm not too concerned about the gun-grabbing hysteria in the news these days. The noise achieves multiple goals: It makes the loudest politicians look like they care the most and are "doing" the most; It also distracts from real issues like debt, spending, Benghazi, and the "Global 'Currency War.'"
The massive Fed balance sheet expansion has resulted in the U.S. dollar declining about 11 percent against a basket of world currencies since QE began in 2009. In the meantime, stock prices have doubled since their March 2009 lows and the Morgan Stanley Commodity Related Index has gained about 80 percent.
With the U.S. as its guide, competitive devaluation is expected to accelerate.
Strategas investment strategist Jason Trennert included the "race to the bottom" as one of his five principle investment themes of the year.
And yet, fuel prices continue to fall as domestic production soars (and world demand shrinks.) Think how inexpensive energy would be if you could buy it with a sound dollar.
* You thought "race to the bottom" was my characterization, didn't you? Actually it was, even before reading the article in full.
Salazar ordered the Park Service to help the oyster company remove property, oysters and racks from the estuary and assist oyster company employees in relocating and finding jobs and employment training.
"We are taking the final step to recognize this pristine area as wilderness," Salazar said. "The estero is one of our nation's crown jewels, and today we are fulfilling the vision to protect this special place for generations to come."
My first thought was that this operated on leased Federal land and the operators should not be too surprised by political vicissitude. The real trouble being that there is Federal land, not the surprise of its being managed capriciously.
But the back-to-the-caves argument grows within me, watered by schadenfreude tears of disappointed Marin-county organic foodie customers. Rachel Maddow asks why we don't build Hoover Dams anymore -- her people won't let you dig a clam out of the sand.
California is a beautiful place. But it is more amazing for its rational achievement. Steve Martin's L.A. Story talks about the people who made a magical place in the desert. Steinbeck chronicled migration to the Golden State's agricultural wonderland. Silicon Valley's contribution to wealth and culture will be studied for centuries.
But it's over, kids. Human reason is no longer welcome there. And one fears the bright folks on the West Coast may once again be leading the nation.
"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as 'bad luck.'" -- Robert A Heinlein
Yahoo Finance: The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Henry Blodget discuss America's standing in the world.
Here are two quotes from the same analyst:
First, in order to address the "increasing inequality" that is causing us to "lose" our middle class:
"We should balance the bottom line with employment and employee salaries and benefit to the community. Reduce profit margins and reinvest in the country - that's what we need to do."
Then, in response to the growing cost of starting a small business and the very low levels of startups:
"What I assume they're looking at is the cost of the red tape and everything else and legislation and so forth; the regulations that go with and if that's the case we've gotta work on paring that down, there's no question."
So what is his plan for diverting more business profit to employees and communities that doesn't rely upon red tape, legislation or regulation?
Unless of course he believes that American Olympic athletes are "those at the very top" and therefore deserve to have one-third of their Olympic honoraria confiscated by their government.
Americans who win bronze will pay a $2 tax on the medal itself. But the bronze comes with a modest prize--$10,000 as an honorarium for devoting your entire life to being the third best athlete on the planet in your chosen discipline. And the IRS will take $3,500 of that, thank you very much.
Silver medalists will owe $5,385. You win a gold? Timothy Geithner will be standing there with his hand out for $8,986.
So as of this writing, swimmer Missy Franklin--who's a high school student--is already on the hook for almost $14,000. By the time she's done in the pool, her tab could be much higher. (That is, unless she has to decline the prize money to placate the NCAA--the only organization in America whose nuttiness rivals the IRS.)
"Free the fretboards!" is not exactly Patrick Henry, but it comes with a much cooler picture:
Gibson guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz has a guest editorial in the WSJ today in support of a house bill to prevent business from what befell Gibson (discussed extensively 'round these parts). More importantly, a broader look at the criminalization of ticky-tacky business regulation:
This is an overreach of government authority and indicative of the kinds of burdens the federal government routinely imposes on growing businesses. It also highlights a dangerous trend: an attempt to punish even paperwork errors with criminal charges and to regulate business activities through criminal law. Policy wonks call this "overcriminalization." I call it a job killer.
In America alone, there are over 4,000 federal criminal offenses. Under the Lacey Act, for instance, citizens and business owners also need to know--and predict how the U.S. federal government will interpret--the laws of nearly 200 other countries on the globe as well.
Many business owners have inadvertently broken obscure and highly technical foreign laws, landing them in prison for things like importing lobster tails in plastic rather than cardboard packaging (the violation of that Honduran law earned one man an eight-year prison sentence). Cases like this make it clear that the justice system has strayed from its constitutional purpose: stopping the real bad guys from bringing harm.
Lobster guy was on Stossel, whose show last night discussed minimum sentencing and prosecutorial misconduct. At the risk of a short digression, I used to believe that economic battles were most important and I was willing to let Radley Balko and the occasional meritorious ACLU suit police the justice system. Yet liberty lovers can no longer ignore the growing criminalization of -- well -- everything.
Given the utter devastation that can result from forest fires near urban areas, and the near unanimity about why their frequency and magnitude is peaking, one may wonder why no efforts to reduce the threat seem to be under way. The good news is that 11 years ago, five federal government agencies joined efforts to create an integrated wildland fire managment system called Fire Program Analysis or FPA. A comprehensive computer modeling system, FPA would "help them weigh the benefits of fire suppression versus forest thinning, evaluate where to station people and equipment and decide how many planes to buy." The bad news is that the effort was undertaken by federal government agencies. Denver Post:
The idea was to figure out how much money to devote to fire suppression, and to reducing fuels to improve overall forest health, and where to do it.
But when the tool was used for a preliminary analysis in 2006, not everyone liked what it found, Botti said. The results showed which areas needed more resources and which needed less, throwing into uncertainty budgets used for staff programs and some administrative overhead, he said.
For instance, one recommendation was to move resources from coastal Alaska, where wildfires are relatively rare, to California, where they regularly wreak havoc in populated areas, Botti said.
"We're talking about a couple of billion dollars in federal wildland-fire funds here," he said. "Any time you tinker with that, it becomes political in a hurry. There was pushback from the bureaus that the answer was not acceptable.
Part of the problem turned out to be the presumption that a computer model could provide a sort of holy grail of fire management planning.
"Quite honestly, I don't think there was any plot" to scuttle the original system, he said.
But he agreed that people in Forest Service field offices feared -- and still fear -- a computer model that could deprive them of people and equipment.
Naaaah, nobody ever invests too much confidence in the pure and objective conclusions of comprehensive computer models!
But the failure of the computer modeling solution seems to me merely a scapegoat.
Asked how this year's fire outbreak might be different if the original FPA were in place as planned, Rideout said: "I think the responses to fire would be more cost-effective. I'm not sure whether we would have gotten to these fires any faster or later or better, or with less expense."
"More cost-effective" but not sure there would be "less expense?" How's that again?
Most officials seem to agree on the basic problem:
In 2008, the GAO reported to Congress that federal wildland-fire costs had tripled since the mid-1990s to more than $3 billion a year, citing three factors: "uncharacteristic accumulations of vegetation" from fire suppression; increasing human development in wildlands; and severe drought "in part due to climate change."
Setting aside the suggested causes for accumulations of vegetation and severe drought, both are clearly evident conditions. So why has the firefighting aircraft fleet been cut from 40 planes to 9? And why, during this period when the air fleet was dismantled, have federal wildland-fire costs tripled? Unfortunately, sometimes technology prevents the application of common sense: More potential for fire - expand fire mitigation and suppression resources. QED.
Forest health, fire risks and wood utilization will be on the agenda at the Keystone Conference Center Nov. 15 as top state and federal officials hold a forest health summit meeting. This image by Derek Weidensee shows an area in Montana where a fire burned through stands of mature lodgepole pines, while an area cut previously for regeneration apparently withstood the blaze relatively unscathed.
Top state and national officials, including Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Gov. Bill Ritter and Senator Mark Udall, will gather at the Keystone Conference Center Nov. 15 for the Governor’s Bark Beetle Summit in a public meeting that hasn’t received much publicity.
Governor-elect John Hickenlooper has also been invited.
“Scott’s success in selling paper will help Colorado effectively and efficiently move the large amount of bark beetle lumber from the forest and into the marketplace, creating tons of jobs and making lots of money,” Hickenlooper said. “This is a unique opportunity to resolve Colorado’s forest health and budget issues.”
“Scott will be a wonderful addition to our paper team, focusing particularly on the use of beetle kill in paper production,” Hickenlooper said. “We hired him based on his skills, personal drive and love for ‘That’s what she said’ jokes.”
Firefighters have been in a see-saw battle with the northern Colorado blaze, extending their lines along the eastern flank but losing ground on the west and north sides as flames burn through a dry forest thick with trees killed by bark beetles.
Investigators said lightning triggered the fire, which is about 15 miles west of Fort Collins and 60 miles northwest of Denver.
The fire is burning on land owned by private parties and the U.S. Forest Service. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service, is scheduled to meet with fire managers on Saturday.
A 30-acre blaze near Lake George in Park County was 50 percent contained. It started Wednesday and was also caused by lightning.
Separately, a fire believed to have been caused by lightning destroyed a house four miles outside Rollinsville on Friday. Gilpin County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cherokee Blake said no one was hurt.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order Thursday banning open burning and the private use of fireworks throughout Colorado.
Not guilty on all counts. That's the return on millions of tax dollars, dozens of witnesses, ludicrous Congressional hearings and nine hours of deliberation. Today, a jury acquitted pitching great Roger Clemens on all counts of lying to Congress about steroids and human growth hormone.
A refresher: "...the process began with a February 2008 congressional hearing in which Clemens made statements to a committee that the government believed to be false, and continued through a mistrial in July 2011.
Thankfully, there is nothing seriously wrong with the country of government that requires attention.
According to blogger Sean Paige at the Monkey Wrenching America blog, a contract with Aero Union, a fire fighting company with seven 4-engine slurry bombers, was canceled during renewal negotiations in August, 2011. No reason was given, just "We don’t want the airplanes, have a nice life." This brought the US Forest Service air tanker fleet down to 11 heavy aircraft, and today it's only 9. The report cites Rep. Dan Lundgren(R-CA) saying the fleet was 40 planes a decade ago.
This reminds me of that old lefty bumper sticker, "Wouldn't it be great if the Air Force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber?" Apparently, now they do.
WATCH YOUR MAILBOX!!!!
Just wanted to let you know - today I received my 2012 Social Security Stimulus Package.
It contained two tomato seeds, cornbread mix, a prayer rug, a machine to blow smoke up my butt, 2 discount coupons to KFC, an "Obama Hope & Change" bumper sticker, and a "Blame it on Bush" poster for the front yard.
The Obama Administration is once again poised to begin harassing Gibson Guitars of Nashville, Tennessee, this time taking its grievances with the company to musicians and fans at summer concerts across the nation.
Administration officials have threatened to raid summer concerts in order to seize what it deems to be illegal guitars made from wood that has been banned.
I hoped this was a hyper-sensitive blogger gone off the rails, but we have at least two Senators involved.
A meeting was held today between [Sen. Lamar (R - TN)] Alexander, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., representatives from the music industry and the wood import business, and conservation and environmental groups to come up with a workable solution.
As the bible says: "wheresoever two or more Senators gather together with industry representatives, thy property rights be unsafe" (Something like that -- Brother Keith might tweak it a bit).
Again, my hope is that the insanity of this will show non-ThreeSourcers the true costs of government overreach. One hopes...
Jamie Dimon's loss of $2 Billion on a private portfolio, which dominated the news cycle for several days and caused three JP Morgan executives to be fired: catastrophe!
Gub'mints' loss of our money: campaign advertisement!
It's all been said, but Lawrence Lindsey says it purdy good in the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page today:
Consider two other recent episodes. The Obama administration guaranteed a $535 million loan to Solyndra, then lost everything on its bet when the solar-energy company went bankrupt last September.
Then there is the auto-industry bailout. According to the TARP inspector general's April 25 report, taxpayers have been paid cash and securities worth $50.9 billion on the $79.7 billion extended to General Motors, General Motors Acceptance Corp. (now Ally Financial) and Chrysler. That is a $28.8 billion loss.
Nevertheless, the president's re-election campaign is running an ad bragging about the bailout's success. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan's much smaller loss is the subject of speeches and hearings and a howling chorus in the media.
I'll back off the "private" description a bit. Certainly JPMorgan enjoys TBTF status and a concomitant government put indemnified by, yes, you and me. Sign me up for a way to fix that. But on what planet does a 1% loss matter more than a 100% loss (Solyndra) or a 36% loss (GM)?
After introducing the motto "Forward!" -- identical to slogans of Socialists of the past and present-- Obama rolled out an imaginary vision of Julia, in which the government is involved in all aspects of a person's life.
No need for virtual reality. There is a real-life timeline for an average person in a society where the government plans, regulates and provides free services for its citizens in countries past and present — the USSR, Cuba, etc.
I personally lived that life in the former USSR until age 30. When my young family of three immigrated to the USA, my parents stayed behind. After botched medical procedures in a free hospital, my father screamed from pain for three days before he died at age 70.
Like President Obama, Russians also evolved on the gay rights issue. Homosexuality used to be outlawed in the Socialist Soviet Union. Today it is not a crime in Russia. Even so, facing an alarming decline in number of newborns and an eventual demographic disaster, they do not play with the redefinition of marriage.
Otherwise there's a lot in common among an Obama administration striving for total government involvement in people's lives, the communists of the former Soviet Union and modern Socialists in Russia.
Last year's "Occupy" protests brought the term "1 percenter" back into our familiar lexicon. Supposedly representing the "super rich" who "control" America, it is a term of derision used by some who declare themselves representatives of the "rest of us" or the "99 percent."
But surprisingly, as Walter Williams observed, those arrested at Occupy demonstrations are overwhelmingly white and above average in both income and home value.
The median value of the homes of the arrestees was $305,000 – a far higher number than the $185,400 median value of owner-occupied homes of the rest of us. Ninety-five of the arrestees lived in homes valued at more than $500,000. Those who rented paid a median rent of $1,850 per month. Of the 984 protesters arrested, at least 797 are white. One Occupy Wall Street protester arrested – presumably, if you listen to the mainstream media, penniless and from a blue-collar family – lived in an $850,000 home in the nation’s capital.
And less surprisingly, America's wealthiest counties are the suburbs surrounding our nation's capital, Washington D.C. As Williams puts it, "The nation’s richest counties are close to Washington, D.C., where people come to do good and wind up doing well for themselves." But do just 1 percent of Americans "run" America? This article claims that about 1 percent of us have held elective office, now or in the past. But that's about as close as you can get to showing such a small sliver of society "runs" a nation and economy as great and diverse as America's. To actually, functionally "run" a country has been shown to require, at a bare minimum, a group I like to call The 6 Percenters.
Via Brit Hume's twitter feed, I found this info sheet at the Department of Labor. Look at question four:
Question: Are these proposed revisions in response to any event or accident, or string of events or accidents, or child labor violations?
Answer: The Department of Labor has continuously reviewed the federal child labor regulations to better protect working children while still allowing them to enjoy the positive work experiences that they can safely perform. Secretary Solis directed the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to take steps to update the child labor regulations in agriculture after the WHD had concluded a similar rulemaking in May, 2010 for children working in nonagricultural workplaces. The Department's comprehensive proposal is based upon the enforcement experience of the WHD, recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the desire to bring transparency to the agency's procedures for assessing child labor civil money penalties, and a desire to equalize as much as possible the agricultural and nonagricultural child labor protections. The child labor provisions for agriculture have not been updated in more than 40 years.
I've heard this both ways since the big Obama-lead union takeover of GM and Chrysler - Ford survived the big recession without a bailout, and Ford received government loans that haven't been repaid. The first point of view seems most popular, as repeated in dear dagny's 'Article of the day' today.
Ford was the only U.S. automaker to save itself without the help of a government lifeline in 2008. As Dan points out in the accompanying video, the story of Ford is perhaps the only successful non-bankruptcy restructuring seen in the U.S. over the last thirty or forty years.
Okay, I give the Mulally team serious props for turning around a huge corporation that was near junk bond status in 2006. The greatest single factor, in my opinion, was the removal of Bill Ford as CEO but that's a separate story. But even if they didn't take federal aid in 2008 their claims of bailout purity are tarnished somewhat by their DOE loans.
If DOE-guaranteed loans aren't repaid, taxpayers foot the bill, but that's not the only downside of federal-government financing of private businesses, as I've written about previously. Companies that don't tow the Administration line, that don't employ favored constituent groups, or are headed by outspoken CEOs (like Steve Wynn) would probably have their loan applications treated differently than was Ford's. And as economist John Tamny writes in his most recent column, "once an institution is the recipient of government largesse" it must serve its "political masters" who will seek "payback in the form of coerced business activity that has nothing to do with profit."
Doing your taxes sucks. Paying someone else to do your taxes sucks, too. But you know what sucks most of all? Having the person who does your taxes go out of business (or dramatically raise prices) thanks to an IRS power grab.
Last year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) got into the business of licensing tax preparers. The IRS wasn't granted the authority to do this by Congress, they just decided to go for it. At a time when unemployment is still awfully high, 350,000 people--many of whom are self-employers or own small businesses--will be hit by rules that axe their jobs or make it more difficult and expensive to keep their calculators clacking.
The Constitutional question has, rightfully, received the most attention. But the Meta weighs heavily on me: you create a system that is too complicated for people to do themselves; then you charge the people they hire a fee for the privilege of breathing.
The Obama administration will extend mortgage assistance for the first time to investors who bought multiple homes before the market imploded, helping some speculators who drove up prices and inflated the housing bubble.
Landlords can qualify for up to four federally-subsidized loan workouts starting around May, as long as they rent out each house or have plans to fill them, under the revamped Home Affordable Modification Program, also known as HAMP, according to Timothy Massad, the Treasury's assistant secretary for financial stability. The program pays banks to reduce monthly payments by cutting interest rates, stretching terms, and forgiving principal.
Need I comment? What could I possibly add? How about Hat-tip: Jim Geraghty [subscribe]
As one lunch story fizzles, another rises to take its place:
By the way, I purposely skipped over the part of the story that describes the lunch Zambrano packed for her daughter. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T FREAKING MATTER. It's not about whether chicken nuggets from a school cafeteria are more or less healthy than whatever parents choose to feed their kids. It's not about whether a homemade lunch meets a government agency’s "necessary guidelines." It's about the fact that there are "necessary guidelines" in the first place, and now they're even sending agents around to enforce them. It's about yet another busybody government bureaucracy intruding on yet another aspect of our daily lives. You're never going to see a Bureau of Leaving Everybody the Hell Alone. -- Jim Treacher @jtLol
On July 21, 2011 Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies joined county animal control personnel in a warrantless raid on a private farm in Arvada, Colorado. Goverment agents were acting on an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers.
The owner, Debe Bell, 59, was charged with 55 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty after Jefferson County investigators found "deplorable conditions" at the Arvada farm. Nearly 200 animals were seized from her property at 12820 W. 75th Ave. in Arvada. The "deplorable conditions" included: Cages the animals were kept in were urine-soaked, caked in feces and had little or no food; with few exceptions they had no water; animal's fur was matted and caked in feces; 20 dead animals were found in a freezer.
After seizure the 200 animals were moved to a private animal shelter where they were cleaned, fed and watered then, adopted out to other owners. The original owner filed a legal motion to halt the adoption, which included sterilization of the confiscated breeding stock. "The court denied the motion," Mollie Thompson with the Foothill Animal Shelter said.
On January 27, 2012 a jury found Debe Bell guilty of 35 counts of animal cruelty. Sentencing is scheduled for March 20. Each misdemeanor count carries a potential sentence of up to 18 months in jail, according to the Denver Post.
According to Bell's attorney a potential fine of $1000 per count may also be assessed. The private shelter may also seek reparation for costs it incurred.
You've noticed by now I intentionally omitted the animals' breed. I did so to prevent your prejudice in this case from being affected by cute cuddly bunny rabbits. The County Court judge in Ms. Bell's case, however, had less concern over prejudice - she granted a motion by the state to prohibit defendant's council from referring to the rabbits as "livestock."
Ms. Bell and her attorney, having lost the legal battle under terms imposed by the court, appealed their case to the court of public opinion in an interview with Jon Caldera on the Mike Rosen Show Friday morning.
Among her comments:
"Rabbits are food."
"Yes, I put the rabbits in my freezer. I also put in some chickens and some pork chops."
"I sold rabbits to the Denver Zoo. Now they buy them from China."
"Rabbit is the number one meat sold in California."
"I thought I lived in America."
Also discussed (11:30) is the Crime Stoppers program and its well publicized $2000 reward for animal abuse tips.
I'm also including a link to the first account that I read of this story. It is on Huffington Post. The comments are, I believe, indicative of the mindset that enables our legal system to apply anthropomorphic attitudes to livestock and their producers.
After watching a large part of this David Stockman interview with Bill Moyers I'm about ready to adopt the dirty hippies #Occupy meme. When they villified "Wall Street" and "Greedy Corporations" I always had a mental image of Fidelity Investments and WalMart. But if I replace that with Goldman Sachs and General Electric I think we would agree on more than we differ.
This also magnifies my distrust of the GOP establishment and, by association, the Romney candidacy.
No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others.
As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro- growth economic policy, there'll never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have.
As a loyal opposition, who put patriotism and national success ahead of party or ideology or any self-interest, we say that anyone who will join us in the cause of growth and solvency is our ally, and our friend. We will speak the language of unity. Let us rebuild our finances, and the safety net, and reopen the door to the stairway upward; any other disagreements we may have can wait.
The speech itself was excellent, and the delivery by Indiana's Governor Daniels had the added benefit of making Mitt Romney sound, by comparison, like a dynamo.
Blog friend Terri has an awesome scoop today. With all the, deserved, strum and drang about Mayor Bloomberg's pitiful liquor store reduction fiasco, most missed the worst part:
The big story should not have been the nannystatishness of such a statement. (since retracted with all the Drudge outrage)
The big story should have been his use of a "Community Transformation" grant funded by your health care tax dollar through Obamacare to pay for all of this.
Yes -- that would have been ok had people not protested the ridiculousness of the proposal.
Your tax dollars to pay for fewer jobs in NYC, fewer business establishments in NYC, and fewer opportunities to imbibe in said city.
The book, of course, is the oft Reynolds recommended Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. And the surprise is that it is really not a diet book. In fact, I was forced to pony up another thirteen bucks for an actual diet book to follow Taubes's precepts.
Good Calories, Bad Calories is an epistemology book. He examines data from more than a century of dietary research. At the risk over over-synopsizing 500 pages, he suggests that the accepted wisdom is built on unproven concepts and weak data, while dispositive results are thoughtlessly discarded. The fundamental bedrock principle of "eat fewer calories and exercise more" to lose weight is (my words) a bunch of hooey.
We've broached the idea of bad government programs on these pages, and I like to reference "The Four Food Groups" and "The Food Pyramid" when my interlocutor suggests government involvement in our private lives to be a good thing. But Taubes documents the medical community's misfeasance and government's malfeasance in propagating these bad ideas. Of course, it continues to this day in FLOTUS's "MyPlate.gov" which I understand is being quietly withdrawn.
Epistemologically (a great MadLibs® adverb), I cannot help but draw a parallel to climate change. You start a logical assertion: "more CO2 in the atmosphere will retain more heat" or "calories ingested must be less than calories expended." Both statements are demonstrably true -- and yet, both operate in the context of a sophisticated, un-modelable, incomprehensibly complex and chaotic system. Neither the Earth nor your body is designed for ceteris paribus. The Earth can raise clouds and you can moderate your metabolism or digestion.
Yet the science is very much settled in both fields. The core principles are never truly proven but are accepted. Then a body of work investigates ancillary principles with scientific rigor. It's as if we accept that the moon is made of cheese, then commission elaborate measurement of cheese viscosity and density to complete our understanding.
Before the hate mail comes: of course both could be correct. Global warming might be real and low-fat diets and exercise plans might be effective weight loss in some group of people. But both should be evaluated by scientists who exhibit a bit of skepticism.
Five stars for what it is. He has a follow up, "Why We Get Fat," which is shorter and has more practical advice. But the comprehensiveness and serious of Good Calories, Bad Calories is a great read.
[Personal note: I lost 70 pounds and never felt better when I was on Atkins several years ago. I convinced myself that it would be difficult now but have reconsidered. Cliché though it may be, the new year will bring my triumphant return. I will start "induction" Jan 3, so that I might enjoy beer for the NHL Winter Classic on the 2nd.]
Spoiler alert: the TSA wins. Here's the end to a superb interview with the great guitarist Elvin Bishop:
On the way to see B.B., I was at the Oakland airport going through security, and I had a jar of jam -- see, I make home made jam and I raise a big garden and can vegetables and stuff -- and B.B. loves my jam, so I was bringing him some. I forgot all the new rules and I had it in my carry on. So there was a black guy named Elvin there. He took the jam out and says "Is this home made jam?" I said, "Well, yeah." He says, "It looks delicious, is it any good?" I said "They tell me it’s pretty tasty." He said "That’s great, but you can't carry it through." He stuck it under his table here on a shelf. He didn't toss it into the trash, you know. I tried to cop a plea. I said, "Oh please, that's for B.B. King. Can't you make an exception in this one case?" He looks at me, thinking for a minute and says "Well, you tell B.B. King that the thrill is gone, and so is his jam." (Laughing)
As a lover of liberty and free markets, I join the WSJ Ed Page in disapprobation for the scuttled ATT - T-Mobile merger. Fatal Conceit writ large:
AT&T and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA announced a tie-up in March because the former needed spectrum to serve its customers better, and the latter was faltering and wanted out of the U.S. market. AT&T customers would benefit from faster service, and T-Mobile shareholders would get a fat premium that other potential buyers weren't willing to pay. Union workers would benefit from more jobs as AT&T built out its 4G network. AT&T even agreed to hand over $3 billion in cash and spectrum rights with a book value of $1 billion to the Germans if the deal fell through.
Enter the Justice Department, which sued in August to block the deal on antitrust concerns, a move later seconded by the Federal Communications Commission. The regulators claimed the merger would crimp competition, based on ancient market-share models like the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index.
On the other hand, as a television viewer, if this means six more months of Carly Foulkes ads, I am willing to abandon my ideals.
I think the folks at Heritage swing and miss on this superb article. Yeah, it's Obama's Ag Dept (all Humphries Executor v. United States and all), and it is not my job to defend the President's keen stances on personal liberty and the free market, but...
I think it is a perfect story to highlight libertarian principles. And the blame of President Obama makes it less useful -- though I still hurled the message below at my Facebook friends this morning. The sheer absurdity of taxing Christmas trees to promote Christmas trees is even more enjoyable than a whack at the President.
Dear Agriculture Dept:
Maybe the government could write songs about Christmas Trees to promote them. Just a thought. Whatever happens, I am glad to see you guys taking this important project on.
"President Obama's Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees--the Christmas Tree Tax--to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees."
"Gov. Dan Malloy has declared Thursday 'Diaper Need Awareness Day' as part of a campaign by The Nutmeg State to pressure Washington into providing free diapers to low-income families." Rep. Rosa DeLauro, like Malloy a Connecticut Democrat, is pushing legislation that "would allow Uncle Sam to . . . provide funding for diapers and diaper supplies."
Maybe Obama should take it one step further and ask Congress to create a new cabinet-level Department of Infant Care to provide free diapers to all Americans. (Would that include the elderly? Depends.) -- Taranto
How much longer do we have to endure government economic estimates based on static analysis of tax rate changes?
In November the mail-in ballot votes will be tallied to decide whether Colorado will lose 7,400 to 11,600 private sector jobs [you know, the ones that pay their own way and don't require a new tax every year to keep them going?] The culprit is Colorado's Proposition 103, a five-year plan to hike three different state taxes on individuals and businesses, conceived and placed on the ballot almost single handedly by Senator Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) and his personal fortune.
Voters will decide between the projected outcome voiced by one Senator Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) who said "she’s optimistic that state finances will not take a turn for the worse," or that of Barry W. Poulson, Senior Fellow in Fiscal Policy and Professor of Economics (retired), University of Colorado, Boulder and John D. Merrifield, Professor of Economics, University of Texas whose analysis resulted in the job loss estimate in the lede. To understand the magnitude of the job loss you can read the paper or just watch this video from a Jon Caldera press conference that, somehow, I haven't seen reported by Denver's Fox 31.
By the way, there weren't enough dominoes to have one for every job lost. Each domino represents TWO jobs.
Gibson Raided, Tea Partiers and Charlie Daniels hardest hit.
Daniels, 74, who plays a Gibson guitar as well as his trademark fiddle, calls the raid a form of harassment that may hurt the company and its workers. Gibson has about 1,200 U.S. employees, including more than 500 at the Nashville factory that was raided.
"These people are about to destroy some jobs in Tennessee," Daniels, whose hits include "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," said in an interview. "The federal government is spending too much time for stupid things like raiding a little guitar company."
A Taylor rep displays a disturbing lack of solidarity. Hrmmm, I have a few Taylors, probably no more. On the good side, Reps. Marsha Blackburn, Jim Cooper and Mary Bono Mack -- who says there's no bipartisanship? -- have crafted legislation to protect instrument owners,
There's been a lot of talk radio chatter this week about a Colorado man who was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Denver but subsequently had all charges against him dismissed. My judgement of the matter is that the man did intend to solicit but, upon detecting that the young lady he was conversing with was a police officer, spit the hook. But the issue that caught my attention was when the man's attorney recited the legal statute under which his client was charged. C.R.S. 18-7-207
Any person who by word, gesture, or action endeavors to further the practice of prostitution in any public place or within public view commits a class 1 petty offense.
So the list of speech which is no longer free, under threat of criminal penalty, must be amended:
- Yelling fire in a crowded theater.
- Making physical threats against the president.
- Discussing sex and money at the same time.
This petty offense statute is bad enough on its own, but thanks to the Colorado legislature we now have a new $5,000 to $10,000 fine that can be imposed so that, as then Colorado Senate President Brandon Schaffer said,"a major goal of his bill is to increase fines so that cash-strapped municipal police forces have an incentive to go after johns and send them to treatment."
(3) Now, therefore, the general assembly hereby declares that legislative action is required to address the scourge of human trafficking and prostitution in the state of Colorado, which action should include:
(a) Authorizing one or more municipal courts to create and administer a program for certain persons who are charged with certain prostitution-related offenses, with the purpose of reducing recidivism; and
(b) Significantly increasing the fines associated with certain statutory prostitution-related offenses.
To "address" human trafficking crimes a new government treatment regime has been instituted and a large new fine created to pay for it, said fine to be levied against offenders of certain "prostitution-related" offenses. Even, it appears, if those offenders only talk about trading something of value for sex. The statute is young and has yet to be tested in a case of college date-night. The phrase, "Aren't you at least going to buy me dinner first?" may become a criminally risky utterance.
This strategy mimmicks that used in the decades-old "war on drugs" and promises to be just as effective, or not. But getting back to that treatment program and recidivism: Over a twelve-year history a similar "John School" cut the recidivism rate nearly in half - from 8 percent to "less than 5 percent." Gosh, it's almost an epidemic!
Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek has found: it's not "government." It's more your "Federal Family." He quotes the Palm Beach Post:
In a Category 4 torrent of official communications during the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has repeatedly used the phrase "federal family" when describing the Obama administration’s response to the storm.
The Obama administration didn't invent the phrase but has taken it to new heights.
"Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family is leaning forward to support our state, tribal and territorial partners along the East Coast," a FEMA news release declared Friday as Irene churned toward landfall.
In other news, Mom does not want your eating Cheerios or Peanut Butter.
I made jokes about this yesterday, but it is not funny. The Gibson guitar factory has been raided, wood impounded, and they have been told that shipping product will be considered "obstruction of justice."
A lengthy video with the CEO is chilling (sorry I cannot embed). But it is one more business guy who hired 500 people last two years shut down this time because the US Fish and Wildlife service is enforcing Indian trade law. The government still holds wood impounded in a 2009 raid even though there have been no charges (at least Eliot Spitzer would have you on TV).
UPDATE: Nor should I have laughed at possible personal implications. The WSJ has a nice follow up:
It isn't just Gibson that is sweating. Musicians who play vintage guitars and other instruments made of environmentally protected materials are worried the authorities may be coming for them next.
If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent--not to mention face fines and prosecution.
John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a blues and ragtime guitarist, says "there's a lot of anxiety, and it's well justified." Once upon a time, he would have taken one of his vintage guitars on his travels. Now, "I don't go out of the country with a wooden guitar."
UPDATE II: A press release: "The Justice department bullies Gibson without filing charges"
This is almost funny even though it appears to be real.
Federal agents are in the process of raiding the offices of the Nashville-based Gibson Guitar Corporation.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents began executing search warrant this morning on guitar factories and corporate headquarters in Nashville and Memphis, according to Nicholas Chavez, special agent in charge with the Fish and Wildlife.
Chavez said the raid included both the corporate headquarters on Park Plus Boulevard and a factory on Elm Hill Pike.
A raid by the US Fish and Wildlife Service -- do they have green Kevlar vests?
Hat-tip: Ed Driscoll via Insty, both of whom have the temerity to suggest that this might scare the next entrepreneur from starting a business in the US -- or at all.
From my cold, dead hands, Mr. President. From my cold, dead, hands.
JK linked an excellent article on the UK "riots" [scare-quoted since they're more accurately characterized as looting sprees] that revealed the failures of government as protector of property and liberty. But one expects a Libertarian to recognize these realities. What is remarkable is when a self-proclaimed "left-winger" does so. Brendan O'Neill blogs from Great Britain:
This is not a political rebellion; it is a mollycoddled mob, a riotous expression of carelessness for one's own community. And as a left-winger, I refuse to celebrate nihilistic behaviour that has a profoundly negative impact on working people's lives. Far from being an instance of working-class action, the welfare-state mob has more in common with what Marx described as the lumpenproletariat. Indeed, it is worth recalling Marx’s colourful description in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon of how that French ruler cynically built his power base amongst parts of the bourgeoisie and sections of the lumpenproletariat, so that 'ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie rubbed shoulders with vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, swindlers, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, brothel-keepers, organ-grinders, ragpickers, knife-grinders, tinkers, beggars... and from this kindred element Boneparte formed the core of his [constituency], where all its members felt the need to benefit themselves at the expense of the labouring nation.' In very different circumstances, we have something similar today -- when the decadent commentariat's siding with lumpen rioters represents a weird coming together of sections of the bourgeoisie with sections of the underworked and the over-flattered, as the rest of us, 'the labouring nation', look on with disdain.
This fraction of English society, 'the laboring nation' as O'Neill applies Marx' term, is what I would call the analog to America's TEA Party. Those Americans are fed up with being taxed to support a free ride in food, lodging, healthcare and pensions in our Euro-style welfare state, and in the wake of the latest wave of English hooliganism a comparable share of Britons are fed up when the lumpenproletariat that their taxes support roll through town and "shit on their own doorstep."
Shall we play, duelling pretty-smart folk? While the WSJ Ed page can find some nuggets to praise in the Gang-of-Six plan outline, the pretty-smart people at Investors Business Daily's Ed page see worse and worser.
And what details it does contain show that the gang has employed some of the most egregious budget tricks available to make the spending cuts look bigger and tax hikes smaller than they actually are.
The best example of this is the plan's tax proposal, which alternately boasts that it cuts taxes by $1.5 trillion and raises them by $1 trillion, but which more likely will result in taxes going up by more than $3 trillion.
And then there are the spending "cuts."
Plus, most plans take current spending levels as a given, and make "cuts" off this hugely inflated base, ignoring the fact that federal spending has rocketed upward by an astonishing 24% in just the past three years.
A credible plan would bring spending as a share of the economy back to prerecession levels. That would mean a spending cut in the neighborhood of $450 billion next year.
And the close:
The fact that more and more lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are willing to sign onto the phony Gang of Six plan, and that Obama would lend it his effusive praise, is a testament to why the country is in such deep fiscal trouble.
I must admit that my darling baby sister recognized this one before I did. Now I've found a nice writeup on it in IBD Editorials:
Wait! What happened to Social Security's "guarantee"? You know, the iron-clad assurance of Social Security benefits in exchange for paying into the program your whole working life? It's something Democrats constantly talk about, particularly when attacking Republicans who propose privatizing the program.
As Nancy Pelosi once put it: "Social Security has never failed to pay promised benefits, and Democrats will fight to make sure that Republicans do not turn a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble."
The AFL-CIO warned in 2005 about "President Bush's plan to replace Social Security's guaranteed benefits with risky private accounts." The AARP describes Social Security as "the guaranteed part of your retirement plan." Etc., etc.
Turns out, this "guarantee" is a lie.
And the close...
Whatever happens, the fact remains that Obama has accidentally made a pretty good case for Social Security reform by revealing the program for what it really is.
Colorado's GOP candidate for governor last year was ridiculed for suggesting that the UN had designs on World Government. Now a new UN report admits it.
The press release for the report [calling for a "technological overhaul" "on the scale of the first industrial revolution" to reach a "goal of full decarbonization of the global energy system by 2050"] discusses the need "to achieve a decent living standard for people in developing countries, especially the 1.4 billion still living in extreme poverty, and the additional 2 billion people expected worldwide by 2050." That sounds more like global redistribution of wealth than worrying about the earth’s thermostat.
The entire article is a series of jaw-dropping objectives from Turtle Bay. It's worth a click.
If the Obama Administration is liberty's Imperial Cruiser, the United Nations is its Death Star.
Last week JK wrote about the FDA's anti-prosperity ruling on the clinical use of Avastin to treat breast cancer. Two days later, American Spectator's Robert M. Goldberg wrote in FDA Decision Dooms Cancer Patients some background on the individuals at FDA who were responsible.
Goozner -- who has no medical background -- was appointed to an FDA advisory committee on pharmaceutical science. Two senior Public Citizen operatives, Peter Lurie and Larry Sasich, now set policy for the FDA. Fran Visco, the head of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, applauded the FDA decision after lobbying for it over the past year. Visco, a Democrat, is also on Experts Advisory Panel for the Universal Health Insurance Program at the New America Foundation, a left-wing think tank supporting Obamacare. The NBBC also supported the administration's decision not to cover mammograms for women under 50 though many breast cancers grow faster and earlier in African-American women.
Goldberg goes on to predict that Medicare and some other health plans will try to stop paying for Avastin, but he also makes this prediction:
To these groups, the FDA decision was a triumph. But their effort to manipulate the FDA will backfire. The EMA and every major group of cancer providers support Avastin's use. Cancer patients moblilized spontaneously to keep Avastin's label. They will take on the anti-innovation establishment and the FDA with greater intensity and vigor.
Victor Davis Hanson, descendent from farmers himself, argues for "plowing under" the Agriculture Department.
The Department of Agriculture no longer serves as a lifeline to millions of struggling homestead farmers. Instead it is a vast, self-perpetuating, postmodern bureaucracy with an amorphous budget of some $130 billion -- a sum far greater than the nation's net farm income this year.
In fact, the more the Agriculture Department has pontificated about family farmers, the more they have vanished -- comprising now only about 1% of the American population.
Originally, the food stamp program focused on the noble aim of supplementing the income of only the very poor and the disabled. But now eligibility is such that some members of the middle class find a way to manipulate such grants. In fact, 2011 could be another sort of record year for the Agriculture Department, as it may achieve an all-time high in subsidizing 47 million Americans on food stamps -- nearly one-sixth of the country.
In these days of record federal deficits and unsustainable national debt, it is long past time to eliminate the department -- or least rename it "The Department of Food Subsidies."
Senator Jon Kyl went on Fox News Sunday yesterday to explain why he withdrew from deficit reduction negotiations over the President's conditional requirement that government revenues be raised as part of a "balanced" solution. "But isn't one dollar of new taxes for every three dollars of spending cuts a fair deal" asked Chris Wallace?
But you don't want to pile taxes on at a time when companies don't have the ability to invest and hire people. That's the primary reason we are opposed to raising taxes right now.
Treasury Secretary Geithner explains the real reason for insisting on tax hikes.
"If you don't touch revenues," Geithner said, "you have to shrink the overall size of government programs, things like education, to levels that we could not accept as a country."
What do you mean "we" Kemosabe? Investor's Business Daily opines:
Some factions just won't accept shrinking the size of government. Most in them run in the same tight circles as Geithner. Never hearing anything other than support for increasing the size of government, they assume that's what Americans want.
But quite a few Americans have been wanting to cut government for decades, and that number is growing as the almost intractable problems created by overspending have become more obvious.
From Social Security and Medicare to housing assistance and farm subsidies to, yes, even education, federal programs need to shrink or be eliminated. There's not a single item in the budget, including defense, that can't use some judicious trimming.
No Tim, America's economy has shrunk. Americans' net worth has shrunk. It's well past time for America's government to shrink.
John Goodman at Health Affairs Blog (his picture does not look like the beloved comedic actor who plays Walter in "The Big Lebowski") has some bad news and some bad news about the epidemic of drug shortages.
First the bad news:
Doctors at the Johns Hopkins cancer center are rationing cytarabine, a drug used to treat leukemia and lymphoma. They are literally deciding who will live and who will die.
About 90 percent of all the anesthesiologists in the country report they are experiencing a shortage of at least one anesthetic
Currently, there are about 246 drugs that are in short supply and as the chart shows, the number has been growing for some time.
Hospitals are scrambling to make up the shortfall, in some cases rationing medications, postponing surgeries and using alternative drugs.
What's the problem? Supply-chain? We can fix that. Shortages in transportation or labor? That can be fixed. The FDA? Oh crap. And that's the bad news:
The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been stepping up its quality enforcement efforts -- levying fines and forcing manufacturers to retool their facilities both here and abroad. Not only has this more rigorous regulatory oversight slowed down production, the FDA's "zero tolerance" regime is forcing manufacturers to abide by rules that are rigid, inflexible and unforgiving. For example, a drug manufacturer must get approval for how much of a drug it plans to produce, as well as the timeframe. If a shortage develops (because, say, the FDA shuts down a competitor's plant), a drug manufacturer cannot increase its output of that drug without another round of approvals. Nor can it alter its timetable production (producing a shortage drug earlier than planned) without FDA approval.
Emphasis added, which I rarely do, but the emphasized statement is utterly gobsmacking.
Why doesn't the Administration simply outlaw shortages?
EPA: "Employee salary is our highest budget priority"
On his radio show today Mike Rosen read a copy [2:00 to 4:55] of an internal memo from EPA Regional Administrator James Martin to all Region 8 EPA employees. Subject: Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Decisions.
I want to update you on the status of Region eight's budget. The most important thing to tell you is that we continue to protect salary for our on-board EPA employees. It is our highest budget priority and that has not and will not change.
Our OCFO has been able to provide us with some relief for our payroll shortfall. This will allow us to maintain our support services at the current levels as we work to meet our agency's mission. We are continuing to work with headquarters for additional relief. In the meantime, to meet the remaining payroll needs we'll be reducing our programmatic funds by 30 percent, as well as some regional support funds.
A distinct difference, to be sure, from EPA's stated policy on private sector jobs.
"If the government goes ahead with what it said it would do, then Germany will be a kind of laboratory for efforts worldwide to end nuclear power in an advanced economy," said Mark Hibbs, a senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "No other country in the world is taking those steps."
I would call it a laboratory for something else - economic self-destruction.
The powerful Federal Association for German Industry, known as B.D.I., sent a letter on Monday morning to the chancellery, warning her about the consequences for German business.
"How will the international competitiveness of German industry be guaranteed?" Hans-Peter Keitel, B.D.I.’s president, wrote. "Industry last year accounted for two-thirds of Germany’s economic upswing."
What could possibly go wrong?
Hat Tip: Wikipedia's "in the news" section. (I sure didn't read it first in the Times.)
UPDATE: The reader may wonder at my connecting this Times story to coal, since it never mentions that fuel which provides half of Germany's electricity. It was, however, mentioned in a reference cited in the Wiki entry. There's also a picture of the very down-to-earth Environment Minister who dismisses more cautious and practical energy strategies. Minister Tritten:
"Ten years ago people told us that there would never be enough capacity to have a relevant share produced by wind - now the same people tell me we have too much wind, and have to export electricity because we have such a huge share of wind energy," he stated.
"So I can't take these arguments seriously."
He stressed he was "convinced" Germany would reach its target.
And he dismissed Dr Pfaffenberger's concerns about cost out of hand.
"He is wrong - simple," he said.
"To hear such arguments from people who haven't learned anything in the last half century - I am very calm on that."
Although not specifically mentioned by name in the rate review rules finalized last Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the rule that exempts Medigap insurance providers is clearly designed to benefit the largest seller of such policies and the biggest lobbyist for ObamaCare -- the American Association of Retired Persons.
So you can add AARP to the list of favored unions, corporations, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's constituents and even entire states such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Nevada that have received exemptions or waivers from various requirements of ObamaCare.
The amount AARP will gain from ObamaCare, with cost-effectiveness mandates that will lead to rationed care, less medical innovation and health care decisions made by bureaucrats rather than doctors and patients, is staggering.
Equally staggering is the brazenness exhibited by the Obama administration and the beneficiaries of what can only be called crony health care.
I wanted to write here today that "I hereby call out Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to apply for an Obamacare waiver for the entire state of Colorado." After all, another path to repeal, thought I, is for the entire country to be waived from the law's requirements. Needing a foundational article upon which to rest my "great idea" I found Mona Charen:
A few wags [ouch!] have suggested that the HHS grant the rest of the country a waiver and be done with it. But the implications of what Professor Richard Epstein has called "government by waiver" aren't funny. As Congress has ceded more and more power to regulatory agencies, the opportunities for abuse of power multiply. Writing in National Affairs, Epstein notes that among the companies and entities that successfully sought waivers from Obamacare's provisions were PepsiCo, Foot Locker, the Pew Charitable Trusts, many local chapters of the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and numerous public-employee unions.
But, asks Epstein, "(W)hat about employers who do not have the resources to navigate the waiver process? What about those lacking the political connections to make their concerns heard in Washington? And what happens when the one-year waivers run out? Will they be renewed? Under what conditions? And what rights will insurers have to waive then in order to avoid going out of business?"
The world of Obamacare is no place for the little guy.
The danger of waiver power is that it will be used differentially, giving one private entity a competitive advantage over another. The company denied a waiver can bring suit -- but litigation is expensive and slow.
Additionally, companies may fear government retaliation: "It is no accident that it is often public-interest groups or patient groups that take on the FDA, for instance. It is simply too risky for a pharmaceutical company with multiple applications before the agency to challenge one action if it is vulnerable to a government-induced slowdown on another," writes Epstein.
So it isn't just the threat of tax hikes that makes the Obama Administration such a threat to American free-market liberty; or massive deficit spending, or hostility to energy production or the subjective law of appointed judges or the proliferation of unelected "Czars" or any of the other "gangster government" ploys the administration has so quickly and expertly embraced. It is the 2000-pages of statutory "we can do what we want" called the Patient Protection and Affordability Act that makes these government bureaucrats so dangerous.
It looks like the First Lady and the Vice President will be safe in the air:
Los Angeles -- The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday issued new orders requiring that air traffic control supervisors oversee the arrival and departure of planes carrying the vice president and first lady.
The directive came two days after an incident in which a Boeing 737 carrying Michelle Obama got too close to a massive military cargo jet as both planes were trying to land at Andrews Air Force Base.
The managers in one air traffic control center were unaware of a potential problem, and the manager in the Andrews tower was reluctant to say anything when he noticed that the two planes were two miles closer than FAA standards allow, federal sources said.
I was so concerned. I was thinking that we might fix the broken, antiquated, government monopoly flight control system so that everybody would be safe.
But special protection for Michelle Obama and VP Biden will be much easier -- that Ray LaHood, he's quite the genius.
So I am not going green with a hybrid/electric. No offense to Prius owners who are doing their part. It is just not for me. I am sticking with a regular gasoline car that gets good mileage but also has good performance. My other car, a 2010 VW GTI is one of those. It is a blast to drive. The 0 to 60 time is sub-6 seconds and it gets 31/32 mpg on the highway. Cost only $25K too. A real winner.
My dear Hawaiian auntie asked, "Does anyone know how much it costs to "fill one of these cars up with electricity"? I've never seen a quote,only how far you can drive & how long it takes to charge them. I realize it depends on how much your electrictricy costs are,but I've never even seen any estimates. Also how many windmills is it going to take to make all this extra electricity. Just wondering."
She's right. The only time the "fill-up" cost is ever talked about they just say "a few dollars." So I did some calculating from data I found at Wikipedia for the Nissan LEAF. [Yes, I know it's a bit long winded but I think you'll enjoy this.]
The Nissan LEAF has a 24 kwh (kilowatt hour) battery. At 10 cents per kwh and assuming perfect conversion of line current to DC and then battery charge the cost to charge the battery from empty would be $2.40.
But it isn't just the cost of the charge that needs to be evaluated. There's also the TIME to recharge.
On 240VAC 30 amp circuit the charge time is 8 hours. On 115VAC 15 amp household outlet the charge time would be about 4 times as long, or 32 hours. They provide this type of charging for "convenience use when making stops or for emergency charging." They tell you to count on about 5 miles of range per HOUR of charge time by this method. Nissan has developed a fast charger that can fully refuel 80% of the 100-mile range of a LEAF in ... 30 minutes. You can buy one for $16,800. (Be careful though, because "Nissan warns that if fast charging is the primary way of recharging, then the normal and gradual battery capacity loss is about 10% more than regular 220-volt charging over a 10-year period.")
IT'S JUST ALL SO COMPLICATED!!!
Enviros and 'Lectric car apologists will try to tell you that all of these limitations are just because the technology is "new" and it will improve rapidly as more people buy the things and by becoming mainstream the car companies will compete with each other and solve all the problems. But electric cars are NOT new. I rode in one in Denver that dad took from the University to Cinderella City to show off to normal people. That was about 40 years ago. FORTY!
Why can gasoline engines get the same range on a couple gallons of gasoline that 'Lectrics get on 32 hours worth of power into the biggest electric heater you can plug into your wall socket? Even though gasoline engines are less than a quarter as efficient as electric motors? Because gasoline has a TREMENDOUS energy content.
"A single gallon of gasoline contains 131.76 megajoules of energy, compared to 2.1 megajoules in a stick of dynamite. 1 gallon of gas therefore equals 63 sticks of dynamite.
An average lightning bolt releases 500 megajoules, or 3.8 gallons of gasoline energy."
Now, going full circle back to the Nissan LEAF ... that 24 kwh battery pack it carries can hold 86 megajoules. That's 0.65 gallons of gasoline. (86 MEGAjoules sounded like a lot for a second there, didn't it!) Cost to fill up: $3.69 per gallon equivalent. Well, at least it's got that in common with gasoline powered cars.
If you don't mind sweat, dirt, or the smell of manure, this is a great time to be a farmer. Incomes are up, land values are high, and global demand is growing. Oh, and if you're one of the lucky farmers, there's a bonus: a tap on the federal treasury.
Whether it is Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, or Franklin Raines, or Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, or "Wall Street" who is really to blame for the 2008 mortgage crisis that launched the current recession, the silver lining is that we've seen what harm can be done by lending large sums of money to people who can't pay it back and the government will certainly put an end to that dubious practice, right? Umm, no.
The Federal Government has a home loan program specifically for federally enrolled tribal members, on or off reservation land.
• 30 year fixed rates with NO PREPAYMENT PENALTY
• Maximum loan amount $544,185
• Minimum down payment 2.25% (in some cases 1.25%)
• Seller can pay up to 6% of your closing costs
• No credit history required
• Flexible underwriting for credit issues
• No history of receiving per capita required
• No monthly mortgage insurance required
• Single family, 2-4 units, condos, manufactured homes
• Purchase loans
• Rehab loans
• Construction loans
• Homebuyer counseling service available for all clients
Forbes' Patrick Michaels called General Motors a liar for the claim that their Volt hybrid is an "all-electric vehicle" and the onboard generator is only to extend its range. That's a serious charge, considering the huge federal subsidy to buyers of the car is based on that dubious premise.
"It's not a hybrid! It's an electric car with a range-extending, gas-powered generator onboard." That was the party line during most of the masterfully orchestrated press rollout of what we've been promised will be the most thoroughly new car since, what, the Chrysler Turbine? The Lunar Rover? Well, the cat is now out of the bag, and guess what? It is a hybrid, after all. Yes, Virginia, the Chevy Volt’s gas engine does turn the wheels. Sometimes.
The salient difference between the Volt and the Prius is that the Prius' gas engine turns on at 60 mph and the Volt's at 100 mph. Motor Trend explains this as a second electric motor giving the Volt its top-end boost but glosses over the fact that the second motor, called a motor-generator, doesn't appear to recharge the battery through regenerative braking as the Prius does. In their diagram they show only "power in" from the engine and motor-generator of the Volt.
So is the Volt better or worse than the Prius? Or even really that much different?
....And I don't just mean the relative competence and devotion to liberty of President Clinton.
Nossir, in '96 (that's how us old timers talk about the 20th Century), you could buy an inexpensive and effective washing machine. Anywhere.
In 1996, top-loaders were pretty much the only type of washer around, and they were uniformly high quality. When Consumer Reports tested 18 models, 13 were "excellent" and five were "very good."
Thankfully, government stepped in to fix it.
By 2007, though, not one was excellent and seven out of 21 were "fair" or "poor." This month came the death knell: Consumer Reports simply dismissed all conventional top-loaders as "often mediocre or worse."
In 2007, after the more stringent rules had kicked in, Consumer Reports noted that some top-loaders were leaving its test swatches "nearly as dirty as they were before washing." "For the first time in years," CR said, "we can't call any washer a Best Buy." Contrast that with the magazine's 1996 report that, "given warm enough water and a good detergent, any washing machine will get clothes clean." Those were the good old days.
My $200,000 Washer-Dryer came with a free condo. Moving in and showing the place, several folks commented on what a great washer we were getting. And it is. It gets clothes just as clean as the 1964 Maytag I left at the house. Yeah, it smells a little funny, but there are products you can buy that make the $1000 machine almost as good as the $50 one.
Facebook friend JC linked to a DOE report on energy subsidies in a comment to this post that is about to scroll off the page. I think he may have thought I'm a fan of oil subsidies, since I am an avowed supporter of oil and oil companies. But I want the market to decide, not my congressman. (Well, maybe if it was only mycongressman without the other 434, but I digress.) The linked report offers this nugget on the ability of subsidies to produce more product.
Notwithstanding the doubling of Federal energy-related subsidies and support between 1999 and 2007, and a significant increase in most energy prices over that period, U.S. energy production is virtually unchanged since 1999 (Table ES2). Basic economic principles suggest that higher real energy prices together with the significant incentives provided to various production segments of the energy sector would tend to raise domestic energy production. A variety of factors unrelated to prices or subsidy programs such as State and Federal statutory limitations imposed on onshore and offshore oil and natural gas exploration in environmentally sensitive areas, uncertainty regarding future environmental policies possibly restricting future emissions of greenhouse gases, and declines in future production from previously developed domestic oil and natural gas resources may have impeded growth in energy production despite modest growth in consumption.
[Emphasis in original.]
Did anyone else notice that none of the regulatory restrictions affected wind, solar, ethanol or biogas? Yet energy production was unchanged. Go figure.
As a taxpayer/shareholder, I am appalled that GM has sold only 281 Volts last month
Peruse Chevrolet's February sales release, and you'll notice one number that's blatantly missing: the number of Chevy Volts sold. The number -- a very modest 281 -- is available in the company's detailed data (PDF), but it certainly isn't something that GM wants to highlight, apparently. Keeping the number quiet is a bit understandable, since it's lower than the 321 that Chevy sold in January.
In my less-fiduciary role as an admirer of American spirit and human pragmatism, I am "plum tickled."
Did you know that those in the federal government--the folks who brought you $1.6 trillion of yearly deficits, brought you $14 trillion of debt, and make Elmo a reality--offer Americans 56 separate programs to help them better understand their finances? Where will these citizens go for sage advice if Washington shuts down? -- David Harsanyi
Yesterday I wrote about thousands of "clean energy" jobs that could be eliminated if Colorado's largest power company cuts its solar power subsidy in half (per installation). I suggested that those jobs probably wouldn't have existed without the subsidy, which distorted market signals to create economic activity for an economically unviable product.
Building this new economy starts with understanding how clean energy legislation can create jobs. During my four-year term in Colorado, I signed 57 pieces of clean energy legislation. In 2007, for example, we doubled the proportion of energy in the state that is required to come from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2020. In 2010, we increased that to 30 percent for our biggest utility. As a result, Colorado now ranks fourth among the 50 states in its number of clean energy workers per capita, and 1,500 clean energy companies call our state home — an 18 percent increase since 2004. Wind- and solar-energy companies that have built factories and opened offices in Colorado have brought in thousands of new jobs.
But governor, have you not heard that the American economy is no longer robust enough to support elective boutique energy "just in case" environmental scientists might be partially correct? It's about as popular with voters right now as free pensions and sweetheart health insurance for unionized Wisconsin teachers. Feel-good energy layoffs are happening now in the U.S. European plants are closing now. Why not just wait until the science and technology is sufficient for sustainable energy to be sustainable? It will save a lot of wasted money and effort building new plants and then closing them.
JK did a great write-up on the Wisconsin revolution against state employee union looting of the treasury. As I thought about covering the same story I had some phrases in mind: Here comes the sun... It's always darkest before the dawn... Finally, hope and change! Stuff like that.
But how can something like this happen in Wisconsin? Home of the U of W in Madison, birthplace of the AFSCME union and a long-time leftist bastion? Check the leadership:
The EPA has proposed examining every aspect of hydraulic fracturing, from water withdrawals to waste disposal, according to a draft plan the agency released Tuesday.
Does this come as any surprise? With so much new oil becoming accessible through the new process the energy nazis at EPA have to find some way to put a halt to it.
The EPA proposal notes that 603 rigs were drilling horizontal wells in June 2010, more than twice as many as were operating a year earlier. Horizontal wells can require millions of gallons of water per well, a much greater volume than in conventional wells.
One point of contention is the breadth of the study.
Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, said he understands the need to address any stage of the fracking that might affect drinking water, but he's skeptical that water withdrawals meet the criteria.
President Obama issued an executive order yesterday that "requires Federal agencies to design cost-effective, evidence-based regulations that are compatible with economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness." This is not quite the "reform" language that was peddled in the press but that is ostensibly the goal: Start to get government out of the way of private sector job growth, at least a little bit.
On the same day, Politico reported that Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), incoming chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, sought input from the private sector on what sorts of reforms would be helpful. This led to predictable outrage at HuffPo that Issa intends to mount a "purely partisan crusade" aimed at "protecting big corporations instead of creating middle class jobs." As if it is inconceivable that private sector job growth is the purview of corporations and trade associations.
I found this story while searching for reform ideas. Since I didn't find any I will start, as a public service, a group-sourced list of suggested reforms. My first entries are as follows. Please pile on in the comments.
- Abolish the federal minimum wage.
- Abort EPA efforts to regulate CO2 emissions.
- Eliminate all federal mandates for health insurance coverage and eliminate any federal restrictions on writing policies across state lines.
- Eliminate oil and gas severance taxes and expedite leases on so-called "public" lands outside of the National Parks system.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was a political overreaction to the 2002 scandals. It did nothing to prevent the financial crisis of 2007-2009. So we now have a similar overreaction in the Dodd-Frank Act, which I call the "Faith in Bureaucracy Act." The vast bureaucratic outpouring it commands will generate excessive cost and damage to U.S. competitiveness. -- Alex Pollock
If you believe the results of a study that included this quiz by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Of the sample size, [over 2500 adults] 164 identified themselves as having been successfully elected to government office -- whether federal, state or local positions -- but the subset performed even poorer than the national average on questions about the government.
"Overall, the average score for officeholders on the civic literacy test was 44 percent, compared to 49 percent for those who have not held an elected office." I scored 91 percent without even being careful.
In President Obama's first year in office there was a major push to create "green jobs" in the U.S. In October of that year his Commerce Secretary said, "Building a green economy isn't going to be easy, but if government and businesses work together, America can and will be a world leader in clean energy."
Oops.Evergreen Solar to Shut Down U.S. Manufacturing, Move to China
CEO Michael El-Hillow commented: "While overall demand for solar may increase, we expect that significant capacity expansions in low cost manufacturing regions combined with potential adverse changes in government subsidies in several markets in Europe will likely result in continuing pressure on selling prices throughout 2011. Solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry. While the United States and other western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar energy, we expect the United States will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint."
"Low cost manufacturing regions..." and their "low manufacturing costs" put the U.S. at a "disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint." Perhaps there are forces at work here other than generous government subsidies for preferred sectors. Maybe it's just too damned expensive to hire employees in the U.S.
“These new numbers show that even though global wage differentials are narrowing, policy-induced costs in the United States, especially corporate taxes, continue to undermine manufacturers’ ability to compete with our largest trading partners,” Duesterberg said.
John Stossel pleads: Stop helping Us! "...the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. It was supposed to really end the alleged abuses perpetrated by the credit card companies. The law forbids some penalties and interest-rate increases on existing balances."
Finally! Protection! A new bureaucracy will stop greedy credit card companies from unfairly penalizing you. And it won't threaten the credit business. Yippie!
Of course, the companies tightened credit on marginal customers (I thought myself outside the margins but my favorite card tightened my limit from $32K to $2500 and forced me into the plastic arms of another card). Less fortunate lost credit and turned to payday loans (how's 500% sound?). States have come down on payday lenders, driving their customers to loansharks ("Time, Spike, is what turns kittens into cats...").
I have tried to go easy on the First Lady. It's an unusual position, where one is expected to "do something" while not asserting authority that does not exist.
But it is not within the consciousness of the current WH occupants to not turn their brainchildren into legislation. And Michelle Obama has decided that legislation is needed to combat a national security threat! "We can't just leave it to the parents." Ahh, the scourge of childhood obesity.
Warning: sections of this video may upset ThreeSourcers; viewer discretion is advised.
Enjoyable as it is pounding on the TSA, I do not intend to develop a sudden aversion to the radiation produced by the body scanners. Fourth Amendment, yes, Junk science, no.
But Ann Althouse suggests an interesting comparison. We (us 'Merkuns) refuse to accept irradiated food products that are proven safe, yet we accept irradiated us.
Is it that we are not only irrational, but we are also irrational in our choice of what to be irrational about? I don't think so. Food radiation was something that businesses were permitted to do, but they stopped because we avoided buying the product. The government isn't asking us whether we want our bodies irradiated if we want to travel by plane. It's not like going to the grocery store and picking one package of hamburger instead of another. We still get our hamburger. We don't have a choice of flying with radiation or without radiation. The only choice the government gives us is not to fly or to accept a groping.
A commenter suggests 4000 Americans die every year of food poisoning. Looking up that alarming number before I pass it along, the CDC claims 5000:
To better quantify the impact of foodborne diseases on health in the United States, we compiled and analyzed information from multiple surveillance systems and other sources. We estimate that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Known pathogens account for an estimated 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths. Three pathogens, Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma, are responsible for 1,500 deaths each year, more than 75% of those caused by known pathogens, while unknown agents account for the remaining 62 million illnesses, 265,000 hospitalizations, and 3,200 deaths. Overall, foodborne diseases appear to cause more illnesses but fewer deaths than previously estimated.
We're comparing apples to Tonka® trucks in the moral realm here, but just to look at the numbers, we could safely prevent a 9-11 every year and don't. Yet we provide the TSA, who have yet to catch a terrorist or knowingly foil a plot with a much more questionable tool.
It's a mixed up, muddled and shook-up world 'cept for Lola...
This week the euphoria has given way to the task of making the new GM successful again. I'm optimistic, though with a cautionary note. I was in Detroit on the company's coming-out day and was surprised by the level of local skepticism among people who have every reason to root for the new GM.
One man, a retired components-company executive, told television interviewers that unionized auto makers can't compete over the long term with their nonunion counterparts. Another retiree, who worked 40 years for GM, said he decided not to buy IPO shares when the company announced sponsorship of an Indy Car racing team. A sure sign, he told me, that cost discipline is being tossed aside for dubious and ephemeral marketing benefits.
I was thinking the same last night watching a commercial about how GM was planting trees to sequester carbon. If any new data were needed to prove that this crony union behemoth is not serious about competing in the actual automotive marketplace, there it is.
Another key cultural indicator will be whether Detroit's managements can resist believing their own hyperbole. Exhibit A is the Chevy Volt, GM's new plug-in hybrid vehicle, which is setting records in miles per gallon and in hype per mile. The Volt runs mostly with electricity. But it will be sold mostly with enormous federal tax credits--$7,500--to defray a price of around $42,000.
It's outrageous, really. America is running trillion-dollar budget deficits. The taxpayers have shelled out tens of billions of dollars to rescue GM. And the company's accumulated tax-loss credits could shield it from paying federal income taxes for years. So why are we also paying people to buy GM cars, or any brand of alternative-fuel vehicle for that matter? If GM thinks a lower price is necessary to sell the Volt, it should cut the price itself.
Economist Steven Horwitz findsthat more Americans will die travelling because of the TSA:
As the nation readies for one of the busiest traveling holidays, Steven Horwitz, a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University, told The Hill that the probable spike in road travel, caused by adverse feelings towards the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) new screening procedures, could also lead to more car-related deaths.
"Driving is much more dangerous than flying, as you are far more likely to be killed in an automobile accident mile-for-mile than you are in an airplane," said Horwitz. "The result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway."
I'm uncomfortable saying that the FDA or the TSA is "killing" Americans. I think that charge requires mens rea. But unintended consequences that result in needless fatalities need to be recognized.
I have heard this one. The plastic from water bottles is making you fat, giving you cancer, giving you diabetes. (Evian Belly?)
The back to the caves crowd holds a particular enmity for bottled water. It's a sure sign of the curse of affluence. Easier to make fun of than to defend, you can attack it for frugality, environmentalism, and brands' identification as status symbol. Brother jg has contributed to a lengthy Facebook dialogue with a friend espousing "voluntary simplicity." Bottling and transporting Norwegian glacier water strikes him as the apogee of environmental arrogance.
Our sainted betters up North (no, not Norway-- Canada!) have declared prohibition on plastic. John Stossel points out that not even the lame-ass FDA (my description, he calls them "notoriously risk-averse") sees the link to danger that have caused Canada, Connecticut and Minnesota to legislate.
Nonsense. Not only is there no good evidence that BPA locked into plastic can hurt people, it actually saves lives by stopping botulism.
"Since BPA became commonplace in the lining of canned goods, food-borne illness from canned foods--including botulism--has virtually disappeared," says the American Council of Science and Health.
You never hear the good news about BPA in the mainstream media. Fear-mongering gets better ratings.
Does anybody remember when politicians used to at least pretend to tell the truth? Now they just deny there is such a thing as truth.
Fast forward now to 2008, after the risky mortgages had led to huge numbers of defaults, dragging down Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the financial markets in general -- and with them the whole economy.
Barney Frank was all over the media, pointing the finger of blame at everybody else. When financial analyst Maria Bartiromo asked Congressman Frank who was responsible for the financial crisis, he said, "right-wing Republicans." It so happens that conservatives were the loudest critics who had warned for years against the policies that Barney Frank pushed, but why let facts get in the way?
Ms. Bartiromo did not just accept whatever Barney Frank said. She said: "With all due respect, congressman, I saw videotapes of you saying in the past: 'Oh, let's open up the lending. The housing market is fine.'" His reply? "No, you didn't see any such tapes."
One of the Update links at the linked article in the Dr. Hal Lewis resignation story was a copy of the APS's public response with rebuttal by Dr. Lewis and two others interspersed in context. While the resignation letter itself is scathing evidence of Global Warming as hoax, it doesn't directly address the issue of "well-funded people believing" and thus, it "not going away." This does: [First the APS' statement, then Lewis' rebuttal.]
Dr. Lewis’ specific charge that APS as an organization is benefitting financially from climate change funding is equally false. Neither the operating officers nor the elected leaders of the Society have a monetary stake in such funding.
The chair of the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) that re-endorsed the 2007 APS Statement on Climate Change sits on the science advisory board of a large international bankhttp://annualreport.deutsche-bank.com/2009/ar/supplementaryinformation/advisoryboards.htmlThe bank has a $60+ billion Green portfolio, which it wishes to assure investors is safe…not to mention their income from carbon trading. Other members of this board include current IPCC chief Pachauri and Lord Oxburgh, of Climategate exoneration fame. The viability of these banks activities depends on continued concern over CO2 emissions. Then there is the member of the Kleppner Committee (that reviewed the APS 2007 Statement prior to POPA) who served on that committee while under consideration for the position of Chief Scientist at BP. The position had been vacated when Steve Koonin left to take a post in the administration at DOE. Soon after the Kleppner Committee report in late 2009, this committee member took the BP job. BP had previously funded the new Energy Laboratory at Berkeley, which was headed by current Energy Secretary Steve Chu.
UPDATE: Reformatted for clarity and bolded text for emphasis.
Last November 20 I posted this first news of Climategate, which included James Delingpole's headline: Climategate: The final nail in the coffin of 'antropogenic global warming?'
JK was more circumspect but by December 1 admitted that the scandal was a "game changer." Yet, he still hedged: "But it does not expose a hoax as some have claimed. The believers truly believe. As long as well funded people believe, it is not going away."
Today, or rather October 8, the hoax is exposed.
Harold Lewis - Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board - resigned from the American Physical Society over events that have transpired since Climategate.
In discussing the publicly released resignation letter Anthony Watts says,
This is an important moment in science history. I would describe it as a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door. It is worthy of repeating this letter in entirety on every blog that discusses science.
From the letter:
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford's book organizes the facts very well.) I don't believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
He then goes on to expose the calculated lengths that APS management went to defeat his efforts to establish a Topic Group on Climate Change within the APS. Sharp, smart and irretrievably damaging to APS and the Climate Change movement.
The first lady doesn't mind ordinary families eating out on special occasions. But, she claimed, restaurant efforts to reduce calories and fats have been insufficient. And too slow. "We just don't have the time to waste," Mrs. Obama added. -- Andrew Malcolm
Hat-tip: James Taranto. If you think FLOTUS's obesity campaign is mostly harmless, I suggest you follow the links and read her remarks.
Republican candidate for CO governor Dan Maes took some heat in early August for suggesting that statist influences at the United Nations are inserting themselves into state and municipal governments through an organization called ICLEI. I'll admit that if you've never heard of these self-important busybodies the whole idea can sound a bit conspiratorial. Even our own jk joked "See the bikes all come in black helicopters..."
Yet today, from the "just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not really out to get me" department, we have the White House's Ocean Policy Initiative.
What the administration in effect is putting in place is an alternative power structure that circumvents existing state and local decision-making bodies and replaces them with made-in-Washington zoning. All of this is taking place without the consent of Congress, without the consent of the governors, and, most important of all, without the consent of the governed.
Suddenly the idea that similar efforts to influence local decision-making by the U.N. might "threaten our personal freedoms" doesn't seem like such a crackpot remark. JK commented "Let's pick smarter fights than this, boys." I'll counter with, "Someone has to start connecting the dots for voters sooner or later. Let's hope that when they do it isn't too late to get our liberty back using the ballot box."
John Sherman was first sent to the Senate in 1861. He had a distinguished career, serving in the Executive and legislative branches. In 1890, after returning to the Senate he passed the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Liberty is timeless. The words of Jefferson, Locke, and Cicero move us today. But legislation has a shelf life -- and this one had a little green fuzz around it in the nineteenth century.
One could not explain to the august Ohioan what a "Google" was, yet his 120 year old eponymous legislation is being employed by the firm's rent seeking competitors.
A debate in the WSJ Ed Page today asks "Is Google a Monopoly"
Amit Singhal of Google argues the competition is one click away. Charles Rule, an attorney whose firm represents corporations suing Google, counters that the company commands a share of search advertising in excess of 70%—the threshold for monopoly under the Sherman Act..
I/you/we have had a lot of bad things to say about Google. The firm warrants its own category and I see the latest post is entitled "Really, Really Evil."
But no firm has more honestly won its market share in the history of market share. Anybody can compete with them today and reach 100% of their customers. We were negotiating to sell our start up to a Google competitor as a last gasp to save ourselves. The company competes with <scary music>Microsift</scary music>, phone directories, Yahoo and is now threatened by Social Media sites.
They own no infrastructure to fend off competition. Like 'em or not, they (I tried to keep them singular, really I did) earn their monopoly every day by giving people what they want.
Requiescat in pace, Senator, your ghost is not needed here.
Our brothers and sisters in the Keystone state probably already know about PleaseNoMoreTaxes.org but I just discovered them. Apparently there was a recent video contest to explain why you think taxes should not be raised further. I liked this one.
I'm not a reflexive gold-standard guy, but I do believe that the Federal Reserve Banking system is hopelessly corrupt. I'd be glad to see stuff like this discussed in our nation's capitol:
Paul said everyone accuses him of wanting the gold standard but he said he doesn't accept that. “I accept the idea of a gold coin standard and I think we can do much better than what we had," he said. "There was a lot that they did pre-Fed that was not exactly right but we never had a disastrous loss of purchasing power long-term, we didn’t have a great depression, we didn’t have the 1970s with stagflation and we wouldn’t have what we have right now.”
Paul also said he wants to legalize the freedom for people to choose. “My proposal for now is to legalize the constitution to use gold and silver as legal tender in a parallel standard and have it compete with paper money. If people get tired of using the paper standard they can deal in gold or silver,” he said.
Perhaps you've heard about the "green" power initiative called "smart grid." According to Wikipedia,"A smart grid, is, in essence, an attempt to require consumers to change their behavior around variable electric rates or to pay vastly increased rates for the privilege of reliable electrical service during high-demand conditions." Well, who in their right mind wouldn't want THAT in their home?!
As it is often eager to do, the city of Boulder, Colorado wanted to be a pioneer in transforming the smart grid into reality so they colluded with utility company Xcel Energy to wire up 23,000 homes at a projected cost in the neighborhood of $20 million. Now that the experiment is over and the final price was $45 million Xcel says, "We would not do that again over the whole service area," But in bailing out on the added cost Boulder says, "There is not a clear consensus among the members of the Boulder City Council with regard to the value of SmartGridCity in its present state or the prudence of this investment."
What? Boulder City Council considering the "prudence" of "investing" residents' money based upon "value?" Pinch me!
I hope you caught at least a few of Drew Carey's awesome awesome awesome Reason.tv videos examining his home town's descent into craptitude. From being America's fifth largest city, the Cuyahoga Riviera has faded into irrelevance and privation, while municipal leaders call for more regulation and control. This'll bring 'em home! Insty calls them Big Brother Trash Carts:
Starting next year Cleveland residents face paying a $100 fine if they don't recycle, and the city's new high-tech trash cans will keep track if they don't. The new cans are embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes which keep track of how often residents take them to the curb. If the chip shows you haven't brought your recycle can out in a while, a lucky trash supervisor will go through your can looking for recyclables. From the article: "Trash carts containing more than 10 percent recyclable material could lead to a $100 fine, according to Waste Collection Commissioner Ronnie Owens. Recyclables include glass, metal cans, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard."
Hat-tip: Insty (Though I think he just posts because she's attractive. I am deeply committed to reduced government spending.)
Flashback: Ms. Muccio on these pages in Feb 2009. Sigh. I may have mentioned her appearence back then as well.
UPDATE: Watch the old one and think about what could have been. For the same money as the Stimulus, we could have given a whole year payroll tax holiday. I don't think we'd have been looking at ~10% unemployment had we listened to an econ student instead of Washington.
AND: I wanted to assure our female viewership (both of them) that we will give equal time to the next super-hunky male economist that comes along. We might even institute a centerfold!
Rush Limbaugh was the first I heard use the construction 'Happy Dependence Day' as a celebration of the Fourth of July under President Obama and the Democrat Congress. It's a fitting title for sharing the words of a more contemporary version of the song 'God Bless America' which I started last night and put the finishing touches on this morning. "Enjoy."
Gaia, bless America,
Land I assume;
Stand astride her,
And guide her,
Through the night,
With your might,
Where's my bailout;
Where's my health care;
Where's my solar,
Gaia, bless America,
Gaia, bless America,
Copyright holder 'johngalt' in the year of "Tbe One We've Been Waiting For" II (2010) and licensed for public use.
I have not read Carroll Quigley's "The Evolution of Civilizations" but blog friend tg has turned me onto one theme from it that has changed my life: the idea that organizations begin as "instruments" with a fixed purpose but morph into "institutions" devoted to their own self-preservation. Again, I am paraphrasing a paraphrase (tg's was quite good, maybe he'll provide a link?) I'm certain to be missing much nuance.
But I am struck by its application to government agencies. It provides a very good reason not to create them.
Instapundit, Breitbart, and PowerLine talk about and embed an interview with Charles Bolden of NASA. Bolden tells Al-Jazeera (Tagline: hey, we're better than CNN!) that the President tasked him "to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering." Aww, isn't that sweet.
Paul at PowerLine notices that space exploration does not make the top three in President Obama's ToDo list. "The other two are 're-inspire children to want to get into science and math' and 'expand our international relationships,'" Man, I'm just feeling better about myself by the minute.
I'd suggest that no Federal agency has a clearer aegis than NASA. And yet, it is just one more honey pot of money that the current occupant of the White House can use for whatever pleases. President Huckabee will probably develop some great tasting Diet Tang®.
For several months now I've taken scant comfort in the belief that "after the healthcare disaster there's no way that congress or the American people will allow the energy tax bill to pass." Then I read this analysis by RCP's Jay Cost:
The only reason to pass such a major piece of legislation during a lame duck session is because the proposal is unpopular. If Democrats could sell the bill to their constituents, they would pass it before the November elections then campaign on it. Party leaders must also expect that the political will for this bill will not exist in the 112th Congress after the voters have spoken in November. In other words, the new representatives coming in are not going to vote for it - so Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama had better get the representatives who were just fired to support it before they're forced into early retirement.
But Jay says the president would be wise to use caution, lest he hurt his own chances for re-election in '12:
Passing health care reform over howls of popular protest then jamming energy reform through a lame duck Congress might solidify the impression that this President is a bully who doesn't care what the people think. That would hand the Republicans a great valence issue for 2012. Nobody likes a bully, after all.
But if the president has already acquiesced to a belief that his re-election is doomed anyway...
John Stossel brings word that Senator Chuck Grassley (R - C2H5OH) is going to watch out for us on the college football realignment:
"Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) ... said his staff is exploring options through nonprofit and antitrust laws to approach the realignments.
'I'm concerned about what's happening the Texas universities and the PAC 10 and what would possibly be leaving some Big 12 teams out in the cold,' Grassley said in a Wednesday conference call. 'All I can tell you is my staff's looking into what can be done from a non-profit, anti-trust standpoint.
What a relief! I was afraid that was going to continue with little or no Federal oversight.
JK recently invoked a long-standing theme put forth by Blog Brother Silence: That without government guidance a capitalist economy necessarily results in an extreme gentrification of society, or a "Dickensian" world if you will. I noted in the comments that "it is not only the wealthy who can create wealth. At every level of the economic ladder, when value is traded for value wealth is created." A more thorough explanation of this fact is offered in a Wendy Milling essay: 'No Thomas Friedman, Capitalism is Perfect.'
Some degree of economic malady exists and will continue to exist under any system, including capitalism. It is not the responsibility of capitalism to eliminate, and it is not a feature of capitalism, but of a special facet of reality: Man's free will.
Individuals must perform mental and physical work in order to attain material values, but this requires an act of free will. The existence of free will means that some people will choose to have a different value system, and some will choose not to have values at all. In a pure capitalist system, the opportunity to achieve whatever prosperity level desired is available to everyone.
It is not the proper purpose or function of a politico-economic system to override the free will of man, and any attempt to do so is immoral. It would be an attempt to violate the rights of the virtuous for the sake of those who reject virtue, because in reality, the only way to start equalizing results for people who have chosen to reject effort is to rob from those who have not. To insist that people who demonstrate no commitment to achieving material values, value the materials anyway-and then blame capitalism for their not having them-is to border on the psychotic.
Now, what Wendy has described is only valid in a special place we like to call "reality." Opponents of capitalism can't prevail in the face of these facts using reason. In fact, many deny that reason exists. Instead, as Wendy writes, "they rely on obfuscations, equivocations, and an attitude of militant evasion. One trick is to make inappropriate demands of capitalism, then stomp and pout and denounce capitalism when those demands are not met." She calls this approach "crybaby metaphysics." That is apt teminology, and the reacton to the BP oil leak by President Obama casts him as Crybaby in Chief. ("Just plug the damn hole!")
Milling concludes by answering Friedman's sneering taunt, "But what say the tea partiers today? Who will step forward now and demand that the ‘energy market' be rescued from regulatory bondage?"
Observe that the government, beholden to an insane environmentalist ideology that views nature as an intrinsic value and superior to human beings, forbade oil companies to drill nearer to the coast line where there were shallow waters. In the shallow areas, an oil leak could be directly accessed. Instead, companies were only allowed to drill in areas too deep for current technology to address.
The liability risk in deep waters was too great for the oil companies to accept. This is an example of the inherent safety features in a free market. However, because we need the oil for our economy, politicians had to entice companies to drill there by capping liability limits on accidents, legally shielding them from the consequences of failure they would bear under a capitalist system. It is government that removes the safety controls and engenders unacceptably risky situations.
There is no regulation that can override the reality of a fundamentally flawed set-up like this, which is why the statists do not offer to explain why such regulations were not already in place in one of the most heavily regulated sectors of the economy.
It is also an open question what the actual economic damage will be, what it would be were the federal government not interfering with local authorities' attempts to mitigate the spill, and what adaptations the private sector will make to counter the new adversities.
Thus, if it were not for government interference, there might still have been an accident at some point, but there would have been no "disaster." Statism was the problem, and laissez-faire would have prevented this situation.
Capitalism is not to blame for the flaws of our mixed economy, the do-gooders' "fettering" is.
Those who question global warming alarmists’ claims and policy prescriptions have been compared to holocaust deniers. Yet what are we to call environmentalists whose policies have resulted in the deaths of millions and could exacerbate poverty and hunger? The movie title Not Evil, Just Wrong may be too charitable.
Snap! Now that's what I call 'Hope and Change' in the news business. How did this happen? The story was written by Carrie Lukas, VP of Policy and Economics at the Independent Women's Forum (because "All issues are women's issues.") Their mission:
The Independent Women's Forum is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and educational institution. Founded in 1992, IWF focuses on issues of concern to women, men, and families. Our mission is to rebuild civil society by advancing economic liberty, personal responsibility, and political freedom. IWF builds support for a greater respect for limited government, equality under the law, property rights, free markets, strong families, and a powerful and effective national defense and foreign policy. IWF is home to some of the nation's most influential scholars—women who are committed to promoting and defending economic opportunity and political freedom.
OK, sounds good so far. They may have been founded in 1992 but it's hard to believe this has been their mission all along. I think JK'd have linked 'em by now! ;) Better late than never though.
UPDATE: Here's the link to the entire US N&WR entry and not just the excerpt on balanced-ed.org. It's an editorial. Oh well, the flicker of hope felt really good for those few minutes. Still check out iwf.org though.
"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," LaHood said in a statement. "Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families."
Just as the housing bubble can be traced to the Community Reinvestment Act, the American health care 'crisis' can be traced to EMTALA. This act, part of the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is the origin of the treatment-on-demand mandate on American hospitals. The stick that makes hospitals comply is continued receipt of Medicare reimbursements. So why can't a private hospital choose to stop treating Medicare patients and, as an added bonus, indigent patients?
As with the CRA, EMTALA was made worse by subsequent amendments. Like this one:
"Though patients treated under EMTALA may or may not be able to pay or have insurance or other programs pay for the associated costs, they are legally responsible for any costs incurred as a result of their care under civil law. Patients whose advance intention it is to receive medical care and fail to pay cannot be held criminally liable unless they intentionally and knowingly provide false identifying information to dodge billing."
And yet, as amended...
"The patient cannot receive a negative credit mark for failure to pay the hospital or any related services, or any third-party agent collecting on their behalf."
My favorite story remains that President Madison, when brought a bill to finance internal improvements (Erie Canal, perhaps?) said "I cannot lay my finger on that part of the Constitution which gives me the authority to do this."
Y'know, I think -- even dead -- James Madison would be a better President than the recent crop. He is always rated low by historians. But historians typically do not appreciated enumerated powers nor limitations on Executive authority.
Got a link to complete this segue, jk, or are you just ramblin'? I got a link:
WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve issued new rules on Tuesday to protect Americans from getting stung by unexpected fees or restrictions on gift cards.
Free at last, free at last! Great God Almighty, service fees on my $25 Chili's gift card will be free at last!
UPDATE: Oh man, do not miss tg's link!. "The Good and Welfare Clause!" First laugh I have had since Sunday night, tg, Though...you;re right...it's really not funny...
DISCLAIMER: This is an anecdote, and as such proves nothing. Unless you're the president or the speaker of the House. -- Matt Welch, who did much to elect President Obama, yet is rewarded with QOTD honors on the darkest political day of my adult life.
Pretty sporting of me, huh? The short post is well worth a read.
I hadn't seen this before. It's from last October and even if you've seen it, watch it again. Among other things the judge explains how federal government lawyers act to prevent unconstitutional laws from being judged so in court.
UPDATE (3/15): For those who didn't listen, and just because I want to see it in print, here is one of those other things the judge said: [closing minute]
"These gatherings are more important than anything you can imagine. Because in the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its maximum hour of danger. You are that generation! This is your role! Now is that time! Freedom must be defended from every assailant in every corner of this country, from outside the country, from inside the country, and especially from the government that wants to take it away from us. [applause] God bless you."
I'm sick of all the libertarians (like John Stossel) insisting that we can live with less government! Who will protect us from the scourge of unregistered beer?
More than a dozen armed State Police officers conducted simultaneous raids last week on three popular Philadelphia bars known for their wide beer selections. The cops confiscated hundreds of bottles of expensive ales and lagers...
Although the bar owners had bought the beer legally from licensed Pennsylvania distributors and had paid all the necessary taxes, the police claimed that nobody had registered the precise names of the beers with the state Liquor Control Board ....
Based on a complaint from someone the State Police refuse to identify, three teams of officers converged last Thursday on the three bars, run by Leigh Maida and her husband....
The House of Representatives recently passed its own version of the largely symbolic, but very expensive, 15 ba-billion dollar jobs bill. What frustrates me most of all about this is how they ignore a simple and inexpensive way to create real, private-sector jobs, increase tax revenue, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. EnergyTomorrow.org sez:
Increasing access to oil and natural gas resources could generate nearly 160,000 new, well-paying jobs, $1.7 trillion in revenues to federal, state and local governments and greater energy security. And according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study, the U.S. oil and natural gas industry already supports 9.2 million American jobs and contributes more than $1 trillion to the national economy, or 7.5 percent GDP.
Our nation has vast on-and-offshore oil and natural gas resources that could be produced safely to put this country's economy back on its feet.
But it's not just domestic oil and gas that will provide the jobs and energy our nation needs. Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north and top supplier of oil, will continue to play a vital role as we seek greater energy and economic security.
According to a recent CERI study, the economic impact of Canadian oil sands development is expected to lead to 342,000 U.S. jobs between 2011 and 2015, and an estimated $34 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 and $42.2 billion in 2025.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - Many answers to our economic woes are easy to find; if government hacks really intended to fix the economy they would do it.
Colorado is looking to close offices, layoff teachers, and auction off elk herds on eBay to fill a budget gap, but the BillionDollarFasTraxBoondoggle is sacrosanct! If we have only $3 left, we're going to waste it on light rail.
George Soros, Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and others are proposing to curb speculative trading and even outlaw it in credit default swap (CDS) markets. Their proposals appear to be based on a misconception of speculation and could harm financial markets.
This is the lead paragraph from a superb WSJ guest editorial that deserves a more serious link. It's one of my favorite topics the non-evil of speculation. The author is Professor Darrell Duffie of Stanford's Graduate School of Business.
Professor Duffie waxes his evil mustache and provides a credible defnse to those who absorb risk and provide information to markets.
For convenience, I use one credit card for everything and I pay the balance every month. I have had this card for 11 years and it has been my exclusive card for three or more years. I have others but I seldom use them.
Yesterday, a charge of $25 or so for lunch was declined. I called to inquire today, and was told that my credit limit had been reduced from $33,500 to $3900. Thank you and have a nice day.
I don't think it rises to black helicopter conspiracy theories to believe that the adjustment, dated February 18, 2010 came just before the new credit card rules take effect February 22, 2010.
THANKS FOR LOOKING OUT FOR ME!! I REALLY APPRECIATE IT!!!
A British farmer who secretly built a castle and hid it behind haystacks to avoid trouble from local planning authorities was ordered by a court Wednesday to demolish it.
Farmer Robert Fidler built the mock Tudor castle in Surrey and moved into it with his family in 2002.
He says he had applied in 1996 to build a house on his farmland, but the authorities wouldn't grant him permission. So, when he and his wife were feeling "desperate," they found a loophole in the British law.
Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson is calling the GOP's bluff on their claims to have ideas other than "no" for economic and health care reform. Most of her examples are flippant or revisionist so the main reason to link is for her accusation. OK, I'll give you an example:
You can't just wish something into being, like the heading in their "No-Cost Jobs Plan" that reads, "Tear Down Self-Imposed Obstacles to Economic Growth." In other words: clear-cut pesky regulations about mine safety and meat packing. We might die, but we'll be more competitive.
Now, for my money I think President Obama himself actually had the best idea. I don't remember which policy retreat he said this at, probably the one with the GOP, but he more or less said, "In order to make federal outlays match revenues we would have to cut spending across the board by something like sixty percent."
Tell you what, Mr. president - I'll settle for fifty.
Faced with severe budget shortfalls after a steep economic recession, state legislatures and governors are trying to raise money without raising taxes — at least not technically.
A fee hike, an increased penalty or fine, the elimination of a tax exemption — none of these technically counts as a tax increase, as far as many state lawmakers are concerned. Fiscal conservatives argue that a tax hikes are exactly what they are, but their arguments are likely to fall on deaf ears for legislators and governors wrestling with some of the worst budget deficits since the Great Depression.
"There's a certain American antipathy to raising taxes, so even if these are tax increases, there's an incentive to call them something else," said Joseph Henchman, director of state projects at the conservative Tax Foundation. "It's a trend we always see, but it's certainly going to be one that's stronger this year."
I feel for my friends from Colorado, but I suspect none of us are going to escape this.
On Monday, the Colorado House of Representatives approved eight bills eliminating tax exemptions on items ranging from online sales and farm equipment to restaurant napkins and plastic foam containers. The bills passed with no Republican support.
Were those tax increases? It depends on your political bent. To Democrats, the votes merely rid the books of tax breaks and loopholes for big business in order to avoid cuts to public schools and social services.
"It's time for corporate and other special interests to pay their fair share, and suspending a small fraction of the over $2 billion Colorado loses every year in corporate loopholes and giveaways is not too much to ask," Alan Franklin, president of ProgressNow Colorado, said in a statement after the vote.
To Republicans, the bills meant raising taxes on many of those who can least afford it: struggling farmers and ranchers, people running Internet-based businesses out of their homes, small businesses teetering on the brink of insolvency.
"At the worst possible time, we're making a choice to raise taxes on people who can't afford them anymore," state Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican, said during the floor debate. "It's an overreach by government."
I read the list of GOP ayes thinking I'd find a handy checklist of big-government Republicans to campaign against in future elections, but some of the names on the list surprised me. Tennessee's Bob Corker and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, most notably. Here's the rest of the list:
Sprint showed us what it would look like "If Firefighters Ran the World."
Senators Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, Richard Durbin and Christopher Dodd show us what would happen "If the Mafia Ran the World."
Problem is, the Sprint ad was hypothetical and the Senate's actions are all too real. It can legitimately be argued that the Democrat party has become a full-fledged criminal syndicate. Just listen to Judge Napolitano.
Is what we are seeing today much different than if a majority of Mafioso had been elected to Congress?
What do progressives love most? It's not global warming or taxes or shutting down a Walmart*
If you guessed "light rail" grab yourself an apple and granola bar.
Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post writes today on the Western High Speed Rail Alliance.
The brainchild of public agencies in four states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah — the rail alliance believes "the future mobility of people and freight in the West depends on high speed rail lines." Yet in supporting this dubious thesis in their opening press conference, officials misstated so many elementary facts as to cast doubt on whether they'd studied the issue at all.
An introductory video contained the first whopper. After explaining that in the future, "most of the fastest growing states will be in the West" — true enough — the narrator went on to claim that "for nearly a half century the primary focus for passenger rail has targeted the development and funding of Amtrak's Eastern corridor, an area losing population."
Which it isn't. but whatever...
To compound the demographic muddle, the general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Jacob Snow, told reporters that "our densities here in the West are very high and probably much higher than those areas referenced in much of the rest of the country."
Huh? What? Mister Snow should join a rock band. I have driven across those states a time or two, and the word "density" does not come to mind.
Yet when asked about the economic viability of their plans to link cities in the four states, Snow blithely mentioned the profits of the Central Japan Railway Co., which serves one of the densest, highly populated corridors in the world.
A beloved non-moonbat relative is not a fan of expanding government, yet is convinced that the reason the local grocery store doesn't sell bad meat is fear of the USDA, not fear of reputation or lawsuits.
I just sent a link to this USA Today piece (no doubt the print version has a cute little graph showing tainted chickens...)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the meat it buys for the National School Lunch Program "meets or exceeds standards in commercial products."
That isn't always the case. McDonald's, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.
And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.
For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. Called "spent hens" because they're past their egg-laying prime, the chickens don't pass muster with Colonel Sanders— KFC won't buy them — and they don't pass the soup test, either. The Campbell Soup Company says it stopped using them a decade ago based on "quality considerations."
This represents an insidious acceptance of government power. Living a whole life of regulation -- many assume that they have been protected by regulation, when they would be better served by free markets.
New York City is famous for lots of things. For one, New York pizza. Unfortunately, the city is also known for its ridiculous nanny-state laws. One pizzeria owner wrote in to a food blog about his struggles with regulators
Even though there are ZERO reports of anybody getting sick from reheated pizza-by-the-slice, Bloomberg's Nanny Brigade has moved in to restrict consumer choice and business opportunity.
We're from the government and we're here to help: protected from the scourge of pizza!
Hide your Brazillian Rosewood! They've raided Gibson!
An international crackdown on the use of endangered woods from the world's rain forests to make musical instruments bubbled over to Music City on Tuesday with a federal raid on Gibson Guitar 's manufacturing plant, but no arrests.
A Federal raid for f***ing wood! Executive power at its finest!
UPDATE II: I wish I could start over and make this post more serious. A good friend of the blog emailed the classical values link to me this morning. This is how liberty ends. Whatever happens to health care, the Feds (the Executive Branch) are now in charge of wood. Anything with wood in it. Anything made of wood. It's all in their purview now.
The people who run your city, the politicians who are full of bright ideas for improving your life by infringing on others' rights, and the black-robed genius who is tasked with interpreting our founding documents; NONE of these people are smarter than you.
NONE of these people are gifted with superior insight on how better to run your life or use our native resources. But they believe that they are. So without the brake of morality or explicit law, these geniuses and pols and town busybodies will extend professional courtesy to each other as they go about dismantling your life for some dubious utopian idea.
WASHINGTON — Just as Congressional leaders are calling to extend a popular tax credit for first-time homebuyers, government investigators are reporting new findings that point to widespread fraud in the program.
Only the Times could make that so completely free of irony.
White Guilt and other byproducts of modern public education
My word, what are they teaching at Berkeley these days? First from JK's morning read we have Cal Berkeley American History major Jennifer Burns writing a doctoral dissertation cum biography of Ayn Rand and next we see another Berkeley girl, this time a psychotherapist, quoting the late philosopher in her explanation of why whites voted for Obama.
Given the brainwashing of several generations, did millions of whites vote for Obama out of white guilt? Yes, but it runs deeper than this.
What's happening is not just white guilt, but white shame. Shame is a much more devastating emotion.
We feel guilty about an action, for instance, cheating on taxes or spouses. Shame makes us feel bad about who we are, as though something is wrong with us.
That is what happened with Julie, Joe, and Rose. They were dumped on so often by so many that they absorbed the shame and started detesting themselves.
Interestingly, Obama, in one of his autobiographies, reports being intrigued by Malcolm X's statement that, as a biracial man, he despised his whiteness; that he wished there was some way that he could excise his white blood.
Now we have millions of whites who are ashamed of their white blood. Coincidence?
And there's more.
Along with white guilt and shame, there's another reason why whites flocked to a leader with no experience in leading: white fear. While many liberals reside in safe towns, still there's always a threat.
Turn on the 6 o'clock news and hear about the latest cop murder or mob rampage. Rodney King riots in LA, the mayhem in Oakland, murdered police officers. Then listen to reportage that blames the victims.
Thuggery is celebrated. Bad guys are hecka cool; the innocents stupid and naive. Write a rap song about beating up a whore and killing a cop, and win a Grammy.
Think I'm exaggerating? If there isn't an atmosphere of racial fear, why did people threaten a race war if Obama lost? Why are dissenters tarred with the vile label of racist? (Translation: pure evil)
Many liberals voted for Obama in the hopes that all would be forgiven. That if whites handed over some power, finally we can move on and get along. We'll be safe.
Had someone like General Colin Powell or former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. been elected, we probably would not have a foreboding, fearful atmosphere. Though they lean left, both men are patriotic, experienced leaders who may have facilitated racial healing.
Ironically, White America envisioned forgiveness, a letting go of old wounds. Instead we have emboldened people obsessed with evil deeds carried out by citizens long dead.
If you want to see her Rand quotes you'll have to read the article. I've excerpted enough already.
This thought occurred to me last week, but I can't claim to be the first: The futuristic scenario painted by the Obamacare proposal, H.B. 3200 is remarkably similar to the 1972 sci-fi film 'Soylent Green.' Rick Carpenter at "Right Wing vs. The Wingnuts" blog posted his take last month:
What is interesting to me is that in the movie, the euthenasia of old people is a government-run program. Under ObamaCare, we are starting with 'death panels'.
What is discovered about the food product Soylent Green at the end of the movie seems far-fetched, in that they used the remains of the dead to produce the food wafers. I use the word 'seems' instead of 'is', because the Obama administration has already done some things that are so far-fetched and corrupt that I can't put anything outside the boundaries of their morals (lack), their conscience (lack), their defense of the Constitution (betrayal), or their love for the sovereignty of America (hatred).
Think Rick and I are just two of the strange ones? Jonah Goldberg is nearly with us.
Now, I don’t think Soylent Green-style solutions are coming down the pike. (...) But every nationalized health-care system to one degree or another rations care based on the quality of life and number of “life years” a procedure will yield. That’s perfectly reasonable. If you put me in charge of everyone’s health care, I would do that, too. That’s a really good argument for not giving me — or anyone else — that power.
I still contend that brother jk is missin' out by not having cable. FNC's 'America's Newsroom' regularly features US congressmen or senators commenting on affairs of the day and they tend to say the darnedest things. Just yesterday a congressman said, in essence, "these people who have gold plated health care coverage don't have the right to force everyone else to subsidize their coverage and that's why we should tax them." I wanted to give the verbatim quote with attribution but didn't think to record him. I didn't make that mistake today.
Representative Steven Lynch (D-MA) is chairman of the Postal Service Oversight Subcommittee. Commenting on the GAO report downgrading the USPS' credit worthiness in the wake of $2.8 B lost last year and $7 B projected to be lost this year he was asked by FNC's Bill Hemmer, "Fed-Ex is profitable. UPS is profitable. Is it time to start taking a serious look at making this government service private?"
"Well look, if Fed-Ex did what the post office did and if UPS did what the post office did they would not be profitable."
I'll leave the obvious conclusion to the reader, but there's more. In the very next breath he seemed to be channeling Jon Caldera on healthcare reform, but in reverse, and without even realizing it.
"They provide universal coverage six days a week to every business and home in America for forty-four cents, basically, for a letter. If you don't want that service then you could probably reduce the postal service's costs as well."
The only surprise is really that any in the Administration or Congress could promise -- with a straight face -- that they would not meddle. Chairman Barney Frank (D - America!) famously got caught keeping a parts depot in his district from closure. Now Senator Harkin (D - C2H5OH) thinks, surprise, that we should force the companies to support flex fuel. After all "we own them!"
Sen. Tom Harkin said he wants Congress to use a climate bill to force auto companies to make new cars and trucks capable of running on 85 percent ethanol as well as conventional gasoline.
"We own the automobile companies. Why not? I think that will be an easy one," Harkin said Thursday, referring to the government interests in Chrysler and General Motors.
Hat-tip: Instapundit. Professor Reynolds has received a couple of emails from me questioning his support of a flex fuel mandate. This is just brazen enough to float him into my camp on this. Harkin's a uniter, not a divider!
I know the subject comes up at breakfast all the time. But rest assured, good people, your Government has protected you. And if it says "Rasin Bread" on the package, the full faith and credit of the Executive Branch will stand behind it:
(b) The name of the food is “raisin bread”, “raisin rolls”,“raisin buns”, as applicable. When the food contains not less than 2.56 percent by weight of whole egg solids, the name of the food may be “raisin and egg bread”, “raisin and egg rolls”, or “raisin and egg buns”, as applicable, accompanied by the statement “Contains – medium-sized egg(s) per pound” in the manner prescribed by Sec. 102.5(c)(3) of this chapter, the blank to be filled in with the number which represents the whole egg content of the food expressed to the nearest one-fifth egg but not greater than the amount actually present. For purposes of this regulation, whole egg solids are the edible contents of eggs calculated on a moisture-free basis and exclusive of any nonegg solids which may be present in standardized and other commercial egg products. One medium-sized egg is equivalent to 0.41 ounce of whole egg solids.
There's more if you can stand it on radio host Mike Slater's website.
More than one person on these pages has declared that there is a "consensus amongst the majority of serious scientists that man made global warming is a real phenomenon." The obvious implication is that anyone who disputes this is either an un-serious scientist or a crackpot. I now ask any of you who may still hold that belief, which label would you apply to Dr. Alan Carlin, the EPA's own Senior Operations Research Analyst? Previous ThreeSources blog posts here, here and here have referenced the internal dissent by Dr. Carlin against the hasty and apparently premeditated regulation of CO2 as an atmospheric "pollutant." In Carlin's own words, here is what he has to say about the state of the GHG/CO2/AGW "science."
I have become increasingly concerned that EPA has itself paid too little attention to the science of global warming. EPA and others have tended to accept the findings reached by outside groups, particularly the IPCC and the CCSP, as being correct without a careful and
critical examination of their conclusions and documentation. If they should be found to be incorrect at a later date, however, and EPA is found not to have made a really careful
independent review of them before reaching its decisions on endangerment, it appears likely that it is EPA rather than these other groups that may be blamed for any errors. Restricting the source of inputs into the process to these these two sources may make EPA’s current task easier but it may come with enormous costs later if they should result in policies that may not be scientifically supportable.
This is profound enough in its own right. But there is more:
It is of great importance that the Agency recognize the difference between an effort that has consumed tens of billions of dollars by the IPCC, the CCSP, and some additional European, particularly British, funding over a period of at least 15 years with what I have been able to pull together in less than a week. (...) What is actually noteworthy about this effort is not the relative apparent scientific shine of the two sides but rather the relative ease with which major holes have been found in the GHG/CO2/AGW argument. In many cases the most important arguments are based not on multi-million dollar research efforts but by simple observation of available data which has surprisingly received so little scrutiny. The best example of this is the MSU satellite data on global temperatures. Simple scrutiny of this data yields what to me are stunning observations. Yet this has received surprisingly little study or at least publicity. In the end it must be emphasized that the issue is not which side has spent the most money or published the most peer-reviewed papers, or been supported by more scientific organizations. The issue is rather whether the GHG/CO2/AGW hypothesis meets the ultimate scientific test—conformance with real world data. What these comments show is that it is this ultimate test that the hypothesis fails; this is why EPA needs to carefully reexamine the science behind global warming before proposing an endangerment finding. This will take more than four days but is the most important thing I can do right now and in the coming weeks and months and possibly even years.
Emphasis mine. In Dr. Carlin's 85 page review report, composed in about 4 of the 5 days he was given to review the Draft Technical Support Document for Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act he made 19 specific recomended revisions to the TSD. In the Executive Summary section he pretty much sums up his opinion with this:
These inconsistencies between the TSD analysis and scientific observations are so important and sufficiently abstruse that in my view EPA needs to make an independent analysis of the science of global warming rather than adopting the conclusions of the IPCC and CCSP without much more careful and independent EPA staff review than is evidenced by the Draft TSP. Adopting the scientific conclusions of an outside group such as the IPCC or CCSP without thorough review by EPA is not in the EPA tradition anyway, and there seems to be little reason to change the tradition in this case. If their conclusions should be incorrect and EPA acts on them, it is EPA that will be blamed for inadequate research and understanding and reaching a possibly inaccurate determination of endangerment. Given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until about 2030 given the 60 year cycle described in Section 2) there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain much of the available data.
"Balanced" and "sensible" climate change bill passes House
That's the spin thrown on the bill by President Obama yesterday. Surely it was far from either of those qualities at the time, but prior to passage another 300 pages were shoe-horned in ... at 3 am this morning! [What in the hell is the fixation that Washington politicians have with that time of day?] Minority Leader Boehner said the obvious:
Rep. Geoff Davis, a Republican from Kentucky, said the cap-and-trade bill represented the "economic colonization of the heartland" by New York and California.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) called the bill a “scam” that would do nothing but satisfy “the twisted desires of radical environmentalists.”
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) called it a “massive transfer of wealth” from the United States to foreign countries.
Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio countered that, without the bill, the United States would remain energy-dependent on people who want to “fly planes into our buildings.”
I'd hoped to insert a bulleted list of ways that this bill is a colonoscopy for America but then I realized, Who the hell knows what it does... it jumped from 1200 pages to 1500 overnight!
Citi has to raise salaries for retention, because of restrictions on bonuses. AP:
NEW YORK -- Citigroup Inc. is increasing base salaries for many of its employees as it restructures its compensation program amid new restrictions on bonus payments.
The increased salaries will offset lower bonuses, according to a person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because the plans have not been made public. The higher salaries are not the equivalent of annual raises, the person added.
Citi faces restrictions on bonuses as part of a new government compensation oversight plan because the bank received bailout funds from the Treasury Department.
Of course, salaries are paid irrespective of personal or corporate performance, so this will be a drag on Citi's balance sheet and give the firm less flexibility to manage labor -- but at least there will be no embarrassing (to Congress) bonus stories.
Ahh, let's see, what can we fix next? Chairman Barney Frank has a great idea: lower the standards for Fannie and Freddie to underwrite Condo loans. What a brilliant idea. WSJ Ed Page:
Back when the housing mania was taking off, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank famously said he wanted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to "roll the dice" in the name of affordable housing. That didn't turn out so well, but Mr. Frank has since only accumulated more power. And now he is returning to the scene of the calamity -- with your money. He and New York Representative Anthony Weiner have sent a letter to the heads of Fannie and Freddie exhorting them to lower lending standards for condo buyers.
You read that right. After two years of telling us how lax lending standards drove up the market and led to loans that should never have been made, Mr. Frank wants Fannie and Freddie to take more risk in condo developments with high percentages of unsold units, high delinquency rates or high concentrations of ownership within the development.- this is the kind of thinking we cant get in the provate sectpor. WSJ Ed Page:
Imagine what these people could to health care -- no, wait, you don't have to! They're already running the VA. Take it away, AP:
WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is calling for more centralized control of the VA medical system after recent breakdowns in cleaning colonoscopy equipment exposed thousands of veterans to the risk of contracting HIV and other infections.
In prepared remarks to be delivered at a Wednesday hearing, Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii said that disparities in quality control procedures at VA medical centers raise questions about whether local or national leaders are in charge.
Don't thank them -- it's all in a day's work for The Government!
I really wanted to include a little graphic showing the state of California with a FOR SALE sign planted in it right about at Sacramento. Well, just use your imagination.
California's Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed selling a number of state landmarks (state ownership of which is in some doubt) to raise cash and balance the state budget. One-time proceeds are estimated at $1 billion. The budget shortfall is $15.4 billion, just for the next fiscal year. Obviously state officials need more stuff to put in their garage sale. Hmm, I wonder what California has that someone might be willing to pay cash for (other than federal bailout dollars, that is.) Gee, that's a tough one!
According to this handy interactive graphic the total government lease royalty revenue that would result from lifting current oil and gas production moratoria is $1695 billion and of that amount, $1386 billion of it comes from the outer continental shelf (Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf regions combined.) A summary report here provides numerous tables showing the breakdown by area but none were clear enough for me to cite specifically. Let it suffice to say the California budget shortfall, at $15.4 billion, is a bit over 1 percent of the possible OCS government windfall. If the Governator would simply work toward responsible development of his state's natural resources he could balance its budget overnight, and for decades to come.
Today's Denver Post featured this story about a couple of young entrepreneurs in Salida, Colorado. These kids, nine and ten respectilvey, spent their winter building bird houses to sell in the spring. The enterprise was encouraged by their father.
Hunter's dad, Eric Beem, dreamed up the idea for his son's birdhouse business as a way to teach him things like self-reliance and money management.
"It's hard for parents," he said. "When kids want something, it's easier to shell out money" than to figure out how to teach them how how to leverage their talents for pocket change.
Sounds quintessentially American. Unfortunately, the long arm of government stepped in, which is also becoming quintessentially American.
It all stopped when the code enforcer told them they could get a ticket for peddling products without the proper paperwork.
Then she handed them a business card with a number at city hall to call for information about the license and how much it would cost.
For now, the kids are shut down. The Salida City Council is considering and ordinance change. Wow. Responsive government in action.
Of course, that's just the beginning of the lesson. Soon, the kids will learn that they need to register their business with the State of Colorado. As part of that process, they'll need to get an Employer Identification Number from both the IRS and the State. They must also call the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and get a separate UI number.
As a seasonal business, they'll need to determine their filing status and likely file form 941 on a quarterly basis. Failure to file can result in penalties, interest and criminal charges. At the same time, they need to file form 1000-100 with the State on a quarterly basis for state withholding. In addition, they must file and pay the Quarterly Unemployment Wage Report on the first $10,000 of income per annum based on a rate provided by the state. This must be paid by the business and cannot be withheld from employee's paychecks, and no one is exempt. At year end, send all employees a W2 and all contractors a 1099. Then, send form W3 to the IRS, Social Security Administration, and the State Department of Revenue. Be sure to file on time to avoid penalties and interest.
They also must not forget to obtain worker's compensation insurance as mandated by the State. As business owners, they can exempt themselves from coverage, but must file the appropriate affidavit. Appropriate notifications and posters must be posted in a conspicuous location so that all employees can see their rights regarding unemployment and worker's compensation. Failure to do so can result in fines. They must also select a state-approved healthcare provider for all worker's comp injury examinations and claims.
It's not a bad idea for them to look into a general business liability umbrella policy as well. Should one of the wires holding the bird house break and the house hit someone on the head, there could be signficant business liability.
The bird houses were almost certainly made using saws, so OSHA has oversight regarding workplace safety. The fire marshall is also entitled to inspect the premises annually, without notice. Failure to comply with any related regulation can result in closing the business and fines.
The bird houses probably were painted or varnished to protect against the weather. OSHA can determine whether or not adequate ventilation and personal protective gear is available. If not, see above regarding business closure and fines. EPA and state agencies have oversight regarding the disposal of the empty paint/varnish containers and paint brushes. They must be disposed of in approved locations.
Because bird houses are often handled by kids, the houses must be tested and certified as lead-free. Any inventory that has not been tested must be disposed of as directed by EPA.
There you go, kids - have fun! Learn what America, the Land of Opportunity, is all about. Of course, you might consider a lemonade stand, but then we'd have to get the health department involved...
I don't think this is quite what Mister Madison had in mind. At the John Murtha Airport, the screeners outnumber the passengers -- but Federal Jack keeps it in operation.
Inside the terminal on a recent weekday, four passengers lined up to board a flight, outnumbered by seven security staff members and supervisors, all suited up in gloves and uniforms to screen six pieces of luggage. For three hours that day, no commercial or private planes took off or landed. Three commercial flights leave the airport on weekdays, all bound for Dulles International Airport.
The key to the airport's gleaming facilities -- and, indeed, its continued existence -- is $200 million in federal funds in the past decade and the powerful patron who steered most of that money here. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year's stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway.
The facility, newly renamed the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, is a testament to Murtha's ability to tap streams of federal money for pricey, state-of-the-art projects that are rare among regional airports of comparable size.
The WSJ (news pages) today carry a chilling story of the man Sec Paulson brought in to oversee TARP funds.
As the government continues to pour cash into the economy, Mr. Lambright, 38 years old, has become one of the most powerful men in American finance. Unknown to most outside the Treasury building, he's an embodiment of how power in the economy has shifted -- for good or ill -- to Washington.
The chief investment officer of the Troubled Asset Relief Program has engineered $350 billion in deals for the U.S. government since October, more than many investment banks would do in a good year. His team interviews candidates for company board seats. Top executives regularly call him and his team for advice.
Neither gub'mint nor Wall Street is beanbag, but the story of Lambright's "toughness" is disturbing. Don Luskin highlights his intransigence on New Year's Eve as companies desperately tried to get funds deposited before the new year. No, we don't want a cream puff shoveling out taxpayer dollars, but Lambright was appointed by a guy who was appointed. He was neither elected nor explicitly under oversight. He is a free range actor with billions of our dollars to prop up the financial system -- or his own, non-diminutive ego.
"My specific reference was to dictatorial powers, that I thought that Secretary of the Treasury Geithner was asking for, where he would decide what companies to take over, he would decide under what circumstances, and let me tell ya, the American system was not built for one bureaucrat to decide whether or not they're gonna take your property. (...) And then look at what they're trying to do on the budget, where they're trying to ram through a resolution, to break the rules of the Senate, to be able to get through both an energy tax increase and a massive change in our health system on 51 votes, which is clearly a power grab of unprecedented proportions. I think dictatorial is a strong word, but it may frighteningly be the right word."
Is anyone else beginning to wonder why Obama doesn't seem concerned about re-election?
But even if man-made climate change was real (sorry tg, is real) and even if "renewable" energy sources were beneficial to counter it, the least effective entity to make them a reality is - wait for it - government.
Industries generally develop in three stages. First is scientific feasibility, second is engineering feasibility, and third is economic feasibility.
Using the airline industry as an example, the question in the 1800s was: "Is long-distance air travel possible?"
In the 1800s, balloons were already in use but were not practical. The problem to solve was the heavier-than-air machine.
The Wright Brothers in 1903 proved scientific feasibility. They risked their time, money and lives to show that a heavier-than-air machine could fly.
Lindbergh, in 1927, proved engineering feasibility. He risked time, money and his life to show that long-distance air travel was possible.
This gave investors enough confidence to risk their money in the aircraft industry. In 1935 the Douglas Company came out with the DC-3, which was the beginning of economic feasibility.
The modern airline industry resulted from all this risk-taking. Today, a middle-class American can go anywhere in the world much faster, and in much greater comfort, than a Roman emperor could. Travelers fly because the benefits are greater than the costs. This is economic feasibility.
This three-step model explains why governments are terrible at economic development. The "experts" who comprise the government gamble with other people's money, so they tend to confuse scientific and engineering feasibility with economic feasibility.
Once science and engineering prove something can be done, those who comprise the government will do it - even if the costs are greater than the benefits. [emphasis mine]
This economic development of the economically unfeasible is precisely the modern story of:
Solar photovoltaic power
Ethanol (both glucosic AND celluosic)
Hydrogen fuel cells
Dual-mode hybrid cars
The list goes on...
Yesterday I commented that there's "another important dragon to be slain before" the next elections for congress and for president. That dragon is the myth of man-made global warming caused by our use of economical, safe and abundant energy sources. Many of us have long contended that the idea is founded upon pseudo-science. The late Michael Crighton agreed and in an appendix to his wonderfully entertaining and thought provoking novel 'State of Fear' he wrote "Why politicized science is dangerous."
Imagine that there is a new scientific theory that warns of an impending crisis, and points to a way out.
This theory quickly draws support from leading scientists, politicians and celebrities around the world. Research is funded by distinguished philanthropies, and carried out at prestigious universities. The crisis is reported frequently in the media. The science is taught in college and high-school classrooms.
I don't mean global warming. I'm talking about another theory, which rose to prominence a century ago.
Building upon the success of the February 27th "Chicago Tea Party" Rallies, many of the organizers are now working to develop an even larger day of protests set to happen on April 15th, 2009.
These protests are known as the Tax Day Tea Party rallies.
It's really the perfect day.
Likely a beautiful spring Wednesday spent standing around with fellow conservatives and libertarians with signs and chants.
Completely not like the original Boston Tea Party.
In fact, looking at the Wikipedia article, these protests are exactly NOT like the Boston Tea Party.
There's no inspired action.
Samuel Adams said to the assembly "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country". As though on cue, the Sons of Liberty thinly disguised as either Mohawk or Narragansett Indians and armed with small hatchets and clubs, headed toward Griffin's Wharf (in Boston Harbor), where lay Dartmouth and the newly-arrived Beaver and Eleanor.
The Sons of Liberty was a revolutionary secret society... and they were likely Longshoreman on this night.
The casks were opened and the tea dumped overboard; the work, lasting well into the night, was quick, thorough, and efficient. By dawn, over 342 casks or 90,000 lbs (45 tons) of tea worth an estimated Ł10,000 or $1.87 million USD in 2007 currency) had been consigned to waters of Boston harbor. Nothing else had been damaged or stolen, except a single padlock accidentally broken and anonymously replaced not long thereafter.
I think it's a disservice to our earliest patriots to call a tax protest a Tea Party. Standing around like a bunch of dopey lib-tards swinging signs and chanting is no way to run a protest.
You say you want a revolution? Don't wear a seatbelt.
You say you want a revolution? Buy your cigarettes or prescription drugs duty-free or in Mexico.
You say you want a revolution? Idle your car in the driveway all day long, polluting the earth, making Gaia cry. I'd settle for burning leaves in a barrel.
You say you want a revolution? Dig around your drawers and find old stamps and mail envelopes around!
You say you want a revolution? If you're on a 1099 don't file quarterly estimated payments. W2ers are hosed. *
You say you want a revolution? Make a bon-fire / marshmallow roast with stacks of tax forms and tax guides. Invite your neighbors.
You say you want a revolution? On April 15th, don't file your 1040... or send it back empty.
That, my friends, would be a real tea party. How many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of tax payers (out of the 150 million) would it take to put a wrench in the works? (I guess you would have to mail it back though)
It is tax fraud, however... and you're guilty until proven innocent in the IRS's eyes. That's where you need to focus, if you want a "tax" revolution.
Standing around with your friends and future friends? Really inspirational... for the history books.
* It's a sign of how f'd up our system is that your government forces you to pay your taxes! You can't withhold your withholding!
"As far as getting somebody worse, I've no doubt that there are worse ideologues than Senator Daschle. Yet his book about Health Care calls for an American equivalent to the NHS's NICE panel which would provide approval of all treatments and procedures based on government-decided efficacy and cost efficiency. Senator Daschle is radical enough to scare me and is a sophisticated enough player that he seems likely to be able to achieve many of his goals."
If only JK had known how prescient those words might be. The Hudson Institute's Betsy McCaughey quotes the former senator thusly:
A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”
So we shouldn't be surprised to find (McCaughey link) a Daschle-like health care trojan horse in the "we can't afford to delay it" economic stimulus bill, H.R. 1:
Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).
The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.
But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”
Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.
Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)
What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.
The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system. [Emphasis mine.]
The good news is that this was discovered, and is seeing the light of day on Fox News. The bad news? What the hell ELSE is in there??
I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason: The country cannot afford not to take action.
The unemployment figures announced Friday, the latest earnings reports and the continuing crisis in banking make it clear that failure to act will leave the United States facing a far deeper crisis in three or six months. By then the cost of action will be much greater -- or it may be too late.
Wave after wave of bad economic news has created its own psychology of fear and lowered expectations. As in the old Movietone News, the eyes and ears of the world are upon the United States. Failure to act would be devastating not just for Wall Street and Main Street but for much of the rest of the world, which is looking to our country for leadership in this crisis.
In related news, the Washington Post graphs how immediate the stimulus really is.
Answer: 10% gets spent this year... in the year we cannot afford to delay (tm).
I've whined a little about a dear relative who is devoted to creating a Kucinich-style "Department of Peace." A few days after the election, I realized that the electoral stars had probably aligned and that it's likely this nightmare dream might come true.
Today a good friend emails:
When I heard that Quincy Jones had a petition to call for a Secretary of
the Arts in our new administration, my answer was a resounding YES! I
am sending this because I know you understand the importance of art in
Art is the core of what makes us human beings. Art is the language of
our soul. Art is our true unique gift and legacy.
Art brings out the best in us, makes us stronger and lifts our
spirits. Art has been known to help heal those who have severe
physical ailments as well as those who have spiritual wounds.
Art programs make a difference in our lives; bringing hope, self esteem,
emotional well being and a renewed connection to our spirit and to each
other. "Art can't hurt you."
I recently was proud to learn that I am related to Q. Maybe I should call "cuz" up and speak to him. Why why why do these folks think that because something is "important" government should be involved? The folks at Samizdata have a great riff that "The Ministry of X is established to ruin X." If you think of US Departments, the law seems universal. Education? Energy? I've muttered, sotto voce, that when the US D. of Peace is fully staffed that the Amish and Quakers will be engineering drive-bys.
For 23 days a year in July, I become a Frenchman. I enjoy the picturesque countryside and struggle to pronounce "le coeur de croix de furre" (Which is not, as I suspected, the mountain of the fur cross, rather the mountain of the cross of iron).
But when the tour ends, I want to go back to freedom. Grand, philosophical John Locke and Thomas Jefferson freedom to be sure. But also, to live in a land where you might get a good idea for a child's toy and sell it on eBay, or at a local independent store. No more.
It seems there were children to protect, and Speaker Pelosi leaped into action:
After last year's scare over contaminated toys made in China, Congress leapt in to require all products aimed at children under 12 years old to be certified as safe and virtually lead-free by independent testing. The burden may be manageable for big manufacturers and retailers that can absorb the costs of discarded inventory and afford to hire more lawyers. Less likely to survive are hundreds of small businesses and craftspeople getting hit with new costs in a down economy.
Starting in February, you'll have to have a gub'mint certificate proving that those little wooden cars you make in you garage are safe for kids. And, you gotta read the whole thing, even bikes and books are subject. Reps. Pelosi and Waxman boasted that they will pulling toys off the shelves.
Maybe I'm not fair to France. I seem to be overly fair to the USA of late. But the mixed-economies of Western Europe embrace guilds and regulation (would the lollipop guild make the toys?) and the idea of being licensed to make toys does not fit with Locke, Jefferson, or the United States.
With apologies to T S Eliot (who would likely have agreed with me) This is the way freedom ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
I think we can look forward to the next administration for some clarification regarding proper green product labeling:
The January 8th issue InsideEPA.com's Daily News briefing highlight the many hurdles involved in establishing a national eco-labeling regime.
EPA and some key lawmakers are attempting to address the rising demand from consumers and retailers for eco-labeling as the popularity and awareness of “green” building materials and organic certified foods grows. EPA is poised to respond to recommendations to set up a voluntary program for pesticide labeling, as well as for its in-house Design for the Environment program to expand its labeling initiative to new chemical-intensive products. Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is crafting legislation to establish an eco-labeling oversight panel.
Some of the potential hurdles for the EPA and the lawmakers highlighted by InsideEPA.com include:
Limited development of methodologies for measuring lifecycle impacts of products
Potential conflicts with current legal requirements
Whether there would be incentives to develop even “safer” products
If EPA and Congress will be able to stay ahead of the developments made by the private sector.
With so many interests in the mix, these challenges may seem insurmountable, but at least the dialogue has begun and action will (hopefully) follow soon.
Bad enough we have to live through terrorism, recession, and athletes using steroids -- how much longer can the government let us wonder if the green products we buy are really green?
None of this is consistent with capitalism. As the economic system that fully recognizes and protects individual rights, including the right to private property, capitalism means, in Ayn Rand’s words, “the abolition of any and all forms of government intervention in production and trade, the separation of State and Economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of Church and State.” Laissez-faire means laissez-faire: no welfare state entitlements, no Federal Reserve monetary manipulation, no regulatory bullying, no controls, no government interference in the economy. The government’s job under capitalism is single but crucial: to protect individual rights from violation by force or fraud.
America came closest to this system in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The result was an unprecedented explosion of wealth creation and consequent rise in the standard of living.
JK, like the respected Denver radio host Mike Rosen, constantly reminds us to practice the "politics of the possible." But why should it be impossible for a majority of voters to recognize that the big government policies Obama and company may enact just made the problem worse - and they will - and abandon him in droves for the 2012 GOP candidate? This is the "new Reagan" scenario that many have written about. But for this to happen there needs to be a GOP candidate who understands the capitalist ideal before he jumps into the hog wallow to compromise with collectivists. John McCain and George Bush (both of them) despite all their admirable traits, were not that candidate.
Normally, foraging honey bees alert their comrades to potential food sources only when they've found high quality nectar or pollen, and only when the hive is in need. They do this by performing a dance, called a "round" or "waggle" dance, on a specialized "dance floor" in the hive. The dance gives specific instructions that help the other bees find the food.
Foraging honey bees on cocaine are more likely to dance, regardless of the quality of the food they've found or the status of the hive, the authors of the study report.
I agree with Terri. Really, we learned all about that just watching John Belushi...
In one of the biggest heists in American history, the Daily News "stole" the $2 billion Empire State Building.
And it wasn't that hard.
The News swiped the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper by drawing up a batch of bogus documents, making a fake notary stamp and filing paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property.
Some of the information was laughable: Original "King Kong" star Fay Wray is listed as a witness and the notary shared a name with bank robber Willie Sutton.
The massive ripoff illustrates a gaping loophole in the city's system for recording deeds, mortgages and other transactions.
The loophole: The system - run by the office of the city register - doesn't require clerks to verify the information.
Less than 90 minutes after the bogus documents were submitted on Monday, the agency rubber-stamped the transfer from Empire State Land Associates to Nelots Properties LLC. Nelots is "stolen" spelled backward. (The News returned the property Tuesday.)...
...Of course, stealing the Empire State Building wouldn't go unnoticed for long, but it shows how easy it is for con artists to swipe more modest buildings right out from under their owners. Armed with a fraudulent deed, they can take out big mortgages and disappear, leaving a mess for property owners, banks and bureaucrats.
By conceding the true causes of the Panic of '08 -- thanks to our populist Presidential candidate -- Republicans block the road to repairing the real problems, while paving the road to repetition. The same, damn, week.
A WSJ editorial points out that they will now do for credit cards what they did for home mortgages:
The freedom to manage risk has resulted in an unprecedented expansion of the credit card market. According to a Government Accountability Office study, 75% of the population possessed a credit card in 2005, up from only 30% in the 1980s. "The movement towards risk-based pricing for cards," said the report, "has allowed issuers to offer better terms to some cardholders and more credit cards to others."
Under the Maloney bill, such risk-sensitive pricing would be severely curbed. With few exceptions, companies would be prevented from raising interest rates on existing balances, even if the cardholder has become less creditworthy. This is anathema to responsible lending, which is about making sound assessments about the ability to repay a loan. It's also a major reason mortgage lenders are in their current predicament -- think subprime and "liar loans." So it's ironic that Democrats want to punish credit card companies for taking into account the changing risk of the borrower.
The Maloney bill would also dictate how creditors allocate payments against balances. Where credit balances are subject to different interest rates -- e.g., zero-percent interest for a balance transfer, but 12% for new purchases -- the legislation would ban the current common practice of directing payments toward the lower interest rate balance first.
I think of Dr. Zhivago: "Yes, Comrade that is much more...fair." It's fair to make me pay the same interest rate as an unemployed jazz guitarist who's just come home from bankruptcy court (guitar players, sheesh!) It's not fair to allow a credit card company to entice me with a 0% balance transfer, because some idiot doesn't understand it.
Actually, it's not Dr. Zhivago, it's Santayana: those who cannot learn form history are doomed to repeat it. But in the same week?
You've had a tough week of politics and Wall Street. Have a little fun:
"Hello! You've reached the United States Treasury's automated bailout hotline. Please listen carefully, because our options have recently changed. If you're too big to fail, press or say 'one.' If not, hang up and dial 1-800-FOR-FEMA.' "
Blog sister Dagny hits one of my favorite topics in a comment below: all government power is enforced at the point of the gun. I almost posted this video last week because Drew Carey does such a good job with that. If you sell fries with trans-fats, you get a fine; don't pay the fine, you get a summons; don't show up for the summons, they'll come get you. No matter how small the infraction, it is always enforced at gunpoint. Take it away, big man:
Great bit from the esteemed political philosopher, Emily Dickenson:
The surgeon must be very careful,
When to use the knife.
For underneath his fine incision,
Lays the culprit, life.
(From memory, so don't complain if I missed a comma or something)
Fed plans new rules to protect future homebuyers When I read the headline, a shiver went down to my feet in sort of a reverse Obama-Matthews. Reading the story did not make it go away. Broad new powers for the Fed (expanding our services because we rock so much at our other tasks) to regulate home loans.
Under the proposal unveiled last December, the rules would restrict lenders from penalizing risky borrowers who pay loans off early, require lenders to make sure these borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance and bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower's income. It also would prohibit lenders from engaging in a pattern or practice of lending without considering a borrower's ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home's value.
Government comes up with some hare-brained ideas now and then but I think this one will indeed work. If you make it too expensive or perhaps impossible to get a loan, that should inhibit defaults.
Mortgage crisis solved! I knew getting a Princeton Man in would be a good idea!
I suggested, on January 5, 2007 that a Sirius -XM Merger was a good idea, but that "I cannot imagine getting approval for such a merger in the 110th. Democratic committee chairs and TR Republicans are not going to allow a monopoly in Satellite Radio. Even though, as usual, the FTC is not capable of seeing whom a firm or technology actually competes against."
Six weeks later, I said that I was not backing off but that "Against prescience points, however, I am hoping for the deal to succeed. I don't think either firm is strong enough to compete and innovate by itself. A strong satellite provider could bring new offerings to the market. (Maybe I'll even get my beloved Luna back.)"
Well, I was wrong. The 110th will approve the merger. But Don Luskin enumerates the costs of having the government "allow" something it has no moral or Constitutional right to preclude:
...* set aside 4 percent of their spectrum capacity (what now amounts to 12 channels) for non-commercial educational programming;
*lease another 4 percent to groups like minorities and women who are underrepresented in broadcasting...
It’s a free country so we can’t complain that activist groups such as Public Knowledge agitate for the special interests of the left, but we ought to bitch and moan that they succeed at their game of policy piracy. Not many know that groups like this get funded by corporations who want to use them as a weapon, or, worse yet, as a form of protection money.
This is the Bush FCC. While it has some well documented intransigents on it, hands up those who believe that President Obama or McCain will staff it more liberty-friendly or business-friendly members.
On May 1, Pennsylvania state troopers arrived at the home of Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt, seizing a reported $20,000 to 25,000 worth of farm equipment and placing Nolt under arrest. His crime? The illegal sale of unpasteurized milk and other dairy products. And Nolt isn't alone. In February, federal investigators subpoenaed two employees of Mark McAfee's Organic Pastures Dairy in California. Though the subpoenas do not indicate the purpose of the investigation, McAfee told me the feds were seeking evidence that his dairy was selling unpasteurized milk for human consumption across state lines.
I could go for a couple pieces of sashimi right about now.
Convinced that private lenders were making too much profit on federally insured loans, Democrats enacted changes last fall that rendered most new student loans unprofitable. As numerous firms abandoned the market amid the credit crunch and just before the peak of college financing season, the anxious pols realized their blunder and are now seeking a bailout of the same lenders they had just finished punishing.
I suggested Ethanol subsidies were a perfect, archetypal microcosm of government intrusion into free markets. I blogged that our grandchildren would study the folly and tease us about it. But why wait? The WSJ lead editorial (quoted above) captures it perfectly well today.
No need to worry about the risk for taxpayers in direct lending, however. Congressman Miller is so confident that the bureaucrats can manage everything this time that he is now trying to amend the law to eliminate some regular audits of the program. This auditing refinement, which has passed the House but not yet the Senate, specifically eliminates the requirement to report how much the program contributes to the national debt. If no one is counting, then no one can say it costs the taxpayers any money, right?
From start to finish, it is hard to imagine a more thorough example of Congressional blundering while covering its tracks by blaming everyone else and getting the Fed and taxpayers to clean up the mess. Enjoy the free lunch while you can.
I'd encourage a thoughtful reader to read the whole thing.
The good people of Pennsylvania (I am not piling on, it just happens to be the location) will be protected from the ravages of cheap medication:
A 67-year-old law is preventing Pennsylvania residents from obtaining the full list of $4 prescription drugs sold at Wal-Mart.
Will it take that many years to decide if the 1941 law is doing more harm than good?
A bill that would allow the $4 prescriptions has lingered in the state Legislature for 13 months, with no debate and no action scheduled.
In late 2006, Wal-Mart began selling 331 medications for $4 for a 30-day supply.
The drugs are generics -- cheaper equivalents of brand name drugs.
The $4 offerings include medications for many common illnesses, including infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and depression.
Because of the 1941 law, 56 of the drugs have to sell for $9 in Pennsylvania.
Club for Growth links to the story and wonders "So...if you're a liberal, what side of the argument do you support? Do you defend Wal-Mart (God forbid) and repeal the law so that people can get their much-needed drugs at "an everyday" low price? Or do you side with the mom-and-pop pharmacies that supposedly can't compete against the big, bad Wal-Mart?"
President Bush had previously requested $350 million for the year. Durbin and Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) held a press conference Monday calling for an additional $200 million in food aid to be added to the upcoming war supplemental bill.
“This global food crisis now risks creating a series of failed states, as anger at inadequate food stocks spur riots and political instability,” said Casey. The Democrats said the additional $200 million would go primarily to the U.N.’s World Food Program, which provides emergency food aid for up to 78 million people annually.
Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Dana Perino said the administration is monitoring the situation closely; the administration recently announced it was releasing an additional $200 million in wheat reserves to be sent to developing countries.
Oh, and let's give it to the UN, of all people. A model of efficiency.
The President doesn't escape blame, but is anyone in government willing to look at the real cause of the global food crises?
... specifically the US and EU mandates for Ethanol production and consumption.
When it pays better to burn food for fuel than it does to sell it for food, is anyone, outside of Democrats and liberal do-gooders, really surprised?
Prof. Reynolds links to a cool car on the Amazon Car Lust blog, the Toyota Sera.
It's worth a click if you like cars, but what caught my eye was this little government intrusion gem:
The United States allows non-U.S.-certified automobiles to be imported once they are 25 years past production date. This has allowed a few enterprising souls to import older cars like the Chrysler Valiant Charger, but it will be some time before the exotic Kei cars will be eligible for import. The situation is somewhat different in Canada, however; our northern neighbors require only a 15-year wait, meaning some of the interesting Japanese-market cars from the early 1990s are now fair game. There are quite a few dealerships in Vancouver, B.C., that do a strong business in such formerly forbidden fruit.
Barnacle's Resort in Lake Mille Lacs turned its normal Saturday night business into a play, testing a loophole in Minnesota's smoking ban. The production included programs and buttons that said "Act Now!"
"You are looking at a stage. You are looking at a playhouse," said Mark Benjamin, a nonsmoking lawyer who worked the bar dressed in Shakespearian garb. "Those are not cigarettes -- those are props."
The law allows actors and actresses to light up in theatrical performances -- but it doesn't define what that means. The idea of stretching the definition came to Benjamin at the Renaissance Festival, an annual event where people dress up in costumes.
It turns out that the federal government currently operates 1,776 subsidy programs. These include subsidies for states, cities, individuals, non-profit groups, and businesses.
They end with a swipe at President Bush: "He's no Thomas Jefferson." While I can't make an impassioned defense, it seemed odd to single him out. We've had 220 years and a lot of not-Jeffersons to get where we are.
Chairman Powell is Colin Powell’s son. As much as I respect Dad, Michael’s policy and beliefs comport better with mine, and he clearly is the better for spending fewer years with the striped-pants crowd at the State Department. He is pushing to bring FCC Regulations into the 21st Century. Regulations on ownership that were crafted when America got its news from Eric Sevareid can be relaxed now that many get news from Andrew Sullivan. Chairman Powell understands the effect of cable TV and Internet information sources and he believes in the free market enough to fight for a more modern approach.
Come home, Michael, we need you. Today, the WSJ Ed Page takes a few whacks at his successor, Kevin Martin (paid link until Rupert gets the keys...):
At a meeting scheduled for tomorrow, Chairman Martin plans to push a slew of new regulations on cable operators. Among other things, he wants to force cable companies to reduce, by as much as 75%, the already regulated rates they charge to lease channels to programmers. He also wants to require cable operators to settle carriage disputes, like the current one involving the NFL Network, through an arbitration system set up by the FCC. Apparently Mr. Martin, a Republican appointee to the agency no less, has lost faith in the free market's ability to handle commercial disputes. Either that, or he has some personal animus against cable.
Mr. Martin says more regulation is needed because monopolistic players are dominating the cable industry. But his premise doesn't remotely square with reality. Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, recently reported a drop in subscriptions. Cable share prices generally are getting hammered, trading near 52-week lows. According to a report last week in Broadcasting & Cable, since Comcast's last earnings report its stock is down 17%; Time Warner is down 21%; Cablevision is down 16.5%; and Charter Communication is off 47%.
To justify his meddling, Mr. Martin describes a marketplace that doesn't exist. He pretends there's no DirecTV and EchoStar option. He pretends that Verizon and AT&T's video offerings pose no threat to Comcast and Time Warner. But if the FCC chairman is most concerned about costs, the goal should be more competition via different platforms. In other words, he should want current trends to continue. His odd and untimely proposals are more likely to retard them.
Some people still wonder why so many businesses donate to Democrats. Some of it is explained by rent-seeking and staying close to power -- but how can you ask business to donate to the GOP when their Cabinet Chairs think like Mr. Martin?
UPDATE: Never give up hope. The vote may be in trouble:
WASHINGTON -- A vote Tuesday on a proposal that could lead to stricter regulation of the cable industry was in jeopardy Monday, as internal squabbling at the Federal Communications Commission and outside pressure from Congress and the White House threatened to delay, if not completely derail, the plan.
A private fire crew dispatched by a national insurance company that caters to wealthy clients is guarding 22 high-end homes threatened by the Castle Rock Fire, a blaze that has forced the evacuation of hundreds of million-dollar homes west of Ketchum.
The crew will protect only homes insured by AIG Private Client Group, an insurance company that offers "loss-prevention services" to its wealthiest customers. A truck and two-man crew sent by AIG from Montana arrived in Ketchum about 2 p.m. Wednesday to start dousing properties with Phos-Chek, the same fire retardant dropped from U.S. Forest Service aircraft.
"We're not going out there to fight the fire," said Dorothy Sarna, vice president and national director of risk-management services and loss prevention for the New York-based company. "We're out there to protect our clients."
Veteran fire managers now working the Castle Rock fire say they've never heard of a private fire crew protecting individual homes in the midst of a wildfire, said Dave Olson, a spokesman for the Forest Service.
The private crew has been granted access to areas closed to residents, but not all officials with public fire agencies were thrilled by the sight of the truck scooting through a smoky web of government fire crews.
"That sounds ridiculous to me," said Kim Rogers, a Ketchum Police Department spokesman, "especially since we haven't lost any structures. I mean, this is a Forest Service fire, not a private fire."
Would she rather they let them burn? Here is the whole story.
Half a cents worth of tap water is now worth a dollar and a half.
According to the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company website, our local plant is the fourth largest nationwide with over half a billion dollars in annual sales. Both Pepsi and Coke have reported that bottled water sales are among the fastest growing in their companies and may soon catch up or even overtake the sale of carbonated beverages. That means there are a lot of potential water consumers in Philadelphia.
The simpler way to profit off of water is to tax Pepsi and Coke at a higher rate for their water usage. I had some trouble figuring out the PWD’s business tax rate (hello Philadelphia, can we get some good city websites up or what?), but for consumers, it costs about $17 in taxes for 600 gallons of water. Philly Coke’s website says it serves about 5 million consumers a year. If one-third of these people buy one 20 oz. bottle of water a year, we’re talking at least 278,437 gallons of water sold annually.
I don’t really care how we make money off of water, but the point here is that in these cash strapped times, we are stupid if we don’t.
Our water supply is currently being exploited by Coke and Pepsi. As the largest municipality collecting and cleaning water for drinking in the region, Coke and Pepsi can’t really get the tap water they need for Dasani and Aquafina anywhere else but Philly (and shipping tap water from other places would likely cut too deeply into their bottom line). That means that whether we tax them more, or bottle our own water, Philadelphia is in a good place to be able to better take advantage of a natural resource.
Admittedly, I am not a degreed economist, but I'm sure this is a catastrophically bad liberal idea, but I repeat myself.
I'll say it slowly. (Please read along slowly for full effect)
1) If the city of Philadelphia can not control crime within it's own boundaries, how in the hell is it supposed to compete with two massively global companies that have had their horns locked for years?
2) If the city of Philadelphia charges big soda more for water, they can go bottle tap water somewhere else. There is nothing special about what Trenton flushes into the Delaware River. Really. Nothing.
Bonus part of that is when they close their bottling plants in the city and move them outside of the city limits, the city loses wage tax collection, property taxes, etc... a win-win!
Never mind that whole issue of a government specifically targetting two industrial consumers of water to the exclusion of the other industrial consumers. How many gallons of water go into a box of Oreos from the Nabisco bakery? ... what about my precious Tasty-Klair Pie? or a case from the Yards Brewery? *
Ideas like this are nicely nucleated examples of liberalprogressive thinking.
... and it goes without saying that if you buy bottled water that's municipal sourced, you're a dope, no matter who puts a screw top on it.
Get a Nalgene bottle and fill it before you leave the house... and use the bottle again, and again, and again. It takes two liters of water to make a one liter plastic bottle, btw.
See? You can be conservative and environmentally conscious!
* Note: I'd list more water consuming businesses within city-limits, but great business friendly ideas like this have chased most out into the suburbs, or the south or Mexico.
In the wake of the bridge collapse in Minnesota, The New York Times recently published a piece on the bizarre spending habits of the government when it comes to transportation:
Despite historic highs in transportation spending, the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need, has typically driven where much of the money goes. That has often meant construction of new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones.
Further, transportation and engineering experts said, lawmakers have financed a boom in rail construction that, while politically popular, has resulted in expensive transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters.
Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent out a news release last month boasting about Minnesota’s share of a recent transportation and housing appropriations bill.
Of the $12 million secured for the state, $10 million is slated for a new 40-mile commuter rail line to Minneapolis, called the Northstar. The remaining $2 million is divided among a new bike and walking path and a few other projects, including highway work and interchange reconstruction.