Wednesday, January 19, 2011

So, Why Do They Attack Capitalism?

Von Hayek Meets The Press -- 1975

George Will: "Dr. von Hayek, capitalism and particularly American capitalism would seem to have a good record at giving people a rising standard of living. Why are so many intellectuals, and particularly so many economists, skeptical about and even hostile to capitalism?"

Von Hayek: "Well, I've been puzzling about it for a long time, particularly about the economists who ought to understand better. It's very difficult to know why they don't. I think it's the intellectual attraction of a system you can deliberately control, which is fascinating to the intellectual."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Segregation, The "Problem" That Has No Solution

Marginal Revolution:

American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago.

Someone will have to explain to me how blacks, who comprise approximately 12% of the population, can be spread around enough to eliminate segregation. And if, just saying, the black population of the United States were distributed perfectly evenly across the country, would they be happy?

Or, just possibly, are they more content to choose where they live and be amongst the people with whom they're most comfortable? White, liberal efforts to wipe out racial segregation, I think, have always proceeded from the arrogant (and ignorant) premise that blacks are best off when interspersed among whites.

I've never understood why they aren't insulted by that.

Salon Does The Right Thing

It has deleted (with explanation) a screed against vaccinations by the estimable Robert F. Kennedy, Jr..

In 2005, Salon published online an exclusive story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that offered an explosive premise: that the mercury-based thimerosal compound present in vaccines until 2001 was dangerous, and that he was "convinced that the link between thimerosal and the epidemic of childhood neurological disorders is real."

[. . . ]

At the time, we felt that correcting the piece -- and keeping it on the site, in the spirit of transparency -- was the best way to operate. But subsequent critics, including most recently, Seth Mnookin in his book "The Panic Virus," further eroded any faith we had in the story's value. We've grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.

May this be the last time that Mr. Kennedy (or any other politician, movie star or journalist) is able to find willing publishers for his unproven nonsense simply because he's famous. Kennedy is well-known for his sage pronouncements on topics as varied as the environment and oil politics, but this time was different: people (children mostly) died for not having been vaccinated.

Shame on our society for believing that celebrity is synonymous with intelligence.

Friday, January 14, 2011

'From Rags To Riches To Rehab'

Remember the story of a couple weeks back about the homeless man with the marvelous radio voice? After his story went viral, he was offered a well-paying radio gig and a house to live in -- and lived happily ever after.


Not only did he have multiple job offers, but Kraft took him on as a macaroni and cheese spokesman and a mortgage company offered to pay for a house.

But now, with the announcement that despite his claims of being clean and sober for two years, he has not mastered the drug and alcohol problem that put him on the street, he becomes just the latest celebrity – if newly minted – to enter a private rehab facility in Los Angeles.

The course of action was disclosed in an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw on his syndicated talk show that aired Thursday. Mr. Williams’ appearance on the show followed an altercation Monday with his daughter that involved the police.

The journey from panhandling on a Columbus, Ohio, street corner to media darling and now fellow resident-with-the stars in a private treatment center spanned less than two weeks.

There is a belief (shared largely by those on the left) that the poor and the homeless are in their dire straits for reasons having little to do with their own actions. They are the victims of bad luck or of a society that, for some reason, discriminates against them. In their view, some money, a job or perhaps an education are all that is needed to lift them into middle class-hood and we are selfish if we deny them that.

Mr. Williams's story shows us once again, though, that we do, indeed, make our own beds. He's been given a marvelous opportunity at a new life and it may still work out for him; but not until he's able to shake the behaviors that put him on the street in the first place.

There's a cautionary tale here for those who think we can eliminate poverty and suffering by taking money from those who work and giving it to those who don't. Will they learn from it?

Not on your life.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tea Party Sentiments Growing Among Non-Partiers?

Poll: 71% of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling

That's a pretty stunning number. Now, the usual TV talking-heads will insist that Americans want to cut spending but don't want to cut spending that benefits them. I don't know -- 71%.

That's big. It indicates that a larger proportion of Americans are paying attention to federal spending and that they -- even if vaguely -- aren't happy with it. Portentous.

Those Libs Sure Know How To Throw A Memorial

Commemorative T-shirts -- replete with de rigueur trite, collectivist logo -- laid out on the seats prior to the Tucson memorial. No word on how long the lines were at the beer concessions.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Most Ridiculous Shooting Reaction Of The Day: Ban Crosshairs!

It's tough to pick the winner what with liberal bloggers, politicians, movie stars and media types all trying desperately to pin Rep. Gifford's shooting on the tea party and Sarah Palin, but I think this qualifies.

Representative Bob Brady of Pennsylvania told The Caucus he plans to introduce a bill that would ban symbols like that now-infamous campaign crosshair map.

"You can't threaten the president with a bullseye or a crosshair," Mr. Brady, a Democrat, said, and his measure would make it a crime to do so to a member of Congress or federal employee, as well.

Asked if he believed the map incited the gunman in Tucson, he replied, "I don't know what's in that nut's head. I would rather be safe than sorry."

Soon after proposing this ridiculous encroachment on free speech, the honorable Representative from Pennsylvania said, "We need to tone down this rhetoric."


'Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior'

Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children's own desires and preferences. That's why Chinese daughters can't have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can't go to sleepaway camp. It's also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, "I got a part in the school play! I'm Villager Number Six. I'll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I'll also need a ride on weekends." God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.

You didn't think all those Chinese valedictorians, scientists and doctors came from nowhere, did you? Read the whole thing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Finally, The CBO Comes Through

Announced this afternoon:

The Congressional Budget Office, in an email to Capitol Hill staffers obtained by the Spectator, has said that repealing the national health care law would reduce net spending by $540 billion in the ten year period from 2012 through 2021. That number represents the cost of the new provisions, minus Medicare cuts. Repealing the bill would also eliminate $770 billion in taxes. It's the tax hikes in the health care law (along with the Medicare cuts) which accounts for the $230 billion in deficit reduction.

At no time during the entire Obamacare debate, do I recall hearing just how much it was going to cost. All we heard was how much it would reduce the deficit, making it sound, to those not paying much attention, as if it were a money-saver. Finally the spending number -- over half a trillion -- is out in the open.

And it bears remembering that the $770 billion in tax revenues are to be collected over 10 years while the expenses will be incurred only over the last six. It should go without saying that any private business that operated this way would be hauled up on charges of fraud.

These are numbers all that should have been part of the discussion leading up to the vote. That they weren't is only more reason to despise the Democratic party and our execrable American press.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Wicked Witch Of The West

Nancy Pelosi, that is. She's a nasty, vengeful and ignorant little woman.

[UPDATE:] Much the same can be said for Henry Waxman.

The committee was an unending source of ghastly new legislative proposals for regulatory manacles to be fastened on one or another sector of the economy , ideas that with any luck we may now be spared for the next two years. Thus it appears unlikely that the Republican-led committee will give its blessing to something called the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R. 5786), introduced by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), which — by mandating that all compounds found in personal-care items at any detectable level be expensively tested for and disclosed on labels — could have added tens of thousands of dollars of cost overhead to that little herbal-soap business your sister is trying to start in her garage. (Fragrance expert Robert Tisserand explains why most small personal-care product makers would not survive if the bill passed). Nor is it likely that the new leadership of chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) will be in a hurry to adopt Rep. Schakowsky’s H.R. 1408, the Inclusive Home Design Act, which would mandate handicap accessibility features in most new private homes.

May they both rot in the minority.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

On The Horrible Problem of Income Inequality

Don Boudreaux:

Second, according to research reported in 2006 by Nobel economist Daniel McFadden, “both behavioral observation and brain studies indicate that organisms seem to be on a hedonic treadmill, quickly habituating to homeostasis, and experiencing pleasure from gains and pain from losses relative to the reference point that homeostasis defines.” That is, a person’s subjective well-being is reckoned relative to his or her own accustomed state rather than relative to the material standard of living enjoyed by other people.

But, but, is that fair!?

Punish Reckless Driving . . .

. . . not drunk driving.

Once the 0.08 standard took effect nationwide in 2000, alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased, following a 20-year decline.

Critics of the 0.08 standard predicted this would happen. The problem is that most people with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.10 don’t drive erratically enough to be noticed by police officers in patrol cars. So police began setting up roadblocks to catch them. But every cop manning a sobriety checkpoint aimed at catching motorists violating the new law is a cop not on the highways looking for more seriously impaired motorists. By 2004 alcohol-related fatalities went down again, but only because the decrease [Ed: in the number of fatalities] in states that don’t use roadblocks compensated for a slight but continuing increase in the states that use them.

This is also, by the way, the justification for legalizing drugs. We would still punish the bad behavior that drug-taking can cause, but leave the drug-taking (and, of course, possession), itself, alone.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cuomo Covers Himself In Glory

The local news has been full of the swearing-in of our new goveror, Andrew Cuomo (lovely girlfriend at his side). But, oddly enough, none of the news coverage mentioned this.

As Cuomo left his office as Attorney General to be sworn in an the new NY Governor, he agrees to a CIVIL (not criminal) deal with financier Steven L. Rattner, a guy suspected of paying a kickback...."improperly paid off a political operative to win lucrative business from the New York state pension fund - in one case, by arranging to help distribute a low budget film for the brother of a pension fund official...." (NYT June 1, 2010.) Criminal investigations mean you might get jail. Civil investigations means you only get financial penalties. I don't need to tell you that there is a big difference between jail and money fine. This story is not about small money, this is about big money.

Any idea what would happen to YOU in an kickback scheme? First, you know you would be investigated criminally (bribery?) What did Rattner get? Rattner was granted immunity from prosecution in the criminal case (according to an earlier NY Times story dated June 1, 2010) for testifying before a grand jury. In other words, he got a sure fire "get out of jail free card" to testify. I don't know if he is guilty or not...but is this the right way to address this matter? Immunity to the guy alleged to be giving the kickback(s)? Usually the 'main guy' is the one who does NOT get the is the small fish who do...and not the one who makes all the money.

[. . . ] Rattner is also barred for 5 years from "appearing in any capacity before a public pension fund." (NYT) Big deal. That is window dressing. That doesn't hurt. 5 years? That is silly. He no longer needs to do this.

You can do stuff like this in a state that is overwhelmingly Democrat -- they all still think it's the Republicans who are in bed with Wall Street.

"Renewabubble" Energy

The bill is coming due for Spain's "green" energy subsidies. Realizing that wind and solar power are vastly more expensive than conventional energy, Spain's socialist government mandated electricity rates lower than production costs and made up the difference by borrowing.

With the government's fiscal crisis deepening, it has slashed the subsidies and raised rates to begin to approximate the actual capital and operating costs. The Spaniards, mired deeply in recession, are, not surprisingly, not pleased.

Meanwhile, though, in old Blighty, renewable energy problems of a different sort.

Despite high demand for electricity as people shivered at home over Christmas, most of the 3,000 wind turbines around Britain stood still due to a lack of wind.

Even yesterday , when conditions were slightly breezier, wind farms generated just 1.8 per cent of the nation’s electricity — less than a third of usual levels.

The failure of wind farms to function at full tilt during December forced energy suppliers to rely on coal-fired power stations to keep the lights on — meaning more greenhouse gases were produced.

Experts feared that as the Government moved towards a target of generating 30 per cent of electricity from wind — while closing gas and coal-fired power stations — cold, still winters could cause a problem in the future.

Renewable, indeed. The problem, though, is that it renews itself when it feels like it -- not necessarily when we might like the power.