Archives for: August 2011

The Latest Stimulus Casualty

Oops:

A company that served as a showcase for the Obama administration’s effort to create jobs in clean technology shut down Wednesday, leaving 1,100 people out of work and taxpayers obligated for $535 million in federal loans.

Solyndra, a California solar panel maker, had long been an administration favorite. Over the past two years, President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu each had made congratulatory visits to the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

Although Wednesday’s announcement came as a surprise, House Republicans and government auditors had questioned the wisdom of the administration’s loan guarantees to the company, backed by capital from billionaire Democratic fundraiser George Kaiser. In July, a House subcommittee subpoenaed White House documents related to the guarantee, and after Wednesday’s developments, Republican lawmakers vowed to continue investigating.

I take no delight in this. I think solar power has something of a future and feel for the 1100 people who are out of work. However, domestic solar is not competitive — not with China, not with fossil fuels. To make it competitive is going to take a smarter business model than kissing up to politicians and securing loans.

Green jobs may have a future. Government-sponsored jobs don’t.

Licensed Into Poverty

Conor Friedersdorf has an enragifying article about how permits and licenses are strangling the American economy. After using the example of Burns Harbor — a small town with a terrible economy that now requires onerous permits for any business, he summarizes:

The normal mindset among U.S. officials is that prior permission should be required to sell legal goods to a willing buyer. Kids selling lemonade on the street are shut down. A Missouri man has been fined $90,000 for selling rabbits (he made about $200). In Illinois, an artisan ice cream maker is being shut down for lack of a dairy permit. Manuel Winn was arrested, handcuffed, and booked for selling magazines door-to-door without a permit. A Maryland mother of three was arrested for selling $2 phone cards without a license. Lots of municipalities are going after food trucks. A group of Louisiana monks had to go to court to win the right to sell simple wooden caskets to consumers.

If you read enough of these stories, you’ll see the targeted entrepreneurs say the same thing again and again: I just had a good idea and started a business. It never occurred to me that I needed permission. And, of course, other would be entrepreneurs don’t ever get started because they’re too intimidated to assess and grapple with the bureaucratic hurdles. Or else the regulations are written in a way that excludes from commerce folks who are operating at a very small scale.

I can see licensing, say, doctors or airline pilots. But we’ve gotten to the point where beauticians, decorators and food vendors — businesses people can start with talent and a business card — are closed off. A quarter of American jobs now require some official license or permit.

Big business, needless to say, loves permit and licensing requirements. These are much easier to handle when you’re an established million dollar business as opposed to a small thousand dollar business. And brick-and-mortar stores are delighted when the authorities chase away taco carts and raid a salon run out of someone’s living room.

But we are strangling entrepreneurship. And strangling it most viciously in communities and demographics that are struggling. Many is the American whose success in life started with a small food stand or a neighborhood beauty salon. But self-important assholes at all levels of government have decided that entrepreneurs must genuflect to them; must beg and pay for the privilege of growing the economy.

This is something that should be non-partisan. Conservatives and libertarians should be fighting this for economic freedom. And indeed, the eeevil conservative Institute for Justice is doing all they can, having won a huge victory for the Louisiana monks. Liberals should be behind this too, however, since these regulations trap poor people in dependency. But every time Matt Yglesias brings this up, he gets hammered by his readers.

This probably requires action at the state level, since fighting this regulation-by-regulation is like fighting Lernean Hydra. Governors need to be putting in laws or amendments establishing a basic right to do business. But is anyone going to run on this kind of platform? I’m not holding my breath.

Book Burners? Nah

I’ve previously made mention of the factually-challenged liberal blogger Amanda Marcotte. She’s the “feminist” blogger who, among other things, claims that polls showing that about half of women are pro-Life are biased because women are too stupid to know what pro-Life means (no, I’m not making that up.)

Last week, she wrote an article about the Tea Party moving to ban books which was forwarded me by about every liberal on the planet, including members of Amazon basin native tribes that have yet to make contact with western civilization. Funny thing, ha ha. Her article actually doesn’t present any evidence that the Tea Party, per se, is banning books, per se. The logic appears to be:

1) Tea Partiers tend to be socially conservative;
2) Some social conservatives want books they consider inappropriate for children removed from school libraries;
3) Therefore the Tea Party wants to ban books.

Jonah Goldberg has now looked deeper into this. And … well, do we really need to ask what he found?

So, in other words since the rise of the Tea Parties the number of “banned books” has actually gone down (not counting, of course, the incidents that the “group never learns about” which are no doubt legion). Neither USA Today story has anything whatsoever to say about the Tea Parties. And the second one titled, “Those challenging books find strength in numbers” is mostly about the apparently new controversy over risque content in advance placement testing.

Also, at least some of these challenges are coming from liberals who object to content they regard as racist and/or sexist.

For the record, my opinion on books, films and TV is that it should be age appropriate. I remember when Schindler’s List debuted, unedited, on television. Spielberg had a little video beforehand advising parents to exercise their judgement; that he wouldn’t let his young kids see it but would insist on his older children watching it.

I have no problem with fencing off controversial books into a section accessible either to older students or those whose parents have signed off. AP classes, by definition, are for mature students who can handle a little controversy but parents should be informed beforehand so they can decide whether or not to let their kids take the class. As long as everyone’s informed, we’re good.

Actually, my preference is to privatize the schools altogether, making this a parental rather than political issue. But even modest efforts in that direction are running into stiff resistance. If we’re going to have public schools, some accommodation for religious and or PC parents is not unreasonable.

In any case, the notion that the Tea Parties are gearing up for a massive book burning is ridiculous. I’ve spoken to — in person or electronically — Tea Partiers ranging from libertarian to moderate conservative to bible-thumping Religious Right. I’ve gotten an earful on every issue from the gold standard to the space program to gay rights. And I have never had anyone bring up books in school.

Nice try, Ms. Marcotte. But we’re a little too busy cleaning up the mess your political allies have left to bother with books right now.

Picking Your Battles

Granted, the specific appeal of any political commentator/talk show host to the individual is usually directly proportional to the precision at which his views line up your own, either bulwarking a conclusion already drawn or causing one to change course mid stream.

Has this ever happened to you? Some pundit for which you have an affinity for and align well with says something so excruciatingly off the mark and silly that you wonder if the disconnect is on you, but then after reflection conclude that no, he is not always right and on this one, really wrong, then wonder how it possible that he could whiff it so bad?

Case in point for me. I think Mark Levin is one smart dude. Not only does he know The Constitution, but if you have ever read any of his books, his power of persuasion is matched only by the alacrity at which he commands the topic at hand. But, the other day, he said something about Chris Christie on his radio show that had me beyond scratching my head:

Here is the offending comment from Gov. Christie:

What is Mark talking about? Everything Christie said made perfect sense to me. For about a week we had the best weather prognosticators telling us that Irene was serious, that it could be the worse hurricane to hit the East Coast in one hundred years. Everyday we saw those graphics of those hurricane icons traveling up the coast, and they all had 3’s on them. Warning people to get off the beach and take precautions was not only sensible but that is what public officials are suppose to do. He was not over reacting, he was not under pressure, he was being responsible. You would think that after all this coverage prior to it hitting the coast, that most sane reasonable people would understand the seriousness and the danger, but he is the governor for all the people of NJ, even the stupid ones, and dumbing down instructions to the lowest common denominator is necessary for maximum impact and the safety of everyone.

And Levin’s statement about you are on your own is just stupid. Emergency rescue crews must be dispatched for anyone who needs it. If you are having a picnic on the beach in the middle of a hurricane and find yourself in jeopardy, emergency personnel (fire, police, paramedics) can’t say ,”Well, they were warned, anyone out there now is on their own, we have no duty to render aid”. Yes, you have the right to stay in your home, eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the beach, and any other stupid thing imaginable, but our elected officials have a duty to warn us of impending danger, that is what Christie did.

I can’t blame it on a slow news day, there is lot’s of stuff to talk about, why is Levin ragging on Christie?

Warren, Tax Dodge

A common tenet of finance is that rich people are rich because they don’t spend money frivolously. What I learned from this book was that amassing great gobs of cash involves not just industry, a great deal of thrift is involved, such as applying a strangle hold on that fortune. One way of bulking up your fortunes is to never share it with the government, something Warren Buffett has down to a science:

This one’s truly, uh … rich: Billionaire Warren Buffett says folks like him should have to pay more taxes — but it turns out his firm, Berkshire Hathaway, hasn’t paid what it’s already owed for years.

That’s right: As Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson notes, the company openly admits that it owes back taxes since as long ago as 2002.

“We anticipate that we will resolve all adjustments proposed by the US Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for the 2002 through 2004 tax years … within the next 12 months,” the firm’s annual report says.

It also cites outstanding tax issues for 2005 through 2009.

Obvious question: If Buffett really thinks he and his “mega-rich friends” should pay higher taxes, why doesn’t his firm fork over what it already owes under current rates?

Good question, is this another example of those sanctimonious progressives wagging their finger at us with a ,”Do as I say, not as I do”? Much like Al Gore calling every AGW skeptic a racist all the while producing his own carbon footprint the size of Montana, Warren runs fast and loose with his tax policy advice to the president, how about the IRS goes after these rich hypocrite tax dodges, that’s got to be good for a few billions.

Tapping the rich/propagating class warfare is such a tired old meme, you would hope that Obama would come up with something new for 2012, but it has paid dividends before, and with even more people less wealthy then when he started his pilgrimage of wealth distribution, it will still play.

Fact is, unlike most other folks, Warren Buffett gets most of his income from dividends and capital gains, which are nominally taxed at 15 percent.

Yep, we have already discussed that here. The only people that can afford to live on dividends and cap gains are those wealthy enough to have amassed stock holdings capable of throwing off large sums of cash, hardly the same thing as earning a salary with a real job.

There’s more. Obama, and co-conspirators like Buffett, claim to want to slap only “millionaires and billionaires.”

But in 2009, for instance, fewer than a quarter-million taxpayers (less than two tenths of 1 percent) reported income over $1 million — and their combined bill was less than $200 billion.

Raise the top tax rate on them by 13 percent, as Obama wants (from 35 percent to 39.6 percent) and you bring in only another $26 billion, tops — and that’s if your tax hike doesn’t stifle the economy and kill jobs (which it surely would). Yet what’s $26 billion in a world of $4 trillion federal budgets with trillion-dollar-plus deficits?

That’s why that whole ,”Make rich people pay their fair share”, is such bullshit, you can’t get there from here, it won’t be nearly enough and is piddling for any real deficit reduction.

But don’t think America is the only place with big mouth well-heeled leaders of industry bent on offering themselves up on the alter of fairness:

The move follows an open letter by 16 executives and wealthy French, including Europe’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, who offered to pay a “special contribution” in a spirit of “solidarity” because they had benefited from the French system.

So, pay up madem, by all means, if you feel so called, write that check, oh, you want other rich people to follow suit? How presumptuous.

Reporting The Obvious

I always get a chuckle out of folks that seem surprised at the stupidity of some people. Instead of trying to analyze the disconnect in the the thinking process, a more seasoned anthropologist would just sit back and enjoy the comedy.

This poor reporter can’t understand the behavior of some locals when confronted with Irene:

Alcohol does lessen the impact of calamity, but why is this guy speechless? With the power out in your house, there is not much to do, fornicate maybe, but how long does that take? Any excuse for a party, what’s not to understand?

I’m struck by all articles of late claiming that Irene was overhyped. First off, anything that can get Obama to cut his vacation short, sounds like the real deal to me. But this sentiment flies in the face of some rather obvious precepts:
Who can accurately predict the path of hurricanes, or any natural disasters? How many times have we seen tornadoes jump about randomly, uprooting one farm and leaving the next door neighbor unscathed, I guess that guy could ask ,”What’s the big deal?”.
Isn’t it always better, when warning the public of a possible impending disaster, better to be safe then sorry? Yes, it’s great that Irene lost some intensity and got downgraded, all the way from a level 3 hurricane to a tropical storm, but this was fortuitous, not foreseen.
News is all about ratings and the more calamitous the predictions the more eyes and ears you will get. Sweeping histrionic predictions will get people’s attention, and who to say they were wrong?

Irene Causes Worst Floods in 100 Yrs.

Many in Vermont, Penn., and NY, know they pretty much got their ass kicked, don’t tell them Irene was “overblown”.

It will probably be at least a week before anyone gets a handle on what the damages will be. Total deaths, so far is 28.

Any of you East Coasters affected?

Monday Morning Enragement

Now here is something I think we can all agree upon: the kids in this story need to be taken out and beaten with sticks.

Some children kick up a big tantrum when they’re refused toys or receive the wrong type of birthday card – but it doesn’t usually end up like this.

Kimberly Garrity, who raised Steven II, now 23, and Kathryn, now 20, in a $1.5million home in Illinois, was sued by her own children.

But the siblings, represented by three lawyers including their father, Steven A. Miner, have failed in their $50,000 lawsuit for ‘bad mothering’.

They alleged Garrity failed to take Kathryn to a car show and threatened Steven II with phoning police if he did not buckle his seatbelt.

The children claim she ‘haggled’ over dress prices and called at midnight to tell Kathryn to come home from a party, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Oh, she also sent them an inappropriate birthday card without money. If you can imagine.

This went to an appeals court, so you can imagine the legal bills. Somewhere — probably somewhere expensive, warm and covered with girls in bikinis — a bunch of lawyers are laughing their asses off.

What Should I Be Watching?

From the Nation Of Criminals post some of us got a bit sidetracked and started talking about TV shows. An illustration of how scattered I am at times, I am always complaining that there is never anything on (I got Dish Network Gold, so I get like a gazillion stations) but since I don’t watch that much TV (ESPN and Foxnews mainly, Tennis Channel, TCM, sporting events, but that’s pretty much it) I don’t have the patience to sit through a regular series (with commercials) so there is little I am a fan of. Here is how pitiful I am, I have never watched Friends, The Sopranos, Seinfeld, The Wire, BSG, or any other big time TV show………….I know, what a dufus.

A few years ago I got hooked on Dexter, so I buy the season DVD’s. I have watched The Office (not as good as the BBC original Ricky Gervais version) and Party Down (A Showtime series that was really good, but they only made 2 seasons worth). I watched the first few episodes of Hawaii 5-0, but got behind and never came back. That’s it, not a fan of anything else.

So, here is the question, I got Netflix and access to the best Library on the planet, they stock everything, what shows do you like, that think they are superlative and well worth me getting in to? Good writing is key, duh, something that will make me care about the characters. You can rate them in tiers if you like or just list the shows in order of watchabilty. Anything to get me off of this devil computer.

I’m Not Satisfied

Reconciling the simple fact that what I see is what I got, it appears I am in the minority wrt Republicans (or those likely to vote GOP) who are happy with the current field of wannabes:

Most Republicans say they’re now satisfied with their choices in a presidential candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday.

Sixty-four percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they are satisfied with their options in candidates to face off against President Obama next fall. That represents an increase since June, when just half of Republicans said they were pleased with the candidates in the field.

Thirty percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they were dissatisfied with the candidates, a number that’s down since mid-June, when the last AP-GfK poll had been conducted.

The Perry bandwagon, the manifestation were a new guy rockets to the top, to me was a clear example of people NOT being happy with the current crop and wanting a better selection from which to choose.

Most pundits mine the same talking points, no president has ever been reelected with a favorability percentage as such and such, with an unemployment percentage as this amount, with the economy growing (not) at such and such levels, with these historical benchmark lows. But all that means dick if you put someone up who really does not inspire either, and I’m not inspired, with any of them.

Here is just one of the problems:

More Results from the same AP Gpf Poll :

51 % Americans blames GW Bush for current weak US economy.

31 % Americans blames Obama for current weak US economy.

It is a convenient and plausible hook, “the economy was soooooooooo bad, no one could have fixed it by now, this is what the last president left us, but we are making progress, we can turn the ship around with your help. Don’t let all this effort go to waste, 4 more years is all I’m asking. I promise you that we can make America prosperous again, and we will”.

But back to the GOP contenders. Perry and Romney are the only two legitimates, and both have huge baggage. Obama is an absolutely dreadful president, but he is a world class campaigner and going after these two will be Biden easy.

Perry better be prepared to explain and defend his record on:
Gardasil
Trans-Texas Corridor
Al Gore’s campaign manager in Texas-this one is easy, but it will come up
He wants Texas to secede from the union
Texas’ average wage is much lower than the national average
Texas’ educational ranking
He is squishy on immigration
Perry says he has not raised taxes, but he has
Perry has presided over the highest number of executions in the nation

Despite Obama’s belly aching about the sad state of the economy left to him, Perry followed the same “incompetent” George Bush and managed a much different result.

Maybe a brilliant VP pick will make the winner more palatable, but really, who votes for the VP anyway?

Doubtful any one else of substance will enter, so we are counting one of these guys to unseat and one term Obama, are they up to it?

Security, Inc.

The LA Times has one of the periodic exposes of how bloated the security and anti-terrorism sector of our economy has become. As we’ve noted many times, it seems that policy and spending are driven not by a comprehensive overlook of the terror threat but by people sitting around, having a few drinks and imagining what terrorists might do.

On the edge of the Nebraska sand hills is Lake McConaughy, a 22-mile-long reservoir that in summer becomes a magnet for Winnebagos, fishermen and kite sailors. But officials here in Keith County, population 8,370, imagined this scene: An Al Qaeda sleeper cell hitching explosives onto a water-skiing boat and plowing into the dam at the head of the lake.

The federal Department of Homeland Security ago gave the county $42,000 to buy state-of-the-art dive gear, including full-face masks, underwater lights and radios, and a Zodiac boat with side-scan sonar capable of mapping wide areas of the lake floor.

Up on the lonely prairie around Cherry County, population 6,148, got thousands of federal dollars for cattle nose leads, halters and electric prods – in case terrorists decided to mount biological warfare against cows.

We see this sort of behavior from parents who won’t let their kids play baseball or something because they heard something from someone about some kid whose heart … I don’t know … it’s such a violent game. Here’s a nerf ball, kid. But it’s a big nerf ball so you can’t stick in your mouth and swallow it. But not too big so that you don’t try to stand on and get hurt. And put this helmet on. And drinks all your meals through straws. You can never be too safe.

Of course, you can be too safe. We’re spendings tens of billions on this, decking out local law enforcement agencies like standing armies, creating huge databases of information about our citizens and … is it having an effect? No terrorist has ever been caught or arrested with this approach; the only ones we’ve caught have been through brave actions of citizens or information from concerned relatives. The defenders of the security state are reduced to saying we have no way of knowing what plots were never attempted because of their counter-measures — the national security equivalent of “jobs created or saved”.

Large sums of Homeland Security money, critics complain, have been propelled by pork barrel politics into the backyards of the congressionally connected.

No! Really?

The problem here is that no one apart from me and Ron Paul wants to get control of this spending. Because if they do then, the second a terrorist attack happens, a zillion assholes will pop out to claim that budget cuts are the reason the attack happened. We’ve seen this before. The explosives hadn’t even cooled before people were blaming Policy X for the Undie Bomber attack. And that invective was never corrected when it turned out that Policy X was completely unrelated.

We can never make the nation 100% secure. It’s time to stop spending money like we can.