Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas is a good time to remember that a normal distribution of events has TWO tails

Despite all of the sourness in our world today, as much as we expect disasters, we should also expect miracles.  Because of the incarnation, Time's arrow has a direction:  it points to Christ.

Christmas, Kurtosis, Fat Tails, Black Swans and Risk Management
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Christ was born into the Pagan world of Rome, a world of cyclical despair. As historian of science Stanley Jaki spent his life documenting, the pagan world view was one of endless cycles, of oscillations, of rise and fall, golden ages of glory, bronze ages of decline, iron and stone ages of despair, with no genuine permanent progress. For this reason, among others, Jaki says neither the ancient Greeks nor Romans produced modern science, which depends greatly on the idea of progress.

I would argue that this is the reason why they also failed to create modern economics, which is also based on the idea of progress. For the ancient pagans you can move along supply curves, but not shift them to the right. Hesiod said if you want to have more wealth the only way is to work more hours.

The idea of the Labor Theory of value fits perfectly with a world of cyclical futility. More money comes only from more sweat; the only thing resembling an escape is the acquisition of slaves through conquest. Wealth for the slave owner is still built on sweat, but the slave’s, not his. The only thing he risks is the blood that he loses in combat acquiring the slaves.

That’s the world of the Caeser Augustus whose executive order for a tax census sent Joseph and Mary back to their home town of Bethlehem to be counted. Augustus’ wealth came from Joseph the carpenter’s sweat. And if Joseph resisted, then it would be blood, so a pregnant woman is conscripted into a perilous journey.

Technological breakthroughs, better business modeling, virtuous cycles built on capital accumulation were not the basis of Augustus’ wealth; confiscation was. In fact, according to Aristotle, return on capital was a violation of the nature of things. If the only way to create more wealth was to shed more sweat, then capital was unnatural, the attempt to find fertility where only barrenness could exist. Interest, therefore, was based on an unnatural act, that of treating wealth as though it was fertile, when it was as barren as a mule.

Which brings us to Christmas. What is more barren than a virgin’s womb? (Perhaps only the tomb, but that is a topic for a column in April.) The late Christopher Hitchens quipped more than once that if civilization suddenly collapsed, would we really need to remind ourselves that Christ was born of a virgin?

The obvious implication is that the Christmas story (Fact? Myth?Both?)is useless for the rebuilding of civilization. That is a very odd observation from a man who prided himself on his knowledge of history, because, in fact, that is exactly what civilization did remind itself of after it collapsed. What Civilization?

Why Christopher Hitchens’ civilization and yours and mine: Western civilization.

When Rome fell and barbarian hordes raped and murdered their way across the dark ages, civilization was rebuilt on the Christmas story. Mary, a woman, was the Chris-bearer (in Greek, Christopheros) after whom Mr. Hitchens was named. She assented to that role willingly. If an all-powerful God does not rape, then neither should you. If God prized human life enough to bind himself to it through incarnation, then you, barbarian warrior, should not murder. If God comes as a child through a woman, then women and children are fully human, endowed with no less dignity than men.

If in the battle of Christ vs. Caeser, Christ is both right and ultimately triumphant, then you, oh king are limited in your power. Small wonder (but wondrous all the same) that the emperor Henry IV stood in the snow on Christmas day 1077 to publicly repent of his acts of oppression against the Church and so began the investiture controversy which eventually broke the back of statism and led to the rise of modern liberty.

Christmas is a good time for us to recognize that though the world generates catastrophes, but it also has been given what JRR Tolkien called eucastrophes. Eucatastrophes are sudden, unexpected, but perfectly logical-in-hindsight explosions of good. Tolkien coined the word first to describe the incarnation which Christians are currently celebrating.

Eucatastrophe is to catastrophe, as fat right tails are to fat left tails. And any risk management system which scans the world for the latter is incomplete if it ignores the promise of the latter. If the story of Christmas is true, the power of euchastrophe is stronger than the power of catastrophe. But it is much harder to see, hidden far from power, swaddled and surrounded by shepherds.

What does all of this have to do with Kurtosis (and what is that anyway?) and normal distributions and black swans and risk management? For that come back next week, when I should be writing about New Years, but will still be writing about Christmas.

Obesity is a national security issue?

Yeah, that's the ticket.

ENERGY IS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE. THEREFORE, OBESITY IS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE: “Americans, on average, have gained enough weight during the past 40 years to cancel out automakers’ vehicle-lightweighting efforts such as using lighter components or removing spare tire, reflecting an additional challenge automakers face to meet progressively more strict fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas emissions standards. . . . The combined weight gained by the average American male and female can cut average fuel economy by as much as one percent, which could translate to an additional 153 million gallons of gas burned in the U.S. over the course of a year.” Hence, Michelle Obama’s food-nannyism is really about national security. Take it away, White House Press Office. . . .

Life Among the Barbarians

Beware of New York's Barbaric Gun Laws.  Across the board, New York is the most repressive, fascist state in the nation.  And it is the nest of our Wall Street looters.  What a place.

A tourist from Tennessee waltzed into one of the most secure sites in the city — and politely asked a cop if she could check her weapon.
Instead, she was dragged out in cuffs.
Now, Meredith Graves, 39, is facing at least three years in prison for thinking New York’s gun laws are anything like those in the Bible Belt.
Graves, a fourth-year medical student, showed up at the memorial on Dec. 22 to pay her respects during a trip north for a job interview.
She didn’t realize that the loaded .32-caliber pistol in her purse would be a problem until she saw a sign at the site that read, “No guns allowed,” sources said. “She remembered she had the gun on her,” a source said. She walked up to a security guard and said, “I have this gun. Where can I check it?”
Under Mayor Bloomberg, New York’s nothing like the Bible Belt, of course — it’s much less civilized and much more repressive.. And just like black people visiting the South in the 1930s, gun owners today need to realize that irrational prejudice and legal persecution are a risk when visiting these benighted places. This is why we need national civil rights laws to protect gun owners wherever they go. This is a topic I discuss in my Second Amendment Penumbras piece,forthcoming in the Southern California Law Review. I also note that a patchwork of confusing (often even to law enforcement) and overlapping laws regulating the exercise of a fundamental right is a burden on the constitutionally recognized right to interstate travel. At the very least, they should warn you when you’re entering a repressive regime.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 55 MPH Speed Limit: a stone cold killer

Remember:  the police aren't on your side, they're on they're side.
Unfortunately vestiges of the 55mph limit remain, in part because police like the 55mph limit which lets them write tickets at will whenever they need an increase in revenues. John Carr at the National Motorists blog gives a particularly egregious example from Massachusetts:
The speed limit on Route 3 is 55. The speed limit used to be 60….It was reduced by executive order in 1973 to comply with the national speed limit. When the national speed limit was repealed in 1995 the highway commissioner ordered the low limit retained…
It gets better. Route 3 was completely rebuilt a decade ago. The design speed for the project was 110 km/h (68 mph). The design speed is like a warranty: nothing in the road design requires a driver to go slower than 68 mph, not even on a wet road at night (the design conditions).
The average speed is not far from the design speed. The 85th percentile speed, which is supposed to be used for setting speed limits, is around 75 mph. A little over by my measurement, which found 1% compliance with the speed limit.
Eventually the absurdity of the 55 mph speed limit sunk in and in 2006 MassHighway traffic engineers recommended a speed limit increase. State Police vetoed the change, preferring the 99% violation rate that let them write tickets at will. Police have no legal role in setting speed limits. Somebody in the Romney administration weighed the risk of losing ticket revenue against the risk of being blamed for accidents. Police won.
After engineers lost that fight people began to worry about the high accident rate on Route 3. The state hired a consultant to do a Road Safety Audit. The consultant’s report blamed the low speed limit, among other factors, for the high crash rate. The report explicitly recommended raising the speed limit.
Three years later, state officials have not followed the advice of their engineers, their consultant, or 100,000 drivers per day. State police are still out there running speed traps and helping keep the road as dangerous and profitable as they can.
Hat tip: Radley Balko.

Census Bureau: DC growing faster than any state

The District of Colombia's population grew faster than any state last year according to the Census Bureau.  Far faster than second place Texas and third place North Dakota despite it being an 'inner' city.  Which isn't that surprising whan you remember that its principal industry is government.

So while America suffers under the worst sustained economic conditions since the Great Depression, the Washington DC area's population booms.  And of course it has also become the richest city in the nation on a per capita basis.

The Nation's Capital booms while the country strangles.  Funny how that works.

State Power = Scope X Reach

The ability of the State to manipulate you to do what it deems appropriate is a function of the scope of it's control (it controls banking transactions but not hugs) and its reach - the state hasn't been able to find a way to reach yard sales or cash transactions, for example.  However, the continuing exponential growth in IT capacity is radically increasing the state's reach by allowing everything to be monitored, stored and searched. So therefore if state power is not to increase radically with catastrophic results for human liberty, then as the reach of the state increases, its scope must decline.

An outcome I fear will not happen.

IS THE ANSWER PERVASIVE DISINFORMATION? Government Total Recall On Past Communications. “UCLA electrical engineering prof John Villaseno thinks the growing capacity of computers to collect, store, and analyze data will enable governments to assess, track, and draw connections between dissidents on a scale previously not seen. . . . As the cost of computer disk storage and other storage media continue to plummet the amount that governments can record goes up. Storage costs have fallen so far that the amount that can be captured about each person and kept long term has gotten pretty detailed. In the future the amount that can be recorded and stored per person will undergo more doublings. Every phone conversation that takes place will be able to be captured and stored for decades. . . . When a government decides someone is of interest as a potential trouble maker that government will be able to quickly analyze every phone conversation (and a large fraction of all online text conversations) that person ever participated in . Then threat assessment software will assess the threat posed by the citizen who is critical of the regime. A retrospective approach is not the only possibility of course. A political threat profile could be maintained that gets continually updated with the latest movements, utterances, and purchasing decisions.”

College is Oversold

It turns out that the massive investments that we have made in more 'higher' education over the past few decades have succeeded only in producing more people with 'skills' that no one wants.  Alex Tabbarok explains here.  Our Federal government has the unique ability to turn silk purses into sows ears.  On a massive, continental scale.

The Capital Strike in a Nutshell

Among all of the destructive things done by Chicago style Liberalism in the last three years, perhaps the greatest is what it has done to business confidence.  After all, if you're going to feed off the productive economy it makes sense to ensure that it's growing strongly.  It is a foolish parasite that gets so greedy that it kills its host.  

Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, writing in Bloomberg:

"Our company, CKE Restaurants Inc., employs about 21,000 people (our franchisees employ 49,000 more) in Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants. For months, we have been working with Mercer Health & Benefits LLC, our health-care consultant, to identify Obamacare’s potential financial impact on CKE. Mercer estimated that when the law is fully implemented our health-care costs will increase about $18 million a year. That would put our total health-care costs at $29.8 million, a 150 percent increase from the roughly $12 million we spent last year.

The money to cover our increased expenses will have to come from somewhere. We are a profitable company and, after paying our obligations, we reinvest our earnings in the business. Reinvesting in the business is how we grow, create jobs and opportunity. This is true for most U.S. businesses.

The complexity of this legislation makes it hard to anticipate costs in the future. Our investments pay off -- when they are successful -- over the long term. Because we don’t know what our health-care expenses will be in two or three years, we are unable to determine with any certainty how much our investments will have to return for us to be profitable. All of that counsels in favor of holding off on new investments and saving our funds. We want to grow. But we are unable to do so knowing that large and undetermined liabilities will absorb funds we otherwise would invest for expansion. 

Washington needs to understand that legislation like the health-care law has costs as well as benefits, that the costs suppress job growth, and that when too much legislation kills too many jobs, everyone suffers. Chief executives have responsibilities to their existing employees, customers and shareholders. We simply cannot risk their jobs and their money by investing when we know that legislation like Obamacare will make it so much harder to earn a profit. The sooner both parties in Washington understand this, the sooner we can all begin looking for ways to strengthen the social safety net without hurting the economy."

Worst Government in the World?

There are lots of governments that are objectively worse than the US Federal government, but most of them are weak and impotent.  In terms of power and ability to dictate to others, the US Government is by far the greatest.  Combine that with it's arrogance, venality and indeed, stupidity, and I submit that the Feds are hands down, the Worst.  Government.  Evah.

CHANGE: New Law Assumes Americans Abroad Are Tax Criminals, Imposes Billions in Compliance Costs on Foreign Banks. “The IRS, under pressure from angry and confused financial officials abroad, has extended the deadline for registration until June 30, 2013, and is struggling to provide more detailed guidance by the end of this year. But beginning in 2012, many American expatriates — already the only developed-nation citizens subject to double taxation from their home government — must furnish the I.R.S. with detailed personal information on their overseas assets.”

Perhaps we need to harmonize our customs with other nations’. Isn’t it “arrogant” and “inconsiderate” for us to be so far “outside the mainstream” of civilized practice? Or does that only apply to things like capital punishment?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

GAO: Federal regulation quality is at an all time low

Don't you understand?  It's not about quality or the public good or efficiency, it's about power.   And the worse the regs are written, the more arbitrary discretion and power the statists get to exercise.  They like that.  The WSJ has the sordid, if all too predictable story.

President Obama is leading his regulators in an anvil chorus unlike anything in modern U.S. history. So it is unsurprising but still instructive that independent students of regulation say the quality of the many rules they're putting out seems to be at all-time lows.

Regulatory quality isn't the same as content—though bad rules are usually badly written, as seems to be the case here. Rather, quality refers to a deliberative process: defining the problem; measuring costs, benefits and risks; weighing alternatives, making trade-offs, avoiding duplication; and giving the public opportunity to comment. If all goes well a quality rule will promote or at least not impair "economic growth, innovation, competitiveness and job creation," as Mr. Obama's January 2011 executive order on regulation had it.

It's too boring for the press corps to notice, but a growing body of evidence suggests that the Obamanauts are undermining these basic due diligence practices that have been commonly accepted by whatever party happened to be in power.

Take the rule-making aftershocks of the Dodd-Frank overhaul of financial markets, which the Government Accountability Office reviewed in detail in a late November report. The GAO observes that the law "requires or authorizes various federal agencies to issue hundreds of regulations," some discretionary, others not. Among the 32 final rules the banking, futures and securities agencies have issued so far and GAO reviewed, the report dryly notes that "regulators may be missing an opportunity to enhance the rigor and improve the transparency of their analyses."

Poor regulatory quality is a feature, not a bug of 'Chicago Liberalism'.

All I wanted was sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads

Dr. Evil may soon get his wish....

WELL, IT IS THE 21ST CENTURY: Will We Soon Be Able to Fire Laser Beams From Our Eyes?

The global market for good governance seems to be heating up

Small, open countries, because they face more competition tend to govern better.  Large insular countries tend to do much worse.  Historically the US did well because we let most governance devolve to the states.  Now with our wonderful Federal Government and it's magic money machine, we are firmly in the Insular category.  To paraphrase Adam Smith:  "There's a lot of ruin in a (big, insular) country".

The world is changing more rapidly, so automatic pilot isn’t good enough any more.  “Good governance” and most of all adaptability have become more important.  This will benefit the Nordic countries, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Singapore.  It is mostly bad for India, Russia, and the Mediterranean countries, plus other countries with lots of corruption.  It remains to be seen which category the United States and China will fall into.

So how do you know what you know? #100

Surprise:  NYT presents an unfinished, meaningless statistical analysis, claims it proves the opposite of what the numbers really say.  These cats are either completely unethical or mind crushingly stupid.

Or both.

The New York Times examined the [concealed-carry] permit program in North Carolina, one of a dwindling number of states where the identities of permit holders remain public. The review, encompassing the last five years, offers a rare, detailed look at how a liberalized concealed weapons law has played out in one state. And while it does not provide answers, it does raise questions.
More than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, excluding traffic-related crimes, over the five-year period, The Times found when it compared databases of recent criminal court cases and licensees. While the figure represents a small percentage of those with permits, more than 200 were convicted of felonies, including at least 10 who committed murder or manslaughter. All but two of the killers used a gun.
All of these numbers are completely meaningless; in any large population, there will be some crime. The only way to see what these numbers mean is to compare concealed-carry holders to the general population. Fortunately, state-level murder data are easy to find.

North Carolina has a statewide murder rate of about 5 per 100,000. Even without counting manslaughter, that’s 25 murders committed per 100,000 North Carolinians every five years. There are about 230,000 valid concealed-carry permits in North Carolina, so by pure chance, you’d expect these folks to be responsible for nearly 60 murders over five years. And yet only ten of them committed murder or manslaughter. Instead of “rais[ing] questions,” the Times has demonstrated yet again that permit holders are more peaceful than the general population

The Cruel Myth of Affirmative action

Bastiat, the Patron Saint of unintended consequences has been particularly busy at our elite colleges.  Jeff Jacoby explains.  Frankly, it's hard to find an area of 'public' policy where long held liberal pieties aren't crashing and burning.  It must be hard to be a 'good government' (as opposed to a 'Chicago') liberal these days.

This is the cruelty of affirmative-action “mismatch’’ — the steering of minorities to schools where they are less likely to succeed. Absent such preferences, black and Hispanic students would attend universities for which their credentials better suited them. Many would earn higher grades or degrees in more prestigious and challenging fields; more would go on to graduate school and careers in academia or the professions. If it weren’t for race-based admissions policies, in other words, underrepresented minorities wouldn’t be so underrepresented.
Racial preferences, says University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot , have backfired. She is one of three members of the civil rights commission urging the Supreme Court to recognize the damage it unleashed when it allowed racial “diversity’’ to trump the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Skin color was always an ill-contrived proxy for diversity of experiences and beliefs. What more than 30 years of race-based admissions have made clear, Heriot argues, is that “even with the best motives in the world, race-based admissions do far more harm than good.’’ Especially to the students they are supposed to help .

So how DO you know what you know? #99

There's a new poverty con.  The Obama administration has directed the Census Bureau to create a new poverty measure that measures 'relative' rather than absolute poverty.  It increases the number of 'poor' and even more importantly guarantees that the proportion of 'poor' will remain constant and the numbers of 'poor' will continually grow with population (just wait for all of the MSM "ranks of poor rise again" stories) no matter how rich they become.

And of course the MSM is already misreporting this statistical ledgermain in ways that promote the 'need' for more 'anti-poverty' initiatives by our Great and Glorious Federal state.  The noted Right Wing Reactionary Micky Kaus explains here.

So when the people responsible for the statistics and the people responsible for reporting the 'news' conspire to present 'new' numbers as the same as the 'old' ones to achieve their political agenda, how do you know what you know?

So how tough are your kids?

Getting As in High School just isn't that hard.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: A Perfect Storm in Undergraduate Education. This piece is from a few months back. but the Chronicle of Higher Education is re-running it and given that the issue has gotten more attention lately it’s worth looking at. Key bit: “What good does it do to increase the number of students in college if the ones who are already there are not learning much? Would it not make more sense to improve the quality of education before we increase the quantity of students?”
Plus: “Increasingly, undergraduates are not prepared adequately in any academic area but often arrive with strong convictions about their abilities. So college professors routinely encounter students who have never written anything more than short answers on exams, who do not read much at all, who lack foundational skills in math and science, yet are completely convinced of their abilities and resist any criticism of their work, to the point of tears and tantrums: ‘But I earned nothing but A’s in high school,’ and ‘Your demands are unreasonable.’ Such a combination makes some students nearly unteachable.”
To some degree, the higher education bubble is a creature of the lower education bubble.
UPDATE: Reader Don Bagwell writes:
Everything has a sports analogy parallel. The University of Michigan football squad’s defense last year was near the very bottom of the rankings. This year it made dramatic improvements under new coaching. Greg Mattison, the new defensive coordinator, is quoted as saying he was astonished at how confident the defensive players were when he first met with them after assuming the job, despite their poor showing last year. Mattison credits this year’s success to a return to remedial coaching — basic fundamentals — and very hard work to break the players of their unwarranted confidence
I maintain young people of today actually yearn to be taught life’s hard lessons, but can’t find teachers to teach them. When one is found (Mattison at Michigan, other “tough love” coaches in football, the U.S. Marine Corp and other branches of the military), those who yearn eagerly flock to the teaching. The extent of lower education’s failure — and liberals’ support of of lower education’s methods — is hard to overestimate.

The problem is the statism

The reason that the 'chattering classes' become enamored with China or Japan or before them the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany isn't the 'results' they gained so much as it was the power that the central elites were able to exercise.  For fascists everywhere power is the most potent of drugs.

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: China Rail Fail: 42% Spending Cut in Bullet Train Meltdown. “The Panda Lobby, the pundits and policy wonks who want the US to imitate China’s state capitalism, has long celebrated what it claims to be China’s far sighted and effective approach to industrial policy. China, the Panda pundits tell us, will own the future because of its courageous subsidies to green technology and high speed rail. The meltdown of the Chinese solar industry has been widely reported; now comes word that the rail program is also in trouble. . . . Those of us who remember the short lived but intense Sushi Lobby, the Americans who thought the US needed to imitate the brilliant success of Japanese state capitalism back in those halcyon days of the 1980s when the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo were estimated to cost more than the entire state of California, will be waiting to hear how the Panda pundits explain the high speed rail meltdown.” Actually, back in the day we called them the Chrysanthemum Club.

Surprise, surprise, surprise: Nobody reads this crap

Study documents the obvious:  much of what passes for 'research' in the humanities is unread (and unreadable) drivel.  Via Meadia points out that we are paying an enormous price for producing landfill.  It is very doubtful that without the massive Federal tax, loan and grant subsidies any of this would get done.

There is a slow train coming around the bend......

Samuelson: Our Federal political system is failing

All institutions that lack an effective external check (aka competition) eventually devour those they ostensibly serve.  Which is why we must break it up, break it all up and restore the market for good governance that our Founders envisioned when they created our nation.  Monopolies suck.  Particularly state monopolies with magic money machines.  There is no effective external check on their greed short of collapse.  And electing Republicans, even Conservatives is no answer:  they are co-proprietors of the same avaricious Federal monopoly.  As with the Liberals, the Federal State has become their 'precious' - their path to riches and status and power and even though it destroys us, they will never voluntarily relinquish it.  The rest can be read here.

Each reverts to scripted evasions. Liberals imply (wrongly) that taxing the rich will solve the long-term budget problem. It won't. For example, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a collective wealth of $1.5 trillion. If the government simply confiscated everything they own, and turned them into paupers, it would barely cover the one-time 2011 deficit of $1.3 trillion. Conservatives deplore "spending" in the abstract, ignoring the popularity of much spending, especially Social Security and Medicare.

So the political system is failing. It's stuck in the past. It can't make desirable choices about the future. It can't resolve deep conflicts.

Update:  Evidence of how good it is to be a Federal Legislator (and why they'll never give it up).

#OCCUPYCONGRESS: Growing Wealth Widens Distance Between Lawmakers and Constituents. “Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House has risen 2.5 times, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, rising from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly.”

North Pole ring raided, Nicholas "Santa" Claus arrested

U.S. Federal agents arrested Santa Claus earlier today at the North Pole.
Composite Sketch of Suspect
The United States Department of Fish and Wildlife has arrested Santa Claus, an elusive figure with many aliases (e.g., St. Nicholas).  On the morning of 24 December, 150 heavily armed Fish and Wildlife special agents raided Claus’ North Pole compound, seized several tons of exotic woods forbidden by the Lacey Act, arrested Santa Claus and a female accomplice identified only as Mrs. Claus, and liberated thousands of diminutive slave labourers known only as “Elves”.
Claus has been charged with multiple counts of money laundering, illegal exportation of currency, illegally importing into the United States toys made of contraband–rare woods, ivory and other banned substances.  He has also been charged with violations of slave labor and child labor laws, hundreds of patent and trademark violations, and illegally entering and exiting the United States.
Indeed, Fish and Wildlife agents also seized an unidentified aircraft called a “sleigh” which had numerous secret compartments holding the contraband.   Fish and Wildlife agents charged Mr. Claus with animal cruelty with regard to the caribou that he used to launch this “sleigh”.
Agent Smith
Special Agent Hugo Smith said, “We arrived just in the nick of time.  A moment later, and the caribou would have launched the sleigh and Claus would have escaped with the illegal materials.  By now, he would be in the United States, breaking into people’s houses and selling this stuff.”
The United States Department of Immigration and the Internal Revenue Service have also had their eyes on Mr. Claus.  An immigration official who also attended the raid said that they were able to obtain several dozen passports.  He said, “It seems that this Santa Claus character has a different name in every country–his EU passport says, ‘Father Christmas’ and his Canadian passport says, ‘Père Noël’.  We have, however, determined with certainty that Santa Claus is a United States citizen.”
Apparently Claus worked in Hollywood during the 1940s and 50s making autobiographical films, such as Miracle on 34th Street.  During that time he applied for and received  U.S. citizenship.
Douglas Shulman, Commissioner of the IRS, has released the following statement:
IRS Commissioner
At long last, the notorious tax cheat, Santa Claus, has been apprehended.  He has been living in a foreign country for the last 50 years and during that time he has not filed his US taxes even once.  It has become clear, however, that he has run a lucrative business at the North Pole and has never reported any of the income.  In addition to criminal tax evasion, we intend to charge Santa Claus with 190 counts of criminal failure to file Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBAR), as we found evidence in his papers that he is operating or has signing authority on bank accounts in 190 different countries.  It is our contention that the fines alone could help us bring billions in revenue into the United States government.
Pleased to Nab a Tax Cheat
According to United States law, all United States Citizens are required to pay taxes to the IRS and to report any foreign bank accounts.  Failure to obey these filing requirements may result in civil and criminal penalties including imprisonment.
The Obama administration declared that they were very pleased with the news..  ”It is about time,” Obama said from his Hawaiian retreat, “that the United States returned those who have fled the country just because they don’t feel like paying their fair share anymore.”
The Republican candidate for president, Ron Paul criticized the raid, “The United States has neither the authority nor the right to go into another country and enforce its laws.  Santa Claus is a citizen of the North Pole and it is overreach for us to go there and arrest him.”
Also running for president, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich responded to Paul, “The United States must reserve the right to arrest terrorists and to violate the rule of law in order to provide safety for the People of the United States.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada said that his government did everything that they could to help the United States, even to the point of allowing the use of Canadian air space.  ”We are cooperating with the good faith efforts of the United States to eliminate terrorists in order to maintain the safety and security of all Canadians.”

A President fabricated to fit liberal pieties celebrates a religion fabricated to fit liberal pieties

Bartender:  a double helping of BS for all of us!

MALCOLM: The Obamas celebrate Kwanzaa in spirit of umoja.

Because proles should be seen (and taxed), not heard

PUBLIC PENSION UPDATE: New York Post: Mum’s The Word.
New York’s teacher-retirement fund wants to keep taxpayers in the dark about the pensions it hands out. Must be some darn fat pensions, huh?
Wouldn’t want to enrage the public to the point where pensions are trimmed, now would it? 
In a predictable — but disturbing — development, the state Teachers’ Retirement System last week said it will no longer publicly disclose the names of teachers and how much they get in retiree benefits.
Even though the public foots the bill. 
The move comes after other public-sector pension systems zipped their lips, following a disturbing appellate-court ruling last October. . . . this is information that has been openly available — without protest — for almost three decades. 
It was only when the Empire Center set up an easily searchable Web site with names and pension amounts that the funds started squawking.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I wonder what the line for government has been

Because you know, they've been adding so much value.  The reality is that the government and non profit parts of our economy have been able to expand and flourish only as parasites on the productive economy.  But now the parasites are multiplying too fast  And eventually the parasite load becomes unsustainable.

Our leaders have become such cowards...abroad

We have 50,000 military style SWAT raids in the US each year mostly to bust 'drugs' yet we stand by and let PIRACY flourish because of the cowardice of our political leaders.  I pray for the day when we treat our enemies as badly as we treat our own citizens.

I’m just off the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is currently heading across the Pacific to support our troops in far hotter waters. One of the more interesting conversations I had was with an officer who had, in an earlier deployment, spent a good deal of time doing anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. He said his ship once came across a pirate “mother ship” apparently dead in the water. It was not in imminent danger, however, nor was the ship itself engaged in piracy—that was the job of the small boats which launched from the mother ship. As the cruiser hovered nearby, the pirates threw over the side a life preserver with a message attached to it. The cruiser grabbed the life-preserver, and opened the attached plastic bag with the message in it. It read, in perfect English, “Unless you’re going to give us booze, women, and money, why don’t you just get the f—k away from here?” And, because of U.S. rules of engagement, that is exactly what we did.

It is no surprise that piracy thrives when the pirates know our rules of engagement and know they have little to fear for their actions. Today, our sailors are instructed to consider piracy a matter for the courts rather than simply a military matter. As soon as the Oval Office and Pentagon allow our sailors to truly crackdown on piracy and destroy both the ships that enable it and the properties on shore built with its proceeds, its curse will continue to hamper international shipping. The alternative is simply a very expensive pageant and, frankly, our servicemen and women deserve far better than spending holidays and kids’ birthdays away from their families simply to sit off the coast of Africa in a show of force which the pirates no longer take seriously.

Wealthy bicoastal suburbanites in expensive homes benefit from the mortgage interest deduction

Of course the wealthy and powerful benefit from almost everything the state does.  That's how fascism works:  the powerful manipulate the state to take what they want and the young and weak lose.  The bigger and more powerful the state, the greater the looting.  More here.

Poll: Americans like their banks more than their government

Of course, the banks have stolen far, far less.  And they don't wave guns and shackles in your face while telling you how wonderful they are.  And they give away candy and coffee.

Details here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Each Chevy Volt has $250,000 in subsidies, average buyer makes $170,000 a year

It's all so terribly progressive.

Michigan Capitol Confidential -- "Each Chevy Volt sold thus far may have as much as $250,000 in state and federal dollars in incentives behind it – a total of $3 billion altogether, according to an analysis by James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Volt is subsidized by multiple companies on its way to production. The analysis includes adding up the amount of government subsidies via tax credits and direct funding for not only General Motors, but other companies supplying parts for the vehicle. For example, the Department of Energy awarded a $105.9 million grant to the GM Brownstown plant that assembles the batteries. The company was also awarded approximately$106 million for its Hamtramck assembly plant in state credits to retain jobs. The company that supplies the Volt’s batteries, Compact Power, was awarded up to $100 million in refundable battery credits. These are among many of the subsidies and tax credits for the vehicle.

It’s very unlikely all the companies involved in the production of the Volt would ever receive all the $3 billion in incentives. But the analysis looks at the total value that has been offered to the Volt in different aspects of production – from the assembly line to the dealerships to the battery manufacturers. The tax credits and subsidies are offered for periods up to 20 years, though the majority is offered over a much shorter time frame.

GM has estimated they’ve sold 6,000 Volts so far. That would mean each of the 6,000 Volts sold would be subsidized between $50,000 and $250,000, depending on how many government subsidies were realized.  The $3 billion in total value includes $690.4 million offered in incentives by the state of Michigan and $2.3 billion in federal money. That’s enough to purchase 75,222 Volts with a sticker price of $39,828.

“This might be the most government-supported car since the Trabant,” said Hohman, referring to the car produced by the former Communist state of East Germany (pictured above).

According to GM CEO Dan Akerson, the average Volt owner makes $170,000 per year."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

But wait, these guys went to HARVARD

If I didn't know better, I'd say these boys don't know what the hell they are doing.


Way back on the Federal Page of today’s Washington Post is an article that ought to be on the front page above the fold, and its deep placement on the boutique page of the bureaucracy shows how the Post, like most everyone else, doesn’t understand what a big story it is.  And it is clinical study of Hayek’s “knowledge problem”—the impossibility of centralizing fundamentally dispersed knowledge in a timely and accurate way—that we’ve discussed at various times here over the past few months.
The headline is “Concern growing over deadlines for health care exchanges,” and it discusses the difficulties of one of the main pillars of Obamacare—the mandate that the states set up insurance “exchanges” where people and businesses can do one-stop shopping for their mandated health insurance policies.  But this is no simple exchange; because of the mix of federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and the various regulations pertaining to eligibility, guaranteed issue, and other features of Obamacare, the states are having a hard time figuring out how they are going to do it.  And time is running out.  As the Post explains, “the exchanges will need to incorporate state and federal data on income, employment and residency. Enrollment through the state and federal exchanges is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013.”
Obamacare has a fallback position: if states can’t (or won’t) make the deadline, the federal government will step in and run the exchange out of Washington.  I’ve heard rumors for months now that the Dept. of Health and Human Services is terrified of having to do this, and doubts it can be done by the deadline.  The Post story would seem to lend some credence to these rumors:
It’s hard to know how far along the federal government is because the Obama administration has “been very reluctant to provide any updates on progress,” said Dan Schuyler, a director at the consulting firm Leavitt Partners in Salt Lake City, which is advising states on the exchanges.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to requests for comment.  Those designing a federal exchange face enormous technical, political and financial challenges.
Technically, data from a host of federal agencies need to be collected into one system, which then must be linked with computer systems in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of State Medicaid Directors, said computer systems in some states are old and may need substantial upgrading. There is some doubt, he said, about whether there is enough “physical capacity in the IT systems world” to get it all done in time.
Another Obama high-speed train wreck to nowhere.

Monday, December 19, 2011

So what are YOU guilty of?

One of the milestones on the way to the Fascist state is the saturation of society by law and law enforcement.  Hundreds of thousands of pages of laws, rules and regulations enforced by dozens of different and overlapping police forces.  With this complexity there is no way that an active individual can avoid committing technical crimes.  The only thing that saves them from ruin is the government's enforcement discretion.

But become unpopular or advocate policies that the State dislikes and you will find that all of a sudden, you have lots of 'problems'.  Because when everything is against the law, we're all criminals.

You're Guilty Of Something
From the WSJ, now lots of agencies have enforcement arms, and boy have they been busy. Louise Radnofsky, Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller write:
For years, the public face of federal law enforcement has been the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Today, for many people, the knock on the door is increasingly likely to come from a dizzying array of other police forces tucked away inside lesser-known crime-fighting agencies.They could be from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor or Education departments, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency known for its weather forecasts.
Agents from NOAA, in fact, along with the Fish and Wildlife Service, raided the Miami business of Morgan Mok in 2008, seeking evidence she had broken the Endangered Species Act trading in coral.
The agents had assault rifles with them, and the case documents indicated her house and business records had been under surveillance over a six-month period, says Ms. Mok. Under the 1973 law, the departments of Interior and Commerce (home to NOAA) must write regulations to define what is endangered and how it must be protected. One of those regulations specifies coral.
"I felt like I was being busted for drugs, instead of coral," Ms. Mok says. "It was crazy."
Ms. Mok says she showed that her coral had been properly obtained. She paid a $500 fine and served one year of probation for failing to complete paperwork for an otherwise legal transaction.
Think about all the taxpayer dollars this cost us.
And guess what: You're guilty of something. We all are. Because there are too many laws, too many enforcement agencies.
More from the piece:
An August raid on Gibson Guitar Corp. has drawn heavy criticism from both sides of the political aisle. In that raid, Fish and Wildlife Service agents swarmed the Nashville company to seize rosewood and ebony the agency suspected had been illegally imported from India. The company says its wood was obtained legally and that no charges have been filed."Why is it we're treating what is essentially a violation of rules and regulations in a criminal manner?" says Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

The flag of the Anglosphere

Well I certainly like the color scheme.  (or is that colour scheme?)  From an article by Daniel Hannan.

I think this is a bad sign

Mad Magazine Cover

Friday, December 16, 2011

All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others 2

Definition of "Outrage": something that reduces the Statist's power

Michael Walsh makes the obvious point.  The less obvious point is that the only way to evaluate a policy that the state machine advocates is to determine what it does to the power dynamic:  if it diffuses power out among the states and the people, they are against it, if it helps concentrate power among the statist classes, they are for it.  Thus they are for big city voter fraud which gives them more votes and therefore consider any policy that reduces it an outrage.  Fascist is as fascist does.

If you want to buy over-the-counter cold medicine at your local drugstore, chances are you have to show a photo ID to do it. Same if you want to get on a plane, rent a car or open a bank account. So why not to vote?

But to Attorney General Eric Holder, the idea is an outrage. In the name of "civil rights," he's declared war on a nationwide movement to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.
Just this year, eight states have passed new photo-ID laws; more than half now have some form of ID requirement for voting. But Holder has already sicced Justice's Civil Rights Division on new voter-ID laws in South Carolina and Texas to see if there's any "disproportionate impact" on minorities. He's also objecting to reforms in "early voting" in places like Florida, which recently tightened its electoral window.
And he went to Austin, Texas, on Tuesday to give a speech denouncing what his ally Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) calls "a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Progressivism and the "Expert" problem

Perhaps the central conceit of the Progressive movement is that people can be manipulated to behave better (aka incentivized) and that experts know how to do this.  Much of what has passed for 'Liberal' legislation and education over the past century has been based upon this central assumption.

Here, from Andrew Ferguson is the latest example of why Progressivism simply does not work using the 'Behavioral Economics' of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein as the example.  Disclosure:  Dick Thaler was a prof of mine at Chicago.  Money Grafs:

Behavioral economics is très chic. All the coolest economists are into it. It partakes of the obsession with social science that has lately gripped the country’s smart people, who exhibit a grinding need to quantify human behavior so that it will become more predictable, describable, and controllable. To meet demand, a steady flow of “studies” in human behavior passes through the sluice gates of university departments of accounting, psychology, marketing, sociology, business, and of course economics. From these the behavioral economists build vast edifices of theory and now, thanks to President Obama, public policy too.

The most salient of these policies was the Making Work Pay tax credit of 2009 and 2010. It was an essential element of the president’s famous $250 billion “middle-class tax cut,” which was slapped like a defibrillator onto the limp and supine figure of the American economy a couple years ago. The MWP was carefully designed according to the principles of behavioral economics, and now it seems not to have worked the way it was supposed to.

Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles

Europe was conquered by the Germans and liberated by the Anglo Saxons - half in '45, half in '90.  Now it looks like Germany and it's Germanic allies are conquering the continent again via Brussels.  With money.  Once again, the Anglo Saxons sit outside, aloof and free.  The sheer bloody irony of it all is amazing.

Open Europe quotes this from an article she has written for De Standaard:
David Cameron says no to a new European treaty, while listening to his English voters, and is accused of being someone who “blackmails” Europe. Twenty six other government leaders and heads of state don’t give their parliaments but European bureaucrats control over their budgets…this kind of top down integration carries the risk that democratic support for the Union shrinks. Europe and democracy: for now they don’t seem together. Unless you consider it democracy that elected leaders in Brussels agree upon common measures which they can’t or don’t dare to push through in their own countries.”
Quite (and check out some of the other commentary quoted on the Open Europe site).

Because crimes against the majesty of the state must be punished severely

CHRISTOPHER HORNER: Obama’s Justice Department joins Britain’s ‘Climategate’ leaker manhunt.
Hey, whoever it was made important people look stupid. That’s unforgivable.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The case for Newt


"The case for Newt is that he's nothing like that guy who used to be governor of Massachusetts. The case for Romney is very similar."

~Current issue of National Review (page 6)

A government that didn't have a 'green energy policy' wouldn't get into this type of trouble

INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY: Jet Fuel-Gate Is Obama’s New Solyndra. “SolyndraGate was no isolated case of corrupt government misspending. The U.S. Navy was just forced to buy 450,000 gallons of biofuels from an Obama-connected firm at an outrageous $16 per gallon.”

Lies, damned lies and the EPA

Remember:  They're not on your side, they're on their side.

ENERGY POLITICS: Tainted EPA Report on Fracking Blasted by Gas Co. “Here’s the story: the EPA says tests it conducted in Pavillion, Wyoming “indicate that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.” However, it turns out that the EPA drilled two monitoring wells to some 900 feet – much deeper than water wells which are usually at about 300 feet – and indeed found hydrocarbons. In short, they drilled into the natural gas reservoir that has long attracted industry producers. It may the single most productive moment in EPA history.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On line Piracy bill would criminalize the internet

Thereby creating vast new opportunities for rent seeking.  Why mess with kid's cereal when you can manipulate their minds?  Fascist is as fascist does.

PROTESTS: Wikipedia Mulls Total Blackout to Oppose SOPA. “Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wants to blank out all pages of the online encyclopedia to oppose the pending SOPA anti-piracy bill in the US. Wales, who has asked the Wikipedia community for input on the idea, fears the bill could seriously hurt the Internet and thinks that blanking out Wikipedia will send a strong message to lawmakers.”

It’s a terrible bill. Simply by introducing it, the sponsors — including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) have violated their oaths of office. In a moral society, they would immediately resign and commit honorable suicide. Since this isn’t such, we must hound them and humiliate them as best we can. They’ll probably try to make that illegal next.

Related: Google chairman says online piracy bill would ‘criminalize’ the Internet. Why not criminalize efforts to restrict free speech?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Every incremental dollar of future property taxes drives down home values

Never thought of it this way.  Very interesting.

"When you buy a house, you’re not just committing to a mortgage. You are also promising to pay the future property taxes on that house. What drives those local property taxes are the future costs of paying state and local workers and retirees, particularly retirees’ pensions and health care. These costs are going in one direction: up.  

Unless state and local governments take steps now to reduce future costs, or unless they plan on suddenly repudiating their promises to their public-sector work forces one day, every dollar in unfunded pension and health-care costs is up to a dollar less in the future value of a house."

~Nicole Gelinas, NRO article "How Taxes Drive Down Home Values"

Airport security as Farce

INSIDER: $56 BILLION LATER, AIRPORT SECURITY IS JUNK. “According to Ben Brandt, a former adviser to Delta, the airlines and the feds should be less concerned with what gels your aunt puts in her carry-on, and more concerned about lax screening for terrorist sympathizers among the airlines’ own work force. They should be worried about terrorists shipping their bombs in air cargo. And they should be worried about terrorists shooting or bombing airports without ever crossing the security gates.”