Monday, February 28, 2011

Wisconsin Public Servant of the Year

Of course, again

And the high speed ones will be even more wasteful.  Hattip Instapundit

 “The average intercity auto trip today uses less energy per passenger mile than the average Amtrak train.”

GEORGE WILL: TRAIN MANIA. “Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind. . . . To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.”

So, what does this show about what the left believes

I love these moments of clarity.  Hat tip Taranto

"The outdoor advertising company that put up a controversial billboard sponsored by a group opposing abortion decided to remove it on Thursday because employees in the Mexican restaurant below the sign were harassed by people angered by the billboard's message, the company said," reports the New York Times:
The billboard, located a half-mile from a Planned Parenthood center in SoHo, showed a young black girl in a pink dress and the words "the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb." . . .
Bill de Blasio, the city's public advocate, on Wednesday called for the billboard's immediate removal. Christine C. Quinn, speaker of the City Council, issued a statement saying: "To refer to a woman's legal right to an abortion as a 'genocidal plot' is not only absurd, but it is offensive to women and to communities of color."
Letitia James, a City Council member who represents parts of Brooklyn, said she was outraged that Life Always members had said they decided to post the billboard to coincide with Black History Month. Ms. James said she had talked to concerned citizens throughout the day and night on Wednesday, and she directed her staff to start an online petition. Ms. James said she asked MoveOn, the liberal activist group, to post the petition. It went online around 10 a.m. on Thursday.
The censored billboard is within easy walking distance of the site of the proposed Ground Zero mosque--any criticism of which, we were told a few months ago, is "un-American" because Muslims have a First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Racial sensitivity trumps freedom of expression, but sensitivity over an attack on America is un-American. Such is the mindset of the contemporary liberal left.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

The Chinese 'spectacular' take off looks less impressive when you remember that the Post Civil War US had the same results.  The only difference?  The US was at the edge of the techno-productivity curve - we invented most of the productivity enhancing innovations that led to our wealth.  By contrast, China is simply slavishing imitating and adopting (often stealing) our intellectual property.  And when you remember that China's GDP is most certainly inflated propaganda, their achievements pale in comparison to Americas.

It also reminds us that trees don't grow up to the sky.  China's imitation economy growth has a limit and shorn of the creativity inherent in a free society, that limit is likely to be reached far sooner than many Chinaficianados expect.  Hat tip Carpe Diem

How Public Unions Loot the Taxpayer

Katherine Kersten explains the scam.  Only she doesn't put enough emphasis on the worst part:  defined benefit programs allow politicians to make iron clad promises today that won't be paid until they are long gone.  Art Laffer describes this as 'bad renter' behavior:  why do politically painful things like limit pay and benefits or save money when the benefits will simply fall to those who come after you?  Why not take the easy way out  and get the glory without the hassle?  This is why Governors across the nation are taking back collective bargaining rights for non-pay items:  it is a license to steal.  Hattip Carpe diem

"Here's the vicious cycle: Union leaders take money from union dues and pass it to Democratic candidates. Once elected, the politicians "negotiate" with the unions that helped elect them. In essence, the unions hire their own bosses who face them across the bargaining table.

Politicians repay unions' financial support by doling out hefty pensions and benefits. It's easy to be generous when you're spending taxpayers' money, not your own.  Elected officials aren't accountable to a board of directors or shareholders, and they don't have to worry about going bankrupt, as private companies do.

Government is a monopoly, or near monopoly, so it has no concerns about competitiveness or efficiency to keep it honest. To keep unions happy, politicians need only kick the can down the road.  Today, public unions are among the Democratic Party's largest donors, and form the core of its on-the-ground campaign machine.

But the gig is up.

Increasingly, taxpayers understand that the structural deficits this arrangement generates will bankrupt us. Already, taxpayer-subsidized pensions and benefits are edging out other spending priorities -- from schools to parks and highways."

Don't know much about T-Paw but he sure does good rhetoric

One of the challenges that my more liberal friends constantly remind me of is how to integrate the greed of Wall Street an other corporate rent seekers into the overall 'take back our nation' theme.  Leftists have continued to use 'Wall Street' to whip conservatives long after it ceased to be a Republican constinuency.  I don't know much about Tim Pawlenty but I think he's developed a potentially potent message that clarifies this distinction and more importantly, will resonate with the people.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says growing government, powerful unions and bailed-out businesses make up “a royal triangle of greed” in America.
The possible presidential candidate delivered his assessment Saturday to a large gathering of tea party supporters in Arizona.

Of course it helps that the unions, g-people and corporate welfare queens are behaving so childishly right now.  Keep it up, kids!  Hat tip Hot Air.

Unproven+inexperienced+leftist = incompetent

Chris Hitchens points out the utter irrational fecklessness of our singular leader's policy on Libya.  Despite having two practice gos with Tunisia and Egypt The One has completely flubbed his lines with Tripoli.  This is why we ask our leaders to demonstrate some substantive executive achievement before we let them have the most powerful job in the world.

The higher education bubble from a banker's perspective

Although since the debt is all federal, this is less of a financial transaction than indentured servitude because Federal debt cannot be abandoned or wiped clean in bankruptcy. Imagine that: the most 'progressive' institutions in our nations promoting indentured servitude on a mass scale for their own gain.

If I didn't know better, I'd call them fascists. Hattip; Instapundit.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The quest for a feminized society ends up hurting....women

As our society has become much more stringent in defining anti-social behavior it has medicated, prosecuted and stigmatized a world record proportion of the male population.  Add this to the rampant overcredentialization of our society via schooling which favors women's personalities over men's and you have a major dearth of marriageable males.  The result is mayhem that is particularly bad for women.  Congratulations, ladies, you've gotten what you want.  Slate has more:

But just as critical is the fact that a significant number of young men are faring rather badly in life, and are thus skewing the dating pool. It's not that the overall gender ratio in this country is out of whack; it's that there's a growing imbalance between the number of successful young women and successful young men. As a result, in many of the places where young people typically meet—on college campuses, in religious congregations, in cities that draw large numbers of twentysomethings—women outnumber men by significant margins. (In one Manhattan ZIP code, for example, women account for 63 percent of 22-year-olds.)
The idea that sex ratios alter sexual behavior is well-established. Analysis of demographic data from 117 countries has shown that when men outnumber women, women have the upper hand: Marriage rates rise and fewer children are born outside marriage. An oversupply of women, however, tends to lead to a more sexually permissive culture. The same holds true on college campuses. In the course of researching our book Premarital Sex in America, my co-author and I assessed the effects of campus sex ratios on women's sexual attitudes and behavior. We found that virginity is more common on those campuses where women comprise a smaller share of the student body, suggesting that they have the upper hand. By contrast, on campuses where women outnumber men, they are more negative about campus men, hold more negative views of their relationships, go on fewer dates, are less likely to have a boyfriend, and receive less commitment in exchange for sex.

Hypergamy and the collapse of the 'marriageable' man.

It is no secret that women want to 'marry up'.  But with a quarter of men defined as 'criminals' by our feminized society the number of men who are graduating college and getting the types of wealth and status that women want is collapsing - it's at 40% of all college grads and falling right now.  The result is functional polygamy - in the African American community, where the collapse is complete, a relatively small number of high status men sire a large proportion of the children - lawless polygamy.  Among the chock full of education elites, frustrated or lesbian women simply go to the sperm bank where they can buy genetics the way that cattle breeders do.  And they all want tall, blonde, blue eyed with high SATs.  You know, the master race.

In a word, polygamy.  Ain't our modern social democracy grand?  Hattip Instapundit

SEX ON CAMPUS, and the implications of female hypergamy. “As just about everyone (from Dennis Prager to pickup artists) has figured out by now, women tend to want men of high status, men they look up to — literally, in terms of height, and figuratively, in terms of social standing, income, and education. If women systematically outpace men on these status markers — as they are beginning to — they will have to compete for men they deem suitable at a less-than-even ratio. There’s nothing we can do about this that I can think of, but it will not be good for marriage.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

The new revenue normal

Professor Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution summarizes the findings from a study about state tax revenues.  It seems that at the same level of GDP tax revenues are 10 percent below where they were pre-recession.  Taxes are derived from incomes, property and consumption, with special emphasis on certain types of 'sinful' consumption.  Our straightened circumstances have reduced private income, asset values and (dare I say it?) sin (at least the taxable form) relative to the previous equilibrium even as 'stimulus' stimulated spending continued to soar into unreality.

GDP has now recovered to pre-crash levels, but how about state revenue?
On average it has returned to 89% of peak levels.  In Louisiana it is about 72 percent of peak levels, the lowest figure in the group.  In North Dakota it is over 110 percent.  Only New Hampshire and North Dakota are above 100 percent of peak levels.
I take these numbers to be one measure (not the only measure) of how much we had been overvaluing our actual wealth, pre-crisis.
Here is the on-line version of the WSJ article, it does not reproduce all of the information in the paper edition, pp.A6-7.

The reality crashing down on us is that we can't afford all of the 'good' things that government has been providing.  We either need to consume less of these things or get a lot more productivity out of the people who produce them.

Which is the true point of the Wisconsin foofera.  And of course is why the Unionistas are so ticked.

Don't fear the reaper

A limited government shut down will deprive a whole bunch of leftists of their jobs and funding.  Which from where I sit seems like a good thing.  Oh please, please, please, whatever you do Bre'r Fox, don't throw me into that briar patch!  Instatip.

JAMES PETHOKOUKIS: Why A U.S. Government Shutdown Is Worth It. All of a sudden, the conventional wisdom on this seems to be shifting.

I love that new word: "Fleebaggers"

Thanks to the fugitive Wisconsin legislators for adding to the grand tapestry that is the English language.

Tom Jefferson's fears have been realized

From my friend Al Colby:

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."
     - - Thomas Jefferson

Bureaucrats with Guns #112

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

WAR AGAINST PHOTOGRAPHY UPDATE: Police in Weare, NH arrest man for recording traffic stop. My message to the Weare police: What are you afraid of? Do you have something to hide? If you’re innocent, you should have nothing to fear . . . .

Our Talking Heads: "Same as it ever was, same as it ever was"

The WSJ summarizes the wildly different reporting on 'incendiary rhetoric' between left and right.  This is so predictable.  It is also why I get so barking mad when my more 'progressive' friends accuse conservatives of being 'uncivil'.  Before criticizing someone else's mote, pull that two by four out of your......eye.

The only time network journalists fretted about the Wisconsin protests getting out of hand was when their favorite bogeyman, the Tea Party, became involved — as ABC's Barbara Pinto did on Saturday's Good Morning America: "Today, those demonstrations are expected to get more intense and more polarizing — we're watching police officers arrive here this morning. And that is because the Tea Party is staging a counter-demonstration of its own today."

Just for the record: I'm very right wing

"Rightwing candidates are better looking than their leftwing counterparts, something they benefit from during elections, according to a study conducted by Swedish and Finnish economists," reports Agence France-Presse. The lonely economists, who studied candidates only in Finland, speculate about what it all means:
"One possible explanation is that people who are seen or consider themselves beautiful tend to be more anti-egalitarian and rightwing," Niclas Berggren, one of the three co-authors of the study, told AFP Wednesday. . . .
Explaining the findings, he said that globally, "the left perhaps traditionally has used a more rational approach."
The right meanwhile, "has been more conscious of the importance of looks," he said, pointing to the examples of Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin in the United States.
"Bookworm," an anonymous blogress, has an explanation less flattering to unsightly liberals: "My theory is that unattractive people are often angry, unhappy people. They feel as if the world has treated them unfairly. They resent other people for having better looks and, with those better looks, having better luck in life."
But what about New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie? The New York Times's Michael Shear writes: "A heavyset man, Mr. Christie is often described as fat by his critics"--a gratuitous insult that Shear lamely attributes to anonymous "critics." Maybe liberals just tend to be jerks.
Once again, hattip Jim Taranto

SEIU wants to 'smash 'em into the ground'? Civility! Respect! New tone!

Also from Taranto:

A boilerplate note on the website of the Service Employees International Union informs us that "SEIU welcomes civil discussion about Richard Negri's article Dropkick Murphys release new song in support of Wisconsin workers!"
That article quotes a statement from the Massachusetts hardcore punk band: "[We] would like to take a moment to acknowledge the struggles of the working people of Wisconsin and to pledge our support and solidarity by releasing the song 'Take Em Down' from our upcoming album. We think it's appropriate at the moment and hope you like it. . . . The Dropkick Murphys Stand With Wisconsin!!!!!"
They don't really stand with Wisconsin but with Wisconsin's antagonists in the current dispute, namely the unions representing Wisconsin's employees. Here are some of the new song's lyrics:
When the boss comes callin' we gotta organize
Let em know
We gotta take the bastards down
Let them know
We gotta smash them to the ground
Let em know
We gotta take the bastards down

This must be what they meant by 'climate of hate'

It just gets better and better, doesn't it?  From Taranto in the WSJ.

Speaking of which, do you remember the middle-aged white man with the mustache who said that Justice Clarence Thomas should be put “back in the fields,” that Justice Samuel Alito “should go back to Sicily,” and that Fox News chief Roger Ailes “should be strung up and–but, ah, I don’t know. Kill the bastard”? Breitbart has now identified him as Don Wallace, a former president of a public-sector union, the United Firefighters of Los Angeles.

It's good to be owned by the government

GM Gets special tax break worth billions.  Natch, they're part of the tax eater's coalition and they and their unions will be sure to recycle tens of millions of that money back into their tax eating friend's campaigns.

The U.S. Treasury is giving up $14 billion in tax revenue because of a sweetheart deal it's giving General Motors.
The automaker is expected to post its first profitable year since 2004 when it reports fourth-quarter results on Thursday. But GM won't have to worry about being hit with a big tax bill because billions in previous losses will provide shelter for years to come.
That break will reduce GM's U.S. tax bill by an estimated $14 billion in the coming years, and its global taxes by close to $19 billion, according to a company filing. ...
While it's unclear why GM was allowed to carry over its losses, some experts insist that GM got preferential treatment.
"A lot of things were done differently here," said Heidi Sorvino, head of the bankruptcy practice at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith. She said that the tax break was just another example of how GM's bankruptcy process was unlike any previous bankruptcies.
Officials with the Treasury Department and GM insist that the tax break was not special treatment, and that any company going through bankruptcy could have gotten the same breaks.
Treasury spokesman Mark Paustenbach said GM's ability to hang onto the tax breaks it had before bankruptcy "depends on the application of long-standing tax rules to GM's particular facts. The Treasury Department did not publish any guidance during the economic downturn that changed these rules either in general or for corporations that received government assistance."

NEA General Counsel admits the truth about the Teacher's Union

I have long argued that the 'progressive left' is actually fascist but it is really good to see 'progressive' leaders confirm my thesis.  Also from Mike Graham's essay.

But do the unions really care? Bullying legislators and abusing taxpayers is nothing new for organized labor. In his 2009 farewell address, former National Education Association general counsel Bob Chanin laid it out on why his union had been so effective:
“It is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. [It is] because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of million of dollars in dues each year because they believe that .  .  .  the union can protect their rights and advance their interests.”

True. (Giggle)

But Gadafi would never blow himself up the way these union boys have.  But I thank them for their efforts.   Mike Graham has more here.  Hattip Instapundit.

The only person who had worse press coverage this week than organized labor was Moammar Gadhafi — and he had to bomb his own people to get it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Social Democracy crowds out the great things government used to do

One of the sad things about our bankrupt bribery state is that all of the robbing Peter to pay Paula and vice versa has squeezed out the great and important things that our government used to have the money to do, like R&D and great public works.  In some cases the crowding out could be deadly, in 1859 a solar storm wiped out the nascent telegraph network.  A similar storm today would wipe out much of our satellite and above ground wireless network.  It should be a priority of our government to harden our society from these existential threats.  Instead we're blowing it on triple cost, same results schooling, double paid bureaucrats and bribes to the senior lobby.

All your thoughts are ours....the pinnacle of statism

Legal Insurrection points to a leftist legal ruling on Obamacare which in essence confirms the Obami argument that not only is any action governed by the Commerce Clause, any lack of action is governed.  Therefore anything one does or does not due is subject to Federal control.  That logic of course means that any thought, whether or not it translates into an action is subject to state control.  If one decides not to do something, one's decision may be compelled.  Aside from outright murder, the left fascists now assert that there is nothing, I repeat, nothing outside the ambit of wise and all seeing state lawyers if they choose to regulate it.  Amazing.  And people wonder why I call them fascists.

That seems to be the import of the ruling by federal Judge Gladys Kessler in upholding the Obamacare mandate in a suit brought by a group of private plaintiffs in Mead v. Holder (pg. 45, emphasis mine):

As previous Commerce Clause cases have all involved physical activity, as opposed to mental activity, i.e. decision-making, there is little judicial guidance on whether the latter falls within Congress’s power....However, this Court finds the distinction, which Plaintiffs rely on heavily, to be of little significance. It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not “acting,” especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice.Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality. 
Our thoughts are now actions.  There literally is nothing the federal government cannot regulate provided there is even a hypothetical connection to the economy, even if the connection at most is in the future.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Good News: US clothing and footwear costs as a percentage of income fall to an all time low

Despite our pain, our objective material circumstances continue to get better.  We are truly blessed.  Of course like food, this is a sector largely free of government manipulation where true consumer choice and competitive rivalry flourish.

You see, picking up after ourselves would take jobs away from government workers

Datatechguy interviewing people after a union Wisconsin solidarity rally in Boston.  At the link:  interviews with National Park employees after the two national rallies this fall and the difference in cleanliness between the (heavily attended) Tea Party rally and the (lightly attended) counter rally by "progressives" two weeks later.

Draw your own conclusions.

Public Employee Unions: A key part of the 'Progressive" National Chicago Machine

And Da' President takes care of his machine.  After all money to public employees gets recycled straight back to the machine to pass more laws giving more money to....(wait for it)....public employees.  Capiche?  Mike Barone:

Everyone has priorities. During the past week Barack Obama has found no time to condemn the attacks that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has launched on the Libyan people.
But he did find time to be interviewed by a Wisconsin television station and weigh in on the dispute between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the state’s public employee unions. Walker was staging “an assault on unions,” he said, and added that “public employee unions make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”
Enormous contributions, yes — to the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign. Unions, most of whose members are public employees, gave Democrats some $400 million in the 2008 election cycle. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the biggest public employee union, gave Democrats $90 million in the 2010 cycle.
Follow the money, Washington reporters like to say. The money in this case comes from taxpayers, present and future, who are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.

America: World Leader in Affordable Food

Despite the best efforts of  'progressives' to make it dearer, food is more affordable in the US than anywhere else in the world.

Hat tip Carpe Diem

How can this be? Everyone knows that Global Warming and greedy humans are destroying everything

3. Maine fishermen caught a record 93.4 million pounds of lobster in 2010 valued at more than $308 million. The Department of Marine Resources said the harvest of Maine's signature seafood broke the previous record of 81.2 million pounds, set in 2009.

Hat tip Carpe Diem

This is what happens when 'stimulus' runs out

The effect of the 'stimulus' and the various other Obamist interventionist wheezes on residential housing prices was to postpone the inevitable correction in asset values which is happening now.  What next oh special Big Ones?

It is truly amazing how many different types of commodities (housing, food, education, energy) that our 'compassionate' government as a matter of policy seeks to raise the costs of.  If I didn't know better I would think that their interventions and subsidies and regs were designed to help the producers, not the people.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Linkage of virtual and physical economics gets tighter - Amazon Prime offers free movie streaming

Amazon has done what I thought not possible ten  years ago:  become the single site online for an incredibly wide range of products and media.  Their business model has both economies of scale and scope as people establish an economic relationship with them that could transcend that that people have with financial institutions, stores, media companies, etc.  It's the combination of physical, financial and virtual connection that is so powerful.  And one that neither Apple nor Google has....

BIG NEWS AT AMAZON: “Unlimited, commercial-free movie streaming” for Amazon Prime members, at no extra charge.

What hath Jeff Bezos wrought?

Charge!!! Oh crap, Run Away! Run Away!

The Obami reverse field, attack to the rear.

YA THINK? White House Denies Assisting Wisconsin Union, But Ties Run Deep. That Obama is backing away from this is a clear indication of how things are going for the unions.

Roger Simon: Leftism as Reaction

It almost goes without saying, but screenwriter Roger Simon says it best:

So why has our left become so reactionary, so unwilling or unable to adapt to a changed world that they “act out” with all the juvenility of adolescents deprived of the family car keys? Some say it is because they have replaced religious faith with politics and I, an agnostic, see some truth in that. But there is more. Liberalism has become a mask for greed in our culture — a way of hiding excessive selfishness from others and, importantly, from the self. It’s a deflection, really.
We see this in the billionaire extremes of a George Soros and a John Kerry, but also now in the demonstrators in the streets of Madison. Many are suffering economically in our country. Huge numbers are unemployed. But when asked to pull together for the good of the mean, the liberals, the ones who pay the greatest lip service to equality, say NO.
They hide behind “Union! Union! Union!” and “No pasaran!,” but it’s all a fake. When the chips are down, our modern liberals are overcome by their own sense of entitlement. Christopher Lasch’s Culture of Narcissism has infected them to such a degree reality cannot intrude. I get my pension even if there’s no money, even if youhave to pay for it and you’re broke without any pension of your own.
Socialism, my fat fanny! It’s just plain old selfish greed.
I still call it fascist - the focus on amassing power to the exclusion of all other values. That is why the unions in Madison can at the same time Shriek 'don't touch my healthcare' and cheer Obamacare: they are privileged today and unlike reactionaries of old, they believe that through 'revolutionary' action, they can privilege themselves even more in the future.

In a word: fascist.

Because skin color is a key consideration when choosing a lawyer

Hat tip Instapundit

BECAUSE NOTHING’S MORE IMPORTANT THAN DIVERSITY: California Bar Asks U.S. News To Add Diversity Component To Law School Rankings. I actually hope they do this, because it will remind people that the U.S. News rankings have only a limited connection to educational quality.

Fascism Doctor Style

A number of Wisconsin doctors were videotaped writing fraudulent Doctor's excuses to state employees so that they could shirk their jobs and keep protesting.   So there you have it:  people with a privileged status helping public servants divert time and labor away from the people it is owed to and instead spend it on their quest for money and power.  Fascism is as fascism does. Here's what the Atlantic had to say about it.

But last week some of these weary warriors carried their patient advocacy too far. In videos breathlessly presented throughout the conservative mediasphere this weekend [scroll down to see], doctor after doctor is videotaped writing patently fraudulent sick notes so that the protesting teachers (whose contracts specify that missing work without an excuse can result in dismissal) can keep marching on against the state's union-busting Republican government.

After viewing the videos at my request last night, Dr. Arthur Derse called me up exclaiming, "Holy mackerel! It's much worse than it looked in the paper. I'm stunned, absolutely stunned." Dr. Derse is the Director of Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities a the Medical College of Wisconsin. "When all's said and done, it's really the profession of medicine that has the black eye in this case," he says.

There is no question these doctors are masking political opinion in the white coat of the medical profession, Dr. Derse believes. "The videos are pretty damning."

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"
Hat tip Instapundit.

Is Wisconsin our Bonus March

Herbert Hoover's treatment of the impoverished bonus marchers who came to Washington asking for help at the start of the Great Depression became a metaphor for the 'heartlessness' of Republicans.  Could the Wisconsin brouhaha likewise become a metaphor for the 'greed' of Democrats?  One can only hope.  Regardless, as Glenn Reynolds says:  "Clarity is coming to our politics".  About damn time.  Byron York has more:

“Walker has stood firm in the fight, but the truth is a lot of Republicans were nervous last week when crowds of protesters showed up and Democrats headed for the hills. What if the public supported the unions? After going home to their districts over the weekend, Republicans are feeling better. Many heard from constituents telling them to hang tough, and voters were especially unhappy with Democrats for hightailing it out of state. . . . In fact, for many Republican supporters, the big question is not whether the fight is worth the trouble but whether there’s some way the GOP can steamroll over the Democrats. But that’s not going to happen, at least for now. Republicans believe they are going to win without using extraordinary measures. . . . At the heart of all this, Republicans and Democrats are realizing there might be a gap between them that is bigger than they realized. To Republicans, the budget fight has involved the widespread shirking of responsibilities: teachers walking out on students, legislators running away from their offices, even doctors abandoning medical standards to make excuses for perfectly healthy teacher/protesters. To Democrats, the fight has touched a core issue; anything is justified to preserve union benefits.”

Of course Columbia has long been the white hot center of no class

This is how the Ivies treat veterans who express their opinions in an open forum:

They teach many things at Columbia University — but common decency appears not to be among them. Nor how to recognize personal honor.
Consider the treatment given last week to Anthony Maschek, a Purple Heart combat vet of the Iraq war, when he spoke up in support of a return of reserve officer training to Columbia after a 40-plus-year absence. It was, in a word, disgraceful.
Maschek, a former US Army staff sergeant, was hospitalized for two years as he recuperated from 11 gunshot wounds received in a firefight near Kirkuk.
As The Post’s Annie Karni reported Sunday, he’s now a freshman economics major at the Ivy League school. Not surprising, he supports a return of ROTC to Columbia — the program having been banished during the anti-Vietnam War student tantrums of the ’60s. . . . The response? Laughter.
And the usual sophistries about gay rights, economic justice, America’s hobnailed boots, whatever — the same bushwa dragged out by the academy whenever it feels the need to deflect attention from the obvious, which is that it hates the military and has for more than a generation.

Hat tip Instapundit

Asymmetrical Mass

Seth Godin wrote a great column today about what he calls “Asymmetrical Mass”.  In essence he’s saying that reciprocity doesn’t scale well because of the free rider problem.  Shannon Coffin wrote a great parallel piece:  “Why Socialism Doesn’t Scale”.  Essentially for the same reasons:  things that make sense one on one don’t work when thousands or millions of people must coordinate.  Our extrapolation of our personal interaction experience to the universe of interactions doesn’t work.  It doesn’t scale.

Asymmetrical mass favors, a tragedy of our commons

If the farmer and the baker make a trade, both win. The farmer benefits from having someone turn his wheat into flour and bake it, and the baker gets money from the bread he sells that he can use to buy things he needs (like food).

This sample math of the transaction (Pareto, et. al.) created the world we live in. It also is connected to the idea of a favor.

A favor is the first half of a transaction. I ask you to do something for me today, something where I will probably benefit a lot in exchange for a small effort on your part. Inherent in the idea of a favor, though, is that one day soon, the transaction will be completed. One day, I will do something for you that gives you a benefit.
As Pareto and any economist will tell you, we willfully engage in this transaction because we'll benefit. Maybe not right now, but soon.
By spreading the idea of the trade over time, the favor makes trades more likely to occur, and also makes sure that they are even more efficient. If I’m already holding open the heavy door, holding it two more seconds for you is easy for me. And then, the next time you’re holding open the door, you’ll be more likely to hold it for me.

If I recommend you for a job, it doesn’t take much effort on my part, but you might get three years of gainful employment out of it. And of course, you’re happy to complete that transaction as soon as you can, because no one wants to walk around owing favors.

The efficiency caused by this sort of exchange is so extraordinary that we built it into the social contract. I’m not just selfish if I let the door slam as you walk toward the elevator--I’m rude. I’m risking becoming an outcast.

Favors are so ingrained that the next step was inevitable: Mass Symmetric Favors. Halloween is a great example: How else to explain a hundred million people buying half a billion Snickers bars? We give away the candy because it’s expected, and because people gave us candy when we were kids, and because people are giving our kids candy as well. To opt out is uncivilized.

School taxes create a similar obligation. If you don’t pay when you’re childless, there will be no one to pay when your kids are in school. (And you have to live in a world with uneducated people). And so the transactions are spread out over time, everyone giving and taking, not so much keeping score as knowing that a key part of civil society is to participate in these mass fungible favors.


There’s a big but. The internet and other connecting tools now make it easy to create the asymmetrical mass favor--in which one person can ask a large number of people, some of them strangers, some friendlies, some friends--for an accommodation that may very well never be repaid.

The simple example is the person running for the Metro North commuter train that leaves at 5:20. She’s only 2 minutes late. If she misses it, she’s delayed half an hour. Surely the people on the train can wait a hundred and twenty seconds.

Not really. Not if there are 300 people on the train. That’s a one-hundred hour penalty on the passengers, and if there’s no reasonable expectation of each of them somehow finishing the transaction one day in the future, the entire system will fall apart. No, in the abstract, we WANT the conductor to say ‘sorry.’

It gets far more dramatic when we think about spamming 10,000 or a hundred thousand people with your resume or plea for help.

The problem is that under the cover of the social contract, under the guise of doing what’s civilized, what some people are doing is beginning exchanges that they and those they engage with know will never be consummated. She's not transacting, she's taking.

And people resent her for it. “It can’t hurt to ask,” is almost never true, but here, especially, it hurts a lot. What the person looking for the favor is doing is actually undoing the tacit agreement we all live by, by seeking a favor when the recipient has no real (social) choice in the matter.
The favor is too important to be discarded, but the internet is making things that look like favors (but are actually asymmetrical takings) more and more common. It's putting pressure on people who are usually open to a favor to do the difficult thing and just say no.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rational expectations are so damned......rational

As Kevin Williamson points out:  spending by government is a tax that must be paid by someone. Either taxpayers today, taxpayers tomorrow or bondholders tomorrow.  There are no free lunches.  Rational choice theory (pioneered by my U of C Prof and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker) says that markets collectively recognize this and modify their behavior to fit the new expected level of of future state takings.  Therefore, the notion that one can 'stimulate' (aka 'fool') markets into behaving like 'happy days are here again' by shifting money from wealth producing sectors in the future to wealth destroying ones today is clearly false.  Indeed, by reducing overall market expectations for wealth creation, you actually do the opposite which drives the GDP multiplier for stimulus spending below 1, making it net depressive.  Which of course is what has happened.  And of course something that pretty much any literate economist could have predicted.  After all the Germans knew it.  And of course so did pre-Obama Christine Romer - exploring the true macroeconomic effects of fiscal policy was how she built her reputation.  It's amazing how stupid joining a Presidential administration can make one.  As Sinclair Lewis said:   "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Jennifer Rubin at Wapo:

German policymakers do think the United States is misguided as a matter of economic reasoning. "We think they're wrong," says one top official. "We think you don't get the multiplier they say." The multiplier is the measure of how much economic activity results from emergency government spending. Discussions of the multiplier were at the center of the debates over the Obama stimulus plan. Christina Romer and the president's other economic advisers argued that the multiplier would be around 1.6--the government would create $1.60 worth of economic activity for every dollar it spent. At those rates, who can afford not to stimulate? "Our research says the multiplier is more like .60," says the German official. If he is correct, then a stimulus plan can actually deaden an economy rather than stimulate it. If he is correct, you might have been as well off to have taken the stimulus money and thrown it away.

So explain precisely why this isn't fascist?

Creating fake people to promote the state's version of events. Hattip Instapundit
TRANSPARENCY: U.S. Gov‘t Software Creates ’Fake People’ to Spread Message via Social Networking. “The US government is offering private intelligence companies contracts to create software to manage “fake people” on social media sites and create the illusion of consensus on controversial issues. The contract calls for the development of ‘Persona Management Software’ which would help the user create and manage a variety of distinct fake profiles online. The job listing was discussed in recently leaked emails from the private security firm HBGary after an attack by internet activist last week.”
Break it up, break it all up.

I love the Madison teacher's unions - they are so clueless

KIDS? EDUCATION? THE HELL WITH ‘EM: Madison schools will close again on Monday — the 4th school day in a row — to accommodate teachers protesting at the Capitol. They don’t care about your kids. They care about themselves, and about money, and political power.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Teachers get personal with Scott Walker’s kids. Fire ‘em all and institute vouchers.

Heaven is when your opponents prove your point on national TV.  Fascist is as fascist does.  Hattip Instapundit

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Can the second crucifixion be far behind?

Evan "Obama is the second coming of Christ" Thomas of Newsweek:  "Obama's budget a profile in cowardice."

It must be fool's spring because there are Obama-rubes poppin' up everywhere....

Hat tip Instapundit.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why socialism doesn't scale

Shannon Love explains a simple but evidently elusive concept about information and decision making.    Ignorance of things like this is evidence of just how degraded our higher education establishment has become.  Hat tip Chicago Boyz.

The fundamental problem with socialism is that it won’t scale organizationally. Too many people look at very small scale communal organizations of a few dozen or even a few hundred people and assume that form of organization can scale up to the hundreds of millions.
The best way I’ve found to explain it is to use the example that everyone has experience with: a group of people deciding on where to have lunch.
One person can decide easily, two require a quick conversation, but the length of the conversation increases exponentially as more people are added. By the time you reach more than a dozen or so people, you start having to delegate individuals to go around and get everyone’s opinion. By the time you have two to three dozen, you start having votes and committees. Planning for a hundred people requires votes, committees and a week’s lead time. Deciding for thousands requires specialists and months of collecting opinions and planning. Deciding for 10,000 or more is simply impossible.
Everybody understands intuitively that the more people you add to the lunch group, the longer the decisions take to make, the more time and resources go into making the decision and the more mediocre the final choice — e.g., it takes hours with numerous phone calls and emails and everyone ends up eating bland, overcooked chicken because everyone finds it the least offensive dish.
What socialists don’t understand is that all forms of collective decision making suffer from this scaling problem. They naively assume that because they can imagine how they would make the right decision in any particular circumstance (where to have lunch with a couple of friends) that therefore we can create a real-world political system to do the same thing (decide where 300 million people will have lunch).
Socialism and collective decision-making in general always lead to slow and costly decisions that result in mediocre outcomes. In the end, we feel lucky if we eat before 3pm and that we find enough ketchup to hide the taste of the entree.

I am shocked, shocked to find that racial discrimination is going on at our colleges and Universities

Hat tip instapundit.

Why is the Tea Party counter protest on a Saturday?

The union protests all happened during the week, during working hours by people who skipped out on their obligations to their students and clients.  By contrast, he Tea Party counter protest is occurring on a Saturday.  Why?

It seems that the Tea Party is filled with people who put their employers, customers and clients first.  Union members?  Not so much.

Another example of how state power corrupts - Doctors handing out fake excuses to union protesters

The state, by separating consumption from payment creates immense opportunities for corruption.  If parents paid the teachers of their children directly none of the Madison farce would be going on.  The parents wouldn't stand for it so the teachers wouldn't dare.  That's how real markets work:  they hold everyone accountable by locating the transaction as close as possible to where the value is delivered.  The fascist's core strategy for power is to obscure that relationship as much as possible and place themselves in the middle as the arbiter of the exchange.  The result:  our current rolling bankruptcy.

This is corroborated by Ann Althouse: “I saw these people myself today. At first I thought it was some sort of comic street theater, but it was, apparently, real doctors, defending what they were doing. I’ll have my video interview up soon. I asked if it was dishonest or unethical, and the answer was that everyone has symptoms, perhaps a migraine, diarrhea, or insomnia. I suggested ‘activitis.’” Someone should complain to the medical licensing board.

Hat tip Instapundit.

Fascist governance in graphs

The key to maximizing state power is making sure that large proportions of the population are dependent upon said state for their daily bread.  The more dependent they are on state action, the more dependent they will be upon those who control the levers of state power.  Stanley Kurtz points out that the Obami's utterly irresponsible actions are simply an effort to get so many people so deeply dependent upon the government that they will form a permanent governing coalition of takers that can overwhelm the producers.  The battles in places like Madison are simply the front lines in this push.

It's worked in Chicago (well not for Chiicago, whose population plummeted in the last decade and who is at risk of being passed by Houston as the Third city), why not in America?  Hat tip Carpe Diem

What's really going on in Wisconsin

All of the teachers (and their poor pupils) manning the barricades in Madison think that they are fighting for their pay and benefits.  But the reason the mobs have been bussed into Madison is rather different:  the Walker bill directly targets the Union Bosses' power and money.  John Fund explains:

Labor historian Fred Siegel offers further reasons why unions are manning the barricades. Mr. Walker would require that public-employee unions be recertified annually by a majority vote of all their members, not merely by a majority of those that choose to cast ballots. In addition, he would end the government’s practice of automatically deducting union dues from employee paychecks. For Wisconsin teachers, union dues total between $700 and $1,000 a year.

“Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues, gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits,” Mr. Siegel told me. After New York City’s Transport Workers Union lost the right to automatic dues collection in 2007 following an illegal strike, its income fell by more than 35% as many members stopped ponying up.

Union bosses can live with pay cuts for their members - just ask the UAW.  What they will not tolerate is a dimunition of their power, wealth and perqs.

I think a rational fear of the Obami also plays into this

Hat tip Instapundit

SO IS THIS THE HOPE, OR THE CHANGE? Fear of ‘Catastrophic’ Crash Rising Despite Bull Market. “In an unprecedented move, the number of investors fearing a catastrophic stock market crash is rising even with the stock market at 2 ½ year highs. The unusual dislocation comes from two distinct reasons: a lack of trust in the U.S. financial markets following the so-called Flash Crash last May and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2007.”

Just in case anyone has any illusions about our 'poor' public school teachers

And at least 10 weeks of vacation a year.   Hat tip PJ Tatler

The thoughtful sophisticated party

Jay Nordlinger grew up conservative in Ann Arbor - the tales he tells of his childhood are is in turns ridiculous, hilarious and deeply troubling.  They make him a trenchant observer of what is going on in Madison.  School teachers screaming and beating drums in the halls.  Making violent threats on people's families.  Throwing curses.  The thoughtful party indeed.  It is only when someone is under stress that their true character emerges.  Progressives, meet thyself.

This Associated Press report on events in Wisconsin is interesting. For example, we read, “As Republicans tried to begin Senate business Thursday, observers in the gallery screamed ‘Freedom! Democracy! Unions!’” That’s what you want in the gallery, right? Screaming. How democratic and civilized.
We also read, “Protesters clogged the hallway outside the Senate chamber, beating on drums, holding signs deriding Walker and pleading for lawmakers to kill the bill.”
“Beating on drums”? Beating on drums? These were public-school teachers, right? In any case, they were public employees. Beating on things is what little kids do when they’re not getting their way, or demanding something. Of course, the beating of drums is meant to menace and intimidate too.
America’s liberals must be very proud. Mobbing the legislature and beating on drums! Bear in mind that the Left is the thinking, sophisticated, and humane party in America.

Regulations without benefits

Often laws and regulations are promulgated simply to show the public the politicians and bureaucrats are 'doing something' about a 'problem'.  Yet they often have no or even pernicious results and always have costs:  in money, in wasted time, in liberty.  And every one is an opportunity for rent seekers to manipulate the rules to enrich themselves.  "Menu Calorie Counts" is a good example:

As Michelle Malkin wrote this week, calorie counts on menus simply do not work: A new study by the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School found that calorie counts on menus do nothing to sway people’s food choices.
This is just the latest study to come to this conclusion — it joins a number of others showing the same results. Another recent study, conducted in Great Britain where menu labeling is mandatory (as it will be in the United States thanks to Obamacare’s passage), found customers’ menu choices stayed the same despite the information provided to them. A study conducted at NYU’s School of Medicine and published in the February 15, 2011, edition of the International Journal of Obesityfound that menu labels have little effect on the food choices made by either teens or their parents.
In 2009, a joint NYU/Yale study published in the journal Health Affairs examined 1,100 customers at four fast-food restaurants in poor neighborhoods in New York City (where obesity rates are high) and found that only half the customers noticed the prominently posted calorie counts. Of those, only 28 percent said the information had influenced their ordering; nine out of ten of those said they had made healthier choices as a result. But upon inspection of their receipts, researchers found that these same customers who said they made healthier choices actually ordered items that were higher in calories.

Tim Geithner admits on camera to Congress that Obama's budget is 'unsustainable'

I presume "The One" believes that the press will shill, the people won't notice and economic gravity will be suspended.  Of course a competent chief executive would have made sure that his direct reports had the narrative down cold before they wandered up Capitol Hill.  But Barack Obama doesn't fit in that category, does he?  Hat tip PJ Tatler

You gotta love it

Castroism Wisconsin Style

I love our irrational leftist opponents, but what they are doing reminds Jay Nordlinger more of Castro's Cuba than the dairy state.  Where did these people get this massively overwrought sense of entitlement?  And how do we help them recover from it?  Read the whole thing:

Someone wrote me that the “public employees” in Wisconsin reminded her of Ch├ívez and his goons in Venezuela. Actually, they remind me of Cuba. There, the dictatorship sends its loyalists to the homes of those suspected of not being loyalists. They scream, beat on things, denounce, and threaten. The idea is, the “disloyal” Cubans are supposed to quake in their homes, and they do. These tactics are called actos de repudio — “acts of repudiation.” They are a mainstay of the regime.
In Wisconsin, the schoolteachers and other “public employee” beauties are going to the homes of Republican lawmakers, screaming, denouncing, etc. The situation has gotten very bad. We know where you live. Yesterday, I had a talk with Sen. Randy Hopper, recorded here. Republican lawmakers have received threats, and credible ones: threats to their physical well-being. They are not disclosing their movements, whether they are sleeping in their own homes. They are working with law enforcement on how best to protect themselves and their families.

Unfortunately unionism often seems to degenerate into thuggery.  After all, it is simply legalized extortion.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The bluest of the bloozies appear to be.....blewed.

Pollsters and doctrinaire leftists agree:  public employees striking against the public is bad politics.  I for one welcome our irrational political opponents and wish them well in their efforts to destroy their reputations with the voters.  It reminds me most of how the southern racists behaved in the sixties:  they were so convinced of their righteousness that they did and said hideous things.  And with each passing day they got weaker, and weaker, and weaker.   More.  Faster.  Harder.  Anybody have vicious dogs or water cannons we can give these cats?  Or maybe they can dress in pink sheets.

Fun.  Thanks, Instapundit

FRANK LUNTZ: Wisconsin Union Action Is Backfiring. Really? A bunch of tax-paid people walk off their tax-paid jobs to demand more money from taxpayers, and that might play badly with . . . taxpayers?
Even Joe Klein thinks this is dumb. “An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that. . . . The events in Wisconsin are a rebalancing of power that, after decades of flush times and lax negotiating, had become imbalanced. That is also something that, from time to time, happens in a democracy.”

This is likely what the education market's revenue curve is going to look like someday

One can hope.

These people are 'shaping the younger generation' - you know that don't you?

Perhaps the most unethical thing one can do is to exploit children for money.  Which is of course what the Wisconsin NEA is doing.  You simply don't do this, gang.  It's unethical and frankly immoral.  These people need to be barred from any access to children. Of course I guess I should thank them for proving my point that they are fascists whose clients are nothing more than props in their quest for money and power.  Hat tip National Review

Madison — On Valentine’s Day, over 100 students in tiny Stoughton, Wis., marched out of their classrooms and into the unseasonably warm air. They had decided to protest Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s new bill to require higher pension and health-care contributions from state and local government employees.
As a student “union” leader barked into a megaphone in the background, one high-school junior expressed his concern for his teachers. “A lot of my teachers have been really concerned about this — they don’t know if they’re going to have jobs next year or not,” he worried.
Two days later, schools in Madison canceled classes so teachers could join 20,000 people in picketing the capitol building. A 700-student entourage from Madison East High School, urged on by their teachers, marched the three miles from their school to the capitol. Wisconsin’s MacIver Institute, armed with a video camera, asked one of the students what the group was there to protest. “We’re trying to stop whatever this dude is doing,” he eruditely explained.
This “dude” is trying to fill a $3.6 billion hole in the state’s budget by requiring state and local government employees to pay 5.8 percent of their salary towards their pensions (most currently pay nothing), and increasing their share of health-care premiums to 12 percent (double their current share). Governor Walker’s plan would also eliminate collective bargaining for almost everything except salary for government employees.