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.