Saturday, March 20, 2010

Things Are Just Fab(ian)ulous

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The Fabian Society is a British intellectual socialist movement, whose purpose is to advance the principles of social democracy via gradualist and reformist, rather than revolutionary, means. It is best known for its initial ground-breaking work beginning late in the 19th century and continuing up to World War I. The society laid many of the foundations of the Labour Party and subsequently affected the policies of states emerging from the decolonisation of the British Empire, especially India. Today, the society is a vanguard "think tank" of the New Labour movement. It is one of 15 socialist societies affiliated to the Labour Party. Similar societies exist in Australia (the Australian Fabian Society), Canada (the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation and in past the League for Social Reconstruction) and New Zealand.

The Smaller List

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In our view there is no stronger argument against permitting centralized control of industries, particularly finance, than the dynamic aptly demonstrated by the Bank of North Dakota gambit.  So long as government, state or otherwise, is permitted to translate political desire into market manipulation this sort of cronyism threatens.
In the end capturing lending sectors that represent over 40% of the nation's economy accomplishes two things:

First, the ability to disregard underwriting in favor of loans to this week's favored political class or pet project.

Second, the creation of a significant body of subjects (to be distinguished from Citizens) beholden to the state.  Is it any wonder that health care, insurance and energy are next on the list?

We don't really wonder what will be de facto nationalized next.  We wonder what is actually going to be left to nationalize.  The latter seems quickly becoming the smaller list.

Have You No Shame?

Reality Check

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The SGS-Alternate GDP reflects the inflation-adjusted, or real, year-to-year GDP change, adjusted for distortions in government inflation usage and methodological changes that have resulted in a built-in upside bias to official reporting.

Annual Growth (Year-to-Year Percent Change) in GDP is shown in the chart on the right. This is not the annualized quarterly rate of change that serves as the headline number for the series.

Note: The GDP headline number refers to the most-recent quarter’s annualized quarter-to-quarter rate of change (what that quarter’s percent quarter-to-quarter change would translate into if compounded for four consecutive quarters).

This can mean that the latest quarter can be reported with a positive annualized growth rate, while the actual annual rate of change is negative.  Such was the case for the 3rd quarter of 2009.
Welcome to alternate reality.

The World's Largest Banana Republic

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No, not really – but I’m sure that’s the reaction on much of the “progressive” left.  Most of them figure without a public option the chance of actually swinging a government single payer system is a whole lot harder.   With it, they have a pretty good chance.  Harry Reid promises to oblige:

Hoping to assuage progressive Democrats who remain disappointed with the content of the health care reform bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) committed on Friday to holding a separate vote on a public option in the coming months.

And don’t expect Mr. Reid to follow the rules of the Senate when he does

aides on the Hill are already looking to future reconciliation vehicles to which they can attach the public plan, which would, in turn, allow for it to pass via an up-or-down vote

Welcome to the world’s largest Banana Republic.

Still Making Up The Rules

Key Democrat and impeached judge Rep. Alcee Hastings said this during a House Rules Meeting today in defense of the Democrats’ health care approach:
“All this talk about rules. We make them up as we go along.”

It should be noted that in 1981, Hastings was charged with accepting a $150,000 bribe in exchange for a lenient sentence. Hastings was impeached for bribery and perjury becoming only the sixth federal judge in the history of the United States to be removed from office by the Senate.

He’s still making the rules as he goes along.


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Just in case you missed what all the fuss over Sunday's ObamaCare vote is about.


Barack Obama has recorded his second annual Nowruz message for Iran. The man is a nattering nabob of Nowruzianism.

In his message Obama acknowledges Iran's right to peaceful use of nuclear energy. He purports to be mystified by the beliefs of "Iran's leaders." He must not be paying close attention.

You will be pleased to note that the United States remains interested in "comprehensive diplomatic contact and dialogue." Without reviewing Obama's message in detail, let me note only that watching It is painful.

Obama's Nowruz message to Iran contrasts markedly with the forthright and dignified message regarding Iran delivered by Neda's fiancé yesterday in Israel:

The fiancé of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was killed during protests in Teheran following the Iranian elections last year, visited Israel as guest of Channel 2, the station reported Friday evening.

Whoops Again!

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MEGAN MCARDLE: Arizona Kills SCHIP, Puts Medicaid on a Diet. “On the eve of the possible passage of a health care bill, Arizona has provided a glimpse of our possible future by shutting down its SCHIP program and booting a bunch of people out of Medicaid. . . . The reason this is so troubling, of course, is that the new proposed health care plan gets about half of its coverage expansion through adding people to Medicaid. The state side of this expense doesn’t show up on the books as a government expenditure (neatly enabling the bill to get a lower CBO score), but someone in America has to be taxed to pay for it, and there is a big problem when tax revenues fall short of the required expenditure.”


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In fact, if you believe what you read in the scientific literature, you shouldn’t believe what you read in the scientific literature.

“There is increasing concern,” declared epidemiologist John Ioannidis in a highly cited 2005 paper in PLoS Medicine, “that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims.”

Ioannidis claimed to prove that more than half of published findings are false, but his analysis came under fire for statistical shortcomings of its own. “It may be true, but he didn’t prove it,” says biostatistician Steven Goodman of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. On the other hand, says Goodman, the basic message stands. “There are more false claims made in the medical literature than anybody appreciates,” he says. “There’s no question about that.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Bursting Balloon

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That aside, the numbers from the CBO are being widely panned as misleading.  Those aren’t the CBO’s numbers – they simply deal with what they’re given – they’re the numbers from the pending bill and reconciliation package.  The Weekly Standard gives them some pretty good context that all can understand:

[It] is like the introductory price quoted by a cell phone provider.  It’s the price before you pay for minutes, fees, and overcharges — and before the price balloons after the introductory offer expires.

If you need a more graphic representation, this will do:

Of course, if you take the decade of 2014 to 2024 into account, the “introductory” offer doesn’t at all look so rosy or good.


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Remember when the left mercilessly ridiculed Dan Quayle for mis-spelling potato? Remember when Sarah Palin was ridiculed for (correctly) noting that Alaska borders Russia? Remember how every George W. Bush gaffe got twenty minutes of air-time on The Daily Show and a SNL sketch?

But when Dear Reader misspells "Syracuse" while filling out his NCAA brackets --- (a moment breathlessly hyped by the MSM, even as they ignore Demon Pass) --- his boyfriends in the MSM cover for him.

They don't show Obama writing the word Syracuse, it is replaced with ESPN animation, (at 1:26). Obama comes in after the animation and says "we've got Syracuse here" (word Syracuse is already written). ESPN shows him write every team in the Sweet 16 except for Syracuse, which they edited out

It's sad when the president is so dumb the media has to cover for him.

This Reeks

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It isn't every day I put up Jack Cafferty now is it?

O Idiots On Stilts

House Democrats say they will hold a vote on their national health care plan Sunday afternoon. But what are they actually doing between now and then? Behind the scenes, they're begging, offering bribes, threatening punishments, etc. But on the House floor, where lawmakers conduct their public business, the Democratic leadership is engaged in a days-long time-wasting effort to keep the House in session until the party can come up with enough votes to pass Obamacare.

For example, Friday afternoon -- a time when the House would normally have adjourned and lawmakers gone home -- the House considered H.Res. 1040, "Honoring the life and accomplishments of [novelist] Donald Harrington for his contributions to literature in the United States." The Democratic leadership allotted 40 minutes of debate to the subject, which is just a bit less than will be given to national health care.

The Spirit Of Liberty

This is not a blindingly new insight. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church raked in sackfuls of loot by selling indulgences to sinners. In a similar fashion, these days you can salve your environmental conscience by purchasing carbon offsets. That has worked out well for folks such as Al Gore, who says he counterbalances his jet-setting ways by "purchasing verifiable reductions in CO2 elsewhere."

Yet the studies that purport to prove something about some people often simply restate what is true about most of them. It's not that only conservatives are judgmental and only environmentalists are inconsistent. Everybody is both, to varying degrees -- and when we laugh at the failings of our political opponents, we are also laughing at ourselves.

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.

--Judge Learned Hand.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fixing The System

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Face To Face

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Children who are hooked on computer games, the internet and mobile phones are to be offered help at what is thought to be the first dedicated technology addiction service for young people in Britain.

The Capio Nightingale Hospital in central London - where singer Amy Winehouse was treated for drug addiction - launched the new service for patients as young as 12 following calls from parents concerned about their children's obsession.

Youngsters will be weaned off their gadgets in a residential unit and will also be taught face-to-face social skills.

The Russians Are Coming

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The Obama administration is poised to ban offshore oil drilling on the outer continental shelf until 2012 or beyond. Meanwhile, Russia is making a bold strategic leap to begin drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. While the United States attempts to shift gears to alternative fuels to battle the purported evils of carbon emissions, Russia will erect oil derricks off the Cuban coast.


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WHY DID WE HAVE A FINANCIAL CRISIS? Because regulators didn’t believe in efficient markets. “If regulators had been true believers in efficiency, they would have been considerably more skeptical about some of the consistently high returns being reported by various financial institutions. If the capital market is fiercely competitive, there is a good chance that high returns are attributable to high leverage, high risk, inside information, or dishonest accounting. True believers in efficiency would have looked more closely at the leverage and risk-taking positions of Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and banks and investment banks generally. They might have questioned the source of the trading profits of hedge funds like Galleon, and discovered some using inside information. And they would have been exceptionally skeptical of the surreally high and stable returns reported over an extended period by Bernie Madoff.”

As Soon As I Return

Imagine you have a friend who has a budget problem.  Every month he spends more than he earns.  His credit card bills are piling up.  He is clearly on an unsustainable path.  Then one day he comes to you with an idea.
Friend: I am going to take off a few days from work and fly down to Bermuda for a quick vacation.

You: But isn't that expensive?  Won't that just add to your growing debts?

Friend: Yes, it is expensive.  But my plan is deficit-neutral.  I have decided to give up that half-caf, extra-shot caramel macchiato I order at Starbucks twice every day.  I really don't need that expensive drink.  And if I give it up for the next three years, it will pay for my Bermuda trip.

You: Well, then, how are you going to solve the problem of your growing debts?

Friend: I am going to figure that out as soon as I return from Bermuda.

Perfect Ending

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CBO SCORE PRELIMINARY, final numbers not available until Saturday or Sunday — perhaps after the vote? Plus this: “If it kicked in right away, the decade-long estimate would obviously be well into the trillions. So they simply stalled it for four years, incurring just $17 billion in costs — or 1.8 percent of the total 10-year estimate — through 2013 so that wavering Democrats could go back to their districts and tell baldfaced lies to their constituents about the pricetag. A perfect ending to this travesty.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Now We're Getting Warm

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WHO NEEDS A CONTRACT WITH AMERICA? Congressional Candidate Gives Supporters Permission To Hang Him. “‘If I don’t do what I say, I’ll give you my address, and you can bring a rope and you can hang me,’ Fincher told the crowd.” I like that.


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Cole was a child prodigy on the piano. He took it up at age 4 and played by ear until he was 12, when he began taking lessons. By age 15 he had dropped out of high school to become a full-time professional musician. William Ruhlmann tells the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The 4 Year Countdown

Tim Cahill is the state treasurer of Massachusetts. He recently bolted the Democratic Party to run for governor. The Boston Globe reports Cahill's pointed comments on Obamacare as with a local twist:

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, an independent candidate for governor, today offered a wide-ranging and scathing criticism of the state's universal health care law, saying it is bankrupting Massachusetts and will do the same nationally, if a similar plan is passed in Congress.

"If President Obama and the Democrats repeat the mistake of the health insurance reform here in Massachusetts on a national level, they will threaten to wipe out the American economy within four years," Cahill said in a press conference in his office.

Sweden: Not Quite What You Think

Our Europhile President and many Congressional Democrats aspire to make the United States more like Sweden. More like our outdated image of Sweden, anyway; the real Sweden is undergoing something of a free market renaissance. In this video from the Center For Freedom and Prosperity, a Swedish economics student--OK, some stereotypes are still valid--explains the lessons we can learn from that country's economic history:

Inhumanity Versus Inhumanity

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For decades, individual senators have resisted their leaders’ attempts to run the Senate like the House and destroy these relationships and these humane customs. A few years ago, when Republican leaders tried to pass judicial nominations on party-line votes, rank-and-file members like Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton spoke out forcefully against rule by simple majority.

But power trumps principle. In nearly every arena of political life, group relationships have replaced person-to-person relationships. The tempo of the Senate is now set by partisan lunches every Tuesday

Once partisan reconciliation is used for this bill, it will be used for everything, now and forever. The Senate will be the House. The remnants of person-to-person relationships, with their sympathy and sentiment, will be snuffed out. We will live amid the relationships of group versus group, party versus party, inhumanity versus inhumanity.

Brooks is usually a doofus but he's certainly got this one right.

Faster, Please

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In the paper “Spontaneous reversal of the developmental aging of normal human cells following transcriptional reprogramming,” the authors showed that they could effectively reprogram cells to act as if they were young — they could “reset the cell’s clock.” By doing so, they achieved two things. First, they added to the evidence supporting the telomere hypothesis by showing that longer telomeres did in fact seem to indicate a “younger” cell.

Second, in a discovery with implications for future stem cell therapies, they demonstrated that by reprogramming cells to have longer telomeres and a higher level of the telomerase enzyme, they could make induced pluripotent stem cells — so-called “adult stem cells,” stem cells created from adult tissues — act more like embryonic stem cells.  This might lead to stem cell research without the ethical issues posed by creating embryonic stem cells from human embryos.

The Real Slaves

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As the lunatic wing of the Democrat Party prepares for the great leap into socialism by ramming through a federal healthcare entitlement certain to lead to national bankruptcy, now might be a good time to reprint highlights from a letter that Dr. Roger Starner Jones wrote to the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger:

During my last night's shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B; tune for a ring tone.

Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid.

She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer. And our President expects me to pay for this woman's health care?

There it is in a nutshell: the depraved infantilism of liberalism, which demands that those who take responsibility become slaves to those who do not.

What Warming?

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My last few posts have described a new method for quantifying the average Urban Heat Island (UHI) warming effect as a function of population density, using thousands of pairs of temperature measuring stations within 150 km of each other. The results supported previous work which had shown that UHI warming increases logarithmically with population, with the greatest rate of warming occurring at the lowest population densities as population density increases.

This is a very significant result. It suggests the possibility that there has been essentially no warming in the U.S. since the 1970s.

Also, note that the highest population class actually exhibits slightly more warming than that seen in the CRUTem3 dataset. This provides additional confidence that the effects demonstrated here are real.

Finally, the next graph shows the difference between the lowest population density class results seen in the first graph above. This provides a better idea of which years contribute

And odd isn't it how the warming started when the AGW campaign did?

I Can't Be Bought

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Zero Contact

As I noted here, the Obama administration's Department of Education has announced that it will crack down on "civil-rights infractions" in public schools, including alleged disparities in the disciplining of white and black students. The notion behind this initiative is that black students are disproportionately subjected to discipline they don't deserve.

Unfortunately, in the view of Obama's civil rights enforcers, some races seem to be more equal than others.

JOHN adds: Anyone who seriously thinks that the big problem in our public schools is discrimination against violent African-American students has had zero contact with such schools--or, one might say, with reality--in recent decades. I doubt that even the Obama administration is that out of touch. What we're seeing here is a political payoff at the expense of students of all races, nothing more.

Start Preparing Now!

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Forget global warming and 2012, the real worry is a solar system gravity death match between Sol and Gliese 710.

Movement of an orange dwarf star with a mass of about half that of the Sun will eventually bring it right to the solar system, stellar data analysis indicates.

The Gliese 710 from the constellation Serpens Cauda is due to arrive in about 1.5 million years, and has an 86 per cent probability of passing through the Oort Cloud, says Vadim Bobylev at the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St. Petersburg.

The prediction is based on analysis of data from the European Space Agency’s Hipparcos astrometric spacecraft, which measured velocities of almost 120,000 stars in the early 1990s, as well as some recent data.

Bobylev analyzed the measured movements of about 35,000 stars in our neighborhood in the time interval from 2 million years in the past to 2 million years in the future.

But, Hmmm... Even I have to admit the probability of the ice caps melting by then rises from 0.00000% to maybe 2 or even 3%. So what do I get busy and exercise my precautionary principle about?

Perpetual Debt

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Waiting For Choice

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NEW YORK (Fortune) -- It's time to start paying attention to the financial sinkhole that Iceland is trying to climb out of -- the view from inside of it is eerily similar to our own.

An Icelandic savings bank, Icesave, had attracted billions in deposits from hundreds of thousands of British and Dutch citizens, due to the phenomenally high interest rates it offered. Icesave collapsed in 2008, for much the same reason Lehman Brothers, WaMu, and hundreds of local savings banks did: its bankers used their cash to make complicated, bad, leveraged investments, mostly on real estate.

It's too easy and wrong to look at Iceland as being somehow dumber than we were. Their problems aren't just an outgrowth of our financial handiwork; their problems are our financial handiwork. And Icelanders have thoroughly rejected being placed in hock to exonerate the tiny segment of the population that threw their country into chaos.

In our democracy, we didn't have that choice.

No Doubt Of That Is There?

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The Iranian regime has always dreaded fun.  Western music is banned.  Unchaperoned boys & girls together is banned.  Women showing an ankle or some hair is banned, as is rental of bicycles to the ladies.  The color green is banned, whether it’s the green in the flag behind Ahmadinejad on national tv, or, even though Flynt Leverett denies it, the green stripes on street curbs in Tehran.
Now comes Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with his latest joyless fatwa to forbid celebration of the fire ritual that Persians have celebrated for thousands of years.
Tomorrow’s celebrations–or their absence–will give us yet another snapshot of what the Soviets loved to call “the correlation of forces,” the order of battle in the ongoing war between tyranny and freedom inside Iran.  We will also see the extent of the West’s fecklessness.  But there’s really no doubt of that, is there?

Chart Of The Day

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Why it's Good to have a College Degree
And why it's a waste for some people.

That said, I'm not sure college is all it's cracked up to be and I think it's probably not the best choice for a lot of people. In a past life I was a teacher and I saw quite a few kids in my classes who were really just passing time in the 13th through 16th grade until they could get out and start doing what they were really interested in. For them college wasn't all that interesting or useful or even the best investment.

So if a kid a started an electrician's apprentice program at 18, he could get his full Electrician's license within 5 years. And if his parents had saved even half the money that would have gone for tuition, they would have enough to bankroll the kid setting up his own electrical business. For a lot of kids that's a much better start to life than getting a bachelors degree in sociology or art history and wondering what now.