Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Fair" - The Word Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

Here's a thought provoking video at Reason TV of experimental economist Bart Wilson of Chapman University talking about the concept of fairness. We have been trained over time to  tend to think of equality of outcome as synonymous with "fair" and there may be an element of that in it. From Reason's blurb on the video: "[Wilson] argues that fairness should not be construed as equality of outcome, but as a process in which everyone plays by the rules and honors agreements. When lawmakers obscure the definition of this word, it may result in policy that is ineffective, arbitrary, and fundamentally unfair."  One example he gives is how politicians have gone about deciding what constitutes a fair wage, rather than leaving the markets to sort out that question.  Spend 8 minutes and watch the video.

(via Instapundit)
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Tax Hit To Come - Ouch

Via Instapundit I found this tax calculator which allows you to estimate what your income tax burden is going to be if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. Without getting into the specifics of my own income, my wife and I collectively earn well under the $250,000 a year under which President Obama promised nobody would see "a single dime" of increased taxes. That would be wrong and of course he knew all along that it is wrong. According to the calculator, I will see an increase of 20% in my annual tax burden amounting to around $270 a month in reduced take home pay. That's about a couple of weeks worth of groceries in this household, and with one child about to start college, its a hit to my take home pay I can ill afford.

If you are similarly situated, get on the phone to your congressman, Democrat or Republican and spell it out for them. I suspect you'll get a friendlier reception from the Republican but make sure they all know how much it's going to hurt.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Whinge - HP Health Check Drives Me Crazy

I am writing this on an HP laptop. One of the maintenance applications that came with it is HP Health Check. This runs every so often and checks to see if there are any software or driver updates for installed components/basic utility programs on the computer. This is a good thing, but unlike Microsoft Update, which automatically installs routine updates in the background and lets you know when it has finished the HP updates require you to install each and every one manually, making you read and accept a EULA for each and every one and sometimes that is half a dozen or more updates.  I mean really, why is it necessary to have a EULA for a routine update to software you already have installed? Who do they think actually reads the damn things? This manual installation process becomes very laborious and distracts me from writing brilliant and insightful blog posts (now you know why they're so lame. It's HP's fault) as the updates keep clamoring for attention.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Victor Davis Hanson on the Postmodern Cultural Elites

Victor Davis Hanson offers a meditation on five things about our self-appointed, so-called cultural elites that are just so irritating. It boils down to their lack of ability to separate truth from their fantasy world or to see the logical conclusions that must flow from their preferred policies, especially as they are so far removed from the realities of how things are made, how their food finds its way to their tables, etc. They don't even appear to suffer from any form of cognitive dissonance at all from the contradictions that they must deal with in their daily lives.

Professor Hanson on number five, the logic deficit:

There is little logic among the cultural elite, maybe because there is little omnipresent fear of job losses or the absence of money, and so arises a rather comfortable margin to indulge in nonsense. The idea that taxes cause scarcity, and subsidy abundance is a foreign concept. The notion that entitlements create dependency is considered Neanderthal. Tough penalties supposedly do not deter crime. Abroad, military preparedness or deterrence pales in comparison to “soft” diplomatic power and clever talking. Borrowing trillions is “stimulus” and need not quite be paid back. In other words, take a deep breath and imagine the opposite of everything you know by experience to be true, and you have mostly the worldview of the sheltered cultural elite, who navigate in rather protected channels and not in the open seas of the real world.

Read the whole thing, of course.

Update: From the comments, Mike McDaniel has some excellent insights along the same lines. PIO: Practical. Industrious. Optimistic. These are the characteristics of the kind of Americans that get things done. Not those who govern us right now. He calls this the PIO loop, like John Boyd's OODA loop (getting inside your opponents decision cycle and acting faster than he can).

Here are a few examples: Problem: Spending too much money. PIO solution: Quit spending money(!), perhaps work extra hours to make more and save more, know that this will reduce debt. Of course, for the elite, such as liberal economist Paul Krugman–he’s a Nobel laureate you know, if you don’t believe it, just ask him or the New York Times–such solutions are too pedestrian. Taxing, spending and borrowing previously unimaginable sums is the only solution. Why can’t the rabble see that? Problem: Oil spill in the Gulf. PIO Solution: Get people who know what they’re doing and plug the damned thing, fast. Work around the clock to do it. Pull out all the stops to waive any obstructing rule, obtain whatever equipment and personnel are required to contain the oil and clean it up. Worry about assigning blame later. Once that’s decided and the right people are working, there is every reason to believe it will get done, done right and done fast. But for the elite, action consists of endless talking, appointing commissions comprised of people who have no specific knowledge applicable to the task like Dr. Chu–he won the Nobel prize too!–press releases, and engaging every niggling, pencil-necked federal agency possible to dissemble, obstruct and hamstring the people who are actually trying to do the work. Blame and threaten everybody in sight, act macho and threaten to put your expensive, dainty little boots on the well-muscled necks of people who know what they’re doing. Travel to the Gulf and set up photo ops of you, looking concerned while touching and staring at apparently oil soiled sand. Send your wife to the gulf. Be sure that she’s wearing a dress that looks as though it has been soiled with oil (style and theme are important!), and set up a press conference on a beach so the dumber folks understand all the work your advance people went to for the proper, symbolic setting. Then go on vacation and be sure to provide a separate jet for your dog. And the well is finally capped, apparently through the insights of a plumber, a guy who, every day, lives PIO.

That's not all. Go and read it.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

More On Yesterday's Post About the Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution

Yesterday I commented on a piece linked to by Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, which I found to be a pretty sobering read. Glenn has a follow up on it today in response to some of his readers who want to know what can be done about it.  Glenn has some good advice and a few of the readers who wrote in to him also have some suggestions and points worth thinking about.

Read the whole thing.

Update: Related thoughts at Power Line (also via Instapundit)

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Could We Have the Next Billy Mays Here?

Watch the following public service announcement and decide for yourself:

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America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution

There is an excellent (but rather long, so set aside some time) piece at The American Spectator by Angelo M. Codevilla, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University. In it he talks about what he calls the "ruling class" and the "country class" (that would be us) and the deepening divide between the two. You should read the whole thing but just as an example, here is his explanation of why laws have gotten so long and complex, to the point that the people who enact them don't even know what is in them.

"Laws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally. For example, the health care bill of 2010 takes more than 2,700 pages to make sure not just that some states will be treated differently from others because their senators offered key political support, but more importantly to codify bargains between the government and various parts of the health care industry, state governments, and large employers about who would receive what benefits (e.g., public employee unions and auto workers) and who would pass what indirect taxes onto the general public. The financial regulation bill of 2010, far from setting univocal rules for the entire financial industry in few words, spends some 3,000 pages (at this writing) tilting the field exquisitely toward some and away from others. Even more significantly, these and other products of Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses empower countless boards and commissions arbitrarily to protect some persons and companies, while ruining others. Thus in 2008 the Republican administration first bailed out Bear Stearns, then let Lehman Brothers sink in the ensuing panic, but then rescued Goldman Sachs by infusing cash into its principal debtor, AIG. Then, its Democratic successor used similarly naked discretionary power (and money appropriated for another purpose) to give major stakes in the auto industry to labor unions that support it. Nowadays, the members of our ruling class admit that they do not read the laws. They don't have to. Because modern laws are primarily grants of discretion, all anybody has to know about them is whom they empower.

By making economic rules dependent on discretion, our bipartisan ruling class teaches that prosperity is to be bought with the coin of political support. Thus in the 1990s and 2000s, as Democrats and Republicans forced banks to make loans for houses to people and at rates they would not otherwise have considered, builders and investors had every reason to make as much money as they could from the ensuing inflation of housing prices. When the bubble burst, only those connected with the ruling class at the bottom and at the top were bailed out. Similarly, by taxing the use of carbon fuels and subsidizing "alternative energy," our ruling class created arguably the world's biggest opportunity for making money out of things that few if any would buy absent its intervention. The ethanol industry and its ensuing diversions of wealth exist exclusively because of subsidies. The prospect of legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions and allot certain amounts to certain companies set off a feeding frenzy among large companies to show support for a "green agenda," because such allotments would be worth tens of billions of dollars. That is why companies hired some 2,500 lobbyists in 2009 to deepen their involvement in "climate change." At the very least, such involvement profits them by making them into privileged collectors of carbon taxes. Any "green jobs" thus created are by definition creatures of subsidies -- that is, of privilege. What effect creating such privileges may have on "global warming" is debatable. But it surely increases the number of people dependent on the ruling class, and teaches Americans that satisfying that class is a surer way of making a living than producing goods and services that people want to buy.

Beyond patronage, picking economic winners and losers redirects the American people's energies to tasks that the political class deems more worthy than what Americans choose for themselves.........."

It is a maxim that ignorance of the law is no excuse if you happen to break it. I think that position needs to be revisited. If those who enact them are ignorant of them, how is it just to hold those subject to them accountable, especially when they are now so complex that they are impossible to understand and so easy to break without intending to?

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Friday, July 16, 2010

iPhone 4 Defective - Chuckie Schumer Comes to the Rescue

So Steve Jobs' legendary perfectionism ( or OCD as the case may be) has finally gotten the better of him and form now has a decisive upper hand over function. "So what if the thing is defective. It's too pretty to make it work right." Well, not to worry Chuckie Schumer is on the case. Of course, poor Chuckie can't help himself either. After all, he heard that the iPhone 4 has not just one but two, count'em, two cameras (!). As anyone who has followed his exploits knows, the most dangerous place in the world to be is between Chuckie Schumer and the nearest camera. He just can't bear the thought that someone transmitting his beaming visage might just lose the call. That just won't do.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Obama Attempts to Rewrite History on Budget Deficits

Keith Hennessey calls him on it. Just go and read it.

(via Instapundit)
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Matt Labash On Living Like a Liberal - It's Not As Easy As It Looks

Weekly Standard writer Matt Labash has just read Justin Krebs book, 538 Ways to Live Work and Play Like a Liberal and has now seen the error of his conservative ways. He has decided to take Krebs advice to heart and as he says: "Since politics, particularly liberal politics, bring people so much joy, wouldn’t I be better off politicizing everything—the way I live and work and play? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. The answer is a resounding “yes,”" . Of course you should go and read the whole chronicle of how he is changing his life, but this part about how he is bringing his new liberal principals to his work place. 

One thing liberals need to feel is a sense of community. I learn this from reading a very important liberal book, Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, while sitting on my front porch, smiling and waving at my neighbors (thus pulling a Krebsian hat trick). Krebs says that “every office will benefit from its staff feeling a sense of ownership,” which means a free exchange of ideas, which means a “feedback box” by which “management hears from its team.” 

I’m not a craftsy person, so I decide to forgo constructing a physical feedback box and set up a virtual suggestion box instead. I email colleagues that I will collect their important feedback and send it to our boss, Bill Kristol. After I open my virtual box for business, a flood of feedback comes in. Here are just some of the things my colleagues are convinced they need to make The Weekly Standard a more positive work experience:

More key parties .  .  . institute a ‘buddy system’ for all lavatory use .  .  . group showers, so we can save water and go easier on our earth mother .  .  . more irony in staff meetings .  .  . fewer first-person insertions into magazine pieces .  .  . prepare for Y2K .  .  . pension off Labash .  .  . change our name to ‘US News & Weekly Standard Report’ .  .  . institute an open-door trust-tree policy for managers so that employees understand that they are in a safe space to seek counsel for personal/emotional problems/issues.

I forward the results to Kristol, who seems fairly amenable. He agrees to the first three demands, and regarding group showers, vows to go “the extra mile by ending gender segregation and don’t ask, don’t tell.” Regarding many of the suggestions from our literary editor, Phil Terzian, Kristol promises to “check on whether Terzian has too much free time.”

Read it all. It's hilarious.

(Thanks, Megan!)
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Friday, July 09, 2010

Cats and Dogs Living Together - NHS Puts Doctors In Direct Charge of Patient Care

In what the Daily Telegraph is billing as the biggest revolution in 60 years, Britain's National Health Service is giving doctors sole responsibility for front line patient care, the way it should have been all along. It's a step in the right direction, and the opposite direction to which we are going if Obamacare goes into effect.

The decision represents a victory for Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary Photo: PA About £80billion will be distributed to family GPs in a move that will see strategic health authorities and primary care trusts scrapped.

The plan, contained in a white paper to be published next week, is designed to place key decisions about how patients are cared for in the hands of doctors who know them. Tens of thousands of administrative jobs in the health service will be lost as a result.

It's hard as an American to believe that it would be done any other way. And eliminating all those administrative jobs? Bonus. That should drive plenty of costs out of the system.
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The Business of Government - Doctor Zero Has Some Thoughts

Over at Hot Air, Doctor Zero has some thoughts on what he calls "the business of government" in light of the revelation this week that NASA's primary mission is now, according to its Administrator, Charles Bolden, Muslim Outreach. Hardly what one would thinkg of as even an afterthought to NASA's mission, let alone a top priority. Unfortunately, NASA's loss of focus is not limited to itself. Government at all levels and in every department and agency suffers from the same sort of mission creep. Doc Z blames it on the conversion "of limited authority, granted through reason, into a limitless moral imperative." Once that happens, he says:

"The transformation from reasoned limitations to moral authority allows the State to abandon logic in the application of fundamental rights, such as property rights. If the State respected the property rights of all citizens equally, it could not exist in its current form. Redistribution would be impossible. A government restrained by reason would be expected to complete its tasks quickly and efficiently, like a private contractor. Its agencies would be terminated for failure, freeing up resources to be allocated elsewhere. Instead, the crusading government brings us trillion-dollar Wars on Poverty that don’t reduce poverty, trillion-dollar stimulus bills that don’t stimulate anything, and massive departments blending into a Rorschach inkblot of mission creep. None of its agencies will ever complete an assignment, and no amount of money we give it will ever be enough.

That is why we need to stand up and say no to government without limits and return to the principals of limited government as envisioned by the Founders.

Read the whole thing.
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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Scott Ott on Unions and Jobs Americans Can't Do

Scott Ott claims that big union collectivism is turning us into a nation of brain-dead robots, incapable of filling open jobs even if any are available. Why?

1) Job compartmentalization by powerful unions discouraged cross-training and skills development in exchange for “security.”

2) Teachers’ unions continue to produce high school “graduates” whose mental capabilities make them unworthy of the title.

In other words, the anti-competitive spirit of private- and public-sector unions conspires to dumb down its victims, making them into dependents — first of the union and then of the state, when the employer lets them go, or goes under. Even workers in non-union jobs and plants have felt the impact of career compartmentalization as unions have bullied employers to transform the logistics of the factory to suit their members’ alleged need for “security.”

It even extends to our political class. You just have to shake your head at the following gem from Nancy Pelosi earlier this week.

You can almost hear the dull hum of lethargic synapses in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s numbed skull as she says that extending unemployment benefits is “the best way to stimulate the economy.”

That’s right. Rep. Pelosi says the productive members of society should pay others to remain unemployed as a way to generate the juice that keeps our economy surging forward.

If she really beleives that, the brain rot has set in much deeper than I thought or she thinks we're stupid. Go and read the whole thing.
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Friday, July 02, 2010