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Archive for February, 2010

Chile’s earthquake: it’s a fair question

February 27, 2010 Leave a comment

How long before earthquakes like Chile’s are blamed on the internal-combustion engine and/or America’s combustive foreign policy?

The end state of liberalism …

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

… I submit, is that its policies end up entirely at odds with themselves. So, not only do they make little practical sense in and of themselves; but they end up contradicting each other on top of that. With limitless rights (usually funded by others) and limitless responsibilities (generally only born by those who do the funding), it can only be so. From today’s Washington Post, about the lack of bank lending last year:

But [FDIC Chairman] Bair said that the vast majority of the decline [in lending last year] was the result of lending cutbacks by the largest banks, which have tightened qualification standards and increased the proportion of money that they hold in reserve against unexpected losses.

“Large banks do need to do a better job of stepping up to the plate here,” Bair said.

I thought reckless banks that didn’t hold enough reserves and played too much with other people’s money were, at least in part, what led to the Great Recession. Banks have recently been more responsible with their money, but now they’ve got to “step up to the plate” and, what, act irresponsibly again? We gotta look at it this way, I guess: it can be cute to watch dogs chase their tails.

Of course the stimulus “worked” — but that’s hardly the point

February 19, 2010 1 comment

New York Times analyst David Leonhardt states the obvious without addressing — conveniently for him and liberal defenders of Keynesian economics — at all the larger question of what might have worked better than the $787 billion stimulus bill.

Of course if you give states money tied to keeping teachers employed, those teachers will stay employed (those are some of the jobs the stimulus “saved”). And of course if you give a business money, tying those funds to keeping people on its payroll (more jobs saved, saved, saved!) or adding people to it, that brand of stimulus will certainly stimulate.

So, to deny that the stimulus worked on the grounds that it didn’t create or save a single job in this way would be stupid (sorry, Sen. Brown). And to argue that the stimulus failed — as it certainly did — because it didn’t work as well or as cheaply as another approach would have, you’d have to understand economics. And since most Republican politicians are themselves economic boneheads, worsened by the fact that they don’t know how to communicate, all they can do is look like retards when they talk about the stimulus bill.

Yes, the stimulus bill created and saved jobs — perhaps millions of them, just as all these economists say. So the important question to answer now, as we look back — and it’s a question Leonhardt didn’t even raise in his piece, much less answer — is simple: at what cost? At what cost, both in real terms and in opportunity costs, did this monumental, some would say historic, spending package create jobs? A quick look at the recovery.gov website about in December estimated that the jobs saved and created by the stimulus in the state of Tennessee had totaled close to 10,000. Impressive, right? Right. Unless you divide the told stimulus dollars spent in Tennessee by the number of jobs that funding created/saved and find that we went into massive debt (which we’ll have to raise taxes pay back) to spend $235,000 on each of those Tennessee jobs. One more time: $235,ooo per job! That’s a helluva pretty penny. We could have given each of those 10,000 government-saved Tennesseans, say, $70,000 checks and said, “Good luck finding work,” and still had enough leftover to triple the jobs saved/created to 30,000. Do most economists agree not just that the stimulus created/saved jobs, but that this was a pennywise way to do it? I’d like to talk to the economist who thinks so, because I’m guessing there are about 300,000,000 Americans who’d beg to differ.

I’m trying to come up with an analogy that fits. Work with me here. Say the president gave you a brand-new Lexus to get you from New York to your home in LA. You’re thinking, “Sweet; I’m in! Five days’ time, gas money, and the risks of driving 2,300 miles are worth it to get a new car!” But then you’re told you don’t get to keep the car; it’s just a way to get you where you need to go. Either that, or you keep the Lexus but you’re responsible for the payments upon your arrival. All of a sudden, you’re thinking to yourself that a plane ticket might be the better way to go; all of a sudden, that drive doesn’t feel so romantic and five days on the road not so efficient a way to spend your time. But you don’t have a choice; the president is here to save the day for you and get you home. And now you’re going to complain about inefficiency? About not taking a plane instead? You’re going to say “this doesn’t ‘work’ for me”? The president has words for you: “It worked.”

So, what’s the plane ticket, then, in terms of the stimulus? Tax cuts. Certainty. Regulatory streamlining. Giving all business owners — and not just a select, pet few you’ve selected for aid based on political factors — what they need to boost the economy: more of their own damn money to spend growing their businesses.

Liberals love to lampoon these simple ideas for their simplicity and they like to call them “tired” and “old,” as if whether something works is purely a function of its complexity or novelty. But they’re tired and old because they work well and they’ve stood the test of time — time, and time again, and they work better than taking money from one sector of the economy and giving it to another … and at a fraction of the cost in a fraction of the time. Kinda like taking a plane from New York to LA for just under $400 and in less than 5 hours, instead of driving that kickin’, expensive Lexus for five days. But hey — you’d get to drive through Tennessee and — who knows? — maybe you’d meet a Tennessean on whom the president spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars to get him his $13-an-hour job pumping your gas.

The new and scary culture of debt

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

This article on Greece’s debt is scary for a few reasons. The growing and insidious new debt culture is going to get very dangerous for all of us very soon. It’s got a few different facets, but two of its main ones are apparent all over.

The first facet is characterized by the Greek situation; in effect, this Greek lawmaker is telling Germany, “You owe us. Why? Because you’re better off than we are. And if you disagree, we’ll make you feel really bad about the Holocaust.” Somehow the world latched onto the notion that those with means owe those who lack them. It’s not hard to see how this mindset is unsustainable, as a matter of practicality, not to mention how destructive the moral component of this will be to all of us at some point. As a matter of practicality, the rich simply don’t make enough to pay the poor’s way; as a moral matter, the human soul and the society made up of them cannot thrive if it is convinced that need justifies reaching into another man’s pockets, whether he wants your hands in there or not.

The second facet of this new debt culture is a rampant thought process we here in the U.S. are now very familiar with; in effect, struggling homeowners have been saying: “I shouldn’t have to pay you back, because I was in need when you loaned me the money and therefore you exploited me.” The “therefore” is key; the exploitation follows the need necessarily and by definition. Needing the money and having it loaned to you by definition means you were exploited, almost no matter the terms. You wanted the home, you couldn’t afford it at prime rates, so you took a subprime loan and therefore you were exploited and no longer need abide by the loan’s terms. Forget that Google was pretty powerful stuff — even back in 2005 when you bought a home worth 10 times more than you make in a year! — what matters now is that you weren’t smart enough, or you were too desperate, to do a simple web search to find out just how hot a poker up the ass an ARM loan could be for you at some point. No, siree, Bob, this is all the lender’s fault. Not because the contract was illegal. But because you simply don’t want to pay anymore.

A third facet is the — of course — liberal notion of third-world debt “forgiveness.” I love that term: forgiveness. See how, through its use, the idea of abandoning one’s financial obligations is lent an air of religiosity while simultaneously flipping the moral equation? These countries needed the money, they accepted it as a loan, and now, what, to hell with the lenders? To hell with the obligations lenders were hoping to pay with the money they were supposed to get from the “forgiven” debtors? Does that mean the lenders now can go to their lenders and say, “Hey, country, you need to ‘forgive’ my debt, because that other country forced me to ‘forgive’ its debt and now I can’t pay you”? How is this sustainable?

Who the hell is going to issue debt to anyone — whether to a country or an individual — if, at some point in the future, all the debtor has to do is band together with other similarly indebted citizens or nations and successfully convince the Powers That Be that their cause — not repaying money they don’t feel like paying back — is just?

At some point, people will stop lending and you could hardly blame them. Or they’ll raise everyone else’s interest rates to offset the money stolen — that’s right, I said it! — by those who’ve been “forgiven.” Because contrary to what most liberals think, this isn’t play money — it has to come from somewhere. Raising interest rates would, of course, raise the level of disdain for these usurious bastards who dare offer loans.

So looky here — what the rich need to do — and let’s compromise with the Democrats and call “the rich” anyone who makes more than $250,000 a year — is band together a la Atlas Shrugged and stop producing altogether. Shut down their loans. Close down their banks. Shutter up their businesses — or hey, maybe let those who make $249,999.99 a year or less figure out how to run them. Stop their tax-paying. That’s right, no more of that evil capitalism in this thankless world. Let’s just see how the rest of us get along without them.

But this would be stupid and wouldn’t change how liberals and their dependent constituency think, because no doubt the rich would then be pilloried for deciding to join the poor, worthless, unproductive ranks of the succubi who brought them down.

Categories: Uncategorized

“Still a consensus” that humans cause climate change

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

First, I love this Washington Post article’s title — “Series of missteps … threatens climate-change agenda.” I’m not sure if the word agenda was a Freudian slip or what, but that’s essentially what this consensus amounts to: it’s a political agenda.There are some things climate scientists want to accomplish. End of story. The idea isn’t to discover truth, but to advance a cause. All of this I guess I’d be okay with if the truth were in fact settled; it would be no crime, for example, if a bunch of scientists discovered a 10-mile-wide meteor screeching toward earth and subsequently had a pretty strong agenda to do something about it. That’s human nature. My problem is that climate scientists are putting the cart before the horse, and that’s what this title implies. There’s an agenda that’s at risk here, never mind whether the science is settled (and these problems along the way — the fabrications, the collusion, the obfuscation and outright dishonesty — are mere “missteps”).

I also got a kick out of this line from the article: “There is still a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change.” The word consensus means “majority opinion.” So all we really know is that at least 51% of scientists believe humans are warming the world. The reporter says this as if we’re talking about an election, the results of which are indisputable if the “consensus” among voters on election day is that Candidate X is their guy. The result of this scenario, of this particular consensus, is that Candidate X will be seated.

But is that the same thing as a scientific consensus that a particular natural — or unnatural — phenomenon is real? Are the laws of nature governed by majority opinion? Does the fact that today scientists voted on a scientific truth make it so? If 51% of scientists voted at noon in New York City that the sun wasn’t up, would that change the reality at all? What nonsense. And the word “still” kills me, too. What that implies is that the consensus isn’t as strong as it used to be. Perhaps because the so-called evidence isn’t there.

Gotta run. Today we find out what our baby is! (In case you’re worried, it’s human. We just don’t know what kind of human.)

Categories: Global warming

Nader: “The Case Against Corporate [Oh, and ALL] Speech”

February 10, 2010 1 comment

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Ralph Nader rips into the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in about the most disingenuous and outright dishonest ways possible, conveniently failing to go all the way in disclaiming what can only be fairly, and without hyperbole, called his own totalitarian stridency on campaign-finance reform.

Nader doesn’t mention in his tirade against corporate involvement in U.S. elections that he doesn’t want anyone to be able to contribute anything to political campaigns ever. That’s important context, don’t you think? Because you can’t on the one hand argue that corporate political involvement is unconstitutional, and then, on the other hand, conveniently dismiss the Constitution altogether in your defense of barring even individuals from campaign contributions. It’s clear, then, that Nader doesn’t root his opposition to corporate involvement in anything stronger than … well, his own ability to get people to believe he actual cares about the United States Constitution.

Who is this guy kidding? And why did the Wall Street Journal dignify him with space on their pages? When I’ve submitted articles for consideration to their editorial board on behalf of my congressional bosses over the years, I’m typically asked to go back and have my boss flesh out this or that argument or to proleptically address this or that potential criticism. Why didn’t the WSJ editors kindly ask Mr. Nader to reconcile his opportunistic (they could have left that word out, I guess) constitutional defense of barring corporate involvement with his unconstitutional defense of barring everyone?

Super Bowl ads

February 8, 2010 Leave a comment

There were some pretty good commercials during last night’s Super Bowl. The one with Betty White was clever. I didn’t catch even half of them, though; I was too busy eating and chatting with friends. But I noticed two trends: (1) not very funny or clever and (2) lots of celebrities. I guess I noticed a third trend: (3) commercials with celebrities that weren’t very funny or clever. It’s as if, instead of writing creative and funny ads, they said, Hey, let’s just write a script and pay the premium to get a celebrity to deliver it! Stuff’s always funnier when famous people say it! Except that isn’t really true and it wasn’t last night.

It used to be that most Super Bowl commercials were great, or at the very least that you could count on at least one good one per commercial break. But over the last couple years, viewers have had to work to sift out the good ones. Same goes for TV shows and movies.

Good writing — even and perhaps especially of comedy — requires a decent education, don’t you think? The best writers are able to pull from and synthesize multiple sources, whether historical, social, or cultural. It requires more than well-developed funny bone.

My hunch is that most of today’s ad and sitcom writers are about my age; they’re either members of Generation X (my generation) or they’re Millennials. Both generations, even more so than that of the Baby Boomers, are characterized by a strong sense of me-me-me-it’s-all-about-me. I wouldn’t be surprised if many writers today think something like the following: I was hired because of me! I’m funny! I’m hilarious! I don’t need to work at this; who needs to work at comedy writing or cultivate their comedic skills? Not me! Because I’m funny! I don’t need to be culturally well-rounded or well-versed in the comic arts. I don’t need to study good comedy or learn what works and what doesn’t because I’m me! Just give me a Macbook Pro and I’m gonna have you ROTFLOL’ing! Because, did I mention I’m funny and that it’s because I’m me? And if they haven’t quite articulated it that way, it’s probably only because they aren’t introspective and haven’t sat down long enough to figure themselves out (hey, only old people navel-gaze).

But what do I know.

Categories: Uncategorized

“What if senators represented people by income or race, not by state?”

February 7, 2010 Leave a comment

This column from today’s Washington Post highlights perfectly the prism through which the left sees the world. According to them, people are nothing more or less than economic animals, defined solely by their income — or, more important than absolute income, by how much people earn relative to everyone else. And their government’s success or failure hinges largely on how effectively it takes stuff from those who earn more and distributes it to those who earn less — or not even that: how it distributes this income to those we want to have it for reasons altogether unrelated to economics. Maybe we just feel bad for what people in a protected group have suffered, so hey, take someone else’s money and give it to ’em.

The author argues that there might be a better way to elect senators, if our goal — as she suggests — is to more effectively redistribute wealth and protect rights (or create them out of thin air, such as the right not only to an abortion, which is defensible, but to an abortion paid for by someone else, which most certainly is not). Her idea, whether offered sincerely or as a clever commentary, is, no matter how she meant it, pure nonsense and would undoubtedly accelerate America’s decline.

This is an important read for those looking for a window into the facile mind of today’s American liberal. Because it’s liberals, folks — not conservatives — who see the world in color, who judge and categorize and stereotype. Liberals — not conservatives — see people of this nation as an unfortunately bound federation of some sort … not of states, but of primal tribes: everyone defined not by the humanity he shares with his neighbor, but instead by that which makes him and his neighbor different. You’re black? Stand over there — those are the people who will protect you, and these are the policies you’ll support. And you — you’re a woman? You’ll stand over here — these are your defenders, and here’s the list of policies you’ll support. You’re black and rich? Over there, sorta, but behind the poor blacks — those are your kind. You’re Mexican, poor and gay? Over here, but not so close — somewhere between here and there. (Yes, our tribes are shaping up nicely!) You’re Asian, gay, rich, and Mormon? Hmm. Let’s see where we put this poor, white Jewish atheist first; then we’ll know what to do with you.

It’s sick; it’s wrong; it’s primal; it’s tribal; it’s barbaric. It’s all these things. But always — always — remember it comes from the mind of a liberal, not the mind of a conservative. Anyway, here’s the most brilliant article on how to divide this nation further:

What if senators represented people by income or race, not by state?
By Annie Lowrey
Sunday, February 7, 2010; B05

On Wednesday, President Obama joined Senate Democrats at their retreat, urging them to “finish the job” on health-care reform “even though it’s hard.”

That crowd knows how hard it can be. To get the 60 votes needed to pass the health-care bill last Christmas Eve, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid worked furiously. The final holdout was Ben Nelson, a centrist Democrat from Nebraska. With time running out, Reid offered to have the federal government pay for the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in perpetuity — and Nelson signed on to the bill.

Members of both parties were vociferous in criticizing the “Cornhusker kickback,” as it came to be known. “That’s not change we can believe in!” crowed Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “That is the worst in politics.”

He’s right about one thing: That wasn’t change. It was a type of deal as old as the Senate itself. Back in the summer of 1787, the founders debated how to structure the legislature. James Madison, of the large state of Virginia, drafted a plan for a bicameral parliament, with both chambers apportioned by population. William Paterson, of the smaller state of New Jersey, called for a single house. In July, they compromised: two houses, one proportionate to population and one with two representatives per state.

The Great Compromise was intended to make sure the big states didn’t trample the little guys. But today, with 37 more states on the scene, the little ones wield disproportionate power. “Half of the population of the nation lives in 10 states, which have 20 senators. The other half lives in 40 states that have 80 senators,” says the official Senate historian, Donald Ritchie. Small states and states whose representatives might tip the balance on a key vote make out like bandits, as their senators demand outsize appropriations in return for their support. The Nelson fracas was nothing other than the Senate working exactly as it was designed to.

But what if the 100-member Senate were designed to mirror the overall U.S. population — and were based on statistics rather than state lines?

Imagine a chamber in which senators were elected by different income brackets — with two senators representing the poorest 2 percent of the electorate, two senators representing the richest 2 percent and so on.

Based on Census Bureau data, five senators would represent Americans earning between $100,000 and $1 million individually per year, with a single senator working on behalf of the millionaires (technically, it would be two-tenths of a senator). Eight senators would represent Americans with no income. Sixteen would represent Americans who make less than $10,000 a year, an amount well below the federal poverty line for families. The bulk of the senators would work on behalf of the middle class, with 34 representing Americans making $30,000 to $80,000 per year.

Imagine trying to convince someone — Michael Bloomberg, perhaps? — to be the lonely senator representing the richest percentile. And what if the senators were apportioned according to jobs figures? This year, the unemployed would have gained two seats. Think of the deals that would be made to attract that bloc!

Or how about if senators represented particular demographic groups, based on gender and race? White women would elect the biggest group of senators — 37 of them, though only 38 women have ever served in the Senate, with 17 currently in office. White men would have 36 seats. Black women, Hispanic women and Hispanic men would have six each; black men five; and Asian women and men two each. Women voters would control a steady and permanent majority — making, say, discriminatory health-care measures such as the Stupak Amendment and the horrible dearth of child-care options for working mothers seem untenable.

What about a Senate in which voters cast ballots for candidates campaigning to win over a certain age group? Thirteen senators would vie for 18-to-24-year-olds, who strongly support measures such as the cap-and-trade climate bill and marriage rights for gays. Nearly all of these senators would be Democrats. Americans over 65 would control 16 seats — and would be mostly Republicans interested in protecting Medicare and the broader status quo. The baby boomer bubble would be largely in the eldest category, though its stragglers would round out the segment of voters, probably split between the parties, that is edging up on retirement. Thirty-six senators would serve 25-to-44-year-olds, and 35 senators 45-to-64-year-olds — and would be likely to push the very issues now on the table, including health care, entitlement viability and tax breaks for the middle class.

However you slice it (or us), a new voting model would shake up the Senate’s agenda. A senator vying for the $60,000 bracket — filled with working parents concerned with putting children through school — might need to promise Pell Grant reform and improved school lunches. One can imagine a coalition of senators for the elderly and senators for 20-somethings working to loosen federal laws around medical marijuana.

These deals, of course, would be very different from the deal Ben Nelson cut for Nebraska. But they highlight a truth so obvious it isn’t often examined: Senators represent states. And states’ priorities can seem strange when viewed in a national light. The Great Compromise promised just the kind of last-minute deal that Nelson struck, ensuring that the needs of his small state were recognized in the nationwide initiative.

These days, people don’t much like the anti-democratic structure of the Senate and the bring-home-the-bacon politics it begets. Recent polls have shown that Americans despise the upper chamber — more than the House, more than the White House. But you can’t blame Nelson for doing exactly what the founders asked him to do.

annie.lowrey@foreignpolicy.com

Annie Lowrey is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

Michelle talks obesity, Obama talks gambling. Problem is not what they say, but that they’re talking about it at all

February 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Paternalist in Chief and our First Nanny keep getting into trouble. President Obama says people who are worried about paying for their kids’ education probably shouldn’t be gambling, itself not only a defensible thing to say, but the right thing to say. The problem is that he’s the president of the United States and has more important things to say.

But I’ll play along. Let’s just focus on what he said. Critics of his Vegas comments haven’t stopped long enough to ask themselves whether him saying the opposite would have been worse: What if Obama had said, “Now let me be clear; what I’m about to say is unprecedented in American history: if you’re worried about whether you can pay for your kids’ education, you ought to go to Vegas and give it a whirl — doing so might deplete your savings, sure, but think of all the money you could win and also of all the jobs you’ll help create or save in Sin City. Gambling away your life’s savings, if you’re poor and worried about how to pay for your kids’ schooling, is the patriotic thing to do.”

How stupid does that sound, eh?

People like Hannity look for any and every opportunity to criticize our president, whether or not what he says makes good sense. The president is right: people worried about their money shouldn’t gamble. The problem isn’t what he said; the problem is that he’s the president of the free world and shouldn’t be worried about jobs or Americans’ budgets. He should be worried about protecting the homeland from outside threats and closing down the government and giving money back to the people who truly create meaningful work in the greatest economy this world has ever seen: private business. Expand personal and financial freedom, and the jobs will take care of themselves.

And then there’s our First Nanny. She’s spun up about childhood obesity, even though part of the problem there is also — you guessed it — the government. The Food Guide Pyramid was itself the result of a politically driven agenda, a giveaway to the agriculture industry, and has been proven time and again by science to be the primary driver of obesity, heart disease, and nearly every other disease of Western civilization (these diseases obviously existed prior to the Pyramid’s adoption; my point is that most diseases of Western civilization date back to the introduction of agriculture and the Pyramid relies on it heavily). Carbs are the enemy, folks. But that’s not my point; I digress. The point is that the First Nanny has no business here; she’s married to the man we elected president, not an elected official herself. Period. (Grammar question: When you use the word period like that, does it require a period at the end?)

Our president, his wife, and his party are the world’s most benevolent totalitarians. They’ve decided that no aspect of American life is too small or inconsequential for their meddling and tinkering — and outright defining and dictating. We’re entering a new era of do-gooder authoritarianism, and I’m really not looking forward to it. For Pete’s sake, the most powerful man in this dangerous world is talking about gambling and his wife is writing policy to fix fat kids. God help this nation.

Time to go out and enjoy the snow.

“Avatar” is really about the superiority of white people. What?

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

The race-obsessed-to-the-point-of-clinical-paranoia lefties in this Chris Matthews clip could be right about The Blind Side: that it’s doing more than telling a true story — that it’s teaching people that blacks can’t make it in this world without the help of whites. Or, you know, maybe here’s a thought: the movie could simply be based on the true, heartwarming story of a kid who, down on his luck, was helped along and ultimately elevated to the top of the sports world by a kind family.That’s what I got out of it.

And Avatar could be a movie about how minorities need the help of white people who use futuristic technology to pose as minorities. Or, it could be simply a heartwarming movie about how evil white people have ruined all that’s good in the world. I mean, that’s what I got out of it.

The hypocritical thing about these lefties is that they probably support affirmative action, which, at its heart, is a policy that says minorities need the help of white people to make it in this world. So why is this pernicious, disgusting, racist concept perfectly okay to them as public policy, but nasty and wrong when it (allegedly) serves as the basis for a couple of movies?