Friday, February 20, 2009

Weekend Music Chill

As a youngster, I pretty much flunked church. (I was also expelled from kindergarten, but that's a story for another day.) During services I would fidget, goof-off, fall asleep and say the liturgy with strange accents. I'm not proud of my shenanigans, but Lutheran services were pretty tough on youngsters. Now I love getting to church; part of the reason is that the music really speaks to my heart as well as helping me express my worship of God. So for my weekend music, here is Ron Kenoly with one of my favorite worship songs.

More Hate From the Green Movement

The young man pictured at left is Bakouma Kpatekatola, from the West African nation of Togo. Tragically he has died of malaria since this picture was taken. Togo is one of the African nations that has succumbed to environmental fanaticism and banned indoor residual spraying of DDT, an effective method of killing malaria carrying mosquitos. Iowahawk has the whole story here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Coming Carbon Thugocracy Update

During the campaign, I predicted that if Obama won, he would use the EPA to back door Congressional lawmaking and get the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emmisions. From an October article in the WSJ:

In an interview last week with Bloomberg, Mr. Grumet said that come January the Environmental Protection Agency "would initiate those rulemakings" that classify carbon as a dangerous pollutant under current clean air laws. That move would impose new regulation and taxes across the entire economy, something that is usually the purview of Congress. Mr. Grumet warned that "in the absence of Congressional action" 18 months after Mr. Obama's inauguration, the EPA would move ahead with its own unilateral carbon crackdown anyway.
So guess what happened? From the NYT article today:

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to act for the first time to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists blame for the warming of the planet, according to top Obama administration officials.
Unlike the earlier proposal, this effort does not seem to propose the blatantly unconstitutional proposal to have the EPA impose a tax on carbon emissions. The administration is trying not to tread on Congressional toes in other ways as well. Lisa P. Jackson is the new EPA administrator. From the same article:

The finding and proposed regulations would be issued in sequence, with ample opportunity for public comment and not in a sudden burst of regulatory muscle-flexing, Ms. Jackson said. The regulations would work in concert with any legislation and not supplant it, she added.

The article also points out the likelihood of lawsuits that would dramatically draw out the implementation. But I say, bring it on! I would love to see this case in front of the Supreme Court, with the AGW crowd (that's anthropogenic global warming) having to defend their pseudo-science. American Thinker has pointed to the total hysteria on the other side, with little proof that man is (a) causing global warming and (b) that global warming is actually harmful. I think this last bit is the trickiest part for the chicken-little crowd. Just because the earth heats up, life is not necessarily harmed. In fact, increased carbon dioxide and warmth might help biodiversity. If that could be shown, then the tree huggers should be encouraging us to by that Hummer.

But of course, it really isn't about saving the planet is it? It's about wresting control over the lives of individuals to establish a socialist utopia where the intellectuals rule and rid us of our benighted ways. But the dirty little secret of that dream is that thugs with guns always end up ruling, not the so-called enlightened intellectuals.

This is a threat to freedom. It is one more warning, as if we needed one, that Obama is on a crusade to secure socialism in America, just like someone else who just won an election.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Commenting at Daily Kos

Give him credit, the partisan attack dog pictured at left has built one of the most successful blog sites in American politics, left, right or otherwise. I am referring of course, to Markos Moulitsas, proprietor of Daily Kos. I periodically read his blog and occasionally comment, but more as a social experiment than in the expectation of changing hearts and minds. I keep ratcheting up the extremism of my comments in the hopes that they will recognize the parody, so far to no avail. My latest comments actually earned me ratings as an excellent commenter from the Daily Kos crowd.

So I need some help. Read my comments and some replies below and let me know if the Daily Kos commenters have such a lack of irony that I will never get through or should I change tactics.

First the context. Kos (Markos Moulitsas) posted as how Obama's desire for bipartisanship had been a PR disaster on the stimulus package:

Yeah, I know there were those who thought that Obama's obsession with "bipartisanship" was some sort of clever master plan to outflank Republicans or something, but in reality, the obsession with getting Republican votes ended up detracting from the selling of the stimulus itself to the American people.

My comments follow. (You can read the whole thing in context at the link above. You can find my left wing doppleganger by clicking "View Comments" and page searching for BDaddyL. Not very original, but when I picked it, I was in a hurry to comment, kind of like Pop's Datsun joke.)

Why Can't We Just Start Jailing Republicans? by BDaddyL

How does the Republican party differ from a criminal conspiracy under the RICO act? They just act to repay key donors and have a revolving door between government, lobbyists and recipients of their favors. They have lost all rights to have a voice in government. If that doesn't qualify as a criminal syndicate, I don't know what does. With leading rethugs in jail (let's start with Rush Limbug) we can enforce the policies this country needs without all this crap about bipartisanship.

In fairness, despite my good ratings for this post, I think I may have finally hit a nerve. Here is jqb's response:

This is still a democracy, not a fascistic state. People aren't guilty just because some label applies to them -- you can only convict individuals who have been proven to have participated in an illegal conspiracy.

However, one commenter (Troubador) had no moral issue. His response:

Because it would look bad by Troubador.
Sorry, reality is a lot of work.

But I note that no one ever challenges my premise that Republicans are basically criminals. So what do you think, is it worthwhile to influence the debate on the other side by parodying their extremism or should I let it go? (Some days it's too much fun.) I look forward to your comments.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stimulus Passes

I am sure that you read or heard that the stimulus monstrosity passed both Houses and is headed to the President for signature. I am just horrified because:

1. The stimulus will not actually help the economy recover. It's impact is too delayed. The wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly and by the time any of the spending hits the street the economy will already be growing.

2. That said, the increased debt will slow or choke off the recovery. As the recovery gains steam, government borrowing will crowd out private investment and lead to inflation. (Gold prices were up close to 4% this week.)

3. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of this package. Bloggers and talk radio put the spotlight on the "Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research" which was a first step to rationing health care and limiting treatments based on cost. That provision was watered down to $1.1 billion to study comparative treatment cost effectiveness. But since no one seems to have read the whole thing, what else is buried that threatens our liberty?

4. Republicans did not even attempt a filibuster. Opposing this bill required dramatic action, but the GOP was unable to get their act together in opposition.

5. The Buy American provisions in the bill will only invite trade retaliation, which historically, have been very harmful to economic recovery.

I am upset and very down about what this means for our future. Sorry.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Review: The Shack

I keep a list of books I've been reading or have read on the right side of the blog, but have never shared my thoughts on any of them. (I have not finished all of them, either.) Momma Daddy recently asked me about The Shack by William P. Young. I know this book was very popular but has by now "jumped the shark," but I wanted to add my voice to the commentary.

I found the book to be a compelling read. The events in affecting main character, Mack, are horrifying. It is the very nature of those events that makes his subsequent encounters with God all the more compelling. His questions for God are the tough questions we all have wanted to ask. The author doesn't always have God answer directly, which is very realistic, if you think of Job's conversations. Ultimately, this book served to remind me of some basic Christian truths. God loves us, he has a plan not just for us, but for the world, and we have a role to play in his plan.

There are some rumors that this is not a "Christian Book." I am certain this is not true. The mystery of the Trinity is captured as well as any human author can capture it. Accepting Jesus as both God and man are core to Christian belief, and Young does not stray from that view. I think the criticism comes from a couple of scenes that have a "new age" feel to them, but there is nothing in those scenes that fundamentally contradicts basic Christian truth.

For me personally, I was very uplifted by this book. It helped remind me of God's love and goodness, with which I personally struggle. In my view, the first sin occurred not when Eve bit into the fruit; but when she listened to the serpent and doubted God's goodness. It is important to our faith to remember that as well. To quote from the book, God is particularly fond of you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Can Anyone Do Math Anymore?

Today's pretty diagram is brought to you courtesy of your local municipal government here in Enron-by-the-Bay and the regional government. According to the local fishwrap:

Houston-based Jacobs Consultancy, which so far has earned $3.2 million to analyze Lindbergh Field for the Sanders group, said many of the improvements could be funded through landing fees and other airport revenues.

Being in the airport consulting business seems like a great racket. The work is steady, no one really looks hard at you produce, then they just do it again next year.

OK, so how much would this lovely plan cost? It turns out that they quote a cost of a mere $5 to $12 billion. However, in my experience, whenever you have a quote like this, you take the high estimate and triple it and now you're getting close. But hey, there's lots of tourists passing under Charles Lindbergh's visage to pay for this right? Sure are. Turns out, the port authority is estimating that upwards of 20 million passengers per year will be using our airport over the next twenty years.

Now class, it's time to do some math. Don't worry, Professor B-Daddy will step you through the lesson. First, we'll be a little generous and say the project comes in at only $25 billion. How long before we demand the next airport upgrade? Twenty years? OK. How many passengers will we get? 20 x 25 million = 500 million. Wow, that's a lot of passengers. But our bill is $25 billion. $25 billion/500 million passengers = $50 per passenger. That's right, this little ol' improvement will cost an average of $50 per ticket. Southwest Airlines has some fares for less than that. That doesn't even count the interest on the bonds that would have to be issued, which only makes the math worse.

The article talks about landing fees and getting someone else to pay for this, but the bottom line is that no matter who pays, that's mighty expensive and the taxpayer money could be put to better use.

Friday, February 6, 2009

What Ails Us

In these times of financial stress, I submit that we know what's wrong, but we won't face up to our issues. The most difficult things in life to change are both simple and hard. Losing fat weight is a great example. It is simple; eat fewer calories and exercise more; and it is hard, because I am like so many people that I can't seem get it done.

So what's wrong?
1. We don't save enough collectively. Economic growth is tied very closely to the rate of savings. We thought we could defy this particular law by using Chinese savings to finance our growth. Hasn't turned out too well. Meanwhile the government tax code favors debt over saving. But don't be fooled, mere incentives won't fix this, people's bad habits have to change.

2. Our education system isn't serving our needs. In a global economy, the only way to maintain hourly wage rates is to move up the skills ladder. It is folly to expect that low skill jobs will continue to pay high wages forever, when billions of Asians are waiting for the opportunity to do that sort of work. If our workers want to be paid more they must be able to do more. But our education system does not provide sufficient grounding in statistical methods for one example, to allow high school graduates to be effective at using six sigma methodology to improve process control. But we somehow expect the current system to come up with the breakthrough that will improve education. Meanwhile, new methods, such as charter schools are actively fought by entrenched forces. Even the big charities aren't giving money to educational experimentation. But there is another dirty secret, parental involvement in encouraging educational excellence is key. But, some pockets of our culture have come to disdain educational achievement.

3. We expect our government to know best how to direct investment, but this always fails when swimming against economic forces. We tried to push home ownership rates to above market and only managed to wreck that market. In a mostly free economy, government is never going to be powerful enough, wise enough, to direct an outcome that the free market would not provide. The tragedy is that every misdirected dollar is a dollar that doesn't go to a more productive use. What makes this hard to fix? We get addicted to the sweet stuff. Are you a homeowner? Wouldn't elimination of the mortgage interest tax deduction hurt; wouldn't you complain? But that very deduction misallocates resources to home ownership. A big deal? Maybe not, until you add up every corporate welfare subsidy (more ethanol anyone?) and realize how much of the economy is tied in non-productive subsidies.

But more fundamentally, we seem to have lost the sense of morality and civic duty that acted as a compass in year's past. We used to save much more, respect education much more, and believe in making our own way much more. What happened? I submit that the loss of respect for religion is part of the root cause, but I wonder what you think.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stimulus Can Kill You - No REALLY! (Hint: It's not the pork)

Over at American Thinker, Douglas O'Brien points out one of the more pernicious impacts of language in the stimulus bill, designed to kill Americans who need expensive medical treatment so they won't be a burden on the economy. Amazingly, the little piece of legislation was dreamt up by uber-rich guy and tax cheat, Tom Daschle (and former Health Generallisimo wanna-be), who apparently can afford any health treatment he darn well wants.

Puttin' a Damper on Those Bailout Requests

President Obama, in a move that I fully applaud, and was anticipated by George Will last year (see last paragraph of link), capped executive pay at firms receiving bail out money at a paltry half million per year. Why do I applaud such a blatantly anti-capitalist piece of symbolism and political theater? Well, I think the government is going to have a hard time giving away all that TARP jack if it hurts executive's personal bottom line. (Click here to apply yourself, if you think you can stand limiting your salary.)

Dean also saw the writing on this particular wall, commenting on how the mere threat of losing the corporate jet was already dissuading executives from porking out on federal largesse. How are they going to react to the loss of 7 or 8 figures off their personal paychecks. Some of these guys personal mortgages probably top the half million number.

As an aside, I had the good fortune to listen to Marshal Goldsmith yesterday, a great speaker. He discussed the motivating power of money and how he uses it in his executive coaching practice. He remarked that his client base consisted primarily of rich old men. "You would think they wouldn't mind losing small amounts of money, right? Well, you would be WRONG." He uses small fines in the $5 to $20 dollar per incident to get these executives to change bad behavior. If $5 bucks a crack can motivate investment bankers and Fortune 500 CEOs, what you think Obama's plan is going to do?

So good luck to the Prez and the new tax collector-in-chief in disbursing the rest of the bailout money. If you'll excuse me now, I've got an application to submit; I think I can squeak by on the $500K and the line seems a lot shorter now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Creating a Climate of Fear

Dean has some great insight on the stimulus porkage over at BwD. One of his many great points is that the Democrats are doing exactly what they always accuse Republicans of, namely, creating a climate of fear. Meanwhile, Professor Perry, at Carpe Diem, has posted a number of articles showing how the recession is a) not as bad as portrayed in the media and b) will be over before stimulus can make it worse. (By the way, reading Carpe Diem every day is like taking a class in applied economics, I highly recommend it, especially in these uncertain times.)

Meanwhile, Democrat spokesperson below has a tough time defending the pork in this package.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

This Could be Illegal Updated Video

In Colorado at least, if that BBQ raised more than $200 for a political cause, such as a local ballot proposition. Sometimes the worst tyranny is local. Colorado has some of the most draconian campaign finance "reform" laws in the nation. Their main effect is to stifle the free expression of grass roots political organizations. We're also seeing their use in California to intimidate backers of Proposition 8, but that's a post for another day. Watch the video below to see how Becky Clark got sued for putting up yard signs to oppose a local annexation.

UPDATE - Dean pointed problems with the video, so I found code that worked.

H/T: Institute for Justice

Fruits of Labor and Loss

Dean here. Iraqis went to the polls yesterday to vote for local representatives aimed at creating provincial councils that will control municipal budgets and have the power to hire and fire people.

There was a noticeable lack of violence with tight security including a driving ban in most of the country to prevent suicide bombing.
Nationwide, turnout varied: Some provinces hovered around 60 percent, with Basra, a Shiite-dominated region in the south, still lower at about 50 percent.

There was also some confusion in various areas as to where it was people were supposed to vote and there were reports of people being turned away because their names were not on the voter rolls.

Sound like anywhere else you know?
But a U.N. election observer, Said Arikat, described the election in mostly positive terms. “By and large, the rules were followed.”

Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. official in Iraq, said, “This is a good day for Iraq's democracy.”

Long may the men and women of Iraq be able to argue and haggle over hanging chads, disenfranchisement and voting irregularities.

And God Bless the men and women of this and other coutries' armed forces who made what seemed an impossibility 6 years ago, a reality.