Sunday, January 31, 2010

Medicare, Bastiat and the Balm of Geezerad

For whatever reason the people that drive 'reform' in our government demonstrate an almost complete inability to foresee or even imagine second, third and fourth order effects from the policies that they institute. Yet it is often these "things unseen" as Bastiat would put it, that are the farthest reaching and most destructive aspects of 'progressive' social and economic manipulation.

The Great Depression was particularly filled with these ironic progressive innovations. For example, take income tax 'reform'. In the twenties, the Federal income tax was 15% of high earners income. When the Great Depression hit, Hoover, a Giant among fools (or is that Giant fool?) raised it to 60%. Not to be outdone in perversity by that Republican piker, FDR raised it to 70% and then even 79% for a time. Aside from pure vindictiveness it is hard to see what the left wing lawyers sought to accomplish by this. Indeed the 'first order' effect of this policy was to contribute mightily to the 'capital strike' which defined the Depression, ensuring that 20% unemployment persisted right up to WW2.
But there was a second order effect. With high marginal rates, the 'progressive's' political fixers had 'product' to sell. Any industry or business who could get a deduction or exemption written into the code for what they were selling could make a fortune. And they would share that largess with the politicians and parties who made it happen. One of these industries was health insurance. They persuaded FDR to make health insurance premiums paid for by companies on behalf of employees exempt from income tax. And company provided health insurance exploded. It's not hard to see why: pay me $1 I pay most of it to the government. Pay my health insurance and I keep all the benefits.

The second order effect of the employee benefits exemption led to a third order effect. Historically 'health insurance' had been sold only to individuals and only as a catastrophic policy. The great majority of health care expenses were paid out of pocket by consumers or financed by providers. But now, given confiscatory rates, it made tax sense to provide employees not with insurance but with 'prepaid health care' to sweep as much of the costs into the tax exempt bucket. So almost all healthcare expenses became "third party" expenses.
And this led to a fourth order effect: a radical change in consumer behavior. 

Bear with me for a minute while I provide an analogy of what happened using a commodity that we are all familiar with: What if your company gave you 'first dollar' Food and Drink insurance? In other words, your food and beverages are part of your compensation. When you're hungry, you whip out your insurance card and for free or a de minimis charge at the point of delivery, you can order whatever you want. How would your behavior change? Three ways:
First, you would consume more food. After all, taking a second loaf of bread to make sure we don't run out doesn't cost anything. Some of it will be wasted, yes, but that would be no skin off of your nose. Can't decide between the triple chocolate tort and the blueberry ice cream? Order 'em both.
Second, you'd 'class up', replacing Two Buck Chuck with Ten Buck Charles. I mean why starve yourself of the finer things in life? Particularly when someone else is picking up the tab?

Third, you would no longer waste time on all that 'good consumer' crap: price comparing, looking for 'deals', stocking up, clipping coupons, going to mega discount chains, bagging your own groceries. Essentially we would become a nation of Bluto Blutarskys of Animal House fame: "Want a beer? Don't cost nuthin"

And the food retailing industry would quickly get the message. You want a lot? We'll give you bigger package sizes. You want class? We'll cut the discount stuff and line the shelves with 'super premium' product. You don't care about price? We'll raise it through the roof. They'll also pour money into facilities and amenities that can be tied to food. WalMart will cover its floors in terrazo and will win an award for the best complimentary valet parking service in food retailing. And the per capita cost of food will explode. So long as the company is willing to pay more each year, that is.
Get the picture?

This is what happened to healthcare starting in the '30s and accelerating in the 40s and 50s. In many respects it was a golden age because you had great health coverage. If you had employer provided health insurance, that is. For the poor and the elderly it was a dark time. Up until then, healthcare had largely been an out of pocket consumer purchase. As a result it wasn't that expensive to go to the doctor or pay for a whole range of procedures. And all the panoply of price shopping and competition was in full flower. But with the Blutarskys driving the healthcare Lincoln (the fourth order effect) and the healthcare industry rapidly restructuring itself to a third party payor model (the third order effect), they found themselves increasingly priced out of the market. The elderly in particular were hit. Because they use the most and the most expensive healthcare, they suffered first. They were the canary in the coal mine and by 1965 they were tweeting to their representatives at top volume.

So the best and brightest were pulled together. Flights from Boston were packed with brainy looking coves, their briefcases bulging with scholarly papers and 'therapeutic' visions. They all got together and said: you know what? Our policy of vindictively high tax rates coupled with an exemption for health insurance has provoked a roaring inflation that is sinking the elderly. Lets reverse course and relink healthcare price and value - deemphasizing third party payment. Lets put the people back in the driver's seat, not the large corporate interests. That makes sense, doesn't it? I mean we're the party of the People aren't we?
Well sadly, that scenario only happens in my dreams. In fact they used their impressive credentials and swollen crania to take the clearly bad existing third party driven system and made it infinitely worse. Old system provided tax subsidies? We'll provide massive cash subsidies. Old system stuck it to private companies? We'll make it a tax and stick to to our kids and grand-kids. Old system incented the insured to overconsume? We'll do that for a group that has a virtually unlimited demand for end stage healthcare exotica[i].

Washington is not completely bereft of people with brains that are loaded with logic software and some of them, most notably that right winger, The Monster Barry Goldwater asked some hard questions. Questions like: "so how much is all this hope and change gonna cost?" (they didn't actually say H&C, but they thought it). The Deputy Dawgs of the CBO, the OMB, the Accounting Firms, the Actuaries and half the faculty of Harvard dutifully trooped in and divided one number by a bunch of other numbers, carried the remainders, summed whole columns of historical numbers congealed from other numbers with out making a single arithmetical error and announced portentiously: "The Lord thy God Y'aalweh hath created a balm of Geezerad, comfort for Rachet Jawed Feebs everywhere. This Great Wonder and Sign from progressive Heaven shall not cost 10.7 billion over 24 years, neither will it cost 14.098 Billion over 32 years. But verily we say unto you it wil cost precisely 12 Billion shekels over 25 years. And Henry Wallace looking down from heaven pronounced it 'Progressive' and there were signs and wonders throughout the land: Watts, Detroit, Harlem were burned to the ground by a righteous God - wait, no, wrong testament.

And now we come to my point. George Stigler was a young economist at Chicago fascinated by 'hope and change' projects. He took a look at the precise cost estimates provided by the Wise Dawgs and wrote a brief little paper. He told me later that he almost didn't even put any numbers or equations in the paper, so simple was the concept, but he was sending it to an economics journal and they like gobbledy gook, so he threw some in. Essentially what he said was this: "My Momma taught me that when you git somethin' you don't pay for, you piss it away. This barf-fest will cost at least ten times what the deputy dawgs say it will. 'nuff said." And it did and in 1982 little Georgie Stigler won the Nobel Prize for Economics in part for channeling his Momma.

You see all Ya'allweh's economists and all Ya'allweh's actuaries and sycophantic newspaper editors and university professors and accountants and actuaries failed to recognize that the implementation of the Medicare "reform" would radically change the behavior of consumers and providers in ways that would make nonsense of all of their carefully tabulated numbers. Because of course, all of their equations and relationships and models were based on a different consumer and economic logic. Change the logic and all bets are off. They failed to realize this despite the fact that the reason they had proposed this 'reform' was to cope with the mess that they were now trying to replicate. Thus the most brilliant experts in the field that the world had ever seen boldly marched into the Slough of Intellectual Despond and sank without a trace under the bemused gaze of Georgie Stigler's Momma sitting high and dry in a boat "they shoulda' used a boat. Don't they know that you need a boat? What dolts."

And now fast forward to Hope 'n Change 2010. The same portentous progressive experts are proposing the same sorts of radical changes to economic arrangements and the same Deputy Dawgs are providing precise estimates based on an old reality that the new policy sweeps away[ii]. One wonders why they don't just wheel out the 1965 numbers and add a few zeros.

And the long stupid arm of past policy blunders reaches its bony hand towards us motioning as if to say: I have only just begun to screw with you.

[i] In Stupidity Studies circles attempting to fix a previous policy blunder by making the same policy blunder is known as a “Dumb Over”
[ii] Technically, this is a Dumb-Dumb-Dumb-Dumb-Over or DumbO4 in scientific notation. FDR’s mistake was Dumb 1, LBJ’s Medicare was Dumb 2, GWB’s Medicare Drug was Dumb 3 and Obamacare would be Dumb 4. A DumbO4 is the rarest phenomenon in Stupidity Studies so rival teams of Stupidity Scholars are fighting pitched battles in the streets of Washington DC over who gets the right to dissect Obama, Pelosi and Reid’s brains when they die.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Investors now consider US a greater default risk than Coca Cola

All this hope and change has wrecked our credit rating. Money graf.

Trading in the credit-default swap market this week shows that investors now view a default by the U.S. Treasury as more likely than a default by the Coca-Cola Company. Until very recently, this scenario seemed about as likely as Coke winning a taste infringement suit against Coke Zero. Now the United States has taken its place next to Italy and Spain in a special club that no major country wants to join -- countries whose debt is considered less safe than that of Blue Chip businesses

Hawaii votes down same sex marriage

Stupid cousin marrying right wing volcano-billies.

Correction: they won't even allow same sex unions. Mahalo, ya'all.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On perversion

Merriam Webster defines Perverted as "Corrupt"which is defined as "to change from good to bad in morals, manners or actions", particularly sexual.

Pornography is clearly a perversion. It is the publicizing of the private, the trading on what is a personal, private union between man and woman and no matter how 'tastefully' it is done it is wrong. Sadly it is all too common. Recently McGill University researchers tried to set up a study to estimate the impact of the consumption of pornography. They couldn't find enough men who had not been exposed to porn to establish a valid control group.

And to my shame, I am certainly no exception to the current urban legend that "all men watch porn".

Yet while I consider Porn perversion and repent of it, there is a much greater perversion, a much crueler act than any depicted on the seamier side streets of the internet.

Jesus was stripped, flogged, spat upon and mocked - the Creator was humiliated in every way that he could be by his creations. Yet none of this caused even a tiny fraction of the agony that he experienced when his beloved, his Abba, Father abandoned him. "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?" is the most heart-rending, piercing phrase in the English language.

And Jesus' anguish at the Father's indifference toward him points the way to the greatest perversion of all: indifference by one's beloved. To feel the cold, grey dead gaze of those who promised to love and abide with you. To hear the resentful sigh, to feel the tensing and withdrawal from embrace. To feel like a commodity, a used up vessel is the greatest horror a spouse can experience. And the greatest perversion one can commit.

I believe our churches are stacked to the rafters with this type of 'holy pervert'. Thousands of Christian marriages founder every day on these rocks. And the sad thing is, that unlike the consumer of pornography who is denounced without ceasing from the pulpit, often they don't even realize their sin.

Stunned Wall Street doesn't want war with Obama

Hope and change is turning into flail and change. Attacking the investor class is sooo not useful at the long flat trough of the "Great Recession".

What do you call it when a statist puts his political survival ahead of the economic welfare of the nation?

Another 'learning' from FDR.

Heckuva Job, Brownie!

Obama perpetuates myth that GWB was a free marketer

Here. If only.....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh Good Grief

Mark Halperin reports Obama believes "the press is against me". Sob!

Heat. Kitchen. Out.

The Collapse of the Income Tax

For the first quarter of the fiscal year 2010 personal income tax revenue was 19% less than FY 2009, 24% less than 2008 and 22% less than President Obama's own budget forecast. See here.

The 2009 decline was due to the recession. In contrast, the 2010 decline is largely due to the massive crisis of confidence provoked by all this Hope and Change.

Boy what I wouldn't give for another "Decade of Greed".

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I took a walk tonight. A cold, clear, still moonlit night. The air seems particularly clean and clear on a night like this. Down past the Seminary, through the College Commons, past the high school, in between the Parish buildings. It is good to be cold, to feel, to be alive.

As I walked up our lawn, frozen, icy grass crackling underfoot I spied a piece of my handiwork from Sunday. A 10 by 5 inch patch of gleaming copper above our doorway. I had spent a good part of the day stripping, scraping and buffing and it shone in the moonlight.

It reminded me of our lives. We come into this world already spattered by the mire and gore of sin, we add more and more layers until we come to Christ. Then, with His guarantee of complete cleansing He starts us on the laborious task of stripping and chipping and scraping the filth, the sin off. I fall and spatter myself with more dirt. I sigh, pick up my scraper and start chipping away again.

But that's what faith is. Of course God gives us faith and faith is a choice we make, but it is also an act, indeed an activity that we pursue daily. With time it becomes simpler, more normal but it never, ever becomes easy. If we are diligent and seek after holiness then eventually by God's grace some of the pure, new metal shines through. Then people can see something other than our sin, they can see through in spots to who we really are, who we are becoming.

And then at the end, when we pass from this world into the next and come before God he will strip away all of the ugliness that is left and we will stand gleaming for all to see. That day will be cool. No not cool, cool is such a smug, sophomoric word.

That day will be magnificent.

How do you know what you know 5

More fake "facts" from the IPCC. Key technical note: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a UN chartered organization tasked to making sure that the 'science' that the UN and governments use to make policy is credible and reflects the consensus opinion of the global scientific establishment. Suddenly sentient journalists are finding that many IPCC assertions have no basis in science but instead were spin or based upon activist "studies" that haven't been vetted by credible scientific organizations.

Here's another one.

So how DO you know what you know?

Abe Foxman and the critical unseriousness of the Jewish Left

Mark Steyn points out that in an era of vicious anti-semitism, attacking Rush Limbaugh, one of the best friends Israel and Jews have today is barking mad. Abe Foxman and the Anti-Defamation league should be ashamed of themselves.

One of the many money grafs:

Abe Foxman is a leftist, and clearly, Rush is not to his taste politically. But he ought to be able to recognize that on certain issues, Rush is the best defender that this country has. And Abe Foxman is a lot like what my friend Ezra Levant up in Canada calls "the official Jews." He calls them "official Jews." They're people who belong to liberal Jew— official liberal Jewish organizations who are never there on any of the key issues and want to obsess with peripheral, irrelevant issues of no consequence for the Jewish people. And that is exactly what Abe Foxman did. And it would be funny if we hadn't seen, across the Western world, the biggest resurgence in anti-Semitism since the second World War. What does Abe Foxman have to say about that? What does Abe Foxman have to say about the demonstration in Fort Lauderdale last year where people are doing — where demonstrators are doing oven jokes? What does Abe Foxman have to say about the American who was visiting the East End of London on Holocaust Day last year and touring parts of the old Jewish East End and had concrete thrown at them and were told, "If you go any further, you're gonna die," and had to be taken to hospital. What does Abe Foxman have to say when a soccer match between Sweden and Israel is scheduled for the stadium in Malmo, and they have to play it behind closed doors to an empty — a tennis match, I beg your pardon, tennis. They have to play it in an empty stadium, because if they open the doors to people in Malmo, Sweden, they'd want to kill the Israeli tennis players. What do they — what does Abe Foxman have to say when people are marching through the streets of Calgary, Alberta, shouting, "Death to the Jews"? A timeless slogan, a timeless slogan, admittedly, but not one hitherto associated with the Rocky Mountains.

Why do our schools do so poorly?

John Hood Points out that it's not just private vs. public, it's competition vs. no competition. He summarizes what the "Civilized World" does. Interesting, the Obami want us to have (inferior on outcomes) European health care but they'll die at the barricades to protect us from (superior on the outcomes) European education policy.

The Choice of the World [John Hood]

Periodically I like to peruse the book of education data published annually by theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development. While the education establishment often cites international competition as a reason for American taxpayers to fork over more and more money, rarely do our educrats express any real curiosity about why students in other developed countries so often outperform American students, particularly at the high-school level.

It certainly isn't a product of greater public investment. America spends more tax dollars per pupil on education than almost every other country on the planet. Cultural differences, higher academic standards, and less psycho-babble in the training of teachers are some of the factors explaining the difference. Another fact to keep in mind is that many of the OECD countries whose high-school students outperform American kids provide parents more choice among tax-subsidized schools.

According to the most recent data, for example, a majority of high-schoolers in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Chile attend private schools, usually with a tax subsidy of one kind or another. About half of British and Korean students, one-third of French and Japanese students, and one-quarter of New Zealand and Australian students enroll in private high schools, as well. Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. students do so — though polls show that many would opt for private high schools if given the choice.

Let's do it.

Lets see: pushing for lower outcome medical policy and fighting higher outcome education policy. If I didn't know better, I'd be forced to conclude that the Left is more interested in power than people. That can't be true can it? I mean the Chicago politicians that run the White House come from a long line of moral giants. Towering, principled leaders. Don't they? Well don't they?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tithe Eaters?

I recently compared the membership directory of my Church to the one from 1980. It turns out that today there are 33% more staff for a solidly evangelical church that has roughly the same membership and attendance as back then. To be fair, the Church has two more services and a flourishing Wednesday night program, none of which existed in 1980. But I couldn’t help but be struck by the difference between my church’s historical staffing performance and that of other industries that I am familiar with. Had we been a typical manufacturer, we would be doing the same tasks with one third the staff of 1980[1]. Had we been Wal Mart, we would have used only one fifth of the staff to get the same work done[2], the average bank, half[3].

Now Church is not Wal Mart and a manufacturer’s goal is not God’s. But it is a commonly observed characteristic of Churches that while people work hard and often long, the intensity and focus typical of well run investor owned organizations is lacking. There is a carelessness with time if not money that one doesn’t normally experience in well run private businesses. Why should this be? After all, the Church’s mission is infinitely more important than any businesses’. And any resources the Church can save from its daily operations can be invested in Kingdom efforts that have a far greater return than T Bills. So why do private businesses do more with less each and every year and Churches and Christian schools don’t?

Institutional Integrity

I believe that while Churches are focused on individual integrity they tend to struggle with institutional integrity. In my definition, institutional Integrity is the commitment that an organization makes to the achievement of a specific goal. Whatever you believe about its ‘morality’ Wal Mart exhibits a high level of institutional integrity. Sam Walton founded his business because he wanted to bring low priced brand name merchandise to small towns, just like the big cities. Since then, “Every Day Low Prices” for common people has been Wal Mart’s (and Sam’s Club’s) singular focus. And they’ve delivered – largely due to Wal Mart’s unceasing focus on cost reduction, the price of the things that Americans use every day has fallen dramatically. Everything Wal Mart does is focused on lowering costs to the consumer. For example, a friend of mine was an executive with a (soon to be bankrupt) specialty retailer. He tells of going to a conference at a tropical resort: as was customary, he took a room at a luxury hotel. His two counterparts from Wal Mart – by then the richest retailer in the history of the world, doubled up at a discount motel.

By contrast, while all Churches have goals, they generally don’t look upon the resources that they command with the hard-nosed perspective of an investor. We aren’t asking: “Where can we deploy these resources for highest impact for the kingdom? Where can we use technology or technique to become much more productive? Instead we tend to spread our efforts like peanut butter over many activities to please influential parishioners and givers. We don’t seek continuous improvement that allows us to do more with less. We react rather than pursue the goal.

We management consultants often note that the most successful companies - the ones with the most institutional integrity and commitment towards their goal - are seldom the most pleasant places to work. These companies have a sense of ‘driven-ness’ a commitment to excel against a specific goal that comes from inside the institution and the people themselves. It’s often exhausting to work for such a company because doing the best for the goal often takes a lot out of employees.

I’m not saying that the staff at my Church don’t work hard because they do. But the lack of focus on productivity, the notion that we must get more done with less each year so that we’ll grow and have more to share with others is as foreign to Church as it is integral to business. And it results in wasted effort. Effort that could be diverted to higher impact ministries. Wasted money that could better spent elsewhere. We seem to be comfortable with being comfortable. Because we don’t challenge ourselves to do more with less, we end up doing less with more. Slowly, inexorably, our Churches become Tithe Eaters, consuming the resources that God has given us to expand the Kingdom for our own comfort, our own ease.

The Parable of the talents sets the standard: The rich man gave money to three men. The two that he praised as “good and faithful servants” doubled the money they had been entrusted. The wicked servant merely preserved the principal, failing to earn even a moneylender’s interest. I fear that many of our Christian institutions are doing even worse than the wicked servant: returning even less than we are given.

It’s time to ask not only are we doing God’s will but are we doing it more productively each year.

It’s time to stop being Tithe Eaters.

[2] The Power of Productivity, McKinsey Global Institute

Frank Rich: Fearing for the "One"

I like Frank Rich. Ever since he branched out from Broadway the NYT editorial page has been – how shall I put this? So comical? Operatic? Fantastical? Thespian? Or my all time mot juste: Burlesque.

I particularly like him citing JFK to BHO. JFK: a politician to the right of GWB. A tax cutter. A man with a decisive pro-American foreign policy. A man who believed in color blindness. Hey! Waitaminit, this Richy Rich guy is starting to make sense.

Hey Mikey! We like it!

When FR starts (accidentally, yes) citing JFK as a role model for BHO, you know that there is Hope for Change.

Teleprompters at Elementary Schools

BHO needs teleprompters to speak at an Elementary school.

'nuff said.

Addition: BHO is getting waaay too much attention from John Stewart these days.

Got Kids?

Amazed at how expensive and ineffective their teachers are? Here’s some free help – from a guy who actually knows what he’s talking about.

The Khan Academy

There’s an earthquake coming. And the wails from all the redundant faculty will be pitiful to hear.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stop the State!

Or so the Economist says. Now. 14 months ago they were whooping up the age of Obama, which any sentient boob could have predicted was a statist age without parallel. These guys really don't have much self awareness do they?

Must be an English thing.

Thank My Lucky Scars

I was scraping paint on an unusual 45F day in St. Louis. I dropped my glasses and a lense popped out. All the Dad's kids and all the Dad's wives couldn't find it. I was discouraged. So I took a walk. A walk fogged by my poor eyesight. Another weakness. Another scar.

But I was listening to music and the Foo Fighters (once again, what is it about those guys?) said "thank my lucky scars". And I stopped.

Of course. As I walked in a 20-100 fog I could see the richness, the depth, the beauty of the world around me. I have teens and while they are wonderful kids, they see the world in such flat, prosaic tones. It takes time, pain, indeed, scars to see the world in all it's glory. The way God meant it to be seen.

And to see God's redemptive plan. To understand the incredible love of Jesus Christ, one must be a sinner. A real sinner. Not a "oops! I gossiped" or "criminy! I said a bad word" sinner, but someone like me who has done things that he is truly ashamed of. Then God's mercy really means something.

Only through that do you learn how to thank your lucky scars.

Note: Originally I posted this as "count" my lucky scars - it's count my blessings and thank my lucky scars. I can be such a twit.

The Islamicization of the World

The inimitable Mark Steyn in an important post. Here's the money graf from an interview with an Iranian witness in Geert Wilder's "hate" trial in the Netherlands:

You said the Wilders Trial reminds you of justice in your country of origin, Iran. Is that not somewhat exaggerated?

“The Netherlands, of course, is not comparable with Iran, but it's about perception. If you cannot say that Islam is a backward religion and that Mohammed is a criminal, then you are living in an Islamic country, my friend, because there also you cannot say such things. Here I'm free to say that Christ was a faggot* and Mary was a whore, but apparently I should stay off of Mohammed.”

Definitely worth a read, lads.

China has 32 Million more young men than young women

Abortion is such a good thing for women. A liberal sacrament, really.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How do you know what you know 5

The "Drug Enforcement Establishment" and main stream "media" are all in a tizzy about nonexistent teen "Pharm Parties".

All the big news outlets are doing it!

So how DO you know what you know?

Any government that can't control its public employee unions is doomed

And any political party who can't is doubly doomed. John Steele Gordon reflects on this increasingly urgent and brutal reality.

Most frequent outsider to visit the White House? Andy Stern, President of SEIU.

Our President: Detached and floating away

The irrepressible Mark Steyn has written the classic Epitaph on the Obama Presidency three whole years before it most likely will end. Money graf:

The most striking aspect of his performance was how unhappy he looked, as if he doesn’t enjoy the job. You can understand why. He ran as something he’s not, and never has been: a post-partisan, centrist, transformative healer. That’d be a difficult trick to pull off even for somebody with any prior executive experience, someone who’d actually run something, like a state, or even a town, or even a commercial fishing operation, like that poor chillbilly boob Sarah Palin. At one point late in the 2008 campaign, when someone suggested that if Governor Palin was “unqualified” then surely he was too, Obama pointed out as evidence to the contrary his ability to run such an effective campaign. In other words, running for president was his main qualification for being president.

A Man of the Hoi Polloi

So now the President is to become a populist. This law lecturer, of Punaho, Columbia, Harvard and Chicago. This denizen of Hyde Park. He's going to put down his Pinot Noir and hoist a boilermaker. He's changing from Armani suits to Ralph Lauren dungarees.

A pity he's spent the last two years mocking truck drivers and as someone else said: "boom stick owners who believe in a sky God".

Tom Bevan says this is his "Cross of Arugula"

Barack Obama: A man of the Hoi Polloi.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Must be an empty shed

The administration, smarting from their drubbing in Massachusetts caused both by fears of Obamacare and the sagging economy has decided to go populist by bashing Wall Street. The market, which had a small Scott Brown rally on optimism that Obamacare would be scrapped promptly went into an FDR-esqe tailspin losing 5.1% in three days. Lets see, the economy is in the tank because you've destroyed investor, owner and consumer confidence with grandiose policy proposals. The markets bounce on news that one of them might not happen. What to do? What to do?

OOH! OOH! I know! I know! Come up with a completely new set of grandiose and punitive proposals to punish banks and the investment community - that'll put a spring in investors' steps!

During the primaries they said that Barack Obama was the sharpest tool in the Democrat's shed. Must be an empty shed.

Is it just me or is Jon Stewart getting funnier?

Mr. Stewart reflects on Keith Olberman (not safe for Keith Olberman's Mom).

Who would have predicted....

...that Barack Obama would have achieved essentially nothing in his first year? Charles Krauthammer has the con:

One has to think that when the cameras finally depart the White House (they do leave sometime, right?) and there’s no one left to beguile, Obama will look over his first year in office and understand that he’s accomplished virtually nothing (other than sacrificing some congressional allies, losing two gubernatorial races, taking over a couple of car companies, appointing a mediocre Supreme Court justice, running up the debt, and racking up a foreign-policy record rivaled only by Jimmy Carter) with the largest congressional majority in decades. He must see his influence diminishing daily and wonder if this is really it – the last chance to do something, anything.

There's Hope for Change.

Insider Trading and the Battle of the Sexes

There are two types of insider trading, both illegal, but only one is (or can be) punished. If you get inside information and trade on it, you've committed a crime (whether or not that should be a crime is a topic for another day). If you get inside information and refrain from making a trade that you would have made absent the information, you've also technically committed a crime. But no one can see that crime. Two crimes, very different outcomes. Only the crime of Commission gets punished. The crime of Omission is ignored.

This applies equally to the battle of the sexes. Men notoriously commit lots of sexual sins of commission - philandering, pornography, prostitution, you name it. By contrast, their wives very seldom commit these sins. Instead they commit sexual sins of omission: attraction, deception, indifference, rejection.

Both categories are sins, but only one gets highlighted. And then we have the example of John Edwards finally admitting the paternity of his daughter by a campaign aide. Frequent readers of this blog know that I hold no brief for Mr. Edwards or his many sins, however, it is reasonable to point out that we don't know the character and nature of Sen. Edwards' relationship with his wife and what her role was in the collapse of their marriage.

It's a tough dilemma for Pastors because the core of almost all Churches are its matrons. And they are not mocked.

Stay away! Stay away!

Obama is 0 for 7 in campaign rallies for Democrat candidates since he won the Presidency.

There is Hope for Change.

Creating criminals and then becoming criminals to catch them

Gee, the state puts massive taxes on cigarettes, provoking a roaring black market trade. Then the government jumps in with huge law enforcement resources to stop the trade. They do so by selling a quarter billion cigarettes on the black market.

So let me get this straight: our "fearless leaders" in their lust for money make the criminals, build a huge instrument of oppression to suppress the crime they have created and then become criminals to catch the other criminals who only became criminals because of our "fearless leaders'" lust for money and power.

What a swell group of guys and gals we have at the top. Kinda makes you proud.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SCOTUS Strikes Down Key Provisions of Campaign Finance Law

We actually have a Constitutional right to free speech! Who would've thunk it?

How do you know what you know 4

Not only has the IPCC admitted that they got a key climate projection wildly wrong (after all science is iterative and new findings displace old) but in fact the climate projection in question (Himalayan Glaciers gone by 2030) was based on zero scientific data. Nada, none, zilch.

See here.

So how do YOU know what you know?

Holy Tourism

I just saw a flier from my (thriving) Church offering almost ten "Missions" Trips to various exotic locales. Having grown up in poor countries and with many missionary friends, I've always wondered how much value the trips added for the missions as opposed to the trippers. They seem to be more Holy Tourism than Missional.

That being said, my biggest reaction to my Church's efforts (and I presume most others) is its seemingly random scattering of activities. We've got mission relationships everywhere - From Nairobi to New Zealand. Given limited resources that's a bad approach - we're spreading ourselves over too many locales to have serious impact.

Are we doing this for the tourism? After all people like to go to different places - so is that why we have so many missions?

Why don't churches join together to do this? Each large church support two international mission sites, smaller ones support one and have a common pool of Holy Tours run by professionals that can take them to any of these sites? By buying centrally, the Holy Tour group can probably get better rates, allowing the Missions to earn a margin off of the Tourists.

That margin could be the greatest value that the Holy Tourists could provide.

Hubris? Or direction?

One legitimate, non-partisan question that can be asked about the Democrat's predicament is the Party's fall from grace a function of the arrogance of too much power - having such large majorities that they didn't think they had to play by the rules? Or is their failure a function of behaving too much like Leftists and letting that behavior shine out in public?

I suspect it's a bit of both. Hubris is a natural sin condition of those in power, it's not surprising that a party with as much latent political power as the Democrats in 2009 would be tempted into it. But there are special factors that make it more of a Democrat problem: BHO was not a normal candidate and was not treated normally by the MSM - he was lauded as "the one" and no negative news - about his inexperience, his leftism, his unsavory sponsors ever was allowed to get enough traction to be honestly discussed. It's unimaginable that a hard right Obama would get the same pass.

And the direction that the left has been trying to take the country is clearly wrong-headed: Jamming health and climate legislation that make no sense economically or environmentally just to prove to one's base that you are committed is a mistake that the more (small, 'c' as in cautious) Republicans are unlikely to make.

So hubris on tactics hurt the Democrats grieviously. But so did a racialist culture and strategic wrong-headedness.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No longer economically that free

The Heritage Foundation's Economic Freedom Rankings just came out and surprise, surprise the US's ranking plummeted faster than any other country in the world. The US now has the second freest economy - In North America. Boy, risk investors just love stuff like this.

The United States is losing ground to its major competitors in the global marketplace, according to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom released today by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. This year, of the world's 20 largest economies, the U.S. suffered the largest drop in overall economic freedom. Its score declined to 78 from 80.7 on the 0 to 100 Index scale.

Hope! Change!


Does Barack Obama have the humility and self awareness to recognize the hole he has dug forhimself and change? Does he have the experience with failure to understand what it takes to turn around. Does he have sufficient experience managing and leading people to determine which ones need to go and who to add?

Clinton turned his Presidency around and governed from the consensus center. But he had two decades of executive experience in Arkansas to draw from.

Where is President Obama's reservoir of experience? What inner strengths can he draw from?

Mortimer Zuckerman - "He's Done Everything Wrong"

The Publisher of US News is shocked! shocked! that a former law lecturer, state senator and freshman US Senator is such an ineffective President.

After all, he ran such a good campaign.


Brown the Republican Front Runner for President?

After all he's a State Senator who will have two years experience in the US Senate. What more could you need?

Why Scott Brown Won - The Real Story

It turns out that the reason that there was a special election was because the MA legislature changed the law back in 2004. Kerry was running for President and a Republican was governor and the Dems were concerned that Kerry would win and a Republican would be appointed Senator. So they changed the law. When Kennedy got sick, they tried to change it back. This sort of chicanery disgusted the MA voters.

Without the manipulation, there would have been no election and Obama would still have his 60 seat majority. Poetic justice, no?

John Steele Gordon has more here.

Hitler Finds Out Scott Brown Won

I think Keith Olberman is doing this today. Maybe George Soros as well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

As good a time as any for a Churchill quote

Spoken after El Alamein and Midway:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Sir Winston Churchill, November 1942

A Fool and his filibuster-proof majority are soon parted

With apologies to B. Franklin.

'nuff said.

Pray for the Haitians

Never have a people been so afflicted by others, themselves and nature.

Christians AWOL?

Social Security and Medicare are famously going bankrupt. Essentially what has happened is that the older generations, the ones in power in 1935, 1965 and 2002 voted themselves massive amounts of money that they did not earn. They are receiving these bloated payments and passing on to their children and grandchildren the IOUs that they signed but expect their descendants to pay. It must be noted that the people who did this were not the poor, huddled masses of the world, but at each point in time, the richest electorate in the world's history.

Typically if someone says they love their children and grandchildren and then turn around and take money from them without their agreement (or even with their agreement, they're children) and then use it for their own purposes, we consider that to be not only theft or hypocritical theft but among the most vile things a parent or grandparent can do. Yet when the state does it on their behalf it is legal.

But not moral.

But my question is where are the Christians? Where are the thundering Jeremiad's from the pulpit? This is a great injustice perpetrated by the richest and most powerful electorates in the history of the world against the voiceless, weak and powerless. Their children. Let me say that again: their children. Their grand children.

What an incredible moral catastrophe. One that implicates millions of Christians, righteous stalwarts of the faith.

Where are the pastors? The theologians? The great lions of the Church? If we won't speak out against the looting, who will?

Monday, January 18, 2010

All I want is to be home

I truly enjoy life. I love ideas and (most) people. Some who know me would probably point out that my enthusiasm is more clinical than justified based on my actual circumstances, but until someone comes up with a pill for unjustified joy, I humbly remain me. But I must confess that with each passing year my longing to be truly Home grows stronger. Not Mom 'n Dad's house or 307 Park Road but Home. My faith tells me that there is a place prepared for me and it is natural and right to long to be there. The lyrics from a song by the Foo Fighters (Don't blame me, I didn't pick their name) is one that says best that which I feel.


Wish I were with you, I couldn't stay.
Every direction leads me away.
Pray for tomorrow but for today,
All I want is to be Home.

Stand in the mirror, we all look the same.
Just looking for shelter from the cold and the pain.
Someone to cover, safe from the rain.
All I want is to be home.

Echoes and silence, patience and Grace,
And all of these moments I'll never replace.
Fear of my heart: Absence of faith.
All I want is to be home.

People I've loved, I have no regrets.
Some I remember, some I forget.
Some of them living, some of them dead.
All I want is to be home.

Foo Fighters is an odd name for someone you would quote on heaven. Sort of like if The Messiah was written by Freddy "Handy Dan" Handel.

How do you know what you know? - 3

What if you held a global warming debate (at the Detroit Auto show?) and the alarmists didn't show? Money grafs:

Just as Al Gore has notoriously declined debate, elected Democratic officials seem determined to reinforce the fiction of “climate consensus” by refusing to acknowledge dissident voices.

Republican Fred Upton — a Michigan congressman on the House energy committee — eagerly accepted our invitation (Michigan Republican Mike Rogers would have also come; Sen. James Inhofe was interested, had his schedule permitted his attendance. ). But his Democratic committee opposite, Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, passed. As did Rep. Sandy Levin. And Sen. Debbie Stabenow. And Rep. Gary Peters. And Gov. Jennifer Granholm. And so on.

We tried to fill the seat with environmental activists and they also declined. One prominent green responded to our phone call with ad hominem attacks on climatologist Patrick Michaels as a ”liar” and CEI’s Myron Ebell as a fraud. Shut up, he argued. Eventually, Skip Pruss — Granholm’s chief energy officer — jumped at the chance to debate. My hat is off to Skip.

"Shut up, he argued" I like that.

Cliff Claven (of Cheers) on the Woodstock Generation

Too good to ignore.

This isn't the Democratic party of our fathers and grandfathers. This is the party of Woodstock hippies. I was at Woodstock — I built the stage. And when everything fell apart, and people were fighting for peanut-butter sandwiches, it was the National Guard who came in and saved the same people who were protesting them. So when Hillary Clinton a few years ago wanted to build a Woodstock memorial, I said it should be a statue of a National Guardsman feeding a crying hippie.

The Roots of Obama Worship.

James Caesar writes an insightful essay on how an old concept: Secular Humanism or as he puts it: The Religion of Humanity connects with Barack Obama, the election and the world. Good read.

How Regulation Really Works

In the media's fantasy land of candy cane forests and soda pop oceans regulations are rationally implemented by dispassionate, far seeing public servants. The truth is they are usually implemented at the behest of market leading companies seeking to suppress smaller, more creative competitors. A good example here.

Mark Ernst, in December 2007, was chief executive officer of H&R Block, the nation's largest tax-preparation company. Thirteen months later, once President Obama took office, Ernst was named a deputy commissioner at the Internal Revenue Service, where he would spend his first year drafting new regulations for tax preparers--regulations that H&R Block welcomes and market analysts say will benefit the company.
With Ernst in mind, recall Barack Obama's campaign pledge: "No political appointees in an Obama administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years."

One out of five working age men is out of work

And the Our Leaders' priority? Insurance reform.

And they wonder why they're losing elections.

The New Tragedy of the Commons

Everyone who's taken elementary economics (or environmental science) knows about the 'tragedy of the commons'. When a resource is not owned by anyone but can be used by everyone, it tends to be depleted amidst great waste. The slaughter of the plains Buffalo was a good example. Many Buffalo were shot for fun and left to rot.

There's a tragedy of the commons that hasn't been recognized as such: The commons is this nation's future wealth and prosperity. The tragedy is the enormous on and off book liabilities that we are incurring on behalf of future generations. Normally, when debt is undertaken, there is a debtor and a lender. For the transaction to happen, both sides need to believe that they will benefit from the exchange and must explicitly consent to it. This is why children aren't allowed to enter into financial contracts. Pretty standard stuff.

However the Federal budget doesn't follow this pattern. The liabilities that the Feds are incurring are being incurred without the consent of those who must make them good. Thus today's Americans can shoot as many 'fiscal' Buffaloes as we want secure in the knowledge that "Somebody Else" in the future (aka: our children) will pay.

And as my Great Grandmother Nellie Savage knew instinctively: when you get things that somebody you don't know is paying for, you waste more and pay more. After all, the bill is 'somebody else's problem'.

This helps explain why education and healthcare inflation have been so virulent in the post war period. But more about that later.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How do you know what you know 2

Duke researchers find that orphanages do just as good a job as relatives raising orphans. Do better than strangers (aka foster parents). Man bites dog, ticks get fleas, eyes go cross, etc. etc. See Here.

So how DO you know what you know?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson: Evangelist, Author, TV Mogul, Senile

It is truly tragic to see what has happened to Pat Robertson. He used to be a strong if controversial advocate for evangelical Christianity. Today he's the punchline to a joke. Any joke. Won't somebody step up and help him make the right decision to leave public life?

Well this has been obvious for a long time

The real question isn't why Head Start doesn't work, it is whether there is a single federal or state funded program that DOES work?

New slogan: " Education: It's how we waste money when we're not sick."

Disqualifying Tweets

Micky Kaus: Twitter has dramatically lowered the barriers that once prevented respected figures from publishing what Malcolm Gladwell calls "Disqualifying Statements".

You have been warned!

Terror Double Standards

Why is this a surprise? Foil Islamic terror: you're a hero. Foil Leftist terror: you're a snitch. Money graf:

Darby has learned that if you disrupt a terrorist attack on Americans by Islamic fundamentalists as Dutch tourist Jasper Schuringa did on Christmas Day, you’re a hero, but disrupt a terrorist attack on Americans by left-wing fundamentalists and you might as well be a terrorist yourself.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Selective Enforcement of the Laws

How club wielding Black Panthers kept non-Obama voters from the polls and how the Obama administration rejected their guilty plea, setting them free. Long but important post. In particularl, read the career Justice attorney's farewell comments (he has been exiled to SC for pushing the wrong kind of civil rights cases).

Hope 'n Change!

The apocalypse

The Seventh Seal has been broken, the vampire with a soul is playing a role in the apocalypse, the one-armed man has been caught, Kwai Chang Caine has snatched the stone from Master Po's hand, Cthulhu has awakened, Alec Baldwin has become talented,American Freedom is made in China, and — gird thy loins — a Republican is poised to take Ted Kennedy's seat. From Jonah Goldberg.

I love this youtube: David "Dean of Establishment Cliches" Gergen asks about winning "The Kennedy Seat" - Scott Brown says "with all due respect this isn't the Kennedy's seat or the Democrat's seat, it's the people's seat". Gergen exits stage left to remove egg foo yung confit from face.

More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mickey Kaus on the Archaic Fee for Taco Model

“I went to my local Mexican diner and offered to give them a bundled payment to cure my hunger, but they insisted I pay for every dish I ordered under the archaic ‘fee for taco’ model.”

The rest here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

From Game Change: How Obama blew his first decision

Choosing Biden was an obviously bad choice, as BHO knew within days. How come it took him so much longer to perceive the obvious than it took everyone else?

Jennifer Rubin has the call.

Fatcats Party While Nation Slips into Depression

From instapundit:

UH OH: America slides deeper into depression as Wall Street revels. They told me that if I voted for John McCain the interests of ordinary Americans would suffer while financial fatcats raked it in. And they were right!

Perry's Law of Economics

True and relevant for a statist world:

It's a basic law of economics (Perry's Law) that "market competition breeds competence" (and lower-priced, higher-quality products), and government restrictions on competition and market forces breed incompetence (and higher-priced, lower-quality products), so the more the competition, and the more cutthroat the competition is, the better the outcome for consumers. It's also the case that the "smell of profits" attracts competition, and Amazon, Google and Apple all have stock returns double the 30% market return over the last six months measured by the S&P500, so that redolent attractive odor of profits might be churning up some potentially significant competition right now.

See the rest here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

US has more Natural Gas than Saudis have Oil

How can this be?

"Green" Govt. Destroys Wood Byproducsts Industry

Fascinating example of the ignorance of political lawyers. Woodmill byproducts have historically gone into particle board and inexpensive furniture. The 'hacks didn't know this and so passed big time subsidies for 'waste product fuels'. Only there isn't any waste, so the 'hacks are using our money to pay sawmills to put furniture manufacturers out of business so the working class and poor will no longer be able to afford decent furniture.

But I'm sure we'll get a lot of 'energy' at 3x the going rate and some 'political entrepenuers' will make a ton a bucks off of us rubes.

Hope, change!

Now this is real environmentalism

Brokering empty space in trucking - probably more net positive environmental impact than the entire subsidized wind industry, and certainly more than the environmentally devastating ethanol industry.

And not a single party hack in sight.

We Have At Least 100 Years of Oil Left

No Kiddin' Karl - imagine that - businesses use technology to find and get access to more and more oil over time. Who could conceive of such a novel notion: and with no 'green' subsidies and tax disincentives.

How can things happen without the leadership of statist political lawyers? It's impossible, isn't it? Well isn't it?

Thoughts 'n Questions

Environmentalism: Big Government on Crack

Why do we tax money inheritance but not talent inheritance?

Why is our most "progressive" institution (higher education) also our most hierarchical and status conscious?

Why are there virtually no liberal Christians?

Why do lectures and chalkboards and overhead projectors cost 5 times more than they a generation ago?

The CIA, TSA, IRS, Post Office: best practices for managing our health care.

Why are people fleeing dark blue states in droves?

What happens to your behavior when you are given free access to a service that you don't have to pay for?

What happens when this happens to an entire nation?

Just wondering.

The Exodus Emails

Shocking truth behind Pharoah's biggest blunder.

"One of the warmest winters in history"

A peek into how meteorologists at the British National Meteorology Agency determine how warm a winter it is (after two straight weeks of record cold and snow):

In fact, the Met still asserts we are in the midst of an unusually warm winter — as one of its staffers sniffily protested in an internet posting to a newspaper last week: “This will be the warmest winter in living memory, the data has already been recorded. For your information, we take the highest 15 readings between November and March and then produce an average. As November was a very seasonally warm month, then all the data will come from those readings.”

I'm glad they're paid twice as much

The TSA Fiasco at Newark after a guy ran through a security checkpoint to give his girl a good bye kiss.

Shutting down the airport, wasting thousands of people's time by pointlessly rescreening them, treating them as animals in pens without food or drink or bathroom breaks for hours on end, causing them to miss their flights and screwing up their lives... none of that is Mr Jiang's fault but that of the money-no-object TSA that imposes stupid petty rules on everybody else but doesn't even follow its own. And that's why Senator Lautenberg's anger is misdirected: It's not Mr Jiang's fault that Newark's "security" is a laughingstock.

But the Good news is: these double-paid union-jacks will soon be managing our healthcare system. How progressive.