Friday, April 30, 2010

It ain't left or right, it's human nature

Any group of people with a 'magic money machine' will eventually become unaccountable and spin out of control.  Left or right, gay or straight, atheist or religious we are all prone to ego driven pride.  We think we know best.  And with the magic money machine gleaming out of the corner of our eye, and highly paid officials in glittering uniforms with shiny guns at the ready, we rarely can resist the temptation to bribe and bully.  Again this isn't a left or right thing, it's human nature.  The only hope for our Republic is to radically limit the Federal Government's ability to intervene on domestic affairs and their ability to print IOUs (aka Money).  Want to build your utopia?  Fine, do it in your state and bear the consequences, good and bad, of your choices.

The Founding Fathers - living in a much crueler time - knew this.  We need to relearn it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Economics of College Predation

Over the past thirty years colleges (and schools in general) have raised the cost of attendance, massively.  As Seth Godin points out this is clearly unsustainable.  It also (as I have pointed out) is tantamount to piracy.  To put it "charitably" charities that constantly raise the price for the same service are not behaving in a 'charitable' manner.  But this is an outrage that is well known, if not adequately protested.

What is less well know is how these institutions use monopolistic pricing methods to wring every last dollar out of their vulnerable young charges.  Indeed, how they use tactics that are illegal in almost every other setting than education.

Reach back for a minute to your college Microeconomics.  In a perfect competitive market, Supply and Demand curves intersect at a market clearing price and volume for a given commodity.  In any market there are large numbers of customers who derive far more value from the commodity than the price they paid ( a good example here is toilet paper).  This is represented by the blue triangle below.

This is called the consumer value surplus or the surplus caused by there being a single market clearing price.

Worse than Pirates

Growth in the cost of college educations vs. medical costs, vs. the cost of living.  Seth Godin has much more here.InflationTuitionMedicalGeneral1978to2008
As I've said many times:  to call the people who run our Colleges and Universities pirates is to insult the noble tradition of Piracy.  At least pirates fought for their country at New Orleans.  Our college administrators would hide in their (gender neutral) toilets.

And they call these predators "Charities".

The Key Point on Immigration 'Reform'

From Ramesh Ponnoru and NRO:

Nearly everyone in the immigration debate has claimed to favor enforcing the immigration laws. But if you think it is draconian to require that anyone have to show papers proving their legal status, then you're simply against enforcement. And if you really believe that, you're not going to change your mind just because the government has set up a "temporary worker" program or a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants: You're going to be against truly enforcing any conceivable set of immigration laws. Good to know.

Hey I know! Send the jack booted thugs in Quincy to the border to keep illegals out rather than in
Quincy keeping Americans down.  I'll tell the President.  I'm sure he wouldn't want the para military pointing its guns at citizens, would he?

The State: Out of control

Check out the storm troopers strutting down the street to a cadence to 'protect' Barack Obama from little ladies in blue hair and insurance salesmen.  In Quincy!!!!  These guys look like thugs.  The police and the state are increasingly out of control.

Looks like Quincy needs to send some 'public servants' to the showers.  Permanently.

Ad Hominem - what you do when you've lost.

Roger Simon makes a point that I've been making for some time:

ROGER SIMON: “The real reason liberals accuse Tea Partiers of racism is that contemporary American-style liberalism is in rigor mortis. Liberals have nothing else to say or do. Accusations of racism are their last resort.”

HT Instapundit

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is the Euro Tipping into the Dustbin of History?

Walter Russell Mead points out that the Chaos across the pond is just beginning.  Hmmm.  It seems that Social Democracy or whatever we want to call President Obama's governing philosophy isn't sustainable.  Europe once again shows the failure.

The interesting question isn't that the PIGS are failing again, they always do the same things and their northern 'betters' are demographically destined to follow them.  No, the interesting question is why so many US 'elites' think following in their bankrupt path is such a sweet idea.

Bernie Madoff vs. Social Security: The "Ponz-off"

'Nuff said.

Takes money from investors with the promise that the money will be invested and made available to them later
Takes money from wage earners with the promise that the money will be invested in a "Trust Fund" and made available later.
Instead of investing the money Madoff spends it on nice homes in the Hamptons and yachts.
Instead of depositing money in a Trust Fund the politicians use it for general spending and vote buying.
When the time comes to pay the investors back Madoff simply uses some of the new funds from newer investors to pay back the older investors.
When benefits for older investors become due the politicians pay them with money taken from younger and newer wage earners to pay the geezers.
When Madoff's scheme is discovered all hell breaks loose. New investors won't give him any more cash.
When Social Securityruns out of money they simply force the taxpayers to send them some more.
Bernie Madoff is in jail.
Politicians remain in Washington .

Beyond Parody - How Gay is Gay enough

At some point all of this ludicrous identity politicking will collapse in on itself.  Until then an honest parodist like me won't be able to make a living.  From the National Law Journal:

The National Center for Lesbian Rights last week sued the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association for discriminating against bisexuals. The lawsuit stems from the 2008 Gay Softball World Series, which was organized by the athletic association and held in Seattle. It alleges that the athletic association’s “two heterosexuals per team” cap violated Washington state’s laws prohibiting discrimination in public accommodation. According to the suit, a softball team from San Francisco came under suspicion of having more than two straight players, prompting organizers to interrogate five players about their sexual orientation and private lives before a group of 25 people. A panel of athletic association members then voted that three of them were not gay.  The team was forced to forfeit its second-place finish in the tournament.  The suit seeks monetary damages and suspension of the rules that limits the number of heterosexuals allowed on each team.”

What we got for those extra 5 points

Take a look at this graphic:

Essentially all of the subsidies and manipulation got us a 5 point temporary bump in the home ownership rate from the postwar norm of about 64 percent.  It also got us trillions in losses and bankruptcies and the Great Recession.  Trillions of wealth destroyed just to move a stupid statistic.  Liberalism isn't a coherent ideology, it's a cargo cult that worships statistics and union bosses.

Peak Everything

Ron Bailey uses several rare earth metals to illustrate the conceptual silliness of 'peak everything'.  If someone tells you we're running out of something and need to fund a program to subsidize it or shift away from it, the only thing you're likely to run out of is money.

"Peak this and that" is the modern equivalent to phrenology or the reverse of alchemy.  Short the Peakies - they're fools.

SEC Can't detect Madoff fraud, conjures Goldman Fraud out of thin air

Prof. Epstein on the uselessness of the SEC:
"In the end, we learn a lot from this latest SEC fiasco. The agency that cannot detect a Madoff fraud can conjure up a Goldman fraud out of thin air. At this point, some fundamental reform is in order. Forget the fancy stuff. Either the SEC should master its primary fraud prevention mission, or it should shut down altogether." 

H/T Carpe Deim

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Heard on the Ether

"I'm no lawyer (which is why I can see my reflection in the mirror)"

Robert Mundell on the Causes of the Crisis

Valuable post linking to a video of economist Robert Mundell speaking at the Heritage foundation.  Mundell is highly credible and provides an explanation that makes sense.....

If something can't happen it won't

John Mauldin of Outside the Box makes a congent statement about our impending fiscal trainwreck:

" ... [the US Government Accounting Office] goes on to state, however, that using reasonable assumptions, 'roughly 93 cents of every dollar of federal revenue will be spent on the major entitlement programs and net interest costs by 2020.'"
That is an example of the economic truism that if something can't happen, then it won't. Long before we get to 2020, massive change will be forced upon the US. The question is, do we do it willingly or do we become Greece?

Greece.  We're going to become Greece

"Great" and "Good" howl at Arizona for enforcing existing Federal immigration law

It really tells you how much contempt the powerful have for the law that when a state attempts to enforce the laws that the Federals claim (falsely) that they are enforcing that every self righteous establishment figure comes screaming out of the woodwork.  "How dare you enforce the immigration laws of our nation you, you, you.....Nazi!".  See Rich Lowry here.

If our immigration laws are 'Nazi" then why haven't the 'great and good' repealed them?  Nope, they aren't Nazi, they're just lies ginned up by the establishment to deceive us 'rubes' into thinking that they're enforcing immigration laws.  How dare we call their bluff.  Why anyone gives these frauds power and money is beyond me.

That was then, this is now

Our "Maximum Leader" on how many Americas:


* “Even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us–the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes.’ Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America–there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America–there’s the United States of America.”–state senator Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention, July 27, 2004
* “In the video message to his supporters, [President] Obama said his administration’s success depends on the outcome of this fall’s elections and warned that if Republicans regain control of Congress, they could ‘undo all that we have accomplished.’ ‘This year, the stakes are higher than ever,’ he said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by Democratic officials. ‘It will be up to each of you to make sure that young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again. . . .’ “–Washington Post, April 26, 2010
Like I said, that was then, this is now.

The Knowledge Problem Once Again

Freidrich Hayek (another Chicago Boy) won a Nobel price for explaining how this works.  Pity our lawyer-leaders never learned any of this.  Hat tip Instapundit.

WAXMAN FAIL: “When major companies declared that a provision of the new health care law would hurt earnings, Democrats were skeptical. But after investigating, House Democrats have concluded that the companies were right to tell investors and the government about the expected adverse effects of the law on their financial results.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

There have been no tax cuts

Kevin Williamson argues persuasively that the Reagan and Bush 'supply side' tax 'cuts' were nothing of the sort.  Instead they were simply tax deferrals - because spending was never reduced, they simply will lead to tax increases in the future on our children or an inflation which is just a regressive tax.  He does acknowledge the incentive effects of low marginal rates.  In the long run what matters is the productivity of the dollars spent:  if private spending yields returns in excess of the interest required to support the debt, then we get richer.  Likewise for public spending:  if we got a ten percent return on every incremental dollar spent by the government, then we should run huge deficits.  But private returns, while positive suffer from diminishing returns over time while public returns are almost always catastrophically negative.  This argues for low public spending but not for deficits.

Questions I'd like asked (but doubt will be)

Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting is coming up and 'El Buffo' famously solicits questions from the crowd.  Here is one that I'd like to see asked and answered (but I know won't be).

Oh Great One, Sage of Omaha, Slayer of Markets, Scourge of Boardrooms everywhere:

Given that your early endorsement of BHO was just about the only economic credential that the President ran on and given the gross economic mismanagement and profligacy demonstrated by him since election, do you regret your endorsement?

And if not, precisely what have the people that you are primarily accountable to:  the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, gotten out of your very visible (and tightly tied to Berkshire) politicking?

Do you feel obligated to advocate policies that are good for our company or just ones that make you personally popular with the press?

Are the values and beliefs of a multi-billionaire like you consonant with the interests of your largely middle class shareholders?  Do  you have any obligation to represent  your shareholder's interests when speaking to public policy issues?  

Obama Signs Agreement with Utopia

Great news!  Here.

Gomer Pyle X 4

Surprise, surprise.....and so on.  As I said before:  chaos as far as the eye can see.

WHEELS ALREADY COMING OFF OBAMACARE? “Not one of its major programs has gotten started, and already the wheels are starting to come off of Obamacare. The administration’s own actuary reported on Thursday that millions of people could lose their health insurance, that health-care costs will rise faster than they would have if the law hadn’t passed, and that the overhaul will mean that people will have a harder and harder time finding physicians to see them. . . . This is an objective report by administration actuaries that shows this sweeping legislation has serious, serious problems.” Maybe next time they’ll read the bill before passing it. Nah, who am I kidding?

The Big Losers

The big losers from the ascendancy of Obama and the 'Chicago" Democrats has been the 'good government' liberals who hold that the state is a benign force filled with selfless, moderate public 'servants' only interested in doing the 'public good'.  The venal and corrupt behavior of actual public 'servants' is teaching a whole generation that the state is a predator that can't be trusted.  When even Saturday Night Live gets in on the fun, you know that the worm  has turned.
A far more conservative younger generation:  another exciting feature brought to you by BHO.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

And now for something completely different:

Do the Right Thing
Our lives are full of trouble.  A big part of a person’s true ‘success’ in life is how biblically they respond to difficulties that they experience and how much mercy they show to those in distress around them.  These high stress situations often leave us grasping for what to do, what to say.   Most of us struggle to take what we have learned in years of Church attendance and bible study and translate it into appropriate words of wisdom.  If we had time to think about it, to consult wise men, to read the self help book, we’d have the answer, but right then, right there on the firing line we often fall short.  Even worse, because we lack confidence in our knowledge of the right biblical answer to an issue, we remain silent when we should speak. 

The situation is worse for the unchurched:  at least Christians have witnessed the biblical way to deal with crises, have a Christian worldview (if only via osmosis) and have the help of the Holy Spirit.  Non-Christians have bupkis (technical consulting term for absolute nothing – similar to absolute zero).  All of us are looking for help at the hard moments, even if it is only to reinforce our own instincts and give us more confidence because we know that the answer we will give is God’s.  We want to do the right thing.

Billions of people regularly face these situations with little or no practical spiritual help (aside, of course, from prayer and the mediation of the Holy Spirit, which is significant) at the point of the event. Before the moment:  tons of wisdom if only we could remember and organize it, after:  lots of advice that will be spot on as soon we invent time travel. It has always been thus, so much so that we usually don’t think of it as a problem to be ‘solved’ – it’s a state of nature, a result of The Fall. 

Wall Street Doesn't Believe in Free Markets

TIM CAVANAUGH: “Republicans are standing up for Goldman because they support laissez faire capitalism and unfettered free markets. Inconveniently for that thesis, Goldman has given more than twice as much money to Democrats as to Republicans in this election cycle.”

H/T Instapundit

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why do people persist in self defeating strategies?

Say like President Obama.  The jobless claims numbers trend since last November show that job losses are increasing.
How can that be, other macroeconomic indicators are roaring back to life.  Well lads: you radically increased the minimum wage (GWB idiocy too), you've told small and  mid-sized businesses that labor costs (and the risk of fines and prosecution around these costs) are going to explode, and you've fiddled with every other macroeconomic dial, usually in ways that make it harder for private enterprises to make ends meet.

With so much 'leadership' out of Washington we are entering our European Decadence phase.  With high unemployment  and shrinking futures for our kids.  The bright side?  BHO and the Dems will surely pay for pursuing the wrong strategy.

The state's power to destroy is greater than the private sectors ability to create

World stock markets have bounced back with the total capitalization of all publicly traded companies in the world exceeding $60 Trillion.  Great news.

The bad news.  The United States' unfunded liabilities from past social programs and net debt is roughly double the value of all publicly traded corporations in the world.  In other words all the innovation creativity wealth creation every thing than Walmart and Google and Sony and Michelin have done to create value is dwarfed by the drunken profligacy of one nation's government.   And the US is no where near the worst offender.

I am continually amazed at my friends who look upon the state, particularly our Federal Government as a benign force for good.  It is the destroyer.  A terrifying force that must be tamed if we are to live free.

Homer nod:  $49 Trillion is the value of all publicly traded companies in the world, not $60 Trillion.

Friday, April 16, 2010

John Podhoretz on the Purposes of Political Combat

I knew that John-boy Podhoretz was clever when he was at the U of Chicago.  But he's gotten progressively more thoughtful as he's gotten older.  Brilliant essay on the Obami here.

And the President, totally detached from reality, floated a way on fluffy clouds of his own rhetoric

President Obama telling the Faithful that the Tea Partiers should be grateful to Him for cutting their taxes.  This is why I gave up parody, gang.

President Barack Obama said Thursday he’s amused by the anti-tax tea party protests that have been taking place around Tax Day.

Obama told a fundraiser in Miami that he’s cut taxes, contrary to the claims of protesters.

“You would think they’d be saying thank you,” he said.
At that, many in the crowd at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts stood and yelled, “Thank you!”

Seen at the Tea Party

"Socialism only works in two places:  Heaven, where they don't need it and Hell, where they already have it."


“I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and filled him with resolve.”

Then:  Isoroku Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Now:  Percent of voters who identify themselves as "Tea Partiers" rises from 19 to 28%.

Damn racists.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Now he tells us

All of a sudden Ben Bernanke gets concerned about the deficit.  After the wildly profligate Obamacare and "Stimulus I and II' pass.  Typically, Charles Krauthammer has a clear bead on the fraud:

I'm interested in the timing of all of this. It seems as if now that health-care is behind us with all the smoke and mirrors and deception that went into the numbers that made it look OK, honesty has broken out on Capitol Hill.
So all of a sudden we're going to hear from the chairman of the Federal Reserve and others how deep in debt we are . . . And now the numbers that Bernanke is talking about are numbers that are scrubbed of the absurd assumptions that the CBO had to make under instructions from its boss, the Congress.
So CBO had lower numbers because it assumed that the AMT, the alternative minimum tax, will not be fixed, which, of course, it will be. So that‘s going to add onto the deficit. It had to assume that all of the Bush tax cuts are going to expire, but, of course, Obama has promised [they] will only expire on the rich.
So as a result, the real numbers are — nine percent of GDP as a deficit in 2020 and a debt over 100 percent of the GDP, which puts us in the territory of a country like Greece — which means the only way out is hyperinflation, because no country can support $1 trillion in debt service.
So we're going to have to start thinking about taxes and entitlements, and you’re going to hear about it after the November election. . . .
The reason why this [exploding national debt] story was underreported was because it got in the way of health care, which liberals were pushing, especially liberals in the media.
It [Obamacare] doesn't only add a new entitlement, but it takes $1 trillion of what otherwise would be deficit reduction — half a trillion in cuts in Medicare and half a trillion in increase[s] in taxes — [and] instead of applying it [to] and reducing the debt, it applies it to a new entitlement. So it's something that’s now unavailable — which makes our debt even worse.

Oy Ve!

A plurality of Jewish voters would consider voting for someone other than Obama in 2012 - and this is before he's 'led' us for a full four years.  Imagine what a couple more years of 'quality' Obama 'leadership' will do.

For Democrats:  If you've lost the Jewish vote.......well, you've lost.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An illustration of how to use process measures to drive church goals

Now if that title doesn't make you run screaming into the night, nothing will.

Last time on Church Performance Measures:  the key to measuring activity is to use a touches, handshakes, hugs framework - how much money the church rakes in or how pretty the buildings are really doesn't measure what Churches seek to do.  Churches seek to communicate and engage the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to lead people to redemption by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To do so they interact with people in many different ways.  These interactions can be characterized as 'Touches' - simple, polite interactions that have little if any 'faith' content, 'handshakes' where the interaction includes some exchange of kingdom messages and values and 'hugs' where there is a two way commitment to enter into a deeper relationship with God or the church or ideally, both.

So how would a Church like say, mine use this in a ministry, say like our Tuesday and Thursday Mom's (really parent's) day out program?  Well the program has many parents that do not belong to or attend the Church.  And while their children have a 'hug' relationship with us, the parents barely 'touch' us, just to drop off and pick up their kids.  A Church that measured its interactions and was committed to increasing the frequency and quality of those interactions - to move from touches to handshakes and from handshakes to hugs - would organize the interactions in the program differently than a mere 'day care' center would.  (Incidentally, I'm not saying my Church doesn't do some of these things, but they suffer the fate of pastor's kids everywhere:  doomed to be the butt of their parent's examples in front of everyone.)  So what would the sophisticated 'Church about town' do?

First, They would make sure that every parent formally met with ministry staff (not day care staff, but trained ministry staff or lay volunteers) each year at the start of the program - the goal would be to understand the child but also understand the family's life and faith and any issues that need to be ministered to.

Second, these same ministry team members would be there at every drop off and pick up to interact primarily with the parents, build relationships with them, solicit their issues, show care and concern - to turn touches into handshakes.  Every parent who used the program would get polite invitations to Church events by members that they had gotten to know.

Third, the pick up and drop off process would be engineered to give the ministry team the opportunity to do this, to make a couple minutes of small talk with parents coming and going.  The goal:  increase meaningful interaction, not minimize the elapsed time to drop off their little bundles of 'joy'.

Fourth any issue regarding a child's care, its adaptation, illness or behavior would be looked upon by the ministry team as an opportunity to minister to the parents.  Addressed as family issues, not child issues.

The whole point of measuring how a Church interacts with its community is to increase the quantity and especially the quality of interactions.  Once you begin to measure what you are doing, then you put yourself in a position to manage towards more meaningful outcomes.  This isn't rocket science I'm talking about, it's soul science.

Interesting paradox

The financial press tends to take CEO hype about their numbers with a grain of salt and focuses on the actual numbers released in the financial statements to get the "real story".  By contrast the very same press believes with gap jawed credulity whatever our political leaders tell us about the government's financial performance (for example the simplistic repeating of the fraudulent - but 'widely respected, non-partisan' CBO numbers) and comprehensively ignores the actual, accurate and terrifying Federal Financial statements that were released this week.

It's almost as if the press wants to be lied to.

And what do the actual numbers say?  Oh nothing much, just that we are completely, utterly and comprehensively screwed.

Chaos as far as the eye can see

Two posts explaining just a tiny bit of the chaos in store for Americans who thought they were going to get 'free' healthcare under Obamacare.

Insurance companies will game the system - see here.  And the poor, grossly overpaid, underworked government bureaucrats don't have the brains or incentives to counteract their moves.

People are showing up for their 'free insurance' and are enraged when they find out the truth.  (Note to the Obami:  lies have consequences, gang).  States are refusing to cooperate with the law, other states are suing to have key provisions declared unconstitutional, and the Obamacare prototype is circling the drain in Massachusetts.  A desperate governor is pinning his moribund reelection hopes on denying health insurers massive rate increases driven by the massive gaming done in response to Obamalike "shall issue" and "community rating" rules.  Since the only players left in the individual and small business market in MA are single state players who had no place to run away to, if they can't get the increases, they'll be taken over by the state, which will then fund the rate increases.  Which of course is what the Obami want.  So good news!

For a free market conservative whose been in and following the health insurance markets for 15 years this is all so predictable.  And entertaining - like watching the team you hate most (Cubs) get stomped 20-0.  Gotta go, Pujols is up for the third time this inning.  Whee.

So a man in plain clothes in an unmarked car cuts you off and pulls a gun - what do you do?

Our police are increasingly arrogant and dangerous.  They, like the rest of our metastasizing state apparatus,  are tearing at the public confidence that their authority is founded on.

The dropped food guide

Essential guide for men the world over here.

Who's our buddy? Who's our pal?

This Canadian?

Or this Chinese?
U.S. President Barack Obama greets Chinas ...
Bow to your rivals, lecture your closest friends.  Body language tells a lot about a person, doesn't it?

Circling the Drain?

The Post Office will lose $7 billion dollars this year and $238 Billion over the next ten if massive change is not made according to a new GAO report.

Sadly given our leadership on both sides of the aisle, it's not going to simply circle the drain, it's going to clog it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is it just a fascist power grab?

Reihan Salam asks the rather obvious question:  But when the 60 percent of Americans are net recipients of federal benefits, is it at least possible that some are not desperately poor?


Rasmussen reports a 9 point Generic Congressional voting intentions margin for Republicans among likely voters.  If this holds, it would be the most catastrophic defeat for the Democrat party since.....well since forever.

Hope and change, indeed.  And doubly painful for a Party that is only fulfilled by the activities of the state.  I mean we Republicans don't really like the state so when we're out of power, we just go home and do what we really love.  When Democrats are out of power they go that that dim, dark, dank, sweating place where all failures go - no diversion, no hope, no redemption........hell, really.  To plot their inevitable return to power and their next triumph of politics over reason.

No Yins, 2 Yangs

Yang 1:

Yang 2:

On racism 3

Andrew Breitbart on racism:

Why is it that the left is allowed to throw around the dangerous accusation of racism, without any evidence, as a means to malign half the country?  Yet, if I want to use the word “socialist,” I have to go to the DNC and get a notary public to sign it for me.
On the famous Congressional Black Caucus walk through the Tea Partiers on Capitol Hill:
They were all fishing for hate, and they got nothing.  So what did they do? They went to the mainstream media and they said that the ‘N-word’ was said fifteen times.

That was Yin and this is Yang

Larry Kudlow tells conservatives:  a boom is coming - don't fight the tape.

h/t Instapundit.

We're going down, down, down, he boba looba!

Hat tip Bruce Springsteen

And here i thought it was going to be a lot of money or something

This year's deficit on track to be "only" $1.3 Trillion.  Hat tip Instapundit.

The story of mankind - from 4 block world

The Story of Mankind
'Nuff said.  See more here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

President Obama has taken "historic steps" to improve US Democracy

Yep, I sure feel that in Obama's America the will of the people is supreme.  Don't you?

President Obama said Sunday that the United States is still "working on" democracy and a top aide said he has taken "historic steps" to improve democracy in the United States during his time in office.
The remarks came as Obama met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev — one of the U.S. president's many meetings with world leaders ahead of this week's nuclear summit.

On racism 2

John Derbyshire describes his experience on a Penn Law School panel discussing affirmative action.  Based upon my past experience, this is what passes as 'honest dialog' on our nation's campuses.

With their institutionalized racism, their suppression of free speech and association, their ugly ideological indoctrination and raising prices fourfold for the delivering the same content, our Universities have become a tragic embarrassment.

And the saddest part:  they think that they are the righteous ones.  Pathetic.

What if you used the same accounting rules on your taxes as the CBO and OMB use?

You'd be a crooked, lying cheat.  A fraud and an embarrassment to your family.  Someone who most certainly should be in jail.  A parasite, scum really.  A Congressman.  But I repeat myself.  See here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Are we overtaxed?

Two thirds of Americans think so.  It's fascinating, people who PAY taxes think we are overtaxed, the Political class, who benefit from more taxes and spending disagree 3 to 1.  It illustrates that our 'public servants' in no way, shape or form reflect the values and views of the people who make up America.  They are overlords, not servants and should therefore be deposed.

RASMUSSEN: 66% Say America Is Overtaxed. “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. . . . Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree. Lower income voters are more likely than others to believe the nation is overtaxed. Not surprisingly, the tax issue provokes a wide gap between the Political Class and Mainstream Americans. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Mainstream American voters believe the nation is overtaxed, while 74% of those in the Political Class disagree.”

Is Shariah the problem?

Frank Gaffney, who I respect greatly argues that the fault line between 'decent, law abiding Muslims' and 'Islamic Extremists' is adherence and advocacy of Shariah.  Certainly I would never want to live under Shariah - my experience in Saudi was creepier than my experience in Soviet Russia (and a damn site hotter) - that is how totalitarian a true Shariah regime can be.  That being said, there are many Americans (Hutterites, Amish, Mennonites, even Mormons) that adhere to strict moral codes that would deeply offend typical Americans (aka Me - I mean no scotch and rocks?  No cappucino?  No dancing - who are these people?  Communists?).  The issue isn't OBSERVING Shariah, it's advocating it as the ultimate law of the land for everyone.  And historically Muslims haven't done that - with the exception of Wahabbist Saudi Arabia and to a certain extent, Khomeinist Iran.  If I were to define a Muslim enemy of humanity, it wouldn't be the practice of Shariah, but instead would be these frankly Fascist bastardizations of traditional Islamic faith.

The Burkha is nowhere mandated in the Koran and is indeed banned in Mecca's Six Flags Over Mohammed Tour (aka the Haj).  Or as my good Muslim friend and partner would say (in his best Oxbridge Fake Texan):  "They ain't no ninjas in the big guy's book."

If you don't shut up we'll do to you what we did to you. You guys, you.

From Commentary:  Turkey threatens to do to Armenians what they did to Armenians if anyone mentions what they did to Armenians. Which they deny doing. Unless you make them do it.

Cats and dogs living together department

Minor-league baseball team signs girl pitcher. For the love of Joe Pepitone, where will this egalitarian madness end? Next thing you know, women will be running businesses and becoming heads of state. Miserable communists…

Urban Traffic ca 1906, San Francisco 4 days before the Great Quake


Relativity Limericks

Got going on this with a friend and couldn't stop.


There once was a chappie named Einstein
Who thought that it would be real fine
To think up a theory
That all thought was queer-y
And win on Nobel prize night


"There was a young lady of Wight
Whose speed was much faster than light.
She set out one day 
in her usual way,
and returned on the previous night."

I'm not very good at this am I?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ratmi's Tale

Ratmi worked for my family as a cook in Jakarta, Indonesia.  She was a 30 something woman with a broad smile and more joy than could be held in her short, squat body.  She lived in a room in our house and was there most every weekday morning when bleary eyed, my brother and I stumbled down the stairs.

Ratmi's faith was a characteristically Javanese mix of superstition and Islam.  We would ask her to fry bacon and because of the Muslim prohibition against pork she would reluctantly comply.  She'd stand as far away from the frying pan as possible with her head turned away, one hand tending the bacon, the other with a kerchief over her nose and mouth.  When she would get sick, she wouldn't take our medicines, instead she'd take a 20 rupiah piece (similar to a quarter) and rub it up and down her body until angry red stripes covered her skin.  It 'got out the poison', she explained.

Ratmi was no respecter of persons or status.  We would constantly try to get her to subvert our mother's rules about in between meal snacks.  She would look quizzically at us, draw up to her full 4' 11" height and shout HA! which was her way of saying that we were full of it and that if we thought we were getting anything out of her we were badly mistaken.

My mother spent quite a bit of time with Ratmi, teaching her how to cook Texas style.  It was widely acknowledged among my friends that Ratmi made the best apple and rhubarb pies in Southeast Asia.  My brother and I loved her:  "like a second mother", my mom said.  Our mother, shocked by the poverty and malnutrition happening right outside our front gate plunged herself into efforts to help the working poor of Jakarta:  helping found a not for profit business to source hand stitched Christmas ornaments, produced by the families of our servants and sold in the US and Europe.  But that left little time for her teenage sons.  So Ratmi filled the gap.

Ratmi had a son by a man who exercised his Muslim prerogative and divorced her.  The boy lived in central Java with her parents.  From time to time she would speak of her ex-husband in dark tones:  "he no good man, he bad", she would say in her broken English.  Her family held her employment by "rich" Americans in the strictest secrecy:  if her ex found out, he would no doubt find a way to exploit that knowledge for money.  Sadly, one day the inevitable happened and Ratmi came to my father in tears.  What was she to do?  The man was a gangster and had police on his payroll.  They had come, telling her to steal things from us for him.  She wouldn't do it and now she was marked for punishment.

In the kleptocratic 'paradise' that Indonesia was back then it was no use going to the police.  We only kept them from robbing us by regular bribes.  My father quickly sized up the situation and realized that Ratmi (and us, so long as she was there) was no longer safe in our home.  So he got her a job cooking for one of his company's oil exploration camps 2,000 miles to the east in Irian Jaya.  There in the jungles of New Guinea she would be safe from the big city gangsters.

We were heartbroken by her departure.  Ratmi was family, one of the things that made living in Indonesia among all the filth and pain and suffering a true joy.  We cried bitter tears at her departure.

Ratmi had a hard life to provide for her son in that poor, broken country.  But things have gotten much better.  Indonesia no longer pretends to be a 'statist paradise' and democracy of a sort has come to the land, along with more market oriented economic policies that have almost eradicated at least the visible malnutrition.  It's still a hard life, but I like to think that Ratmi is at home in Yogyakarta now, teaching her daughter in law how to make real, honest to goodness Texas "Sonofabitch" stew and apple pie....and how to fry bacon from three feet away.

Horrified by all of my libertarian polemics?  Here's a compilation of my non political, non economic pieces for those nights when you have insomnia.

Next time someone whines about 'gender wage inequality' show them this

Gender Survival Inequality is rather greater than wage inequality.  From Carpe Diem.

Male type work wages tend to be much higher because men die from them.  Oddly enough.  Look, I'm happy to talk about wage inequality but my debate opponents want to talk without referencing the actual data and economics.  Women see how much affluent, educated African Americans have benefited from being uber- victims and they want the same thing.  The first problem with this is that women in no way shape or form have been victims the way African Americans have.  Second, being our nation's uber-victims has been a disaster for the Black community, isolating them in a victim's ghetto while other peoples of 'color' zoom by them with everyone else, third, it's absurd to make 52 percent of the population 'victims' - if everyone's a victim, then no one is.

Colleges have succeeded in making men 'pay' so much that now they are seeing male attendance plummet to 40 percent of enrollments.  It's fallen so far that many colleges now discriminate in favor of men for admission only to discriminate against them when they get there.  Kafka never imagined a story as insane as the reality that our educational 'leaders' have built.  See here for the ugly truth.

Pray for inflation?

Peter Gorenstein argues that only inflation can get us out of our Government's impending bankruptcy.

Everyone thinks the Fed's job is to fight inflation, but right now the Fed is actually doing everything it can to cause inflation.
It part to help the economy get cranking again.  Inflation provides an incentive for people to spend cash rather than saving it, because if they save it, the cash will lose value rapidly.
Inflation also helps solve another problem, though--our debt problem.  The more inflation we have, the less our dollars will be worth.  Because our debts are based on a specific number of dollars and not a specific value, the less our dollars are worth, the easier it will be for us to pay off our debts.
(Imagine owing someone 100 Zimbabwe dollars at a time when the currency is collapsing.  If you wait a week, the value of the Zimbabwe dollar will have collapsed, and you'll be able to pay off your 100 Zimbabwe-dollar debt with currency that is only worth half as much as it was the week before).
The Fed can't admit that one reason it wants high inflation is to reduce the real burden of our debt, but you can bet that that's one of its objectives.  What's more, says Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman, inflation should be one of the Fed's objectives.  Because that's how we've gotten out from under debt burdens in the past.

And certainly rapid inflation is the likely scenario because it meets our political and economic power elites short term needs.  I mean no one is going to lose an election trying to cut senior benefits or seriously trim our bloated, unionized public sector.  And the bankers will make a fortune on the arbitrage:  the more volatility and chaos, the more opportunities for them to profit from their privileged 'heads I win, tails you lose' regulatory position.

The problem with this is that the promises that we have made to ourselves that cannot be paid extend out for 50 years or more and have gotten much larger due to the heedless profligacy of the last two administrations.  We will be unable to pay our bills in 15 to 20 short years, maybe sooner if world markets lose confidence in our economic management.  At that point we will no longer be able to fool the markets into accepting our paper at risk free rates and our promises will hit the wall of our means.  Just in time for my generation's retirement.

It will be a sad day for America but a catastrophe for the world's poor.  For when the hegemon goes bankrupt, the world burns.

Short the greenback.

We have a recovery - if we can keep it

Carpe Diem points out that orders are roaring back everywhere from historic post war lows.

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin:  Gentlemen: we have a recovery, if our leaders will let us keep her.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Obami Foreign Policy Logic

Here's Charles Krauthammer on the mind blowing stupidity of the Obami in the START treaty signed today.  It's almost as if Obama wasn't on our side in the negotiation.  Sigh.

The real problem I think is … what the president of Russia said in his remarks after the signing. He emphasized again and again that the validity of the treaty that he signed today hinges on the maintenance of the status quo on defensive weapons. He said, in fact, [that] it’s a legal principle that the circumstances that are the basis of the treaty have to remain unchanged.

What that implies is if the United States does something new on missile defense — for example, if it were to reintroduce the systems it had originally intended to put in the Czech Republic and Poland, say, to reintroduce it in Romania or elsewhere — that would be a step that would undo the status quo and it would make the treaty null and void. That is the implication of what he said. The Russians would walk away.

And since we’re the ones who are going to have to be dismantling our missiles under the treaty — offensive weapons under this treaty — because we have a robust nuclear deterrent and the Russians’ is old and a lot more decrepit, we will have dismantled a lot of weapons. And the Russians reserve the right to walk away if we make them unhappy on missile defenses.

On Racism

I distributed an Email caricature of President Obama that one of my email acquaintances, an African American described as "racist crap" and told me to keep to myself.  I was abashed, ashamed really.  When I saw the 'toon all I saw was something that made fun of my President, that said he was 'full of crap' which I believe.  When my email acquaintance (I would have said friend but I think he would now object) saw it, he saw:  "Black men are full of crap, that's why they're black".  I can see that now, but it didn't occur to me then.

You see, I labor under a disadvantage, not having grown up in the United States.  Going to English, Overseas American and International schools I was always part of a despised minority:  Americans.  Indeed as an Oklahoman I was lumped in with Texans and was part of the despised minority of the despised minority.  The point is that regardless of color, creed or ethnicity all American kids were under siege from the rest of the kids in the community - we stuck together, watched each other's backs.  We were Americans.

When I was six we moved to Abu Dhabi and I was enrolled in the only school in the Emirate:  The Abu Dhabi English school.  At the end of the first day I walked out of class, was knocked down, when I struggled to my feet I has hit square in the face and pummeled by three boys one to two years older than I.  The English teachers didn't seem to be too concerned.  The violence was so bad that my father's company was forced to found a school for Americans (and Canadians, to show you how much times have changed) to protect me in particular.  It was founded in my Dad's bosses' study.  Today it is the American Community School of Abu Dhabi.

This trend continued throughout my childhood.  I can show you yearbooks with viciously anti-American screeds in them, not written in the margins but typeset and published as the 'hopes for the future' sections.  I just had no experience of the racial divide that existed in the US.  When I came back home I was stunned at what was done and said on both sides.  This was America, we were Americans, what was the problem?

So that extends to today.  I don't think in racial terms.  When I saw the (admittedly tasteless) joke on President Obama I just saw Americans making fun of their leader, what could be more American.  Despite being beaten again and again for my Okie accent and cowboy boots when I was a child I never took offense to the ugly caricatures of President Bush as a dumbass southern hick.  Par for the course, I said.  Even when he was presented as a Nazi - well that's what you get for being on top.

And that's what troubles me.  My Church has built a deep and abiding partnership with a North St. Louis, mostly African American one.  A great Church.  I've been there many times and vice versa, we do ministry and missions together.  My committee held a joint meeting after President Obama was elected talking about the "implications of the election"  ex-Senator Jim Talent spoke for the right and the Senior Pastor of Friendly Temple spoke for the Democrats.  It was great.  But I realized based upon that meeting that my friends at the Friendly Temple would interpret any bumptious criticism of President Obama as racist.  Saying what was said about President Bush with regard to President Obama just wasn't going to be acceptable.  So what did I do?  I censored my email lists, took the FT people off of my serious dialogs, left them on the 'pablum and prayer' ones.  I cut them off because I didn't want to to have to worry about my opinions offending them.  This is selfish, but what could I do?  I have strong, non-racist opinions, I want to make them strongly.  If I am continually censoring my opinions for one group (I don't do it for any others, and certainly no one does it for me) then I am disfavoring all the others.  Why shouldn't my Indian or Central American or lesbian relatives get the same consideration?

I had a roaring debate going on with some friends of my Seattle friend recently over the foreign implications of our increased devotion of resources to health care.  An otherwise charming matronly woman told me "I think all Tea Baggers are racists".  I'm a Tea Party supporter and she knew that.  She called me a perverted name and a racist to boot (right on, my email acquaintance would say).  I was a little taken aback but I kept after the debate.  She thought she had shut me down - she laid the ad hominem and expected me to run away humiliated.  When I didn't she didn't know what to say - the whole point of calling me racist was to escape the debate.  It didn't work.

Look, I was insensitive and I know it and I'm sorry.  But shouting racist cuts off debate and progressively isolates the offended from the rest of the community.  It is grossly overused and is wielded as a weapon to stifle debate, intimidate heterodox people and otherwise retain the status quo.  It must be getting very lonely inside the anti-racist echo chamber..

The St. Louis Tea Party - Big wheels nationally, impotent at home

The Tea Party in St. Louis has some very prominent names on the national scene:  Hoft, Loesch, Hennessey. But their prodigious national influence didn't extend to their own home town.  In this Tuesday's local elections virtually every tax increase on the ballot passed.  St. Louis voters dug themselves deeper into the loser hole.  Not long ago, St. Louis was one of the top 10 metro areas in the nation.  Now it is in the process of falling out of the top 20.

In Texas the leaders focus on saving their state and then the nation.  Maybe we can get some leaders like that.

Megan McCardle on how the end will come

Ms. McCardle points out that when the markets decide we are no longer the safest bet around the rush for the exits will trample everyone in its path.  This is the most likely scenario, I'm afraid.

If at any point we are not seen as the safest game in town, we will take a gigantic–the better word might be “catastrophic”–hit on our bond interest. If there’s somewhere safer to park our money, suddenly we lose the premium we currently enjoy for having bonds considered the “risk free” rate. So while our super-sterling credit rating may delay the onset of a fiscal crisis, if we ever let it get to that point, the onset may be even more sudden and disastrous than these things usually are. All the more reason to start getting our fiscal house in order now.

And their Attorneys

One reason that Police are so enthusiastic about breaking into people's homes to find evidence is that they get to keep the house if they do.  It's one reason police salaries and perks have risen so fast.  And it's immoral.  Reason has the story.


The police are getting better battering rams to break into nonviolent suspects homes in the middle of the night.  Thugs.

Church: Authorized Distributor of God's Gifts

Churches in America think about their mission backwards.  Seth Godin explains that in marketing the philosophy of Potlach (aka the Indian Tradition of gift giving) is key.  This applies to Churches as well.

God gave us all a great gift, indeed many great gifts.  He expects us to share those gifts with others.  In other words we should think about Church as being a huge gift distribution network rather than a building or set of programs.  And that has some implications for how we organize ourselves.  People who give gifts need to make sure that what they give is perceived by the receiver a a gift.  The gift needs to be 'wrapped' in certain ways and handed over in a certain style.  Many of the things we do in Church are driven by tradition (not scripture) and don't make sense as gifts.

The most important point is that Church is not primarily a service provider for its members but a change agent for the transformation of our world.  Its stance should be outward focused on gifts, not inwardly focused on 'services'.

You want to grow your Church? give as many exciting, appealing God centered gifts to as many people as you can.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

An Easter-tide conundrum 2

Here's the second installment on the 'Cheesiest Explanation Ever Given'.
Lesson 2 – Free Will and Determinism

The essential question that you are asking about God is really rooted in the debate between Free Will and Determinism.

Free will can be defined as ‘agents’ having the ability to make a choice free of constraint.  (Or as the great philosophers would put it:  “To be is to do”-Socrates, “To do is to be” – Sartre and “do-be-do-be-do”-Sinatra).  The problem with ‘free will’ is that we are creatures who have inherited all sorts of biological behavioral biases.  For example, some people believe they are righteous because they are healthy and exercise all the time.  Turns out that they’re on the right side of the distribution for endorphins (aka: brain cocaine) that they generate when they exercise.  The endorphins overpower the lactic acid signals they get from their muscles and they enter ‘runner’s high’.  People on the left side of the distribution get nothing but pain from exercise so they don’t do it (do we John?).  We are also victims of our circumstances, where we are born and who we are around – your point Rich.  So Free will is ‘dirtied’ by the reality of biology and circumstances.  Still standing but with a nasty shiner.

Determinism or Fate can be defined as all events are inevitable consequences of previous events (Or as my dear old Dad would say:  “It’s just one damn thing after another”).  A deterministic universe is one where the end state can be predicted with certainty if one knows the mechanics and the beginning state.  It is a ‘Newtonian’ world that is sometimes described as “the watchmaker” made the watch, wound it up and now knows exactly what time state it is in based upon the beginning state position (which according to Douglas Adams is always late Sunday afternoon just before the beach bars close).  A billiard table is described as a deterministic “Newtonian” system. 

But some other guys came along and did some weird experiments.  Cats like Schrödinger (he was actually a guy with an imaginary cat), Von Neumann and Heisenberg.  In particular Heisenberg demonstrated in his “uncertainty principle” that at the quantum (or itsy bitsy) level not all attributes of a quantum particle can be known when it is measured – the measurement sullies the measuree.  Schrödinger said something important about this too but since he was always fooling with pretend cats nobody took him seriously.  But anyway, the upshot of the uncertainty principle is that no one can predict with certainty the absolute position of any object or particle.  All we can do is predict where it is likely to be based upon statistics.  In other words, Macauley could Welsh on a game of Billiards by claiming that the winning shot was not on the table but was in fact in the Gamma Quadrant of the Pika Zebulon galaxy and if he was playing against particle physicists, presumably they’d have to believe him.  Thus determinism is dirtied by uncertainty and the fact that Newton was ever so slightly wrong.  It is standing but bloodied by a big sock in the kisser from Heisenberg (with its sweater scratched up by that cat).

So patiently you ask: what does this have to do with the price of dingoes in Dallas?  And I say:  patience little glasshopper whose tiny wing beats cause hurricanes in Houma.

Why does God save some and not others? An Easter-tide conundrum

My good friend Rich McDaniel asked a serious and seriously legitimate question about the Christian Faith recently, he said:

"So I went to an Easter function where they wanted to say grace before the meal.  I don't understand grace. I thought we acted through free will.  Therefore God has no role in whether we have food.  If he has a role in our having food, then logically he has a role in poor kids in Africa, Asia, and Appalachia not having food.  So it almost seems smug to give grace or thanks.  There, but for the grace of God (or a win in the geographical birth place lottery) go I?  How do Christians get around the logical conundrum?"
So since questions like this lead me to respond the way people in a fat farm weigh in respond when double cheeseburgers are waved, I rose to the challenge.  Herein is lesson One:

Lesson 1:  Einstein
Old Al Einstein came up with a special and a general theory of relativity.  I can never remember which is what but essentially what he said was that time and space are relative, indeed we travel though what he calls a space-time continuum.  The upshot of this is that at the limit of how fast we can travel through space (light speed) time stands still (we also attain infinite mass but I don’t understand that so never mind).  I guess that also means that if we could stand completely still (we are hurtling away from the center of the Uverse at an amazing speed) then time would move incredibly fast.

So what?  Well, if you are an infinite God who made the universe, you stand outside of the space-time continuum. In  other words every event, every experience from the big bang to the big snuff is laid out in front of you like a comic with an infinite number of frames.  Or so big Al’s theory would suggest (he wasn’t really religious but kept trying to find a Universal Theory of Everything – aka “God” so who knows what his faith really was).

Hold this in your head (or print it out and hold it in your hand) for lesson 2 tomorrow.

I warned you about the double cheeseburgers and fat farm ladies with the spotted gym shorts.  Don’t say I didn’t.


Zufiker - Zufi was our houseboy in Dubai.  He worked during the day as the "Tea-boy" at a construction company.  At night he hurried between two or three flats like our corporate flat.  He wasn't very good at cleaning but our flat was barely occupied so it didn't matter.  Zufi was from Kerala State in India.  I got to know him over a three year period as he came over 6 nights a week to clean.  He had a wife and two young children in Kerala - we would wistfully look at his village in Google Earth and then look at my (to him) mansion.  I got to go home to my family every few weeks, he:  once a year, probably for the rest of his life.

One day Zufi came in the door and proudly announced that he'd gotten his Dubai driver's license - quite a feat for an Indian as they were discriminated against.  I recall getting pulled over by a local cop for driving too fast and taking an illegal turn.  What this? he asked of my Missouri license.  USA I said - he looked at me, looked at it and concluding it must be true waved me on with an irritated gesture.  Zufi would have gone to jail.

I said, great!  Let's go for a drive!  He gulped.  "Me?" he said.  "Yes, you" I impishly replied.  Zufi considered me to be the equivalent of some Fortune 500 CEO from America, not the part owner of an unprofitable one horse tech distributorship.  To drive the Big Dude from America around in the Company Car freaked him out.  That first time we went out he only drove 10 minutes and came back drenched in sweat.  But over time he became comfortable and I would have him drive me around in the evenings.  I think he actually lost money doing it - he drove instead of cleaning other client's flats.  But he loved it.  The freedom, the sense of mastery and control, something that a poor boy from Kerala never dreamed of experiencing.  And I got a kick out of it too, despite the fact that his English was awful, and both of us could hardly order soup in Hindi, we had fun.  He would pick out south Indian songs on the radio and sing them to me, I'd pick out songs on the classic rock station and sing to him.  It was a hoot.

On one of the last trips that I made to Dubai before the collapse Zufiker came in downcast.  Didn't want to drive.  I asked him why.  His slim, tiny frame was stooped in defeat - he could hardly look at me, tears glistened in his eyes.  He said:  "my company - they no pay".  How many months?  "Three".  "My wife say I have Dubai lady, I no have".  It turned out that his construction company had gone 'bankrupt' which in Dubai meant they stopped paying their people.  I had read of it happening with increasing frequency but I had never seen it up close and personal (I would almost experience it a few short months later).  What would he do?  What could he do?  His company held his passport, controlled his Visa.  His job in Dubai was the only hope his parents and children had - as it was he lived off of his houseboy fees and sent everything else home.  What was he going to do?  I pulled all the money I had out of my wallet:  500 Dirhams, about $150 and gave it to him.  I left the next day - he disappeared, I never saw him again.

I pray for him sometimes, for his family and his two daughters.  Life is hard for the poor of this world.  But I most like to remember him driving next to the "Big Boss" in Dubai, accelerating to 90 MPH on the freeway, singing to Pop Indian tunes, smiling, laughing, alive.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

$4 a gallon gas sooner than you think

The price of oil is already back up to $80 a barrel.  The experts see another major imbalance between supply and demand driven by failures in major oil producing countries:  Iran, Venezuela, the United States to define policies that encourage sensible development.  The Obami are going to rue the day that they didn't do what GWB asked back when it could have made some difference for their electoral prospects.  One thing is known:  $4 a gallon gas is bad, bad, bad for incumbent careers.

Matt Yglesias on the nature political conflict

I don't know which is more amazing:  a man on the left speaking sense or me giving him credit for it.  You be the judge:

To borrow an idea from Robin Hanson, I think it’s useful to think about political conflict in terms of valorized figures. On the right, you see a lot of valorization of businessmen. On the left, you see a lot of valorization of pushy activists who want to do something businessmen don’t like. Formally, the right is committed to ideas about free markets and the left is committed to ideas about economic equality. But in practice, political conflict much more commonly breaks down around “some stuff some businessmen want to do” vs “some stuff businessmen hate” rather than anything about markets or property rights per se. Consequently, on the left people sometimes fall into the trap of being patsies for rent-seeking mom & pop operators when poor people would benefit more from competition from a corporate bohemoth.
This is why big cities shut out Walmart despite the very significant consumer benefits of having an aggressive price competitor and highly productive and profitable business in their communities.  It is also why some conservatives mindlessly take the side of conservative "rent seekers" like physicians (who are paid far more in the US than any other place in the world) rather than seeing them for what they are:  overpaid clients of the welfare state.  Maybe we can learn things from each other after all.

Harry Reid's 'double secret campaign tour'

See here.  He must have heard that my friend John Macauley is resident in Nevada now.

My eyes have gone cross


Could our universe be located
within the interior of a wormhole
that itself is part of a black hole
that lies within a much larger
universe? Einstein-Rosen bridges
like the one visualized above have
never been observed in nature, but
they provide theoretical physicists
and cosmologists with solutions in
general relativity by combining

Weird doesn't begin to describe the reality in which we live.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The balance of nature

From 4 Block World.  Nuff said.
The Balance of Nature

Truth hurts

From 4 Block World

Computers Just Keep Getting Cheaper and Better

Why I gave up parody

736 things blamed on global warming (including global cooling).  With real Phd scientists making up such ludicrous drivel it is well nigh impossible to make money in parody.  I have been undone by "un" deniers.

And not a single foreigner in sight

The real reason that all the factories in your home town have closed:  productivity.  It's so much easier to blame funny sounding and looking foreigners than ourselves, isn't it?

If you have friends who work for the IRS: Get new friends

Richard Rahn asks:  But is the IRS a MORAL institution?  To ask the question is to answer it.  As I've oft said before:  If a private company executive did these things they would be in jail.  Money grafs:

Would you consider taking a job with a government agency that: c Unnecessarily strikes fear into the hearts of tens of millions of your fellow citizens, causing such anguish and despair that some are driven to suicide each year.
c Requires citizens to know 10 million words of rules and regulations because the failure to do so may result in draconian fines and even jail, while at the same time no one in the agency has a full understanding of all the rules and regulations it requires others to know.
c Routinely ignores the constitutional protections against self-incrimination and the right to the presumption of innocence.
c Seizes the assets of citizens without obtaining court judgments.
c Penalizes marriage.
c Discriminates against many of the nation's most productive citizens.
c Destroys incentives to work, save and invest, and undermines job creation.
c Routinely protects agency personnel who have engaged in citizen intimidation, misrepresentation or worse?