Thursday, December 31

Bryan Caplan quotes from a Bill Easterly interview on the limits of state planning vs. business hierarchy:

But what was missing - what Lenin did not get, and what all the subsequent planners who have been inspired by what appears to be corporate planning did not get - was that what corporations are really doing is searching for something that works. And when they find something that works, they try to reproduce it on a very large scale.

…what the planning mentality, as a whole, always misses is that you can't use planning to find what works. So if you build a whole system like foreign aid around planning, you're never going to find things that work. Because the planning is only a method for scaling up something that you have already found to work.

Tuesday, December 29

Businessman isn't happy with his search results in Google. So what does he do? Increase his visibility? Promote his service? Innovate and compete for customers? Nope! He calls for "search neutrality" in a NY Times Op-ed which I will not link to out of principle.
Do I need to point out how obvious an example this is of a business that can't compete seeking to tilt the playing field to its liking?
Do I need to point out that if search neutrality, however he defines it, was a valuable service, he could try offering it to people himself?
The fear that the internet - or any industry - will be dominated long term by one company is refuted by history, as recently blogged here.
To be explicit, proposals like the one made by the parasite in the Times are anti-market, pro-business, anti-competitive, slow innovation and make the industry they inhibit, in technical terms, "crappier."

Monday, December 28

A few years ago, my husband named this excrescence of a decade the “ought naughts”. As in, the naught years ought not to have happened. Here is the decade as I see it:
  • Ralph Nader and George Bush convinced gullible Americans that Bush and Al Gore were, for all intents and purposes, the same person.
  • From day one the Bush administration rolled back as many environmental regulations as it could.
  • September 11, 2001.
  • The Bush/Cheney response to 9/11. As much as I couldn’t stand him, I fully supported the President in the wake of 9/11. Until he took the good will of the entire country and most of the world and threw it out the window. What a fool.
  • Iraq. Even if you still believe all of the lies (and lies, and lies, and more lies) that got us into Iraq, couldn’t we have at least depended on the Bush administration to carry out the war in the most efficient, effective way possible? Apparently not.
  • Hurricane Katrina.
  • Gays. Apparently gays are the worst thing that has happened to America. Bush and company used gay marriage as the wedge issue of the decade. In the 2004 Presidential election gay marriage was on the ballot in 11 states, for no other reason than to bring out the religious right in droves to give Bush a second term, um I mean to save our country from the scourge of gay marriage.
  • Tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts while we were fighting two wars.
  • Worldcom, Enron, AIG, Bernie Madoff, etc. Greedy bastards need sound regulation. I’m talking to you Goldman, Citi and B of A. Too big to fail eventually will. Plenty of bipartisan blame for the malfeasance of corporate America. The only difference between lobbying and a bribe is that one is legal.
  • Ten years of almost no action in the US to reduce carbon emissions.
  • And special thanks to Fox News, Karl Rove, and Sarah Palin and others for reducing political discourse to a largely disingenuous binary choice between what they think is right and everything else. Facts? Who needs ‘em. There are plenty of political hacks on the left as well but they don’t even come close to having as nefarious and far reaching impact as these bozos.
Is President Obama doing everything right? Not by a long shot. Is he doing his best to undo 10 years of ridiculous policy? IMHO, yes.

"I don't know what annoys me more: Janet Napolitano saying "the system worked" when what she means is "the system failed, but smart passengers proved that the system is unnecessary", or the moronic new rules the TSA is apparently putting into place in order to "prevent" future such occurances. The TSA's obsession with fighting the last war is so strong that I expect any day to see them building wooden forts at our nation's airports in order to keep the redcoats at bay."

Wednesday, December 23

Do not fear your corporate overlords!
Of the top 25 richest companies of 1999 globally, only 8 retain such status. Turnover happens. Goliaths get out maneuvered. The old corporate masters fade away, when we let them.

Thursday, December 3

Wired.com explains why the billions handed out by the DOE to support clean-tech stifle innovation and hinder competition “by reducing the flow of private capital into ventures that are not anointed by the DOE.”
It has also actually led to layoffs:
Aptera Motors has struggled this year to raise money to fund production of the Aptera 2e, its innovative aerodynamic electric 3-wheeler, recently laying off 25 percent of its staff to focus on pursuing a DOE loan. According to a source close to the company, “all of the engineers are working on documentation for the DOE loan. Not on the vehicle itself.”

Personally I would rather that the winners of the clean tech development races win by superior design and innovation rather than by political favor.
One night after a long day of campaigning, when the haters had made my spirits reach a nadir, I looked into Todd's eyes, which were as blue as the stripes on Old Glory, and too representing truth and loyalty, and he looked back at me with a twinkle of determination which I hadn't seen since I told him my goal of having another baby in my fifties and naming it Tron, then did I know for sure that I could carry on, like he, and we, have done together all of these years on this long, Iron Dog race of a marriage that is at once grueling and celestial, onerous and majestic.
--Sarah Palin, as channeled by Ann Sensenbrenner, in Slate's Write Like Sarah Palin Contest.

Tuesday, November 24

The forced transfer of land from private homeowners and small businesses to a rich, connected, powerful developer in Brooklyn has received sanction from the NYS Supreme court.
This kind of eviction for the benefit of the rich developer and the parasitic tax collectors was endorsed by the SCOTUS under Kelo v. City of New London decided in 2005. The KELO decision created a popular backlash across the country, prompting legislation in many states to limit forced takings (not in NY), but the decision was also supported by some powerful interests, too, like the NY Times. Note that the Times editorial was penned from a building they were able to purchase earlier on the cheap due to eminent domain support as part the renewal of the greater Times Square area. Impartial observer, not so much. Imagine once we get fully state-subsidized media... Anyway, it's also worth noting that the planned development which robbed the Kelo's of their home isn't even progressing.
Either way, just to be clear - you may be forced from your home or business if the government deems it may reap greater tax revenue from your property after it is handed over to someone else.

Friday, November 20

"After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians began taking down their statues of Josef Stalin, the mass murderer who killed millions of people. Astonishingly, in America, the National D-Day Memorial is honoring Stalin by placing his bust on a pedestal at its museum in Bedford, Virginia."

Thursday, November 19

Going "Rogue", according to Webster's:
Function: noun
Etymology: origin unknown
Date: 1561
1 : vagrant, tramp
2 : a dishonest or worthless person : scoundrel
3 : a mischievous person : scamp
4 : a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave
5 : an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation

Tuesday, November 10

In hindsight, the horrors of the socialist empires (Soviet Socialist, National Socialist) seem like the obvious, logical conclusions of the dreams of their leaders. Bryan Caplan shares one remarkable author (and some of his own thoughts) who was able to predict with uncanny accuracy the configuration of such planned societies before their emergence.

Meanwhile, yesterday, America’s paper of record published a long winded, typically opaque opinion by “theorist” rock-star Slavoj Zizek lamenting the situation of those central and eastern European countries who struggle with political change, development, and the crime of “anti-communism.” Arguing by association, implication, and innuendo, but never logic or history, he fills his writing with the passive voice and implies laughable moral equivalents (the censorship of McCarthyism and murderousness of Stalinism).

He eventually leads the reader to lament a man driven to suicide from a failed collective farming experiment in Bolivia, a man who lines earlier was noted for “enforcing” (Zizek’s own term) collectivization on Ukraine, leading to 10s of millions dead by “terror-famine” (Try reading The Harvest of Sorrow for a detailed account that will depress you for a season).

To break it down, he plays the reader for sympathy for a Soviet Eichmann , an ugly and morally dishonest enterprise, though one imagines he thinks himself clever for it.

The continued endorsement of such lines of thought – support for the myth that the socialist states were ever not murderous, the fantasy of socialism without coercion, smart sounding Marxist piffle – remains only possible for those who choose to ignore the history that is still so close, still alive in millions who lived through it, those who pretend that a society completely organized could be anything but coercive.

Monday, November 9

Such a simple but potent symbol of the systemic failure of communist model: the Wall. Fallen, 20 years ago today.
The great physical manifestation of the metaphorical Iron Curtain, the wall accomplished a task unheard of in a free society - forcing people to stay. That communist regimes needed guns, concrete and barbed wire just to keep their system from dying from emigration is a simple irrefutable argument for the terribleness of their systems.
Celebrate your freedom today!

Friday, November 6

The Berlin Wall that came down 20 years ago this month was an apt symbol of communism. It represented a historically unprecedented effort to prevent people from "voting with their feet" and leaving a society they rejected. The wall was only the most visible segment of a vast system of obstacles and fortifications: the Iron Curtain, which stretched for thousands of miles along the border of the "Socialist Commonwealth."
- Paul Hollander The 20th Anniversary of the Fall of European Communism continues to be under-reported and under-celebrated.

Wednesday, November 4

Note to Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett: you don't get to speak truth to power anymore. You're in power. You work for the most powerful man on the planet. You're the "man" in "when the man says jump you ask how high."

This is speaking truth to power.

Eliot Spitzer explains how the White House defense of the status quo will give Republicans powerful ammunition in the 2010 elections.

Friday, October 30

At bottom, her individualism owed much more to Nietzsche than to Adam Smith (though Rand, typically, denied any influence, saying only that Nietzsche “beat me to all my ideas.” But “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” never sold a quarter of a million copies a year.
The vast majority of cars bought through (Your) Cash for Clunkers would have been bought anyway, which means (your) $3B contribution works out to roughly $24,000 per extra car sold.
Note: this calculation does not account for all the value lost by the forced destruction of turned in cars, their engines and parts.
Additional note: some of the vehicles clunkers were traded in for include Hummers.
And this gets called a “successful program.”

Wednesday, October 28

Open Letter to the Democratic National Committee

Dear Bozo:


Yesterday I got a call from a professional fundraiser asking me to open my wallet and make a donation to the DNC. In the past I have gladly done just that. I have given money to the DNC, the fundraising arms of both the House and Senate Democrats, Democratic candidates for President, and even money to Democratic candidates for Congress in districts where I don’t even live. And I have traveled to Pennsylvania, Ohio and southern Virginia to knock on doors for Democratic Presidential nominees.

But yesterday I refused to heed the clarion call for donations to help save the country from whatever the Republicans have in mind. And you know why? Because no amount of “grassroots” money from citizens will ever be enough to get the duly elected Democrats in Congress to pay attention to something other than their own egos and their allegiance to the corporate money that keeps them in office. How does my $25 or $250 or even $2,500 stack up against the pile of money that big business funnels into the political system? If you get my personal check will Senator Dodd pick up the phone when I call to tell him that he is handing big banks everything they want while passing along all the risk to me? If I take a couple days of salary and send it to the DNC will Senator Baucus let me write health care legislation instead of his seven former staffers who now work for health industry lobbyists?

And don’t even get me started on the ethics-challenged Congressman Rangel keeping his committee chair.

Maybe, just once, Democrats could lend meaningful support to a Democratic President, the leader of their party. But it seems like too many Democrats in Congress want to relive the glory days of 1994 when they assisted the Republicans in neutering another Democratic President.

I am not saying you will never get money from me again, after all I do think that Democratic crooks are a better option than Republican crooks. But for now I’d like to see Democrats begin to pay back the Americans who delivered them majorities in both houses of Congress.

Love, Thomas
[crossposted at MyPorch]


Friday, October 23

“The year 1989 was one of the best in European history. Indeed, I am hard pushed to think of a better one."

- Timothy Garton Ash explores new books on the subject in the NY Review of Books.
Michael C. Moynihan does something similar in Reason.

Thursday, October 22

"While attracting surprisingly little attention, the Obama administration supported the effort of largely Muslim nations in the U.N. Human Rights Council to recognize exceptions to free speech for any "negative racial and religious stereotyping…
In the resolution, the administration aligned itself with Egypt, which has long been criticized for prosecuting artists, activists and journalists for insulting Islam. For example, Egypt recently banned a journal that published respected poet Helmi Salem merely because one of his poems compared God to a villager who feeds ducks and milks cows."

Tuesday, October 20

"Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee seemed to abandon hope of bringing any real change to the Patriot Act. A lopsided and depressingly bipartisan majority approved legislation that would reauthorize a series of expanded surveillance powers set to expire at the end of the year. Several senators had proposed that reauthorization be wedded to safeguards designed to protect the privacy of innocent Americans from indiscriminate data dragnets--but behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Obama administration ensured that even the most modest of these were stripped from the final bill now being sent to the full Senate."

And yes, that’s a CATO research fellow writing in The Nation.

Saturday, October 17

Friday, October 16

I finally got around to reading the much promoted “How American Health Care Killed my Father” in The Atlantic. It lives up to the hype. It’s an excellent, informative and engaging read. You’ve probably seen it linked to or promoted elsewhere already, but if you’ve avoided it like I did, it’s worth reading. Here.

Thursday, October 15

Are Americans Faking Religiosity?
Depending on which poll you consult, between 33 percent and 43 percent of Americans claim to attend church weekly. Using the low end of that range, we get a figure of around a hundred million people. Even cursory crack research, however, reveals that this can not be true, for the simple reason that there are not enough seats in all churches in America to hold nearly as many people.

[A liberal estimate of] the total number of available seats in churches across America is 59,045,600. That is just little over a half of what would be necessary to accommodate all the people who claim to go to church weekly. A large number of Americans are lying to the polls.

Wednesday, October 14

Neighborhood News (for me):

"New York's highest court is set to hear arguments Wednesday in a case that will decide whether the state government can lawfully seize private property for a development company.

The case pits the New York State Urban Development Corp., a government agency, against nearly a dozen land owners who say the state constitution bars the government from stripping the rights of private parties to benefit a developer that aims to build a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. The developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., is currently one of the owners of the Nets."

Yes, it's still an open question in New York and many states on whether you can be forced from your home so your land and property can be turned over to someone with more money.

Friday, October 9

Well, I can hear the right wing already screaming about the leftist slant of the Nobel committee. Just like they did when Al Gore won, and Jimmy Carter won. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, maybe peace has a liberal bias. And I think there is some dismay that Obama won without having a substantive body of work to justify getting the prize.

Obama may not be a conventional pick, but there may be some very good reasons for the Nobel committee's choice. One that comes to mind is the down payment Obama has made in restablishing the USA as an agent of positive change and moral leadership around the world. And he has done it with a great deal of grace and humility. One could argue that just about anyone left of Genghis Kahn could have done this in the wake of Cheney-Bush. There are those who have claimed that Obama is nothing but pretty words and clever rhetoric. I don't believe that is true, I think he is much more than that, but the US and the world needs someone with Obama's ability to inspire us and get us to think about loftier goals.

Another good reason for Obama to get the prize is that he is a living manifestation of the future. The combination of his global outlook, education, and experiences make him the ideal leader to begin building bridges between countries, continents, and creeds. All those things that the Palin-ites were so worried about, those things that supposedly made Obama less American, actually look good to many around the world and indeed to Americans who believe that being a good global citizen is something to be proud of.

And, although I am not sure if this played any role in the committee's choice, there is something to be said about Obama's ability to confront the racial stalemate in the US and the world and help nudge race relations forward into the 21st century.

Whether the issues are domestic or international, or about race, class, religion or economics, he is unafraid to wade into dangerous political waters, find common ground, and just as importantly is unafraid to call things as he sees them. He is not afraid to recognize US failings, but he is also not afraid to let the rest of the world know when they aren't living up to their promises. So he told the US, so he told Europe, so he told the Middle East, so he told Africa. And finally, this may be the Nobel committe's way reminding Obama how much the world is counting on him.

[Crossposted on MyPorch.]

Saturday, October 3

David Brooks: "They [the Republican Party] pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy."

Friday, September 25

We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won't have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there's no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant -- it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of "this is going to revolutionize everything" versus "this is going to destroy everything."

Wednesday, September 16

“I was a kid when the Beatles came to America. Soon they were followed by the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, and other groups. The press dubbed it the British Invasion, and it was a big deal for about a year and a half. It was everywhere in the media, with saturation coverage. Yet in spite of all that coverage, at that time I had no idea that the biggest influence on that music, the real root of that music, was African-American rhythm and blues. Because although the media coverage was a mile wide, it was an inch deep. There was no effort to understand the history or the evolution that produced the music.”

Of course he’s talking about mainstream coverage of the financial crisis but he could be talking about health care, or any complex topic that moves in and out of popularity.
On Reddit: A message to Christians who oppose Public Health Care, from a fellow Christian: Read more Bible. Watch less Fox News.

Thursday, September 10

"My hunch is that the Times’ editors see Friedman aiming the gun at his foot, but watching a man stupid enough to actually pull the trigger is so fun they hate to intervene. That or they’re trying to explode the myth of American meritocracy."

Thursday, August 27

"The NEA was created by the Congress of the United States and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 as “a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.”  The issue of health care is curiously absent from this description on their website.
  So I’d like to start a little debate and ask you, the reader, the same question. Do you think it is the place of the NEA to encourage the art community to address issues currently under legislative consideration?
  And before answering, let me give you my take."    

Monday, August 24

"Today, generally, Adam Smith is claimed by the Right, Darwin by the Left. In the American South and Midwest, where Smith’s individualist, libertarian, small-government philosophy is all the rage, Darwin is reviled for his contradiction of creation. Yet if the market needs no central planner, why should life need an intelligent designer?
Conversely, in the average European biology laboratory you will find fervent believers in the individualist, emergent, decentralised properties of genomes who prefer dirigiste determinism to bring order to the economy.
So long is the shadow cast by the determinism of Karl Marx that it is often forgotten how radical the economic liberalism of the political economists seemed in the 1830s, the decade when Darwin’s thinking crystallised."    

Thursday, August 20

Is a global recession good for the environment? I know I'm generating a lot less trash than I did in 2007. From TreeHugger: Point and counterpoint (and another from Scientific American). This writer makes the point any negative environmental effects of a global recession are more than outweighed by benefits stemming from a massive reduction in economic growth. And Newsweek's article from earlier this year highlights examples of recession-induced pollution reduction around the world:
The impact of China's slowing economic growth (6.8 percent in the fourth quarter last year but 13 percent in 2007) has hit hardest in cities in the export-heavy south such as Dongguan. There, roughly 10 percent of the 22,000 factories have closed since last year. In Zhejiang province, just south of Shanghai, at least 60,000 small factories are shuttered. Survivors have slashed production and grounded fleets of diesel-fume-belching trucks. As a result, streams where factories dumped their waste are getting cleaner and the air is less smoggy. In 2008, the number of days with dangerous levels of air pollution in Dongguan fell by 65 from the year before, mostly in the final months of the year. "When there's less work, there's less release of sewage and trash, so environmental pressures have eased," says environmental scientist Liu Zhiming of Dongguan University of Technology.

Thursday, August 13

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., offers his elegant solution for health care reform. The cynic in me sees nothing like this coming to pass because its clarity allows for no or too little deal making, rent seeking and back scratching up on Capitol Hill.      

Wednesday, August 12

A moment later, after some reflection, he added, “But it also sounds an awful lot like what happens in a banana republic or in Putin’s Russia, when the captains of industry did favors for the government in exchange for economic subsidies. How do you stop from going down the slippery slope and becoming like Putin’s Russia?”  

The most important questions arising from the Bank of America–Merrill Lynch merger do not involve Ken Lewis. They involve Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and the U.S. government.

  In an interview with Andrew Cuomo, Paulson “largely corroborated” Lewis’s rendition of the events of December 2008, Cuomo wrote in an April 23 letter to federal officials. “Secretary Paulson indicated that he told Lewis that if Bank of America were to back out of the Merrill Lynch deal, the government either could or would remove the Board and management.”  

Tuesday, August 11

“Most scientists who study the human mind are convinced that minds are the products of brains, and brains are the products of evolution. Dr. Collins takes a different approach: he insists that at some moment in the development of our species God inserted crucial components — including an immortal soul, free will, the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism, etc.”
I thought we were done with the religious running the science when we got that new guy in the White House but I guess not.  
IF there’s a silver lining to our current economic downturn, it’s this: With it comes what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction,” the failure of outmoded economic structures and their replacement by new, more suitable structures. ... this downturn offers an excellent opportunity to get rid of one that has long outlived its usefulness: gross domestic product.
See also: Genuine Progress Indicator.
I am thankful to be living in a time when we have the privilege to debate over health care. I love the future; so much better than the past.

Friday, August 7

Senator Dodd, who I like to call Senator Big Bank, and Senator Schumer, who I like to call Senator Wall Street, are doing their best to ensure that regulatory reform in the financial services sector results in nothing but good news for their biggest donors. Senator Big Bank this week chaired a Senate Banking Committee hearing on regulatory reform where he asked this ridiculous question: "Is the administration's proposal really enough, or should we be listening to previous administrations...that greater consolidation should be the next step?" (quoted in American Banker, 8/5/09) Apparently he feels that the Bush, and to some extent Clinton, administrations' march toward regulatory consolidation, the same administrations who laid the groundwork for the banking crisis, had the right idea. Huh?

And Senator Wall Street pulls the Rovian tactic of calling it a "turf war" effectively shutting down meaningful conversation before it even starts. It seems as if his turf (his millions of dollars of campaign contributions from Wall Street) is the only one that needs protecting. And forget about consumers/taxpayers in all of this. Banking consolidation will mean just a handful of bigger banks calling the shots for consumers and on Capitol Hill. The same way the ones that were too big to fail and needed bailing out have done it for the past decade.

One of the important things that kept the credit moving moving and prevented a total melt-down of the system, was the existence of over 6,000 state-chartered banks, many of them smaller community banks. State regulators in general have been doing their part to try and protect consumers and do their part to ensure the safety and soundness of the banking system. They are by no means perfect, and have for a long time been blocked by the feds from doing their job, but they provide checks and balances that would disappear if Senator Big Bank and Senator Wall Street get their way.

(Crossposted at MyPorch)

Wednesday, August 5

Although she puts her usual snarky spin on the situation, Maureen Dowd says something in her column today that sums up how I feel about Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea. "Hillary and President Obama look bigger when they share the stage with other talented players." That is exactly what I was thinking as the media and blogosphere pondered the notions that Hillary is once again in Bill's shadow, or that even in Obama's America the Clintons loom large.

This is the way I see it: We have a very competent President working hard to clean up messes he inherited and make some change in general. We have a very competent Secretary of State working hard to clean up messes she inherited and make change in Africa (at the moment). And we have a very competent former President helping to clean up a mess and just maybe set the stage for the possibility for some kind of change in North Korea. It just makes me want to shout "Hooray, adults are in charge again!"

And didn't you love how normally smiley Bill looked like he was at someone's funeral the whole time he was there?

(Crossposted at MyPorch)

Tuesday, August 4

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is attempting to deal with the challenges of predicting chaotic behavior (climate), as well as how to deliver its findings.

Friday, July 31

House of Cards Insurance (HCI), ShellGame Inc. (SGI), and Ponzi Scheme Assurance Company (PSAC) are three lesser known companies of the 4,000 business units that make up American International Group (AIG). Apparently, whenever the greedy geniuses at one AIG unit needed to find financial guarantees for whatever brilliant business deal they were making, they just went to another AIG unit to cover their liabilities. Unfortunately, the AIG units that provided those guarantees are similarly leveraged with other AIG units. This might not be a problem if the parent company had all the money in the world to cover the debts of its spoiled children. But we all know that isn't the case. If it was then they could pay back $182 billion to taxpayers. As it is, even with the enormous federal bailout, it appears a light breeze could structurally damage their house of cards.

(Crossposted at MyPorch.)

Tuesday, July 28

What's the world coming to when an Urban Planner finds himself explaining derivatives to a Cabby? Then again, if both the Urban Planner and the Cabby (and millions of more people) knew about derivatives years ago perhaps they would have been regulated, and we wouldn't be propping up the firms who made billions selling the junk.

Monday, July 27

Freedom to choose what's in your health plan, Freedom for insurance companies to reward you for healthy living with lower prices, Freedom to choose high-deductible low-premium coverage, Freedom to keep your existing plan as it is now, Freedom to choose your doctors - according to House and Senate Democrats’ Health Care bills, these freedoms are not free.   

Thursday, July 23

The Atlantic’s Virginia Postrel described her own personal odyssey with expensive cancer treatments and how, under one instance of nationalized medicine, she’d have a lot lower odds of being alive today. She then took the time to respond to a number readers’ letters about her article and the result are two pieces that illustrate a lot of the contradictions in health care, and highlight some of the less discussed points, such as the fact the United States, for all it’s unsystematic and “costly” nature, tends to produce the great majority of innovation in medical service and technology.

Which ever “side” of the healthcare debate you are on, whether you think healthcare is a right or a privilege, or something else,  in practice, “healthcare” is an amalgamation of products (drugs, devices, etc) and services (diagnoses, surgeries, etc), and the economic principles of goods and services apply to healthcare just as they do with other goods and services.

Read her original article first and then her response to readers.    
My wife recently had a baby, this is the bill....

Wednesday, July 22

In the documentary film Garbage, writer and director Andrew Nisker takes an average urban family, the McDonalds, and asks them to keep every scrap of garbage that they create for three months.

Tuesday, July 21

My grasp of economics is remedial at best. But it seems to me that we are in a collective state of denial about the short term future of the housing market. Too often, the "experts" called upon by the media to expatiate on the state of the market are from organizations like the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Homebuilders, and have the most to gain from an up market and an upbeat consumer.

As someone who is planning on purchasing a home in early 2010 and is stunned by the still huge prices on some really crappy real estate, it is extremely satisfying to finally find a truth talker on TV. One of my favorite new shows, Real Estate Intervention, features Mike Aubrey, a shaved-headed, straight talking real estate agent in Maryland who does not suffer fools gladly--and he has a lot of fools to choose from. The show follows him around the Washington-Baltimore metro area while he schools home sellers on the reality of the current market. And comps be damned, the sellers never want to believe that the white hot market is lukewarm at the moment and has the potential to keep getting cooler over the next year or so. So far there hasn't been an episode where the clueless and intransigent sellers have been right and Mike has been wrong.

But then maybe I shouldn't be too hard on the sellers. They have been told for too long that the market would never go down. When faced with an ARM reset and home foreclosure this season on The Simpsons, Homer complained to his mortgage lender that he was told he wouldn't have to make any payments until the future and goes on to say "this isn't the future, it's the lousy stinkin' now." Should we really expect the average American to be smarter than Homer Simpson?

(Crossposted at MyPorch)
I'd like to welcome myself to Opensewer. Thanks to Jason, John & Rose for letting me share my two cents.

Friday, July 17

It’s kind of a give-and-take, quid pro quo kind of environment,” said Tom Daschle, President Obama’s first choice for health secretary, who remains in touch with the White House on health care issues. “I think that the stakeholders wouldn’t do this if they didn’t think there was something in it for them.”  

Tuesday, July 14

If you haven't seen this yet, please watch: Bill Moyers interviews former health insurance industry executive Wendell Potter (CIGNA), who left the field after almost 20 years to become a health reform advocate.

Monday, July 13

"Late last month, Berwyn Heights, Maryland Mayor Cheye Calvo took the unusual step of filing a civil rights lawsuit against the police department of his own county. The suit stems from a 2008 SWAT team raid on Calvo's house that resulted in the shooting deaths of his two black Labrador retrievers. In pushing back against the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Prince George's County police department, the mayor is helping expose a more widespread pattern of law enforcement carelessness and callousness throughout the state of Maryland."

Thursday, July 9

"What bothers me is that they seem to be saying, 'Some people we have good enough evidence against, so we'll give them a fair trial. Some people the evidence is not so good, so we'll give them a less fair trial. We'll give them just enough due process to ensure a conviction because we know they're guilty. That's not a fair trial, that's a show trial," Mr. Nadler said.

Tuesday, July 7

Wal-Mart comes out for government mandated employer health insurance. Why? Because it will benefit them. Costly mandate = (another legislated) advantage for bigger, more established and more connected corporations.

Monday, July 6

Well said: Batshit-insane American Quitter Sarah Palin ended her own special “Independence Day” by posting a series of desperate grammar-challenged nonsense and vicious threats on her Facebook and Twitter pages.

Saturday, July 4

Wednesday, July 1

This is an unusually warm October day in Daytona Beach, the sun baked white sand beaches and the sea came from the ups and downs. David Braymer, who lean muscular body, men younger than his four or five years, is suffering the strong glare of the sun. This is the day today, he hoped that teaching children can be less restrictive dress code. However, this is a price that he is willing to pay what he loved, science and education are relatively new, until recently considered the pseudo-science, astrology. In some cases, long-term he would work to return to his day more exciting for a secret government departments involved in the study of additional land, but as long as these days behind him. In his five years of teaching, he has fully adapted to and become a significant emphasis on living a suburban secondary school teachers more concerned about little more than lesson plans and school dance partner. And even a new love interest in his life. State-owned local water Cheral Baskel side restaurant town, the famous views It is a very good space shuttle launch - which Cheral are smart enough to become very profitable from happening. David is a regular sponsor Cherals, he stopped in for breakfast every morning on the way to work, it is not only to her (not often, but he will not be mentioned) hash browns. It was exciting Cherals occurred this morning, as the next space shuttle launch just three days, it is on Halloween. She tried to decorate two events at the same time, leading to more confusion. David was puzzled to see that the astronauts will be a function of zombies. There is a clear sense of foreboding in the small town community in recent days, with the launch of the last two being singular technical difficulties, has not yet been explained. In fact, some of the more Seoul citizens have begun to spread the bad luck of signs on a sign, they claimed not bode well for the introduction of the night of Halloween ...
--translated from Moon People.

Tuesday, June 30

And to follow-up on Sanford with a quote from Dowd: The Republican Party will never revive itself until its sanctimonious pantheon — Sanford, Gingrich, Limbaugh, Palin, Ensign, Vitter and hypocrites yet to be exposed — stop being two-faced.

Friday, June 19

Gaia's evil twin: Is life its own worst enemy?
A number of recent discoveries have cast serious doubt on the Gaia hypotheses. Two lines of research are especially damning: one comes from deep time - the study of ancient rocks - and the other from models of the future. Both overturn key Gaian predictions and suggest that life on Earth has repeatedly endured "Medean" events - drastic drops in biodiversity and abundance driven by life itself - and will do so again in the future.

Thursday, June 18

Radley Balko had my exact thoughts when I learned about the new tourism promotion plan.

Wednesday, June 3

History shows the prospects for Government Motors are poor.
History also shows that the prospects for Detroit need not be as bad.

Tuesday, June 2

NY Times:
It is not every 31-year-old who, in a first government job, finds himself dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism. But that, in short, is the job description for Brian Deese, a not-quite graduate of Yale Law School who had never set foot in an automotive assembly plant until he took on his nearly unseen role in remaking the American automotive industry.
Wait, they call it capitalism but more accurately it would be called corporatism.
With the publication of today's ridiculous headline, "GM Collapses Into Government's Arms," the Wall Street Journal has self-downgraded its journalistic integrity.
Most overused cliché of the recession: "The next shoe to drop..."

Saturday, May 30

Here's a little round up of the Obama administration's performance on various transparency in government initiatives. The bad includes lots of failing to meet the “Sunlight Before Signing” promise. The good includes the data sharing sites data.gov and recovery.gov.

Also, competing with recovery.gov, and so far out pacing it in providing user accessible details, is recovery.org, a free independently run site, that isn't underfunded.

I heartily welcome the growth of independently built apps that will grow in number and utility as the gov (hopefully) continues to make raw data about it/us more available to the public.

Monday, May 25

Friday, May 22

"Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid. 50 words." Einstein used only about half his allotted number of words. It became the most famous version of an answer he gave often: "I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind."

Wednesday, May 13

Overleveraging - too much borrowing - was a core cause of the recent financial crisis, or crises. It's one of the few "common sense" economic ideas that has weight: borrowing should not get out of line.
Megan McArdle looks at the plans for borrowing coming out of Washington, and raises some concern.
What's a trillion dollars again? Oh, it's a dollar a second for 310 centuries.

Wednesday, May 6

Witness, with the discussions about prosecuting Bush II administration members who promoted torture, the Republicans abandon their love of the rule of law, something the GOP pursued with zeal back when it was president Clinton coming under allegations of unsanctioned presidential hanky-panky.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, witness the Democrats, some of whom attacked Bush II for his ever expanding interpretation of executive power and disrespect for the rule of law, ignore said principles now that their man practices his own disregard for legal constraint on his own power.

Tuesday, May 5

Let me return, however, to the main point, which is the characteristic complacency of the conservative toward the action of established authority and his prime concern that this authority be not weakened rather than that its power be kept within bounds. This is difficult to reconcile with the preservation of liberty. In general, it can probably be said that the conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules. Since he is essentially opportunist and lacks principles, his main hope must be that the wise and the good will rule - not merely by example, as we all must wish, but by authority given to them and enforced by them. Like the socialist, he is less concerned with the problem of how the powers of government should be limited than with that of who wields them; and, like the socialist, he regards himself as entitled to force the value he holds on other people.

From "Why I am not a Conservative", by F. A. Hayek, who’d be 110 years old today.

Monday, May 4

One of the scariest and most brazen abuses of power under Bush II were the administrations brazen rejection of any oversight or challenge to its policies. The very court cases petitioning the government were claimed to be dangerous national security risks. Over at salon.com, Glenn Greenwald has been looking for any change of substance in this area under the new administration. Results are not encouraging.

Thursday, April 30

A lot of groups seeking change establish the lines of conflict by constantly naming and accusing their enemies, and insisting on their essential evilness. This isn't great politics, but it's not usually a problem -- unless it moves to the next stage, where the group starts expressing a clear intention to eradicate those perceived enemies. This can be a signal that they've accepted the need for violent action in their own minds, and may be actively planning something. It's a shift that should never be ignored.

When Sean Hannity runs a poll asking whether his viewers prefer a military coup, secession, or armed rebellion -- and armed rebellion wins -- that's evidence of this kind of shift. Right-wing talkers have built careers out of demonizing liberals; but when they start talking about what specific steps should be taken against them, that's not something we should ignore.


Link.

Thursday, April 16

"...those upset about President Obama's plans for taxes and spending would be better off trying to defeat him and his Congressional supporters in the next election. They need a political party, not a tea party."

And please, Google the term "teabagging" before throwing it around any more.

Thursday, April 2

The financial rescue package(s) and plans are now reaching $12.8 trillion.
The nation’s gross domestic product for 2008 was $14.2 trillion.

Has your head popped yet?

And what does a trillion dollars look like anyway?

Wednesday, April 1

"It is my hope that the steps I am announcing today will go a long way toward answering many of the questions people may have about the future of GM and Chrysler. But just in case there are still nagging doubts, let me say it as plainly as I can -- if you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always. Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it's ever been. Because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty."

OK, personally, I always thought it was John Edwards who was the car salesman, but I guess I was wrong.

Thursday, March 12

From "A 'Breakthrough' in the Stem Cell Debate" by Michael Kinsley:
If you wish to believe that every fertilized egg is a human being with full human rights, that is your privilege. I disagree, which makes it a controversy. If I felt you were serious, we would have a quandary as well. But there’s no quandary because you’re not serious. Your actions are too different from your words. You are doing absolutely nothing about the millions of fertilized eggs that are destroyed naturally every year (in miscarriages so early that the potential mother is not even aware of them), or the thousands that are produced and unused by fertility clinics going about their normal work (which are either discarded or pointlessly frozen in the hope of some miraculous ethical breakthrough).
(Thanks, Jana)

Wednesday, March 4

Now that we’re in a global recession, perhaps at the end of it the citizens of the world (particularly the first-world variety) will come to a new balanced perspective of how economic growth should fit into the total framework of human existence.

In the United States, as capitalists in general, we tend to focus on economic growth for its own sake. We see it as the bellwether of the nation’s health. However, economic growth should simply be one of many positive by-products of humanity’s striving to better itself and improve the quality of life for all.

The creators of the Genuine Progress Indicator metric have embraced this way of thinking for over a decade now. If, after all the current chaos subsides, we see a groundswell of support for this “new-old” way of thinking, I for one will consider the revised world-view worth the price.

Friday, February 6

This is really quite sad: Former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. has stated publicly that he thinks Obama should wear a coat and tie in the Oval Office.