Friday, January 20, 2017

on Fidel Castro's passing: it does not look like he gets to RIP

Fidel, RIP? Probably not, unless there was a deathbed conversion. If so, he's found a relatively special place in Hell. Outside of accepting the grace of God, we are judged by our works. It's possible, but seems unlikely that Fidel accepted this Grace-- and does he ever have a big ol' pile of brutal works...

Let's put all of the post-death articles on him in one convenient place:

1.) People saying stupid stuff about him: Justin Trudeau (here, here, and here); a list of Top 5 and Top 10 Worst Statements by world leaders (Trudeau is #1 in both); blurbs from the media; or the Left in general for the past 50 years. 


2.) People eulogizing him properly: Andy Garcia, Abigail Blanco for the Independent Institute, Joe Carter for Acton, Mary Anastasia O'Grady in the WSJ, Carlos Eire in the WP, and this funny, captioned photo.


3.) Linking apologists for Castro-- with various worldviews: four from Matt Welch in Reason; partisans (if you like Castro, why would we listen to your critiques of Trump or anything else) from Cal Thomas; those who imagine his (positive) "accomplishments"; and "his enduring appeal" (by R.R. Reno in FT).


4.) On Castro vs. Coca-Cola-- and Cuba embracing freer enterprise: This IPR piece comparing Castro to Cuban refugee / CEO of Coca-Cola, Roberto Goizueta; and Acton on "The Profit" Marcus Lemonis goes to Cuba.

5.) Finally, two provocative pieces-- the first, more personal and introspective-- by Achy Obejas in the NYT; and the second, by Doug Casey, as some reflections on meeting Castro, being in Cuba, its future and potential for (potentially amazing) investment. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

a critique of the ACA from the Left

A critique of the ACA from the Left (in Harpers)...Reading the Left is valuable, because it reveals the difference between the Left and mere partisan Democrats. And those on the Left (or with sympathies for the Left) are more likely to be tolerant of a writer from the Left. (I'll link my review of Thomas Frank's book below-- as another recent example.) 

With Trump coming in, there has been an outpouring of odes to the ACA. For partisan reasons-- and given the nature of government activism's obvious benefits-- they focus on its benefits and not its costs (or its instability, incoherence, and failure to address underlying causes).

Politically, Obama has benefited from the nastiness of Clinton/Trump. His legacy-- and again, helpful for partisans-- he will also benefit from efforts to reduce/replace the ACA. To some extent, he and Dem partisans will be able to foist blame onto the GOP-- for something that was horribly flawed by its own rights.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

another unpublished letter to the editor of the C-J



I appreciate Jason Bailey’s focus on employment, jobs, and wages in his recent op-ed piece for the C-J.

Bailey correctly notes that the popular unemployment statistics paint an inaccurate picture by ignoring “discouraged workers”. They are no longer looking for work (according to the government) and are not counted by the government as “unemployed”. To Bailey’s point, it’s worth adding that much of the job growth over the last eight years has been part-time. This has been driven by the incentives to avoid hiring full-time workers through the Affordable Care Act. This further masks the economic damage of the last decade.

From there, Bailey advocates a “significantly higher minimum wage”; supports “prevailing wage” laws; and opposes “right-to-work”. But these are not helpful for his stated goal of increased employment. The minimum wage increases the cost of hiring less-skilled workers, making it more painful to hire them. Avoiding “right-to-work” and keeping “prevailing wages” would be good for those in labor market cartels. But these laws artificially increase costs, making it more difficult for businesses and consumers to increase economic activity.

Bailey properly notes the role of education in improved productivity—and thus, jobs, wages, and compensation. With the new administration, hopefully we can look forward to structural reforms in K-12 education that would add more competition, such as public charter schools and an extension of the GI Bill to children.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Reno on the Powell Doctrine, reducing expectations, and continuing to underestimate the Donald

In the most recent issue of FT, RR Reno uses the "Powell Doctrine"-- an "all-or-nothing approach"-- to describe the media's approach to the presidential campaign and, more surprisingly, its aftermath.

"The disappointment, anger, and bitterness liberals feel and express after Trump's win do not surprise me. Losing isn't fun. But it's odd that the liberal establishment is continuing with the Powell Doctrine."

Reno continues by making the same point I've made-- that they're working hard to lower expectations and, ironically, make it easier for him to be successful. "He need only govern in a somewhat reasonable, more or less sane fashion that does not overthrow the Constitution."

And please, why is it smart to underestimate the Donald-- again? "To nearly everyone's surprise", he won the GOP nomination, "defeated the Clinton machine by a strategy of his own devising rather than the one championed by GOP consultants and experts. Given the ways he has confounded our expectations, why should we imagine we can predict the success or failure of his presidency?"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

undue faith in climate models and dogmatism vs. science within universities and in research

On this article in Reason about Judith Curry's "resignation"...
 
I don't know much about "climate". (I have a light understanding of the literature and a *thorough* understanding of the many, probably-prohibitively-difficult conditions required for govt to make a positive difference on the issue. The glossing-over of the latter is what you get from people who don't respect Science and probably have an ideological axe to grind. #FauxScience #FauxTolerance)

But I do understand modeling and the difficulties of empirical modeling *well*-- and then, beyond that, extending it to forecasting-- especially something as complex as climate or human behavior. I was reminded of this as I started to teach Econometrics last night. As such, it's really difficult for me to have faith in the models and modelers in climate science. #OhYeOfMuchFaith


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New York State considers an extension of its expensive and regressive subsidies for higher education

NY State considers extending its expensive and regressive subsidies for higher education. A few thoughts:

a.) means-testing the subsidies helps with some equity/fairness angles, but probably hurts its efficiency
b.) this extends the govt-created higher-ed bubble; why do we have so much college debt? a culture that has encouraged debt generally and a government that subsidizes it in higher ed

c.) if it's good that these students can attend many public NY university, why not extend the same to K-12 students?

d.) the answer to that question is related to another implication of the higher education subsidy: a bi-partisan passion for crony capitalism and reversing Robin Hood


"quiet time" and reading the Bible in community/accountability

A good blog post from my buddy Kent Evans at Manhood Journey-- and I have a suggestion to follow-up on Kent's comments about an individual's "quiet time".

"We" often tell/encourage people to read their Bible, but particularly when addressing people from traditions that don't emphasize Bible reading/study and in an increasingly post-Christian society, many people won't understand how to do this and/or have the discipline in place to do it...well.

Better-- for many reasons-- to (also) encourage people to read the Bible in the accountability and beauty of community. A small group of 2-12 could commit to reading Matthew (say, a chapter per day over four weeks or four chapters per week over seven weeks), to "journal" over it (or some non-Christianese word), and to gather weekly to discuss what God has shown each of them.

A practice and discipline to consider for the New Year?


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

like watching TV when you're making love

"A flickering glow welcomed me to my university’s chapel service. Votive candles? If only. No, these were glowing smartphones, as thick as fireflies on a summer’s evening. It was a scene of tremendous absurdity, like a man watching TV while making love to his wife: distracted people distracting themselves during a sacred act...the foretaste of some looming spiritual crisis."

The opening to a nice little piece on technology in FT and some of its costs...

I don't have a "smart"phone yet, and don't intend to do so anytime soon. The cost-- and the price-- seem far too high. If you have one, please consider how it is changing you-- in obviously and subtly damaging ways. And consider the relevant spiritual disciplines you can embrace to minimize the damages.