Monday, November 29, 2010

Worst President Ever?

We have sunk so low as a nation that the general reaction to Wikileak's leaks has been to shrug. William Jacobson, though, has it right.

Whether or not someone gets killed as a direct result of a Wikileaks disclosure, the damage to our country is deep, as allies and sources among enemies will stop cooperating with us for fear of exposure, our diplomats will be hesitant to speak frankly with headquarters, and our intelligence on al-Qaeda and others will be compromised.

We are the laughingstock of the world, an impotent superpower whose response to those who aid our enemies is to write a letter asking them not to do it. Yes, Harold Koh the State Department's chief lawyer, sent a demand freakin' letter to Wikileaks.

Add this latest humiliation to Obama's inability (or unwillingness) to do what's necessary to heal the economy as well as the trillions of dollars of federal debt run up since his election and he's truly headed for Jimmy Carter status.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What's In A Name?

The aversion to the word "voucher" by Democrats has always been interesting to me. If you call it a "stamp" or "coupon" and apply it to food or medical care, they don't consider the idea to be of Satanic origins.
- Comment at Cafe Hayek

It's not really about vouchers per se.

It's true that when people lack food or shelter, liberals have no problem with issuing government vouchers that pay private businesses to supply them. But when individuals lack educational opportunity, the issuance of a voucher, all of a sudden, becomes a potential gash in the national fabric.

The difference is that the food stamp and Section 8 vouchers increase dependency on the government. In the case of schooling, the dependency has already been established.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


That would be Victor Davis, of course, on the phenomenon of a billionaire's calling for higher taxes on the rest of us.

. . . this bromide is quite pathological, this peddling of elixirs that the sellers do not drink

Well-said -- as always.


The youngest brother, his wife, a sister, my mother and, of course, I are here. Another sister and brother couldn't make it -- they're in Tennessee -- but, through the miracle of "free" long distance, we will be together many times throughout the day.

The conversations will start quietly enough with exchanges of turkey-cooking tips and proceed ever more tipsily through the afternoon as the phone is passed around from brother to mother to sister-in-law with shrieking laughter at tales of casseroles gone wrong and memories of past holidays. Eventually, we will all lurch to our respective tables sometime around six this afternoon. Six, which feels like nine as it's already so dark up here at that time.

It will be a good day, though my brother and I are quite disappointed that there will be no traditional western New York Thanksgiving Day blizzard this year. He more than I as he will be back in Charlotte tomorrow night and I will still be here when the lake effect kicks in with a foot or more of white for the first time this year.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Best-Laid Plans

Do you suppose Obama's five-year plan to increase U.S. exports will work better than Castro's project to increase citrus production?

It is a mesh bag, a reddish woven net with five mandarins inside. They’ve been carried here — from Europe — by a reader who discovered where I live thanks to the tracks left in the blog. After I brought him a glass of water, he took the citrus fruits out of his backpack — a little embarrassed — as if he’d come to give me something too common on this island, even more common than the invasive marabou weed, or intolerance. It’s inexplicable, then, why I grabbed the bag and buried my nose in every fruit. Within a few seconds I was shouting for my family to let them know about the orange globes I was already beginning to peel. Sinking my nails into their skin and smelling my fingers, I have a celebration of orange zest on each hand.

A trail of peels covers the table and even the dog is enthusiastic about the scent that is wafting through the whole house. The mandarins have arrived! The almost forgotten scent, the extravagant texture, have returned. My niece celebrates their appearance and I have to explain that once these fruits did not arrive by boat or plane. I avoid confusing her — she’s only eight — with the history of the National Citrus Plan, and the large expanses on the Isle of Youth where oranges and grapefruits were harvested by students from other countries. Nor do I mention the triumphalist statistics thrown out from the dais, or the Tropical Island juices that started out with pulp extracted from our own crops and now are made with imported syrup. But I do tell her that when November and December rolled around, all the children in my elementary school smelled like oranges.

What days those were! When no one had to bring us, from a far off continent, what our own earth could produce.

- Yoani Sanchez, Desde Cuba

H.T. Carpe Diem

Monday, November 22, 2010

OMG! I Agree With Al Gore!

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was "not a good policy", weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.

Stopped clock, twice a day, etc.. But, he's right. It's well-known now that we use more fossil fuels to make a gallon of ethanol than it delivers in energy. How boneheaded can we be?

Prediction: I will cast my vote for the first presidential candidate with the guts to tell Iowans that he will end ethanol subsidies. That would be leadership.

[UPDATE:] Maybe Gore read this. - H.T. Instapundit

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Income Inequality

Don Boudreaux makes an excellent point on income inequality.

Will Wilkinson’s essay on income inequality in America is splendid (“This ain’t no banana republic,” Nov. 19).” In it, Mr Wilkinson correctly challenges New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s claim that “the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States” than in several countries of Latin America. Rich Americans, Mr Wilkinson rightly points out, overwhelmingly are business people who serve the middle-classes and not political, military, or ecclesiastic predators who steal from peasants.

This fact makes Mr Kristof’s claim that wealth is “controlled” in America highly misleading.

The left insists that business (usually referred to as the evil corporations) have too much power in America. But they don't -- they have influence, to be sure; but no power.

Bill Gates, for example, has no power over me. He cannot take my house, he cannot order me thrown in jail and he is unable to have me fired. I, in turn, am under no obligation to buy his products. Any relationship I have with Mr. Gates is purely voluntary and can only work to our mutual benefit.

For example, I've recently chucked Microsoft Office in favor of OpenOffice -- it's free and, for what I need to do, just as good. I do, on the other hand, still run Windows. That might change, Linux (also free) is appealing but there are drawbacks to it, too.

The fact that about a billion other people still stuff their machines with Microsoft products, greatly enriching Bill, is of no concern to me at all. He's earned it.

That people worry over stuff like income inequality perplexes me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Fight The TSA Shouldn't Want

The Transportation Security Administration has opened an investigation targeting John Tyner, the Oceanside man who left Lindbergh Field under duress on Saturday morning after refusing to undertake a full body scan.

Tyner recorded the half-hour long encounter on his cell phone and later posted it to his personal blog, along with an extensive account of the incident. The blog went viral, attracting hundreds of thousands of readers and thousands of comments.

Michael J. Aguilar, chief of the TSA office in San Diego, called a news conference at the airport Monday afternoon to announce the probe. He said the investigation could lead to prosecution and civil penalties of up to $11,000.

Well, this seems like an exceedingly dumb move. The guy's become something of a folk hero and the TSA's investigation can have only one purpose: to intimidate the rest of us into passive cooperation.

The TSA's announced investigation will only serve to make National Opt Out Daya bigger phenomenon than it would have been.

[UPDATE:] Somewhat related:

Many Rally To Support Boy's Flag Display

A 13-year-old Stanislaus County boy at the center of a flag controversy got a big show of support Monday as many people rallied to his side.

Cody Alicea was earlier told by Denair Middle School officials that he could not ride to school with a U.S. flag on his bike. The story has gained national attention, from Rush Limbaugh to the Drudge Report.

The school changed its mind, and now Alicea can display the stars and stripes.

When he rode from his home to school on Monday, he was followed by a parade of people on motorcycles. A military jet flyover was also expected.

The TSA should really keep the above story in mind. Two-bit bureaucrats no longer labor in obscurity. We learn quickly these days what mischief they're up to. And we don't like it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bottom Falling Out

New York state manufacturing unexpectedly plunged in November, the first contraction since July 2009 when the US economy exited recession, official data showed Monday.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported its manufacturing activity index dropped to minus 11.1 points in November, from a positive 15.7 points in the previous month.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey index is considered a bellwether of the manufacturing sector which has been a key strength in the economic recovery.

It was the first time the index fell below zero since July 2009, the month after the worst recession in decades was officially declared over.

The sharp 27-point decline surprised analysts, who had forecast on average a slip to a positive 11.7-point reading.

The new orders index plummeted to minus 24.4 points, from positive 12.9 points in October.

Economic recoveries begin and end with manufacturing. This is just one month's data -- but that's a huge drop.

'Abolish The TSA'

Forbes gets the ball rolling.

The Republicans control the House of Representatives and are bracing for a long battle over the President’s health care proposal. In the spirit of bipartisanship and sanity, I propose that the first thing on the chopping block should be an ineffective organization that wastes money, violates our rights, and encourages us to make decisions that imperil our safety. I’m talking about the Transportation Security Administration.

Bipartisan support should be immediate. For fiscal conservatives, it’s hard to come up with a more wasteful agency than the TSA. For privacy advocates, eliminating an organization that requires you to choose between a nude body scan or genital groping in order to board a plane should be a no-brainer.

The TSA (along with the creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security) were two of Bush's biggest mistakes. Amid increasing numbers of stories of people resisting the naked scanners and the groping pat-downs, it's time to rethink our air security system.

As always, the question will be can Congress find the will to roll back something it previously approved?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Electric Car Economics

We often, though sometimes incorrectly, assume that it's cheaper to operate an electric vehicle than a comparable gasoline auto. Hey, who hasn't? While this assumption generally holds true, electrical rates vary widely across the nation and can throw off the numbers. In some instances, like when Inside Line's engineering editor, Jason Kavanagh, drove the Chevrolet Volt out in sunny California, one discovers that operating a vehicle powered by electricity can indeed cost more than running it with the liquid fuel that pours from a pump.

This isn't from the WSJ or the Weekly Standard either; it's in autobloggreen

It's Time To Play...

...Guess What Party!

'cause the Washington Post won't tell us.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whining About "Sustainability" Is Foolish

The supply of economically usable natural resources is always only a small fraction of the overall supply of natural resources provided by nature. With the exception of natural gas, even now, after more than two centuries of rapid economic progress, the total of the supply of minerals mined by man each year amounts to substantially less than 25 cubic miles. This is a rate that could be sustained for the next 100 million years before it amounted to something approaching 1 percent of the supply represented by the earth. (These estimates follow from such facts as that the total annual global production of oil, iron, coal, and aluminum can be respectively fitted into spaces of 1.15, 0.14, 0.5, and 0.04 cubic miles, based on the number of units produced and the quantity that fits into one cubic meter. Natural gas production amounts to more than 600 cubic miles, but reduces to 1.1 cubic miles when liquefied.) Along the same lines, the entire supply of energy produced by the human race in a year is still far less than that generated by a single hurricane.

In view of such facts, it should not be surprising that the supply of economically usable natural resources is not something that is fixed and given and that man's economic activities deplete. To the contrary, it is not only a very small fraction of the supply of natural resources provided by nature but a fraction that is capable of substantial enlargement for a considerable time to come. Mining operations could be carried on at 100 times their present scale for a million years and still claim less than 1 percent of the earth.

Read the whole thing.

[UPDATE:] Here's an example of foolish sustainability whining.

And here's the refutation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Barbering Without A License

God forbid.

"Grows On Trees"

Victor Davis Hanson:

Obama seems to think that making money is a casual enterprise, not nearly so difficult as community organizing, and without the intellectual rigor of academia — as if profits leap out of the head of Zeus. I say that not casually or slanderously, but based on the profile of his cabinet appointments, his and his wife’s various speeches relating Barack Obama’s own decision to shun the supposed easy money of corporate America for more noble community service in Chicago, and a series of troubling ad hoc, off-the-cuff revealing statements like the following:

As a state legislator Barack Obama lamented the civil rights movement’s reliance on the court system to ensure equality-of-result social justice rather than working through legislatures, which were the “actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.” To Joe Wurzelbacher, he breezily scoffed that “my attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” When Charlie Gibson pressed presidential candidate Obama on his desire to hike capital gains taxes when historically such policies have decreased aggregate federal revenue, a startled Obama insisted that the punitive notion, not the money, was the real issue: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.” And as President Obama, again in an off-handed matter, he suggested that the state might have an interest on what individuals make: “I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

The president, like so many others on the left, does not grasp that wealth is created -- and, the following year, re-created. To him, wealth consists in money, not the goods produced by farmers, manufacturers and miners. And since money is printed by the the government, the accumulation of wealth is simply a matter of who can lobby hardest for it.

Thus, his attitude that wealth (money) must be redistributed from those with clout to those supposedly without power. The very idea that wealth is not distributed, but earned through the labor that turns dirt into food and supersonic aircraft, has never crossed his mind; and presented with that knowledge now, he would surely reject it for fear of seeing a lifetime's cherished beliefs shown to be nothing but ignorance.

And ignorance, he will never admit.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Greg Mankiw On The Estate Tax

Consider the story of twin brothers – Spendthrift Sam and Frugal Frank. Each starts a dot-com after college and sells the business a few years later, accumulating a $10 million nest egg. Sam then lives the high life, enjoying expensive vacations and throwing lavish parties. Frank, meanwhile, lives more modestly. He keeps his fortune invested in the economy, where it finances capital accumulation, new technologies, and economic growth. He wants to leave most of his money to his children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces.

Now ask yourself: Which millionaire should pay higher taxes? It seems natural that they should face the same tax burden. They both started life with the same resources. What notion of fairness suggests that they should face different tax burdens? What principle of social justice says that Frank should be penalized for his frugality? None that I know of.

We already know that capital gains taxes tend to reduce capital gains (and, ipso facto, capital gains tax revenues). It only stands to reason that inheritance taxes are significantly reducing the size of the inheritances subject to tax. Monsieur Obama wouldn't care, of course -- it's all a matter of fairness, he'd say.

The rest of us should know better.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"The Incredible Bread Machine"

This is a legend of success and plunder
And a man, Tom Smith,
Who squelched world hunger.

Now, Smith, an inventor, had specialized
In toys, so people were surprised,
When they found that he instead
Of making toys, was BAKING BREAD!

The way to make bread he'd conceived
Cost less than people could believe!
And not just make it! This device,
Could in addition, wrap and slice!
The price per loaf, one loaf or many,
The miniscule sum of under a penny!

Can you imagine what this meant?
Can you comprehend the consequent?
The first time yet the world well fed,
And all because of Tom Smith's bread.

A citation from the President,
For Smith's amazing bread,
This and other honors too,
Were heaped upon his head!

But isn't it a wondrous thing,
How quickly fame is flown?
Smith, the hero of today,
Tomorrow, scarcely known!

Yes, the fickle years passed by,
Smith was a millionaire,
But Smith himself was now forgot,
Though his bread was everywhere...
People, asked from where it came,
Would very seldom know.
They would simple eat and ask,
"Was not it always so?"

However, Smith cared not a bit,
For millions ate his bread...
And everything is fine, thought he,
I am rich, and they are fed!

Everything was fine, he though,
He reckoned not with fate.
Note the sequence of events,
Starting on the date,
On which the business tax went up.
Then, to a slight extent,
The price on every loaf rose too.
Up to one full cent!

"What's going on!" the public cried,
"He's guilty of pure plunder!
He has no right to get so rich
on other people's hunger!"

(A prize cartoon depicted Smith,
With fat and drooping jowls,
Snatching bread from hungry babes,
indifferent to their howls!)

Well, since the public does come first,
It could not be denied
That in matters such as this,
The public must decide!

So Anti-Trust now took a hand,
Of course, it was appalled
At what it found was going on.
The "Bread Trust" it was called.

Now this was getting serious,
So Smith felt that he must
Have a friendly interview
With the men in Anti-Trust.

So hat in hand, he went to them.
They'd surely been misled;
No Rule of Law had he defied.

But then their lawyer said:
"The Rule of Law, in complex times,
Has proved itself deficient.
We much prefer the Rule of Men,
It's vastly more efficient!"

"Now let me state the present rules,"
The lawyer then went on,
"These very simple guidelines,
You can rely upon:
You're gouging on your prices if
You charge more than the rest.
But it's unfair competition if
You think you can charge less!"
"A second point that we would make
To help avoid confusion...
Don't try to charge the same amount,
That would be Collusion!
You must compete. But not too much,
For if you do you see,
Then the market would be yours -
And that's monopoly!"

Price too high?
Or price too low?
Now, which charge did they make?

Well, they weren't loath to charging both,
With the Public Good at stake!

In fact, they went one better!
They charged "Monopoly!"
No muss, no fuss, oh, woe is us!
Egad, they charged ALL THREE!

"Five Years in jail," The Judge then said
"You're lucky it's not worse!
Robber Barrons must be taught,
Society comes first!"

Now bread is baked by government.
And as might be expected,
Everything is well controlled.
The public well protected.

True, loaves cost a dollar each,
But our leaders do their best!
The selling price is half a cent.
Taxes pay the rest.
"The Incredible Bread Machine" by R.W. Grant

The post on Aldi's supermarkets in Germany that inspired it (well, at least my posting it here) by Megan McArdle.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Is Obama A Keynesian?

Some of the very well-informed, rational and sane attendees at Jon Stewart's party take umbrage at the very question.

Well, There Is That

Only one question remains — what area of the private sector — aside from the slip-and-fall attorneys — isn’t hated and vilified by the Obama Democrats?