Friday, August 31, 2012

Weekend Music Chill

The Republican convention is the time every four years where the GOP tries to sound like the Libertarian Party. They might do better if they worked that theme all the time. Regardless, that's what I like about the party, they at least make an effort. So to honor that effort, here are The Romantics with one of my favorite 80s tunes "What I Like About You."

And here they are live with Talkin in Your Sleep and Rock You Up. You also get a chance to see Dick Clark in his prime.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Romney's Speech

Romney made the grade tonight, but I am not the type of voter he was trying to impress. I think his speech was tuned to the undecided women voters. CNN had a focus group that seemed to confirm this hypothesis. I was looking for more red meat and more policy specifics, I thought Ryan's speech was actually better. But I sense that Romney has singular focus on winning. He knows what he needs to do to win; he effectively made the case to the voters who can still be persuaded while effectively criticizing the President.

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY to help you and your family.
Not soaring rhetoric, but effectively punctures Obama's pretentiousness and grandiosity. (So did Clint Eastwood, even if he was slightly embarrassing at times.)

By the way, the meme that Paul Ryan's speech needed fact checking has been effectively debunked.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paul Ryan's Speech

Was spending some time with family tonight, so not much time for blogging. I made it a point to catch Paul Ryan's speech. It was the speech I wish I was able to give myself. It made the points that needed to be made about crony capitalism and the poverty of thinking that is the ACA. However, I know I'm not a typical voter, so I wondered if it really connected.

The best line in his speech was about the so called Affordable Care Act:
Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.
The way he emphasized the words free country got my attention. It is that freedom which is under assault, and the left refuses to apologize for its assault on our freedom. Ostensibly, they claim that it is Republicans who want to put "y'all back in chains." But their policies are the true threat to freedom.

To see the quote above, skip to 9:05.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

RNC Tonight

I probably can't add much to all of the chattering about the Republican National Convention. Fellow blogger W.C. Varones likes the tone, as do I. He mentioned in an email that the GOP is keeping on the "we built that" theme very well. Even though Christie's speech didn't seem to score well on Twitter, it scored well enough, and set a serious tone for the campaign. Christie continues the theme of giving America a choice, that was set with the Paul Ryan selection. Ann Romney was great, and I say this as a guy watching a speech targeting women; so take that for what it's worth. Nikki Haley seemed start off weak, but she really landed some punches over the NLRB's handling of Boeing's decision to open a plant in South Carolina.

I saw some article about Team O being very confident. I am not sure what to make of this conventional wisdom, as Intrade still has him as the favorite. With the economy in such bad shape, this makes no sense. Hopefully, we will see a tough campaign from Romney; a guy who doesn't want to lose.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Quote of the Week

World's oldest woman, Besse Cooper of Georgia, celebrated her 116th birthday this week. Asked about her longevity, she answered:
“I mind my own business, and I don’t eat junk food.’’
Well said, Besse; and Happy Birthday.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Hour is Late - Nervousness about Romney

I once quoted Peggy Noonan as saying that the tea party knew what time it is, and it was later than most people think:

The second thing is the clock. Here is a great virtue of the tea party: They know what time it is. It's getting late. If we don't get the size and cost of government in line now, we won't be able to. We're teetering on the brink of some vast, dark new world—states and cities on the brink of bankruptcy, the federal government too. The issue isn't "big spending" anymore. It's ruinous spending that they fear will end America as we know it, as they promised it to their children.
Which brings me to the Republican nominee. There is no mistaking him for the tea party candidate, even if many in the tea party support him out of antipathy for Obama. But to date, he has done a poor job of defining who he is, and the Obama campaign has had some modest success defining him in a negative way. I have chaffed at his campaign for not immediately making the case for his candidacy and for not building the narrative of his life as soon as he clinched the nomination.

The good news is that the mountain of negativity has not made much of a dent. People are more sophisticated than to believe Harry Reid's McCarthyesque lies and Romney has been good at counterattacking. The selection of Paul Ryan was helpful as well. But Romney still hasn't made the case. In an environment where his opponent is trying to scare the public, he needs to do so. The hour is late.

Perhaps he has been waiting for the convention, but I am nervous. In 2008, Romney's ultimate failing was the failure to put together a credible narrative and companion policy prescriptions to set himself apart from the other candidates. I worry that he will try to do so now, as well; perhaps thinking that the public is fed up with the economy enough to dump Obama. I am here to say that they won't vote for someone who won't explain himself. They tried that it in 2008 and it didn't go well. Unfairly perhaps, the Republican candidate this year won't get away with some version of hope and change.

I will be looking anxiously to how Romney handles the convention to see where this is going. Right now, its not looking that great. Intrade has Obama at 55.6% to win. That he isn't higher is an indication of the President's weakness. That he is that high in the first place is an indication that Romney isn't making the case.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Weekend Music Chill

Here are two of my favorite 80s bands, although the first group got its start in the 70s. Here are Echo and the Bunnymen with The Cutter, live at Albert Hall in 1983.

The Psychadelic Furs with Pretty in Pink.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Odds and Ends

Gold jumped today after the fed announced "further monetary accommodation." The price moved up over $30/oz. in the span of a few minutes. W.C. Varones has the chart.

Romney has been inching closer in the Electoral College map. The RealClearPolitics map has Obama's lead down to 221 to 191, with 270 needed to win outright. The May map had Obama up 243-170.

The debt clock at right is closing in on $16 trillion, at $15.97 trillion as of this writing. Congratulations kids, we're leaving you a heck of a legacy.

The Congressional Budget Office is saying this about the coming tax rises and budget cuts in January, termed the "fiscal cliff."
The nation will be plunged into a significant recession during the first half of next year if Congress fails to avert nearly $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to hit in January, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday.
Don't expect any relief until after the dust settles on the election. Even then, I don't expect a lame duck Obama to sign off on any relief. Less well know is the regulatory cliff being prepared by the administration to further hamper the Romney administration. As Rob Portman explains, the President has postponed damaging rules until after the November election.
. . . the Obama administration has been quietly postponing several multibillion-dollar regulations until after the November election. Those delayed rules, together with more than 130 unfinished mandates under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law, could significantly increase the regulatory drag on our economy in 2013.
I honestly believe that the economy is ready to grow again, but an Obama re-election will crush the chances for a real recovery.

That's all for tonight.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mitt Romney Paid A Higher Tax Percentage Than Me

A new "scary" Obama ad vilifies Romney for only paying 14% of his income as income tax to the federal government. My thought, so what? But I thought, what the heck, I will check my own numbers. Turns out I paid about 12% of my adjusted gross income (AGI) in taxes. Further, if you factor in that my 401(k) like retirement plan and my flexible spending plan (for medical) contributions aren't taxable, I paid closer to 10% of my income as federal taxes.

I feel like Romney might need better tax advice, but in my experience his tax percentage is a lot bigger than mine.

More to the point, his tax rate means that he contributed millions in taxes to the federal government. Why the vilification?

So I am asking my readers what percent of your AGI did you pay in federal income taxes?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Libertarians need Conservatives and Vice-Versa

I am a church-going social-conservative libertarian. That may sound like a contradiction, but I have thought through my beliefs, but never really articulated why these beliefs aren't contradictory. I probably can't do this subject justice in one post and may expand it over time. I was a registered Libertarian from the mid-70s until 2008, so I might explain why I think libertarians need conservatives, first.

Libertarians value liberty, of course and set of values, that by themselves lack adequate moral glue to bind society together. A world in which libertarian values prevail could only survive if civil society supported the social norms of a conservative world-view. Such a view might hold that the individual has a larger duty outside of oneself. The self is not the highest end, nor the most important societal construct. Haidt discusses this in his essay on why people vote Republican, in his discussion of his time in India. Libertarians may desire a society in which conservative norms are not enforced by the government, but the norms are necessary. More on government later.

The other reason is that libertarians will never form an outright majority unto themselves. Although this is my opinion, Jonathan Haidt's research points to this result as well. Libertarians share with liberals that they don't hold as broad a spectrum of moral values as do conservatives. As a result they will probably not achieve a majority status (nor will liberals). Only by allying themselves with the least statist leaning groups between left and right can libertarians achieve the freedom and small government that is their goal. Some libertarians take a different view, and desire not only a government that doesn't invade the bedroom, but a society that takes no moral view of what happens there as well. That is unrealistic and counter-productive. We know that family disintegration due to absent fathers is the key predictor of poverty in the western world. Restoring social norms would go a long way towards reducing the demand signal for welfare and prisons, two key components of big-government.

It is less obvious that conservatives need libertarians, but they do. First, their votes and energy are necessary to do battle with the forces of statism. On any individual issue, the pressure for government to "do something" often seems compelling. Only a firm adherence to principles, which libertarians seem better equipped to do, can beat back these impulses. Second, conservatives forget at their peril that the use of government to achieve their desired social ends usually ends badly for them. From the death of the church because it was identified with the monarchy in old Europe to Republicans becoming identified as the party of big government before the 2006 elections, marrying conservative social ends to the coercion of big government has been a loser. Further, funding big government conservative programs undermines the principled arguments for limited government.

The tension between the two perspectives often plays out in the non-economic issues. Three examples.

Immigration. The libertarian argument is that free movement of people is important for freedom and economic prosperity. Conservatives argue that open borders will undermine the rule of law, and allow those who don't share our values to weaken the nation's commitment to limited government. Further, both libertarians and conservatives suspect a desire on the part of the left to increase welfare rolls and the overall dependency rate by allowing vast amounts of new immigration. My solution: Secure the borders to champion the rule of law, have a vastly increased guest worker program to allow free movement of labor, but limit the path to citizenship of the guest workers.

Marijuana. Conservatives view the abuse of alcohol and many other drugs are symptoms of societal ill. Condoning their use weakens society because drugged up and drunk folks act stupidly and harm others. Libertarians know that prohibiting their use results in black markets, violence and money flowing to criminals. My solution: Legalization; but it is up to we the people to establish that in civil society drunkenness and druggedness are not acceptable.

Gay marriage. Libertarians don't want to interfere with people's right to make their own arrangements for love and economic union, so gay marriage isn't a problem for them. Conservative objections primarily rely on tradition and religion. However, these arguments are legitimate. Government sanctioning gay marriage yields it protected status. Some time ago I took grief for telling a young gay man that I objected to gay marriage because it infringed on my freedom of speech. That post still has this blog's record for most comments. Events since I have made my point, as Chick-Fil-A's vilification showed. My solution: Government out of the marriage business. I would like to see churches draw up marriage contracts and record marriages as they once did. If people want to just live together, fine by me. And if gays wish not to be married in church, but draw up a civil contract that lays out the marriage agreement, that should be their right. But I shouldn't be forced to acknowledge that they are married if I don't want to.

That's all for now, I hope to expand this article into a longer post.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Obama San Diego Office Opening - If You Work, You're Not Invited

The Obama campaign is opening up a new office on El Cajon Blvd. They sent me this email, here is a portion.
B --

Anyone who's ever volunteered on a grassroots campaign like ours will tell you: By Election Day, your local field office will feel like home.

And when you move into a new home, it's pretty standard to celebrate with food and friends.

So let's get together for a "housewarming" party at our new office in San Diego. No need to pick up a present, just bring yourself and a friend or two to the party.

Can you make it? Here are the details:

What: Office opening party in San Diego

Where: OFA-CA office in San Diego
4660 El Cajon Blvd., Suite 206
San Diego, CA 92115

When: Thursday, August 23rd
2:00 p.m.
Mid-week and mid-afternoon? Most people with jobs and businesses to run won't be able to make it. I guess those folks aren't part of Obama's core support.

Motives Behind the Stimulus

Michael Grunwald, of Time magazine, has authored "The New New Deal," his reporting on the Obama stimulus. He makes the case for how well intentioned the stimulus deal was and the belief that without it, the economy would have been in even worse shape. I don't intend to debate those points. I think that hidden in the book is the admission that Obama wanted to use the stimulus to permanently alter the politics of America and lock the country into long term federal government involvement in new parts of the economy. Grunwald is certainly left of center, and he skewers Republicans for what he considers their purely political opposition to the stimulus. From The Economist:
One thing that may surprise readers not fully acquainted with the grisly nature of political sausage-making is the degree of cynicism that surrounded the passing of the Recovery Act. It was naive of Mr Obama to expect the Republicans to play ball. But because he needed to win at least a couple of their votes in the Senate to break the threat of a filibuster, he tried hard to court them. Mr Grunwald lays out in shocking detail how the Republican leadership decided early and wholeheartedly not to co-operate with the new president. So deep was their opposition that they even opposed things that they supposedly supported, such as the Recovery Act’s deep tax cuts and its emphasis on infrastructure.
But, even if shamelessly and politically motivated, the Republicans were right to have opposed the stimulus, because of what Obama was trying to accomplish.
The whole point of an economic stimulus is that it is supposed to stimulate. It needs to move money out of the door fast, get it quickly to where it can do most good and not carry with it a tail of long-term spending commitments. But Mr Obama’s agenda was always much bigger than that, and it is in explaining this that Mr Grunwald’s book is at its best.

Much of the meat involves parsing the issues that riled the Republicans: how the stimulus bill was to be used as a tool to transform American society. Right from the start, Mr Obama wanted his Recovery Act to spend money on a low-carbon future, on radical school reform, on health reform and on creating jobs. All of these, Mr Grunwald thinks, are laudable aims. Many readers would agree. But Republicans in Washington have other views. New energy projects, like job creation, should be left to the market, not picked by bureaucrats; school and health reform should be a matter for individual states. What they saw was an attempt to use the crisis to push the political economy of America in a more statist and Washington-centric direction. Mr Grunwald does not attempt to deny that; it is simply that he has no problem with it.
In terms of economic history, I think that the stimulus failed because we have already entered an era in which the accumulation of government debt has left fiscal and monetary policy ineffective. With interest rates near zero and the governments at all levels having issued tens of trillions of debt that may not be repaid, more debt to stimulate the economy will also have the effect of reducing confidence.

If the Democratic administration had such nakedly political motives for the outcome of the stimulus, then Republicans were right to oppose it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What If We Win? What If We Lose?

The President arouse a great deal of antipathy in his opponents because they believe his administration is subversive to their cherished ideals that trace their roots to the nation's founding. Beliefs in the fundamental supremacy of the rights enshrined in the constitution, the rule of law not Executive Order, in limited government and a respect for the rights of the people to not have their hard earned keep confiscated by unchecked government animate our opposition. Because our bedrock beliefs seem to be under such fierce assault by Obama, we are deeply passionate about his defeat. As a result we are so emotionally invested that we may not be thinking about what happens next.

If we win. We will rejoice exceedingly, and we should. But we will have elected a somewhat conservative Republican from Massachusetts with a checkered track record on our issues. Republicans are likely to retain a majority in the House, but control of the Senate will be dependent on undependable allies such as Olympia Snowe if there is control at all. Under such circumstances vigilance against backsliding with respect to solving our nation's ills will be the order of the day. The Republicans have shown that they are interested in nothing so much as their own re-election and have given us "No Child Left Behind," Medicare Part D and a leaky border the last time they were in charge. I don't trust them. A failure to repeal the ACA, especially through the mechanism of defunding if outright repeal is prevented in the Senate will be an egregious slap in the face of their tea party supporters. Continuing to run primary opponents against the worst offenders may be required.

If we lose. We will wail and gnash our teeth, as well we might, because the damage of a second Obama term may take two decades to unwind. But we will have to accept that educating the public will be the order of the day. When Obama's policies inevitably fail, and the math is looking bad, we will need to have built up the policy arguments and the bench to take the field in the next cycle. The American people will inevitably wake up. Having policies at the ready, along with a communications plan will serve us well. Further, we will need to hold the House Republican leadership accountable, because it will form the last line of defense to preventing the worst of the damage. I don't imagine that the Republicans will gain control of the Senate if Obama wins, but it is certainly possible. Preventing further damage and getting ready for the 2014 cycle will be necessary to save the country.

If its a tie? Don't give me a headache, but it goes to the House of Representatives who vote by state, which should easily result in a Republican win. A tie is as good as a win, in the electoral college math.

Bottom line: Regardless of the outcome, there will still be a lot of work to do.

Weekend Music Chill

No back story on this weekend's music, just looking for something a little different. Here is the band Jars of Clay with Lift me Up.

And here is Kutless with All Who Are Thirsty

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Miserable Hackery Strikes Again - Yes, I mean Holder

Apparently, this isn't a crime:
A criminal investigation into . . . brokerage firm MF Global and the disappearance of about $1 billion in customer money is now heading into its final stage
. . .
chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, allowed the money to disappear, according to people involved in the case.
Or so says our ineptly led Department of Injustice, led by none other than Eric Holder. That Jon Corzine, the executive in question, was a former Democratic Senator and Governor, doesn't spring to mind when considering DOJ's decision not to prosecute. I feel compelled to repeat a Neil Barofsky quote that I used previously:
"The suspicions that the system is rigged in favor of the largest banks and their elites, so they play by their own set of rules to the disfavor of the taxpayers who funded their bailout, are true," Mr. Barofsky said in an interview last week. "It really happened. These suspicions are valid."
$1 billion of investor money goes missing to fund the operations of MF Global and their excuse is that "in all the confusion, I didn't know which account I was stealing from?" It reminds of me of my dog, who thinks that during periods of high activity and confusion in the house, he can steal food off plates. Sometimes he even tries to create a little uproar just to get the chance. But he's a dog, so I expect it.

Of course, Holder isn't gong to allow stalwart Democrats to be prosecuted. Especially when the administration has run roughshod over the rule of law in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Faux Outrage over Faux Outrage

So the political blogs and talking heads are up in arms over the negative tone of the campaign. So what? Here is why it won't change. Obama and his surrogates have no record to tout. If they were proud of his accomplishments, they would be trumpeting the signature achievement of the ACA. But even if you are a liberal, you must admit that the President's campaign has made little of the issue. With the economy in bad shape, and Obama unwilling to defend the ACA, the only campaign strategy left is to attack Romney.

For his part, Romney must counter-attack, first, because he can't allow Obama to define him in a negative light. Second, the nasty campaign redounds to Romney's advantage; because Obama loses his "likeability," a key advantage he has retained until now. By ratcheting up the rhetoric, as well as pointing out how nasty the Obama campaign's attack have become, he attacks the President's strength.

Personally, I won't lose a wink of sleep. Some of the scurrilous attacks on Romney get me angry, but ultimately, they have been a boon; because they have been shown to be so false. The demonstrably false accusation that Romney killed that worker's wife has been thoroughly debunked and hurt the President. Mark Halperin is quoted in Politico today:
Based on what happened last night, the president’s team is stunned that the president would be accused of engaging in a campaign of hate. Mitt Romney used the word ‘hate’. I think he meant it. I think the president’s team was very stung by it.
Halperin is a political analyst for Time. Stung? Really? Please grow up, and maybe you shouldn't coordinate attacks like accusing your opponent of killing people. If that's not hateful, what is?

Expect the nastiness to continue, until such time as it looks like a loser for one side or the other. If one side stops and the other side sees the negative attacks stop being effective, the tone might change, but don't count on it.

Virginia Postrel suggests another way in which the tone might change. She recalls Ross Perot's 30 minute informercials on the economy and federal budget from 1992 that drew big audiences. She thinks that Paul Ryan is telegenic and articulate enough to pull off something like that. I agree, and given the grave nature of the threats to our long term economic prospects, people would pay attention. She closes with:
The American public is in the appropriately desperate frame of mind for a serious policy discussion. The Ryan pick suggests that Romney might be willing to offer one. The alternative is three more months of sniping about tax returns and college transcripts (not to mention how dogs are treated) -- attacks on the candidates’ identities rather than their ideas. The times demand better.

Unfortunately, I don't think we can count on it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shining Moments in Government

In my Sunday post, I summarized McCloskey's argument that government is subject to the same failings as the free market only more so. In order to argue that government should ameliorate some societal ill supposedly caused by free market failure, it is only intellectually honest to require proof that government can do better, or at a minimum not make things worse. Right on queue, two articles popped up in the local paper that illustrated this principle at work.

From the U-T:
The former deputy director of California state parks at the vortex of a financial scandal has a string of criminal convictions, including a felony DUI, and spent 12 of his 23 years in state government on court-ordered probation.
. . . has admitted carrying out a vacation buyout program in 2011 that state officials have deemed unauthorized. Lopez himself benefitted from the program, which cost more than $271,000. His former boss, parks Director Ruth Coleman, accused Lopez of also playing a role in hiding $54 million in two special funds at the parks department.
. . .
Beginning in 1988, five months before he began his state career as a “student assistant” at the Employment Development Department, Lopez was convicted of a misdemeanor for theft, according to court records.

He was also prosecuted for driving under the influence in 1989, 1992 and 1994, according to Sacramento County court records. He’s also filed for bankruptcy and has been the target of two workplace sexual harassment lawsuits.
This is one of the huge problems with government. It took 23 years to get rid of this guy? Say it real slowly, because twenty-three years is a long, long time. And the left wants to let government be in charge of ever larger parts of our lives? Too bad he wasn't at the DMV with access to our social security numbers and other private information, which he could have made lots more money using than the paltry $271K he snagged.

Image from TSA blog, describing imaging technology.

Meanwhile, the TSA is busy protecting us by "racial profiling?"
. . . more than 30 officers involved in the "behavior detection" program at Logan contend that the operation targets not only Middle Easterners, but also passengers who fit certain profiles — such as Hispanics traveling to Miami, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward.
. . .
The officers said their co-workers were increasingly targeting minorities, believing the stops would lead to the discovery of drugs, outstanding arrest warrants and immigration problems, in response to pressure from managers who wanted high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals, The Times reported.
So the TSA is allowed to unionize, and they immediately turn racist? Is this cause and effect?

From the Boston Globe:
The assessors look for inconsistencies in the answers and other signs of unusual behavior, like avoiding eye contact, sweating or fidgeting, officials said. A passenger considered to be acting suspiciously can be pulled from the line and subjected to more intensive questioning.

That is what happened last month at Logan airport to Kenneth Boatner, 68, a psychologist and educational consultant in Boston who was traveling to Atlanta for a business trip.

In a formal complaint he filed with the agency afterward, he said he was pulled out of line and detained for 29 minutes, as agents thumbed through his checkbook and examined his clients’ clinical notes, his cellphone and other belongings.

The officers gave no explanation, but Boatner, who is black, said he suspected the reason he was stopped was his race and appearance. He was wearing sweat pants, a white T-shirt, and high-top sneakers.

He said he felt humiliated. ‘‘I had never been subjected to anything like that,’’ he said in an interview.
Of course he did, and it doesn't matter if he was white, asian or any other ethnicity. The TSA daily humiliates millions of Americans, its just a question of how much. The TSA is supposed to keep us safe in the air. Even if a criminal boards an airliner, but he isn't a terrorist, why should the TSA care? What gets into their heads that they are now junior G-men?

And here is a little tidbit from my own job in the federal government; almost as outrageous for its waste. The Congress is understandably upset with wasteful IT spending at the Department of Defense. But for years, the department has basically ignored the Congress about getting its act together on the issue. Out of frustration, they based what I consider a bit of ill-advised legislation, even if the intent is understandable. The National Defense Authorization Act prohibits spending on information systems technology that could be contained in a data center without the approval of very senior people within the department. The mindless interpretation of the statute by senior bureaucrats in charge of IT but clearly no experience has resulted in the following absurd result.

A group of researchers at my work have a small experimental project that needs a $300 ethernet switch to allow some PCs to talk to an antenna. Somehow, this is interpreted as meeting the above definition of a data center, so the paperwork to request a waiver from the act will consume at least $1000 of labor effort. But an ethernet switch of the type needed could no more be useful in building a data center, than could taking your vacuum cleaner motor and jury rigging it to be an alternator for your car. Sure, theoretically it might be possible, but is so far fetched as to defy credulity. Meanwhile the project will suffer untold delays costing who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars in wasted effort waiting for a $300 part.

When the left, and even the right, wants to put government in charge, they had best explain why it is better than the private sector solutions; because the cases I have listed aren't ordinary, but are frequent enough.

Joe Biden Not Making Sense - Even in Email

Joe Biden sent me this email. I cannot fathom how the message relates to any of the events of the last two days nor to "Romney's Choice," the subject of the email:

From: Joe Biden (
Subj: Romney's Choice

B --

Starting now, we can expect even more wealthy, right-wing ideologues lining up to support the Romney-Ryan ticket.

The people on the other side who are trying to buy this election are putting nasty, deceptive TV ads on the air right this very minute. They're not going away. They're getting worse.

If we don't do what we can to keep this close, right now at this crucial moment, we risk letting the other side run away with it.

If you're thinking about making a donation to the campaign, please don't wait -- donate $3 or more today, and let's win this together.

Every single day from now until Election Day matters. At the end of it, we'll all ask ourselves if we did everything we could to make sure that we are able to keep fighting for change.

I know how I want to answer that question. I hope you're with me -- because we're up against the kind of outside spending never seen before in modern politics.

And without people like you, this could get to be a pretty lopsided fight.

November 6th will be here sooner than we think. Donate $3 or more today:



No thanks, actually. Since you guys are the one's fighting like hell to protect the status quo of big government, which is going broke. Romney and Ryan are actually the ticket of change. Also, what's with the constant request for $3? It seems that every request I get from Team 0 is for three bucks. It must be to gin up some tale about grass roots support, but I have to believe it doesn't actually pay back to process a $3 donation. Hope Doo Doo Econ, my favorite financial guy, can explain.

Deirdre McCloskey and the Leftist Narrative of the State

I have been reading about the moral defense of capitalism, through the writings of Deirdre McCloskey. (H/T The Tarquin). On the blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians (tag line: Free Markets and Social Justice) McCloskey responds to criticism of market failures by demanding that those argue for government intervention first prove that government intervention is going to do a better job at solving the supposed market failure than the alternative. Government, being instituted by imperfect human beings is after all, subject to the same failings that sometimes plague the free market; greed, deceit and lust for power. She asks those on the left to consider that their facts might be wrong:
But anyone who after the 20th century still thinks that thoroughgoing socialism, nationalism, imperialism, mobilization, central planning, regulation, zoning, price controls, tax policy, labor unions, business cartels, government spending, intrusive policing, adventurism in foreign policy, faith in entangling religion and politics, or most of the other thoroughgoing 19th-century proposals for governmental action are still neat, harmless ideas for improving our lives is not paying attention.
She goes on to provide a devastating critique of the failures of these forms of statism. Please read the whole article, it is thoroughgoing; but I provide one more paragraph to give you a taste: In the 19th and 20th centuries ordinary Europeans were hurt, not helped, by their colonial empires.
Economic growth in Russia was slowed, not accelerated, by Soviet central planning. American Progressive regulation and its European anticipations protected monopolies of transportation like railways and protected monopolies of retailing like High-Street shops and protected monopolies of professional services like medicine, not the consumers. “Protective” legislation in the United States and “family-wage” legislation in Europe subordinated women. State-armed psychiatrists in America jailed homosexuals, and in Russia jailed democrats. Some of the New Deal prevented rather than aided America’s recovery from the Great Depression.
Indeed, it is hard to think of examples where direct state intervention in the economy has yielded a superior outcome. Best for the state to ensure a level playing field by enforcing contract law, and prohibiting violence and let the market work its magic.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Air Of Confidence - The Ryan Pick

Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his VP, ending months of speculation, has me both nervous and delighted. Nervous, because I am by nature conservative about risk and would have gone with Portman or McDonnell from a pure electoral math perspective. It's probably a good thing I am not a candidate for office. I am delighted because this has the potential to be a game changer in a different way that Palin was a game changer (which I still believe was a great pick at the time.) First, this shows Romney's self confidence, which we need. The polls have made me nervous of late. Second, this will bait the Democrats into an all out class warfare and mediscare attack. But the people, even the elderly, are too smart for that too work. They know that the debt bomb is ticking. A debt ceiling limit might hit before the election, creating a crisis. Romney has positioned himself to be the man with foresight when that hits. I have discussed at length how McCain lost the 2008 election because he came across as erratic on the capital market crisis and ended up agreeing with Obama and Bush on the issue. There will be another crisis between now and November; Romney is positioning himself for the win when it happens.

Ryan is also the voice of the next generation. Brother blogger Dean has voiced his belief that a new battle has been joined in which his generation will have to fight for the future of America. Paul Ryan is a member of that generation and young enough to know that without true reform, the federal deficit will wreck his generation's ability to have any semblance of a retirement. Picking Ryan signals that Romney is ready to take on the serious issues of governing that will face this nation in the next four years.

John Fund has an excellent article on his "The Corner" blog at NRO, that discusses some of Ryan's excellent qualities. Leadership is key. One paragraph from Fund:
Third, Ryan’s ideas aren’t that novel or scary. The idea of “premium support” for Medicare, which would change the program’s one-size-fits-all policy to a private-insurance model with public options, was endorsed by a bipartisan commission appointed by Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. Late last year, Ryan announced a new version of his proposal with a new partner signing on: Democratic senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who first achieved political prominence as an advocate for seniors.
In the video of Ryan's speech after Romney's announcement, Rya hits it out of the park. At the 8:48 mark, he talks to the generational issue that Dean references when he says this:
President Obama and too many like him in Washington have refused to make difficult decisions because they are more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation.
And there is this gem at 14:16. America is more than just a place, though.
America is an idea. It's the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from Nature and God, not from government. . . . We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.
He states that this idea is under assault, by implication, from Obama. He later states:
We won't duck the tough issues, we will lead.
We won't blame others, we will take responsbility.
We won't replace our founding principles, we will reapply them.

If you ladies would like to show your support you can purchase some apparel like this:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Quote of the Day - On Regulation

Comes from Aaron M. Brown, a somewhat obscure blogger who works in IT somewhere north of my locale. In critiquing a Tim Harford talk, he had this to say; which succinctly sums up everything I have thought about regulation.

I have two interrelated quibbles with Harford’s talk. One is that, despite Harford citing several instances in which regulators made dangerous situations worse, not better, his axiomatic position is that it is regulators that will prevent crises in the future. I think this is a deeply flawed position, since regulation and regulators have an incredibly poor track record with regards to various kinds of crises. (Not only did they not prevent the global financial meltdown, they also provided many of the conditions that fostered it. They were also definitely responsible for the real estate crisis in the US that lit the fuse on the whole unhappy incident. Which is to say nothing of the fact that there’s good evidence that they’re actually slowing the recovery and prolonging the economic pain.)

Regulation is a poor substitute for losing your ass and all your assets when you screw up royally.

BTW, I love the name of his blog, "Magic Blue Smoke," even if I'm not yet sure what it means.

Weekend Music Chill

This weekend's music comes from one of the first albums I bought when I went away to boat school and could have a stereo system in my youngster year. (Translation: I was a sophomore.) Here is Willie Nelson with "Blue Skies" from the Stardust album. (I still think this is his best effort. I am sure his fans might disagree. I am not that big of a fan, except of this effort.)

Here is one more track from the album itself, not a live performance, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore."

This album would definitely make my Desert Island Dozen, because I like every song on it, and it is different from what I normally enjoy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Quote of the Week - Age of Cheating

Rick Karlgaard, writing in Forbes about cheating in sports, extends his analysis to the effects on larger society. He is spot on in both:
Cheating in sports is but a single facet of the cheating that’s rampant today in everything from education to finance to government. The financial meltdown of 2008 was a bonfire of bad behavior on all sides. Fannie Mae is built on the lie that every American is capable of paying a mortgage. Mortgage lenders steered victims into loans they could never pay. But the victims were not all innocent. Many lied on loan applications, claiming incomes they never had.

President Obama wrote a biography based on fabrications, which he admitted to this year. The oddest of those lies concern the “girlfriend” he now says was a “compression” of real people. Even small lies reveal character.

Somehow, it is now considered rude to point out this lying and cheating in polite company. You will be called a racist and worse for saying that maybe even the borrowers bad behavior had a hand in the financial meltdown, or that Obama's is less than forthcoming about his true record.

As our friend KT and Left Coast Rebel have pointed out, it is the culture that precedes the economy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Housing Price Snap Back - Temporary?

The WSJ is reporting a significant rise in home prices last month. Shrinking inventories and rising demand is fueling the rise. But here is what I found significant:
Inventories are low for a handful of reasons. Investors who are scooping up homes have been converting them into rentals rather than flipping them, keeping the properties off the market. Banks have slowed their foreclosure processes in the past two years after they were found to be rushing through incomplete paperwork to repossess homes.

New-home construction has been at depressed levels for years, as builders have had to fend off competition from bank-owned foreclosures. That lack of new construction "has set the foundation for a snapback in pricing," said Michael Sklarz, president of Collateral Analytics, a Honolulu-based research firm.

Many traditional sellers are sitting on the sidelines because they are unable or unwilling to sell.
A couple of salient facts. First, housing prices fell enough to entice investors into the market. This has reversed the slide in prices. If the prices pick up a bit more then, other sellers who are sitting on the sidelines can enter the market to which the last paragraph alludes. Had the Obama administration allowed this process to work through more quickly; allowing prices to hit market clearing prices, the whole economy might be recovering by now. As it is, this burst might be short lived.
Foreign buyers may be leaving the market, which would depress demand. There are hints of late that foreign buyers, particularly Europeans in search of bargains, could be poised to pull back from the U.S. housing market.

Trulia, which provides online real-estate listings, reported recently that foreign searches to its site for U.S. homes declined 9% during the last year. In the second quarter of this year, foreign searches accounted for 4.1%, down from 4.5% in the same period in 2011.

. . .

Foreign buyers have played a major role in the U.S. housing market of late. For the past year ending in March, international home buyers accounted for 4.8% of total U.S. sales, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s a total sales volume of roughly $82.5 billion, up from an estimated $66.4 billion in the prior year.
I also think that depressed interest rates are causing the run up in prices. Rental unit profits are sensitive to mortgage rates, because they can make the difference between profit and loss. For example, a 30 year mortgage on a $250,000 loan has a monthly payment of $1342.05, but a 3% loan rate yields a payment of $1054.01 per month. That could mean the difference between profit and loss.

The question is whether prices will rise enough to bring builders back or allow those who are underwater to be able to sell. With the market seemingly so sensitive due to low inventories, and bank foreclosures only temporarily in decline, I think this will be a short lived bump, unfortunately, but certainly instructive.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bilbray and Peters Race Reportedly Close

The U-T is reporting that Democratic sponsored polls are showing a dead heat in my home district, the CA-52, in the race between Brian Bilbray, incumbent Republican and Scott Peters, former City councilman and Port commissioner. One poll was at 40-40 and another at 45-45. While the polls are of likely voters, the real question will be what the actual turn out will look like between Republicans and Democrats. With two huge tax hike initiatives on the state ballot, I am predicting that conservative turn out will be higher because tax hikes tend to bring out those voters. Democrats will have less incentive to vote as Obama is a shoe in to take California's electoral votes. Additionally, Carl DeMaio's campaign will be emphasizing pension reform. Bilbray's campaign will be attacking Peters on that issue for his votes during the time he was on the council. I believe this tilts the field against Peters. From the U-T:
Peters has acknowledged that his vote to underfund the pension system was a mistake but said he's the only candidate in the race to do any meaningful pension reform. He has pointed to negotiating a new pension plan to save the city $23 million a year.

Sounds like a tough sell in this environment, so I am predicting a Bilbray victory, despite these polls.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wayne Root Makes the Call on Obama's College Record

The distraction over Harry Reid's slander over Romney's tax returns has many conservatives and libertarians thinking that Team Obama has got some real chutzpah in making such accusations. Over at the Blaze, Wayne Allyn Root makes the following suggestion:
My answer for Romney? Call Obama’s bluff.

Romney should call a press conference and issue a challenge in front of the nation. He should agree to release more of his tax returns, only if Obama unseals his college records. Simple and straight-forward. Mitt should ask “What could possibly be so embarrassing in your college records from 29 years ago, that you are afraid to let America’s voters see it? If it’s THAT bad, maybe it’s something the voters ought to see.” Suddenly the tables are turned. Now Obama is on the defensive.

My bet is that Obama will never unseal his records because they contain information that could destroy his chances for re-election. Once this challenge is made public, my prediction is you’ll never hear about Mitt’s tax returns ever again.

One of my most visited articles is one in which I state that "Obama's Grades in College were Terrible." My point was that he clearly has something to hide with all of the secrecy surrounding his transcripts and any papers he has written. Others are coming to the same conclusion.

The other way Romney could handle this would be to release a redacted version of his returns that showed how much he paid, and make Harry out to be a liar. But I guess most reasonable people have already come to that conclusion.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vacation and Those Who Did Build That

Mrs. Daddy and I took a little vacation to San Luis Obispo, staying at the Madonna Inn and visiting the Hearst Castle and Paso Robles Wine Country. If I get a little time tomorrow, I will post some highlights on my other blog. But I was struck by the extent to which we were surrounded on our trip by people who built things, with great passion, energy and vision.

William Randolph Hearst was the classic 1%er. His castle is certainly a monument to his ego. But it is also a singular achievement, a symbol of the business empire he built. Our tour guide on the wine country tour remarked how Hearst brought thousands of jobs to San Luis Obispo county through the construction and maintenance of his castle. Further, his work continues to keep people employed to this day. He built little of his empire nor the mansion with government help, yet there it stands, now the property of the state of California, but maintained by the fees and revenue generated from visitors.

In a similar vain, the original owner and visionary who built the Madonna Inn, Alex Madonna, also left a legacy in the hands of the government. According to our guide, Madonna was the prime contractor who built a key stretch of U.S Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo county (I can't find confirmation of this fact). But when Obama says, you didn't build that, I note that seldom does government build that either. They turn to the businesses and entrepreneurs in the private sector to build that, whatever that is that needs building. Alex Madonna also created a unique motif, re-using the rocks in region to build the Madonna Inn, it even has a rock waterfall urinal in the men's room of the downstairs wine and gift shop.

Finally, all of the wineries we visited were owned by families, often a husband and wife team. These owners put toil and love into an enterprise that takes years to pay off. They invite us into their business and share their knowledge and love of wine in their tasting rooms. I found the whole experience very moving, because we could see the effort it takes to get the wine just right and to be able to sell it to us at affordable prices. They deserve our praise, not a scolding from our President for taking too much credit for themselves.

Which leads me to an editorial from Virginia Postrel (H/T Left Coast Rebel). She summarizes the work of Deirdre Mcloskey, who argues that it is the celebration of entrepreneurship that is essential to economic growth, not merely or even largely capital formation.
McCloskey’s book is not only a useful survey of how scholars answer the biggest question in economics: What causes growth? It is also a timely reminder that prosperity depends on more than effort or resources or infrastructure or good laws. Attitudes matter, too. You don’t build a wealthy society by deriding bourgeois enterprise -- or the people who take pride in it.