Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Is A Journalist?

Holding people in political power accountable is the prime function -- the defining feature -- of a journalist, including a pundit; if you expressly and publicly vow never to do that, how can you possibly be credibly presented as being one?  And how can the political analysis of someone who takes this pledge possibly be trusted as sincerely held, let alone accurate?  Note that this vow was not from three years ago; it was from two months ago.

That sentiment is an interesting ideal, but Mr. Greenwald - get real!  Journalist's exist to make money for their employer however that may be done.  No one watches MSNBC for objectivity - rather, no one who understands the concept watches MSNBC for objectivity.  Frankly, it's a step up for one of their employees to admit what his agenda is.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

If It Quacks Like A Duck ...

Admittedly, I despise McDonald’s, sugar, HFCS, and the processed food nation that America has become thanks to the government’s coercive campaigns such as the dietary guidelines and food pyramids; the quasi-governmental, propaganda-ridden organizations such as the American Dietetic Association and the American Heart Association; and the criminal gangs known as the USDA and the FDA. However, to think that the establishment of another gigantic and interventionist bureaucracy can drastically alter behavior through oppressive intervention machinations borders on a mental disorder. Behavior meddling on the part of the monopolists of violence – government – has never worked throughout history, and that isn’t something that is going to change because the Waffen-SS sends out its marching orders on sugar.
I like Lustig as a scientist and as a brilliant proponent of the facts who can shred the myths and lies of conventional wisdom as presented by the Big Food interests and their government lackeys, but knowing that he is a raging proponent of rigorous despotism to deter disapproved behaviors puts him on the side of the regime’s iron-fisted War on Obesity. The only honorable and peaceful strategy for changing eating behavior is to shape and influence food choice through education and the application of free market principles to make wholesome products available to those who desire to buy them.

... it probably is a duck ... or a "raging proponent of rigorous despotism."  Lustig should stop quacking.  He's smart but no where near smart enough to run things for the rest of us.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Krugman Hates Choice, Believes Coercive Authority Is More Noble

Krugman well describes the dilemna of publicly funded health care - it's not possible to pay for all the health care that could be purchased.  Rationing is a requirement.  The question he can't get to because of his ideology is: who should choose the rationing?  He never asks this question, he just thinks government should ration and that's the end of it.

Here's a bit of Krugman's logic, if you want to call it that:  How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough.
What has gone wrong with us?
Does he think all health care has nothing to do with patient choice?  I think it is about 99% about choice, the exception being only care of those not conscious or rational enough to choose. 

All  of Krugman's complaints are ineluctible concerns resulting from government's intrusion into the health care process, but it sometimes seems as if he's never considered them before.

As the Cafe puts it: 
If consumer choice isn’t the ultimate driver of health-care supply, however, what – or who – will be its ultimate driver?  Health-care suppliers?  Congress?  Government bureaucrats?  Princeton dons?
Admittedly, the politically engineered wedge separating the receipt of health-care services from the responsibility for paying for these services creates problems.  But the best way to address these problems is to remove the wedge rather than to arrogantly suggest that some mysterious transcendent force will more reliably look after individuals’ health-care needs than will those individuals themselves as they operate in markets in which insurers and physicians must compete for consumer dollars.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Will "On the Money"

Five months ago he submitted a budget that would have accelerated indebtedness, and that the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected in May, 97 to 0. Just three months ago he was demanding a “clean” increase in the debt ceiling, containing nothing to slow the spending carousel. Now he calls for “the largest possible” debt-reduction deal. Today,he says, “If you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.” Last year he advertised Obamacare as a sufficient reform of health care. He denounces Republicans as uncompromising regarding tax increases but vows “I will not accept” a deal that does not increase taxes.
Obama vaguely promises to “look at” savings from entitlements because “we need to find trillions in savings over the next decade.” But when McConnell learned that negotiations chaired by Vice President Biden had identified a risible $2 billion in 2012 discretionary spending cuts — a sum equal to a rounding error on the GM bailout — McConnell concluded that Obama’s frugality pantomime required a response that will define the 2012 election choice.
Obama’s rhetorical floundering is the sound of a bewildered politician trying to be heard over the long, withdrawing roar of ebbing faith in a failing model of governance. From Greece to California, with manifestations in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Illinois and elsewhere, this model is collapsing. Entangled economic and demographic forces are refuting the practice of ever-bigger government financed by an ever-smaller tax base and by imposing huge costs on voiceless future generations.
Richard Miniter, a Forbes columnist, is right: “Obama is not the new FDR, but the new Gorbachev.”
Thank whatever is holy for George Will.

Reminiscent of the Great Depression

This is a repeat of the Great Depression, in which most major western economies had fully recovered after 18 months, whilst the US economic depression dragged on for 15 years due to the manipulations of the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations.

Germany's recovery from the global recession has been among the fastest of major economies, surging at a 6.1% annualized rate in the first quarter of 2011 alone. Its budget deficit is a small fraction of those in the U.S., Britain and Japan. Whereas the U.S. faces chronic unemployment, Germany's jobless rate is at a 20-year low.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Medicare/Medicaid Efficient?

This gives the lie to the "Medicare/Medicaid have a 1% administrative cost" distortion - distortion in that anyone could have administrative expenses that low if they didn't have to collect payments in the current, government distorted system.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Learning from Canada

Fascinating changes afoot with our neighbors to the north.

The Conservatives' triumph offers a couple of lessons that may be relevant to U.S. Republicans. One is that smaller government policies, far from being political poison, are actually vote-winners.
The second is that a center-right party can win immigrant votes. Conservatives won 35 of 54 seats in metro Toronto, many heavy with immigrants. One tactic that seems to have worked was to circulate videos of Indian- and Chinese-Canadian Conservative candidates appealing for votes in their native tongues.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dangers of Not Understanding Keynes

The author seems not to understand that the key point of "stimulus" spending is that there is a presumption of a "multiplier" - in other words, Keynesians believe that for every dollar the government spends, there's an amount of activity stimulated equal to a multiple of the government dollars spent.  While the Keynesians believe their research shows a "multiple", the effect has not ever and cannot ever be proved.

In short, they gambled 800 billion on their assumption of a multiplier.

The author, sounding patient and sycophantic in his worship of the oh so wise Keynes, writes:

Keynes — and others who later elaborated on his work, like Hyman Minsky — taught us that although markets are usually self-correcting, they occasionally enter destructive feedback loops in which a shock to, say, the financial system scares business and consumers so badly that they hoard money, which worsens the damage to the system, which further persuades other economic players to hoard, and so on and so forth.  In that situation, the role of the government is to break the cycle. 

This bit of pap may or may not be true, we don't actually know how free market economies work because we've only had small ones in recent times, but it assumes that the Fed and massively influential economy distorting practices by the US government are not to blame for the "destructive feedback loops" such as the one we've seen since 2007 or so.  In short, the present circumstance is at least as likely to be the result of the negative unintended consequences of prior government interventions as it is a cyclical result of a free market's "destructive feedback loops."  In fact, there's simply no reason to believe that our present difficulties are anything but the result of government interventions.

What Keynes taught us is that, when faced with the perception of responsibility for making a depression ravaged economy work, Keynes and most other politicians will happily endorse a model which justifies their choice to spend other people's money "for their own good."  It is political Darwinism at its finest.

The Author's argument is, in effect, "Keynes might have been right."  My dog might have been right, too, and there's equal evidence supporting either theoretician.  I wonder if, were he alive at this juncture, even Keynes wouldn't have realized his theory does not hold water.

The author cites C. Romer's defense of the lack of impact of the 800 billion dollar "stimulus", in which she claims she just underestimated the seriousness of the recession, and the 800 billion dollars wasn't "enough".  Oh, and there's also the problem that we just don't keep enough "shovel ready" programs on hold, waiting for a downturn in the economy, so we can spend our way back out (but we should).

As I read this part, the word nincompoop came to mind.  The author's argument has now become:  "Because Keynes might have been right, we should be ready to spend a much larger amount of money next time on a stimulus - to see if he really was right.  We'll probably know how much money to spend on the stimulus next time, because we missed it so badly this time."

To whom does the author think he is writing?  We didn't all stop learning after our public school education.

Even if the Keynesian multiplier is real, no one "knows" how large it is, and no one knows how much of it will be required to provide an adequate stimulus given that no knows how bad any given recession is, or how long it will last, or ... anything that would amount to more than the pretense of knowledge about how to massage an economy back to health.  The entire Keynesian concept - that an economy is like a football team that just needs a few coaching pointers to perform correctly - is such a joke it's difficult to believe anyone fell for it.

Here's the sad part - there's just no way a politician can do what he/she should - nothing, following the dictum "first do no harm" - when there's a recession on.  The imperative to act is dominating - every President knows they must make it look as thought they know what they are doing, as thought they have the answers, and they must act - even if none of these things are true.  They must act as if they have the fatal conceit even if they are smart enough to know better.

Mead on Gore, 3
The serial rise and fall of these vacuous civil society movements and the peculiar grip they exercise over the minds of some otherwise intelligent people is an important subject: why do so many people who want to help solve global problems waste so much time and money and, sometimes, do so much harm?  Is there some way to harness that energy and idealism to causes and strategies that might do more good?  What does the repeated rise and fall of clueless but well educated and well placed enthusiasts teach us about the state of our civilization and the human condition?  Are there ways we could nip these Malthusian panics and idealistic feeding frenzies in the bud?  Is there some way we could teach future generations to be a little smarter about politics and power so that the 21st century, which is going to have plenty of serious problems, might spend less time chasing mares’ nests?

The trouble and even the tragedy of Al Gore is that he comes at the tail end of this tradition; he is a living example of what you get when a worldview outlives its time.  He presses the old buttons and turns the old cranks, but the machine isn’t running any more.  The priests dance around the altar, the priestess chews the sacred herbs, but the god no longer speaks.  Like President Obama watching a universal healthcare program that he thought would secure his place in history turn into an electoral albatross and a policy meltdown, Al Gore thought that in the climate issue he had picked a winning horse.  Judging from his Rolling Stone essay he has no idea why the climate movement failed, and no clue at all about how he could re-think the issue.

Beyond the South, the idea of better governance through specially trained and impartial experts has been losing favor from one end of the United States to the other.  In 1911, only a handful of Americans had a college education.  Southern sharecroppers and northern mill workers had little education and little leisure time for politics.  Today growing numbers of Americans resent and reject the tutelage of well meaning elites — and they view with suspicion the claims of ‘experts’ to be dispassionate and disinterested custodians of the public good.  They don’t see civil servants as unselfish and apolitical experts who can be trusted to regulate and rule; they see them as a lobby like any other, a special interest more interested in preserving fat pensions and easy working conditions — and at foisting their own ideological hobby horses and preferences on the public at large.

The public at large increasingly sees journalists as entertainers rather than arbiters.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mead on Gore, 2

Gore’s failures are not just about leadership.  The strategic vision he crafted for the global green movement has comprehensively failed.  That is no accident; the entire green policy vision was so poorly conceived, so carelessly constructed, so unbalanced and so rife with contradictions that it could only thrive among activists and enthusiasts.  Once the political power of the climate movement, aided by an indulgent and largely unquestioning press, had pushed the climate agenda into the realm of serious politics, failure was inevitable.  The only question was whether the comprehensive green meltdown would occur before or after the movement achieved its core political goal of a comprehensive and binding global agreement on greenhouse gasses.
That question has now been answered; the movement failed before it got its treaty, and while the media and the establishment have still generally failed to analyze these developments and draw the consequences, the global climate movement has become the kind of embarrassment intellectuals like to ignore.
These pieces are must read material, unless you happen to like Algore.
Pompous, deluded, narcissistic, aloof, unable to grasp priority, and possessing a kind of "moral flexibility" of which only a politician could be proud, thank whatever is holy that his sun is setting.

A few choice excerpts follow:
The global green treaty movement to outlaw climate change is the most egregious folly to seize the world’s imagination since the Kellog-Briand Pact outlawed war in the late 1920s.  The idea that the nations of the earth could agree on an enforceable treaty mandating deep cuts in their output of all greenhouse gasses is absurd.  A global treaty to meet Mr. Gore’s policy goals isn’t a treaty: the changes such a treaty requires are so broad and so sweeping that a GGCT is less a treaty than a constitution for global government.  Worse, it is a constitution for a global welfare state with trillions of dollars ultimately sent by the taxpayers of rich countries to governments (however feckless, inept, corrupt or tyrannical) in poor ones.
The dream that the menace of global warming will cause humanity to overcome its ancient divisions and unite in a grand global coalition is sophomoric. 

The science is clear, it is settled, and the opposition against it is funded by people with an economic stake in denial.  I am right about the science and my opponents are a bunch of evil opportunists in it only for the money.
That is Mr. Gore’s position, and it is his entire position.  He says nothing about the feasibility of the proposed GGCT or its cost effectiveness.  That, presumably, we must take on faith.  There is nothing to discuss about policy.  It is essentially the cry of Chicken Little: “The sky is falling and we must run and tell the king.”
Thus speaketh Al Gore: the world is burning down and so you must immediately follow my plan for fixing what’s wrong.  He does not discuss whether his plan is feasible; to anyone who objects to the ponderous, unwieldy Rube Goldberg style green treaty agenda, Gore simply bellows:  “What’s the matter you soul-dead, hired flack of the evil oil companies, don’t you believe in Science?”
Al Gore’s logic is exactly like the genealogy of the man who boasted that his line of descent went all the way back to Julius Caesar — with only two gaps.
The real issue here is not climate science.  It is true that, as many critics attest, Gore fundamentally misstates the nature of the scientific discussion of climate change and, especially, the extremely complex questions associated with interventions in it.  He overstates what is known, disregards the inherent uncertainties involved in the study of a complex system like the climate, understates the significance of the remaining gray areas, and demagogues the science to get more out of it than his case really merits.  
To argue with these people about science is to miss the core point.  Even if the science is exactly as Mr. Gore claims, his policies are still useless.  His advocacy is still a distraction.  The movement he heads is still a ship of fools.
It is a waste of time to talk science with Al Gore.  It is a waste of time to listen to him at all.  That, apparently, is what the world at long last is beginning to understand.  The policy makers and the heads of state who only two years ago were ready to follow Gore up the mountain have softly and quietly tuned him out.

Krugman Hits Another Winner

Another interesting case of Krugman v. Krugman.  Entertaining as always ...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mead on Gore

On his own again in 2000, gifted by the departing Clinton with the most bubbliciously expanding economy in American history and a comfortable budget surplus, and insulated from the innuendo and scandal of the Clinton White House by his still-vibrant marriage, he found the elusive road to defeat against a flawed and inexperienced challenger.  Tennessee voted for Bush; Florida or no Florida Gore would have gone to the White House if those who knew him longest and best had rallied to his support.
Inarguably true, yet - why concern oneself with the fate of politicians?  They and their fates matter only to their friends and families ... if they happen to have any. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Texas’ problems are of interest to us all because Texas is producing a huge chunk of the nation’s future work force with a system that goes like this:
• Terrible sex education programs and a lack of access to contraceptives leads to a huge number of births to poor women. (About 60 percent of the deliveries in Texas are financed by Medicaid.) Texas also leads the nation in the number of teenage mothers with two or more offspring.
• The Texas baby boom — an 800,000 increase in schoolchildren over the last decade — marches off to underfunded schools. Which are getting more underfunded by the minute, thanks to that little tax error.
One of the best family-planning efforts in Texas is the Women’s Health Program, which provides an annual health exam and a year’s worth of contraceptives to poor women. For every dollar the state puts into the plan, the federal government provides $9.
The state estimates the pregnancies averted would reduce its Medicaid bill by more than $36 million next year.
And if the State's estimates are accurate, I'm sure their savings will be realized and they will return the saved money to the people from whom it was taken, aren't you?

Or will just be included in the gaping maw of other incredibly necessary and useful programs?

Will they ever measure the actual effect of the programs?  Can they?  If they were shown not to produce savings, would the programs be cancelled?  These programs survive and thrive in assumptionland, in estimationland, and no matter how inaccurate the assumptions and estimations, they never die.  If one dares oppose them one finds oneself the object of scorn for failing to be sympathetic enough to the intentions of those who think they can make the world better through the coercive power of the State.  If these programs don't work, it's only because they weren't more extensively funded ... not because it simply isn't possible to make utopian outcomes via the fiat of the political class.

How much taxation would it take to satisfy the dreams of those in assumptionland and estimationland?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Friedman - Well Said, and Nonsense

There is only one good thing about the fact that Osama bin Laden survived for nearly 10 years after the mass murder at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that he organized. And that is that he lived long enough to see so many young Arabs repudiate his ideology. He lived long enough to see Arabs from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to Syria rise up peacefully to gain the dignity, justice and self-rule that Bin Laden claimed could be obtained only by murderous violence and a return to puritanical Islam.

To understand that challenge, we need to recall, again, where Bin Ladenism came from. It emerged from a devil’s bargain between oil-consuming countries and Arab dictators. We all — Europe, America, India, China — treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations, and all of us sent the same basic message to the petro-dictators: Keep the oil flowing, the prices low and don’t bother Israel too much and you can treat your people however you like, out back, where we won’t look. 
This is too much pretense to put up with - his suggestion is we know better and it was "our place" (meaning our government's place under the leadership of those we call politicians, in other words, those people who will do whatever it takes to win election and stay in office) to set a standard for the behavior of Arab tyrants.  I hear the pot calling the kettle black.  Just another version of the fatal conceit.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More on Hayek

The left, the statists, currently frame the dialogue. The dialogue centers around “what should be done”, or “what should we do” or some other statement that implies goodness comes from government action. The only possible dialogue is “what government action should be taken to produce more goodness.”
Framed that way, the debate skips over entirely the matter of liberty, which is virtually always in opposition to government action. The fact that government’s purpose is the defense of liberty is nearly ignored. I can’t think of a single politician who got elected, or could get elected, for saying, “I if elected, will work tirelessly, day and night, to defend your individual liberty.”
It is because liberty has been eliminated from the debate, and “what govt action will be taken” is the only matter under discussion for all practical purposes, that we have discussion of grand central planning scemes, which are taken seriously by educated people. We all know on some level that government never really gets it right, and we don’t even expect it to. People hardly bat an eye when we talk about 10-40% fraud in medicare, but then say with great satisfaction that it is under-regulated, greedy capitalists who “ruined the economy.” The cognitive dissonance is immense.
A government doing nothing in addition to or excess of defending the individual rights of citizens is the starting point. No justification should ever have to be made for a government NOT doing any particular thing. The only justification that should ever have to be mounted is by the Keynesians and their ilk who say they think they know how to accomplish something good through the coercive monopoly of the state.
IOW – as much as I relish the continued and effortless pounding of the Keynesians, shooting fish in a barrel as it were, the fact that we even debate the relative merits of Keynesian economic philosphy is proof of the fact that the more significant debate was already lost, that being “what is the role of government and how may a government be strong enough to accomplish that role but limited such that it cannot do harm.”

...for Hayek the tenets of a sound ethics or morality aren’t directly relevant to political economy. As he said in the same interview for Reason magazine, “I don’t see why it should be necessary for political philosophy to have any view at all about what is right for man—unless the political system does something about it, it needn’t concern itself with what is right for man.” This may be objected to for a variety of reasons but not because it supports moral relativism. Indeed, something akin to this position is held by Professors Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen in their book Norms of Liberty (Penn State Press, 2005) when they argue that the principles of classical liberalism aren’t directly derivable from ethics but are, instead, meta-norms, meaning, norms that are required for the social realization of ethically significant conduct.
The relationship between objective personal morality and the principles of politics which are basic to a constitution such as Hayek’s constitution of liberty is a challenging aspect of political philosophy. It does not help to casually dismiss Hayek’s approach by caricaturing it as moral relativism.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Paper Thin Critique

One day when I'm truly bored, I'll write a rebuttal to this critique of Hayek's ideas.  For now let me just say that this person was very brave to put such pap into print.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Brooks' Assumptionland

We’ll probably need a mixture of these approaches to figure out what works. Instead, Republicans decry the technocratic rationing model as “death panels.” Democrats have gone into demagogic overdrive calling premium support ideas “privatization” or “the end of Medicare.”
Let’s be clear about the effect of this mendacity: We’re locking in the nation’s wealth into the Medicare program and closing off any possibility that we might do something significant to reinvigorate the missing fifth. Next time you see a politician demagoguing Medicare, ask this: Should we be using our resources in the manner of a nation in decline or one still committed to stoking the energy of its people and continuing its rise?
"Figure out what works?"  Fifty years of failed government health care isn't long enough to figure out it won't work?  Of course the politicians are mendacious - that's what they are good at.  What a comic approach.  This man is glad politicians are gaining control of the payment and distribution of health care, but surprised that their primary tool of their trade is to avoid truth, thus being able to say they are everything to everyone.

Mr. Brooks' closing paragraph is noteworthy.  I agree that locking the nation's wealth into a failing Medicare system is an absurdity - if the original idea was "we must do something to ensure that people can still get care while they are old and we can at least pay for some of that via the coercive power of the state", the truth now is we could be spending every penny the government has to throw at the problem and we still won't be able to pay for all the care that could be bought.  And yes, the death panels are an inevitability - once we've given the government the power to tax us to pay for our health care, we have also ceded control over how much we get to spend when in decline, and how heroic the efforts will be to save us.  When it comes down to keeping the dying alive or healing the young, the bureaucrats will choose the later.  It's only logical.  It's also soulless and anyone who fights this bureaucratization of health care is fully justified.

Lastly, look at the assumptions in this absurd statement:
"Should we be using our resources in the manner of a nation in decline or one still committed to stoking the energy of its people and continuing its rise?"
Restated:  Should we continue to allow the political class to seize the results of our life energy and spend it on their re-election and political legacy, or should we respect property rights thereby allowing the citizenry to benefit from their own ingenuity and labor, and from the undeniable boost in wealth and productivity that results from cooperative trade amongst free men?  This author has a serious case of the fatal conceit.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Five Percent Solution

About 5 percent of the population is responsible for almost half of all health care spending in the United States and for rising premium rates, according to a new report from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.
U.S. health care spending has sharply increased over the past few years. Between 2005 and 2009, national health care spending rose by 23 percent from $2 billion to $2.5 billion, according to the NIHCM Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on health care. A foundation report that reviewed the 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey found health care spending was concentrated among a small group of high-cost patients.
The report stated about half of the U.S. population accounted for only 3.1 percent of all expenditures. But 10 percent of the population hogged 63.6 percent of all health spending, the survey found.  The top 5  percent of the population accounted for 47.5 percent of all spending, and the top 1 percent accounted for 20.2 percent.

Unfortunately, the article did not cover what might be done to reduce the cost of care for these 'expensive few'.  We know these folks must be the older part of the population, because about 25% of all spending is spent in the last year of life.  We also know, due to a later quote that half this highly treated population is diabetic or pre-diabetic, that many of these folks have eaten themselves sick - but like smokers, it is hard to discern whether they are more or less costly over their 'life cycle' because they have more illnesses, but live shorter lives.

Any way you slice it, pun intended, the public provision of health care is going to boil down to managing the shortages, and it will satisfy very few but still cost bundles of cash.   "What will the demand for health care if the cost at the point of sale is zero?"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


In short, whatever the fashionable language of the day, we Americans do not much like fighting merely to achieve commitments and goals. We like to win. There is a fair argument to be made that we won in Iraq—a proposition that might be admitted even by those of us who wonder whether it was worth the price. We toppled the regime with surprising ease (crushing a 400,000-man Army along the way), then dragged Saddam Hussein from his hole in the ground. We left in place a democracy that, although struggling, seems likely to survive.
In Afghanistan, we plainly won the first war—toppling the Taliban in mere weeks—and President Obama should not be reluctant to say so. But we have grown weary of the longer conflict to keep the Taliban from returning to power. If Obama truly believes the time has come for the fighting to stop, perhaps he should be guided by the example of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who famously proclaimed during World War II that there is no substitute for victory, then accepted a bitter stalemate in Korea. But he demanded a signed armistice first, and left a massive American force in place to guard the uneasy peace.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Classic Quote, Epicurius

"It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself."
- Epicurius


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wind Power's Unfortunate Limitations

The report, drawn up by its national laboratories said that meeting this target presumed some important assumptions. It would require improvements in turbine technology, cost reductions, new transmission lines and a five-fold increase in the pace of wind turbine installations. What exactly does that mean in terms of real, available kWh generating output? Actually, it means very little if merely a minor percentage of that technical feasibility provides electricity when needed.
To be extremely optimistic, let’s assume that actual average output would be 25% of that projected installed capacity. In that case, the real output would be less than 5% of the country’s electricity, and more realistically, about half of even that amount under optimistic circumstances.
Output volatility due to wind’s intermittency varies greatly according to location and time of year, typically ranging from 0% to about 50%. Texas, one of the most promising wind energy states, averages about 16.8% of installed capacity, yet the Electric Reliability Council of Texas assigns a value of 10% due to unpredictability. Only about 20% of that capacity is generally available during peak demand periods (about 5:00pm), while average generation during off-peak time averages about 40% of capacity.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Next Stop: Utopia

And it's people like this that the Statists think will be able to legislate and regulate US corporations and banks and insurance companies to low risk heaven.  "Pull the other one".
The creation of a stand-alone European Monetary Union was a calculated risk. Without the unifying disciplines of a common fiscal policy, profligate governments could, in effect, tap into the savings of the more prudent. To avert such free riding, the Maastricht Treaty had imposed firm entrance criteria: low inflation, manageable public debt and small budget deficits.
In 1999 Greece conspicuously failed the entrance exam. Yet two years later, after fiddling the national books, it squeaked through the door despite the manifest weakness of its economic institutions and fiscal management. Able now to tap markets as cheaply as Germany, Athens embarked on the mother of spending sprees. The wildly overbudget Athens Olympics alone, organized, if that is the word, by none other than Greece's just-appointed finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, should have raised eyebrows. Europe's watchdogs slumbered on.
Greece could borrow almost without limit, because although the Maastricht Treaty expressly barred bailouts of indebted members, financial markets judged that euro-zone governments would do anything to prevent a sovereign default. And no one told the Greeks that they could not live forever on the never-never.,0,6954767.story

That's News?

The president hinted that defense spending would have to take a hit. (On the table, sources tell me, is the possibility of a freeze on defense spending.) And some have argued that the promise of an overhaul of the tax code -- real reform that could lower overall rates but take away some sacrosanct deductions -- should be a part of this discussion. But we didn't hear about any of that, because those are tough choices, and they haven't been made. This was about politics and positioning to get the upper hand in the looming debt limit battle.
REALLY?  A freeze at current levels is news?  I regret my ignorance.  Why wouldn't a freeze at current spending levels for the entire budget be the starting point?  Granted that does not solve the entitlement black hole but they are not dealing with that anyway.

That Is THE Question

Why is Greece such a basket case? And what are the implications for Europe and the U.S.?

Why are Iran and North Korea at the bottom of the list for wealth? 

Why can't European nations compete with the Indias and Chinas?

Why is the US economy looking more like the Euro economies?

One answer - liberty.  Specifically, less of it.

Willful Ignorance or Forbidden Knowledge?

Consider Obama's background. He grew up among leftists, his childhood mentors were outright communists, and he then went off to academia, where he spent his formative years in an environment where business and profit-making are looked down upon as ugly, dirty, rapacious, immoral. Is it any mystery why he doesn't know about business or economics? Asking him to study the economics of the free market is like asking one of the old New England Puritans to thumb through a manual on sex education. Why immerse oneself in a subject that is so unseemly? Why make a study of how to be immoral?
It is for this attitude that Obama was elevated in American politics. He won the Democratic primaries because, unlike Hillary Clinton, he really seemed to believe in all of the old "liberal" pieties. He projected the sense that he still regarded big government as an untried new idea that would do better than the free market. But to believe that, he had to resist the contamination of pro-free-market economics or any independent observation of the workings of the economy. He had to live through 25 years of ATMs and low unemployment--or, for that matter, of balanced budgets while CEOs still flitted about in untaxed corporate jets--and not let any of it register. He had to preserve a carefully maintained, earnestly burnished ignorance of the economics of a free market.

Had It All, Or Had Nothing

A tale of the human condition.  You can have everything you could think of, and still have nothing if your relationships are not healthy.

Both (Political) Sides Will Win, We Lose

Won't this just be another big todo about nothing?  They will use the frothing to generate attention, then compromise at the last minute, nothing will substantively change, and both sides will happily claim victory.

The only real fix is entitlements, and there's no fix for those even under discussion.  Smoke and freakin' mirrors.

Fantastic Review of Mamet's Book

The book consists of 39 relatively short chapters, ranging from "Culture, School Shootings, the Audience, and the Elevator" ("one might ask not why mass shootings are happening, but why they are happening in schools"), to "The Street Sweeper and the Surgeon, or Marxism Examined" ("the money the Government strips from the surgeon to pay the street sweeper, far from ending in the sweeper's pocket, will most likely arrive somewhere else altogether"), to a concluding chapter entitled "The Secret Knowledge" (drawn from an Anna Simons quotation about the "terrible secret" initiates learn after receiving the "shared truths" -- that "beyond the knowledge the initiates have just been given there is no special knowledge"). 
Not every chapter works as well as the others, but it is a sustained argument about the necessity of choosing among imperfect alternatives in an imperfect world, avoiding the easy utopias and siren songs of government, respecting the centrality of human individuality, and testing theoretical arguments against life as actually lived -- all written in a style that personalizes and dramatizes (and sometimes overdramatizes) the issues in a way that should provoke thought even among those who disagree.

I long wondered how a Jew could be liberal in the present meaning of the term.  I sense liberals oppose the idea of Israel but identify with the Palestinians (granted, the suffering of those people is a horror, the relevant question being, who's fault is that?), they support the style of european government which is practiced in anti-semitic parts of the world (Europe), and they of all people should know the brutality of an over-powerful government.  Yet they vote for tyranny, and the pretense of empathy via the coercive power of the State.  Can this congnitive dissoance last?

Infamous Quotes, Gorbachev

“The threat of environmental crisis will be the international disaster key to unlock the New World Order.”
Mikhail Gorbachev