Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Union Mentality (If You Can Call It That)

New York City's slow clean-up was intentional.

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts -- a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

Union labor stupidity never ceases to amaze me. Intended by the bright lights in union management [Ed: oxymoron?] to show the people just how valuable their public servants are, all this action will have actually accomplished is to turn public sentiment squarely against them. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Outsourcing Our News?

Why is it that the most comprehensive coverage of the East Coast blizzard this morning is in a British paper? The Brits also tend to cover our politics better.

Could we say that Britain has a comparative advantage in news reporting and that we'd be better off just letting our papers wither away? As they seem to be doing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Liberal Irony -- Unintended Consequences Are Us

The new census figures show that Manhattan, like its cross-country liberal rival San Francisco, is becoming more wealthy and more white.

Manhattan's diversity ebbing as city demographics evolve, new census figures show

Manhattan, the world's most famous melting pot, is losing its rich ethnic and racial diversity, new census figures show.

The island's black and Hispanic populations have decreased over the last decade, while the number of whites has risen in nearly every neighborhood from the Battery to Inwood.

Overall, Manhattan's population has swelled by 5% to 1.6 million since 2000, and educated whites appear to account for the influx, a Daily News analysis of census data shows.

The white population rose by an estimated 11% to around 928,000 in the past decade and, for the first time ever, the Asian population topped 10% at about 165,000.

At the same time, the number of blacks dropped by 6% to less than 250,000, census estimates show. The Hispanic population also declined 4% to about 397,000.

The same phenomenon is manifesting itself in Washington D.C., where great swathes of the largely-black city are gentrifying [Ed.: turning white] at a startling pace. What do you suppose it is that causes liberal bastions (Berkeley's another one) to reverse the very progress toward diversity that liberals champion?

H.T. Althouse

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Not-So-Merry Online Christmas

. . . for my sister anyway, who ordered most of my Mom's gifts from a big, online retailer only to find that almost all of them are on back order -- and today's Christmas Eve. She's not happy.

I just sent her a text I hope will cheer her up.

O-o-o, the big, big O
Buy online and lose your mind
No gifts for Dad or Mom

Think she'll see the humor? Merry Christmas to you all.

Krauthammer's Wrong This Time

I love Charles Krauthammer -- he is brilliantly analytic and his wit is, as we say, mordant. But he is ignorant on matters economic.

Riding the lamest of ducks, President Obama just won the Triple Crown. He fulfilled (1) his most important economic priority, passage of Stimulus II, a.k.a. the tax cut deal (the perfect pre-re-election fiscal sugar high

The now-famous tax-cut compromise is not an economic "sugar high". It merely maintains the current economic conditions minus a few billion in lost capital because of the return of the inheritance tax. This isn't to say it's bad -- leaving most tax rates the same is far better than raising them.

But to portray it as some sort of stimulus, as Krauthammer's been doing for the past couple weeks, is false. If Americans weren't inclined to invest in growth this year, there's nothing in Obama's great compromise to change their minds in 2011.

"We misunderestimated him:"

"Bush's memoir sells 2m copies in a month - nearly as many as Bill Clinton's sold in six years"

Gee, aren't the libs the ones who read more? You know, the intelligent ones?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ford Progress

I'm a Ford guy -- always have been. Hey, I was raised in a "Ford" household (in the '50s and '60s, society divided like that -- you were likely either a Chevy family or a Ford family). Chrysler and Rambler families existed, of course, but they could be counted on the head of a pin in the little western New York town I grew up in (and still live in) and were, to a degree, considered automotive curiosities.

So, I still drive a Ford -- a '97 F250 -- and still follow Ford's progress and lust after its newest offerings, which seem to be getting better all the time. Of course, I'm very interested in its climb back to profitability and found this article to be encouraging and fascinating.

Ford will soon install its on-board consumer electronics software (to be called MyFord Touch) via Wi-Fi at the plant.

Ford previously had to stock multiple SKUs for SYNC hardware modules dependent on vehicle model, trim level, and options installed. However, thanks to the help of new Wi-Fi capabilities, Ford has designed a single SYNC hardware module that can be reprogrammed as the vehicle is making its way down the assembly line.

In simple terms, Ford says that the vehicle sends its unique VIN wirelessly to an assembly line router. The router then communicates with a central software server which stores the MyFord Touch software necessary for that particular vehicle. The sever then sends the appropriate firmware (as much as 300MB) back to the router and down to the vehicle which programs the SYNC hardware module.

As a result, Ford says that it was able to "eliminate around 90 unique part numbers, each of which would have to be updated every time a change is made." In addition, cost savings are realized because Ford no longer has to assemble, stock, or store these additional parts thanks to the reprogrammable SYNC hardware module.

What an excellent illustration of how entrepreneurialism and capital can combine to improve the production process of a consumer good. It's very cool, too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What The Media Doesn't Tell You . . .

. . . about the Westboro Baptist Church.

President Carter: Not As Dumb As We Thought?

On his lost bid for a second term:

Carter, 86, said the loss taught him "not to ever let American hostages be held for 444 days in a foreign country without extracting them."

Well, I'm glad he learned something.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Dream Act may come back to haunt the GOP"

So sayeth the LA Times.

After years of courting Latino voters with a softer tone on immigration, Republican leaders in Congress have all but abandoned that posture, risking what remains of GOP support among the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.

The left has been warning the GOP for years now that it is endangering its own future by resisting attempts to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. But, as always when one's opponent offers heartfelt advice for one's well-being, this warning should be ignored.

To begin with, the so-called Hispanic vote is not monolithic. People of Spanish descent arrive in the U.S. from dozens of countries, each with their own dialect and culture. But the multi-culturalists -- ironically ignorant of multiple cultures -- know only to aggregate them into one big lump. The plight of undocumented Mexicans means little, however, to hard-working, legally-arrived Argentineans or Colombians (or Peruvians or Chileans, etc.).

And there is little, if any, evidence that Mexican-Americans in the U.S. legally are that sympathetic either. But the multi-cultis are blind to that reality, too. Just as, in their minds, blacks must be Democrats and gays must be liberal, so, too, must anyone with a Spanish surname be a comrade in the class struggle against Anglo-Saxon hegemony.

Some 290,000,000 people are in the United States legally -- either born here or arrived here after jumping through the hoops we set up to regulate immigration. The Democrats are in very serious danger of losing that group if they insist on granting big, fat exemptions for the border-jumpers.

I really should warn them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Days Surely Must Be Here Again

Yet more proof that Keynesianism is a load of ballocks.

U.S. Consumers Are Back: Retail Sales Return to Pre-Recession Levels; Frugality Fatigue Is Over

The vaunted GDP figures are anemic, job-creation is almost non-existent, non-residential investment is low, residential investment is lower -- yet consumer spending is back where it was before the recession. Doesn't that mean that there's no more reason for government stimulus to make up for the lack of aggregate demand?

After all, aggregate demand has returned. The problem, of course, is that consumer spending does not drive the economy or create growth. Business spending does.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Job For You!

This is a pretty startling statistic.

Since the recovery started in June 2009, the total number of private sector jobs has increased by 203,000. But these weren't "regular," permanent jobs. Indeed, permanent private sector jobs fell by 257,000.

"Temporary help service" jobs is what made up the difference, as they increased by 460,000. For all sectors of the economy, including government jobs, the drop in the number of permanent jobs during the recovery was even worse -- a drop of 561,000.

Now, the part about the temporary jobs is bad enough, but look at that figure for the total number of private-sector jobs created since June 2009: 203,000.

That's incredible. During a recovery, we might expect to see 203,000 private-sector jobs created each month. More like 300,000 or 400,000. But over 18 months we have a monthly average of just over 11,000. That's pitiful and it's a sign of just how sick our economy is.

It's a number the Canadians, with 1/10 our population, would laugh at. Come to think of it, Venezuela probably does better.

Friday, December 10, 2010

To Serve, Protect - - - And Collect

If you're in a car accident in New York City that requires an emergency response, you'll soon be billed for the government's services.

In a time of tight budget times, the city is looking for new ways to recoup costs.

And drivers needing help from the FDNY will be the targets.

Getting hurt in a car accident is painful enough, but if firefighters have to respond, expect more pain — in your wallet.

Starting next summer, the city plans to bill drivers in accidents that require an emergency response.

The so-called “crash tax” works like this: A car fire or accident with injury would cost you $490. A car fire without injury, $415. And any vehicle accident without injury will run you $365.

It's interesting that in one of America's most politically-liberal cities, accident victims will now pay out-of-pocket (assuming the city can collect) for their misfortune.

We are now at the point where our tax dollars go only to pay government employees' wages and pensions. To actually get them to do something while they're on the clock, however, will require an additional charge.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another Canadian Health Care Horror Story

Woman dies waiting in ER As AG finds little movement

Lee said her 41-year-old daughter, Marlene Stephens, died Saturday after waiting nearly 90 minutes at the William Osler Health Centre’s Etobicoke campus emergency room with breathing problems.

Lee feels her daughter was not seen fast enough by medical staff.

“They didn’t touch her,” said the grieving Lee. “She was crying out, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’. . . Nobody attended to my daughter.”

The Canadian government is mystified.

On Monday, Auditor General Jim McCarter released his annual report which found that despite putting an extra $200 million into shortening emergency room wait times over the last two years, “significant province-wide progress has not yet been made.”

Under the Canadian health care system, which is famously "free", there is still a price for medical care: waiting times.

As effort and money are expended to increase staff so as to reduce those times, more people (who maybe wouldn't put up with a 12 hour wait, but are OK with, say, 6 hours) go to the ER. As more resources are added, more patients show up and waiting times end up the same.

The good and honorable Auditor General would do well to bone up on basic economics, but he'd probably end up a Keynesian anyway. So the message would be lost.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meltdown Man

Lexington Green:

It looks like we will see little or nothing of value from the current President as we all endure two more years of domestic and global crisis. Mr. Obama appears to have exhausted his playbook. He is just randomly making stuff up at this point, tossing out grudging compromises, then vilifying the Republicans, and sniping at his own outraged supporters.

We are in one of the worst messes in our history, and Captain Queeg is on the bridge. Obama is not in full meltdown mode yet. Johnson melted down, Nixon melted down. It is not good when the president melts down.

He forgot Carter. Carter melted down, too.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stagflation Going World-Wide?

Could it happen in -- of all places -- China?

Diana Choyleva from Lombard Street Research said the money supply rose at a 40pc rate in 2009 and the first half of 2010 as Beijing stoked an epic credit boom to keep uber-growth alive, but the costs of this policy now outweigh the benefits.

The economy is entering the ugly quadrant of cycle – stagflation – where credit-pumping leaks into speculation and price spirals, even as growth slows. Citigroup’s Minggao Shen said it now takes a rise of ¥1.84 in the M2 money supply to generate just one yuan of GDP growth, up from ¥1.30 earlier this decade.

The froth is going into property. Experts argue heatedly over whether or not China has managed to outdo America’s subprime bubble, or even match the Tokyo frenzy of late 1980s.

What would the world look like if Japan, the United States, the U.K. and, now, China, were all to enter the economic zombie zone of stagflation? Could Brazil and Germany pull it out?

Read the whole thing.

Plame Game Revisited

One of the most infuriating episodes of the Bush administration was the non-scandal of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson. Her claims of having been "outed" by Bush's staff were nonsense -- she was not a covert agent; and her husband's insistence that it was revenge for his having exposed Bush as a liar was well, a lie. But the left and the media (but I repeat myself) reported falsely for years that a serious breach of national security had been committed in the name of political retaliation.

Well, now the movie's out and, lo and behold, the Washington Post's editorial staff has thoroughly debunked it.

Hollywood has a habit of making movies about historical events without regard for the truth; "Fair Game" is just one more example. But the film's reception illustrates a more troubling trend of political debates in Washington in which established facts are willfully ignored. Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war. Though it was long ago established that Mr. Wilson himself was not telling the truth - not about his mission to Niger and not about his wife - the myth endures. We'll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right.

That's good -- and very refreshing. But where the hell were they when it was all going on?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

'Government Sets Health Goals for 2020'

The government has unveiled a new plan for improving public health in more than 40 categories by 2020. Among the objectives outlined in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2020 initiative: to reduce deaths from heart disease and stroke by 20 percent, and cut cancer deaths, obesity rates, and new cases of diabetes by 10 percent. Specific goals to combat obesity include providing healthier food in schools and day care centers, encouraging schools to open their gyms and tracks for after-hours exercise, and building more community sidewalks. The plan also places first-ever emphasis on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health.
- U.S. News via

Just leave us alone. Bureaucrats and politicians have no business whatsoever setting health goals for the rest of us. This is pure busy-body, nannyism with a good dose of I-have-to-justify-my-big-fat-government-job.

'Nervous Breakdown' On The Left

Mark Helperin:

Democrats are understandably -- and largely justified in being -- frustrated that they lost an election based on Republicans defending tax cuts for the wealthy that are only expiring because of a budget gimmick championed by George Bush . . .

That "gimmick" limited the tax cuts to ten years in order to avoid a Senate filibuster. Why, in fact that's the same "gimmick" Obama, Pelosi and Reid "championed" to ram through their massive health insurance bill.

And so it goes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Elite Is As Elite Does

The Huffington Post publishes a piece by [outgoing] Ohio Governor Ted Strickland on the Democrats' regrettable elitism.

Democrats suffer from an "intellectual elitism" that prevents them from adopting the type of populist tone to relate to voters, he said. And while President Obama had made a series of monumental legislative advancements -- any one of which would have been "historic" in its own right -- he fails to recognize that he is being "slapped in the face" by his Republican critics.

Which, of course, inspires several thousand frustrated, liberal commenters to respond -- many, many like this one:

It's lost on me that voters in the nation seem to dislike intelligen­t people.

When elitists, in response to charges of elitism, can only whine that their opponents dislike intelligence, then I'd say that the accusation is probably true.

Can Government Raise Taxes To More Than 19% Of GDP?

Veronique De Rugy thinks not.

From 1930 to 2010, tax revenue collection in the United States has never topped 20.9%, averaging 16.5% of GDP over these 80 years. This comes despite the drastic historical fluctuation in the rate of taxes on the wealthiest Americans. As we move toward debt reduction, it is critical to keep the long-term path of the United States in mind.

But, I'm not so sure.

I do agree with her that raising the top marginal rates as well as taxes on capital won't raise much additional revenue -- the well-to-do are famously able to maintain their living standards and adjust their incomes to get around those. But, there is one way to increase the government's take: raise taxes on the poor.

It's something we never talk about. Since Reagan's tax cuts in the early eighties, our entire conversation has centered around tax cuts "for the rich". In the meantime, though, the percentage of Americans spared the burden of income taxes has grown to almost 50.

That's an awful big chunk of the population which contributes little or nothing to Washington's insatiable hunger for money.

Now, I think that raising income tax rates on the poor will forever be a non-starter in this country, but why do you suppose there has been all this talk of a value-added tax? Because it would raise a lot of money from those lightly-taxed, lower-income people.

It's a sales tax in effect, and the poor cannot cut their consumption appreciably. The imposition of a VAT could very well raise the percentage of tax revenue to over 20% -- and beyond. Just a 1% VAT could, even at current depressed levels of consumer expenditures, raise about $10 billion.

For those who just cannot imagine cutting federal spending, that must be a tempting prospect, indeed.

H.T. Instapundit

[UPDATE:] Nick Gillespie agrees with De Rugy.

It's a simple, plain, and nearly universally unacknowledged fact that the feds haven't been able to raise revenue much past the 19 percent of GDP bar for any period of time since World War II. Doesn't matter the the top marginal rate is, or the bottom, or nothing. The government is going to pull in just under 19 percent maximum. Some years it might be a bit higher and some a bit lower, but it ain't budging over the long haul (defined as the last 60 or so years).

Now, please, don't get me wrong -- I do not advocate an increase in income taxes and I think a VAT would open the governmental Pandora's Box of future tax abuses. But I am not sanguine that 19% of GDP is somehow the magical, mystical upper limit of tax revenue that Washington can squeeze out of us.

This is the wrong argument against tax increases.

How about, instead of statistics, we try principle.