Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It’s become all the fashion these days to bemoan the loss of the “Watchdog” press. But in a world where we know more about Britney Spears’ underwear than we do about the policies of our president elect, I find the idea laughable. The truth is, because the press has long ago chosen to openly advocate for liberal candidates instead of being evenly critical to both parties, they have been far more lap dog than watchdog, and I think that’s contributed to their demise.
Here is the Newark Star Ledger’s Paul Mushline making the typical complaint for the Wall Street Journal. He claims that journalist’s great contribution to western civilization is that they can wade through the information bog and provide an ‘executive summary’ for their less patient readers. And while that may be technically true, what happens if the summary they provide is intentionally misleading? Or suppose instead of being more or less non partisan they instead characterize positions the author doesn’t agree with as stupid while calling positions they do agree with wise? Or suppose the author lacks the knowledge or wisdom to accurately reflect the salient issues at all…what is their ‘executive summary’ worth then?
Or suppose they are just so concerned with self aggrandizement, that they’ll say anything at all, however nonsensical, so long as it increases the relative importance of the journalist in influencing public policy? Mushline himself is an excellent example of that. Based in Newark, arguably one of the most corrupt municipalities in America, he’s been happy to lick the hand of any corrupt politician who is looting the coffers, so long as that politician pays him the lip service he feels he’s due. He’ll inevitably report on the charges, the prosecution and the conviction as well… but so long as the politician is showing ‘respect to the media’ he’ll be happy to act as his mouthpiece with the electorate right up until the moment of conviction. So long as the politician is a Democrat every pitch is a softball where the Newark Star Ledger is concerned.
When I met my wife she had a miniature Yorkshire Terrier as a pet. She was a charming dog, and good company. She was hugely affectionate and pretty smart as far as dogs go. But we never believed we were any safer having her around the house. If someone broke in to our apartment the dog would simply wag her tail or curl up at their feet while they robbed us blind. That’s what the Newark Star Ledger journalists are like. They aren’t part of the watchdog press and haven’t been for years. They are just little Yorkies curled up at the feet of the Democratic Party of Essex county. Their personal affection for big government has long prevented them from being able to tell friend from foe among our elected officials.
To tell you the truth, if the Newark Star Ledger had been anything but a uselessly partisan rag then they might have been able to count on my continued interest in what they have to say. But as it is, I already know their position on everything. They are infallibly pro big government, pro-democrat, and pro-elitist in their views. It’s a position they reflect on the front page as well as the opinion page, and it’s almost insulting how transparent their positions have become. I find their reporting to be insulting to my intelligence, and if I want to have my intelligence insulted like that I can read the New York Times.
If Paul Mushline wants to believe he’s been providing a valued public service by imparting his greater wisdom to the unwashed, it’s no sweat off my nose. But as a consumer of what he produces, I for one will be glad to be rid of his condescension, his contempt, and his partisanship. And the same goes for virtually all of his peers. If they were really going to be watchdogs it might be different. But they haven’t filled that role for ages, so I see no reason to rely on hem. I have no problem with lapdogs, but they aren’t protecting anyone. The same is painfully true of New Jersey’s ‘watchdog’ press. And in a state where the citizenry is pretty much continually lied to by its politicians through the press, the very idea of them as watchdogs strikes me as one of the more ambitions distortions I’ve ever heard.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Here is Bill McGurn in the WSJ saying what I’ve been saying all along, that thanks to high taxes, punitive regulation, and a detached and carefully insulated ruling class in Trenton, New Jersey is a leader in the ‘race to the bottom’ of diminishing economic activity. 95% of the jobs created in the last seven years were actually created by the government, while private sector growth was somewhere between anemic and non-existent.
He skips the part about how the population of the state is falling fast, and he focuses on the idea that Obama might get a preview of his policies by looking at our little “East Germany on the Delaware” and avoid some of the larger pitfalls. Personally I’m not persuaded. I think Obama will look at New Jersey’s failure and do exactly what New Jersey has done only bigger. The actual effect of policies is irrelevant to liberals, only their intent is what matters.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
In an effort to prevent the total collapse of the State of California, the Governator has used his executive authority to order that civil servants take a few days off. Naturally, the civil service union is suing him for it.
This is officially reason 12,877,421 why civil service unions be should illegal. The workers need no protection from the state. There are no safety issues involved, and no issues of fairness in the workplace. It's just a chance for them to use unobstructed thuggery to sap the lifeblood of the taxpayers. With no profit motive to give "managers" a reason to push back, the unions won't stop until we are all their slaves.
Personally I blame Jimmy Carter.
I have for the most part ignored the symbolic significance of “The First Black President” because I don’t generally hold race to be a topic of relevance unless race relations are themselves the topic. Generally I'm a substance over symbol guy but if you want to know the absolute truth I haven’t thought about it all that much. Unlike the major media and roughly half the electorate, I have thoughtlessly been judging him almost exclusively on the ‘content of his character’ and the many ways which his world view is different from mine.
With all that said though, I believe there are moments when partisanship should give way and symbolism of ‘the historic moment’ should be the focus. Personally I think the swearing in and the inauguration is one of those moments. It’s an event specifically designed for public relations pomp, and I think it’s perfectly fair for the Obama team to make the most of it.
Obama will be sworn in with the Lincoln bible, (the first president since Lincoln to do so) and I think that’s a appropriately poetic act as well. It’s an important moment to swear in the first black president, so I want to recognize it as such. I would prefer it was a president with whom I had some agreement, but I won't petulantly pretend it doesn't matter. On January 20th he’s going to be sworn in as my president. And I’ll take as much pride in ‘the moment’ as any Democrat.
This doesn’t mean I’ve changed my views at all. On January 21st I’ll go back to calling him an empty suit. But I think he’s entitled to the day. Given the outlook it will be his last chance to enjoy himself for some time. So on that one day I’ll ‘salute the rank’, and take a little pride in my new president. And sincerely hope and pray that he finds the wisdom it takes to do the job right.
Monday, December 22, 2008
People desperately reaching for a glimmer of hope in an increasingly dismal liberal future where the state controls more and more of our bahavior whether we like it or not, should appreciate this pointless nuisance perpetrated by some students in a Maryland suburb:
As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.
Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.
Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.
Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.
Liberals believe the government should be all powerful to protect us ... you know ... for the children. Well I for one am glad to see that the children know better.
Yes this is a horrible nuisance...but so what? It's exactly the kind of nuisance that my friends and I would have pulled when we were in high school, had there been the cameras around to do it with. In an effort to annoy their friends and teachers, they've inadvertently punched a hole in the government's increasingly intrusive ways. I know it wasn't their intent, but it will hopefully be the effect. And personally I get the joke.
Personally I'm relieved to see that the spirit of petty annoyance and contempt for authority is not lost on America's youth of today.
The rest of the story is here.
Friday, December 19, 2008
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Sarah Palin. I appreciate her genuine nature and her confidence that 'ordinary people' would be happier making their own choices than they would doing what they're ordered to do by the government, no matter how much better for them it may actually be. The media however, really... REALLY... R-E-A-L-L-Y HATES her. She represents something they cannot tolerate, and that is a woman who doesn't buy in to the 'women's studies' view of women as a minority being kept down, quite literally 'by the man'. Caroline Kennedy on the other hand, is a member of liberalism's royal family, so she won't get the same treatment. It's shameful really.
I try not to link to Jonah Goldberg pieces too often because I know that anyone who reads my stuff probably already reads his, and if I don't have something new to offer an argument then I try to keep my mouth shut. I agree with Jonah about a great many things, so much of what I say is more or less redundant. He addresses the Sarah - Caroline treatment disparity here.
I'm linking it because it's simply too good to miss. So don't.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Here is more proof positive that the western world surely lost it's way. It also confirms that Animal Rights groupies are by far the stupidest, most vacuous, supersillious, vain and self congratulatory people alive. How in the world can anyone take these people seriously about anything?!
Gay penguins, expelled from zoo colony for stealing eggs, are given their own to look after following animal rights protest
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Detroit three (whose nom de guerre has been recently changed from the “big three”) have a number issue to work out. Their average compensation without overtime is $72.31 per hour while Toyota’s average wage is more like $47.60 per hour. That means that without overtime and on a 50 week year, the average annual pay in Detroit is $144,620, while at the Toyota plant in Tennessee it’s more like $95,200. Neither of these comp levels sounds to me like the guys on the line will be eating pancakes for dinner.
The UAW would have you believe that they’re fighting for the survival of the working man, but that’s bull. Whatever they do for a living, no one making 144K a year should be crying poverty. Roughly a third of my friends are out of work, and their jobs aren’t coming back. Many of them would be happy to run a manufacturing robot for GM or Ford for the kind of comp the Union is demanding. But the problem is, the labor the union provides isn’t worth that anymore. The cars they make aren’t so much better than their competition that it justifies paying them a 65% premium to build them.
Like it or not, believe in it or not, change has come to Detroit. The union can struggle against it, but reality will not be put off any longer. Bailout or no bailout, the UAW is finished. It’s just a question of whether they will be taking our domestic car companies with them.
Is there anyone out there fool enough to believe the nonsense the UAW is offering up as if it were relevant to the discussion? Here is Larry Kudlow with more unavoidable facts.
There is some talk about how the cost fo a bailout will be less than the cost of a failure to the economy. While the numebr may be smaller, those costs aren't equivalent. In a bailout, people who haven't been behaing irresponsibly for better than a decade have to pay the bill for the people who have, while in a failure, it's the guilty who have to pay the most instead of the innocent.
But either way, there is no debate about who the innocent and guilty are with regard to the auto industry failure.
Friday, December 12, 2008
There is no doubt about it, when the heads of the big 3 said that no one would buy their cars if they went bankrupt, they were absolutely lying. It may be true that no one would buy them at the price they wanted to sell them, but if the price keeps falling as market forces would dictate, then the cars absolutely will get bought. At $1,000 a car I’ll buy as many new Ford’s or Chryslers as I can get my hands on. I’ll buy the GM cars at $800 per because I don’t really like them. But the fact is, I’ll never get either chance because someone with more knowledge of the car market than me will beat me to it and outbid me by a wide margin.
They were lying about the consequences of not getting a government bailout, but that isn’t to say that GM or Ford or Chrysler would survive without government help. There are at least a few people around (including the head of the UAW) who say that the big three have been so poorly run for decades that if they go into chapter 11 then liquidation will soon follow. Knowing a little about the numbers involved I tend to agree with that sentiment. That will mean the temporary loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the end of a long slow death for the city of Detroit.
So who’s to blame for this? Well it’s pretty clear that the corporate management is responsible. I’ll bet you thought I was going to say the unions didn’t you. Well I don’t blame the unions for destroying the big three any more than I blame a bear for using the forest as its bathroom. The union did what it was designed to do and what all unions have always done. They put incentives in place to reduce productivity, they treated profitability of their company as if it were a failure, and they sucked as much blood from their host as they could without actually killing them. But when it comes to labor unions, that’s exactly the point.
For decades they have been distorting the economics of the car company’s labor pool, and ensuring that people who did as little as possible were getting paid as much as possible. That’s what unions are designed to do, and the UAW was far more successful at it than others. While many other unions killed off their hosts or forced them to move to cheaper labor markets overseas, the UAW managed to back off just enough to keep the big 3 alive, if suffering and lagging behind their competition. But now the time has come. Reality has arrived. The Economic truth can’t be forestalled any longer.
The fact of the matter is either the union is finished, or the car companies are. (And it’s also quite possible that both are doomed). But that doesn’t mean we’re done making cars in the US. For a long time I’ve asked people why a Toyota made in Mississippi is less American than a GM made in Mexico, and I haven’t gotten many good answers. But more to the point, if we finally get the government out of the car business (the unions would have never survived this long without lots and lots of help from the government) then new American car companies can rise up from the ashes of the big three.
For instance, have you ever heard of a Tesla? It’s a small American car company which was no doubt held back by being forced to conform to the stringent government regulations designed by the big three to limit competition. The Tesla is sexy looking ‘all electric’ car that will not only go zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds but will drive 244 miles on a single charge. That’s fast enough to leave a Ferrari in the dust. If they could make use of economies of scale and reduce the cost just a little, no one would ever buy another Toyota again. But so long as the big three are out there, companies like Tesla will be held back by their lobbyists and their cozy relationship with congressional Democrats. And since the unions pony up much of the cash for Democrats, they will be highly complicit in that lobbying.
There is really no reason for the government to ‘save’ the big three. There is nothing left to save. It’s simply not possible for them to ever be competitive globally without the union, and with all the money the union gives to government Democrat’s the government will never allow that to happen. So we can either nationalize the car companies and start producing something that has all the design creativity and innovation of the East German Lada, or we can get government out of the car business and out of the way of companies that want to make cars like the Tesla. Seems an easy choice to me.
Americans are better at innovation and creating thinking than any group of people alive. Americans dominate any industry that rewards a unique solution to a problem. Unfortunately the car business hasn’t been that way for decades, and the reason for that is that the management of the big three was much more worried about politics than problem solving. The union may have been the devil on their shoulder, but like I said, they were just doing what all unions do. It was the management that gave in to the temptation to use government to hold back their competition, rather than using their own creativity to run ahead of them.
But with all that said, the deed is done now. The big three are already dead. It’s just a question of whether we want a phoenix of creativity to rise from their ashes or not. The union and the big three management all are voting no. Hopefully the American people will force Congress to vote otherwise.
One of the ways that government manages to keep the big three from being an example of the kind of dynamism and creativity that they should be is by saddling them with nonsense like this:
The 2,215 pages of the current UAW contract. You don't think anyone would agree to that sort of thing unless govenrment forced them do you?!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Rod Bogojevich please call your office....
From the UN Linked site:
International Anti-Corruption Day is a time for political leaders, governments, legal bodies and lobby groups to work together against corruption work by promoting the day and the issues that surround this event.
Other activities that promote the day include: musicals and plays to publicize the message of fighting against corruption; keynote speeches by those who were victims of corruption or fought against it; essay competitions on issues surrounding the topic of corruption; and the dissemination of posters, flyers and other material to increase awareness levels on corruption.
In the US we celebrate this important International holiday by listening to the profanity laced phone calls of Midwestern politicians demanding adequate compensation before appointing political hacks to recently vacated US Senate seats, listening to the non-denial denial press briefings of the president elect whose seat was vacated (and who is of course... deeply saddened), and reading news stories about how recently indicted, rabidly anti-gun politicians are forced to hand over their firearms permits while under arrest by federal marshals.
I can't remember the last time I had so much fun reading the news. If this is what we can expect on a regular basis from the Obama administration it might just be be worth all the economic destruction and creeping socialism. If a teen age hooker and a transvestite drug dealer ooze to the surface over the next few days, I'm putting my house on the market and moving to Illinois.
Apparently the same Illinois governor in the previous post (who was arguing for a suspension of the laws of economics where lending is concerned) was taken into federal custody on corruption charges. I understand from Don over at The Armed SchoolTeacher that this has actually been going on for ages.
As I've always said, any day when a US Governor is carted off to federal prison, is certainly a good day. Congrats to Don and all our like minded brethren in Illinois. That's one politician down, only a few hundred more to go.
Governor Rod Blagojevich taken in to Custody.
Maybe Blagojevich should pick this moment to come out and announce that he's a "Gay American"... it worked for our guy.
Naturally the media will be careful to point out that although this is the same Illinois where our president elect is from and it's a story involving his political allies, party members, friends, confidants, and the filling of his soon to be empty senate seat... he had absolutely nothing to do with it and is 'shocked and horrified' to find out that the is corruption in the Illinois political system.
Monday, December 8, 2008
A note from Dealbreaker on the new consequences of the bailout:
1. Bank of America pulls credit lines from Republic Window & Doors, presumably because they're are not as credit worthy as they used to be. Republic Window & Doors is in what might broadly be called the "real estate" business, even the "new construction market" which isn't exactly a massive cash cow at the moment.
2. Republic Window & Doors, seeking to avoid bankruptcy, lays off most of its employees. In doing so they run afoul of state rules requiring 60 days notice, etc.
3. Republic's employees stage a sit in.
4. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggests to Illinois agencies that doing business with Bank of America is a bad idea, on the rationale that since B of A got bailout money, whats the harm in lending to the likes of Republic Window & Door?
So, the price of accepting bailout funds has become the wholesale replacement of traditional credit criteria with political influence criteria when making lending decisions.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
There’s been a lot of speculation about the cause of the demise of the political right. The left of course thinks it’s the triumph of their perspective based on 'hope and change', but as is usually the case with liberals the data doesn’t support their view. Their ideas are the same fundamental principles that their movement was based on when it failed so miserably in the 70’s. And there is no reason to believe that it will produce anything but the same dismal results this time around.
Among the differing factions on the right, everyone seems to think the breakdown was the fault of someone else. The secular urban elitists think it was the result of the 'oogah boogah' religious rubes in the sticks and their economic populism. The evangelical community thinks it was the fault of the 'free market' conservatives who in their mind weren’t ‘real conservatives’ anyway. And the remainder, those conservatives who supported John McCain from the outset because of his foreign policy views, blamed the other two groups in more or less equal parts for failing to see that Islam’s rapid encroachment on the west was the real issue in the first place.
In my case I’ve found that the members of each of those groups usually describe me as being a member of one of the others. I make my living in urban greater New York and work in a highly educated field specifically linked to economics. But from that location I also argue energetically for a greater role in public life for religion and for the strengthening of our religious institutions. I also have made a point of challenging the academic kool-aid with regard to the war in Iraq, both in its effects and its justifications. And the long military history of my family has kept me firmly in the ‘strong military’ camp. I don’t really fit particularly well into any of the subgroups of conservatism, and if you think I do then it probably says more about you than it does about me.
In a way I feel a little like Groucho Marx. Where he wouldn’t want to be a member of any club who would have him, I don’t want to be a member of any group that many others would put me in. And because I don’t see myself that way, I find it hard to accept the classic depictions of the fracturing of the conservative coalition. I’ve found that when people start pointing fingers, there is usually good reason to point another at them. That’s left me in the awkward position of rejecting almost everyone’s view and looking elsewhere for a cause of the fracture. And I think I’ve found it in a familiar place; the work of Thomas Sowell.
In his 1983 book Knowledge and Decision, Dr. Sowell describes ‘ideas’ as the raw material of knowledge:
Various kinds of ideas can be classified by their relationship to the authentication process. There are ideas systematically prepared for authentication ("theories"), ideas not derived from any systematic process ("visions”), ideas which could not survive any reasonable authentication process ("illusions"), ideas which exempt themselves from any authentication process ("myths"), ideas which have already passed authentication processes (“facts"), as well as ideas known to have failed- or certain to fail- such processes (“falsehoods" - both mistakes and lies).
I think the seeds to the fracturing of the conservative coalition are embedded in this quote. It used to be that the ideas being debated were largely ‘liberal ideas’ which because of their lack of supporting evidence were easily refuted by conservatives as either myths, or falsehoods. So long as the ideas being discussed had their synthesis in the liberal sphere, it was easy for all conservatives to accurately categorize them even though they were doing so in three very different ways. Relying on what they describe as their own belief in empiricism and ‘evidence’ the liberal agenda was largely refuted and it was done with relative political ease.
But once the discussion turned to ‘conservative’ ideas, it turned out that on the whole, conservatives were no better at categorizing ideas than liberals were. While the ideas they had were different their authentication processes were basically the same, and were being handled with the same lack of discipline as their counterparts on the left. When they examined liberal ideas conservative were far more critical; They were more specific about requiring authentication. But with their own visions, in their mind that was no longer necessary. Genuine 'critical' thinking ended for them. And conservatives then proved to be just as haphazard about ideas, and just as likely to believe their own myths and falsehoods as any of their political opponents.
The results of this were evident in the Republican primary where the evangelical community embraced the economic populism of Mike Huckabee because he subscribed to their 'social vision'. The economic conservatives embraced the socially liberal Mitt Romney because he understood their 'economic vision', and the strong military conservatives excused the social liberalism and economic cluelessness of John McCain because he appreciated their 'national defense' vision. The discussion about the validity of ideas ended, and with it, the ability to identify bad conservative ideas ended as well.
When they lost their common enemy the various conservative factions also closed their minds to whatever portion of the triumvirate that they had always found most inconvenient for their unauthenticated vision for the future. It became a movement looking for purity, and that search led them in three mutually exclusive directions. And because visions must be accepted without authentication, those who embraced each of the visions found themselves in the awkward position of no longer being able to accept the views of another portion of the coalition.
It wasn't a single group in the conservative movement who brought on the loss, it was all three, and for the same reason. Just like liberals, they stopped worrying about having a disciplined process for identifying good conservative ideas. David Brooks was as guilty of holding a 'blind faith in his vision' as the evangelicals he indirectly blames. The evangelicals were as guilty of not being 'real conservatives' as the New York literati they criticize.
In a way, much of the political right has become just like the academic liberals we’ve been ridiculing for decades. We have lost our ability to categorize ideas. Because we're now only dealing with our own unauthenticated visions, we can no longer tell the difference between illusions, and facts, and myths, and falsehoods. And the discussion on the right reflect that. These days economic 'facts' are disputed with conservative 'opinions'. New social theories are used to dispute already authenticated evidence, and everyone in the conservative movement seems to have embraced one form or another of would have been previously described as liberal falsehoods or mistakes.
In the same way that a tenured professor never learns to be right (because they never experience an incentive for it) the conservative movement no longer knows how to generate ‘correct’ ideas. Instead we’ve all embraced our own differing but insular visions, and now try to engage in discussion while rejecting all others. We all say we're right, and we each blame everyone else.
Until we learn to be as critical of our own ideas as we are of the ideas of liberals, I think we can expect to remain in the political wilderness. And deservedly so.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
My wife points out this story of a Florida "activist" who is illegally helping the Miami area homeless find forclosed houses to squat in. I guess that whole "property rights" idea is a really passe concept among the Democrat elite anyway. But this is just the kind of thing that makes my wife, who grew up in Communist eastern europe, absolutely lose her cookies.
She's right of course... but the way I figure, the local officials are just putting the "duh" back in Florida.
A coworker of mine was blown away by the 100 million dollar toilet on the space station. Not because it cost 100 million, but because after that hefty bill it still didn't work. I told him that I could fix it for another 150 million, and he said that because of the current state of government he needed to translate that as "0.15 Billion... he can't understand mere millions anymore." After you take that first Trillion dollar step, the numbers just don't seem all that big anymore.
Here in the WSJ, Governors Rick Perry and Mark Sanford raise an issue prominent in my mind lately. According to my numbers they are understating the issue pretty dramatically. They are also avoiding the big question that comes at the end which is... "What comes at the end?!"
In my view, because of the issues they've raised, the US government is no longer a riskless institution. Make of that what you will.