Thursday, December 05, 2013

Shards. Bill Whittle Returns to the Long-Form Essay

Before Bill Whittle started producing the Afterburner and Firewall videos he wrote a number of long-form essays that were eventually published as a book, “Silent America.” You can still find those essays at his old website, Eject! Eject! Eject!. They are all well worth your time to read but today Bill just posted a new essay, “Shards,” that is as good as any of the essays that precede it. A sample: 

There’s not a person reading these words who, raised with an understanding that Freedom is not the default state of man but rather a force field against tyranny that must be maintained every day through effort and hard work – there’s not one among you that does not look out into the free land that was handed to us by our ancestors with dismay, and the same sense of unfocused dread that a thousand generations felt as the sun dipped ever lower, day by day – because this time, perhaps, it will not climb again.

The history of mankind has been to rule and to be ruled. For reasons that you and I will never understand, there exists in some people an insatiable desire to tell other people what to do; to bend others to their will. I suspect that every single one of those hearts is filled with a dread, a genuine horror, at the wasteland of their own emptiness, and so the bombast and the narcissism and the arrogance; the legions of fainting faithful and the roar of the applause; the reflections, the logos, the insertion of themselves into every event in history; the mind-numbing obsession with power – all of these, I think, are just shovels full of coal being pitched into the bottomless furnace of their own self-hatred.

Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

When Politics Collides With Reality…..

….The results are rarely pretty.

They have a saying in the world of Engineering; Sure you can have it better, faster, cheaper. Pick any two.

This was the undoing of Obamacare, why it blew up on the launch pad so to speak. Politicians (the Democrat variety, that is) tried to will into existence a whole new way of delivering heath care without having any understanding of the complexity of what they were asking for. Clay Shirky has a great article about this phenomenon over at his blog. It’s a read-the-whole-thing kind of post but this part is worth highlighting:

If I had to design a litmus test for whether our political class grasps the internet, I would look for just one signal: Can anyone with authority over a new project articulate the tradeoff between features, quality, and time?

When a project cannot meet all three goals—a situation was clearly in by March—something will give. If you want certain features at a certain level of quality, you’d better be able to move the deadline. If you want overall quality by a certain deadline, you’d better be able to simplify, delay, or drop features. And if you have a fixed feature list and deadline, quality will suffer.

Intoning “Failure is not an option” will be at best useless, and at worst harmful. There is no “Suddenly Go Faster” button, no way you can throw in money or additional developers as a late-stage accelerant; money is not directly tradable for either quality or speed, and adding more programmers to a late project makes it later. You can slip deadlines, reduce features, or, as a last resort, just launch and see what breaks.

Denying this tradeoff doesn’t prevent it from happening. If no one with authority over the project understands that, the tradeoff is likely to mean sacrificing quality by default. That just happened to this administration’s signature policy goal. It will happen again, as long politicians can be allowed to imagine that if you just plan hard enough, you can ignore reality. It will happen again, as long as department heads imagine that complex technology can be procured like pencils. It will happen again as long as management regards listening to the people who understand the technology as a distasteful act.

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Thanksgiving Is Almost Here and That Means It’s Chestnut Soup Time

I have made this soup recipe every Thanksgiving (and usually Christmas too) for as long as I can remember. It is really, really good.

If you don’t want to go through the work of roasting and shelling chestnuts (an it can be pretty tedious) Williams-Sonoma (for one place) sells them in jars pre-peeled. I just bought two today for $15 each on sale.

Did I mention how good this soup is?

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

And the Winner Is (and always will be): Arithmetic

Charlie Martin over at PJ Media has a great post on Obamacare vs. Arithmetic that explains why the promises of Obamacare can’t be kept and never could have been. You should go and read the whole thing of course but this part on Gammon’s Theory of Bureaucratic Displacement is worth excerpting:

What does change the relationship is that we start to run into something Milton Friedman called “Gammon’s Law,” which originated with a study of Britain’s National Health Service done by Dr. Max Gammon. Friedman called it the Theory of Bureaucratic Displacement:

In a bureaucratic system, increases in expenditure are paralleled by a corresponding decrease in production.

Translated from the economist-ese, that means in a bureaucratic system, the more you spend on something, the less you get of it.

Gammon’s original work in which he identified this found the correlation was very nearly perfect: as the number of pounds spent on the National Health System increased, the number of hospital beds declined. The correlation was    -0.99.

Aside: for those of you who don’t eat and breathe statistics. Imagine you have a loaf of sliced bread. You weigh the bread, then take out a slice, then weigh it again; keep taking out slices of bread and re-weighing.

The correlation between the number of slices taken out, and the weight of the remaining bread, will be around -0.99.

Why does this happen? There are at least a couple of reasons. As more money goes into the bureaucracy, there’s more pressure to make sure it’s being spent well, which means more forms, more auditors, more independent review boards. All of that takes time and money, and that time and money are being taken away from what used to be the goal.

The second reason is that as administration develops, it becomes its own constituency. Administrators are more important that the people doing the work — they must be, right? I mean, they’re the managers. Administrators get paid more, and in a bureaucracy, administration is the route to higher pay, better offices, and more perks. What’s more, the people doing the work have to do more work to support the administrators. Doctors are seeing that now — new record-keeping requirements, from HIPAA to electronic record systems.

The upshot, though, is that once a system becomes bureaucratic, adding money makes it worse.

And that’s the arithmetic of Obamacare. You start off with something that makes some sense — it’s perfectly reasonable to want insurance against the chance you’ll be hurt in a car accident or develop cancer. Then, because of weird tax incentives, you start doing something that makes less sense: asking insurance companies to pay for things instead of giving you the money to pay for them yourself. Then we start mandating coverage too — so I have to pay for maternity and OB/GYN coverage, even though I’m a 58-year-old single man with no obvious prospect of impending pregnancy.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Maybe This Is Appropriate for a Website That Was DOA

Is it just me or does  lower part of the circular graphic on the left of the busy screen below look like a pair of toe tags?


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Monday, October 21, 2013

Dear Liberal, Here’s Why I’m So Hostile

I just discovered a blog I’ve never run across before; Sufficient Reason. Proprietor Jeremy Choate has an awe-inspiring rant against the “Liberal” creed. A sample:

The fact is, you can rail against my conservatism all you wish.  You can make fun of my Tea Party gatherings, and you can ridicule patriots in tri-corner hats until you wet yourself from mirth, but one thing is for certain: my political philosophy will NEVER be a threat to your freedom.  If you feel a burning responsibility to the poor, conservatism will never prevent you from working 80 hours per week and donating all of your income to charity.  If you feel a strong sense of pity for a family who cannot afford health insurance, my political philosophy will never prevent you from purchasing health insurance for this family or raising money to do so, if you cannot afford it, personally.  If you are moved with compassion for a family who is homeless, a conservative will never use the police power of government to prevent you from taking that family in to your own home or mobilizing your community to build one for them.

However, you cannot say the same for liberalism.  If I choose not to give to the poor for whatever reason, you won’t simply try to persuade me on the merits of the idea — you will seek to use the government as an instrument of plunder to force me to give to the poor.  If we are walking down the street together and we spot a homeless person, using this logic, you would not simply be content with giving him $20 from your own pocket — you would hold a gun to my head and force me to give him $20, as well.

Read it all.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Don’t Allow the Shutdown to Hurt. Make It Hurt – Bill Whittle

Bill Whittle’s latest Afterburner video, “Essential,” is up. He has a few things to say about the now ended government shutdown. No further comment is needed from me.
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Conrad Black on the Disaster That Is Obamacare

Over at National Review Online Conrad Black is positively scathing (and dead right) about the state of our legal and political systems and how it lead to the utter disaster that is Obamacare being foisted on us.

The Affordable Care Act was passed in a dubious manner. The 60-vote level in the Senate was obtained by the subornation of Arlen Specter in that tainted window between his rejection by his own party and his defeat by the Pennsylvania voters, and by Al Franken’s questionable win in the Senate election in Minnesota, where partisan, county-by-county recounts overturned the people’s choice. Also, most egregiously, Republican senator Ted Stevens of Alaska had been narrowly defeated in 2008 after being convicted of taking a bribe — a conviction that was subsequently thrown out because of the prosecutor’s completely improper suppression of exculpatory evidence. (At least this was not a partisan act, as this was one of the more flamboyant initiatives of the George W. Bush Justice Department.)

The Affordable Care Act, then, owes its existence to political treachery, electoral hijinks, and extreme prosecutorial misconduct, and it ill behooves the Democrats and their incessant hallelujah chorus among both the hacks and the incurably gullible in the media to incant with woeful faces and in mournful inflection any misuse of due legislative process. The fact that the chief justice had to transform himself into an acrobat and claim that Obamacare was constitutional, under the federal government’s right to tax, does not excuse everybody else from seeing this ill-conceived monstrosity of a law for what it is and what its provenance is.

That isn’t all he has to say by any means. You should absolutely click through and read the whole thing.

One observation that I would add is that everything he has described correlates with the increasing concentration of power at the top, with the federal government. This is what the Founding Fathers feared might happen and, alas, it appears that these fears may be coming true.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The GOP House of Representatives Has Offered Eleven Separate Bills to Try and End the Budget Stalemate…….

…… And eleven times, the Democrat Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has refused to even allow these bills to be voted on in the Senate. President Stompy Foot Obama has promised to veto them anyway. So this is the fault of the Republican House? No. The Republicans are the reasonable adults here. The Democrats typical form of “negotiation” is reaching an extreme. “Give us everything we demand (i.e., give up all your bargaining leverage and we’ll call it “compromise”) and then we will “negotiate.”“ This is not negotiation. It is dictation of terms. Meanwhile the maladministration seeks to inflict maximum pain on the American people by cutting off access to open plazas grinding hiring to a halt, needlessly preventing businesses from operating, and just generally making it very well known how unhappy the Man Who Would Be King is. From the first link:

1. Roll Call 478 on H.J. Res. 59 (September 20, 2013)

Earlier in September, House Republicans voted to fund the government at current spending levels while strengthening our economy and protecting millions of American families by defunding ObamaCare.

Senate Democrats killed the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

2. Roll Call 497/498 on H.J. Res 59 (September 28, 2013)

With hours left until the government ran out of funding, House Republicans voted to keep the government open at current spending levels while protecting our economy by delayingthe glitch-filled ObamaCare for one year and repealing the tax on medical devices like pacemakers and children’s hearing aides.

Senate Democrats killed the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it, causing the government shutdown.

3. Roll Call 504 on H.J. Res 59 (September 30, 2013)On September 30, the House GOP again voted to fund the government at current spending levels, while ensuring that Congress doesn’t receive special treatment under ObamaCare, and delaying ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

Again, Senate Democrats killed the measure in the Senate, and President Obama threatened to veto.

4. Roll Call 505 on H.J. Res 59 (September 30, 2013)

That same night, Republicans in the House voted to request a formal House-Senate conference, so Democrats and Republicans could sit down at the table and negotiate to resolve their differences.

Senate Democrats defeated that resolution, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

5. Voice Vote on Provide Local Funding for the District of Columbia Act (October 2, 2013)To help reopen parts of the government while Democrats refused to negotiate, House Republicans passed H.J. Res. 71 by voice vote, which would have restored funding for the government of the District of Columbia.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

6. Roll Call 513 on Open Our Nation’s Parks and Museums Act (October 2, 2013)

To help reopen parts of the government while Democrats refused to come to the table and work out differences, the House GOP voted to restore funding for the nation’s parks and museums – including the World War Two Memorial in Washington that has been closed to visiting veterans.

Senate Democrats killed the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

7. Roll Call 514 on Research for Lifesaving Cures Act (October 2, 2013)To help restore funding for vital cancer research and other lifesaving innovations, the House GOP voted to reopen the National Institute of Health.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill (see Harry Reid ask a reporter “why would we want to do that?” when asked if he would vote to resume funding for children’s cancer treatment), and President Obama threatened to veto it.

8. Roll Call 516 on Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act (October 3, 2013)

In order to make sure that the government shutdown doesn’t get in the way of paying our National Guard and Reserve, the House GOP voted for the Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

ise to America’s Veterans Act (October 3, 2013)The House GOP voted to provide immediate funding for vital veterans benefits and services during the government shutdown.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

10. Roll Call 522 on National Emergency and Disaster Recovery Act (October 4, 2013)The House GOP voted to provide immediate funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure Americans have access to emergency responders in the case of a disaster.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

11. Roll Call 524 on Nutrition Assistance for Low-Income Women and Children Act (October 4, 2013) The House GOP voted to provide immediate funding for nutritional assistance for nearly 9 low-income million mothers and children.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill, and President Obama threatened to veto it.

So who are the obstructionist here, the people who make very reasonable requests, or those who say it’s my way or no other? 

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

John McCain Should Do the Honorable Thing…..

….and resign, then run for his seat again in a special election if he wants to keep it. He has been one of my senators for almost 10 years and I have voted for him, reluctantly, and not usually as my first choice. He only represents Arizona’s interests for one year out of every six, the year leading up to his next reelection. For the other five years he seems to relish his role as “the Maverick,” and does what he damned well pleases, despite what the people of the State of Arizona tell him they want. He always knows better and seems to be more concerned wth Senate “comity” than doing what is right. He’s exhibit number one as to why the 17th amendment was a bad idea. 

Today, after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is acutely aware that he answers to the people of Texas, not the Senate Majority Leader ( who happens to be with the other party, BTW) spoke for 21 hours against funding Obamacare (actually 21 hours starting yesterday), Senator McCain delivered what might as well have been the Democrat response. Mike Walsh at PJ Media has the basics. Here is the main point:
  • his disgraceful attacks on Cruz, including his reach-across-the-aisle, dog-in-the-manger response today, this should be the end of Senator John McCain as a voice of influence in the Republican party. Ditto his mini-me, Senator Lindsey Graham. Indeed, the entire Old Guard of business-as-usual “comity” fans passeth. When you care more about what the other side thinks, it’s probably time either to switch teams or step down.
  • There is new leadership in the GOP, whether the party wants to admit it or not: Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Jeff Sessions, and the others who stepped into the breach to spell the senator from Texas.
  • The Cruz faction in the Senate, and its allies in the House (whose leadership is now up for grabs) must now press their advantage. The louder the Democrats squawk, the more they are wounded; the one thing they’ve long feared is a direct assault on their core beliefs as translated into actions, and the deleterious effects of Obamacare, just now being felt by the population, are the most vivid proof of the failure of Progressivism that conservatives could wish for.
  • Win or lose, the battle is now joined: First the struggle for the GOP and then the battle for control of Congress and the presidency. Cruz just struck at the kings he could reach — the Republican “leadership” — and has most likely dealt them a fatal blow. Now the Tea Party hordes must back him up by eliminating his opponents (who tend to be geriatrics, and thus “leaders” by longevity rather than talent or commitment) through the primary process wherever possible. If he can carry off this coup, he and Senator Paul will very quickly find themselves elevated from back-benchers to commanders.
Finally, this:
  • Any party that cannot successfully sell freedom and personal liberty doesn’t deserve power. The trick will be to explain — by word and deed — that the Democrats’ Manichean choice (Big Brother or the orphanage) is a false one, that less can be more, and that the restoration of a Republic of self-reliant citizens will benefit all Americans — not simply the government class and its clients.
The last bullet point is absolutely correct. If the Republican party can’t recognize that, sell it, articulate it and convince us all that they BELIEVE in it, it’s all over.
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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Jonah Goldberg on the Myth of Live-and-Let Live Liberalism

First, the term Liberalism, as used in the US, is anything but in the sense of classical liberalism. It is statism/progressivism. Jonah does make this point in the National Review Online article here. That said he uses the news that the DC City government is about to issue 66 pages of rules regulating the tattoo and piercing industries to illustrate the point that when it comes to intrusive and largely unnecessary regulation, you are going to find a liberal-run big city, state or national government entity behind it.   From the article:

There is a notion out there that being “socially liberal” means you’re a libertarian at heart, a live-and-let-live sort of person who says “whatever floats your boat” a lot.

Alleged proof for this amusing myth (or pernicious lie; take your pick) comes in the form of liberal support for gay marriage and abortion rights, and opposition to a few things that smack of what some people call “traditional values.”

The evidence disproving this adorable story of live-and-let-live liberalism comes in the form of pretty much everything else liberals say, do, and believe.

Social liberalism is the foremost, predominant, and in many instances sole impulse for zealous regulation in this country, particularly in big cities. I love it when liberals complain about a ridiculous bit of PC nanny-statism coming out of New York, L.A., Chicago, D.C., Seattle, etc. — “What will they do next?”

Uh, sorry to tell you, but you are “they.” Outside of a Law and Order script — or an equally implausible MSNBC diatribe about who ruined Detroit — conservatives have as much influence on big-city liberalism as the Knights of Malta do.

Read the whole thing.

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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Is There a “Right” to Healthcare?

According to the late professor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Duke University, John David Lewis there is not, at least as interpreted by Jared Rhoads at The Objective Standard where he reviews a newly published essay that appears in a Medical Ethics text; Medical Ethics, 2nd Edition, edited by Michael Boylan. The key part from Rhoads’ review:

Lewis describes two basic and conflicting views of rights in America today. One is the idea of rights as entitlements to goods and services. The other is the idea of rights as moral prerogatives to freedom of action.

The first view holds that if a person has an unmet human need—a need that could be satisfied by some good or service—then it is incumbent upon others who are able to satisfy that need to do so. In other words, needs impose duties.

Lewis explains that this view fails in two important ways. First, because human needs are boundless, the consistent application of the notion that needs impose duties would lead to an endless creation of duties, and to ever-increasing government control over the lives of citizens, precisely because there is no end to the needs that one person may demand that others satisfy.

The other main problem, Lewis explains, is that imposing duties upon one person in the name of satisfying the unmet needs of another inescapably violates the rights of the first person. Applying this to health care, Lewis writes, “There is no right to medical care because there is no right to coerce medical professionals to provide it.”

The correct conception of rights, Lewis explains, is that rights define the scope of an individual’s freedom of action against which others may not infringe. Health care cannot be a right because health care consists of goods and services that are provided by medical professionals—people who have a right to think and act in pursuit of their own happiness and values just as anyone does. “To claim a right to medical care,” explains Lewis, “is to claim nothing less than a right to run the lives of those who must provide the care.”

I agree with this view. We often use the terms “rights” and “entitlements” interchangeably but they are not any more interchangeable than apples and oranges are. The Lewis essay being reviewed is not linkable but Rhoads’ interpretation is consistent with another (or the same? I don’t know.) Lewis essay, found here. Again, the key part:

These two concepts of rights -- rights as the right to liberty, versus rights as the rights to things -- cannot coexist in the same respect at the same time. If I claim that my right to life means my right to medicine, then I am demanding the right to force others to produce the values that I need. This ends up being a negation of personal sovereignty, and of individual rights.

To reform our health care industry we should challenge the premises that invited government intervention in the first place. The moral premise is that medical care is a right. It is not. There was no "right" to such care before doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies produced it. There is no "right" to anything that others must produce, because no one may claim a "right" to force others to provide it. Health care is a service, and we all depend upon thinking professionals for it. To place doctors under hamstringing bureaucratic control is to invite poor results.

The economic premise is that the government can create prosperity by redistributing the wealth of its citizens. This is the road to bankruptcy, not universal prosperity. The truth of this is playing out before our eyes, as medical prices balloon with every new intervention, and we face the largest deficits in human history.

If Congress wants to address health care issues, it can begin with three things: (1) tort reform, to free medical specialists from annual insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars; (2) Medicare reform, to face squarely the program's insolvency; and (3) regulatory reform, to roll-back the onerous rules that force doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies (who produce the care that others then demand as a "right") into satisfying bureaucratic dictates rather than bringing value to their patients.

Carried to its logical conclusion, the idea of unmet human needs being “rights” necessarily says that if I need food, another person is obligated to provide it if I can’t (or won’t). If I need shelter, another is obligated to provide me with it, etc. I would also argue that if this view of rights prevails then for actual Constitutionally enumerated rights such as oh, say, if I can’t afford to pay for a gun when the Constitution says (and it does) I have the right to keep and bear arms then I should be able to coerce the government into (read; the taxpayer, otherwise known as you, if you’re in the ~53% of the population that actually pays any) providing me with said gun. Do we really want to go there?


Read the whole thing(s).

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Just Say ‘No’ to Syria Intervention

I just sent the following to my Congressman and Senators:

I'd like to go on record as being against a military intervention, however limited it may be. I base this on the following reasons:

1. There is no vital US interest at stake, unless you count salvaging President Barack Obama's credibility as a vital national interest, in which case it's already too late.

2. The human toll has already surpassed 100,000 dead from being shot, blown up or hacked to death. Why is it that ~1,400 people being killed by gas suddenly too much? They are not any more dead than the people who were killed by other means.

3. It is far from clear that the anti-Assad forces are all good guys. In fact it seems like the opposition has been thoroughly infiltrated by Al Quaeda and other jihadis who are not our friends and never will be. If we intervene we will, in effect, be providing air support for our sworn enemies.

4. Nobody can help but feel for the innocents caught in the middle of all this but the unintended consequences possible with an intervention will not necessarily lead to fewer civilian deaths and could make the situation even worse.

Please vote 'no' on any resolution giving President Obama any sort of authority to intervene militarily in what is a Syrian civil war. It is hard to stand by and do nothing in the face of the horrors we are seeing, but that is what we must do.


Obama made an unforced error when he made his unscripted, off-the-cuff red line comment but that bell can’t be un-rung. The mistake has already been made. To intervene militarily in this internecine conflict would just compound the error and gain absolutely nothing in return while providing yet one more grievance for our enemies to nurse.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Economics–It Isn’t Called the Dismal Science for No Reason

Forbes has a good article on why America doesn’t need monetary policy, or  economists. More damage has probably been done to our economy and our markets by attempts to centrally plan our economy than could ever be done by leaving markets to their own devices. From the article:

Let’s be blunt. Whatever economics is, it is not a science. Unlike physicists, who can predict an asteroid’s closest approach to earth within a few miles when it is still 100 million miles out in space, economists can’t accurately predict this quarter’s GDP. Indeed, they are still arguing among themselves about what “really” happened 83 years ago.

In light of the economics profession’s track record, it is hilarious to hear pundits and politicians say things like, “Most economists agree…” as if this mattered.

Read the whole thing.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Texting and Driving–Lives Can Be Changed Forever, Or Ended “From One Second to the Next”

I’ve never understood why people text one another rather than talk. It seems to be a pretty that having a 5-10 minute conversation via text is a pretty inefficient way to have a 30 second conversation.  This video, via Slate, is a very powerful statement on the hazards of texting and driving. Lives can be devastated, or gone, in the blink of an eye due to one person’s inattention to what they should be doing; paying attention to the road. Talking on the phone while driving also increases the hazard, but I think texting is exponentially more dangerous.

If you are in the habit of texting while driving, or you know someone who is, you should watch this and see if you think any text is so urgent as to be worth yours or someone else's life.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Detroit. An Economics Lesson on How Not to Do It.

Over at The Market Ticker, Karl Denninger has a primer on how not to run a government.

If you increase tax rates then you decrease economic surplus.  This inevitably slows economic expansion; it mathematically must.

If you make political promises that can only be met through increased tax rates, now or in the future, you begin the process of slitting your own throat.  That outcome is inevitable when you agree to political promises that have escalating expenses over time as pensions, medical benefits, salary "step" increases, bond issues that have a payment schedule longer than the useful life of the asset bought and similar.

This is a must read article.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bill Whittle Has More on False Narratives and Yellow Journalism

In his latest Afterburner video Bill Whittle unpacks the Martin/Zimmerman case with further examples of yellow journalism, outright false reporting, omission of key facts, etc. Anyone who relied on the MSM to follow the case could very well come away thinking that last week’s not-guilty verdict was not the right one. Watch this video and then ask yourself if you think you are being well-served by the MSM or whether you are being manipulated and deceived..

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Race Baiting and Lies in America–Some Perspective from Michael Yon

Former Green Beret turned freelance combat journalist and author Michael Yon points out that 17-year olds are not “children.” Yet a false narrative is being presented in the MSM and by certain professional race-baiters that Trayvon Martin was just some innocent young child who was gunned down in cold blood by a racist wannabe-cop, George Zimmerman. Based on the evidence presented at Zimmerman’s trial for second-degree murder a jury concluded otherwise. There was a lot more evidence that was not presented at trial that would tend to support the verdict even more strongly.

Michael had a similar experience as a newly qualified 19 year-old Green Beret when a man tried to assault him in a bar and Michael, who believed he was fighting for his life, the man had threatened to kill him, intercepted and countered the man’s first and only punch. Michael punched back and, so he thought, knocked the man out. In fact the man died and Michael faced a 6-month ordeal, replete with much of the same yellow journalism we are seeing today before being cleared.

Please do click through and read the whole thing. Whether you thought the Zimmerman verdict was just or not, you’ll learn something.

(full disclosure, I have met Michael Yon in person, once, and consider him a friend)

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Megan McArdle Is Back (Again), Now at Bloomberg

If you aren’t reading Megan McArdle every day, you are really missing out on some very thought-provoking writing in the areas of business and economics. I have been following her writing since she was blogging from a trailer at the bottom of Ground Zero where she was working for a disaster recovery firm. She progressed from there to The Economist, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast and now here.

For just one example of her insightful writing, look at this post on minimum wage jobs, “McDonalds Jobs are Drive-Thru, Not Dead End.” An excerpt:

Even if it were possible to mandate that everyone in the country make almost the median income, this would come with a cost; I’d guess that most economists would agree that such a hike in the minimum wage would cause fairly significant job losses. The direct cost of labor at an average McDonald's is about 25 percent of payroll, according to, and of course, everything else they buy also has a substantial labor component. If everything at McDonald's cost, say, 30 percent more, they would sell fewer burgers and need fewer staff.

The real question no one has actually answered is whether every job should pay you enough to live on your own, or whether it’s OK for there to be jobs that are mostly a temporary arrangement, a waypoint en route to somewhere else. It doesn’t strike me as obviously wrong for those jobs to exist -- especially when the alternative may be no jobs at all. Even if I did think it was wrong, I’m not sure what I’d do about it. You can make McDonald's pay people more per hour. You cannot keep McDonald's from cutting those hours.

Read the whole thing.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

What the Left Touts as Progress Is Really Regression to the Past

Writing about Libertarianism over at the National Review, Jonah Goldberg makes the following very good point about the Left and statism:

It’s a little bizarre how the Left has always conflated statism with modernity and progress. The idea that rulers — be they chieftains, kings, priests, politburos, or wonkish bureaucrats — are enlightened or smart enough to tell others how to live is older than the written word. And the idea that someone stronger, with better weapons, has the right to take what is yours predates man’s discovery of fire by millennia. And yet, we’re always told that the latest rationalization for increased state power is the “wave of the future.”

That phrase, “the wave of the future,” became famous thanks to a 1940 essay by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She argued that the time of liberal democratic capitalism was drawing to a close and the smart money was on statism of one flavor or another — fascism, Communism, socialism, etc. What was lost on her, and millions of others, was that this wasn’t progress toward the new, but regression to the past. These “waves of the future” were simply gussied-up tribalisms, anachronisms made gaudy with the trappings of modernity, like a gibbon in a spacesuit.

Read the whole thing. 

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Solution to the Problem of Poor Smartphone Battery Life

Everyone who owns a smartphone knows that if they have one shortcoming in common, it’s battery life or, actually, the lack thereof. You’re lucky to get a full day’s use out of it with even moderate useage.

I just found a very handy device at Amazon that provides nearly the perfect solution for this problem It is the Yubi Power YP520A external battery charger, which is actually a battery itself. It stores up to 5600 mAh of power and has a short cable with adapters for mini and micro USB and Apple. Just plug it into your phone and it will recharge it. It’s compact enough to slip into your pocket and frees you from having to tether yourself to a wall outlet, if you can even find one.  I gave mine a quick test after it was delivered the other day, after first fully charging it up off the USB port of my laptop, and found that it took my phone from about 45% to 75% power in about two hours. I haven’t tested it to full charge yet and will report back if I get around to it any time soon. The best thing was that I could still carry my phone around with me while it was charging. I carry it in a case on my belt (Yes, I know, I’m a nerd). I just put the phone in the case USB port down (the case is partly open at the bottom), plugged the ~9” cable from the charger in and dropped it into my pocket.

There is also an 8400 mAh model, the YP840A that can recharge two devices at once:

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Tyranny In Our Time

President Obama’s cousin, Dr. Milton Wolf has a must-read column in the Washington Times today about how Obama is using federal government agencies to harass, intimidate and even punish political enemies. Case in point, the evolving IRS scandal in which we are learning that the IRS has been targeting conservative organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status with onerous and largely irrelevant information demands, sitting on their applications until they give up. An excerpt:

Americans are beginning to recognize the disturbing similarities between President Obama and the fallen Richard Nixon, but the comparison that may matter more is between Mr. Obama and King George III.

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance,” in the words of the Declaration of Independence.

King George’s assault on the Americans’ natural freedoms was oppressive, intolerable and deserving of a revolution. The truth is, the intrusion, restriction and outright harassment that our government subjects us to today is far beyond what the colonists faced from their tyrannical king. If it was tyranny in 1776, then, by God, it is tyranny today.

Consider the enormous coercive power of the Internal Revenue Service and its lust to wield it. The IRS admits to systematically identifying and harassing political dissidents who dare to disagree with the political bosses. The IRS created what could be considered an enemies list starting with conservative Tea Party groups. It targeted any group calling itself “patriot” or daring to teach the Constitution or Bill of Rights.

Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Judge Jeanine Piro On the Benghazi Hearings

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Leon Panetta need to be held to account for the Benghazi debacle. Incompetence is the best-case scenario here and I don’t think any of them is that truly incompetent. Watch.

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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Nobody Knows How to Make a Pencil or Why Government Locks In Failure

Kevin Williamson has a great article over at National Review Online talking about how in the private sector everything gets better and cheaper all the time, e.g. mobile phones, and how

“We treat technological progress as though it were a natural process, and we speak of Moore’s law — computers’ processing power doubles every two years — as though it were one of the laws of thermodynamics. But it is not an inevitable, natural process. It is the outcome of a particular social order.”

He goes on to show how competitive markets allow for competitors to come and go, rise and fall, and how important it is for failure to be possible as contrasted with institutionalized failure when politics takes over and government tries to pick winners and losers:

“Politics creates the immortal corporation. Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service are two institutions that would have failed long ago if not for government support — subsidies for Amtrak, the government-chartered monopoly on letter delivery for the postal service. The cost of their corporate immortality is not only the waste associated with maintaining them, but also the fact that their existence prevents the emergence of superior alternatives.”

It comes back to “the knowledge problem” or as Hayek put it, the fatal conceit that a small group of people or an individual can have all the knowledge necessary to direct an entire industry (think healthcare, e.g.) or an economy. This article is one of the best discussions of this I have seen.

Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, May 05, 2013

Udge Jeanine Pirro’s Speech to the NRA Convention

In the same vein as the post below this……….

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Need Some Reasons You Shouldn’t Trust Anti-Gun People?

There are quite a few of them enumerated in this column at the Iowa State Daily. A sample:

Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because in a single breath they tell us that the Second Amendment is irrelevant today and should be repealed because semi-automatic weapons didn’t exist when the Bill of Rights was written, then turn around and say the First Amendment protects radio, television, movies, video games, the Internet, domain names, Facebook and Twitter. Carrying liberal logic on the Second Amendment through to the First Amendment, it would only cover the town crier, and hand-operated printing presses producing only books and newspapers, and nothing else. Even anything written with a No. 2 pencil or ballpoint pen would not be included. And those of you belonging to religions that formed after the 1790s? You’re screwed under liberal logic, too.

Gun people don’t trust anti-gun people because, while liberals seek to expand government regulation and services — things that may not be bad or ill-intended on their own — they simultaneously try to curtail the Second Amendment. We don’t trust anti-gun people for this reason because history shows us that every genocide and democide is preceded by expansion of government power and gun control. We don’t trust anti-gunners because here in America, gun control is rooted in slavery and racism, with some of America’s modern anti-gun laws being direct copies of former Nazi laws that banned gun possession for Jews, blacks, gays and other “undesirables.”

There’s a lot more at the link and it is one of the most comprehensive synopses of the debate over guns I think I’ve seen.

Read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Debt Ruins Systems–Nick Gillespie Interviews Nassim Taleb Over at Reason

Over at Reason Nick Gillespie interviews (video and transcript) best-selling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a  former trader and hedge fund manager, and a groundbreaking theorist on risk and resilience. He is also a finance professor at New York University and a research scholar at Oxford. He has some great insights about why systems fail and why decentralized systems are more resilient than centralized systems. An excerpt from the transcript:

Taleb: To cite the great Yogi Berra, a good antifragile system is a system in which all mistakes are good mistakes. And the bad system is one, again to paraphrase Yogi Berra, where you tend to make the wrong mistakes. Let’s compare the banking system to, say, transportation. Every plane crash makes the next plane crash less likely and our transportation safer. Now, with the banking system, [a failure] leads to increased probability of failure of an entire system. That’s a bad system.

reason: What’s the best way to stop that so you’re not allowing the problem to replicate throughout the system?

Taleb: What fragilizes an overall system? Three things: One, centralization. Decentralization spreads mistakes, makes smaller mistakes. Decentralization is where we converge with libertarians. A second one is low debt. The third is skin in the game.

I’ve just acquired The Black Swan and will most likely buy Antifragile when I finish with that. Links to the books below.  I highly recommend reading the interview transcript (or watch the video, 56 minutes. Your choice but I can read faster). Links to the books below.



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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fight, Republicans, Fight

Michael Walsh at National Review has it exactly right:

Advice to the RNC: Don’t “re-brand.” Fight.

That’s it. Fight. Fight them on every front, fight them in every state, fight them on television and in print and on the airwaves. Confront them at every opportunity, seek out and embrace conflict, and fear not bullies like Chuck Schumer (the living embodiment of the Lefty Sneer), Dick Durbin, and passive-aggressive corruptocrats like Harry Reid. Don’t make nice with them, don’t play fair with them, don’t reach across the aisle and above all, treat them and their ideas with exactly the same amount of respect with which they treat yours: none. Contempt is the only language they understand. [emphasis added]

Truer words are hard to imagine. Read the whole thing.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Milton Freedman on the Most Persistent Economic Fallacy of All Time

This is Milton Freedman on the fallacy that Economics is about money. Economics is about production and when the government takes money from the productive sector of the economy and spends it, it is not growing the economy.

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Monday, March 04, 2013

Obama Donor Reportedly Buying and Gutting America’s Top Pro-Gun Media Outlets.

I was just forwarded this Daily Caller article.

Employees of Obama donor Leo Hindery Jr.’s media conglomerate Intermedia Partners, which now owns most of the top gun-culture media outlets in the country, believe that Hindery plans to gut and destroy all of them as part of a business plan that has already led to numerous layoffs and the virtual shuttering of prominent television production facilities in Minnesota and Montana.

Apparently this Leo Hindery Character is setting out to gut all the pro 2A media outlets, e.g. Guns & Ammo and many other magazines and production companies. He is one of two managing partners of a private equity fund called Intermedia Partners. If this is true, I have to wonder if the other investors in this fund know about it and how they feel about a managing partner deliberately setting out to destroy the value of their holdings. Last time I looked it is the fiduciary duty of fund managers to try and maximize the value of their investments.

Last December Glenn Reynolds suggested that GOP investors  acquire some of the women’s interest media outlets in an effort to get a more positive message (Hell, any message at all) out to women. Perhaps conservative investors should also be looking to buy up some of the pro 2A media properties too, if only to rescue them.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thomas Sowell on Intellectuals and Society

This half hour or so video is well worth the time to watch.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rand Paul’s SOTU Response

I can’t find anything to disagree with here.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Daniel Hannan–Occupy Wall Street Debate at the Oxford Union

British MEP Daniel Hannan gave a speech in a debate before the Oxford Union earlier this week in which he defended capitalism and pointing out that the system we have now is not capitalism but corporatism. He also said that the Occupy Wall Street crowd were occupying the wrong places.  This man is one of the most eloquent speakers I’ve ever heard. Watch, listen and learn.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Looking Into My Father’s Eyes

It’s ten years to the day since my Father passed. I miss him.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What’s Old Is New Again

Via Instapundit we have the news that Fort Lauderdale's Octavio Marc David Silva is using the micro-funding site [Kickstarter] to back his new line of jeans specifically designed with men's, ahem, anatomy in mind.

We’ve seen this before, a very long time ago. It’s called the codpiece

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Argument from Intimidation–A Favorite Debating Tactic of Bullies With No Other Argument Otherwise

Not only was Ayn Rand prescient when she wrote “Atlas Shrugged” in 1957 she did it again with this essay from 1964. It’s a bit shorter than “Atlas Shrugged”. It’s about what she identified as another logical fallacy that she called the Argument from Intimidation which is closely related to Argumentum Ad Hominem. From the essay:

The essential characteristic of the Argument from Intimidation is its appeal to moral self-doubt and its reliance on the fear, guilt or ignorance of the victim. It is used in the form of an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy. The pattern is always: "Only those who are evil (dishonest, heartless, insensitive, ignorant, etc.) can hold such an idea."

Argument from Intimidation is the type of “argument” employed by Piers Morgan as he debated Ben Shapiro of last week but Shapiro recognized the tactic and wouldn’t be intimidated and as Roger Kimball put it a PJ Media, Morgan was deftly filleted by Shapiro.

Go and read the whole essay. It isn’t long and it’s well worth the read if you want to recognize and defeat the tactic.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

An Open Video Letter to Senators Franken, Klobuchar and Rep. Nolan

This is an excellent demonstration of why an “assault weapons” ban is nothing more than an attempt to limit our freedom to defend ourselves. Gun control is about controlling people, not guns. Stewart Mills, owner of sporting goods retailer Mills Fleet Farm in Minnesota demonstrates very convincingly that a 12 gauge shotgun is far more destructive than an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The shot gun inflicts far more damage in a little over 3 seconds than the AR-15 inflicts in over 33 seconds.  Watch and learn.

(via Power Line)

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Monday, January 07, 2013

If They Come for Your Guns, Do You Have a Responsibility to Fight?

That is the question Dean Garrison, a blogger I haven’t heard of before, is asking. It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves. He’s made it clear where he comes out on the question.  You’ll have to answer it for yourself though.

An important reminder from the post:

About a month ago I let the “democracy” word slip in a discussion with a fellow blogger. I know better. Americans have been conditioned to use this term. It’s not an accurate term and it never has been a correct term to describe our form of government. The truth is that the United States of America is a constitutional republic. This is similar to a democracy because our representatives are selected by democratic elections, but ultimately our representatives are required to work within the framework of our constitution. In other words, even if 90% of Americans want something that goes against our founding principles, they have no right to call for a violation of constitutional rights.

Our founders did not want a “democracy” for they feared a true democracy was just as dangerous as a monarchy. The founders were highly educated people who were experienced in defending themselves against tyranny. They understood that the constitution could protect the people by limiting the power of anyone to work outside of it much better than a pure system of popularity. A system of checks and balances was set up to help limit corruption of government and also the potential for an “immoral majority” developing within the American People. We have forgotten in this country that we are ultimately ruled by a constitution.

Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Reason–Why Double Taxation Must Cease

A must-read article over at Reason on why taxation of capital gains and dividends should be lower if not zero. I personally favor the FairTax, which is a tax on consumption, not income.

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Afterburner with Bill Whittle–The Rule of Lawlessnes

Bill Whittle’s latest Afterburner video is up. In it he details the descent of our government into lawlessness and rule by decree.



Bill kind of skimmed over why Harry Reid will not allow the Senate to pass a budget.The reason Harry Reid has not passed a budget out of the Senate in nearly 4 years can be explained by two words: baseline spending. That is Washington’s way of doing budgets. They take all the services the government is currently providing, assume they will continue providing all of those, add a bit for inflation, say 5% and then if anyone proposes an increase of only 2% they start shrieking about how you’re cutting the budget, or taking credit for budget cutting depending on the optics you want. With no budget, Washington has been spending at the 2009 level which has all the “temporary” stimulus spending baked into it and operating on a series of continuing resolutions. If they were to pass a budget in line with 2007 our deficit would be nearly erased but it won’t happen because the stimulus spending is being used as a giant slush fund that Obama is using to reward his favored constituencies.

More on how baseline budgeting works here.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Banning “Assault Weapons” Is the Wrong Answer

Forbes has a good article that explains just why a ban on “assault weapons” is a futile gesture. Referring to the “assault weapons” ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2003:

The evidence is in on the effect of her previous assault weapons ban: zero, zilch, nada, as the saying goes. The ban made no perceptible difference in the gun violence statistics when it went into effect, and no perceptible difference when it was allowed to expire 10 years later, in 2003.

That is because the term “assault weapon” is just a PR stunt that fools the gullible and easily deluded. It is defined in legislation by cosmetic features that frighten white bread suburbanites, but do not involve any functionality of any gun. We tried it, conservatives said it wouldn’t work, and it didn’t work. Yet, it is the liberal answer to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.

In the wake of atrocities such as Sandy Hook it’s easy to get caught up in emotionalism and feel that we need to “do something.” As Megan McArdle put it over at The Daily Beast:  “There's a terrible syllogism that tends to follow on tragedies like this: 1. Something must be done. 2. This is something. 3. Therefore this must be done.” She also says:

“It would certainly be more comfortable for me to endorse doing something symbolic--bring back the "assault weapons ban"--in order to signal that I care. But I would rather do nothing than do something stupid because it makes us feel better. We shouldn't have laws on the books unless we think there's a good chance they'll work: they add regulatory complexity and sap law-enforcement resources from more needed tasks. This is not because I don't care about dead children; my heart, like yours, broke about a thousand times this weekend. But they will not breathe again because we pass a law. A law would make us feel better, because it would make us feel as if we'd "done something", as if we'd made it less likely that more children would die. But I think that would be false security. And false security is more dangerous than none.”

There’s lots of good information in both articles and I recommend that you go and read both of them.

Update: More from Larry Correia Quote: “So now that there is a new tragedy the president wants to have a “national conversation on guns”. Here’s the thing. Until this national conversation is willing to entertain allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons, then it isn’t a conversation at all, it is a lecture.”

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