Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Gangster Government

One of the distinctive characteristics of gangster "business operations" is to make up the rules as they go along. Gangster government does something similar when they ignore the courts and Congress and simply go on as if no one had said anything.

One more instance in a long line of that occurred with the recent FCC declaration of the Orwellian-named "net neutrality" rules. I wrote an article some time ago about how any such rules necessarily violate property rights and the right of free trade. Peter Ferrara demonstrates in an American Spectator essay how Obama's thugs are proceeding Chavez-like to demonstrate how much they truly don't care about that.
On April 6, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Comcast Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission that the FCC does not have the power to issue net neutrality regulation.
Rejecting that reasoning in an opinion written by one of the Circuit's more liberal Judges, David Tatel, the Court had to remind the FCC that "administrative agencies may act only pursuant to authority delegated to them by Congress."

The Court said regarding the FCC's reasoning, "if accepted it would virtually free the Commission from its congressional tether." The Court added that "without reference to the provisions of the [FCC's governing] Act directly governing broadcasting, the Commission's ancillary jurisdiction would be unbounded."

Indeed, the FCC's lawyers suggested to the Court in oral argument that in the agency's view it already has the power to impose price controls and rate regulation on Internet service providers and broadband operators.

Yet, the FCC just flouts this decision in going ahead and issuing its net neutrality regulations by rulemaking last week.
If there is any good option at this stage for businessmen — and us, who trade with them — other than simply ignoring the law, I can't think what it might be. It's that, or passive acquiescence to tyranny. We are now ruled, in fact, by petty dictators unbounded by anything but resource limitations in enforcing their Progressive whims.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Should Congress Be Outlawed?

Lame duck Democrats are making passage of the so-called Tax Compromise bill a tough slough. It's a piece of crap legislation, so I don't really care about that one way or the other. But the following from NRO makes me wonder if we should even have a Congress.
"House Dems Pull tax Deal from Floor
December 16, 2010 12:54 P.M.
By Daniel Foster


In the middle of debate on the Obama-McConnell tax deal, House Democrats abruptly pulled the “rule” for the bill from the House floor, moving on to consideration of a purely technical bankruptcy bill.

The move probably (probably) signals that the Democrats are short on votes to pass the rule — and hence the bill — and are now scrambling to find them.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Okay. Here’s what happened. Recall that the Democrats are moving the tax compromise inside the hollowed out shell of a Senate aviation bill in order to deny Republicans the procedural opportunity to offer their own alternative. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds — Speaker-Designate memorably dubbed the strategy “chicken crap.”

But now the Democrats are being hoisted by their own petard. In order to proceed as they’d like, Democrats planned on holding two votes — one on the Pomeroy amendment, which would raise the estate tax from the compromise levels, and one on the overall Senate bill. But the way the rule is written, voting ‘yea’ on the Pomeroy estate tax hike would constitute a vote for the rest of Senate bill. That is, if the Democrats have 218 votes to pass Pomeroy (an open question), the rest of the deal would pass automatically. Only if Pomeroy comes up short would there be a separate vote on the overall bill. (Take a deep breath.)

But rank-and-file liberals want to be able to support the estate tax hike while going on record against things like the extension of current tax rates for top earners.

So in the middle of debate, Rep. Gene Taylor, lame-duck Democrat of Mississippi, made a privileged motion to adjourn, and Democratic leadership used the time bought by the vote on that motion to have a huge powwow on the House floor — Hoyer, the Congressional Black Caucus, the progressives, the House parliamentarian, all were in attendance — to figure out how to proceed. When the adjournment vote ended, the Democrats pulled the tax bill from the floor, a clear sign they are short on votes."
Forget the fact that this is politicians behaving like they do, and that the Democrats are worse than the Republicans in most cases.

Clearly, we are relying on people to behave honorably, when the rules should simply make this utterly and blatantly illegal and the people who do it should be charged with fraud, violation of their oath of office, and then go to jail. One good 'sting' would put an end to this crap for a long, long time.

Yeah, I know, but it's a good day for fantasizing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hindraker Nails Democrat Energy 'Policy'

John Hindraker of Powerline wrote a brilliant blog post on the Democratic energy policy. If he has a copyright beef, he can ask me to remove it so my half-dozen regular readers don't cannibalize his page view count, but it's just too perfect to excerpt.
The U.S. is the only country in the world that, as a matter of policy, does not develop its own energy reserves. It is hard to see a rational basis for that policy. Energy is an important component in every physical object that is manufactured and shipped. If a country is not competitive in energy, it is not competitive, period. A Facebook friend writes:


Well, yes. The difference is that Brazil wants to become richer and more powerful. I think there are many in the Obama administration who think it is unjust that we are richer and more powerful than Brazil and many other countries. So they design policies that are intended to retard our progress so that others can catch up. If you think this makes any kind of sense, you are undoubtedly a Democrat.
Punditry just doesn't get any clearer, or more true, than that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Obama Doomsday Machine Rumbles On

Peter Ferrara, one of the most accurate writers in the country on economics, states in a recent American Spectator essay:
Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a 7 year moratorium on oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and up the east coast. They need that time to further study the BP oil spill and implement a "more stringent regulatory regime," Salazar transparently prevaricated.

Salazar is consequently depriving America of 7.5 billion barrels of oil and 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. To ensure their access to a reliable supply of oil at the time, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. That's shows what a serious attack on the American people this policy is. [emphasis added]

Meanwhile, EPA Director Lisa Jackson is imposing cap and trade by regulatory decree, despite its thorough democratic rejection by a Democrat-controlled Congress and the American people in 2010.
Frankly, I don't fully understand why the oil companies don't simply, at this point, start breaking the law. Surely they could never be subject to legal punishment if they chose to fight. The American people would riot on their behalf.

I can only assume that, since having low-price oil and gas doesn't really affect the executives very much, they simply choose not to endure the hassle. Can't say I entirely blame them, but it's a real shame for the rest of us.

Where is Hank Rearden when you need him?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Brooks v Ryan Debate - No Winner, We All Lose

Paul Ryan recently had a public debate with David Brooks and, not surprisingly, it was a total waste of time. Both parties agree on so many fundamentals there wasn't much to debate. Ryan avers that, contrary to the beliefs of some, he does not favor eliminating the social safety net (i.e. Social Security and Medicare).

That's a pity, because he surely knows that it's not only impractical in it's present form (which he wants to change), but immoral and unconstitutional in any form.

There are a dozen arguments I might make to support that claim. But, even accepting for argument's sake a government role in charity, I have to wonder why no one ever says it should be limited to the local or, at most, State level. Still, in this political climate, I could hardly expect Ryan to say otherwise.

There was one interesting result, though. David Brooks revealed himself to be just what I have long claimed he was: a Fascist. He said,
The argument he then put forth related to what he termed "narrative." He likes the Ryan-Rivlin plan. What he is concerned about is how Republicans have framed the argument: big vs. little government.

Instead, he wants to talk about culture, specifically whether government does things to enhance the public culture (e.g. encouraging independence and literacy) or undermine culture.

He thinks Republicans are too alarmist about the debt and too eager to draw lines in the sand that will lead to gridlock.

The Obama officials, he assured the group, aren't European welfare state proponents, they are just liberals who want a little more redistribution.
Set aside the obvious falsehood — or, in Brooks case it might be unconquerable stupidity — that Obama and his cronies aren't seeking to establish a European social democracy; Obama's every utterance makes it clear that's exactly what he wants.

Brooks made it clear – though he probably isn't aware of it — that Fascism is precisely what he favors. Anyone who believes it's a proper role of the Federal Government to "enhance the public culture" is either a communist or a fascist, and I don't believe Brooks is a communist.

That's the real problem here. Only a narrow sliver on the right believe there is absolutely no legitimate reason the Federal Government should be 'directing' the country, economically or — revolting thought — culturally. And that's why the debate was a waste of time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Obama Plays Basketball, Ball Wins

According to a Bloomberg headline, "Obama Gets 12 Stitches in Lip After Basketball Mishap"

Excellent. Maybe he'll shut up for a day or two and the economy will markedly improve. Cheap shot? Sure, but a guy can have his fantasies, can't he?

Update: Elbow, not ball, did the good deed. And from a man who should probably now be honored by celebrating his birthday as a national holiday. (Although, if he's he "director of programs" for something called "the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute," he's unquestionably a collectivist and probably a Progressive, so scratch that. Anyway, he did us a good deed, even if by accident, so here's to ya, Mr. Decerega!) [Hat Tip: Robert Costa, NRO]

The White House announced the culprit who elbowed Obama in the lip earlier today: Rey Decerega, who is the director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

Decerega said in a statement that the game was all in good fun (and didn’t apologize)
Didn't apologize! Excellent.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Lesson in Political Philosophy

Possibly you've read the story of how the Jamestown pilgrims nearly starved their first two years in America, and what saved them. In 1620, half the population of the Plymouth Colony died during its first harsh winter. The second half was close do doing so but...

the fall of 1623 marked the end of Plymouth’s debilitating food shortages.

For the last two planting seasons, the Pilgrims had grown crops communally – the approach first used at Jamestown and other English settlements. But as the disastrous harvest of the previous fall had shown, something drastic needed to be done to increase the annual yield.

In April, [William] Bradford [leader of the Plymouth colony] had decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate, with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew. The change in attitude was stunning. Families were now willing to work much harder than they had ever worked before.

In previous years, the men had tended the fields while the women tended the children at home. “The women now went willingly into the field,” Bradford wrote, “and took their little ones with them to set corn.” The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. Although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants never again starved.

It's only one data point, but a characteristic one. The pattern has been repeated countless times in dozens of countries over centuries now. Yet, almost 400 years later, we're still debating Progressives about the practicality of Capitalism vs [Communism/Socialism/Social Democracy/You-name-it-ism].

Clearly, economic facts alone are not going to decide the issue. Progressives are immune. Time to ramp up the moral crusade. Time to declare that even if, contrary to all history, Paul Poorguy winds up much poorer than Peter Privileged, it's still wrong to force Peter to support Paul.

When we start to make progress on that front, I'll be truly thankful.

[Hat tip: Daniel Griswold of Cato for the selection from "Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathanial Philbrick."]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Will Obama Learn?

RCP links to a Huffington Post story with the headline: "What Obama '10 Can Learn From Obama '08."

Since it's on the HuffPost I can't be bothered to read it; I can imagine well enough the advice offered. But, no matter, it's pointless.

Better we should ask: what will Obama '12 learn from election '10? To which the answer is: not a damn thing.

If the debacles and blatant illegality of his policies of the past two years haven't taught him anything by now, they never will. You can't teach a man closed to all fact and logical argument.

P.S. I did skim the story just now and I'm glad to report my imagination is still working just fine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harsanyi Nails It On GM IPO

David Harsanyi writes a brilliant column on the recent GM IPO, touted by Obama as a "success." To co-opt a phrase, I guess it depends on what you mean by "success."

He concludes:
"But when we undermine the rule of law, ignore property rights, create moral hazards and destroy organic job growth to save a company that had been terribly managed long before the recession, no one should be bragging about success."
I couldn't have said it better.

Conservatives Misread Lomberg's "Cool It"

Several recent conservative commentaries offer a sympathetic review of Bjorn Lomberg's global warming documentary "Cool It."

These well-meaning individuals have been snookered. Bjorn Lomberg is more dangerous than Al Gore precisely because he appears (and is) more reasonable. Obvious con men like Gore expose their own racket before long. It's those who are more apparently reasonable - but still opposed to freedom - who do most of the damage in the world.

According to the Spectator story, "Mr. Lomborg's thesis is straightforward: Global warming is real and humanity needs to do something about it."

Its well known that that thesis has been radically undermined in the past two years.

Moreover, the idea that "we" should do anything about it - beyond leaving individuals free to adapt to any changes that occur - is the fatal flaw in Dr. Lomberg's argument.

Lomberg may sound more reasonable than many, but he is still committed to Comtean altruism, Roussean collectivism, and garden-variety statism, and still touts a highly dubious hypothesis to justify them. Running around Africa crying over the poor doesn't change any of that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Scientists Trap Antimatter Atoms For First Time

It won't affect the price of tea in China, or even create a new superbomb, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Yes, I'd like to see them do it with no government funding. Yes, it has no practical applications (yet). But there's just something that grabs me personally to see scientists still able to pull off feats of great engineering.

And, who knows, some interesting physics might come from it. We might someday learn why there's so little antimatter in the universe, and why antimatter atoms are rarely found. Will that have any practical application? I have no idea.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Headlines Tell It All

Sometimes, you don't even need to read news stories to get a feel for the nature of the Federal government today. This list of sidebar stories on RCP tell you pretty much what you need to know about the disaster that is Barack Obama.
  • China's Hu Rebuffs Obama on Yuan
  • South Korea Trade Deal Stalls
  • Obama Talks Tough on North Korea
  • American Middle Class Downsizes as its Jobs Vanish, Move Away
  • WH Opposes Top Rate Extension
  • RCP Video Cashin: QE2 Looks Like Titanic
And the more he reveals himself as a loser, the more his punctured, cream-filled ego oozes out and makes an even bigger mess for the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jonah Goldberg on C-SPAN

I haven't watched it yet, but 3 hours with Jonah Goldberg should be on everyone's list of must-see TV.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Big Govt: Which Way Now, America?

At Big Government, I offer a few words on the implications of the recent election results for the future of freedom in America.
There’s much good news from the elections, but first let me wet blanket some of the fires of enthusiasm. Republican majority or Democrat, it remains the case that so long as the Dept of Health and Human Services, the EPA, the Federal Reserve, and the like still exist the Federal government will continue to do great harm. That will still be true even if a better-than-Reagan Republican wins in 2012.

Now, for the election analysis — including lots of good news from the events of Nov. 2.

There’s no doubt the American electorate in many, many places rejected the Obama-Pelosi-Reid anti-Constitutional approach to government, i.e. Progressivism.

That’s clear, even though the Republican pickup in the Senate was disappointing, especially with the re-election of Harry Reid. Take a look at Republican gains in the State legislatures: 650-700 seats, compared to 505 in 1994. That’s huge.

There’s bad news to be sure...
Read the rest here...

P.S. I also highly recommend Dr. Paul Hsieh's article at Pajamas Media: GOP, Dance With the One Who Brung You.

As Dr. Hsieh makes starkly clear, it will be vital for the Republicans to follow up on their (admittedly, weak-tea) promises to enlarge freedom in America. That's vital both for their viability as an alternative political party, and our futures, if we're to have one as free citizens.



Friday, November 5, 2010

Ouch! Fed to Spend $600 Billion More to 'Boost' Economy

More like goose the economy, and rectal probes are never any fun.
"The Federal Reserve launched a controversial new policy on Wednesday, committing to buy $600 billion more in government bonds by the middle of next year in an attempt to breathe new life into a struggling U.S. economy.

The decision, which takes the Fed into largely uncharted waters, is aimed at further lowering borrowing costs for consumers and businesses still suffering in the aftermath of the worst recession since the Great Depression."
Oh, dear lord.

Just as two side questions as we observe this train wreck in the offing: How can you lower borrowing costs when interest rates are virtually zero now? Moreover, why would you want to when the country is drowning in debt already?

Not for nothing did I recently name Ben Bernanke one of the six most dangerous Federal employees in the country (along with Obama, Reid, HHS Sec. Sebelius, EPA head Lisa Jackson, and any swing vote on the Supreme Court).

For anyone interested in Helicopter Ben's rationalization, you can read that here.

Central bankers around the world, less foolish than the ones in the U.S. lately, are not pleased.
Thailand said its central bank is already in talks with neighbours to devise a joint protection policy.

Brazil's central bank chief Henrique Mereilles said the US move had created "excessive dollar liquidity which we are absorbing," forcing his country to restrict inflows. Mexico's finance minister warned of "more bubbles."
I can't say I'm surprised, though. There were only three ways the Feds could get out of their fiscal mess: raise taxes, borrow even more, inflate. The first has been politically not viable since day one and two is about exhausted. Inflation is the most underhanded, the least visibly painful since it's gradual and most people can't connect the dots back to the Feds.

As I said recently, while I'm mostly pleased about the election results, so long as the HHS, the Federal Reserve, and the like continue to exist, the Federal government will continue to do great harm, no matter who is in the majority. (Obama, for example, has recently hinted that he will use the EPA to accomplish what he couldn't get done by now-stalled Cap-and-Tax legislation.)

Clearly, Nov. 2, 2010 was just the first small step in overthrowing the tyrants doing their best to destroy American prosperity.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to (Re)Create a Free Country

In Dennis Praeger's latest column, he explains why he's voting Nov. 2 for a party, not an individual candidate. His reasons are mostly sound. He recognizes that (a) the Democrat party is a lost cause (that's been true since McGovern ran), and (b) Republicans, imperfect as they are, are our only hope, politically speaking.

But it's those last two words (mine, not his) that are important. He says,
"It is probably accurate to say that no country in the world has less government intervention in the lives of its citizens than America does,"
on his way to making an accurate point about the Democratic Party being indistinguishable from a garden-variety European Social Democrat one.

The latter point is true, the first not fully accurate. Sadly, "less government intervention" is not nearly so true as it used to be.

In 1859 it was rare for an individual to have any contact with the Federal government at all, or to be much influenced by its actions. (Read Vilhelm Moberg's Swedish immigrant epic, The Immigrants).

Even by 1890 this was still a free country. There was graft and corruption, but it was limited mostly to the transportation system. Individual citizens paid no income tax. There was no EPA to tell farmers they couldn't drain a mud puddle. You could erect a barn without a permit containing 'guidelines' dictated by the DoE.

By 1912, all that was rapidly beginning to change in significant ways. The establishment of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the 16th Amendment were sharp bends in the curve that graphs the path to totalitarianism.

By 1940 the die was all but cast, despite the Supreme Court rolling back a lot of FDR's dictatorial policies. With Social Security, farm subsidies made permanent, and the alphabet soup of Federal agencies, government 'management' of the private lives of citizens became the norm.

But the real throttling of freedom in America came in the mid-1960s when the country was finally swamped philosophically by Progressivism in its deepest cultural forms. Medicare was just one political expression of that.

Reagan held the line for a little while, and rolled back some onerous taxes and regulations. But it was a blip in the overall trend. Today, you can't watch a TV ad, catch a current movie, or even walk into a grocery store without seeing the evidence of that period's nihilism.

To really become a free country again, the Federal leviathan will have to be pared back a century's worth of intrusions, at least. That means eliminating the Dept of Ed, HHS, the Federal Reserve, the DoE, and a good deal more. It will mean making illegal the spoils system that has allowed Congressmen to act as distributors of Federal money to constituents back home. It will mean, especially, paring back the Executive branch to its original purposes.

But beyond the political changes, we'll never recreate America as the land of the free until we make radical improvements to the culture that perpetuates our present political system. That starts with radical changes to education, including privatizing the school system and flushing out the Progressivism oozing from its every pore.

That's a very big set of very difficult tasks, to be sure, but it's the only long-term solution. Americans are used to taking big, bold steps. Time to begin the journey and voting a certain way is only the smallest first step.

De Mint Advises Senate Rookies On Corruption

One of a small band of heroes in the Senate, Jim De Mint of South Carolina offers some great advice to rookies on how to avoid being corrupted by D.C.:
First, don't request earmarks. If you do, you'll vote for legislation based on what's in it for your state, not what's best for the country. You will lose the ability to criticize wasteful spending. And, if you dare to oppose other pork-barrel projects, the earmarkers will retaliate against you.

In 2005, Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered a measure to kill funding for the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere." Before the vote, Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.), an appropriator, issued a warning on the Senate floor.

"If we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next," she said.


When you are in Washington, remember what the voters back home want: less government and more freedom.[emphasis added]

Millions of people are out of work, the government is going bankrupt and the country is trillions in debt. Americans have watched in disgust as billions of their tax dollars have been wasted on failed jobs plans, bailouts and takeovers. It's up to us to stop the spending spree and make sure we have a government that benefits America instead of being a burden to it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nevadans Betray Fellow Citizens

With almost 41% of precincts reporting, Harry Reid leads Sharon Angle by over 30,000 votes, 51% to 45%. Barring a miracle, every single eligible voter who did not fill the bubble for Angle owes the rest of us an apology.

Nevada voters have returned to the Senate, and very likely the Majority Leader job, one of the five most destructive individuals in America.

At least as much as Obama, and on a par with Pelosi, Harry Reid has helped to drive the country to economic ruin. He has helped pass legislation against the will of the people that eliminates their right to freely trade with health care services providers. He has led the most destructive Senate of the past 70 years, violating individual rights with impunity every day of the past four. Harry Reid belongs in jail, and the Nevada voters have instead returned him to head the syndicate.

It's useless to suggest they hang their heads in shame. They have none. The rest of the country should boycott Las Vegas until Harry Reid is no longer in power.

Recessions and Policy Effects, Data For 60 Years

Peter Ferrara offers a tour de force history of recessions and the policies used to meet them over the past 60 years. Here's just a short sample of the unassailable evidence that Keynesianism doesn't work:
In April 1960, the American economy tumbled into recession again. There was no trillion dollar stimulus package producing record shattering deficits and national debt. Yet, somehow, in February 1961, just 10 months later, the economy was back in recovery mode, again before Barack Obama was even born. Spurred by the across the board Kennedy tax rate cuts, the economy boomed for a then record 106 months.

In December 1969, the U.S. economy cycled into recession once again, in President Nixon's first year in office. Somehow, by November, 1970, just 11 months later, the economy was in recovery once again, even though Barack Obama was only 9 years old.

In November 1973, the worst recession of the entire postwar era up until then began. It took 16 months for the economy to recover, starting in March 1975. Over the next four quarters, the economy came roaring back, with real economic growth of 6.2%. For 1976, the unemployment rate was 7.7%.

"The Failed Economic Policies of the Past"

In July 1981, after President Reagan had been in office just six months, the economy fell into arguably a worse recession than in 1973-75. Yet President Reagan continued to back the strong dollar monetary policies of the Federal Reserve that slew the roaring inflation of the 1970s, caused by the same monetary policy strategy that current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just announced last week.

In just two years, over 1979 to 1980, prices had risen by 25%. The strict monetary policy Reagan supported cut the annual inflation rate in half by 1982, and in half again by 1983, to just 3.2%. Inflation has not been heard from since.
The data is so clear in its implications, one has to wonder what a Keynesian would say. A pack of obfuscating lies, for sure, but what else?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Take This Culture and Shove It

Peter Cresswell at Not PC tripped one of my AMAWG (Angry Middle-Aged White Guy) switches today, so buckle your seat belt and prepare for a rant on one of my favorite sore spots: modern culture vs the '50s.

Peter posted a series of ads from days gone by.

Here's a sample, a Chesterfield ad featuring none other than Ronald Reagan enjoying a smoke.

Peter then asked "[B]ut would you really want to live there again?"

My [expanded] answer:

Absolutely. For all its imperfections, by comparison to the moral and aesthetic sewer of today, it was nirvana.

Want a useful mental image to concretize the comparison? See the trailer for the original (1950) "Cheaper By the Dozen," a very mediocre film with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy, then see the trailer for the 2003 version with Steve Martin.

There's no better example of my point.

The original is treacly and dull. But it's filled with kids who are smart, made so by their father's insistence on developing their minds. (He uses every opportunity to teach them science, history, etc., even going so far as to put a map of the solar system on the dining room wall).

The house is always spotless, kept that way by parents who required their children to behave like civilized human beings. The wife is as smart as the husband, but not depicted as morally superior with a lunkhead husband, as in every sitcom today. She is a professional industrial psychologist like Frank. (The movie is based on a true story about Frank Gilbreth, a time-and-motion studies expert of the early 20th century, and his wife and 12 kids, as written by two of the kids as adults.)

The 21st century version is po-mo vicious, featuring kids who are future drug addicts and muggers-in-training. The Steve Martin trailer opens with a shot of his house in absolute disarray, complete with food and paint splattered everywhere. Steve, as he always does, behaves in a completely irrational manner and is clearly overwhelmed (yet loving it!). His wife is as dull as it's possible for a woman to get. How cute.

Here's another piece of evidence. [Spoilers ahead, which I think are ok here, since the film is two years old.]

I saw the 2008 Iron Man film recently, starring the cow-eyed and perpetually whiny Robert Downey Jr., whom — oddly — many conservatives on Big Hollywood chose to defend. (An actor who projects a more consistently clinically depressed air would be hard to find. To make him the hero tells you something already about the mind of a modern director.)

The movie itself, from the perspectives of plot, production values, and even performance was actually quite good by contemporary standards. Still, it was utterly amoral despite the main character's alleged seeing of the light after a horrific experience in Afghanistan.

It opens with Tony Stark joking it up with a bunch of soldiers in Afghanistan riding in a Humvee, which is shortly blown to smithereens. The film goes downhill from there, with ultra-hedonist Stark ultimately escaping his warlord captors (note they are not jihadists but our 'allies') then manically working in his lab, partying in Dubai, and mostly experimenting with his suit.

A few minutes of plot emerge in the final sequence when we discover, surprise!, that Jeff Bridges' Daddy Warbucks lookalike character ordered him killed in order to take over the company, pissed even before Stark announced he was getting out of the weapons business. (Shades of liberal guilt-ridden foreign policy!)

By contrast, a very stark contrast if you'll pardon the pun, the Iron Man comics, which I read avidly as a teen, portrayed a real hero, one dedicated to fighting injustice, like most superheroes. He was a rich playboy, but that had a somewhat different meaning two generations ago. He didn't whine neurotically about his inner moral conflict. He didn't joke around in every frame. He didn't treat life as if it were a perpetual frat party that happened to include inventing astonishing technology from time to time.

My point is this: even the stuff that was bad (i.e. dull, mediocre, poorly executed) 50 years ago was lightyears ahead morally and artistically of all but the absolute best work of today.

Rose colored glasses? Selection bias? Watch and study enough of the period — apart from living consciously through the past 50 years, I've seen approximately 3,000 American films (90% of them pre-1965) — and any decent, honest person will come to the same inductive conclusion.

There are those who claim, with some justification, that life wasn't really like the movies of 80-40 years ago. Perhaps that's true in many ways. They were movies, after all. But the fact that filmmakers chose to portray those characters in that way, doing those things, signifies a very different ethic and esthetic all by itself.

False alternative? Certainly. There's nothing in reality, including our own nature, that prevents us choosing a future better than anything in the past 2,000 years.

But the '40s and '50s, not to mention the 19th century, actually happened, so we know a relatively clean culture is possible. Rising above that level is a matter of inventing that which has never been seen, a daunting task at minimum. I'd bet it'll be a hundred years before the culture catches up to it again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tim Geithner's Plan to Save the World

A recent headline for a Financial Times story reads: "Geithner Plans to Save the World Economy"*

Uh, I hadn't even read the story and I was already Beelzebub-level scared. Unfortunately, things don't get much better when you read it.

Geithner is credited with pushing the idea to:
broaden the focus from exchange rates. G20 countries, he says, should commit to keep their current accounts – whether deficits or surpluses – within a percentage limit of national output.

Reorienting the discussion towards current accounts makes good sense. They are at the heart of the global imbalances; exchange rates are merely instruments – and far from the only ones – for influencing them. Current account targets would leave open how excessive balances are to be shrunk – through nominal or real exchange rate adjustments or through other policies that affect public or private sector surpluses and deficits.
That's it! Why didn't I think of that? The worlds' economies are going down the tubes because of bad current account targets. We need more central banker intervention! No wonder they call him The Boy Wonder.

*Full disclosure: This was RCP's headline for the story, not the FT's. The former clearly knows a thing or two about generating clicks. The FT has it as: "A walk in the old Bretton Woods"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Radio Interview for The Wells Report Scheduled Oct 28

As promised, the Jon David Wells radio interview has been rescheduled. Same time, new date.

I'm scheduled to be interviewed on The Wells Report at KSKY radio (660 AM), this Thursday, Oct. 28 at 3:20 pm Pacific (6:20 pm ET, 5:20 pm CT, 4:20 pm MT, 11:20 am NZ). The show broadcasts from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas.

Here's a link to listen in. I hope you will. [Click the red "Listen Live" button near the top of the main text, roughly in the middle of the screen.]

We'll be talking about my recent Pajamas Media article, Beyond Politics: Removing the Progressive Drag On America, and presumably other things.
It promises to be lively, since I'll no doubt be asked my suggestions for how to straighten out the mess the U.S. is in.

Your suggestions are also welcome.


Read FDR's Folly by Jim Powell

I've recently finished reading FDR's Folly and I'm here to say it's one of the best books on the subject I've read. It's chock full of fact-filled horror stories with a moral: each one tells you exactly what America's first unopposed dictator was up to and what the results were. That is, he was unopposed by all but the Supreme Court of the day.

It's now all-but forgotten, but the Supreme Court — flawed from day one, admittedly — once stood as a bulwark protecting individual rights. They shut down several of FDR's more egregious rapes of liberty. Even when the vote went the wrong way there were some heroic statements made by justices of the time. (This was before they were castrated by FDR's bluff to pack the Court and his subsequent appointments.)

From Chapter 12 comes this one:
Nebbia v New York, 291 U.S. 502 (1934). A Rochester grocer was convicted of selling two bottles of milk for less than the nine cents per quart ordered by the Milk Control Board.

McReynolds, "The Legislature cannot lawfully destroy guaranteed rights of one man with the prime purpose of enriching another, even if, for the moment, this may seem advantageous to the public...

To him with less than nine cents it says-- You cannot procure a quart of milk from the grocer although he is anxious to accept what you can pay and the demands of your household are urgent."
The odds of even the allegedly conservative members of today's SCOTUS recognizing that principle are less than 1 in 4. I.e., only Thomas would come close, and then not consistently.

Anyway, the point is, if you have time to read only one book about that period, so supremely relevant to events of today, FDR's Folly by Jim Powell should be the one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

ObamaCare and the Election

"The control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself." Hilaire Belloc

That quote came up in the context of an editorial in the Washington Examiner about Sebelius' bullying of the insurance companies to shut up and get in line, or else.

It's worth a reference here because — with the election only a week away — the repeal of ObamaCare hangs in the balance. If the House and Senate turn Republican in large enough numbers it's possible GOP leaders will grow (at least, temporary) spines and back the effort fully.

Several court cases are winding through the system, but they chiefly involve the individual mandate, which — morally grotesque as it is — really has no teeth. (The IRS is authorized by the bill to deal with refusniks but they have no legal authority in it to exact any punishments.) So, even if when the case(s) finally make it to the Supreme Court and they knock it down, the rest will still stand.

On top of that, even such staunch pro-freedom politicians as Rep. Paul Ryan are not optimistic about any rear-guard effort to defund it. If a guy that committed and knowledgeable says it won't be a slam dunk to starve the beast, I have to give it some weight.

There's another relevant aspect to that Belloc quote: ObamaCare is an attempt to control both wealth and life itself. You don't have to be a paranoid right-winger to believe there will be something like death panels, if ObamaCare stands.

The NHS is Britain already exercises a very similar authority and ObamaCare is much worse than socialized medicine — it's fascist medicine. At least under a socialized system the government is on the hook for providing something. Here, they do nothing but stand on the sidelines and make it near-impossible for health insurers and health care providers to engage in trade.

So, please join the effort this November not only to vote the Democrats out of power, but to prevent Progressive and labor union activists from their usual vote fraud. If any given race is close, they'll stuff ballots like you never saw before, and they have admitted as much openly. (Fronting faux-Tea Party supported candidates to siphon Republican votes is just one of the ways they're doing that, even in advance of the election. Illegally registering thousands of new Democratic voters is another.)

We're in for the fight of the century. It's time to make Progressives around the country even more depressed than they already are.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NPR's Contradictions

NPR's moral failures go far beyond firing Juan Williams for a politically incorrect remark. It's deeper than being irked over his appearances on allegedly right-wing Fox News.

NPR's CEO, like Progressives everywhere, is caught in the contradictions of subjectivism. Faux liberals that they are, they preach tolerance for everything - because according to their ethical philosophy there are no objective principles of morality - then display intolerance for a remark they regard as "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices.”

There's no way out of this inconsistency for a faux liberal. It's built into the basic fiber from which the Progressive cloth is cut.

Not content with CEO Schiller's getting herself into hot water by publicly remarking that Williams should've "consulted his psychiatrist" before making the statement, NPR's Ombudsman doubled down on the lunacy.

In a story headlined: "NPR's Firing of Juan Williams Was Poorly Handled" the lying fence-sitter said:
Juan Williams once again got himself into trouble with NPR for comments he made at his other job, at Fox News.
Right. His firing was "poorly handled" but he really did bring it on himself.

She tripled the foolish factor by adding:
Instead, this latest incident with Williams centers around a collision of values: NPR's values emphasizing fact-based, objective journalism versus the tendency in some parts of the news media, notably Fox News, to promote only one side of the ideological spectrum.
That's rich. NPR is objective but Fox is biased. Um, NPR proudly upholds Progressive values (a fact favorably noted by over a third of its listeners as one reason they tune in). Those values are entirely the opposite of fact-based and by definition are not objective. Progressivism's core epistemology comes from Pragmatism, whose central premise is there's no such thing as objective anything.

Apart from all that blatant hypocrisy, the firing of Juan Williams shows that contemporary liberals never mean anything they say about black people.

Here, a black liberal gets fired for making a mild comment about Muslims. (One that even moderate Muslims in this country would agree with if they weren't too scared to speak up, and one he even qualified to nullity later in the same program.) But since blacks no longer have it institutionally bad in this country, they've outlived their usefulness to white race hustlers like Vivian Schiller. So, Muslims are now the au courant 'oppressed' group that faux-liberals can drool all over with their faux sympathy.

If it should come to pass someday that this idiotic series of wars finally comes to an end - contrary to Gen. Petraeus' belief — then Muslims will settle into being just another group whose more vocal self-appointed spokespeople yammer about their victimhood. Then there will no doubt be some new convenient 'oppressed' group that so-called liberals can use to undermine individual freedom.

Of course, the real outrage here is not chiefly the depressingly familiar hypocrisy of yet another Progressive, but that NPR - a (partly) taxpayer funded news and editorial radio program - exists in the first place. Let them compete in the open market and they can be as intolerant - and embrace as many contradictions - as they like.

A Blast From the Past: About Vietnam

While organizing some old columns and comments I ran across this Feb, 2007 response to Jack Wakefield on the Forum 4 Ayn Rand Fans, produced during a 'conversation' about the effects of the Vietnam War. It has only slight relevance to things that are going on today — in particular the issues of a military effort 'discrediting' a philosophy, and the weariness of the American public after years of war. I'm reproducing it here mostly because I thought the writing and the ideas were worth sharing.

Note to those (most, I presume) who don't know who Jack Wakefield is. He's a nuclear power plant engineer who lives in Chicago and comments occasionally through and for Robert Tracinski's The Intellectual Activist.

Those facts are all the more remarkable because Jack is not a professional pundit, yet he is one of the finest cultural analysts in America. I don't always agree with him, but he always has something worthwhile reading.

Anyway, without further ado, here's me responding to his claims (I summarize) that the American defeat in Vietnam knocked the wind out of America's sails for a while.

On Discrediting

It's often put about in Objectivist circles (and elsewhere) that President Bush's actions have "discredited the effort" against the jihadists – intellectually and morally.

I'm no fan of George Bush in general, but I think this view is wrong for reasons that go far beyond the current president. No action that the American President, or anyone else, can take can discredit an effort which is appropriate. Even if the view is modified to be 'discredited in the eyes of (some) onlookers', this is incorrect in three ways.

(1) Many are still supporting Bush's efforts – there are die-hard faux-conservatives just as there are die-hard faux-liberals.

Some support Bush because he's not a (so-called) liberal — they use him as a philosophical whip to combat larger causes. The die-hard faux-liberals, interestingly, do the same thing. They are not pro anything; they are simply anti-everything the faux-conservatives are for. Other conservatives genuinely believe in what they think he's trying to do, just as the so-called liberals are genuinely opposed.

(Aside: Large and vocal segments of the two main wings of current political non-thought haven't much in the way of ideas at all, other than 'I hate what you stand for'. In the case of the faux-liberals, they happen to hate what the faux-conservatives partially and inconsistently stand for: everything that makes a human life on Earth possible – reason, individual responsibility and effort, political freedom, etc.)

(2) By and large, people have much the same fundamental view they had three and a half years ago (or three and half decades ago): do it, or get out. They are seeing that the President's team isn't doing it, so they're leaning now toward 'get out'.

Be that as it may, whatever the President does or doesn't do, says or doesn't say, everyone who wants to is capable of thinking for himself. That means he can judge that the right thing was done incorrectly, or for the wrong reasons, or the wrong thing done for the right motives, but incompetently, or any mixture thereof.

George Bush, for example, can — foolishly — say that 'the primary reason we are going to war in Iraq is the threat of WMD which the Iraqis possess or will soon develop'. (This wasn't his initial argument, but it quickly took center stage. Such is the measure of how easily manipulated by the press he is.)

This is the wrong reason to make war on Iraq, or at least far from the best reason. Nevertheless, it isn't too late even now to say 'No, these are the reasons.' and his story has, in fact, evolved over time — especially since the WMD weren't found in abundance sitting on the porch steps of Hussein's palace.

(3) The point is, whether or not he ever states the correct reasons that would objectively justify the effort, the correct reasons still exist and could be identified and voiced now or after the effort by any right thinking person — no matter the actual outcome. The correct moral case doesn't depend on the President carrying out the enterprise correctly, nor what reasons he gives for undertaking it.

That people will, it's true, be affected by what the President says are the reasons, that some will agree others not, doesn't change that. Unless, we have in mind a very different meaning of the word 'discredit'.

If all that is meant by that is that many will disapprove of the past effort and not want to undertake a similar one in the future, then the word is a paltry thing, because it then just refers to a (potentially large) group of individuals subjective whims.

In the latter case, the only proper response is: 'so what?'.

But, I assert that most people at the start, in the middle, and still today are capable of judging well the effort without the President's interpretation of events — nor that of the New York Times.

Thus, the President isn't necessarily discrediting (or crediting) anything by his actions. Failure doesn't necessarily discredit an effort — it depends on how one analyzes the situation after the fact.

Also, importantly, when asserting that the 'effort is discredited', one has to be very careful about exactly what 'the' is — the Iraq War?, battling the jihadists? Most people are perfectly capable of making the distinction, no matter what the majority of newspapers and magazines would have them believe.

On Vietnam and Its Aftereffects

"Military defeat in Vietnam opened up a hole in the American culture and the New Left dove [sic] a wedge deep into that hole. The defeat influenced good people, undermining their self-confidence and moral assertiveness, causing them to grow silent and withdraw...and evil advanced with little obstruction into the political culture." Jack Wakeland

I disagree from many perspectives with these views.

A military defeat of the sort that occurred in Vietnam can make one angry, sad, (temporarily) depressed, or any number of things. It can not cause good persons' self-confidence or moral assertiveness to waver, in general. Some may, but the majority will go on much as they were before. The American people in the 1970s were not similar to Germans between 1918 and 1935 in this respect.

The American people were, rightly, tired of the debacle in Vietnam — an undertaking which should never have been undertaken and (like so many military efforts begun by Democrats) one in which the U.S. had no self-interest to assert.

Thus, they were largely glad to be out of it. That many had a largely negative view of the military afterwards is a different matter. The press certainly had a field day advertising My Lai, the Tet offensive, the withdrawal, and other actions in which the U.S. allegedly didn't look so good. This has been the bread and butter of U.S. journalism since the 1930s and it accelerated in the 1960s, as so-called leftism became more prominent in American culture.

It took another 15-20 years or so for most people to catch on to the fact that, on the whole, journalists are worse liars than the average politician. (One way they're worse is that one expects politicians to lie, journalists are supposed to tell the truth.)

But that doesn't show that the American people lost 'assertiveness'. It means the media were successful, to a degree, in their (still ongoing) campaign to paint the facts a certain way, in order to achieve their cultural agenda: the permanent alteration of American culture to look like Europe.

The result was not a lack of self-confidence, nor moral assertiveness. It was, as it had been for the period of most of the 20th century, a failure of the majority of Americans to hold their government accountable — a trend which has only been slightly reversed in recent years.

What did happen after Vietnam?


With respect to the majority view of the military, the conclusion is simple. During, and therefore afterward, the majority thought (rightly or wrongly) that the military were doing wrong. They thought the military had no business being there and that while there they did many bad things. My Lai was the poster child, but the general view was pretty much the same before and after that.

(Unfortunately for the military, the average soldier who was there also thought much the same thing. Any 'gung-ho' captain was a good candidate for getting his head blown off by his own men. They had no interest in or intention of dying for what they thought was a ridiculous cause. Such is only one result of the draft.)

That view continued largely intact until the Gulf War. (Though Reagan did make some difference in restoring respect for having a strong military.) When the cause was considered just, the American people were behind it. The military gained swift, sure victories and looked like heroes (as they were). The American people were glued to CNN like it was a Tuesday Movie of the Week.

In this sense, a just cause carried out correctly did 'credit the effort'.


Economically, the period after the Vietnam war was a disaster for about 10-15 years, it's true. But the Vietnam war didn't cause, nor exacerbate, that situation. It wasn't expensive enough to account for such a major effect, and it didn't cause people to suddenly lose their will or ability to produce. The Vietnam War didn't produce bad economic philosophy or policies.


The defeat in Vietnam didn't produce hippies, it didn't produce New Ageism, and it certainly didn't create New Left philosophy, nor give it something to feed on that wasn't there already. The roots of that philosophy, as I'm sure you know, go back much further.

Even looking largely at less fundamental causes, New Left influences were not fed by the defeat in Vietnam. After the war, there weren't large groups, nor influential voices saying, "See we lost the war, so we should do X."

The blatant hostility to science, technology, and civilization that gave growth hormones to the environmental movement didn't grow out of the defeat in Vietnam. The amoralism that took hold of American culture for about 20 years didn't grow out of the defeat in Vietnam. The pragmatism that engulfed American culture wasn't given birth nor fed by the defeat in Vietnam. The egalitarianism, multiculturalism, and puritanism of politically correct thought that came along soon after didn't grow out of the defeat in Vietnam. None of the real-world instances of these abstractions was caused by the Vietnam War, nor America's defeat.

All those things have something in common: they are all 'anti' ideas, anti-actions. I.e. they are not positive ideas or actions undertaken for a positive goal; they are rebellions. That rebellion was extant and grew with the Vietnam War, but wasn't caused nor fed by it. Quite the contrary, to a large degree the defeat in Vietnam was the effect of these things, not their cause.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

RESCHEDULED: Dallas Radio Interview Oct. 22

UPDATE: As often happens with these things, the radio interview is to be rescheduled. Once the publicist for Pajamas Media lets me know, I'll advertise the new date/time.

Thanks to all those who sent congratulatory emails (and all those who didn't, too; I know you're busy).

I'll update you when I know more.

All the Best,


I'm scheduled to be interviewed by Jon David Wells of KSKY radio 660 AM, this Friday, Oct. 22. It broadcasts from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas.

Sorry for the last minute notice, but the whole thing was arranged very quickly.

We'll be talking about recent Pajamas Media article, Beyond Politics: Removing the Progressive Drag On America, and presumably other things.

It's scheduled to begin at 6:20 pm ET [5:20 pm CT, [4:20 pm MT, 3:20 pm Pacific].

Here's a link to listen in. I hope you will. [Click the red "Listen Live" button near the top of the main text, roughly in the middle of the screen.]

It promises to be lively, since I'll no doubt be asked my suggestions for how to straighten out the mess the U.S. is in.

Your suggestions welcome.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pajamas Media Article: The Risk of Republican Betrayal

My new article at Pajamas Media, The Risk of Post-Election Republican Betrayal, is hot off the presses. It begins:
"There’s been a sea change in the country, much quicker and more substantial than liberty lovers might have expected as recently as a year ago. Yet for some of us, it’s hard to escape a nagging question.

What happens after January when the new congressional session begins? ..."
Please read the rest and add your comments.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Article at Big Govt: Obama Headed for Waterloo

Please head over to Breitbart's Big Government and read my latest article, "Follow Napoleon’s Advice on the Chamber Pot ‘Scandal'," a short commentary on Obama's ill-conceived attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Among other things, I point out that:

"[S]omeone might actually take Obama seriously. (Yes, I know that’s increasingly unlikely as each day passes, and not chiefly because of Chamber Pot.) If they do — “they” being, say, some ambitious young lawyer in the DoJ — they might just start looking into all his foreign campaign contributions collected illegally via credit card in mid-2008."


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Carter v Reagan on Energy Policy, A Review

Recently, Richard Cohen published an article touting Jimmy Carter's energy policies, and excoriating Ronald Reagan's. This trip down memory lane may be pleasant for Mr. Cohen. And somehow, in his deluded mind, it may help him establish that Mr. Obama, to the extent he is like Carter, is among the angels. But history says otherwise.

According to Cohen,
"Reagan had his virtues, but coming to grips with energy reality was not one of them. In contrast to Carter's scolding approach to energy policy, Reagan simply declared it was morning again in America (his 1984 re-election campaign slogan) -- and left it at that. The wonders of the free enterprise system would provide. God would provide. It was a very Third World approach to a First World problem."

This is the usual (so-called) liberal lie combined with the typical Progressive viewpoint. To such a person, only government can create, business is always parasitic - the exact opposite of reality.

Below are three brief pieces showing clearly that Reagan had a very good grip on "energy reality." He advocated free market solutions, on the whole, and worked to remove barriers built up by the Federal Government for decades prior.

Unfortunately, Congress blocked him at every turn, whenever possible.

Worst of all may be the claim that turning to the free market, rather than central government dictates, for solutions is "Third World." Uh, I don't see a lot of free enterprise in energy production (or anything else) in Guatamala, Cuba, or Venezuela, now or 30 years ago. Ditto, most of Africa, Yemen, or any other Third World country.

But let's leave fantasy aside and turn to actual evidence.

A timeline of Reagan's Policies:

January 28, 1981
President Reagan signs Executive Order 12287, which provides for the decontrol of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

February 25, 1981
Secretary Edwards announces a major reorganization of DOE to improve management and increase emphasis on research, development, and production.

October 8, 1981
The Reagan Administration announces a nuclear energy policy that anticipates the establishment of a facility for the storage of high-level radioactive waste and lifts the ban on commercial reprocessing of nuclear fuel.

April 5, 1982
Secretary Edwards announces placement of the 250-millionth barrel of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

May 24, 1982
President Reagan proposes legislation transferring most responsibilities of DOE to the Department of Commerce. Congress fails to act on the proposal

January 7, 1983
President Reagan signs the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the Nation's first comprehensive nuclear waste legislation.

October 7, 1983
DOE establishes a Civilian Radioactive Waste Management Office.

October 26, 1983
The Senate refuses to continue funding the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, effectively terminating the project.

Reagan on ANWR:
"In 1987, when President Reagan asked Congress to open ANWR along with a required report showing that it could be done safely and help supply 1 million barrels per day, Congress ignored him, and instead expanded the amount of wilderness in the US greatly, taking even more lands away from energy production. Congress did finally pass a bill to open a small piece of ANWR in 1995, but President Clinton vetoed it."

Reagan on Oil Price Controls and Taxes:
"At the beginning of his presidency, Reagan ended the price controls on domestic oil which had been started by Richard Nixon; they had contributed to both the 1973 Oil Crisis and the 1979 Energy Crisis.[33][34] The price of oil subsequently dropped, and the 1980s did not see the gasoline lines and fuel shortages that the 1970s had.[34]

Reagan also attempted to make good on his 1980 campaign promise to repeal the "Windfall Profit Tax" that Carter and Congress enacted in 1980 on domestic oil production; he was able to do so in 1988, when Congress agreed that it had increased dependence on foreign oil.[35] The tax was not a tax on profits, but an excise tax on the difference between a statutory "base price" and the market price.[36] Reagen also stopped aggressive pushing of new auto efficiency standard by Carter administration, descended on alternative energy researches started by Carter administration."

As I've said before, these people don't even lie well anymore.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feds Engage in Insider Trading... And It's Perfectly Legal

Veronique de Rugy writes at NRO about a Wall Street Journal editorial exposing the practice. She says pretty much everything I would need to. So, without further ado:
Now, this is called insider trading in the private sector, and people are going to jail for it. Whether one thinks that insider trading is a crime that deserves punishment is not even the issue here.

What is stunning is that while insider trading is illegal in the private sector, it is totally legal for government employees to do it, because insider-trading laws don’t apply to Congress. Basically, Congress passed a law making insider trading illegal for the private sector and exempted itself. [emphasis added]

Some lawmakers find the double standard shocking, and a few years back, a few of them proposed a bill that would prevent members and employees of Congress from trading securities based on nonpublic information they obtain. That bill went nowhere.
I'll just add this: That highlighted statement encapsulates everything I've been writing about for months about the Federal rape of the rule of law.

Every single person engaged in this — since they can't be jailed or deported, as they deserve — should be shunned by every person who learns their names. Restaurateurs should refuse to feed them. Gasoline station owners should refuse to sell them gas. Banks should refuse to accept their deposits.

This policy – once in force in many subtle ways in America – is the one, peaceful and unstoppable method of public protest that would truly bring the Federal government to heel. Associate the appropriate consequences once again with immoral behavior and it would taper off to a livable hum, as it was in generations past.

Waiting for Congress to tame itself, no matter who is elected — as the old Samuel Johnson saying goes — represents the triumph of hope over experience.

Monday, October 11, 2010

McDonald’s ObamaCare Deal Violates Rule of Law

Please pop over to Breitbart's Big Government and read my newest article, a short commentary on McDonald's getting a waiver to avoid some of ObamaCare's required actions.

It starts:

"In a blatantly unconstitutional move, the Feds have let McDonalds off the hook from some of ObamaCare’s requirements. This violation of the Equal Protection clause is just one more reminder, as if we needed it, that D.C. is now completely ignoring the rule of law and deciding issues based on political pressure and pull."

I encourage you to comment, there and here. Especially there.


Sebelius Pegs the Irony Meter

Commissar Kathleen is at it again. Rushing to rationalize her decision to let McDonald's opt out of certain ObamaCare-required actions — violating the Equal Protection clause in the process — she had this to say: "This is a health care model built around the private market," she said. "It might be the salvation of the private market."

I guess she's now joined the George Bush school of capitalism, where you violate it in order to save it.

If nothing else, it demonstrates that Progressives are so far gone, they can't even recognize the distinction between the free market and a fascist one.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chemistry Nobel Winners Are True Heroes

To round out my Nobel Prize commentary, I highlight the story of this years winners for Chemistry: Richard Heck, Ei-Ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki "for developing a key synthetic technique to make complex organic molecules used in medicine and electronics."

I can't explain what got into the water in Sweden this year, but handing out the prize for "develop[ing] a key synthetic technique for making complex organic molecules used in medicine, agriculture and electronics" was another stroke of right on.

Similar to the Physics Nobel, the researchers earned the award for investigating carbon bonds. As the LA Times story describes it

Among [Heck's] first feats was joining a short carbon chain to a ring of carbon atoms to produce styrene, the raw material of the now widely used plastic polystyrene.

A similar process is also used in the production of the anti-inflammatory drug naproxen, the asthma drug montelukast and the herbicide prosulfuron.


One of the most spectacular feats was the 1994 synthesis of a naturally occurring chemical called palytoxin, which was first isolated from a coral in Hawaii in 1971. Palytoxin contains 129 carbon atoms linked in a precise three-dimensional structure that chemists were able to reproduce using the Suzuki reaction.

What's most interesting about this type of research is how even relatively mundane things like this are still part of leading edge science. We've come a long way, but there is still much to be learned, highlighting the importance of the freedom required to let it continue.

And for anyone who gives all this a big, fat yawn, I'll try to demonstrate its value with a personal anecdote from just this morning.

I made steak last night on my stove top grill. This morning, I sprayed the cast-iron surface with fume-free Easy Off and let it sit, where it didn't stink up the kitchen one bit. Less than an hour later, I rinsed it off, wiped it a couple of times with a sponge (no scouring), and I was done. Safe, effortless, and quick.

Multiply that savings of time and effort by a billion people for fifty years worth of days and you have some idea of just how important even ordinary chemistry truly is.

Now consider this: how many politicians names do you know versus how many chemists'? Yeah, me neither.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Llosa Awarded Literature Nobel

If Mario Vargas Llosa is everything that's being said about him, it's a complete mystery how he won the Noble Prize for Literature. In the past 76 years, that has invariably gone to writers who are, when they aren't explicitly left wing, at least postmodern Anti(s).

On principle, I'm opposed to giving that prize in the first place, since the Academy employs nothing close to objective criteria for choosing the winner. But, at least it was one of the five listed in Nobel's will, unlike the bogus Economics Prize. (It's also not to his credit that he left out specifying a mathematics prize, but the Fields Medal more than makes up for that.)

Still, if the following quote is any indication, Llosa certainly deserves some kind of a prize:
The liberal I aspire to be considers freedom a core value. Thanks to this freedom, humanity has been able to journey from the primitive cave to the stars and the information revolution, to progress from forms of collectivist and despotic association to representative democracy.

The foundations of liberty are private property and the rule of law; this system guarantees the fewest possible forms of injustice, produces the greatest material and cultural progress, most effectively stems violence and provides the greatest respect for human rights.

According to this concept of liberalism, freedom is a single, unified concept. Political and economic liberties are as inseparable as the two sides of a medal. Because freedom has not been understood as such in Latin America, the region has had many failed attempts at democratic rule.

Either because the democracies that began emerging after the dictatorships respected political freedom but rejected economic liberty, which inevitably produced more poverty, inefficiency and corruption, or because they installed authoritarian governments convinced that only a firm hand and a repressive regime could guarantee the functioning of the free market.
Whether or not that has anything to do with writing great literature is, of course, a different matter. Nevertheless, I'd much rather see it go to Llosa than any previous winner I can think of (except Kipling).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 Physics Nobel Well Deserved

The Nobel Prize in Physics is sometimes given for stuff that strikes me as pretty pointless. The Committee too frequently hands them out for things that advance neither theory nor technology.

They're also often influenced heavily by 'science politics' (i.e. popularity and jostling for attention, not the sort of politics in environmental science). But this year the Swedish Academy has really done themselves proud, granting the prize to two University of Manchester researchers (Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov) who did pioneering work on graphene.

Among the many amazing properties of this stuff is:
“[it's] stronger and stiffer than diamond, yet can be stretched by a quarter of its length, like rubber. Its surface area is the largest known for its weight.”
[and formed the world's first] "one-nanometer graphene transistor, only one atom thick and ten atoms across."
[Not to mention} using carbon nanotubes to create wearable electronics — clothes that can power and charge electrical devices — are beginning to switch to graphene, which is thinner and potentially less expensive to produce.
[Also,] strong, flexible, light-sensitive graphene could improve the efficiency of solar cells and LEDs, as well as aiding in the production of next-generation devices like flexible touch screens, photodetectors and ultrafast lasers. In particular, graphene could replace rare and expensive metals like platinum and iridium, performing the same tasks with greater efficiency at a fraction of the cost.
This list goes on for some length. What's most striking about all this is that all these possibilities come from a form of simple carbon, one of the most common elements on the planet. And here we are stupidly burning the stuff to make electricity (producing genuine pollution — like radioactive particles that wind up in your lungs — in the process).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Taxes to Rise, Unless...

The mighty Veronique de Rugy outlines several taxes that will go up unless the Bush tax cuts of 2001/2003 are extended before January 2011. Among them are:
  • The estate tax will return to pre-2001 levels, socking estates worth more than $1 million with a 55 percent tax.
  • The capital gains tax on most assets will jump from 15 percent to 20 percent.
  • Dividends currently taxed at 15 percent will skyrocket to individual tax rates that go as high as 39.6 percent.
  • The Making Work Pay tax break will cease to exist.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax will hit the middle class for 2010 tax returns.
  • A slew of tax breaks that expired last year, including credits for research and development expenses and relief for college tuition, will not be available for 2010 tax returns.
  • The Child Tax Credit will revert from $1,000 to $500.
When combined with inaction on the Bush tax cuts affecting marginal rates, taxpayers would be hit with a tax increase that easily tops $4 trillion over the decade if all the tax issues are untouched. Next year’s increase alone would amount to over $200 billion, according to Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee.
What Ms. de Rugy doesn't ask is: Why weren't these made permanent in the first place? To which the answer is sadly obvious: the Republicans who managed to get them passed didn't have enough guts to go all the way. Let's hope the new crop coming in this January will have more.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pajamas Media Article: Why the 10:10 Video Is a Distraction

Please head to Pajamas Media and read my article on Why the 10:10 Video Is a Distraction.

In it, I argue that the real enemy is much more dangerous, because much more benign looking.

Here's how it begins...

A British group called recently released (then quickly pulled) a viro snuff film. In the video, teachers press a red button to explode schoolchildren reluctant to accept the Green dogma of AGW (anthropogenic global warming) and other environmentalist fairy tales.

There's no question that the film is revolting and its producers are vicious, no matter how much they try to claim it was intended as humor. Still, the pundits up in arms over it are making a tactical error.

Your comments are invited.

Read the rest here.



Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Case for Legalizing Capitalism

Someone I've never heard of, Kel Kelly, has written a book with the title of the post. (That's not intended as a slam; I'm sure he's never heard of me either.)

I haven't read it - and given the current length of my reading list it will be 10 years before I can even crack its cover - but I have to salute one of the best book titles I've ever seen.

From the review on
He considers every important topic: banking, education, taxation, labor, environment, trade, war and peace, safety, medicine, drugs, and far more. He presents the reader with a basic explanation of how capitalism is supposed to work and how society functions when commerce is free. He then turns to all the areas of life that are distorted and destroyed by the great "helping hand" of government.
Hmmm... maybe I'll bump this up on the list.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Commissar Sebelius Rankles at Free Speech

Here's an interesting little P.S. to my recent rant about Commissar Kathleen. Here, batting way out of her league (not a far stretch, I admit), she expresses her fear of unfettered and anonymous political advertising against things she favors.
The Secretary argued that for voters to determine which campaign advertisers are on their side “is difficult if not impossible right now and I think that is pretty dangerous.”
Well, that should surprise no one, I guess. Not satisfied with ignoring the 4th and 5th Amendments, she naturally now feels compelled to openly attack the 1st. As the old saying goes, "Those who believe absurdities will soon enough commit atrocities." (A variation on an aphorism of Voltaire's.)

Ah, the so-called liberal mind. Always worried about the big bad forces of evil pulling the wool over the eyes of an unsuspecting public. Why, it might even lead to something like the astroturf Tea Party movement! If only we were as smart as the Obamamites. Thank heavens we don't need to be with good Samaritans like Commissar Kathleen watching out for us.

It would be funny if it weren't for the fact that this woman is in the process of becoming Public Enemy #2 as the features of ObamaCare begin to take effect.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Commissar Sebelius To The Rescue!

The headline in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial reads: "Health insurers finally get some oversight."

The sub-head continues the theme:

"In the past, these companies ran wild with no accountability"

At least, according to Sec. of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, that is.

She must be right. There is no State Insurance Commissioner in every State of the Union. There aren't thousands of regulations dictating prices, terms of coverage, etc., etc. None of that existed until ObamaCare and the mighty Commissar Kathleen rode to the rescue of the proletariat. Missing her own irony, she lists several of them later in the editorial, including herself (as past commissioner in Kansas).

She begins:

In the last two weeks, my department has been accused of "thuggery" (this editorial page) and "Soviet tyranny" (Newt Gingrich). What prompted these accusations? The fact that we told health-insurance companies that, as required by law, we will review large premium increases and identify those that are unreasonable.
Nothing thuggish about violating the 4th and 5th Amendment protections of private property and voluntary trade, the sanctity of contract, et al, of course. But who needs them? It's comforting to know instead that my 'right' to health insurance is being protected by the pure and all-powerful Wizard of Health Care, no longer bound by any such quaint notions.

Can't these idiots at least go back to telling semi-plausible lies? They're making it far too easy on me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RObama Hood Boasts of Looting the Rich, Poor, And Everyone In-Between

Naturally, the title reflects my take not his own on Obama's list of 'accomplishments':
When I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, “Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable.” I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars.

In the midst of all that, I ended one of those wars, at least in terms of combat operations. We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that people don’t even notice.

We wrestled away billions of dollars of profit that were going to the banks and middlemen through the student-loan program, and now we have tens of billions of dollars that are going directly to students to help them pay for college. We expanded national service more than we ever have before. [emphasis added]

The Recovery Act alone represented the largest investment in research and development in our history, the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower, the largest investment in education — and that was combined, by the way, with the kind of education reform that we hadn’t seen in this country in 30 years — and the largest investment in clean energy in our history.
As I've written before, Obama is right in a way to boast here; he hasn't lost a major battle yet. That aside, in any society more than half-awake, this list would be seen for what it is: a series of Constitutional rights violations that should see its perpetrator in jail.

How ironic, then, that hard-core Progressives are still whining that he hasn't done enough. They complain that ObamaCare contains no 'public option' (i.e. explicit socialized medicine), that some in the Administration are talking about 'fiscal austerity measures', etc. (Granted, it's only talk.) Goebbel's Stand-In Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke the truth for once when he recently called them crazy, that they wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than open communism. (My words, not his.)

As for the remaining sane members of society — and thankfully their numbers are larger than I'd previously thought — we're dissatisfied, too (albeit in a rather different direction). We'll have our say in about a month and be in a position to throw some serious sand in the juggernaut's gears. Still, optimistic caution is in order. As I wrote in that Teflon King piece:
Even with increased Republican resistance after November the trend is likely to continue, sad to say. Republican politicians are still morally weak when it comes to the vulnerability Democrats are expert at exploiting: politicians' faux concern for the welfare of 'the little guy'. Unless the Tea Party sentiments come to dominate the country, men like Boehner and McConnell will always cave in the clutch. They don't have the will or the background to consistently make a principled stand for the rights to private property, voluntary trade, or individual liberty.
After reading The Pledge, I'm sorry to have to say I was more right than I knew.

There are plenty more seriously laughable, and laughably depressing, comments in Obama's Rolling Stone interview, (such as The One laughing off Fox News — after excoriating them elsewhere — since he has "swore to uphold the Constitution, and part of that Constitution is a free press."). So, er, enjoy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Pledge to America Is Weak Tea

[W]hen loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.

Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, pg 173.

I had planned to write a 'review' of the Republicans' Pledge to America. After slogging through the whole thing — puffed up by ridiculous photos of 'concerned' politicians meeting with 'ordinary' Americans — I found myself stumped.

It's a very mixed bag — a few good ideas here and there, surrounded by a lot of cream puff. Well-meaning goo, to be sure, but the sort of thing that could've been written by any centrist Democrat. (There are actually a few of them left, such as Idaho's Walt Minnick.)

If it was intended to appeal to the middle — and what Republican proposal does not? — it succeeded. If it was supposed to persuade anyone who sees what the real problems in America are today, it's off by a country mile.

It's a long-sight better than anything the Democrats promise, certainly. But, then, given that the Progressive-dominated Jackass party is only an explicit admission or two away from blatant Corporatism, it could hardly be worse.

Anyway, luckily, I've been saved the heinous pain of writing anything at length, which would require reading it again to pull out quotes. Andy McCarthy has saved me the trouble. I don't share quite his degree of outrage - possibly because my expectations for the Republicans in Congress were so low - but he does capture the gist of my views.

It's so seamlessly written I couldn't find many money quotes, but this will give you a flavor:

Worse, though, the pledge proposes its own irrational (but populist) health-care mandates: “We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick.”

As the Red State blogger Hogan pointedly asks, how is coercing a private insurer to cover people any better than coercing a private person to buy coverage? The constitutionality clause the Republicans write for that one ought to be interesting.

Furthermore, as Hogan adds, sick people can’t pay for health insurance — if insurers are mandated to cover them outside the terms of their policies, it will be necessary to force healthy people to pay the freight. That is, we’d be in cruise-control toward an individual mandate anyway.

HAPPY 2008!

Far from addressing entitlements and getting the government out of the health-care business, the pledge would leave the welfare state largely intact, content — once you flip past the preamble — to “rein in” but not stop the government’s growth. How? By vowing to roll out-of-control federal spending all the way back to...the out-of-control levels of 2008.
The biggest problem with The Pledge, as McCarthy points out at the outset, is whether anyone can believe any of the used dishwater promises its authors make about curbing the Leviathan's appetite. On that question, I am not immensely hopeful.

In the end, though clearly the mere existence of The Pledge is a consequence of pressure put on the GOP by the Tea Party movement, the response is a disappointingly weak brew.

Communists Represent the Middle Class?

Daniel Foster at NRO reports on a "confederacy of liberal groups" who plan to hold a rally in response to Glenn Beck's. They claim to represent "America’s embattled middle class.”

There are some mainstream left-leaning groups (the SEUI, the American Federation of Teachers, and others). What's more interesting, though, are the groups the confederacy fails to mention. It reveals this effort as just so much, very stale, communist bombast.
  • Chicago Democratic Socialists of America
  • Code Pink
  • Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
  • Communist Party USA
  • Democratic Socialists of America
  • International Socialist Organization
Yawn... It's clear that Progressives are out of ammunition. That won't stop them from initiating kamikaze raids, of course, but they officially now got nothin'. When you align yourself with groups like this, you've lost the middle class for sure.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Impact of Regulation, Quantified

One useful measure of the impact of irrational regulation is how long it takes to build large structures. Here are a few blasts from the past:
  • Empire State Building: 410 days.
  • The Pentagon: two years.
  • Gateway Arch: two years.
  • Golden Gate Bridge: four years.
  • Hoover Dam: five years.
  • Rockefeller Center (14 buildings): nine years (of which Radio City Music Hall was done in the first two years and 30 Rock in three).
Some of the additional time required today can be accounted for by increased valid safety measures and higher population in surrounding areas. But that's compensated for to some degree by better machinery and increased experience.

The net difference is attributable to nanny statist measures, Progressive/viro legal maneuvering, and politics. The difference is often not small. That's pretty obvious when you look at things like the former WTC site in Manhattan, which is still far from complete nine years later.

It's less obvious, but even more disturbing when you consider projects that are not even getting off the ground, such as the ten thousand new nuclear power plants the country needs.

Worst of all is the sheer destruction of useful projects torn down as a result of environmentalist activism, such as the many dams they boast of eliminating.

Time for a renaissance, one energized by the idea that Man the Builder is a noble creature, one who's earned the right to hold his head high. As a start, he should stop apologizing for transforming human existence from a life that was "nasty, brutish, and short" to something peaceful, comfortable, and oftimes dazzling. Then He can develop once again the pride that will motivate throwing off the shackles of the envious, the small, the anti-life.

Creative civil engineering isn't merely useful, it's glorious — and one because of the other.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Lawless Legislators" Published at Pajamas Media

My article, Lawless Legislators, has been published at Pajamas Media. I hope you'll weigh in with your thoughts on the topic, there and here.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

No-Longer Great Britain: UK Totalitarianism In Training

Those wacky Brits just love their statism.
The UK’s tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

Currently employers withhold tax and pay the government, providing information at the end of the year, a system know as Pay as You Earn (PAYE). There is no option for those employees to refuse withholding and individually file a tax return at the end of the year.If the real-time information plan works, it further proposes that employers hand over employee salaries to the government first.

“The next step could be to use (real-time) information as the basis for centralizing the calculation and deduction of tax,” HMRC said in a July discussion paper.
So what's holding them back, some lingering respect for liberty, some vague collective memory of the Magna Carta? No, it's just that total confiscation is just too expensive:

"[T]he cost of implementing the new system would be "phenomenal," Bull pointed out."

If the Brits had any balls, they'd do what we did to their government 235 years ago. Then again, if the majority of Americans today had any balls, they'd do it to the American government. We'll see what the testosterone level is come this November.

[Hat Tip Jonah Goldberg at NRO.]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Horror Story of the Day

The title should actually read, "Horror Story of the Past 43 Years," but that's not quite as snappy and there's no single word for it. But then, there's no single word to describe the combination of sheer, unadulterated chutzpah, foolishness, stupidity, and vice implicitly contained in the graph below:

I'm pretty sure at least a thousand different individuals — many of them living comfortably on fat government pensions — belong in jail as a result of this debacle. Unfortunately, the best we can hope for at present is to replace the current crop of criminals this November, and try to minimize giving the new ones quite so much slack on the leash.

[Hat Tip, Powerline.]