Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I can't take the new Medicare TV Ads....

....they keep talking about "the new benefits from the healthcare law".  But the benefits don't come from the law, they come from more debt on the beneficiaries' grandchildren.  More taxes and more burdens on those who had no voice and could not object.

All presented in the ads as a magical 'boon' bestowed upon the elderly by a wise and benevolent political class.

As Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography:  I know it when I see it.

These ads are truly obscene.

Bob Dole redux: "Where's the Outrage?"


Not too long ago, the media was raging over Scooter Libby (who was charged with a crime that was not a crime, which, if it were one, he did not commit), and supposed Bush excesses. Now former Yale Law dean Harold Koh has stopped railing over supposed torture and is instead defending Obama’s vast expansion of Predator assassinations and writing government briefs against leaking. Hillary Clinton is urging diplomats to spy on U.N. personnel, and Barack Obama is trying to sell photo-ops to foreign leaders in exchange for taking Guantanamo detainees off his hands. Question — where is MSNBC, the New York Times, or NPR? Why no outrage over the legalization of robotic hits, federal intrusion into the lives of U.N. diplomats, or tawdry bartering on the part of our president?

Read the whole thing.

Narcissism is no longer defined a disorder

Another example of where the facts on the ground trump theory.

The housing double dip is here. What? You mean the government's latest manipulation of the housing market didn't work?

I mean who would have thunk it?  Run a one way bet for 65 years with ever increasing dollops of risk taking and easy money and this is what happens.   Take enough heroin long enough and eventually, the amount required to get high exceeds the lethal dose.  I think that's where we are with government screwing with the housing, education, and healthcare markets.  It is where we are apparently headed with the financial services market as well.  This is going to be a mess isn't it?

We need to step away from the full Chicago Democrat precipice before it's too late.

The price of state intervention in markets: corruption that would make an investment banker blush

Corruption in Canada's 'fair' healthcare system is rife.  If you have the connections and/or the money you get the care.  If not, not so much.  Perhaps that's why there is more stratification of access by income group in Canada than in the US.  The state corrupts everything it touches.  Everything.  Hat tip, Carpe Deim

But now there's a growing black market in Canada that allows patients to make cash payments to get to the head of the line or get the experienced surgeon they want, according to the Montreal Gazette in this article, "Want Fast Care? Slip an MD Some Cash":

 "When their mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the twin sisters didn't hesitate for a moment: They chose the surgeon they wanted and slipped him $2,000 in cash to bump their mother to the top of the waiting list.

"We wanted to save our mother," Vivian Green said. "It was cash incentive, to buy our place ahead of everyone else." Green and her sister, Ora Marcus, say bribes are an open secret in the medical field. "If you have money, you live, and if you don't, you die."

Wikileaks: a rare moment of clarity

That Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is an American hating thug is not in question.  That what he has done (or rather what he has helped US Government bureaucrats do) is destructive is also not in question.  But it does clarify several things:

First:  Our enemies hate us.  Not Republican us, but us.  Obama's first and most obscene claim is proved to be a delusion.

Second:  Our twice paid government is riddled with traitors and incompetents.  Never again will Americans trust the minions of our Federal government to do anything but serve themselves heaping helpings of our taxes.

Third:  Our diplomats as directed by the Obama administration have been lying to us, minimizing the threat from North Korea and Iran because they fear that if the public knew the extent of our enemies actions they would be forced to act.  And that would be risky as well as unpopular with their anti-American base.

So, thank you Mr. Assange for your well timed expose of our governments delusions, lies and incompetence.

Now please go to hell.

There be more blood?

More and more thoughtful people are getting more and more pessimistic about the gathering financial storm.  Megan McCardle is the latest 'smart-'un' to get all wobbly.

This is starting to throw off more echoes of the Great Depression, where you have a sequence of crises, each touched off by the ones that came before, like dominos falling into some diabolic design. Europe and America thought they’d seen the worst of things by the end of 1930, only to be knocked back down even harder by the contagion of the Creditanstalt crisis. In the US, the crisis ultimately triggered a string of bank failures worse than those sparked by the initial stock market crash, and the worst two years of the Great Depression were 1932-3.

I don’t want to lean too hard on this, as economic commentators (maybe including me) have started seeing Creditanstalt everywhere–in Dubai, in Greece, now in Ireland and maybe Spain. It’s entirely possible that we’ll eventually muddle through without a second major event. But it’s worth remembering that these things take a long time to unfold, and that we are often most vulnerable just when we think we have time for a breather.

Of course the next collapse will be taken by our statist elites as proof positive that "lassiez faire" capitalism doesn't work and that more government lawyer meddling and rent seeking is just what the doctor ordered.

It's a pity that our fearless leaders spent the last two years destroying business confidence and provoking a capital strike isn't it?

Read the whole thing.
Hat tip, Instapundit

Monday, November 29, 2010

It doesn't matter what the rates are, the yield remains the same

A fascinating result, I don't know if it's just coincidence or the nature of the US economy.  Presumably other types of taxes could drive the share of GDP higher than 19%.  Nevertheless it is interesting.

Walter Russell Mead - Things fall apart

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade: 

WH Auden:  September 1, 1939

Mr. Mead surveys the world and finds no leadership.  He is deeply pessimistic, far more than me.  But he does make one important point:

To do that, we must first of all take care of ourselves — and at that basic task we have signally failed.  Beyond that, we must gain a clear sight of our interests abroad, understand how those foreign and in some cases global interests relate to the core foundations of our prosperity and security at home, and then use what leverage we can to work with others to build a world system that works for us and our friends.

My Favorite War Quote

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.  Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

George S. Patton

Consumer greed: ugly as anything done in a corporate boardroom

The only thing uglier than a mob trying to get its bargains is a government mob stomping whole industries without actually getting anything for themselves except power.  I mean at least businessmen and consumers get money out of their greed.  The state minions just get to humiliate everyone else.  

Judge Steven Reinhard: Judicial Fascist

Most judges cloak their preference for their own opinions over those of the people.  Judge Reinhardt shows contempt for the people and democracy.  The only things that matter to him is whether his 'side' prevails.  Power is the only logic of the fascist.

HT www.nationalreview.com

As Ed Whelan has noted over at Bench Memos, the names of the Ninth Circuit judges who will be hearing the appeal in the Prop 8 case have been announced, and one of them is Stephen Reinhardt. His radicalism is worth noting. Consider, for instance, his decision that the right to bear arms is a collective rather than an individual right, his decision that the Constitution contains a right to physician-assisted suicide, his decision invalidating California’s term-limits law, his decision allowing schools to ban T-shirts criticizing a school’s gay-rights policy, and, of course, his joining the opinionruling the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional.

This pattern goes back some time, as this 1997 Weekly Standard article notes. Significant to this particular case is his ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional (on due-process grounds, no less); the context was the question of spousal benefits for a public defender.

Even the Onion has traded on his reputation — in “Activist Judge Cancels Christmas.”

Wapo: Delay's conviction "Criminalization of Politics"

The politicians I can stand, it's the damned lawyers that are destroying us.  Of course most of the politicians are lawyers.  Double evil as it were.  Wapo explains:

But it was legal for corporations to donate to Mr. DeLay's political action committee, so it's fair to question how the cash sent to and from the RNC was transformed into criminal "proceeds." Mr. DeLay's lawyers presented testimony from three current and former RNC officials that such money swaps were common transactions for political parties.

Mr. DeLay's conduct was wrong. It was typical of his no-holds-barred approach to political combat. But when Mr. DeLay, following the conviction, assailed "the criminalization of politics," he had a fair point.

Good question

Why is it that Wikileaks has been able to publish all kinds of classified State Dept. documents, but Obama’s Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard Law transcripts still remain confidential? Maybe we should have a university registrar’s office consult with the US government to assure that secrets remain secret? I’m just wondering, that’s all.

H/T Instapundit  

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others....Unions, for example

The ROI on their $400 Million investment to elect BHO (much of it borrowed) has to be spectacular.  Hat tip, Contentions

More evidence that the GM bailout was no success for the taxpayers. The union? Well, that’s another story. “General Motors Co.’s recent stock offering was staged to start paying back the government for its $50 billion bailout, but one group made out much better than the taxpayers or other investors: the company’s union. Thanks to a generous share of GM stock obtained in the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement, the United Auto Workers is well on its way to recouping the billions of dollars GM owed it — putting it far ahead of taxpayers who have recouped only about 30 percent of their investment and further still ahead of investors in the old GM who have received nothing.”

It turns out that trans national social democracy is as destructive as the traditional kind

The PIGS ran up debts that they could not possibly pay because they weren't borrowing on their credit but on that of wealthier, more sober minded countries.  Just like the profligate neighbors in a social democracy, those that consume compelled those that produce to support them and called it 'justice'.

And just like in social democracies the world over the jig is up.  It seems that there is a limit to how much the productive will waste on.....wastrels.

Robert Samuelson, that oh so soberly balanced of moderate economists describes the scenario using words like 'ominous' and 'day of reckoning'.

Lighten up Francis: Up with Wikileaks

Max Boot loudly bemoans Wikileaks that confirm what is already widely known.  He wants to go back to the days when journalist were supposed to behave like 'citizens' and 'professionals'.
There was a time when editors and reporters thought of themselves as citizens first and journalists second. There were damaging leaks even during World War II, but when they occurred they were generally denounced by the rest of the press. We now seem to have reached a moment when the West’s major news organizations, working hand in glove with a sleazy website, feel free to throw spitballs at those who make policy and those who execute it. This is journalism as pure vandalism. If I were responsible, I would feel shame and embarrassment. But apparently, those healthy emotions are in short supply these days. 
You remember back when journalists behaved like 'citizens', don't you?  Like how the Tet Offensive was reported accurately as a huge defeat for the NVA or how it was all over the papers that Stalin was murdering tens of millions during his famines and purges.  What?  You didn't hear about those things?  How could that be with all of the selfless "citizens" reporting the news.
I don't support Mr. Assange's tactics but if I must choose between Boot's 'back in the day' 'journalism' or Wikileaks, I'll take 'ol leaky anytime. More news is better news.

Additional points:  1. Wikileaks has mostly confirmed the Conservative story line which the mainstream press has sought to keep quiet.  2.  It has exposed (once again) our twice paid 'public servants' as sloppy incompetents and 3. It has pierced the diplomatic veil which has been used more often to obfuscate than to clarify issues of war and peace and inter-state relations.  Jim Geraghty notices all this:

At Commentary, J.E. Dyer sees potential for some good to come of all this mess: "A free press has often meant an adversarial press, and that in itself is not inherently bad. But an adversarial posture is justified by the constructiveness of its goals. There is a noticeably sophomoric element in the mainstream media's cooperation with WikiLeaks: an indiscriminate enthusiasm for anything that's being kept secret by the authorities, regardless of its objective value as information. We can only hope that the New York Times editorial staff will eventually make use of its own archives to put today's uninteresting parade of revelations in context. I would disagree with Max [Boot] on one thing. The worth of the latest WikiLeaks dump is greater than zero -- and greater even than its value in notifying us about Qaddafi's voluptuous Ukrainian nurse. Its true value lies in confirming what hawks and conservatives have been saying about global security issues. China's role in missile transfers from North Korea to Iran; Syria's determined arming of Hezbollah; Iran's use of Red Crescent vehicles to deliver weapons to terrorists; Obama's strong-arming of foreign governments to accept prisoners from Guantanamo -- these are things many news organizations are reporting prominently only because they have been made known through a WikiLeaks dump. In the end, WikiLeaks's most enduring consequences may be the unintended ones."
Time to climb out of your Council on Foreign Relations jumpsuit, Mr. Boot.  Or as Sgt. Hulka would say:  "Lighten up, Francis".

Progressivism: a terrible pervasive fear that someone, somewhere is having fun.

Originally this was penned by HL Mencken to describe Fundamentalism but I've known fundamentalist and progressives and fundamentalists have a lot more fun.  Instapundit and George Will have more.

Concern for children’s sensibilities is admirable. The coarsening of the culture is a fact with many causes, but its consequences are unclear. And it can bring out a Puritan streak in progressivism.
The lawyer for the video-game industry warned the Supreme Court that “the land is awash” with contemporary versions of Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), the crusader for censorship of indecency, as he spaciously defined it. “Today’s crusaders,” the lawyer said, “come less from the pulpit than from university social science departments, but their goals and tactics remain the same.”
Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives’ agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise – an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism’s itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon – the Pecksniffian progressive.
The important thing is the pleasure to be derived from running other people’s lives. “Perfecting” is beside the point.
UPDATE: Some earlier thoughts of mine on progressives and puritanism.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Never mind....

Hat tip Instapundit

PORTLAND: Saved in spite of itself? “In 2005, leaders in Portland, Oregon, angry at the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror, voted not to allow city law enforcement officers to participate in a key anti-terror initiative, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. On Friday, that task force helped prevent what could have been a horrific terrorist attack in Portland. Now city officials say they might re-think their participation in the task force — because Barack Obama is in the White House.” Good point. There’s never a threat to civil liberties so long as there’s a Democratic President!

Obama pandering....to...Me!

All I can say is that I feel pretty durned good when the President of "Theee Yewnited States" feels  compelled to pander to my religious sensibilities.  Makes me want to pray.  For real.  Honest.  No kidding.  Like to God and everything.  Yeah.  Him.  You know, Mr. Big.   The Prime Mover, the Uncreated One.  YHWH.  Yeah, the Jewish one.  My Lord and Savior.....


492 Days:  the average people are staying their houses after foreclosure.  Gee, makes one question why anyone pays anything when the State is so on our side?  I  say screw 'em, nobody pay anything, particularly taxes.  That'll show those greedy bastards....

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: 492: The number of days since the average borrower in foreclosure last made a mortgage payment. “In other words, people who default on their mortgages can reasonably expect, on average, to stay in their homes rent-free more than 16 months. In some states such as New York and Florida, the number is closer to 20 months.” Seems calculated to make people who are struggling to make their payments feel like suckers. “Millions of Americans still are paying their mortgages even though they owe more than their homes are worth. The more banks’ backlog grows, the more likely they are to join it, adding to the already giant pile of foreclosures weighing on the housing market.”

OMG! I'm a Pew Politico weiner.

The shame, the shame.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Prof David Skeel of Penn on Federal lawlessness and state bankruptcy

When California, Illinois and probably New York go belly up the Federal government will once again break law after law on the basis of 'necessity' to bail out its profligate, corrupt deep blue outposts.  After all, it will be an 'emergency'.

With the presidential election just two years away, the pressure to bail out California, Illinois, and perhaps other states is about to become irresistible. As we learned in 2008 and 2009, it is impossible to stop a bailout once the government decides to go this route. The rescue of Bear –Stearns in 2008 was achieved through a “lockup” of its sale to JPMorgan Chase that flagrantly violated corporate merger law. To bail out Chrysler and General Motors, the government used funds that were only authorized for “financial institutions,” and illegally commandeered the bankruptcy process to give the car companies a helping hand. There is, in short, no law that will stop the federal government from bailing out profligate state governments like those in California or Illinois if it chooses to do so.

Once the state becomes central to everything, then the crises it creates justify any expedient to 'solve' them.  Of course they never really get 'solved' because the state remains in control, provoking crisis after crisis in a self perpetuating spiral downward until the whole rotten edifice collapses.  

Which isn't really that far away.

Friday, November 26, 2010

If there has been a less competent Middle East negotiating team, I can’t recall it.

I don't know why I dwell upon the utter incompetence of our current administration other than to be a witness to its comprehensive failure.  It is so important that we never, ever allow such a callow fraud to ever get within 500 miles of power in this country again.  Jennifer Rubin explains.

Our enemies are Evil, aren't they?

Mike Gerson mocks the One and his self absorbed Minions...
But there is an alternative narrative, developed by those who can't shake their reverence for Obama. If a president of this quality and insight has failed, it must be because his opponents are uniquely evil, coordinated and effective. The problem is not Obama but the ruthless conspiracy against him.
So Matt Yglesias warns the White House to be prepared for "deliberate economic sabotage" from the GOP -- as though Chamber of Commerce SWAT teams, no doubt funded by foreigners, are preparing attacks on the electrical grid. Paul Krugman contends "Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there's a Democrat in the White House." Steve Benen explains, "We're talking about a major political party ... possibly undermining the strength of the country -- on purpose, in public, without apology or shame -- for no other reason than to give themselves a campaign advantage in 2012." Benen's posting was titled, "None Dare Call it Sabotage."
When you define your life solely in political terms you assume that everyone acts only for power.  The notion that people make choices because they are right in some metaphysical sense is too much to take, isn't it?

The real reason we can't stand 'progressives'

It seems Progressives can only be happy and fulfilled when ruling us.  To leave people alone is to deny themselves their greatest field for actualization.  Indeed we are raw material for their greatness.  Enough of a reason to despise anyone, don't you think?  James Taranto hits the nail on the head when he excerpts an article from Tikkun.

Isn't it possible, though, that the voters are simply put off by "progressivism"? We had this crazy thought when we read a piece by one Peter Gabel of Tikkun, who describes encountering "many folks" who are "depressed" since the election (quoting verbatim):
There have been times when I've carried my longing to the polling place like a great burden on my back, knowing that although I was going to put it out there when I cast my ballot out into the universe, my gesture would almost certainly not be reciprocated by enough others to make the national declare an announcement of the opening of our hearts. There have also been times, a few, when I had a spring in my step because I had a sense that due to a happy confluence of historical forces, people were ready to take the risk of making themselves vulnerable to their longing for . . . each other.
Such a moment occurred when we came out into public and elected Barack Obama in 2008, but that moment . . . call it a "we-moment," a moment when we decided through the act of voting to announce ourselves and so to come into existence as an idealistic, hopeful, potentially loving community . . . that moment has been slip-slidin' away ever since. Why? Not because we one by one ran back into our withdrawn private worlds, but because Barack decided not to reciprocate our vote by remaining out here/there with us, because he was afraid of the vulnerability himself and the risk of some catastrophic negation of his essence if, as he feared, we were not here/there after all.
To our mind, this passage captures the essence of left-wing "progressives." Their personal fulfillment depends on the exercise of political power to control the lives of others. That's why Americans find today's Democratic Party creepy and repellent--why they voted it out of power at the earliest opportunity.

The corruption that is Illinois

From Mike Barone:
Republican gains in state legislatures were even more impressive. They will control the redistricting process in four of the five states in this region. The exception is Illinois, where Rod Blagojevich’s successor as governor, Pat Quinn, held on by a few thousand votes — helped perhaps by the refusal of some Democratic county clerks not to send out military ballots in the time required by federal law. They did manage to send unrequested ballots to inmates of the Cook County Jail, though.

Politicians, environmentalists and farmers: the world's stone cold killers?

NYT:  UN says that we are dangerously close to a global food crises - stocks declining by 2 percent while 7 percent of world grains are used to produce......ethanol.

As I have said previously, in their reckless disregard for humanity as well as the true environment, the "Environmental Movement" is the biggest group of Millennial Hale Bopp cultists in history.  Only they don't have the decency to kill themselves, only others.

Visit your local Greenpeace office.  There you will meet evil face to face.

Food safety fascists

The logic of the fascist state is that everything must be in the state, controlled by it.  This maximizes the power of those in control of the state apparat.   They can, of course, allow 'waivers' or 'forbearance' on the rules as it fits 'public policy goals' - meaning their power goals.

But everything must be subject to the government lawyers.  Except sodomy and abortion, that is.  Hat tip Instapundit.

FOOD SAFETY MEASURE WOULD GIVE SMALL FARMERS INDIGESTION. “The ‘Food Safety Modernization Act’ would not appreciably improve the safety of the food supply in the U.S., but it would create an army of regulators with TSA-like authority over agriculture.”

Our media: they really believe that the only type of standards are double ones

From Legal Insurrection:
I alluded earlier today, in passing, to the idiocy of the left-wing blogs and some mainstream media outlets in making a big deal out of Sarah Palin's obvious slip of the tongue -- corrected seconds later -- in referring to North Korea instead of South Korea.  Here was my entry:

Can you believe it, that fool thinks Europe is a country, they speak Austrian in Austria, and we have 57 states. That's what happens when you don't get a proper education. And that person wants to be President, hah! Such an ignoramus would ruin our economy, destroy our standing in the world, and get government agents to touch our junk. We cannot let that happen. Get Oliver Willis on the case, he'll stop this person cold.
Now Sarah Palin has issued a more extensive catalog of gaffes by Obama and Biden which largely are excused by the mainstream media or ignored altogether:
My fellow Americans in all 57 states, the time has changed for come. With our country founded more than 20 centuries ago, we have much to celebrate – from the FBI’s 100 days to the reforms that bring greater inefficiencies to our health care system. We know thatcountries like Europe are willing to stand with us in our fight to halt the rise of privacy, and Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s. And let’s face it, everybody knows that it makes no sense that you send a kid to the emergency room for a treatable illness like asthma and they end up taking up a hospital bed. It costs, when, if you, they just gave, you gave them treatment early, and they got some treatment, and ah, a breathalyzer, or an inhalator. I mean, not a breathalyzer, ah, I don’t know what the term is in Austrian for that

Of course, the paragraph above is based on a series of misstatements and verbal gaffes made by Barack Obama (I didn’t have enough time to do one for Joe Biden). YouTube links are provided just in case you doubt the accuracy of these all too human slips-of-the-tongue. If you can’t remember hearing about them, that’s because for the most part the media didn’t consider them newsworthy. I have no complaint about that. Everybody makes the occasional verbal gaffe – even news anchors.

Obviously, I would have been even more impressed if the media showed some consistency on this issue. Unfortunately, it seems they couldn’t resist the temptation to turn a simple one word slip-of-the-tongue of mine into a major political headline. The one word slip occurred yesterday during one of my seven back-to-back interviews wherein I was privileged to speak to the American public about the important, world-changing issues before us.

If the media had bothered to actually listen to all of my remarks on Glenn Beck’s radio show, they would have noticed that I refer to South Korea as our ally throughout, that I corrected myself seconds after my slip-of-the-tongue, and that I made it abundantly clear that pressure should be put on China to restrict energy exports to the North Korean regime. The media could even have done due diligence and checked my previous statements on the subject, which have always been consistent, and in fact even ahead of the curve. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? (And for that matter, why not just make up stories out of thin air – like the totally false hard news story which has run for three days now reporting that I lobbied the producers of “Dancing with the Stars” to cast a former Senate candidate on their show. That lie is further clear proof that the media completely makes things up without doing even rudimentary fact-checking.)
“Hope springs eternal” as the poet says. Let’s hope that perhaps, just maybe, they might get it right next time. When we the people are effective in holding America’s free press accountable for responsible and truthful reporting, then we shall all have even more to be thankful for!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I understand why Palin issued the statement, but it reminds us once again that regardless of who the Republican nominee will be, that person will not receive anything close to a fair shake from the mainstream media.  Every slip up and inadvertent misstatement will be blown up and harped on endlessly.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The tragic obsessions of the food religious

As Dostoevsky pointed out:  when man stops believing in God , he won't believe in nothing, he will believe in anything.  Food worshippers being a classic example:

For breakfast, I usually have a cappuccino—espresso made in an Alessi pot and mixed with organic milk, which has been gently heated and hand-fluffed by my husband. I eat two slices of imported cheese—Dutch Parrano, the label says, “the hippest cheese in New York” (no joke)—on homemade bread with butter. I am what you might call a food snob. My nutritionist neighbor drinks a protein shake while her 5-year-old son eats quinoa porridge sweetened with applesauce and laced with kale flakes. She is what you might call a health nut. On a recent morning, my neighbor’s friend Alexandra Ferguson sipped politically correct Nicaraguan coffee in her comfy kitchen while her two young boys chose from among an assortment of organic cereals. As we sat, the six chickens Ferguson and her husband, Dave, keep for eggs in a backyard coop peered indoors from the stoop. The Fergusons are known as locavores.

Alexandra says she spends hours each day thinking about, shopping for, and preparing food. She is a disciple of Michael Pollan, whose 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma made the locavore movement a national phenomenon, and believes that eating organically and locally contributes not only to the health of her family but to the existential happiness of farm animals and farmers—and, indeed, to the survival of the planet. “Michael Pollan is my new hero, next to Jimmy Carter,” she told me. . . .

And so the conversation turns to the difficulty of sharing their interpretation of the Pollan doctrine with the uninitiated. When they visit Dave’s family in Tennessee, tensions erupt over food choices. One time, Alexandra remembers, she irked her mother-in-law by purchasing a bag of organic apples, even though her mother-in-law had already bought the nonorganic kind at the grocery store. The old apples were perfectly good, her mother-in-law said. Why waste money—and apples?

The Fergusons recall Dave’s mother saying something along these lines: “When we come to your place, we don’t complain about your food. Why do you complain about ours? It’s not like our food is poison.”

Sad, so sad.

Nassim Taleb predicts the hollowing out of the nation state

Paradoxically, one can make long-term predictions on the basis of the prevalence of forecasting errors. A system that is over-reliant on prediction (through leverage, like the banking system before the recent crisis), hence fragile to unforeseen “black swan” events, will eventually break into pieces. Although fragile bridges can take a long time to collapse, 25 years in the 21st century should be sufficient to make hidden risks salient: connectivity and operational leverage are making cultural and economic events cascade faster and deeper. Anything fragile today will be broken by then.

The great top-down nation-state will be only cosmetically alive, weakened by deficits, politicians’ misalignment of interests and the magnification of errors by centralised systems. The pre-modernist robust model of city-states and statelings will prevail, with obsessive fiscal prudence. Currencies might still exist, but, after the disastrous experience of America’s Federal Reserve, they will peg to some currency without a government, such as gold.

The question for Americans is can our states escape from the disastrous destructiveness of the world's most powerful central state. Or will we all be chained to its immense profligate irresponsibility and be dragged down to the depths. In that world it will pay to be a Hawaii or Texas at the periphery rather than trapped in the belly of the beast.  Read the whole thing.

Incidentally, I do not subscribe to his technological cynicism.  Clearly Prof. Taleb understands risk more than he understands technology and by extending his accurate analysis of the demise of the omni-competent state into techno-dystopia is more Mad Max than masterful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quick! Tell Hilary to push the reset button!

As Glenn Reynolds would say:  "The country's in the very best of hands..."

Peter Schweizer notes this strange report by Dexter Filkins in the New York Times that the supposed Taliban leader with whom we have been negotiating in Afghanistan -- the man we thought was Mullah Mansour -- was actually an impostor.

Hat tip Powerline.

Why is Ireland being bailed out?

Kevin Williamson of NRO says it's because other countries' leaders are frightened that they will have to face fiscal reality if Ireland defaults.

But the long-term reason is narrow governmental self-interest: If Ireland defaults, that is going to make borrowing a lot more expensive for every government in the world. Even with the bailout on the way, borrowing costs are going up, for Ireland (obviously) but also for fellow PIIGS-club member Spain. Politicians fear lots of things — honest labor, easily understood and headline-friendly scandals, constituents who read Hayek — but above all they fear having their credit cards taken away. A government that cannot borrow cheaply is a government that cannot pawn off hard decisions on future generations; it is a government that has to govern, with prudence and thrift, rather than merely to enjoy the pleasures of exercising power. That’s a lot less fun than the current model of political life, and less lucrative in retirement, too.

There's Hope for Change

I think Arnold Kling is on to something here.

Here in the United States, one thing that strikes me about my most liberal friends is how conservative their thinking is at a personal level. For their own children, and in talking about specific other people [TC: especially in the blogosphere!], they passionately stress individual responsibility. It is only when discussing public policy that they favor collectivism. The tension between their personal views and their political opinions is fascinating to observe. I would not be surprised to find that my friends' attachment to liberal politics is tenuous, and that some major event could cause a rapid, widespread shift toward a more conservative position.

What hath Obama wrought?

It is striking:  a lot more people self identifying conservatives and self identified liberals remaining near their highs. Obama has forced independents to decide which side they are on.

Starve the beast

The TSA: America's Maginot Line

The Maginot line was a hugely expensive failure because every strategist knows that when you want to surprise and discombobulate your enemies, you 'go where they ain't'.  By pouring all of their military resources into fixed positions, the French became predictable and lacked the flexibility to respond when the Germans (inexplicably) failed to behave according to the French plan.

The TSA defends airports and airplanes.  Yet virtually nothing else is protected.  Except court houses.  Because that was the last location of a terror attack (Oklahoma City).  If a terrorist attacks a popsicle stand next I suppose they will become 'hardened'.

Think about it:  if you were a terrorist and wanted to cause chaos and fear the last place you'd go is to the Airport.  A few big Uhauls full of Fertilizer and Diesel fuel on Madison Avenue and 52nd street or Michigan Avenue at lunch rush is all it would take.  And with the modern Iraqi Cell Phone IED technology at hand, you don't even need to meet your 72 virgins yet.

The TSA is a love letter to terrorists:  "We'll watch these little bits of America, you can bomb anyplace else".

It is also a classic example why the Federalization of our governance is such a hugely expensive disaster.  But more on that later.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why do the richest, best educated, most 'sophisticated' states tend to be bankrupt?

Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, California:  all rich states chock full of well educated people.  The states with our most glittering and sophisticated cities.  And all economically moribund and sliding towards bankruptcy.

What is it about all of these 'rich' 'smart' 'cool' people that leads them to do such self destructive things?  Why do  such 'smart' people govern themselves so stupidly?

It's quite the paradox, isn't it?

High speed rail, just another way of passing cash to the big blues?

Surprise, surprise, surprise:  the only states that are ending up getting the 'high speed rail' cash are the ones that currently have huge investments in low speed rail, like NY, IL, CA.  Other states aren't stupid enough to sink their economies with these huge, open ended economically irrational commitments.  It seems you need to already be irrational.

Both governors told the administration that the money, if spent, would be better used on other infrastructure. Both were told by federal transport secretary Ray LaHood that there's no way, no how that's happening. Instead, said LaHood, Washington would send the money to some other state more compliant with the administration's dreams.
Other states played their parts slaveringly. By the Friday following the election, New York's governor-elect, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, was declaring that if Ohio and Wisconsin were so well-off they could reject free federal money, he'd happily spend it on trains in his state. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, did the same.
One of the most interesting ways to evaluate the Obami's policy moves is in the context of 'saving' the deep blue states from their fiscal folly.  States like Il, NY, MA, CA are all essentially bankrupt without extraordinary Federal Aid.  The stimulus and even moreso Obamacare only make sense in the context of figuring out how to get a lot of Washington's 'magic money' to these states to stave off their fiscal collapse.

But with the rest of the country calling their bluff and Congress shutting off the spigot, it won't be enough to save them.  Result:  a big, deep blue pile of broken crockery.

Whither Liberalism? Kotkin

Joel Kotkin is probably the most trenchant liberal critic of modern Liberalism.  He writes a fascinating piece on "What went wrong".  Worth a read.  Money Graf:

Liberalism once embraced the mission of fostering upward mobility and a stronger economy. But liberalism’s appeal has diminished, particularly among middle-class voters, as it has become increasingly control-oriented and economically cumbersome.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/45376.html#ixzz15lhU6thd

James Carville: Sui Generis

"If Hillary Clinton cut off one of her balls and gave it to Barack Obama, he'd have two." James Carville

The bipartisan source of the housing collapse in a nutshell

This is an interesting summary of the Ur of the Chaldees moment for the housing bubble.  Of course the market was manipulated before this but more modestly.  It's a good example of the Gresham's law for policy:  Bad, profligate policy drives out good, sober policy.  See Medicare, Social Security, Stimulus, "Green" subsidies, Corporate Tax Breaks, etc. etc. etc.  The tragedy is that the Feds don't have to spend a current budget dime to destroy trillions.  When they control the rules that hand legal privileges to certain entities, simply manipulating them can crush our children's futures all by themselves.  And the boys who did it?  Well Barney Frank still has his job, doesn't he?

"In 1995, HUD announced a National Homeownership Strategy built upon the liberalization of underwriting standards nationally. It entered into a partnership with most of the private mortgage industry, announcing that "Lending institutions, secondary market investors, mortgage insurers, and other members of the partnership [including Countrywide] should work collaboratively to reduce homebuyer downpayment requirements."

The upshot? In 1990, one in 200 home purchase loans (all government insured) had a down payment of less than or equal to 3%. By 2006 an estimated 30% of all home buyers put no money down.

"The financial crisis was triggered by a reckless departure from tried and true, common-sense loan underwriting practices," Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, noted this June. One needs to look no further than HUD's affordable housing policies for the source of this "reckless departure." If the mortgage finance industry hadn't been forced to abandon traditional underwriting standards on behalf of an affordable housing policy, the mortgage meltdown and taxpayer bailouts would not have occurred."

MP: A good summary of how the political obsession with affordable housing caused a lot of the problems in the real estate and mortgage industries, and led to the financial meltdown. 

Hat tip:  Carpe Diem

Hope and Change? Showing propaganda in public high schools

This is typical and pathetic.  Note my son's inadvertent but utterly accurate misspelling in his email to me below.  Sam has also watched one of Michael Moore's propaganda pieces this year....in English class. 

Subject: Guess what movie I'm watching first hour?

Were watching al gores incontinent truth. It's only because we have a
sub, and this class is history of the US, plus what's happening now. I
thought you may find this interesting.

And by the way: Sam goes to Webster Groves: the Third or Fourth best Public High school in the state of Missouri, paid for by the highest property taxes in the state.  And they thank us by showing our children propaganda that The United Kingdom's highest court ruled could not be shown to English children without major modifications because it was so dishonest.

Brain dead propagandizing of our children:  just one more reason no one trusts our government any more.  Bust it up, bust it all up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A cure for blindness?

Like with hearing, it was simply a matter of time:  new hardware and better software have always guaranteed that we would be able to cure functional sensory deficits.  Now, on to cognition?  Read the whole thing.

Neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, and postdoctoral student Chethan Pandarinath have enabled blind mice to see nearly normal images of everything from human and animal faces to complex panoramas of Central Park.

Jim Manzi uses the Software Industry to explain the impossibility of 'technocratic' management

Jim is very bright, understands the software industry and economics.  This is really a 21st century updating of the "information problem" that Hayek spoke of.

From at least the time of J.S. Mill, the fundamental methodology of economics has been to use introspection to develop theories about human behavior, systematize them into theories, and then try to compare the predictions of these theories to the real world. For reasons I have gone into at boring length, it is very difficult to conduct such tests of useful, non-obvious rules that predict the effects of our proposed interventions reliably in economics and other social sciences. The big problem with most economic theories that claim to be able to guide our interventions with confidence is not usually that the causal pathway that they propose is incorrect, but that it’s radically incomplete. It is typically one of an all-but-innumerable array of causes that are interconnected in a maze of causation that produces highly unpredictable outcomes as a result of any intervention. Despite confident assertions by academicians, the Law of Unintended Consequences remains in force.

One point implicit in his analysis is the wild proliferation of complexity that has come with the rise of globalization and the virtual world.  When economies only traded things, money was metal and people didn't expect the state to do much, the state could manipulate and get results - even if they were usually confounded by their ignorance.  Today, while we know much more, our ignorance relative to complexity has grown by at least an order of magnitude, making technocrats far less able to manage the economy than the ignoramuses of prior generations.  All of the computer models and spreadsheets are simply "Economic Management Theater"  feeding our desire to believe that 'someone is in charge, is doing something'.  Yet all of the evidence is that they only make things worse.  Thus the most frightening fact in today's economy is that the Federal Reserve is an institution designed in 1911 for a world that has long since disappeared.

Please, sir, can you make it stop?  I want to get off.

Beyond Kafkaesqe, this is Orwellesqe

Read this:

NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher tells NRO in a statement: “Today, good judgment prevailed as Congress rejected a move to assert government control over the content of news.”
So let me get this straight:  continued funding of one viewpoint by the Federal government is a "rejection of a move to assert government control over the content of news?"

If there's a better example of fascist argumentation, I don't know what it is.

"Thank you Lord for giving me stupid, venal opponents".

The utter intellectual bankruptcy of the Obama DOJ's approach to terror shown


ED MORRISSEY: Time For Eric Holder To Go. “The failure of Holder’s DoJ to win anything more than a single conspiracy count against Ghailani as a result of using a process designed for domestic criminals than wartime enemies shows that the critics had it right all along. It also shows that both Obama and Holder have been proven spectacularly wrong, since a man who confessed to the murder of over two hundred people will now face no more than 20 years, with a big chunk of whatever sentence Foopie receives being reduced by time already served. . . . There could be no greater failure by the DoJ in this war on terror than to get these decisions wrong, especially in light of the avalanche of criticism over those decisions and the administration’s reaction to it.”

Hat Tip Instapundit

David Brooks: The Liberal Technocrats have failed

David writes an important piece on how the technocrats have tried to treat our economy (and society) like a machine that they 'run'.  This machine model of reality, shorn of all emotions, fears, morals or complex human behavior is failing the market test.  He gently mocks the technocrat's pompous certainty, perfectly embodied  in Obama's superior smirk.  His money graf:

It all makes one doubt the wizardry of the economic surgeons and appreciate the old wisdom of common sense: simple regulations, low debt, high savings, hard work, few distortions. You don’t have to be a genius to come up with an economic policy like that.

You just need to be conservative.  Read the whole thing.

But this is also just another example of the elites whining

Because TSA hits them.  They don't mind that the US proportionately imprisons 6-12 times more people than truly civilized countries or that about one in four American Men is defined by the system as a criminal because it doesn't affect them.  Our elites are so vile, they truly have earned our contempt.

That said, this is not the great civil rights battle of our time.... What's going on in the airports is simply a form of government humiliation that has hit the professional class. 
There is something to this. The uproar over the TSA's new assaults on the freedom and dignity of airplane travelers is reminiscent of the constant whining of the professional class, led by Thomas Friedman, that the U.S. is falling behind developing countries because our infrastructure and our airports are in worse condition than theirs. The vast majority of Americans never use those airports or those roads, and would never trade even the tiny amount of money necessary per person in higher taxes for shiny new infrastructure projects. Only the relatively small amount of people who use those airports and roads on a regular basis -- i.e., people like Friedman -- care about how gleaming they are. The same is true for the TSA complaints. Most people do not travel by air often, and nevertheless constantly face petty embarrassments at the hands of the government, by any number of federal, state, and local agencies. 

It's great when your opponents destroy themselves

TSA is making my point to millions of victims every day.  The statists are insane, aren't they?

Today's hearing, and Pistole's salacious offer, were prompted by growing public outrage at TSA policies. Passengers are required to allow the TSA to take nude pictures of them; many people find this objectionable. Passengers who opt out must be patted down. New procedures require screeners are to touch passengers' breasts, buttocks, and genitals. Some passengers have compared the enhanced pat-downs to sexual assault, and at least one woman has threatened a lawsuit.
New prayer:  "Oh Lord thank you for giving me stupid opponents".

The Competition's Prayer: "Oh Lord let my my opponent do stupid things"

California is destroying itself and Texas is cleaning up.  Joel Kotkin has the tale:

California’s decline is particularly tragic, as it is unnecessary and largely unforced. The state still possesses the basic assets–energy, fertile land, remarkable entrepreneurial talent–to restore its luster. But given its current political trajectory, you can count on Texans, and others, to keep picking up both the state’s jobs and skilled workers. If California wishes to commit economic suicide, Texas and other competitors will gladly lend them a knife.

Hmm, one of the nation's 'freest' states is dominating the nation's next to 'least free' state in the competition for human and financial capital.  Who would have guessed?  I mean I thought all of this 'compassion' and 'state leadership' was going to usher in some new millennium or half decade or something.

Incidentally, this study of social, and economic freedom in the fifty states is a sure fire way to predict prosperity.  All things being equal (demographics, geography) the freest states are the most prosperous.  The two least free?  New York and California.  'Nuff said.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When a man stops believing in God, he doesn't believe in nothing, he believes in.....prestige designer brands

Marketing study:  The non-religious are more brand loyal.

After all, as Bob Dylan said:  "You gotta serve somebody:  It may be......Chanel or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody."

"Don't touch my junk": the new "Don't Tread on Me"

The best thing about being a libertarian is all the help you get from the fascists.  If I'd called central casting I couldn't have made up a more ludicrous government program than the deep, pornographic humiliation of the TSA regime.  As Obama is the denouement of affirmative action, the TSA porno scan and pervert pat is the denouement of political correctness.

The State's prestige is dying a brutal (but wildly entertaining) death.  Next stop on the State's "Tour of Terror":  the currency's collapse.

It will be a cold day in hell before America again trusts the Federal government to do anything but pick up bear poo in the National Parks.

About damn time.

TSA: Specialists in Security "Theater"

The TSA is a variation on the old Soviet joke:  they pretend to protect us and we pretend to be protected.  At three times the cost of private providers.  Our government is wonderful isn't it?

In addition to being large, impersonal, and top-heavy, what really worries critics is that the TSA has become dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what those critics call "security theater" -- that is, a show of what appear to be stringent security measures designed to make passengers feel more secure without providing real security. "That's exactly what it is," says Mica. "It's a big Kabuki dance."

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Amid-airport-anger_-GOP-takes-aim-at-screening-1576602-108259869.html#ixzz15SqDiiuE

Washington's Dean Vermer Moment

"Stupid and out of touch is no way to go through life, gang".

POLITICO: The big disconnect: D.C. elites think Obama will be re-elected, the public doubts it. “The midterms not only dealt a big shock to the Democrats, but also sent a message to President Obama. According to the new POLITICO ‘Power and the People’ poll, only 26 percent of the public believes he will now be re-elected as President in 2012. . . . This big difference can partially be explained by the different ways that the two groups see the economy and the world today. Seventy percent of D.C. elites admit that they have been affected less than the average citizen when it comes to the economic downturn. The elites see the Tea Party as purely a fad (70 percent).” Insular and out of touch.

Hat tip Instapundit

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Credit Anstalt Moment

Credit Anstalt failed in 1931 in Austria, taking the European financial system with it.  With the PIGS sliding into insolvency, Evans Ambrose Pritchard argues we are at the same pass again here.

Reagan could handle the Presidency, why not Obama?

How come Ronald Reagan could ascend to the presidency just weeks before his 70th birthday with little ill-effect — and even survive a bullet in the chest — but our little Kal El is having trouble keeping up while still in his 40s?

Hat Tip Instapundit

Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco

With Sarah Palin doing a show on Alaska's wild life, it's only fair that someone do the same for Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco.  This is an attempt to do so.  Warning:  the wild life in San Francisco is more horrifying than the most brutal elk killing you have ever seen. Definitely not for work or children (yet in San Francisco people at work and children must be forced to view this from time to time).

If Mormons or Evangelicals did stuff like this it would be front page news....

I knew I shouldn't have believed the hysteria

I gave into the media driven hysteria about the oil spill.  It turns out it was the same balderdash that we always get from the enviros.

The catastrophists were wrong (again) about the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. There have been no major fish die-offs. On the contrary, a comprehensive new study says that in some of the most heavily fished areas of the Gulf of Mexico, various forms of sea life, from shrimp to sharks, have seen their populations triple since before the spill. Some species, including shrimp and croaker, did even better.

The growth of the fish population is not occurring because oil is good for fish. Rather, it is occurring because fishing is bad for fish. When fishing was banned for months during the spill, the Gulf of Mexico experienced an unprecedented marine renaissance that overwhelmed any negative environmental consequences the oil may have had, researchers say.

I must admit that I gave into it in part because I wanted to believe the worst about BHO.  I am sorry.  I will never believe another environmental scare story until I see the source data and have it vetted by experts that I trust (which in general excludes anyone working for the Federal Government).

We are lied to all the time by the people who present themselves as our 'servants' and 'saviors'.  They have sown the wind and now shall reap the whirlwind.

All of a sudden American has become "Ungovernable" again

New definition of Barack:  Arrogantly screwing up while calling the country 'ungovernable'.

MY PREDICTION ABOUT AMERICA SUDDENLY BECOMING “UNGOVERNABLE” IF OBAMA FAILED has certainly been borne out. Now Newsweek asks: Is the Presidency too big for one man? Nope. Just for the inexperienced guy with no management experience that we elected. As Jay Cost wrote a while back “America is not ungovernable. Her President has simply not been up to the job.” And see these thoughts from Arnold Kling,too.
Plus, as Ed Morrissey noted last fall: “Who could have warned us that a man who served seven years in the state legislature and three years in the Senate would not have been prepared for the toughest executive position in the Free World? We did. Repeatedly. So did John McCain, and for that matter, so did Hillary Clinton.”

Hat tip  Instapundit