Sunday, May 31, 2009

Incentives Matter

Tyler Cowen links a BBC story:
A Buckinghamshire man diagnosed with terminal cancer is to collect a second winning payout of £5,000 after betting he would stay alive.

Jon Matthews, 59, from Milton Keynes, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos, in 2006 and told he had months to live.

He placed two bets, each with a £100 stake at odds of 50/1, that he would be alive in June 2008 and in June 2009.

A third wager will earn him a further £10,000 if he lives until 1 June 2010.
The widower will collect his second lot of £5,000 winnings on Monday.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Intellectual consistency is always thin on the ground, so I don't agree with Professor Mankiw's assertion: "If you are going to take that philosophy seriously, you have to take all of the implications seriously." I'm certain most Americans, perhaps even all of them, agree that Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme was immoral, but support for ending the Great American Ponzi Scheme of Social Security is non-existent.

Professor Mankiw continues with this simile:
It is more like your mother telling you to clean everything on your plate. If you are a Utilitarian redistributionist, the height tax is like that awful tasting vegetable your mother served up because it is good for you. No matter how hard you might wish it wasn't there sitting on your plate, it just won't go away.
Sure it will! My four year old finds all kinds of ways to make it go away. She begins by whining about it to see if her parents will capitulate. Failing that, she might chew it up a bit and gag, requiring her to spit out the offending vegetable, or she'll play a variant of "there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip." Oops! It's on the floor so she can't eat it now. To put it another way, Utilitarian redistributionists can ignore the height tax because their "parents", the people that elected them, will not demand intellectual consistency. The redistributionist is excused from the table while the unwanted vegetable languishes on their abandoned plate to be discarded with scorn by those who fail to hold them to account.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Assorted Links

Blogging will be light today, but check out these links:
  1. A car dealer is taking gold and silver for down payment leading me to wonder when Gresham's law stops working.
  2. Learn "How to Lead Conservative Style" next week in St Louis.
  3. More about the Chrysler dealer closings in Missouri from one of our intrepid local bloggers.
  4. Bob McCarty shines a light on San Diego's opposition to religious freedom.
  5. Dana Loesch comments on the Sotomayor pick.
  6. Keep the family and friends of 1LT Roslyn Schulte in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Fragile is Fractional Reserve Banking?

Drudge has linked to an article about rising foreclosure rates. Apparently, 1 in 8 home owners ended the first quarter late on their payment or in foreclosure.

Can fractional reserve banking deleverage? Looks like we're going to find out!

In a fractional reserve system, banks are only required to hold a portion of their deposits. In the US they're required to hold about 10%. They can loan out the other 90%. That loan has to go somewhere and that somewhere is a bank. Sure, you think of it as going to the guy you're buying that house/car/boat from, but it's really going to their bank account. And once it arrives in that bank account, 90% of it is loaned out. The upshot of this is that $1 creates about $9 more dollars in loans.

Let's say there are $10 in assets at our bank—$1 of reserves and $9 from loans. What exactly happens if there are $2 of defaults? The banks reserves of $1 are wiped out, but then what? Call in the other loans? Declare bankruptcy? Ask congress for a bailout?

What happens to the Federal Reserve when the rate of defaults on mortgages and other debt exceeds the reserve ratio?

Chrysler Dealers: Urban-Rural Census Data

The Census Bureau helpfully aggregates their data by zip code, so I downloaded their Rural and Urban data sets. In the chart below values close to 1.0 are more urban and values closer to 0.0 are more rural. The cut dealerships tended to be slightly more urban, so there does not appear to be an administration bias against rural dealerships.

This analysis and my previous analysis showing no correlation with state-level vote results does not invalidate the work done by Doug Ross, Gateway Pundit, and others on specific abuses. It does tend to support Megan McArdle's view that it's crony capitalism:
I would be less surprised to find out that the administration rescued specific donors from the hit list than to find that they deliberately closed Republican dealerships.
I still think there's a strong argument that the administration (not Chrysler) did close dealerships that donated to Republicans. Doug Ross and Gateway Pundit are pursuing a more fruitful path than mine by focusing on the donor data.

Spreadsheet is too large (1.7M) for Google docs, so email me if you want it.

More later....

Geithner to China

Glenn Reynolds notes a NYT article about Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner going to China. The NYT editorializes:
Perhaps the chief issue facing global markets is the extent to which China will continue investing heavily in Treasury bills. If China believes the dollar is going to decline in the future, given the ballooning United States debt, it could reduce its purchases.
Or they may want to make clear that they view their purchases of US debt as something entirely different. Perhaps they want to tell Mr. Geithner that they are purchasing future foreign policy concessions. Maybe they'll spellout what those concessions will be. What is US recognition of China's claims to Taiwan and Tibet worth? How much debt forgiveness do they have to offer for a carrier battle group?

Once those concessions are lined up, then they'll stop buying our debt.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chrysler Dealers: No Correlation at State Level

There is no correlation of Chrysler Dealer closings at the state level.

I began my analysis by first downloading the "cut" list and "kept" list in PDF format. I reformatted those into a spreadsheet (in MS Excel). Next, I got a copy of the state-by-state returns for the 2008 election from wikipedia and added those to the spreadsheet. This allowed me to compare the ratio of Obama vs McCain to the ratio of kept vs cut dealers. You'll find those numbers on the "analysis" tab of the spreadsheet. My thinking was that there would be a direct correllation between how strongly a state supported Obama and how many dealers it lost.

There were no dealers in DC, so I threw it out. I believe that states with ten or fewer total dealers (cut plus kept) are not relevant statistically, so I also took out DE, HI, RI, and AK. With that I got a coefficient of corelation of 0.1361. A value close to 1.0 would indicate a strong correlation—Obama favored states that supported him. A value close to zero indicates that there is no correlation. And a value close to -1.0 would imply that Obama favored states that opposed him.

For the ten states with the largest total number of dealers (TX, PA, IL, NY, MI, OH, CA, FL, WI, and IN) the coefficient is higher: 0.3069. However, if we extend that to twenty states (adding MO, IA, MN, NC, NJ, VA, GA, OR, TN, and KY), the coefficient goes negative: -0.1049. It's really a mixed bag.

I'm not a statistician, so there are may be problems with my approach. Leave your corrections and suggestions in the comments! And, please download the spreadsheet (MS Excel) and perform your own analysis! I've put the zipcodes in their own column; however, I do not have county/zipcode level voting data. I'm hoping someone out there might be able to either email that to me (dsm012 -at- gmail -d0t- com) or do the analysis themselves and leave a comment with a link to their work!

Now to look at the OpenSecrets donor data...

Make sure you checkout the Doug Ross's latest work.

Update: After my initial post I remembered that I had omitted the first page of data from the "kept" PDF. It was formatted differently so my plan was to incorporate it last. This data does not change my belief that there is no correlation at the state level. I have corrected the numbers above to reflect the new data.

Update 2: Check-out my analysis of urban vs rural closures!

The Rest of the Cut List

I missed several dealers in my initial Chrysler cut list; however, I just discovered that you can download the data tables. I'm in the process of doing that now and will run the names through that data as time permits (not before tonight).

Gateway Pundit has a map that indicates that Conservative counties seem to have been targeted for for the Chrysler cuts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's Ford or Foreign from Now On (UPDATED AGAIN)

I've been wondering how Obama was going to sell Democrat cars to Republicans. Now that Chrysler and GM are puppets of the administration and the UAW owns and operates them, Republican car buyers must realize that an even larger portion of the purchase price of a new car is going to fund Democrat candidates and issues. As a result, they'll turn to alternatives that have less rent-seeking baggage. Megan McArdle observed a month ago that Ford is feeling really good:
Meanwhile, the folks at Ford have to be awfully glad they didn't take government money. They've apparently gotten quite a brand boost out of it, with a large number of their current customers trading in Chrysler or GM cars for a piece of the company that isn't teetering on the edge of receivership. It's not that Ford's future is necessarily that bright--but taking billions from the government sends a strong signal that there might be a problem with your cars in the future.
Now it looks like the Obama administration pressured Chrysler to make the dealer cuts and may have influenced which dealers are being shutdown. Doug Ross has the most complete coverage I've seen including complete lists of the dealers both cut and kept. If true, this represents a thuggish turn in Obama's brand of crony capitalism.

So, how is Car King Obama going to make up the revenue shortfall? Perhaps twead-jacketed, ivory tower lefties will be given "company" cars in lieu of a raise next year. They'll still drive their VWs and Volvos to work, of course. The GM and Chrysler zombies will be animated with student tuition and government grant dollars.

Cut Dealers:

This is a partial, crowd sourced solution. You are the crowd, so thanks in advance for helping out:
  1. Check the comments for the name you'd like to search--make sure no one's already done them and go in order down the list.
  2. Add a comment below to say that you're working on so-n-so--heck, claim three names at once if you want
  3. Click so-n-so's link--it's best to open it in a new window or tab so you can refer back here
  4. Check 2006, 2008, and 2010
  5. Enter the code at the bottom of the search page and run the search
  6. If the search doesn't return anyone, remove the zip and re-run
  7. If the search still doesn't return anyone, remove the state and re-run
  8. Look for so-n-so in the results
  9. Add up all their donations by year and party
  10. Add a comment below with so-n-so's full name and donation information
The links below were generated from the PDF of cut dealers linked by Doug Ross. The idea is that the link will pre-fill the search form. I did this fast, so lots of things may be a little wrong--I know some of the zips are only four digits for instance. These people may not live in the zipcode or state that I specify.

Thanks again for your help! I will make the results available in a text file or spreadsheet when I can.

Update: I missed some cut dealers. It was late... I'll link those in a new post soon. I'll also get to the "kept" list, but you probably wont see that before Thursday morning. Special thanks to the Gateway Pundit for supplying the crowd! And many thanks to our hardworking crowd. cathy you sooo rock!

Update 2: After completing the cut list, I took a closer look at OpenSecrets and discovered that I can download their data tables. I'm in the process of doing that and will post my results for cut and kept dealers as soon as I can (not before late tonight and bet on the weekend for the kept list).

Update 3: Removed the list so this post wouldn't be so cluttered. You can download my Excel spreadsheet with the data here. I've done a follow-up where I analyze the correlation between states that voted for Obama and the dealer cuts (hint: no correlation). I highly recommend Doug Ross's post about partisan bias in the closings. Thanks again for all the help!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering 1Lt Roslyn Schulte

I just saw Gateway Pundit's Memorial Day post which brought news that a Saint Louisan died in Afghanistan this past week. First Lieutenant Roslyn Schulte died from injuries she received from a road-side bomb. CNN reports that she was the first female graduate of the Air Force Academy to die from hostile action in Afghanistan or Iraq. I got the picture from Charlie Foxtrot. The Ladies of Liberty have much more including the Post Dispatch article and a remembrance from a classmate and friend. She was laid to rest at New Mount Sinai Cemetery on Memorial Day.

Update: Roslyn was in Air Force intelligence. As it happens, I was involved in the early R&D for Global Hawk. By "early" I mean back before it was called Tier 2+, back when it was called HAE UAV (High Altitude Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). I'm kinda curious about whether she used Global Hawk imagery or was familiar with the platform. If you know (and can tell me), please leave a comment. Thanks in advance!

Liberalism and Marriage

Robin Hanson posted his reasoning for why Libertarians tend towards conservatism. Andrew Gelman has some interesting criticism of Hanson, which I will be criticizing (hopefully, constructively).

Hanson argues:
Libertarians support gay marriage because individuals should be free to have whatever consenting relations they want. Liberals support gay marriage because they want us all to officially respect gays as much as straights; gay activists have earned their group more respect.
To which Gelman responds:
I think a more accurate statement would be, "Liberals support gay marriage because they don't think it's fair that straight people can marry and gays can't," or "Liberals support gay marriage because some gay people want to marry and they don't see why they shouldn't be
allowed to."
As I've written elsewhere, I think that whether one fundamentally holds to Thomas Malthus (there are too many people on the planet) or Julian Simon (people are the Ultimate Resource) colors one's views on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage. I offer Gelman these statements: "Liberals support polygamist marriage because they don't think it's fair that straight and gay people can marry and polygamists can't" and "Liberals support polygamy because some gay, bi, and straight people want to marry and don't see why they should be limited to groups of two." I think bisexuals may pioneer the legalization of polygamy, but the big beneficiaries will be "religious" zealots that want to "be fruitful and multiply."

The point that I'm making is that the liberal arguments for gay marriage would also be made for polygamy except that liberals tend to want fewer people—their views are colored by their Malthusian fundamentals.

Memorial Day

I've got a stand of these short-lived flowers in my backyard. About once a week the whole thing is topped with small beautiful blue blooms, but they only last a few days. The petals fall off and it looks like a weed until another batch of flowers emerge. It's like Spring comes once a week.
I couldn't figure out what kind of flower they were, so I asked a friend who told me that they are Blue Flax, Linum Perenne. They remind me on this Memorial Day of that classic poem:

In Flanders Fields
LTC John McCrae, MD

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Finding Abortion's Common Ground

Dana Loesch has a new post at On Notre Dame and Life. While I agree with Dana throughout the piece, I think she let's her outrage get the better of her on the abortion debate. Here's part of what she wrote:
When President Obama said that we must find common ground I cringed a bit. This isn't Cap and Trade, it isn't an economic principle, it's not an opinion that either side holds; to find common ground one must back off a fundamental principle of what they believe.“The problem here is that we’re trivializing abortion,” said Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. It doesn't just trivialize abortion, it also trivializes the beliefs of either side to assume that they can just lay down fundamental beliefs for the sake of false political harmony.
I agree with the president that we should work together to find common ground on this issue. Perhaps I have a unique view, but I do not believe that we need to cede any ground as we work together with President Obama.

My first suggestion is that we strive for gender equity in abortion. This can be achieved by introducing legislation that makes gender selective abortions illegal. So, which is it Mr. President? Does a pregnant woman have the right to abort her boy babes or do you stand for gender equity?

Second, over 35% of abortions in the US are performed for black mothers while African Americans compose only about 13% of the population. Clearly, abortion dispropotionately effects the African American community. At the local and state level, zoning laws could be used to limit the number of abortion facilities in predominately black neighborhoods. While I do not support racial quotas, that shouldn't stop President Obama from voicing his support for legislation that places firm racial quotas on abortion. Surely, he wants to do whatever he can to end the Black Genocide (warning: some photos on that site are graphic).

As conservatives settle into their diminished role they need to articulate persuasive arguments that further their agenda. This means smaller, hopefully more achievable, goals. By chipping away at abortion with focused attacks on its more offensive aspects, we broaden our appeal. Confronting the appalling racial statistics of abortion will demonstrate leadership on a little known "social justice" issue. That in turn will burnish our brand.

President Obama has made a couple of hollow offers (yes, I doubt the sincerity of his search for "common ground" and his promise to sit down with Tea Partiers); however, by engaging those offers we are able to descern his true motives. If a bill is introduced in Congress to reduce the number of minority abortions, he's going to be asked about it. Michelle will also be asked. Maybe it will even pass.

Bridge Jumping

Gateway Pundit links to a story about a bridge jumper in China. The man, who is deeply in debt, held up traffic for five hours by threatening to jump from a ledge. Another man climbed up to him, shook his hand, and pushed him off the ledge. The first man fell about 26 feet onto an air cushion and survived.

This reminded me of a similar incident that occurred while I lived inside The Beltway. In 1998 the DC jumper held up traffic for five hours by threatening to jump off the Wilson Bridge. Part way through the incident a local radio station which had been inundated with requests from stranded motorists finally relented and played Van Halen's Jump. After failing to talk the jumper down, DC's finest shot him with a "beanbag" bullet. The man jumped and a DC police boat picked him up and took him to the hospital.

Update: I just noticed this in the Washington Post article:
"It didn't go down perfectly, these things never do," Gainer said. "Clearly he was agitated about his life's situation. . . . The negotiators really tried to empathize with him. We came very close to this being a perfect rescue."
Got that? It was very close to being a perfect rescue. I'm sorry, but to be very close to being perfect, the incident has to over quickly, say, less than an hour, and the suicidal individual must not be shot. But let's not loose sight of the important issues like the DC police negotiator's ability to empathize with a suicidal man.

Welcome Gateway Punditeers! Have a look around. Perhaps you'll enjoy my coverage of the St Louis Tea Parties. I've got pictures from the February one, video from the Tax Day Tea Party, and both pictures and video from the Arnold Tea Party. If you're a videographer (or would like to be) please read this post. Maybe you'd prefer some snarky coverage of our financial mess. Or perhaps you want to find "common ground" with Obama in the abortion debate. Thanks for stopping by!

"We're Out of Money Now"

So said President Obama. The whole exchange with C-SPAN's Steve Scully is interesting. Here are some highlights with emphasis added:
SCULLY: You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?

OBAMA: Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we've made on health care so far.
There's The Won's obligatory plug for health care reform. Does he realize what a non sequitur that is? Perhaps he actually believes that reforming health care will save the economy.
So we have a short-term problem and we also have a long-term problem. The short-term problem is dwarfed by the long-term problem. And the long-term problem is Medicaid and Medicare. If we don't reduce long-term health care inflation substantially, we can't get control of the deficit.
Actually, Medicare is a medium term problem. It'll become insolvent in 2017, two years earlier thanks to the current administration's bloated spending this year. Presumably, another year of record spending will shave another year or three off Medicare's projected insolvency date.

The long-term problem is the other American Ponzi scheme: Social Security. It will be depleted in 2037, four years sooner thanks again to reckless government spending this year.
SCULLY: When you see GM though as “Government Motors,” you're reaction?

OBAMA: Well, you know – look we are trying to help an auto industry that is going through a combination of bad decision making over many years and an unprecedented crisis or at least a crisis we haven't seen since the 1930's. And you know the economy is going to bounce back and we want to get out of the business of helping auto companies as quickly as we can. I have got more enough to do without that. In the same way that I want to get out of the business of helping banks, but we have to make some strategic decisions about strategic industries...
GM and Chrysler are zombie companies. While the undead may be animated for a time with large infusions of tax payer money, they are still dead. The government can "get out of the business of helping auto companies" anytime by sending GM and Chrysler to a bankruptcy court to have their functioning organs cutout and auctioned off. Since the government avoided that option, Obama is being disingenuous when he suggests that they're moving "quickly".
SCULLY: States like California in desperate financial situation, will you be forced to bail out the states?

OBAMA: No. I think that what you're seeing in states is that anytime you got a severe recession like this, as I said before, their demands on services are higher. So, they are sending more money out. At the same time, they're bringing less tax revenue in. And that's a painful adjustment, what we're going end up seeing is lot of states making very difficult choices there...

We are talking to state treasurers across the country, including California, to figure out are there some creative ways that we can just help them get through some of these difficult times...
I wish reporters would ask questions in a way that prevents wiggle room. The question should have been: "will you bailout the states?" or "will you bailout California?" If you were to ask Obama: "were you forced to bailout the auto industry?" The answer would be "no." If you asked him: "were you forced to support TARP?" Again, the answer would be "no."

Megan McArdle has some interesting posts about Federal bailouts of California and municipalities.

Update: Gateway Pundit has the video.

Update 2: Glenn Reynolds agrees in colorful terms:
So we’re out of money because we don’t have national health care? Bogus. I think, instead, that it has something to do with the fact that Obama has been pouring money down a crony-statist rathole at absolutely astronomical and unprecedented rates.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grayson Again

Reason (via Instapundit) alerts us that Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has returned to the spotlight with a bill that would institute mandatory vacation time: the Paid Vacation Act. Here's a rundown of the particulars:
The bill would require companies with more than 100 employees to offer a week of paid vacation for both full-time and part-time employees after they've put in a year on the job. Three years after the effective date of the law, those same companies would be required to provide two weeks of paid vacation, and companies with 50 or more employees would have to provide one week.

The idea: More vacation will stimulate the economy through fewer sick days, better productivity and happier employees.
As Reason points out it's a dumb bill. I'll add that "the idea" that it will stimulate the economy is pure claptrap. Stimulating the economy is what we have greenbacks for and with employees being compensated with more vacation time they will necessarily receive lower pay than they otherwise would have. In other words, vacationing employees will have fewer greenbacks with which to stimulate the economy. With less money to spend "getting away" these vacationing employees may take up gardening so they can not stimulate the economy by eating produce they've grown themselves.

While I think Grayson's bill is nanny state silliness, I have to admit that I'm a little conflicted about it. You see, I advocated something very similar when I wrote about going Galt:
have you ever wondered why it is that Europeans take so much vacation time? Part of the reason is that time-off is taxed at 0%. If you're negotiating your compensation then you should not only consider asking for more vacation time, but also a shorter work week—a four day work week is like a 20% raise.
Grayson's proposal is essentially a 2% raise, but it's a raise in untaxed compensation. If his bill becomes law, then companies would consider the government required vacation part of their employee's compensation and reduce employ monetary compensation by 2%. In practice, an employee slated for an 8% raise at the one year mark would get a 6% raise and a week of vacation. This means that tax revenue that would otherwise be collected at our vactioning employee's marginal rate, wont be. Sure, it's a small hit to income tax revenue—about $500 for someone making $50k.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obama's Libertarian Voters Have Buyers Remorse

David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy (via Instapundit) wonders: "how many libertarian fans Obama has left?" Nick Gillespie of Reason made a similar point when he asked:
Question to the folks, including some of the libertarian persuasion (you fools!), who were bullish on Obama back when the alternative was John McCain, the Terri Schiavo of presidential candidates: When are you going to admit that Barry O stinks on ice?
Obama's actions bear little resemblance to his promises. The media provide cover for him, but I wonder if it's possible to quantify that. Is it possible to say that the average Democrat can get away with 30% more broken promises? If you're an enterprising political science PhD candidate, think about formulating your thesis around that question. We all know that politicians lie, but how much lying can a pol get away with when they have a friendly press versus when the press is hostile.

FWIW, I prefer a hounded government to one with a lapdog press. If that's important to you, consider which political party is held to the higher standard and vote accordingly.

Credit Card Fees

Ann Althouse writes:
I'm one of those people that pay the entire balance every month to avoid paying any interest, and being told I've been taking a free ride all these years does not soften me up to pay my supposed fair share to support the credit card system.
Glenn Reynolds comments:
I’m still waiting to be told how this credit-card plan will stimulate the economy.
Well, let's see... People will start canceling their spare credit cards because they don't want to pay the annual fees. That will take down their credit score making financing for large purchases harder. With more expensive mortgages (ie: higher interest rates from lower credit scores), housing prices will fall. I think that effect will be pretty small.

On the plus side, AmazonPrime and Costco will probably benefit. Costco only takes American Express or cash/debit. AmazonPrime makes the most sense with a Chase issued, Amazon branded credit card. In both instances, subscribers are used to annual fees. If Amazon and Costco can integrate any credit card fees into their member fee without too much of a price increase, they'll do well. Customers don't like to be nickle and dimed with multiple fees. Their credit card partners (AmEx and Chase) will benefit most because their credit cards also function like loyalty cards and the loyal patrons are already used to paying for their own loyalty.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

They're Just "Too Big"

Glenn Reynolds links to a CNBC post about big banks. It reminded me of something Christopher Hitchens said awhile back: "'too big to fail' is two words too long". I'm not sure how we undo decades of consolidation, but, like the banks, I think the auto industry would be better with the small thirty-three than with the big three.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Now THAT's what I'm Talking About

Alex Tabarrok of MarginalRevolution brings news that TED Talk videos will be searchable. What I find really interesting about this is that by linking lines in the transcript of the talk to their corresponding point in the video, they have effectively pre-logged the video. Of course, it is dependent on a transcript, so this will not work for all video content.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Presidential Sophistry and Malthusianism

Jay Cost at the HorseRaceBlog discusses presidential sophistry. Here's an excerpt: presidential address would be complete without a gratuitous shot at his predecessor. Even a speech on science.
And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.

We know that our country is better than this....

On March 9th, I signed an executive memorandum with a clear message: Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over. Our progress as a nation - and our values as a nation - are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy.

He doesn't come right out and say it - but he is talking about stem cell research here. Personally, I'm pretty ambivalent on the issue of stem cell research. I view it as a minor skirmish in the broader war on abortion. However, I think this is a gross mischaracterization of the position of those who are opposed to federal funding of stem cell research. Given that this is coming from a President who, as a candidate, campaigned on ending the pattern of gross mischaracterizations in Washington, D.C. - I find this really aggravating.

On a certain level, Cost is correct that the stem cell debate is a skirmish in the war on abortion; however, abortion is a major battle in the war of ideas between Thomas Malthus and Julian Simon. Either more people are bad for the planet (Malthus) or they're the Ultimate Resource (Simon).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oversight at the Fed

This is a clip of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) talking to Federal Reserve Inspector General about the trillions of dollars lent or spent by the Federal Reserve and where it went, and the trillions of off balance sheet obligation. To my mind, the financial mess is largely a function of over regulation. That was what I implied in an earlier post. At about 2:10, the Fed IG explains to Rep. Grayson that the scope of her oversight is limited to:
direct oversight over [Federal Reserve] Board programs and operations. And are also able to look at Board delegated functions at reserve banks.... We do not have oversight to directly go out and audit reserve bank activity specifically.
She's arguing that the scope of her authority is limited to the loftier echeleons of the Fed, so she doesn't have any clue about the filthe lucre the Representative inquires about. Rep. Grayson comes right back at her at 3:00 and directly asks who does know about the trillions. She helpful reiterates the scope of her responsiblity which does not extend to trillions of dollars in aggregate lending and spending.

Going back to one of my favorite links, The Practical Rules of Bureaucracy, I've been trying to figure out which rule we're seeing here. My initial thought was #6, Pass the Buck, but she never does identify who is responsible—the buck is never passed. Therefore, I'm going with #9, Jerk People Around. Please, leave your analysis in the comments!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Television Programming

A friend of mine once said:
The reason they call it "Television Programming" is because that is what they are doing to you.
Jay Cost of the HorseRaceBlog has some research about Jon Stewart's success at programming his subjects.

How about Reducing Subsidies

WSJ has reported on a lefty proposal to tax soft drinks in an effort to fund health-care:
Senate leaders are considering new federal taxes on soda and other sugary drinks to help pay for an overhaul of the nation's health-care system.
Instead of taxing soft drinks, why not reduce the corn subsidies and apply that savings to health-care? In so far as those subsidies reduce the cost of the corn syrup used in soft drinks, they underwrite the poor health decisions of soda-drinking Americans. Typical of our federal government, they want to both subsidize corn syrup and tax sodas because a bloated government always prefers two regulations to none.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

April Job Numbers

Employment numbers for April beat government expectations. Instead of 600,000 new unemployment claims, there were only half a million (539,000, to be precise). However, the bureaucrats responsible for tallying these numbers have been consistently wrong about them for the past eight months. On average, the estimates since last August have been low by 104k, so it's still possible that more than 600,000 jobs were actually lost in April.

I've been expecting an improvement in the labor numbers because the "minimum wage" will increase by 11% in late July. Businesses that buy a lot of labor will try to accelerate their purchases before the increase and cut staff after it. Barring new economic catastrophes, I think May's unemployment numbers will be better than April's, June's better than May's, and July's better than June's. August will either see more unemployment or little change from July.

Note: The minimum wage has always been, is now, and forever will be $0, that is why I put "minimum wage" in scare quotes.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cutting $17 from a $3,400 Budget

The Washington Post reports that President Obama will trim or eliminate 121 programs totaling $17 billion from his $3.4 trillion budget. Bloomberg adds projected deficit and domestic spending numbers. Reuters doesn't cut The Won any slack with the headline: Obama budget cuts have little deficit impact. I'll put the numbers in terms we can all understand:

$3,400 (2010 Budget)
(2010 Projected Deficit-Bloomberg)
81 (2010 Domestic Spending Increases-Bloomberg)
17 (2010 Trimmings and Eliminations)
*All figures in $1,000,000,000

Here's Obama as quoted by the WaPo:
"We can no longer afford to spend as if deficits don't matter and waste is not our problem," he said. "We can no longer afford to leave the hard choices for the next budget, the next administration -- or the next generation."
Got that? Obama increases domestic spending by $81 billion while trimming $17 billion and talks about how "we can no longer afford to spend..." The WaPo continues:
In any case, [White House budget director Peter] Orszag said, "$17 billion a year is not chump change by anyone's accounting."
Hey Pete, $17 billion is irrelevant when you increase spending by $81 billion in the same budget! Why do I have to write that?

Keith Hennessey (via Instapundit) observes that Bush proposed more spending cuts and that Obama's cuts come largely from defense spending while Bush's came from domestic spending. Apparently the complaints about "out-of-control" spending during Bush's two terms were not about the quantity of spending, but about which votes our betters in Washington were buying with all that money.

Update: Eric Fry at Daily Reckoning nails it:
Here’s a news flash folks: Money you do NOT borrow does not constitute “savings.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Saint Louis Tea Party Videographers

The Instapundit leads by example. He and Dr. Helen, reporting for PJTV, interviewed some Knoxville Tea Partiers at the County Assessors Office. The Tea Partiers were there to complain that raising property assessments (and, therefore, property taxes) was unjust when property values were actually falling.

I'd like to bring this sort of citizen reporting to Saint Louis. We've got a little coterie of videographers here, but we don't have a discussion forum yet. I'm thinking maybe a group blog, maybe a listserv. We need a communication nexus. If you're interested, email me or friend my email address on Facebook!

One of the difficulties I've had is knowing when there's something newsworthy to report on. I'm still bummed that I missed this counter protest. If we've got a central clearing house (a group blog, fb, whatever), then we can track upcoming events. At first it may just be friends that clue us in about events, but we'll get other sources over time. A website would allow videographers (and old-school shuterbugs) to indicate their availability to cover upcoming events.

If Dana Loesch, Bill Hennessy, the Gateway Pundit, and others in the Saint Louis Tea Party leadership know that there's an ad hoc team of citizen journalists that they can task, I think they'll do just that. Right now, this is just a call for volunteers. Next, we'll outline some ground rules and start building the infrastructure. I'm sure it will be messy, but we won't let that stop us from building a Nation of Cameramen!

Monday, May 4, 2009

$100 Million out of $3.5 Trillion

The Volokh Conspiracy links a nice video illustrating Obama's call to reduce our $3.5 trillion budget by $100 million. Here's another way to illustrate the point:

Budget: $35,000
Spending Cut: $1
*All figures in $100,000,000

So, Obama's belt-tightening effort is the equivalent of someone with a $35k/year job passing on one candy bar or one soft drink.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Thoughts on "A Bold Step Back"

I saw a tweet from gregadams about A Bold Step Back. Everyone seems to be throwing things at the wall to see what will stick. It's great!

Here's the expurgated problem statement (it's a bit windy):
The right has lost focus, we are spending too much, we are taxing too much, we are growing the government too much and we are pandering to the special interests rather than to the people. Our representatives have only one goal once they win an election: to win the next one as well.

We have moved from electing statesmen to electing politicians. From having representatives serving us to those ruling us. It gets rather difficult to tell the two sides apart on many issues.


The Republican party has such a stigma to it now that it will be very difficult to recover and get back on track.
And here's the even more heavily redacted solution statement with my comments interwoven:
We rebrand the party. we CANNOT start a 3rd party, as it will only further doom us, and splinter the right. Rebranding is the right move...
I agree that a third party is not viable. But rebranding is going to be hard to do. There are a lot of loyal Republicans who think they are being well served by the party at the state and local level. You don't hear from them because that wheel isn't squeaky. So, I fear that a rebranding effort will go down a lot like a 3rd party.

The geographies where the conservative movement is likely to grow are urban and suburban. These are the Republican's squeakiest wheels. This is where the brand is most damaged. And these areas also tend to be socially liberal. Is it possible to forge an explicit alliance with the Libertarians that would have Republicans support Libertarian candidates in urban areas and Libertarians support Republican candidates that stand for statewide or, in some cases, congressional district-wide, elections?

On April 7th, Saint Louis held an election in which no Republican even filed to run for the office of Mayor. There were four names on the ballot and one was a Libertarian, Robb Cunningham. An alliance between Republicans and Libertarians would not have put Cunningham over the top, but it would give urban Republicans a reason to goto the polls. I suspect many who did go that day simply threw their support to the anti-Slay, Maida Coleman (I), who got a respectable 34% of the vote.
...we find people that understand that they are going in to make a very real difference, some very difficult choices, and DO WHAT IS RIGHT. They will also know that there is a very good possibility that they will not get reelected.

But while there, they will fight hard for our agenda, and NOT COMPROMISE at all.. They will continually submit and fight for legislation to roll back the size of government, CONGRESSIONAL PAY voting to bring their pay inline with those that they represent. Serving should be an honor, not a 'get rich quick' scheme. They will dismantle the Congressional benefits gravy train, scaling back their health care to the same system that Postal Workers get.
Sounds good. Here's a suggestion for conservative (Republican/Libertarian) candidates running for office in urban districts in 2010: promise to take a salary equal to the median salary in your district plus travel expenses.
Term limits 2 terms max at any level, and while your time goes toward govt. retirement, no one collects a dollar in retirement for less than 20 years service. Just like the people that you serve.
The abomination called TARP is why I started blogging last fall and term limits were my first topic. Here are my two points: 1) legislators should not be allowed to serve consecutive terms and 2) use state constitutional amendments to limit the terms of a state's congressional delegation. The idea behind #1 is that our congresscritters need to re-acquaint themselves with their constituents more often, get a real (non-govt) job once in awhile, and never raise money or campaign while on our dime. The elegance of #2 is that state legislators would be creating job openings for themselves in their congressional delegation. State assembles have a vested interest in this. Read my first post!
We will remove thousands of laws from the books, we have so many laws that it is virtually impossible to not break them.
I've been meaning to blog about this for awhile. Whoever the next conservative presidential candidate is, I want them to promise not to add a single new law until every existing law has been reviewed and re-written. At the very least, each re-written law should include a measure of effectiveness test (or tests) which, if not met, sunsets the law. A similar approach should be applied to bureaucratic regulations. Simply put, if the law doesn't do what was promised, what the law's sunset test guarantees, then it should go away.

Here's a nice video about some ineffective laws we have:

Massive Campaign reform. No Lobbiest or corporate money. you represent THE PEOPLE, not COMPANIES !!!
I think my term limit proposal goes a long way to addressing this. Some other thoughts... You can only give money to candidates for whom you are able to vote in the upcoming election. That essentially shuts down corporate donations and cross-country meddling. Companies need a voice in government so that regulation may be informed by experience; therefore, I'm not completely on board with the "no lobbiest" rule.
REAL Transparancy... Bills get posted online so that THE PEOPLE can tell you what they want...
Sounds good.
  • Stop same day registration and voting voting. Eliminate fraud by requiring ID and fingerprint on ballot.
  • Stop paying Taxpayer $$ to fund 'the arts' unless it's in the School syatem
  • Stop funding NPR if people want to hear a radio/TV station, they will watch, sell ads like everyone else/
  • Stop requiring that you must be in a union to work on a govt. project.
Good luck goring those sacred cows! I'm with ya, but we're tilting at windmills here.
  • Let the states decide issues regarding Abortion / Gay Marraige etc, the Federal government aneed not meddle here
I have no ideas on how to do this, but we need a way to throw things to the Laboratory of Democracy—the states. Abortion and gay marriage are two such issues. I don't think we want to force a decision by compelling the states to vote on contentious issues in a set time frame, just take the issue off of the national stage and let the Laboratory do its thing.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Hair Cut and a History Lesson

I don't get my hair cut often enough; however, I always look forward to another visit to Horn's Barber Shop. Bob Horn's shop is on Michigan Avenue just south of Holly Hills. It's $9 for a trim and the history lesson is free. His shop is open 9AM to 4PM. (Update: Sadly, Bob succumbed to cancer in 2010.)

Bob served in Europe in the Army at the end of World War II. He was injured during the Battle of the Bulge, but recovered from his wounds to serve as an prison guard during the Nuremberg trials after the war. has a brief article about Bob's service and a request from the Virginia Holocaust Museum to include his likeness in their replica of the Nuremberg courtroom.

The next time you or your son needs a trim, visit Horn's Barber Shop. Make sure you ask him how he was wounded and what he thought about the Nazi's on trial at Nuremberg.

Obama's Promise

The national tea party leaders are calling on Obama to sit down with them. I've thought about doing a video of my questions for the president and putting it on YouTube and on Motionbox (in HD). I've been to all three of the Saint Louis Tea Parties, so I have some standing in the movement. Unfortunately, I've got a busy weekend, but don't let that stop you. We're building a Nation of Cameramen after all!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Playlist from Arnold Tea Party

The playlist above bundles all of my YouTube videos from Wednesday (4/29). I've got an eighteen minute segment that I need to cut in half before uploading.