Saturday, September 22, 2012

Consistency Much?

Last week the Seattle Times ran an editorial condemning the man who made the movie attacking Muslims.

If the trailer of this movie is any indication, it is crude, mocks Islam and purposefully aims to inflame the devout....

People in the Muslim world should understand that this man's movie is him talking, and not the opinions of 300 million Americans. In the United States he is free to say what he will -- that is our culture -- and we are free to condemn him. Which we do.
His movie is trash and he is vermin for having made it. Provoking rage among the devout might be allowed under the First Amendment, but that doesn't mean people should do it.

This week:

'Book of Mormon' tickets on sale Sept. 22

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Look Back

I am shaking my head listening to Joe Biden go on for five minutes about Obama's wisdom in authorizing the raid on Osama bin Laden.  Well, I guess it was wise, in that he didn't listen to the advice of... err.. morons like JOE BIDEN.

Vice President Joe Biden confessed this weekend that he advised President Obama not to launch the mission that ultimately killed Osama bin Laden last spring.
During remarks at a Democratic congressional retreat this weekend, Biden explained that when it came time to make the final decision, he had some lingering uncertainties about whether the 9/11 mastermind was in the suspected compound in Pakistan.
When the president asked his top advisers for their final opinion on the mission, all of them were hesitant, except for the former CIA director, now Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Biden said.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Spinal Tap Presidency

The New York Times reports on the Obama campaign's excuse for their diminishing crowd sizes on the campaign trail.

Good crowds, especially compared with the hundreds that typically turn out to see Mitt Romney. But four years ago Mr. Obama often was drawing five-digit throngs, filling arenas’ nosebleed seats and overflow rooms and regularly requiring shutdown orders from the local fire marshals.

Which raises a couple of questions: Where are the crowds now? And what does it mean for the results in November?

“We have plenty of time for big rallies,” a campaign spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said between the rallies on Thursday. “Our focus right now is on exciting our supporters and winning over undecided voters and the smaller and medium-size events are the best venue to accomplish that because the president can closely engage with the crowd.”

I think I have heard a variation of this excuse before.  Oh yeah, the cult rock mocumentary classic, "This is Spinal Tap".

Marty: The last time Tap toured America, they where, uh, booked into 10,000 seat arenas, and 15,000 seat venues, and it seems that now, on their current tour they're being booked into 1,200 seat arenas, 1,500 seat arenas, and uh I was just wondering, does this mean uh...the popularity of the group is waning?

Ian: Oh, no, no, no, no, no,, no, not at all. I, I, I just think that the.. uh.. their appeal is becoming more selective.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vigilante Justice?

OK, this is a bit old, but the more I think about this the more it pisses me off.  From a recent New York Times editorial on the Colorado Batman shootings:

What we do not need is more heedless rhetoric like we heard on Friday from Representative Louie Gohmert, the Texas Republican who drew a bizarre connection during a radio interview between the horror in Colorado and “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs.”
Mr. Gohmert added: “It does make me wonder, you know, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying? That could have stopped this guy more quickly?”
That sort of call to vigilante justice is sadly too familiar, and it may be the single most dangerous idea in the debate over gun ownership.

Alright, whether we should be arming ourselves or not is certainly a fair debate, although one I have rather strong opinions on, but since when is defending yourself from someone who is trying to kill you "vigilante justice"?  The right to defend yourself from harm is such a basic human right it hardly needs discussion.  It is not a right that we give up to the government.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Paul Krugman: Then and Now

Never let it be said that the man is not flexible in his beliefs.

His column from yesterday:

You don’t even have to make a Keynesian argument about jobs to see that. All you have to do is note that when money is cheap, that’s a good time to invest. And both education and infrastructure are investments in America’s future; we’ll eventually pay a large and completely gratuitous price for the way they’re being savaged.
 That said, you should be a Keynesian, too. The experience of the past few years — above all, the spectacular failure of austerity policies in Europe — has been a dramatic demonstration of Keynes’s basic point: slashing spending in a depressed economy depresses that economy further.
 So it’s time to stop paying attention to the alleged wise men who hijacked our policy discussion and made the deficit the center of conversation. They’ve been wrong about everything — and these days even the financial markets are telling us that we should be focused on jobs and growth. 

 The same Paul Krugman from 2003, when the deficit was 1/4 what it is now.

 How will the train wreck play itself out? Maybe a future administration will use butterfly ballots to disenfranchise retirees, making it possible to slash Social Security and Medicare. Or maybe a repentant Rush Limbaugh will lead the drive to raise taxes on the rich. But my prediction is that politicians will eventually be tempted to resolve the crisis the way irresponsible governments usually do: by printing money, both to pay current bills and to inflate away debt.
And as that temptation becomes obvious, interest rates will soar. It won't happen right away. With the economy stalling and the stock market plunging, short-term rates are probably headed down, not up, in the next few months, and mortgage rates may not have hit bottom yet. But unless we slide into Japanese-style deflation, there are much higher interest rates in our future.
I think that the main thing keeping long-term interest rates low right now is cognitive dissonance. Even though the business community is starting to get scared -- the ultra-establishment Committee for Economic Development now warns that ''a fiscal crisis threatens our future standard of living'' -- investors still can't believe that the leaders of the United States are acting like the rulers of a banana republic. But I've done the math, and reached my own conclusions -- and I've locked in my rate.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Right, Really?

From an article on the debate over the ride free zone in downtown Seattle.

"The free-ride zone is not a privilege but a right, and it should be something Seattle people should be proud of having," said Whitney Knox, caseworker for Catholic Housing Services. To her, the repeal "seems kind of mind-boggling, with all the wealth we have in this country."

Now I commute by bus to work most days, so I am as pro-transit as anyone, but how did a limited free area for transit become a "right"?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Truth-Challenged Eugene Robinson

Editorialist Eugene Robinson attacks the character of Mitt Romney, in a rather ironic way:

Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit.
"Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history," Romney claims on his campaign website. This is utterly false. The truth is that spending has slowed markedly under Obama.
An analysis published last week by MarketWatch, a financial news website owned by Dow Jones & Co., compared the yearly growth of federal spending under presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. Citing figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, MarketWatch concluded that "there has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear."

Mr. Robinson however, ignored the analysis of the fact-checker at the Washington Post, his very own newspaper, which gave that Marketwatch article 3 out of 4 Pinocchios.  

In the post-war era, federal spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy has hovered around 20 percent, give or take a couple of percentage points. Under Obama, it has hit highs not seen since the end of World War II — completely the opposite of the point asserted by Carney. Part of this, of course, is a consequence of the recession, but it is also the result of a sustained higher level of spending.

Robinson replies to this claim in an on-line chat earlier today, but he just doubles down on dishonesty.
I suppose it's too much to ask that you actually read what I wrote. My column says that Romney's claim that under Obama "federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in modern history" is a lie. It remains, in fact, a lie. Glenn Kessler's fine Fact Checker column is an assessment of a claim the president made about spending. While Glenn disagrees with the central assertion of the Market Watch column that I cite -- that spending has risen at only 1.4 percent a year under Obama -- he sets the actual figure at 3.3 percent for the period in question. This is still far, far lower than the rate at which spending increased under Bush, Bush or Reagan. Funny how the big-spending presidents are all Republicans... I should add that Poynter's Politifact truth-squad accepts the 1.4 percent figure, but I included the 3.3. percent number in my column because one doesn't diss the home team. Glenn makes the point that Obama would have spent more if the Republicaans in Congress had let him. I acknowledge that fact, but still there is still no way to justify Romney's false claim. 

He is avoiding the fact, however, that the 3.3 percent number, is only if you start counting from 2010, which as Kessler points out, is highly misleading.

 In theory, one could claim that the budget was already locked in when Obama took office, but that’s not really the case. Most of the appropriations bills had not been passed, and certainly the stimulus bill was only signed into law after Obama took office.

Bush had rescued Fannie and Freddie Mac and launched the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which depending on how you do the math, was a one-time expense of $250 billion to $400 billion in the final months of his presidency. (The federal government ultimately recouped most of the TARP money.) So if you really want to be fair, perhaps $250 billion of that money should be taken out of the equation — on the theory that it would have been spent no matter who was president.


Under these figures, and using this calculator, with 2008 as the base year and ending with 2012, the compound annual growth rate for Obama’s spending starting in 2009 is 5.2 percent.  Starting in 2010 — Nutting’s first year — and ending with 2013, the annual growth rate is 3.3 percent. (Nutting had calculated the result as 1.4 percent.)

As the saying goes, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts."

Monday, April 30, 2012

Diversity... I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Reading the American media can be quite Orwellian lately, especially from the state of California.  Take this recent AP article on "diversity" in the California university system with the headline "Campus diversity suffers under race-blind policies".

Junior Magali Flores, 20, said she experienced culture shock when she arrived on the Berkeley campus in 2009 after graduating from a predominantly Latino high school in Los Angeles.
Flores, one of five children of working-class parents from Mexico, said she feels the university can feel hostile to students of color, causing some to leave because they don't feel welcome at Berkeley.
"We want to see more of our people on campus," Flores said. "With diversity, more people would be tolerant and understanding of different ethnicities, different cultures."

Aside from the fact that Miss Flores hardly seems to be "tolerant and understanding of different ethnicities" herself,  the article lists the racial breakdown of UC Berkeley:

With affirmative action outlawed, Asian American students have dominated admissions. The freshman class admitted to UC Berkeley this coming fall is 30 percent white and 46 percent Asian, according to newly released data. The share of admitted Asians is four times higher than their percentage in the state's K-12 public schools.

So a campus that is 70% non-white is "hostile to students of color"?



Monday, April 23, 2012

I Blame Bush!

James Taranto points out this particularly idiotic editorial by Catherine Poe of the Washington Times.  He concentrates on the accusations of racism against Republicans, which by now is pretty much old hat.  I was more amazed by another typical accusation.

Like it or not, Republicans know President Obama inherited the Near Depression from President Bush, caused by the Republican love of tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, love of war, hence the Iraq debacle, and love of deregulation, thus our financial collapse. 

Ok, you can make at least a logical argument, although an extremely weak one regarding "love of deregulation" although there was no actual regulation that was ever "deregulated" that would have stopped the housing bubble, and Democrats certainly never proposed one, but how exactly are they blaming tax cuts for this?  Really?  In what feverish left-wing fantasy do you get from "tax cuts for the rich" to "housing bubble based on sub-prime mortgages"?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The More I Think About It Old Billy Was Right...

I just finished reading economist and mathematician Steven Landburg's The Big Question, an interesting, if somewhat confusing examination of life's "big questions".  One interesting point he did bring up, which admittedly fit into my biases, is that lawyers are one of the few, if not the only professions where being intellectually dishonest is not only accepted, but required by their ethical code.  Think about it, if a scientist puts forward a hypothesis which is disproved by others, he is ethically required to change his hypothesis, that is the whole point of the scientific method.

You will never catch a lawyer, on the other hand, saying "You honor, I change my mind, the defense witness has my client dead to rights.  There is no question he did it."  He is legally and ethically required to keep promoting his defense, whether the evidence supports him or not.

This is not to say that this is bad, or that lawyers are inherently evil.  I have friends who are lawyers, and they are good decent people, but that they represent a unique position among our professions, one that is required to be dishonest.  Maybe this is why so may politicians are lawyers?  Over half of the current Senate for example.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why Do They Say This Guy is So Smart, Again?

This bit from yesterday's State of the Union Address still has me shaking my head.

In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects.  But you need to fund these projects.  Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.  (Applause.)

Huh?  Even without the expense of the Iraq War, we are still running a deficit somewhere in the vicinity of $1.5 trillion a year.  How exactly do we pay down anything based on the fact that we could have been spending more?  Sorry, they never covered this accounting trick in B-School.

The Wall Street Journal Imitates Me

Hmm, sounds familiar.

This is because wealthy tax filers make most of their income from investments. Such income is taxed once at the corporate rate of 35% and again when it is passed through to the individual as a capital gain or dividend at 15%, for a highest marginal tax rate of about 44.75%.
This double taxation is one reason the U.S. has long had a differential tax rate for capital gains. Another reason is because while taxpayers must pay taxes on their gains, they aren't allowed to deduct capital losses (beyond $3,000 a year) except against gains in the current year. Capital gains also aren't indexed for inflation, so a lower rate is intended to offset the effect of inflated gains.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Simple Proposal

With the all the brouhaha over Mitt Romney's tax return, and the President's State of the Union address, much has been lost about why some rich investors pay such a low rate.  The media and politicians always seem to miss that it is the simple fact that capital gains are treated differently than regular income.  Should it be, well that depends on your perspective, but there are several legitimate reasons why it is.  Such as:

1.  They have already been taxed, both when the original capital was taxed as income, and at the corporate level, which on the books at least, is one of the highest in the world.

2.  They are not indexed for inflation. If, for example, you have an investment which makes a 30% return over a period of time when the inflation was 40%, you not only lost 10% in real terms, but you get the pleasure of paying a tax to the government for the honor.  Not exactly fair.

3.  They are not riskless.  If you receive a paycheck, the worst thing that can happen is you are laid off, and your pay goes to zero.  If you invest $1 million and receive an income stream off of it, you not only lose your income, but you can lose your $1 million.  If you make a million you have to pay taxes on that income, but if you lose that same million, the government does not cut you a check for that same amount in taxes.

So while I can understand why some people argue that for fairness, the very rich at least, should have to pay a higher capital gains right, fine, first just address the 3 issues I have raised above.  Raise the capital gains rate to the same as income, but first cut the corporate rate to 15-20%, in line with the rest of the developed world.  Then allow capital gains to be indexed for inflation, and finally allow capital gains losses to be offset against regular income.

Anyone think the president will actually propose any of these?  Nah... didn't think so.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

But Lawyers Are?

I will leave it up to the inimitable Steven Landsburg (just picked up his latest book) to address the bad economics in this Paul Krugman post, but I was most interested in the anti-business bias.

A brief thought on something I’ll try to expand on later. Leaving aside all the questions about what Mitt Romney did or didn’t do at Bain — and about his self-aggrandizing double standard — there’s an even broader question: why does anyone believe that success in business qualified someone to make economic policy?
For the fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.

Well first of all, nobody claims that businessmen are experts on macroeonomics and monetary policy, but in general they at least have an idea in how to lead large organizations and how the economy works.  Right now we have a government run by lawyers.  Over half of the Senate are lawyers, every Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidate since 1984 has gone to law school (Al Gore, the Nobel Prize winning intellectual of the left and creator of the Internet dropped out, shortly after flunking out of law school).

So having someone with some experience in the real world, outside of government or the court room, is not a bad thing.  There aren't really any good jobs to prepare for being president anyway, aside from being a governor, which is why most presidents are former governors.  A first term senator getting elected to the presidency is actually quite rare, for a reason.  Romney being both a governor and successful businessman certainly demonstrates more experience than our current part-time law professor/community organizer in chief.  Now you can definitely make some arguments against voting for him based on policy, but that is another topic.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Democrats Against Democracy

Aside from this whole thing where Obama simply ignores the constitution by pretending that Congress is in recess, the fact that liberals support the CFPB because it is protected from democracy is disturbing.  Can our system be corrupt and self-serving at times?  Sure, but it is the best we got.  Creating government entities which are immune from control by elected from officials and which rely solely on the virtues and judgement of bureaucrats, is, dare I say, fascist.

The bigger question is why Republicans oppose an agency that would stop financial companies from cheating and taking advantage of ordinary Americans, which happened to millions during the mortgage mania. They complain that the current setup leaves the bureau "unaccountable" to the American people, in part, because its funding comes automatically out of the Federal Reserve's budget rather than through the congressional appropriations process.
Unfortunately, the interests of the American people and individual members of Congress are not always one and the same. The funding mechanism was created precisely to remove the power of the purse from the industry's handmaidens in Congress. During 2007 and 2008, the height of Wall Street excess, conservatives cut the funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission, whose job it was to patrol the markets. They apparently want the ability to deny the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the means to stand between the unscrupulous financial salesmen and their unsophisticated prey.

Friday, January 06, 2012

I Blame Paul Krugman

Well since the Nobel Laureate already set a precedent for accusing people you disagree with politically of motivating crimes, then I will start trying to connect his anti-banking rhetoric and support of the Occupy Wall Street crowd to this attempted fire bombing of a bank in Seattle.

 Seattle police arson/bomb-squad investigators and the FBI are trying to determine who left an incendiary device at a Southeast Seattle bank early Friday.
The device, which one witness described as two bottles wrapped in tape in a box with wires, failed to ignite. Seattle police are calling the incident an attempted arson.
Police spokesman Mark Jamieson said that someone who apparently saw the device inside the secure ATM area at the Chase Bank, at 7100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., flagged down a patrol officer at 6:37 a.m.