Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tea Time

I wouldn't exactly put on my Mike Myers voice and call this Scottish Breakfast Tea "crap", but...

I'm getting the impression that American tea drinkers are wusses.

I didn't even know such a blend existed until I saw it in a clearance bin at the mall. Kensington Scottish Breakfast Tea promises a "thick full bodied tea with a slightly malty character".

And it delivers. Perhaps a bit too much. They aren't kidding when they say "thick" and "malty".

It comes in those oversized tea bags common to imports from the UK or Ireland, so I threw it in the jumbo mug I have for such occasions. I like my tea relatively strong (or at least I thought I did), and when brewing a standard US-sized bag I usually just let it seep the whole time I'm drinking it - no milk, no sugar, no honey. For this stuff you really have to pay attention to how strong you're letting your tea become.

I think I'll stick with Barry's Irish Breakfast tea (aka "green label"), which I always considered to be on the bolder end of the spectrum, though I now see the website promises an "uncomplicated tea" that is "a bit softer in taste."

Either American tea drinkers are incredible wusses or I need a bigger mug. Or both.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Larry the Stimulus Guy

Lawrence Lindsey makes more sense than most of the current and former officials opining on a Federal stimulus package. Generally, he prefers particular tax cuts to infra spending. I can't say I agree with everything he says, but Lindsey makes several good points.

I think his criticisms of infra spending are generally valid, and he admits that while some such spending may be good, it can hardly be called a reliable economic stimulus.

Lowering (or at least promising not to raise) taxes on dividends and capital gains accomplishes Lindsey's criteria for effective stimulus - it addresses the problem (household wealth), it is timely (immediate), and it fundamentally strengthens the economy going into the expansion phase.

However, Lindsey is really pounding the table for a decrease in the payroll tax. I think his analysis is right that it will work, and for the reasons he states, but I am hesitant to further degrade the Social Security trust fund.

In the short run, effective fiscal stimulus requires that government revenue drop, thereby enriching the private sector, and with the Treasury making the Social Security trust fund whole by way of intergovernmental bookkeeping. Longer term, however, spending cuts or a new source of revenue would be needed.
There's the rub -- we're robbing the trust fund, and paying it back out of general funds. Lindsey's most promising source of future revenue is a carbon tax that can be phased in better economic times. Yikes.

But you can't have your cake and eat it too, and Lindsey's plan seems better than Obama's by any reasonable measure.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Liberal Fascism Part 1

I requested and received Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism for Christmas.

First, let me add to the anecdotal evidence of a bookseller's blacklist at Barnes & Noble stores. My parents were unsuccessful at the State College B&N, and so enlisted my brother who lives outside the area. After having similar failure at at least one B&N near Philly, my brother eventually located the book at a Borders. How ironic -- a popular book about fascism is oddly difficult to find...

Anyway, I finished the first chapter last night, which was about Mussolini. The book more than makes the case that Mussolini was a committed socialist through most of his political life. And it's pretty clear that at no point did Mussolini adopt anything that would resemble a right-leaning political philosophy, particularly not one that would be recognized as such today.

But there was a subtle shift to a kind of "whatever keeps me in power" philosophy, and Mussolini eventually de-emphasized class consciousness in favor of nationalist identity, infuriating Italian socialists at the time.

This is a difference from the short-form way that the Goldberg argument has been summarized -- that Mussolini and Hitler were just socialists who weren't internationalists. Clearly, at least with Mussolini (as that's all the farther I've read), there was a more important shift occurring.

Otherwise, there are numerous parallels drawn between Mussolini and Lenin including tactics, their views of Pragmatic philosophy, reaction to world events, and small-p pragmatic deviations from by-the-book socialism.

Good stuff so far. And with such an uncomfortable similarity to current political rhetoric (including a "third way" to get beyond "the tired categories of left and right", the rejection of the "dogma" of classical liberalism, and an appeal to "pragmatism" with a heavy state hand), it's no wonder sales of the book have jumped since November.

Looking forward to the rest of the book.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Over Regulation

Think we're under-regulated? Not entirely. Sarb-Ox is an anchor tied to the necks of entrepreneurs. (H/T Slashdot)

For all of this, we can first thank Sarbanes-Oxley. Cooked up in the wake of accounting scandals earlier this decade, it has essentially killed the creation of new public companies in America, hamstrung the NYSE and Nasdaq (while making the London Stock Exchange rich), and cost U.S. industry more than $200 billion by some estimates.

Meanwhile, FASB has fiddled with the accounting rules so much that, as one of America's most dynamic business executives, T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, recently blogged: "My financial statements are a mystery, even to me." FASB's "mark-to-market" accounting rules helped drive AIG and Bear Stearns into bankruptcy, even though they were cash-positive.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Capitalism FAIL

This rises to UK-levels of FAIL.

Wal-Mart’s not in the custom upholstery business. But they do sell sheets and various sorts of bedding. And as such, they need at least three permits from this single government agency. To sell sheets. Because, I guess, Californians are so stupid that if they were left to their own devices they couldn’t buy proper bedding. They’d probably buy bags of potato peelings to cover themselves and gallons of gasoline to fill their waterbeds, and wonder why they woke up feeling starchy and engulfed in flames. Let us stop and thank God above that the California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation is there to prevent such a travesty.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Palin Pontification

I weigh in on the ongoing Sarah Palin conversation over at PAWaterCooler, and try to see how many P-words I can use in a single sentence:
...and he did so peering patronizingly over the spectacles perched professorially on his proboscis.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rick Warren the new Billy Graham?

With all the hubbub over Pastor Rick Warren's planned role in the Obama inauguration, I have to wonder if Warren is about to assume Billy Graham's former role as unofficial pastor to the Presidency.

Frankly, at this point in time, no pastor who doesn't oppose gay marriage is capable of assuming that role.

But Warren isn't exactly a hardcore political conservative. He's got sort of a new-agey Salvation Army vibe. He's about as squishy as a pastor can credibly get and still advise a future Republican President.

And that's just the point.

Plastic Snow Shovel Rant

Plastic snow shovels are the work of the devil.

When I was a kid you could buy an honest-to-God steel snow shovel that wasn't a piece of crap.

I don't want any "steel core", or "steel blade". Even the aluminum shovels don't last long -- the corners and edges get dinged up, and soon you're left with a worthless piece of aluminum on a stick... and even then it's still better than a plastic shovel.

And I'll have none of those allegedly "good for your back" shovels with the bend in the middle. They don't really help your back at all, they screw up your leverage when thrusting into heavily packed snow and/or ice, and if you're moving any large quantity of snow it's impossible to throw it far.

Where are the quality shovels of yesteryear? The ones that weigh half a ton... the ones that kill your back... the ones that are so rigid they'll dislocate your shoulder if you hit a crack in the sidewalk... the ones that are probably dangerous enough they shouldn't be sold to minors?

You know, the ones that actually get the job done?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rise of the Machines

The Quote of the Day can be found in an interesting article suggesting that the current financial turmoil is effectively a giant, distributed computer crash.

In computer science terms, you could say that both Taleb and Mandelbrot, in a recent and very scary interview with Charlie Rose, have essentially argued that the current global system is in an "undefined state." This means that there's no way to predict what its output will be, which is why attempts by governments to meddle massively with the inputs will definitely have some kind of impact, but nobody can say what it really is. Government intervention becomes the equivalent of "percussive maintenance," i.e., beating on the side of the machine on the chance that you'll magically unbreak it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

CQ bailout reporting bias

Specifically, those who are for the auto bailout are "pragmatic", and those who are against it are being "ideological" and "populist". (Link: "Bailout Season Has Republicans Choosing Sides")

On one side are pragmatists such as President Bush and the Republicans in Congress whose home states would be hardest-hit if auto manufacturers and their web of suppliers and dealers were to disappear.

On the other side are Republicans who believe so deeply in the conservative free-market philosophy that they oppose bailouts, either the huge $700 billion package (PL 110-373) Congress passed after tumultuous debate during the presidential campaign or one aimed at a unionized auto industry anchored in Midwest states where GOP fortunes already are sagging.


Just to set the blog record straight, I was for the financial bailout, but am in the Corker corner with respect to the auto bailout. And somehow the financial bailout did manage to pass...

Only in the 15th paragraph does CQ decide to mention Senator Corker's proposal, calling it "nuanced".

The difference with the auto companies is that while the banks had/have a problem that could be solved with large amounts of free money, the auto companies don't. There is a fundamental structural cost issue that must be resolved for the autos to be viable. Bob Corker understands this, and so do a lot of Republican Senators.

But back to CQ:
William Bianco, a political science professor at Indiana University, said anti-bailout Republicans had made a savvy political calculation that they could satisfy their base by scuttling a congressional auto bailout, knowing that they could score ideological points while feeling sure that Bush would intervene in any event.

"Everybody knows the game everybody is playing here. Republicans are playing to the politics of their districts with the firm expectation their actions in blocking the House-passed $14 billion loan package would have no policy consequences, because the industry will get bailed out anyway. If they’re wrong, they could be in trouble,” Bianco said.

Or, alternatively, the Republican Senators knew that a free money bailout was pointless, and are actually angry with Bush for potentially caving in? Also, the professor seems to suggest it's an "ideological" point, but one that they also didn't really believe.

When I was taught Political Science there was at least a theoretical pretense of neutrality. The idea seemed to be that it didn't matter whether or not politicians believed what they said, but academia didn't so far as to claim to know what was in their heads.

And this is just downright inconsistent:
Stan Luger, a political scientist at the University of Northern Colorado who has studied auto industry history, predicted that the nuanced stand taken by Sen. Bob Corker , R-Tenn., would be popular with some constituents, such as the non-union workers at the Nissan factory in Smyrna, Tenn. Corker’s plan would have required big wage concessions by the United Autoworkers Union as a key part of any deal.

"We have taken a very thoughtful stance. I don’t think it’s going to hurt us," Corker said.

"The South has taken over the Republican Party ideologically, They are taking a populist stance against bailouts. It will not be popular with unions. But it may appeal to workers for foreign automakers that do not need bailouts," Luger said.
Last I checked, the South was a region, not an ideology. Second, last time I checked, Tennessee was in the South - yet Corker, a Senator from Tennessee (and thus the South) had a "nuanced" plan, not a "populist" anti-bailout stance. And Corker just happens to be the lead Republican Senator on this issue.

Additionally, the transplants suffer if the parts suppliers suffer, so the idea that Big-Three bankruptcy is an unmitigated good for the foreign manufacturers is bogus.

Monday, December 15, 2008

There's always been Subprime in Eastasia

Great catch by John Hood at NRO.

In a ridiculous 1984-esque moment, Barney Frank tries to B.S. Maria Bartiromo on the history of subprime:

[MB] With all due respect, congressman, I saw videotapes of you saying in the past: "Oh, let's open up the lending. The housing market is fine."

[BF] No, you didn't see any such tapes.

I did. I saw them on TV.

Yeah, well, I never said open up the housing market, the market is fine. In 2005 a group of us in Congress were trying to pass a bill to restrict subprime lending, and we were opposed by right-wing Republicans led by [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay, and I don't remember us being able to get any media attention. No, I have been on the record as saying repeatedly that pushing people into homeownership when they can't afford it is a bad idea for them and the economy. In 1994, in fact, Democrats in Congress passed a bill giving the Fed the authority to restrict subprime lending. Alan Greenspan, as he later admitted, refused to use it.


Except for the bit about Greenspan, that's almost the exact opposite of what actually occurred.




I'll be the first to say it, a lot of Republicans are to blame too. But the Democrats uniformly opposed greater oversight over Fannie and Freddie, and the only people calling for it were Republicans.

Who ya gonna believe, Barney Frank or your lying eyes?

Hoekstra for MI Gov?

CQ Reports Rep. Pete Hoekstra isn't seeking another term, and his campaign website said, "In 2010 it will be time for us to move on to new challenges."

Thankfully, Granholm, the wicked witch of the North, is term limited. Her reign of economic terror will soon be over.

Some other Republican candidates are said to be in the running, but something tells me Hoekstra would make the best Governor. He might have been a contender for McCain's VP slot except for the fact that he's not a native born citizen.

Of course, MI will be a hard campaign for any Republican, so Hoekstra had better have some major support from the RGA, RNC, and just about every other Republican organization.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

FNS: Corker vs Stabenow

Senators Corker and Stabenow were on Fox News Sunday discussing the auto bailout.

Stabenow wasn't making a lot of sense.

Corker asserted that the bond holders were willing to take $0.30 on the dollar, but the UAW wasn't willing to become "competitive" (a purposely vague term, and established by the certification of a future Obama Labor Secretary) by the end of 2009.

Some time after Corker said this, Stabenow reached into her bag of talking points and pulled out the idea that the UAW workers were the only ones asked to make sacrifices. She didn't even bother to address Corker's previous claim about the bond holders already having agreed to severe cramdowns.

Another of Stabenow's claims doesn't make sense. She stated that the wages (I think only for newer workers) are already comparable to the transplant companies, and in some cases lower.

I guess legacy costs are a killer, aren't they? But if the labor costs are already not just "competitive" but virutally identical, there are two problems:
  1. What was the problem with the Corker amendment? Why did the UAW and the Democrats reject language mandating something that has already happened?
  2. What is the value of the UAW if they can't negotiate better wages than a non-union shop? Why would anybody care what happens to the UAW if they aren't adding any benefit for their members?
The UAW talking points don't seem logically consistent to me. Are they that attached to their 22-pound work rule manual?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Heather does not have two mommies

... or at least she shouldn't on her birth certificate, as NY Gov. Paterson has made possible through executive order, and seems to be the case in states allowing gay marriage.

The justification seems to be that hetero couples using a sperm donor still have the husband's name on the birth certificate -a presumably noble lie of sorts- and that this suggests gay couples should have a similar standing.

But it isn't true, and it's not even something we can pretend is true. Heather does not have two mommies. I expect that Science Almighty will allow such a thing during my lifetime, but right now that's just not the case.

(On an adjacent issue, unknowing cuckolds are often forced by state law to support children whom they have not fathered, even after that fact has been proven. This too should be corrected.)

To me, this isn't even about gay marriage - an issue on which I am conflicted. This is about the government attempting to make something true by fiat for politically correct reasons and in opposition to the plain facts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gaming out the Auto Bailout

Republican Senators were right to kill the $15-bn down-payment mini bailout. Here's why.

  • A necessary condition for the long term survival of the domestic car companies is a cost of labor comparable to their "transplant" competition*.
  • A mini-bailout of $15-bn would create a "sunk cost" mentality in Washington, giving bargaining leverage to those who are in favor of a bailout and decreasing the pressure on the UAW.
  • The Corker amendment, weak though it was, was the only chance of getting labor concessions in the ballpark of the appropriate level.
  • Therefore, the mini-bailout (sans Corker) creates a likely scenario where numerous tens of billions are put into companies that have virtually no chance of long-term survival.


* - (Assuming a current $48/hr "transplant" labor cost, even a 20% increase over that is $57.60/hr. But the current cost of labor for the domestics is approximately $73/hr, which is a 52% premium to non-union labor. Would the UAW be satisfied merely making a half-crapload more than their competition, or are they holding out for the entire crapload?)



I think this would actually set up the worst possible case scenario - the auto companies go under AND the public gets fleeced for billions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Knowledge

I'm fairly convinced that Obama knew about Blago's bribe demands but didn't want to play ball. (h/t Ace)

Part of me wants to beat up on Obama, Axelrod, and all the shady connections, but frankly that's the media's job. We tried to raise the character issue of before the election, but now I'm not going to get too excited about anything short of Watergate.

This has the potential to shorten the media honeymoon. Journos, lefties though they are, are ultimately fickle. They will turn on Obama in a heartbeat in order to file a juicy story.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Zune-gate

Oh noes! Obama uses a Zune! Or so this guy thinks. Definitely a non-Apple audio device, for sure.

How could be be so tragically un-cool!

From NBC's Chuck:
Chuck: "Morgan! Hey, uh, buddy do we carry any Rush CD's in the store?"
Morgan: "No need, I've got 'em all on my Zune."
Chuck: "You have a ZUNE?"
Morgan: "Are you kidding me? No, no. I'll grab my iPod."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Breaking Down the New New Deal

Politico hails it as the "21st Century New Deal". A little grandiose, if you ask me. Let's break down some of the components of Obama's plan.

First, the idea that Obama will "save or create at least 2.5 million jobs" is completely unfalsifiable, and therefore a completely worthless statement.

—ENERGY: “[W]e will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.”

Maybe some of this needs done, but it's not an energy plan. It's not even a fake energy plan, and it sure ain't a jobs plan. More of this light bulb nonsense... and don't these office buildings already have (normal) fluorescent lighting?

—ROADS AND BRIDGES: “[W]e will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.”

Again, some of this needs done, but is the real problem of transportation and infrastructure primarily one of total funding, or better management and less wasteful pork? "Use it or lose it" is a recipe for abuse and waste. It is the definition of "throwing money at a problem", as Obama declared he wouldn't do (t= 1:50 in the YouTube vid).

—SCHOOLS: “[M]y economic recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools.”

This is a re-hash of the energy "plan" above. Some of this needs done. But as a potential plan for jobs, energy, or education, it accomplishes none of those things efficiently or effectively. New computers? Kids can't read or do math. How 'bout some textbooks? Or better yet, ask yourself, "Does every school district in the nation have the same needs, or do some need books while others need to fix leaky roofs, and still others need to hire teachers?" One size does not fit all.

—BROADBAND: “As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m president – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.”


Internet is great and all, but this is in his "jobs" speech?

—ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS: “In addition to connecting our libraries and schools to the Internet, we must also ensure that our hospitals are connected to each other through the Internet. That is why the economic recovery plan I’m proposing will help modernize our health care system – and that won’t just save jobs, it will save lives. We will make sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in this country is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.”
Probably not a bad idea, but making things more efficient will probably cost jobs. (See UAW)

We're in trouble if this is all Obama has come up with.

Or should I be happy he's not engaging in anything more destructive? 21st Century New Deal? Not nearly so grand, thank goodness.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Saxby

I'm glad that Sen. Chambliss won reelection. Really. But to hear the cheerleaders talk about it you'd think the Republicans had scored some major victory over Obama and the Democrats. Um, yeah, I'm not seeing it that way.

It's frickin' Georga, for Pete's sake. And we were playing defense. And Obama wasn't on the ticket.

Energy mistakes of the past

Mark Twain said, "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

Rather than pour money into subsidies and attempts to mandate our way out of a lousy energy policy, the vast majority of government focus should be on developing new technologies.

Looking back at the 70s and 80s, we see some similarities to the recent events. There was a massive energy crunch, high prices, calls for conservation (some reasonable, some not), federal support for alternatives (some reasonable, most not) including the nascent ethanol boondoggle, and automakers were caught flatfooted on vehicle mix.

Then we got relief. Oil dropped from $39.50 a barrel to under $10 by 1986. US energy policy stagnated. Nobody was interested in developing new technologies, and farm state politicians kept the ethanol dream alive.

Similar dynamics have occurred this year. Oil price shocks, similar government responses. And oil has since dropped about a hundred dollars a barrel since the summer.

Now what?

It doesn't make sense to subsidize the implementation and use of technologies that are uneconomic, and particularly uneconomic with oil around $43/bl. Instead, we should focus on developing technologies that can replace a significant fraction of our future oil consumption that individuals have a non-subsidized incentive to utilize. Dump some more money into fusion research. Fund a few labs working on more efficient solar PV collection. Work on carbon sequestration so we can utilize our massive coal reserves without angering the enviros.

Successful development of more economical technologies is a public good. Once in place, it can be enjoyed by the whole society without coercion. Mandates and subsidies for uneconomic technologies represent the coercive management and inefficient distortion of the economy.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Let them buy drek souvenirs

I always knew the Capitol Visitor Center was a ploy to keep the unwashed masses out of the Congressional office buildings, but I never expected anybody to acknowledge that so vividly:

Harry Reid:
"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway," said Reid in his remarks. "In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it's true."
You guys aren't even around for most of the summer, what are you griping about? Get over yourselves. Might I suggest that no distance can separate the American people from the stench emanating from Congress.

And another tip, genius - there's a reason your staff told you not to say that.

Monday, December 01, 2008

David Gregory lands MTP gig (?)

HuffPo is reporting that David Gregory will be the host of Meet the Press, though NBC says they have "nothing to announce."

Within the very weak lineup at (MS)NBC Gregory is probably the least bad pick, but he's still a bad pick. I had hoped Brokaw's time as interim host would allow them to find somebody with some real cred. Alas, no.

MTP is likely to lose its place as the premiere Sunday show. In that event there will probably be a serious split among political junkies as to whether This Week or Fox News Sunday is the better show.

Quote of the Day: Voinovich

The quote of the day may be the understatement of the year...

Sen Voinovich (OH - R):
"I question your [Pelosi and Reid's] decision that congressional leadership and committees of jurisdiction are best positioned to make determinations about a multinational corporation’s future financial prospects."

Purple Reb

Personal anecdote alert---

I wasn't as surprised by the Confederate battle flag stickers on the vehicle in front of me so much as I was surprised by what they were on... a purple Toyota 4Runner. I've never seen the rebel flag on any vehicle other than a domestic truck, and never in a girly color before.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jindal in Iowa

In a move that prompted obligatory speculation about his potential Presidential candidacy in 2012, Gov. Jindal visited Iowa.

I've found a lot to like about Jindal, but I didn't know he had been a Rhodes Scholar. Awesome. No "Sarah Palin-itis" here from weak kneed self-identified elite conservatives. They'll have to find something else to dislike about him, which they surely will.

I don't want to go too nuts about this though... Obama isn't even President yet. There's plenty of time. People are really jumping the gun about Jindal, with Steve Schmidt saying, "The question is not whether he'll be president, but when he'll be president, because he will be elected someday." Similar statements were made by Grover Norquist and Rush Limbaugh.

I'm as optimistic about Jindal as I am about any other up-and-comer, but let's have the guy be Governor for a while, get reelected, and we'll see what happens. And Jindal's smart enough to know that he can afford to wait another election cycle should the political winds be unfavorable, so we may be looking out to 2016 or later.

But I hope not.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We no longer build excitement?

Bloomberg reports: "GM Said to Study Shedding Saab, Saturn, Pontiac to Win U.S. Aid"

We all know there are too many domestic car brands. I was just sort of surprised to see Saturn and Pontiac on the chopping block. I mean, who buys Buicks? Not that they're bad cars, but who under the age of 60 buys a Buick? (Ok, my dad is 54 and drives a Buick.) Tiger Woods ain't cool enough to bring this puppy back from the dead. The younger staid crowd could probably be convinced to go Caddy.

I haven't been following too closely, but I thought Saturns were supposed to be selling decently? (At least on a relative basis.) And I've always thought the Pontiac styling was better than a lot of other domestic lines, but they really shot themselves in the foot ditching the Grand Prix and leaving that customer to either go smaller with the G6 or way too big with the G8.

The G8 was idiotic. "Hey guys, let's make a monstrous sedan that gets bad fuel economy and has rear wheel drive!" What demographic does that target? Forty-something horsepower jockeys who feel the need to burn some rubber while taking the kids to soccer practice?

And they had just finally figured out a decent Grand Am styling when they dropped that model for the G5, which has no personality whatsoever. Sort of like how Ford finally made the Escort look not-like-a-piece-of-crap and then promptly dropped it for the Focus.

Speaking of Ford, besides a smoking hot spokes-model, what does Mercury have going for it? Being "not a Ford"?

I'm guessing that either Saturn or Pontiac will stay but not both. One of them has to stay, there's too big a gap between Chevy and Buick.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

South Park Conservatives

Another "oldie" book review here... South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias by Brian C. Anderson carries a 2005 copyright, and seemed to have top-ticked the market in conservative political ascendancy. Bush had won a second term, the extreme anti-war Left had revealed itself to be largely populated by aging hippies and various out-at-any-cost radicals, the Democratic party (as embodied by John Kerry) had no answer to Islamism, and the mainstream media had been scooped and occasionally discredited by bloggers - some of whom presumably wore pajamas while blogging.
Quite a bit has happened since then.

Ever since the phrase "South Park Republicans" was coined I've casually identified myself with the designation. The bitingly insightful criticism coupled with often coarse language that can be found in many of the blog posts in the "moronosphere" (led by the Original Moron, the Ace of Spades) offer an obvious comparison to the profanity-laced satirical cartoon. From my own experiences as an individual who was a freshman in college when the first "South Park" short clips started getting internet circulation, I think a clear trend has formed. There is a generation of younger Americans who have an appreciable anti-political-correctness layered on top of their natural partisan tendencies, and that many of those sentiments are more seriously irritated by the political left than by the right.

Expecting to gain further insight into this phenomenon, I ordered a used copy South Park Conservatives off the internet for under five bucks. It's even blurbed by Jonah Goldberg, an idol of many younger conservatives: "This book will change the debate about the future of conservatism."

Unfortunately, the oft-overlooked subtitle ("The Revolt against Liberal Media Bias") reveals the true thrust of the book, the backlash against the mainstream media. The themes of the book are largely known to any serious conservative reader: the unmistakable left-leaning bias of journalists, the rise of talk-radio and Fox News, the internet, and blogs. Among the less less-well appreciated evolutions are the rise of conservative book publishers and an increase in conservatism on college campuses.

Chapter 5 (of 8) is devoted to the South Park "Anti-liberals". Much of the "South Park" oriented content is a series of extended dialog quotes from the show demonstrating how the often vulgarity-strewn comedy rejects politically correct domination over the culture. The remaining half-chapter extends this observation to comedians like Colin Quinn and Dennis Miller.

The Chapter on the Blogosphere shows the book's age. In 2005 it might have been said that conservatives dominated the web, but no longer. Still, the conservative blogosphere maintains its primary function as the ultimate "bullshit detector" for the mainstream media, and it plays that role in a way that the left-leaning blogosphere cannot. Just as the right and left use radio, print, and television differently, so too do they use the internet differently, and for the right to attempt to carbon-copy the left's internet presence would not work.

Given the book's title, I had hoped for a more thorough examination of the South Park anti-liberal audience. Sadly, the book's title seems like an effort to ride the coattails of the very popular television show. "South Park" and its audience is a tangential topic in an otherwise unremarkable book about the rejection of polticial correctness and the evolution of information media in the country.

It is all too clear from Anderson's optimistic Conclusion chapter that cultural trends do not flow in one direction only. Hindsight allows me to pick on him a little:

News outlets will need to rein in their biases or risk blogosphere exposure and ridicule - a lesson the New York Times and CBS News should have learned by now.


On the contrary, exposure and ridicule have only emboldened the biases of traditional media outlets. The 2008 election cycle proved this emphatically.

Also:
The Left will have to reexamine, argue, and refine its positions, so many of which have proved disastrously wrong, and stop living off the past. It's hard to imagine that this development won't result in a broader, richer, deeper national debate - something liberals of an older, John Stewart Mill-stripe would have welcomed.


Enabled by an utter failure of governance by Republican officials, the bulk of the Democratic party has reached far into the past to the Progressive era and many of those disastrously wrong policies. Bush's "ownership society" as been derided as an "on your own" philosophy in a decidedly un-Millian fashion.

As to Goldberg's promise of "chan[ing] the debate about the future of conservatism", I think the South Park Conservative phenomenon does inform the direction of the ideological and existential debate in which defeated conservatives find ourselves. Even tentatively accepting Anderson's assertion that social conservatism among college age individuals is on the rise, the libertarian bent of 18-30 year olds seems apparent. This should be one more cog in the argument against "compassionate conservatism" and the massive state power that do-good-ism creates. To the extent that Huckabeeism threatens the libertarian segment of the conservative coalition it should be curtailed.

Back to the party of Grover Norquist.

Keep us safe and leave us alone.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Geek Holiday Preview

I spent the weekend working on a relative's computer, just as countless geeks will be doing over Thanksgiving.

Lessons learned:
  • The F-Defender live-CD is worthless. (Found zero viruses on an obviously compromised machine.)
  • The ClamAV Live-CD is better than F-Defender, but didn't get it all.
  • Dell should really ship Windows Recovery CDs by default.
  • If you're trying to fix things with a live cd then you're probably better off just going to System Restore rather than beat your head against a wall.
  • System Restore/Symantec Ghost is your friend. Ctrl-F11 on your semi-recent Dell.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Make "Make Work" Work

Let's build a high-speed rail system in this country.

It seems we're going to be dropping some coin on our infrastructure at the Federal level no matter what. Infrastructure isn't an inherently bad use of public funds, but we need to make sure we're not creating "make-work" jobs that don't produce much of value once the projects are complete. The proverbial broken windows (or in this case roads and bridges) do need to be fixed, but merely fixing them doesn't get us far.

If we're going to "invest" -a word that is used way too loosely- in infrastructure, let's build something of significant value.

A high speed rail system, perhaps? We've found out in the last year or two just how efficient the trains are, but we're way behind other developed nations in the modernity of our rail system. Perhaps a mag-lev corridor is too much to ask, but at least it bears a cost-benefit analysis.

Whatever we do, since we're definitely going to do something rather than nothing, we should make sure that we're laying the cornerstone for future growth, not just filling potholes to keep busy.

(cross posted at RedState)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Keep it up GOP

... and you'll lose forever.

CQ reports that the GOP House caucus rejected a moratorium on earmarks introduced by Leader Boehner and Congressman Cantor.

"Boehner downplayed the conference’s decision to strip the moratorium language. 'I’m not sure the moratorium would have had that much impact,' he said."

(x-posted at PAWaterCooler)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bank Distress

I'm a little confused, and have drawn the conclusion that certain banks are still under considerable distress.

The Fed Funds Rate target is 1%
3-Month Libor is 2.22%
Prime is 4.0%
(All three according to Bloomberg.com as of today.)

I can get FDIC insured CDs for
3.41% APY for 3 months at GMAC
4.00% for 6 months at HSBC-Direct
4.00% for 12 months at ING-Direct
4.25% for 12 months at GMAC

(GMAC rates from Bankrate.com, HSBC and ING from their websites.)

CD rates are typically close to the Fed Funds rate, usually below it. Banks are screaming out for increased deposits. For investors looking to stash less than a quarter million at a time, CDs are still very attractive, so I'm not anticipating a huge flow of funds into stocks or commercial bonds until this changes.

In the tank

As if I needed anybody to tell me the media was in the tank for Obama, we have "How Obama Got Elected".

In. The. Tank.

When 57% of Obama's voters don't know what party controls congress, and they would have done better by random coin toss, I think it's safe to say that the media has failed to promote the public good with the public airwaves.

EDIT: Linked from the front page of AOL.com, and actually reinforcing the idea behind the website, this guy thinks HOGE "doesn't click", yet fails to address the polling figures.

Monday, November 17, 2008

DEE-troit

(or "deh-TROIT", depending on your locale.)

I'm undecided, but leaning towards a pre-packaged Chapter 11.

A "free money" bailout doesn't solve any real problems, it only delays them. The idea that the automakers would fare better under a "strings attached" mandate to make a particular type of vehicle is not a feasible plan. (Do we think Congress knows any better how to make and market cars than industry folks? Not I.)

Toyota and Honda may have had a leg up on hybrids and fuel economy, but TM was tooled for big trucks too.

Under Ch-11 the auto-cos can still maintain operations and get their respective houses in order. Some jobs will be lost, but there's really no way around that.

EFCA concerns

My plea for Senator Specter to oppose and potentially filibuster EFCA is up at PAWaterCooler.

If Specter wants to win his primary he will oppose Card Check.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

There is no Center

Professor James Gimpel has convinced me - everything I learned in Political Science 101 about median voter theory is bunk. Black's classic theory, amplified through the years by greater minds, assumes that there's a mass of rational voters in the middle of the left-right political spectrum.

Poppycock, apparently.

The first tip-off should have been the persistence of the UK Lib-Dem party, whose existence creates a theoretical unstable equilibrium.

Who are these people in the so-called center?
The research suggests that those who at various times occupy this center, often described as moderates or independents, are not very knowledgeable about or interested in politics. They do not follow campaign coverage closely, are inconsistent in their policy views, and are often not able to identify what positions are liberal or conservative.

So, in essence, most of them do not hold rational positions, and therefore would not be accounted for by an economic/game theory that assumes rationality.

Sounds to me like John McCain. His policies have been all over the map from an ideological perspective.

By any reasonable measure McCain was the more centrist candidate. In conservative circles there was a brief outbreak of "McCain Derangement Syndrome" during the primaries. We hated him. I identified three candidates I preferred ahead of him for the nomination, Thompson, Romney, and Giuliani, in that order. I hesitated to support him after he had the nomination tied up. Though I never vowed to vote against him, many did so. I suspect most reneged on that threat when Obama became the Democratic nominee, but conservatives were certainly holding our noses voting for McCain.

For all the jabber about how McCain ran too far to the right, I ask, "On what issue?" All we heard for months on end was "just like Bush". Well, Bush won. Outright at least once.

Oh, and Sarah Palin?
Moving centrists toward one’s candidacy is not a process that hinges on taking the right policy stands, either. Instead, it involves the enthusiasm and social contagion that builds around exciting candidates. We know from several volumes of political-science research that less-informed voters commonly substitute someone else’s judgment for their own. That someone else is often a spouse, workmate, or neighbor knowledgeable and enthusiastic about one of the candidates. Support for a candidate spreads through social influence processes. [This was the Dowd/Rove playbook outlined in "Applebee's America", using "The Influentials" as a precursor - JC]

It is therefore no accident that Sarah Palin’s nomination gave John McCain the only lead that he had during the fall campaign. [emph. added] She was Senator McCain's only hope for closing the enthusiasm gap, but then economic crisis stalled the gains. Polls will show that Barack Obama had social contagion working in his favor to pull the incoherent center in a leftward direction.

I'll disagree on two points. First, there is a real phenomenon that we describe as candidates "moving" to the center. I maintain that these candidates are often not changing their positions so much as they are emphasizing different issues. (That said, many of Obama's statements seem to come with a short expiration date.)

Second, a candidate needs to be able to articulate a semi-coherent philosophy. It may not be terribly important what sort of philosophy that is, but it definitely needs to be sold. McCain was an abject failure on this point, owing no doubt to the utter lack of such a philosophy.

The other Chinese Democracy

The weather forecast for Hell is heavy ice. And in other news, (the new) GnR is releasing the "Chinese Democracy" album November 23rd now that Axl has tweaked it for fourteen years.

Friday, November 14, 2008

History

In researching a previous post referencing Soviet era iconography, I ran across this guy's incredible collection of Soviet (and other) propaganda posters.

Do check it out.

Some of the slogans:

"The intellect, honor and conscience of our era! Lenin."

"The Constitution Day (October 7th). Family is under protection of the Government."

"Work like revolutionists!! Lenin"

"We won't let you do bad job!"

"Empathy is the main and, possibly, the only law that of human existence. F. M. Dostoyevsky"

"Build like you would for yourself!"

"Stop and punish harshly the lovers of the unearned rouble!"

"Let us start working. We are all experts at talking, but thanks, I got enough of that."

"Very many various villains wander in this country and around.
We will, of course, crush them, but to do away with all of them is extremely difficult. Vl. Mayakovski"

"Socialism means peace and building up."

"Let us strengthen the class solidarity and cooperation of all communists of all countries in the struggle for peace and socialism."

"Our era calls - forward! The five year plan calls - forward!"

"We shall go forward. Step higher with energy and unity of will. V.I. Lenin"

"It is desired that the Communist Union of Youth would teach everybody from the early years to responsible and disciplined work. V. I. Lenin"

"The most important thing to us is to preserve peace. All power to soviets! Peace to nations! Land to peasants! Factories to workers!"

"Time is on the side of peace, communism."

"Bread is the work and treasure of the whole Soviet nation."

"About Cooperation in the USSR. For us, the growth of cooperation is intertwined with the growth of socialism.....V.I. Lenin"

"We promise to the workers and to the peasants to do everything for peace - and we will do it. V. I. Lenin"

"There is nothing more superior than the term 'working man'!"

"We will do it! If we save extra 0,5% of farm production, that means 600 millions Roubles!"

"Thriftiness - is the communistic quality"

"We are the Party of the future, and the future belongs to the youth. We are the party of innovators, and the innovators are always eagerly followed by the youth. We are the party of fight, and youth will always fight first.. V. I. Ulyanov (Lenin)"

"Hurrah for the revolution of soldiers, workers and peasants! Peace! Bread! Work!"

"The Great October is the beginning of a new era of human kind. All power to Soviets! Peace to the nations!"

"Our weapon is to work efficiently and to achieve good quality."

Cracks in the Watermelon coalition

The Green/Red political coalition has shown its first signs of cracking in Canada where a carpool startup has been fined CA$11,000 and is forced to live within idiotic restrictions such as inability to cross municipal lines or collect money more than once a week.

Why? Because the bus companies complained!

Message to the greenies - your goals of reducing fossil fuel usage are only useful to the Left in so far as you are destroying capitalism. Try to go against a bureaucracy or a labor union and you're out of luck, comrades.

(via Slashdot)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Typos and Guns

Really? Typos? Are you kidding me? You're going to steal an election for Al Franken?

I'm increasingly convinced that the run on guns is probably a wise choice. A Cold Civil War always has the potential to go hot.

Even Obama supporters are suspicious:
"One of the strangest things I've had happen in the past few weeks was that I've had people coming in here wearing Obama buttons and Obama T-shirts," Glen Parshall, owner of a local Fort Worth gun shop. "[They] tell me they're in here to buy them before he bans them."
Maybe I should get myself to Cabela's before January.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chug a lug - PAWaterCooler




I've been invited to post at PAWaterCooler, so from time to time I'll be putting some content up there. So take a sip at the water cooler and maybe linger a while.

If you were going to leak this

If you were going to leak this -which I strongly oppose- why would you wait until after the election?

Oh, and Prez-Elect Obama - it's possible, even preferable, to take certain clandestine actions and then shut the heck up about it. You see, Mr. Internationalist Heal-the-World, not everybody likes it when you brag about your dog crapping in their yard.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Priorities for the Opposition

As we queue up our Loyal Opposition mode, we need to focus on a few truly horrible Democratic proposals that we need to stop - no questions asked. To this end, I'm borrowing the DHS color coded threat levels.

Red - These proposals are undemocratic and/or unconstitutional. They must be stopped. I'm talking pitchforks and torches here.
  • The so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which strips workers of a secret ballot when voting on whether to unionize, and once a shop is unionized, management is forced to deal with the union and would be prevented from hiring "scab" workers.
  • Implementation of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine", which is anything but fair, and is a naked attempt to silence voices on the right.
  • Mandatory "community service" for middle and high school students. In my estimation, a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment against involuntary servitude, and for minor children no less. Some localities already have versions of this, and I think it's a travesty. ("Joe, why are you so keyed up about this?" At best this is a misuse of our educational infrastructure to do a job it wasn't indended to do. At worst, it (a) conditions young people that the government can force you to do things for which you will not be compensated, and (b) turns project approval into a political game where teachers have broad discretion - Johnny's plan to leaflet for "affordable housing" will be approved, but Billy's 2nd amendment awareness website won't, so Billy will be picking up litter on the highway instead.)

Orange - These proposals will do significant and irreversible damage to our freedom and/or economy, but we'll survive as a society if they happen. Your standard street demonstrations and public education will do.
  • The Obama health care plan. It's arguably worse than a pure socialization "single payer" scheme in that it becomes a direct tax on job creation. The Obama health plan will, through its fail-unsafe design, inexorably lead to single payer. But no matter how bad the government health scheme turns out, the empirical evidence seen in other democracies indicates we'll never have the chance to reverse course on this.
  • The negative tax scheme. Half or more of the population is going to be getting a direct cash hand-out. This can never be undone.
  • "Renegotiation" of NAFTA will do serious and permanent damage to our economy, and will make future trade negotiations difficult.
  • The Global Poverty Act puts the US permanently on the hook for an international wefare super-state that will mainly benefit warlords and dictators without solving the underlying problems of global poverty.
  • So-called "windfall" profits taxes will reduce oil production and increase the cost of energy over the long run. Aside from that,they are completely arbitrary in their application and introduce the idea that the government can tell which entities make "too much".
  • Raising the minimum wage and pegging it to inflation creates a destructive pro-cyclical economic feedback that will exacerbate unemployment and inflation in every single recession.

Yellow - These are very stupid proposals, but mostly ones that can be overcome by future Republican administrations if need be.
  • "Community service" as a condition for college aid is a blatant indoctrination scheme, but does not rise to the level of involuntary servitude. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and college students wanting funds are going to have to suck it up and dance for their lunch.
  • Increased taxes on capital gains and dividends will hurt our economy, but they sow the seeds of their own demise.
  • Subsidies for alternative energy implementation before the technology is economical. No economies of scale are going to help corn ethanol. Any spending (and there should indeed be some meaningful spending) should be on research and development to invent new technologies and make existing tech cost effective. Mere government fiat can't make one thing be cheaper than another without doing economic damage, as we've seen with the rise in the cost of food.
  • Efforts to undo globalization through the tax system will fail. Companies with overseas profits will merely spin off their foreign branches and arrange for exclusivity with the mother company. Shareholders will be no worse off since they will hold a stake in both the mother and child companies, but no jobs or profits will be repatriated. (If I can figure that out, rest assured the I-bankers have already.) Tax credits for domestic job creation will probably have some short term positive effect on unemployment, but productivity will suffer in the long run as incentives to automate and streamline are lessened, and the US will be at a disadvantage in the long run.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Scrooge Shout-out

I really didn't need this downer of an article from Mark Steyn ("The Death of the American Idea"), but he did reference my favorite fallacious economic analogy, so I have to give him some props for that.

I don't need Barack Obama's help to “spread the wealth around.” I spread my wealth around every time I hire somebody, expand my business, or just go to the general store and buy a quart of milk and loaf of bread. As far as I know, only one bloated plutocrat declines to spread his wealth around, and that's Scrooge McDuck, whose principal activity in Disney cartoons was getting into his little bulldozer and plowing back and forth over a mountain of warehoused gold and silver coins. Don't know where he is these days. On the board at Halliburton, no doubt. But most of the beleaguered band of American capitalists do not warehouse their wealth in McDuck fashion. It's not a choice between hoarding and spreading, but a choice between who spreads it best: an individual free to make his own decisions about investment and spending, or Barney Frank. I don't find that a difficult question to answer. More to the point, put Barney & Co in charge of the spreading, and there'll be a lot less to spread.

New word

Found a new word I like - "Obamunism".

Just has a catchy ring to it.

Bizarro

Other than the obvious "firsts" of this Presidential election, we have some less obvious ones.

For the first time in at least a generation, a candidate has won on a platform of raising taxes (if only, as he claims, for the top 5%). Now, ironically, he may have to renege on that promise because of financial turmoil. To compound the irony, he will feel political heat from some corners for doing so!

Strange times indeed.

Great firewall of China

This is a content-free post intended to PUT me behind the great firewall of China, so regular readers can safely ignore this post and hope that the chinese WoW gold-farming spammer will stop commenting.

Chinese Democracy
Human Rights
Taiwan Independence
Free Tibet
Dalai Lama
Freedom of Speech
Internet Censorship
Falun Gong
Dictatorship

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dean's Due

For all the talk of the wonderful organizational skills of the Obama campaign, we need to remember that it was built on an idea hatched by Howard Dean. Much as he can be a raving lunatic at times, Howard Dean's "50 state strategy" was effective, and laid the foundational work for Obama to pick up several of those marginal states previously thought safe for Republicans such as Virginia, Indiana, and (God help us) North Carolina.

Sure it's a little hyper-inflated, a 50 state strategy. They weren't going to take Texas. (But we thought that about NC too, didn't we.) It rallies the troops, and it brings in the donations. A hundred bucks from a blue collar worker in Texas is worth just as much as a hundred bucks from a granola-smoking Berzerkley professor.

I don't believe in the whole "if you build it, they will come" Field of Dreams theory. But I do know if you don't build it, they definitely won't come.

Dean's strategy made it possible to exploit GOP weaknesses ad hoc. The reason McCain and Palin were in PA so much just before the election wasn't that they thought they were likely to win it, it's that they had to win it. They were playing defense in too many other areas, any of which they might have won individually, but they couldn't defend them all simultaneously.

So today's lesson for conservatives is to build infrastructure. Not necessarily staffing field offices in Hawaii, but consider a few of the following: support for existing and new conservative think tanks, mechanisms for candidate recruitment and support, some consistent and effective communications shops, possibly some social science and social psychology research ...

...and yes, maybe a few field offices in Pennsylvania and Ohio. I don't want us to turn into the money-burning welfare organization that the Democrats have become, but it's something to think about for the next time you expect us to magically pull your fat out of the fire.

Bumper Sticker

There's a certain grace period after an election where yard signs and bumper stickers are still socially accepted. Yard signs have to come down within about a week. Bumper stickers can linger on for a while longer. As a society, we sorta pushed the upper limits on tasteful bumpersticker-ism after the 2004 election. Three years into Bush's second term there were a significant number of Kerry-Edwards stickers in circulation. Only the Democratic primary put an end to that.

I expect Obama stuff to be out there continuously through 2012, but I have no particular gripes about that since (a) he won, and (b) he's a presumptive candidate for 2012.

So I feel somewhat entitled to keep my McCain sticker for a while longer. (Also keeping a Fred oval... because really McCain shouldn't have been our candidate.)

How much longer I can tastefully keep my McCain sticker is an interesting question. At the very least I think I have through the first hundred days of Obama's administration.

I'll reassess the situation then.

Unintended Consequences

San Franciscans are about to suffer under the law of unintended consequences now that their ban on tobacco sale in pharmacies has cleared the courts. Now non-smokers too will suffer from the jihad against Marlboros.

Apparently it's not enough to ban the act of smoking in pretty much any public place, people can't even buy their smokes in a convenient place anymore.

Who suffers from this ban? EVERYBODY who shops at drug stores, that's who. Cigarette sales are a huge part of the "front end" sales of any pharmacy. Any marginal pharmacy within the city limits is going to go out of business. Even fiscally healthy pharmacies may end up cutting store hours, and therefore cutting workforce hours as well.

The public will be less well served, and workers are going to lose hours.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hollow

Some of the NRO folks think this is cute, but I think it mostly rings very hollow.

From 52 to 48 with love.

Easy to be magnanimous in victory... but weren't we promised race wars and riots if Obama lost?

I'm sure some, even most of these folks are sincere, but I've just got to comment on a few of these...

Photobucket

"Anymore"? You were afraid of us? HAHAHA! But seriously though, some of Obama's policies are truly frightening.

Photobucket

If you're for the "Fairness Doctrine" and the "Employee Free Choice Act", you've already failed on the whole "fight for my rights" thing. (Excuse me while I go bitterly cling to a gun. "Cold, dead fingers" and all that.)
Photobucket


Um, yeah, what this guy said! (..seems to have slipped under the touchy-feely radar):
[Edit: It seems that the truth squads have since discovered this photo and removed it.]


Photobucket

I seem to remember a bunch of hippie protesters saying "Bush lied, people died", and I remember a bunch of Democratic Senators like HRC morphing from a state of certain knowledge about Iraq based on her own independent sources to saying Bush misled her. Oh, how united we were then! The nostalgia!

Photobucket

Indivisible? You mean like this?

Photobucket

Quite a few of these we-can-only-do-it-together messages. But really though, y'all are running the show now. You can most certainly do it without me. You've got the votes, why should I pretend to support your policies?

Leper

At the risk of propagating the circular firing squad environment, I think Red State is on to something.

Operation Leper.

The completely unprofessional behavior of particular McCain campaign staffers who speak anonymously to the press must not be allowed to stand. They want to cut down Sarah Palin, transferring the responsibility for their own mistakes (as well as McCain's flaws) onto Palin.

Wrong.

But more that whether I think it's wrong or not, it's actually irrelevant whether these future lepers have legitimate gripes. Too bad, so sad! Your job was to deal with Palin and then shut the heck up, even if she was the most difficult candidate in the history of electoral politics.

Staffers are dime-a-dozen. You will not be missed. You are expendable.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gloom

Ok, I was never really a Hee Haw fan, but in light of recent events:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Don't blame me

... I voted for Kodos the old white haired dude.

I seem to recall a bunch of people insisting that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

Dissent you shall have, and in abundance.

WaPo fudge

So after noon today, Rob Stein at WaPo reports everything is cool in PA.




But before 8 am there were already reports of shenanigans.

It got worse from there.

Then it got much worse.

But don't worry, no major snafus.

You stay classy, WaPo.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I am rubber you are glue

So sayeth the not-so-Honorable former Mayor of Scranton (via grassrootspa):
"There is no other reason for John McCain and Sarah Palin to be in the state based on what the polls say, except that they’re counting on us to be bigots," said former Scranton Mayor James McNulty, a Democrat. "Why else are they here? They’re counting on Pennsylvania not voting for a black man."

When I hear garbage like this, I'm reminded of the very second post I made on this blog back in 2006 when rural PA voted for Lynn Swann almost identically as did for Rick Santorum. The more rural your county, the more likely you were to vote for Swann.

Blow it out your tailpipe, McNulty.

Do you sense a pattern developing?

Amazingly, Obama is always taken out of context.

Funny, that.

(found at Mark Levin's NRO/Corner post)

Three Scenarios

I think the polls are a little off, but I'm not sure how much. Probably not enough to elect McCain. So I've created three scenarios on PredictNovember, "Polls basically correct", "Polls off a little", and the "McCain Optimistic Scenario".

If we assume that the polls are basically correct, and grant McCain North Carolina (which is a suspect assumption), we get this:

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If we assume that the polls are off a small but significant amount, McCain has a chance of taking Virginia and Ohio. However, that isn't good enough.

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The optimistic scenario for McCain relies on Pennsylvania. I could argue that McCain has a better chance of picking up Nevada, but it doesn't put him over the top and he hasn't spent time there, he's been trotting around PA.

Photobucket

Here's the argument for Pennsylvania defying the polls. You've got the background of the "bitter" comments, Obama's opposition to concealed carry laws, and the recently revealed hostility toward the coal industry. In PA there could be several down-ticket House races that boost McCain: William Russell has a real chance of defeating Murtha, Barletta could unseat Kanjorski, and Hackett could beat Carney.

If the polls are off, then news networks "calling" states just after the polls close will not be reliable. Their projections are based on the same turnout models that the polls are based on. The proof will be in the actual results from PA, VA, OH, and NC.

That's not to say I believe McCain will win PA; in fact I believe it is highly improbable. But in the unlikely event we wake up to President-elect McCain, this is how I see it happening.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Quote of the Day : NRO Red Meat

"It's not like ... Oh! the Care Bears just knifed each other..." - Jim Geraghty, on the allegations that Rep. Alcee Hastings threatened his opponent.

Ink

This looks like it might be photoshopped, but if it's real... "God save us from these people."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Senate Predictions

To the extent that the polls are actually reliable (--are they? one perspective--), I think most of the Senate seats are now predictable, barring any unique developments over the next couple of days.



Alaska - Dem Pick-Up : Having been convicted, Stevens will probably lose to Begich.

Colorado - Dem Pick-Up : Udall favored, though I find it odd that Udall is outperforming Obama, having nakedly changed some of his positions and running as an unconvincing centrist.

Georgia - Rep Keep : Chambliss favored, though he's underperforming McCain. He'll need some extra NRSC money to put him over.

Kentucky - Rep Keep : McConnell favored, see Georgia analysis above.

Louisiana - Dem Keep : Landrieu favored in a deeply split ticket, Prez vs Senate.

Maine - Rep Keep : Collins favored.

Minnesota - Rep Keep : Coleman favored, though the third party could be a monkey wrench. I find it difficult to accept that MN would elect Stewart Smalley, but then again they did elect Jesse Ventura...

Mississippi - Rep Keep : Wicker favored to replace Trent Lott.

Nebraska - Rep Keep : Johanns favored to replace Hagel.

New Hampshire - Dem Pick-up : Shaheen favored, though she is underperforming Obama.

New Jersey - Dem Keep : Lautenberg.

New Mexico - Dem Pick-up : Udall - yes, another Udall (cousins) - replaces retiring Domenici (R).

North Carolina- Dem Pick-up : Hagan favored over Dole, though this one could shake the other way if the polls are off just a little bit, as they very well may be.

EDIT: Dole and the NRSC are hitting Hagan for attending an "atheist fundraiser". Could just do the job.

Oregon - Dem Pick-up : Merkley over Smith, though an outside chance that Smith could pull it out as recent polls have large numbers of undecideds and/or within the MOE.

Virginia - Dem Pick-up : Warner (D) to replace the retiring Warner (R).



If I'm right, that gives us a net pick up of seven seats for the Democrats.

I am least confident in the results in NC and MN.

The current configuration is 51 Dems (49 + Sanders, Lieberman) to 49 Repub, so the predicted balance is to be 58 D to 42 R. Unless seriously shunned by the Democrats for his many sins against the party, Lieberman will continue to vote for Dem leadership.

If I could wave a magic wand and save just one of the Republicans likely to lose, I'd save Sununu. I don't always agree with him, but he's intellectually honest, and probably more conservative than Liz Dole in a lot of ways that are important to me. And besides, Dole's prior NRSC leadership committed the political murder of Steve Laffey in an idiotic attempt to save the turncoat Lincoln Chafee.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fishy

Sunday's Meet the Press (transcript) was largely unremarkable, but one thing Chuck Todd said stood out to me (emphasis mine):

MR. TODD: You know, you look at these early voting numbers. Georgia's one of these states, along with North Carolina and Florida, that we're seeing early voting, and because they're states that have to keep track of these statistics, we know exactly how many African-American ballots are being turned in, how many Dem--and it is through the roof. There are--turnout among African-Americans might actually be somewhere between 95 and 100 percent in some of these places, in some of these states. And, in fact, we're seeing this shrinkage of a lead in Georgia for Senator McCain. It's actually got some folks wondering is South Carolina now in single digits? What's going on in Mississippi that this prediction of big African-American turnout that everybody thought might happen, we're seeing play out so far in some of these early voting states. And when you look at Georgia and compare, which is a lean McCain state, compare where McCain is here in Iowa, a lean Obama state, and that just shows you the battlefield here right now, the battleground, where it is shifted--even the lean McCain states are--Obama has a better shot at right now than McCain does in these lean Obama states.


Now, Obama, merely by virtue of being a Democrat is likely to bring down somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% (at least) of the Af-Am turnout, and being Af-Am he's likely to produce somewhat elevated Af-Am turnout. But 95-100% turnout is not a number that occurs naturally in democracies. Those are turnout numbers more in line with third world dictatorships.

How does that happen? Here's one thought - 123% registration with no voter ID provisions.

It amazes me that Chuck Todd could accept those numbers at face value.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Counterproductive?

I, like many others, think McCain has been way too soft on Obama. Certainly not with respect to the percentage of negative ads, but in the content. Now, if you're going to go negative, you should punch hard. But I fear that this third party ad (supposedly airing in PA and elsewhere) does not punch in the right place. It's a hard punch on the shoulder, when we really need a punch to the gut.



(Via Politico)

[However, if you're going to "go there", you need to do something to counter the response that Obama has already given to the Rev. Wright issue, that he wasn't in church when some of those things were said. You could even go to the audio book recording of Dreams From My Father, recorded in Obama's own voice, quoting Wright's "white folks' greed runs a world in need" bit, thereby demonstrating that he knew that Wright wasn't mainstream.]

People are tired of hearing about Wright, and opinions on that matter are already formed. Instead, show the American people what government will be like next year under unified Democratic control. What about an ad with some of the more inane ramblings of Pelosi, Reid, Barney Frank? And maybe even throw in some Biden, and some John Kerry if you're feeling saucy.

Just string a bunch of them together - it shouldn't be hard to locate some choice clips - and then ask, "Is this who you want leading Washington?"

The Nature of the Debate

A conservative who doesn't like Thomas Sowell is like a kid who doesn't like pizza.

Here, Peter Robinson begins an interview with Sowell about his re-published book, A Conflict of Visions. (Subsequent interview segments will appear at the main page for Uncommon Knowledge.)

The constrained view versus the unconstrained view. The American Revolution versus the French Revolution. Plato versus Aristotle. Good stuff, and I'm looking forward to the remainder of the interview.

Adding my own spin on Plato versus Aristotle, Aristotle was much more grounded in reality and empiricism...

Plato (particularly in the Republic) tried to create a system imbued with justice from pure theory, then attempted to make it practicable by inserting such unpalatable elements as eugenics and propaganda. (Sound familiar?)

Aristotle (particularly in the Politics) cataloged the empirical examples of political systems, observed which ones worked best, and formulated an incrementally better system.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Care required in new regulation

Some UCLA economists have quantified what many conservatives and libertarians have thought for quite a while, that several of FDR's New Deal policies prolonged the Depression. (Via Don Luskin)

Prolonged by as much as seven years.

While I think it's extremely unlikely that an Obama, Pelosi, and Reid would enact anything as damaging as FDR did, some rhetorical similarities are apparent. The mistakes (and a few successes) of the New Deal should provide food for thought as we determine the exact nature of our future regulatory regime.

Quoting extensively, but please go read the original...
"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."
...

In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.

Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.

"High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns," Ohanian said. "As we've seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market's self-correcting forces."

First, it should be pointed out that FDR's plan was thought to be pro-business as well as pro-labor. Republicans too now fall into the intellectual trap that by creating favorable conditions for a few businesses that one is helping business and the economy generally. Consequently, Democrats can claim to be centrist, pro-business folk for engaging in corporate welfare tactics. I'm reminded of the late George Carlin when he said "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."

We probably won't get another Smoot-Hawley, but we have seen a lot of static about NAFTA, and some ridiculously asinine opposition to the Colombia Free Trade agreement. We are starting to see irresponsibly pro-union legislation in the form of the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act". And we are seeing increased support for increasing the minimum wage and pegging it to inflation.

(Aside: What happens when we get deflation? Can the minimum wage go down then?)

We're told this is no time for "ideology" - meaning of course, free-market ideology. (No such prohibition on socialist ideology is to be found.) But it is a time when one should marry theory with empiricism. And empirically, several policy proposals out there in the aether are known losers.

Let's learn from our mistakes, and exercise care in our attempts to right the economy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Greenspan's Flaw

Greenspan may be blamed for having too loose monetary policy, in particular choosing to target interest rates rather than money supply. And if this flaw is accepted as such, it would be large enough in its own right to tarnish the Fed Chairmanship of the man once called "Maestro".

But the much vaunted "ideological" flaw was the assumption of near perfect and/or complete information among financial institutions.

Financial institutions did quite a bit to compensate for this... insurance, credit rating agencies, put options, credit default swaps, securitization, etc. But it wasn't enough to compensate for fraud at the credit rating agencies, fraud at the mortgage origination level, and an asset class bubble inflated in large part by government policy, and certainly not enough to compensate for such things at ridiculously low levels of capital requirement as per the SEC's 2004 ruling.

And as bad as the mortgage situation is, over-leverage was bound to create a problem somewhere. It should come as no surprise that over-leverage found its way into a manipulated market, but were it not for that, some other asset would have become inflated. But then we're back -at least in part- to questions of monetary policy, Mr. Greenspan.

These assumptions, however flawed, were not about the basic nature of the game structure... the incentives... the punishments. Criticizing the nature of the game is a bridge too far, and to assume that changing the fundamental structure of the game will lead to better outcomes does not logically follow. Nor does it follow that just because the market participants have imperfect and incomplete information that the government has superior information. Anybody who has watched a House or Senate banking committee hearing (particularly in the last six months) should immediately grasp this concept.

The most useful models tend toward simplicity at the expense of perfect explanation. And in this, Greenspan was basically right, but he confused the idea of a brilliant and useful model with the reality before him.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dereliction

(Sigh.) The media is totally in the tank. (Bold mine)

Can any blogger out there answer these questions? I repeat: Has any major television network, any national news magazine, or any major daily newspaper ever mentioned Barack Obama’s membership in, or endorsement by, the New Party, and then gone on to explore and explain what the New Party was, including its ties to ACORN? Isn’t the membership of a major party nominee and currently favored candidate to become president of the United States in a third party a major news story? Is it not the height of press irresponsibility to ignore this fact?

Now some folks might be disturbed by Obama’s New Party membership and/or endorsement, and some may not. But isn’t this something the American people are entitled to know and decide on for themselves?



Well, it should be a story. At least as much a story as Palin's non-membership in the Alaska Independence Party.

Throw me a frickin' bone here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another CFOB

... Communist Friend of Barack, that is. Michael Klonsky.

And by Communist, I mean traveled to rub elbows with the ChiComs, and criticized China's early 1980's market reform policies... apparently the ChiComs weren't Communist enough. And Communist enough to start the "October League", later the "Communist Party (Marxist Leninist)".

So, uh... Communist.

This time, one Obama helped secure nearly two million dollars for in the form of "small school" workshops. Workshops explicitly designed to inject politics (guess whose politics...) into every subject.

Andrew McCarthy quotes Klonsky The Nation* (emphasis McCarthy's):
[S]uccessful social justice education ensures that teachers strike a balance between debating sociopolitical problems that affect children’s lives and teaching them academic basics on which they will be tested. A science teacher can plant an urban garden, allowing students to learn about plant biology, the imbalance in how fresh produce is distributed and how that affects the health of community residents. An English teacher can explore misogyny or materialism in American culture through the lens of hip-hop lyrics. Or as Rico Gutstein, a professor of mathematics education at the University of Illinois, Chicago, suggests, a math teacher can run probability simulations using real data to understand the dynamics behind income inequality or racial profiling. These are “examples of lessons where you can really learn the math basics,” he says, “but the purpose of learning the math actually becomes an entree into, and a deeper understanding of, the political ramifications of the issue.”
But hey, Sarah Palin is the real extremist. I mean, she eats moose, for heaven's sake! And she talks funny!

* - [edit: As a commenter points out, McCarthy sorta screwed the pooch on this one and is not quoting Klonsky as his article states, but quoting The Nation and apparently Rico Gutstein. Nevertheless, the criticism of the small school workshops remains.]

Welfare Tax Code

The Obama camp has amended their tax plan to include a work requirement in order to counter the claim that it's "welfare". Apparently they were going to do this all along, but ... uh... didn't. (Of course they were!) Also, they're calling McCain hypocritical on the welfare issue because McCain's health plan tax credit doesn't require work.

Two things:

1 - "Welfare" isn't defined by whether somebody has a job. It's defined by the receipt of a benefit for no reason other than arbitrary government policy. That includes a lot of things - subsidized college loans, ethanol mandates and tariffs, corporate research and development grants, and the more traditional "welfare" of food stamps, etc. This whole job requirement thing is a total non sequitur.

2 - The McCain health care credit is indeed welfare by the standard definition. But the status quo is a "regressive" welfare tax credit for the middle and upper classes that is not enjoyed by the lower class. The McCain plan corrects that problem. Also, one does not get the tax credit if one does not purchase health insurance, so whether one works or not is irrelevant.

And in other news, "socialist" is a dog whistle code word for "black". Because the racists hadn't figured out that Obama is black. Marx and Engels were unavailable for comment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Even the PUMAs Know Socialism When They See It

The folks at Moron Home Base read the PUMA ("Party Unity, My *ss") blogs so I don't have to.

These PUMAs even quote Reagan, much to their own amazement:
“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.” - Ronald Reagan
They go on:
Unless that Kool-Aid Obama’s serving is much stronger than we could ever imagine, there’s no way Americans want any part of socialism. We saw socialism in action in Europe growing up in the 80s, and it’s not pretty.

Unfortunately, 18-year-old voters were born in 1990 and have no memories of the Cold War. Heck, I'm damn near thirty and my Cold War memories are quite fuzzy. The "youth vote" has no idea what sort of fire they're playing with, and the aging hippies should know better by now.

(New blog label: "socialism")