Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chelsea Clinton, "mixed faith marriages", and not believing what you claim

This morning, I heard discussion about a great increase in "mixed-faith marriages"-- in today's (famous) case, Chelsea Clinton (with a Baptist/Methodist background) marrying a man with a Jewish background.

I have no clue whether Chelsea is a professing Christian, active church-goer, etc. Although it's possible that both are "believers" of their claimed "faiths", it is more likely that they are merely "cultural" in their response to Christianity and Judaism.

To the extent this is true-- for them and certainly for most others in this category-- we're not really observing an increase in mixed-"faith" marriages, but an increase in mixed-"culture" marriages (or somesuch). To note, if their faith meant a lot to them, they wouldn't marry someone of another (avid) faith.

Friday, July 30, 2010

what would Friedman say?

As the keynote speaker for the Friedman Legacy event at U of L this morning, I was asked to use a take-off of the familiar WWJD in describing what Friedman would say about the current macroeconomic situation.

(After my remarks, the bulk of the event was a panel discussion on education reform, including Jeff Reed (Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in Indy),
Jerry Stephenson (pastor of the Midwest Church of Christ; chairman of Kentucky Education Restoration Alliance), fellow economist John Garen from UK, and Phil Moffett, co-founder of School CHOICE Scholarships and recently announced candidate for governor in the Republican primary).

Of course, this might be perceived as sacrilege on two fronts-- by imitating a phrase often used to imagine Jesus Christ (albeit by humans) and by potentially (and presumptuously) putting words into the mouth of another man! But I think I was ok on both counts...

Here's what I said:

I opened by discussing how he spoke-- with grace and truth; with equal parts smile/wink and tenacity/intensity. And I noted that he would talk about both efficiency and when possible, (nearly-universal ideas of) equity. For example, in describing the travesty of Social Security, he would have described its solvency problem as a pay-as-you-go system with a wave of baby-boomers retiring. But he would have been even quicker to talk about the oppressive burden of its (payroll/FICA/12.4%) tax on the working poor and middle class-- as well as its anemic rate of return (even negative for African-Americans).

From there, I moved to a Top Ten things he would say about the current macro situation:

Distorted Housing Market as a chief catalyst (4 items)
1.) Why subsidize (only) upper-end home owners through income tax deductions?
2.) If you subsidize marginal owners (and the housing / lending market), it's bound to get rough when things get marginal.
3.) Why is the (federal) govt in the business of loaning people money for homes-- through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
4.) It is not wise to set up the moral hazard problem in bailing out (subsidizing) banks.

“Stimulus” that doesn’t stimulate (3 items)
5.) Henry Hazlitt and I are rolling around in our graves. Stimulus must be paid for-- through taxes, debt and future taxes, or inflation taxes. Thus, it will be harmful in the long-run and often, is akin to treading water in the short-term. The last 3.5 years provide ample evidence for something that was proven a long time ago.
6.) JFK & Reagan are rolling around in their graves. JFK cut the top marginal tax rate from 91% to 70%. Reagan (with a heavily Democratic House of Reps) cut it again to 28%. Since then, it's moved up a little under Bush I and Clinton and then edged down under Bush II. Unfortunately, about half of Bush's tax cuts were of the Keynesian mail-us-a-check variety. (See: Hazlitt above.) And of course, that's all Obama has done.
7.) With Unemployment Insurance, if you insure unemployment, you ensure unemployment.

The Macro Environment: Higher Costs and esp. Risk/Uncertainty (3 items)
8.) The health care bill harmed the macroeconomy-- by driving costs and remarkably, continuing to bolster uncertainty (since no one knows how it will play out)!
9.) What about other potential policy changes: cap/trade, EFCA, tax changes, etc.?
10.) Wait until after the 2010 and 2012 elections-- both in terms of political outcome and potential changes in public policy. On the latter, even if voters give power back to the GOP, would they do much good with it?

Friday, July 23, 2010

censorship may be Barefoot but it ain't Progressive

Or is that heavy editing? In any case, it's neither liberal nor progressive...

I had some fun with a recent comment on Social Security at "Barefoot and Progressive". (You can't link to specific posts on their site-- that I can see; it's the one on 7/23 at 9:24 AM on Ben Chandler.) That comment was described by someone anonymous as the "dumbest. comment. ever." Funny!

Trying to follow up, I made the comment below-- more than once-- and had it removed each time, apparently by an administrator.

Truth hurts, I guess...

Eric Schansberg said...

African-Americans put more into SS than they get out. It's not intentionally racist-- like the minimum wage in South Africa and prevailing wage laws in America-- but hey, it has the same impact. And it's not all about good intentions, right?

more silliness and silence from Blue Indiana on Social Security

Nice alliteration in the title, huh? ;-)

Blue Indiana is pounding Todd Young some more for failing to elaborate on his Social Security position. But as I noted in a recent post, it's odd that Baron Hill would support Social Security.

In that post, I focused on SS's lousy rate-of-return. But I forgot to mention the oppressive taxes which finance the lousy rates-of-return. SS takes 12.4% of every dollar earned by the working poor and middle class-- no deductions, no exemptions. If you're working with an income at the poverty line, you lose about $2,500 to the payroll/FICA tax which finances SS. If you're earning $45,000, you lose more than $5,000!

I understand why "yellow dog" Dems and other partisan hacks would be uninterested in this question. But that's not the sort of policies you'd expect to see supported by thinking Democrats, liberals, &/or progressives.

Knott blows up Hill on banking reform

WHAS' Joe Arnold reports on the three congressional candidates in the 9th District race.

Here's the press release from Greg Knott's campaign:

$800K to hold a position contrary to the one Baron holds now? Could that be true? Wow, that's good money-- if you can get it...and you can, if you're willing to vote with special interests.

Knott slams Hill for voting to repeal bank regulation

In his July 20 statement, incumbent Congressman Baron Hill criticized politicians who take "money and talking points from the D.C. establishment". He challenged politicians to "stand with Hoosiers, not the interests of Wall Street.”

Greg Knott, the 9th District Libertarian nominee, responded to Hill’s statement
saying, “Hill’s attack is hypocritical since he took $805,290 from the banking lobby in exchange for the repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Banking Act-- which had protected Americans from Wall Street excesses since the Great Depression.”

Asked his view of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed
by President Obama on Wednesday, Knott said, “I agree with economist Nouriel
Roubini, who correctly predicted the current crisis in 2005. He says this
reform is too weak to prevent future financial meltdowns. It’s not as strong as
Glass-Steagall which Baron Hill voted to repeal in 1999 and it won’t stop Wall
Street from gambling with our economy and expecting taxpayer funded bailouts. This reform bill is fundamentally flawed because it doesn’t require accountability from the Federal Reserve which created the current mess by pushing interest rates too low for too long. We need to audit the Federal Reserve and reform it where necessary. Why did Baron Hill and 119 other co-sponsors of HR 1207 [which requires a Federal Reserve audit] flip-flop and vote against its inclusion in the financial reform bill? Is Senator Dick Durbin correct that even though the banks created the current crisis, they are still the most powerful Washington lobby and own Congress?”

Asked how he would prevent banks from owning Congress, Knott said, “fire any
Congressman that receives funding from the banking lobby. Hire someone like
me who only accepts small individual contributions of $300 or less. Vote only for
candidates who will be accountable to you.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

speaking of cake

Just posted on whether we eat to live or live to eat...

Here's Jim Gaffigan on cake...hilarious!

eat to live (and vice versa)

From Melinda Beck in the WSJ...

Beck also provides a "power-of-food" scale/test so you can see how you stack up!

Scholars have understood the different motives for eating as far back as Socrates, who counseled, "Thou shouldst eat to live, not live to eat." But nowadays, scientists are using sophisticated brain-imaging technology to understand how the lure of delicious food can overwhelm the body's built-in mechanism to regulate hunger and fullness, what's called "hedonic" versus "homeostatic" eating.

One thing is clear: Obese people react much more hedonistically to sweet, fat-laden food in the pleasure and reward circuits of the brain than healthy-weight people do. Simply seeing pictures of tempting food can light up the pleasure-seeking areas of obese peoples' brains....

The overweight subjects had strong reactions to the food in the amygdala—the emotional center of the brain—whether they were hungry or not. The healthy-weight subjects showed an amygdala response only when they were hungry....

All these findings beg the question, which came first? Does obesity disrupt the action of leptin, or does a malfunction in leptin signaling make people obese?

Similarly, are some people obese because their brains overreact to tempting food, or do their brains react that way because something else is driving them to overeat? Researchers at Yale and elsewhere are turning to such questions next....

Curiously, several studies have shown that some forms of gastric bypass surgery can actually create changes in the brains of formerly obese people —and not just because their stomachs are smaller and fill up more quickly. Levels of leptin and glucose tend to drop in bypass patients, ending diabetes for many of them....

In another study, 17 people who had successfully lost weight had more activity in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in impulse-control in response to food than people who were still obese. In short, successful weight losers seemed to have having second thoughts about eating on impulse...

feminists vs. male chauvinists

From an interview by Marvin Olasky of Peter Kreeft in World:

The two most ridiculous errors about men and women are unisexism and male chauvinism. The unisex feminist says that women and men are not different in value, therefore they're not different in nature. The male chauvinist says that men and women are different in nature, therefore they're different in value.

the dreaded Vermontasaurus

From the AP's John Curran in the C-J...

Does a 25-foot-tall, 122-foot-long dinosaur need a permit to avoid extinction?

That's the unlikely dilemma posed by "Vermontasaurus," a whimsical sculpture thrown together with scrap wood by a Vermont man. The oddity now faces opposition from neighbors and regulatory challenges from government entities that he fears could force him to dismantle it.

It's art, not edifice, says Brian Boland. "They should leave me alone. It's a piece of artwork."

Boland, 61, is a former teacher, hot-air balloon designer and pilot who runs the Post Mills Airport, a 52-acre airfield.

Last month, he decided to turn a pile of broken wooden planks and other detritus on the edge of his property into something more.

... government officials are not amused. The Town of Thetford told Boland his sculpture was really a structure -- akin to a shed or a gazebo -- and he needed a $272 permit for it. The state Division of Fire Safety, meanwhile, told him if he couldn't get a structural engineer to attest to its safety, he could not allow people to congregate beneath it.

what does the poverty rate mean?

From the derivative of a Christine Vestal Stateline.Org article in the C-J...

More than 15 million Americans are unemployed, homelessness has increased by 50 percent in some cities, and 38 million people are receiving food stamps, more than at any time in the program’s almost 50-year history.

Evidence of rising economic hardship is ample. There’s one commonly used standard for measuring it: the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty rate. It guides much of federal and state spending aimed at helping those unable to make a decent living.

But a number of states have become convinced that the federal figures actually understate poverty, and have begun using different criteria in operating state-based social programs. At the same time, conservative economists are warning that a change in the formula to a threshold that counts more people as poor could lead to an unacceptable increase in the cost of federal and state social service programs....

The current formula for setting the federal poverty line unchanged since 1963 takes the cost of food for an individual or family and multiplies the number by three, under the assumption that people spend one-third of their incomes putting meals on the table. While the formula may have been a good way to estimate a subsistence cost of living in the early 1960s, experts say food now represents only one-eighth of a typical household budget, with expenses such as housing and child care putting increasing pressure on struggling families.

The fact that food takes so little of our budgets today points to the idea of relative vs. absolute poverty. Our poor obviously today live much better than the poor-- or even the middle class-- in the 1960s. And so, measures of "poverty" are arbitrary in this sense as well.

In addition, the official measure fails to account for regional differences in the cost of housing, it doesn’t include medical expenses or transportation, and at $22,000 for a family of four, the poverty line is considered by many to be simply too low.

Equally worrisome for policy makers is the Census Bureau’s failure to consider in-kind federal and state aid in calculating income. The existing formula counts only pre-tax cash income, leaving out such benefits as food stamps, housing vouchers and child-care subsidies, as well as federal and state tax credits for the working poor.

As she starts to note, the official measure is also only a year-to-year snapshot (vs. a lifecycle of earnings) and ignores wealth, unreported income, and non-cash transfers. So, it is one of our more flawed statistics.

the real addiction?

From Dave Coverley's Speed Bump...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Christians arrested for evangelizing Michigan

Difficult to believe and there are two sides to the story...

From Mindy Belz in World...

...last month's arrests of four Christians attending the city's 15th annual Arab International Festival...laid bare the social and legal upheaval afoot in Middle America, especially in cities where Muslim-dominated immigrant communities more recently have taken hold...

Police arrested three men and one woman, all members of a group called Acts 17 Apologetics, at the festival on June 18, and charged each with breach of peace. The four claim that police arrested them based on complaints from other festival-goers—presumably Muslims—and not because they broke the law...

A 2009 YouTube posting of the pair's interaction with Muslims and security officers has received nearly 2 million views. They were not arrested then but that incident, according to eyewitnesses at this year's festival, is why some may have complained to police when they showed up again with video cameras. But it doesn't explain why they would be handcuffed...

Other Christians were quick to say that they participated in the Arab festival without incident. For the second year in a row, Christian author and popular speaker Josh McDowell had a booth there, and has handed out over 22,000 autographed books, he told me. "I must've answered 300 questions from Muslims, and not one person raised their voice, not one person argued."...

Haydar said Arab Christians who live in Dearborn don't appreciate the disruption brought by outsiders with no ongoing ministry in the city: "They come here once a year and create a problem we have to deal with the rest of the year. It is a waste and leaves the image of Dearborn distorted."...

the Mosquito and Europe's ACLU

From News of the Weird (by way of The Guardian, 6/19/10)...

Update: News of the Weird reported in 2005 on a Welshman's invention of the "Mosquito," a device that emits an irritating, pulsating, very-high-pitched noise and is marketed to shopkeepers to drive away loitering children and teenagers, since the pitch is audible to them but rarely to anyone older than in the mid-20s (because audio range contracts as we age). In June, following an investigation, the Council of Europe (which oversees the European Court of Human Rights) declared the Mosquito a "human rights violation," in that the sounds it emits constitute "torture."

NYC public sector unions

From News of the Weird (from the New York Times, 6/3/10)...

Labor unions' sweet, recession-proof contract with the New York City area's severely cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority last year provided 8,074 blue-collar workers (conductors, engineers, repairmen, etc.) with six-figure compensation, including about 50 who earned $200,000 or more....Included in some of the fat payouts for LIRR locomotive engineers was special "penalty" pay (about $94,600 in one case) for engineers who are required to move a train to a different location from its normal assignment.

Those labor cartels can be quite effective, especially in tandem with the government, financed by the deep pockets of unaware taxpayers.


Last week, Tonia and I got away (from the boys) for a few days-- to celebrate our impending 15th anniversary (yeah!). We went to Columbus (Indiana), one of our favorite spots-- for its architecture (more below), its parks and bike trails, and its proximity to the outlet malls at Edinburgh and Brown County/Nashville (Indiana).

Urbanophile had a nice blog posting on Columbus, Indiana. One of his points is that Columbus, Indiana is more famous than Columbus, Ohio-- outside of the U.S., because of its architecture.

Urbanophile explains why:

...Columbus, a small city of about 40,000 in south-central Indiana, has one of the finest and most significant collections of modern architecture anywhere in the world. Starting in the 1950’s, a foundation backed by J. Irwin Miller, president of diesel engine manufacturer Cummins Engine Company, agreed to pay the architectural fees for public buildings such as schools, provided that the community chose from architects on his approved list. He and his company, along with many other citizens and firms, also hired top architects for private commissions. The result is dozens of buildings by world-renowned masters such as Eero Saarinen, I. M. Pei, Harry Weese, and Cesar Pelli, six of which are National Historic Landmarks, the highest designation of historic site recognized by the federal government.

The post has a number of pictures. Wikipedia has a good bit on this too. Check it out!

sexual sin in the Church

Good stuff from Kyle on a vital topic-- the first in a four-part series-- the health of marriages and the damaging impact of (prevalent) sexual sin...

Great lines:

-People want to be careful about what their kids hear at church-- but not so much about what their kids see at home.

-What's worse than someone finding out? Someone not finding out...

the 2010 ESPY Arthur Ashe Award: faith, family and Falcon football


narrated by Kiefer Sutherland; hopefully it had an impact on him...

hat tip: Michael Shannonhouse...

my recent letter to the editor of Reason

They decided not to publish this in response to Ronald Bailey's useful but sloppy effort in Reason...

I was surprised to see Ronald Bailey's blurb on recent research in the field of microbiology (May 2010). Although it seemed out of place in Reason, it was a pleasure to read his summary.

It was far less pleasurable to see the all-too-common conflation of intelligent design, young-earth creationism, old-earth creationism, and "irreducible complexity". Knowledgeable proponents of these ideas (and others) have no dispute with the mechanism of evolution-- but rather the narrative of Evolution as a comprehensive explanation for the development of life on earth.

Share such research if it fits your mission. If you have faith in this narrative, try to proselytize your audience if you must. But at least drop the un-Reason-able inferences and sloppy descriptions.

failed Keynesianism and our future fiscal crisis

Some great stuff from Niall Ferguson, particularly on the surprising renaissance of (failed) Keynesianism and his predictions of a fiscal crisis in the next few years, driven by the bond market (hat tip: Lisa Carlsen)...

Part 2 starts about 40 seconds into this:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hill elevates Libertarian Knott

In his most recent campaign effort (on the financial reform legislation that just passed), Rep. Baron Hill "challenged his main opponents...Libertarian Greg Knott and Republican Todd Young".

Apparently, Hill thinks he'll gain by strengthening Knott and pairing him with Young. This implies that he thinks Knott will take more votes from Young than from Hill-- and that Hill is not worried about Young and Knott combining to make Hill look worse than Young would do on his own.

I'm not at all sure about either supposition...

First, in my campaign for the 9th District, the data (and intuition) indicate that I took more support from Hill in 2006 (when the War in Iraq was a larger issue-- and Hill's avid support of the War left principled anti-war voters with no other choice) and split support between Hill and Sodrel in 2008 (with a campaign combining the war and working poor issues with pro-life and fiscal conservatism).

Likewise, Knott seems to be spending the bulk of his time in Bloomington-- one of Hill's strongholds-- and is running a balanced campaign that can appeal to Dems and Reps.

Second, on the issues where Young and Knott agree, Hill risks looking worse by having two people taking (eminently reasonable) at his positions.

It should be an interesting Summer and Fall as Hill tries to buck the tide and hold onto his seat in a difficult year for Democrats.


the limits of choice and freedom-- when racial diversity is more important than freedom, choice and quality

From Antoinette Kunz in the C-J...

More than 70 percent of the Jefferson County elementary students whose parents requested school transfers for this fall were denied permission to move from their assigned schools, according to new figures released by the district.

Officials said Friday that they received 1,853 transfer requests between May 3 and July 12, and granted 537 -- leaving nearly 1,200 families deciding now whether to remain in their assigned school, or look outside the public school system...

Most of the transfer requests were denied primarily because of lack of space in the desired schools, especially those in eastern Jefferson County, said Pat Todd, director of student assignment....

Perhaps the most brutal part of the JCPS plan involves a staggering amount of busing to accomplish its goals:

Instead, they were assigned to Indian Trail Elementary -- nearly 10 miles away in the Newburg area, which would require them to take two buses to and from school each day...Fell said his daughter's bus ride would be over an hour each way to Engelhard...

Then, there's the latest parental lawsuit-- trying to get JCPS to do what it should do, what it has been told to do by the courts, but what it will probably continue to avoid doing...

The parents' lawsuit argues that the school assignment plant violates a state law giving children the right to attend their nearest school. Their motion will be heard Monday in Jefferson Circuit Court.

And then, there's the NAACP going along for the ride with the JCPS...

That prompted the Louisville chapter of the NAACP to issue a position paper that chastised some district officials and board members for undermining the plan and its goal of integrated schools in order to appease disgruntled parents.

The Lottery: new documentary on educational choice

This is an important film. Therefore, it should have been produced by the government and you should have been forced to watch it in the government-run theater in your neighborhood.

From Joel Belz's review in World of The Lottery...

Documentaries, by definition, are meant to be a little detached, clinical—and maybe even soulless.
The Lottery is none of those. Some audiences are reported to be leaving the theaters in tears.

The specific subject matter of The Lottery is the battle being waged in the Harlem area of New York City for an increased role for charter schools...But teachers unions and other entrenched interests are fighting that increase tooth and toenail...the demand from eager parents far exceeds the slots that will be available...

Like Jesus (in Matthew 18:6), she's angry at people who hypocritically insist on standing between children and the truth....

America has a lot to learn about giving parents a just choice in the education of their children. The Lottery eloquently trumpets the cause of freedom in our classrooms.

Has anyone seen this yet?

Wal-Mart makes Obama and Alinsky proud with their community organizing!

From William McGurn in the WSJ...

When it comes to community organizing, maybe the Wal-Mart crowd has a thing or two to teach our president. And in the hometown of the father of community organizing, the late Saul Alinsky.

After an epic struggle, a unanimous city council gave its blessing to only the second Wal-Mart in the city. But the vote just before Independence Day paves the way for as many as 24 stores in the coming years—and as many as 10,000 new jobs. Alderman Anthony Beale, who represents the Ninth Ward where the new Wal-Mart will be located, says the vote "gives my people hope." "This the beginning of a new era," he told the Chicago Defender, the city's black newspaper. "I am filled with joy."...

Until very recently, unions, preservationists, people who just don't like business, etc., would not have had a hard time keeping out a nonunion, big-box retailer....So what changed? Most obviously, the economy did....

How Alinsky would have reacted to all this is not an easy question to answer. On the one hand, he had strong roots in the union movement. On the other hand, he always said that community organizing was supposed to be about helping communities agitate for their own choices....

For all the would-be Alinskys out there, which form of community organizing is likely to deliver real hope and change to struggling neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward: the mostly government programs that young Mr. Obama fought for—or the jobs and opportunities that come from the kind of investment Wal-Mart will be making?

New Science-- is that like New Math?

From James Taylor in Environmental & Climate News...

New Scientist magazine is throwing a tantrum—stamping its feet, covering its ears, and holding its breath until its face turns blue (or red, in this case)—because tens of thousands of scientists and the majority of the American public recognizes humans are not causing a global warming crisis.

Dedicating a full issue to smarmy attacks on scientists who follow that obsolete, politically incorrect code of scientific inquiry known as the Scientific Method, New Scientist’s “Age of Denial” issue attempts to throw enough mud, ignore enough science, and employ enough discredited propagandists to convince the American public to ignore the fact that scare scenario after scare scenario has been discredited by sound science and failed to materialize in the real world....

ants and the War on Drugs

My wife gets frustrated by the ants in our home. Our children, especially, leaving tempting morsels on the floor and the counters which attract our little friends. She'll do all sorts of things in moods that range from matter-of-fact to maniacal.

The other night, she sprayed Lysol in a variety of places in our kitchen, dining room and living room-- killing off the critters and throwing potential invaders off the proverbial trail.

But as I was going to bed, I noticed that someone had left the residual of a cup of hot chocolate on the kitchen counter.

I got a big laugh out of that, before cleaning it up and then making a connection to our War on Drugs: if cups of hot chocolate are at all available, then good luck with your Lysol.

Of course, people aren't ants-- and respond moreso to the deterrent effects of disincentives. But the practical difficulties-- not to mention the ethical difficulties-- of trying to prevent people from doing what they want are noteworthy and bound to be at least somewhat frustrating.

American complaints about an aggressive Mexican drug war-- how ironic!

Ahhh, one of the ironies of our War on Drugs...

From Nicholas Casey in the WSJ...

Two Americans were driving back to El Paso, Texas, last December after an afternoon across the border in Ciudad Juárez. A few blocks from the border, they were surrounded by Mexican army trucks and pulled from their Dodge Ram.

Mexico's military says it found two suitcases full of marijuana in the cab of the pickup truck...

Those two men—Shohn Huckabee, 23 years old, and Carlos Quijas, 36—are being held in a Ciudad Juárez jail. They tell a different story...Mexican soldiers planted the marijuana in their truck. When they arrived at the military base, they say, they were blindfolded, tied up, hit with rifle butts, shocked with electricity and threatened with death.

Ah, details, details...

Mexico's military is leading President Felipe Calderón's war against the nation's drug cartels, and Ciudad Juárez has emerged as one of the bloodiest battlegrounds. Nationwide, drug violence has claimed more than 25,000 lives since 2006—with government security forces accounting for an estimated 7% of the dead. In June alone, 103 police and soldiers were killed.

As the death toll rises, however, so have complaints about the military's tactics in trying to break the drug cartels' stranglehold on Mexican society. The human-rights office of the state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juárez is located, is investigating some 465 cases of alleged abuse and torture of Mexican citizens by soldiers....

25,000 dead. Wow!That's part of the cost of our War on Drugs (and theirs-- encouraged strongly by us)

Allegations of mistreatment of suspects have caught the eye of the U.S. Senate committee that oversees financial aid to Mexico for its war on drugs....

Keynes vs. Hayek (cont'd): now, in convenient letter form!

More on the on-going debate...

from Gerald O'Driscoll in the WSJ...

The debates raging over what policies will pull the U.S. economy out of its Great Recession replicate one that occurred during the Great Depression. Thanks to the efforts of Richard Ebeling, a professor of economics at Northwood University, we have compelling and concise documentary evidence. He has unearthed letters to the Times of London from the two sides that mirror today's debates.

On Oct. 17, 1932, the Times published a lengthy letter from John Maynard Keynes and five other academic economists. Keynes, et al. (Keynes for short), made the case for spending—of any kind, private or public, whether on consumption or investment.

"Private economy" was the culprit that impeded a return to prosperity....They conclude by endorsing public spending to offset unwise private thrift.

The views in this letter came to be known as Keynesian economics. Depressions are caused by a spending deficit, which can be made up by government spending. Keynesian economics (which predates Keynes) is easily identifiable in speeches given by President Obama and his economic team.

Two days later, on Oct. 19, 1932, four professors at the University of London responded to the Keynes letter, and one of the signers was Friedrich A. Hayek who more than 50 years later would win the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Hayek, et al. (Hayek for short), identified three areas of contention. First, they correctly identified Keynes's argument about the futility of savings as actually being an argument about what has classically been known as the dangers of hoarding...

Second, the London professors disputed that it mattered not the form spending took, whether on consumption or investment. They saw a "revival of investment as peculiarly desirable," as do today's proponents of supply-side economics....

Their third and greatest disagreement with Keynes was over the benefits of government spending financed by deficits. They demurred....In our contemporary context, no stimulus.

Finally, and importantly, they offered a way forward. Governments world-wide, led by the U.S. with the destructive Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930, had turned to protectionism and restrictions on capital flows....In short, they argued that the cure for the Great Depression was a reinvigorated international global trading system....

As New York University economist Mario Rizzo put it, "The great debate is still Keynes versus Hayek. All else is footnote." Economists have clothed the debate with ever greater mathematical complexity, but the underlying issues remain the same.

Was Keynes correct that savings become idle money and depress economic activity? Or was the Hayek view, first articulated by Adam Smith in the "Wealth of Nations" in 1776, correct?

Is all spending equally productive, or should government policies aim to stimulate private investment?...

Finally, is creating new public debt in a weakened economy the path to recovery? Or is "economy" (austerity in today's debate) and thrift the path to prosperity now, as it has usually been considered before?

Massachusetts as the canary in our national health care mine

From Joseph Rago in the WSJ...

President Obama said earlier this year that the health-care bill that Congress passed three months ago is "essentially identical" to the Massachusetts universal coverage plan that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law in 2006. No one but Mr. Romney disagrees.

As events are now unfolding, the Massachusetts plan couldn't be a more damning indictment of ObamaCare. The state's universal health-care prototype is growing more dysfunctional by the day, which is the inevitable result of a health system dominated by politics.

In the first good news in months, a state appeals board has reversed some of the price controls on the insurance industry that Gov. Deval Patrick imposed earlier this year. Late last month, the panel ruled that the action had no legal basis and ignored "economic realties."

In April, Mr. Patrick's insurance commissioner had rejected 235 of 274 premium increases state insurers had submitted for approval for individuals and small businesses. The carriers said these increases were necessary to cover their expected claims over the coming year, as underlying state health costs continue to rise at 8% annually. By inventing an arbitrary rate cap, the administration was in effect ordering the carriers to sell their products at a loss.

Mr. Patrick has promised to appeal the panel's decision and find some other reason to cap rates. Yet a raft of internal documents recently leaked to the press shows this squeeze play was opposed even within his own administration....

"If you're going to do health-care cost containment, it has to be stealth," said Jon Kingsdale, speaking at a conference sponsored by the New Republic magazine last October....He went on to explain that universal coverage was "fundamentally a political strategy question"—a way of finding a "significant systematic way of pushing back on the health-care system and saying, 'No, you have to do with less.' And that's the challenge, how to do it. It's like we're waiting for a chain reaction but there's no catalyst, there's nothing to start it."

In other words, health reform was a classic bait and switch: Sell a virtually unrepealable entitlement on utterly unrealistic premises and then the political class will eventually be forced to control spending. The likes of Mr. Kingsdale would say cost control is only a matter of technocratic judgement, but the raw dirigisme of Mr. Patrick's price controls is a better indicator of what happens when health care is in the custody of elected officials rather than a market....

All of this is merely a prelude to far more aggressive restructuring of the state's health-care markets—and a preview of what awaits the rest of the country.

discrimination for me but not for thee

Clarence Page in the C-J, using what labor economists describe as "statistical discrimination" (judging individuals by group affiliation-- stereotyping-- a universal and unavoidable practice we'll abbreviate that SD)-- to talk, ironically but not consciously so, about statistical discrimination and personal discrimination (bigotry for/against-- PD) by others.

Tea party organizers are outraged that leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are calling their movement racist. But as the old saying goes, we are judged by the company we keep...

That aptly describes SD.

In fact, I'm sure tea party supporters, who are almost indistinguishable from other far-right conservatives, would love to pass a resolution of their own to condemn racist elements in the NAACP, if they had a national structure and leadership.

Here, Page practices some SD-- and incorrectly, since TEA Partiers are a mix of libertarians, conservatives, Ross-Perot types, Pat Buchanan types, and miscellaneous politically-disaffected people.

Instead, they pride themselves on staying "grass roots" with lots of different organizations carrying the tea party name, but nobody truly accountable for the national movement....

However, it does leave your national image at the mercy of whoever happens to show up at your rallies and catch media eyes and microphones with the most outrageous protest signs or sound-bites, some of which may be racially tinged....

And thus, one more reason not to judge a book as uniform-- particularly with such a devastating criticism as racism.

And then Page has this surprising and very interesting semi-tangent to wrap up:

As the ABC-Post poll found, only 58 percent of tea party supporters are likely to see racism as a major problem in this country, compared to 75 percent of all Americans. And, as just about everyone has noticed by now, tea party supporters are more likely to be white -- 81 percent, compared to 74 percent of all adults and 65 percent of tea party opponents....

But a bigger and more revealing surprise about changing attitudes came out of a Pew Research Center poll in late June. It showed blacks (81 percent) and Hispanics (74 percent) to be more optimistic than whites (57 percent) about their financial outlook over the next year, despite their being harder hit by the economic recession.Democrats (70 percent) and independents (62 percent) also were more optimistic than Republicans (55 percent). Blacks and liberals may see racism as a bigger problem than white conservatives do, but it apparently has not dimmed their hopes for a brighter future.

Monday, July 19, 2010

the long-term tragedy of long-term unemployment

From Mohamed El-Erian in the WSJ...

Almost half of unemployed Americans have been without a job for over six months. The average duration of unemployment, which hit a post-World War II record many months ago, continues to go up. Last month it clocked in at 35 weeks. Unemployment is particularly severe among the young: A quarter of Americans between 16 and 19 years old in the labor market are without a job.

The longer it takes to understand and address these issues, the more likely the U.S. will get stuck in a protracted low growth/high unemployment trap. In addition to considering the welfare cost of substantial joblessness, policy makers should keep in mind the following...

First, persistently high unemployment erodes the skills of any labor force, especially when joblessness is a big problem among the young. This reduces future productivity and growth potential.

Second, a high rate of joblessness puts pressure on inadequate social safety nets like the unemployment benefit system. It also exacerbates the strain on government budgets already stretched at both the federal and state levels....

And finally, high unemployment has historically induced companies and countries to become more inwardly oriented. Many firms have already moved to a "self-insurance" mode, including holding large cash balances rather than investing in equipment and hiring people....

unemployment insurance insures AND ensures unemployment

From Sara Murray in the WSJ...

Management Recruiters of Sacramento, Calif., says it recently had a tough time filling six engineering positions at an Oregon manufacturer paying $60,000 a year—and suspects long-term jobless benefits were part of the hitch.

"We called several engineers that were unemployed," says Karl Dinse, a managing partner at the recruiting firm. "They said, nah, you know, if it were paying $80,000 I'd think about it." Some candidates suggested he call them back when their benefits were scheduled to run out, he says....

In the long recession and the lackluster recovery, the government expanded unemployment payments more than at any time since the benefits were rolled out in the 1930s. And workers have gone jobless for longer than any time since official tallies began in 1967.

The debate remains pressing as Congress wrestles with whether to extend the expired benefit program....

Economists have argued for years about the extent to which government benefits prolong unemployment—and possibly augment the overall jobless rate. Most believe that expanding benefits does discourage some unemployed people from looking for work or taking available jobs. But they disagree on how acute that effect is, particularly at a time when jobs are scarce....

The recent recession was unusual in almost every respect....The government response was also unusual, and not just in the big bank bailout. In normal times, the unemployed are offered up to 26 weeks of benefits, largely financed by a tax on employers. In recessions, state and federal governments often jointly finance up to an additional 20 weeks in hard-hit states. In this recession, Congress added up to another 53 weeks of federally funded benefits; in the deep crisis of the 1980s, the maximum total never exceeded 55 weeks....

blind faith in the stimulus (or just cheap political rhetoric?)

From the WSJ editorialists...

It may be that the last people in America who believe that the $862 billion economic stimulus of February 2009 created millions of net new jobs are Vice President Joe Biden and the staff economists in the White House. Yesterday, President Obama's chief economist announced that the plan had "created or saved" between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs and raised GDP by 2.7% to 3.2% through June 30. Don't you feel better already?

Christina Romer went so far as to claim that the 3.5 million new jobs that she promised while the stimulus was being debated in Congress will arrive "two quarters earlier than anticipated." Yup, the official White House line is that the plan is working better than even they had hoped.

We almost feel sorry for Ms. Romer having to make this argument given that since February 2009 the U.S. economy has lost a net 2.35 million jobs. Using the White House "created or saved" measure means that even if there were only three million Americans left with jobs today, the White House could claim that every one was saved by the stimulus.

The White House also naturally insists that things would be much worse without the stimulus...This is called a counterfactual: a what would have happened scenario that can't be refuted. What we do know is what White House economists at the time said would happen if the stimulus didn't pass. They said the unemployment rate would peak at 9% without the stimulus (there's your counterfactual) and that with the stimulus the rate would stay at 8% or below....If this is a job creation success, what does failure look like?

All of these White House jobs estimates are based on the increasingly discredited Keynesian spending "multiplier," which according to White House economist Larry Summers means that every $1 of government spending will yield roughly $1.50 in higher GDP. Ms. Romer thus plugs her spending data into the Keynesian computer models and, presto, out come 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs, even if the real economy has lost jobs. To adapt Groucho Marx: Who are you going to believe, the White House computer models, or your own eyes?...

Some people like to take things on (blind) faith. Oddly, some of the same people claim to be averse to religion!

earmarks reduce economc activity

From World, news/research from a Harvard Business School working paper-- that pork projects damage the economy.

Researchers analyzed data from a 40-year period and found that earmark spending increased dramatically for districts and states when their representatives or senators rose to chair one of the three major congressional committees. At the same time, local businesses suffered losses in sales growth and employment, and they cut back capital spending by about 15 percent. The researchers speculate that government projects supplant private activities, lure employees away from local firms, and create uncertainty for investment decisions. Researcher Josh Coval said the result was "an enormous surprise."

Even the much-vaunted shoter-term advantages of political spending and Keynesian stimulus is not all it's cracked up to be. When will the Democrats and Republicans quit monkeying with the economy and causing so much damage?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Genesis 12:4-9’s Miscellany between Call and Egypt

A few small things to start in Genesis 12:4-5. The two verses are bracketed by 4a’s “he left” and 5b’s “they arrived”—an example of God’s provision and their participation. Abraham is in Canaan for 100 years (approx. 2091-1991 BC) and is called at a relatively old age. The “people…acquired in Haran” implies that he grew wealthy there. Interestingly, the term for “people” is lit. “souls”, implying these are servants &/or proselytes; if the latter, we may see an early example of Abram’s spiritual influence.

Finally, Lot “went” with Abram (12:4)—or from another angle, Abram “took” Lot with him (12:5; 11:31). The former underlines Lot’s voluntary response to follow Abram, but the latter is required too. One wonders how old Lot was? If Haran died when Lot was young, then this may be equivalent to adoption with Abram raising him as a son. One also wonders if Abram disobeyed God by bringing Lot? After all, he was supposed to leave family! Was the command to be “spirit of the law”—and this should be seen as the first sign of Abram’s greatness and mercy, in bringing the orphan Lot along? Perhaps Lot is “heir insurance”, especially if he raised/saw him like a son. Anyway, Lot caused him "lots" of trouble!

More small things in Gen 12:6-9. “Moreh” means teaching—a place where the Canaanites probably sought wisdom. Would Abram try to consult God through this mechanism? In any case, God meets him there. Shechem and Ai (Josh 7-8) have modest roles in the rest of the OT; Bethel is a major player. The reference to the Negev tells us that Abram & Co. are moving south—toward Egypt (12:10ff). Abram is a man on the move. In faith, this is a certain—but not a short/straight—journey (see: Gen 20:13’s “wander”).

A larger but obvious thing: there are Canaanites in the land. God had promised him this land, but Canaanites were there; He had promised him a great nation, but his wife was barren. Interestingly, from a godly perspective, Abram owned but did not possess—while the Canaanites possessed but did not own; both were sojourners of a different sort! Finally—and this is worth a smile: who else but the Canaanites would be in Canaan?! Well, to begin with…Abram!

Kass quotes Yuval Levin here to make a profound and applicable point: “God must put a non-Canaanite into the land of Canaan, to get away from the simple natural way of things. To be a Canaanite in Canaan requires no effort, no action, no thought. To be a Hebrew in Canaan will require attention and exertion…God’s new way would not succeed among a people who simply let things be as they are; it demands a people willing to become what they have not always been.”

The religious activity in this passage is also noteworthy: the Lord appears to Him (apparently not in all His glory) at the great tree. The appearance is a step beyond 12:1-3’s voice. God promises land to his descendants, not to him—and there’s no sign of them yet! (It’s interesting to wonder the extent to which Abram is expecting God to grow his nation through Lot (that culturally acceptable option falls apart later; more later) or evangelism!

And Abram constructs two altars—as memorials and meeting places for the worship of God; as a sign of submission, faith, and gratitude. He does this at pagan worship sites—making a public statement, planting God’s flag in a sense. There is no (literal) sacrifice here (vs. Cain and Noah!), but a greater (figurative) sacrifice of pride, independence, etc. (a la Rom 12:1). Ironically, this is the only permanent thing for Abraham (vs. 8’s tents and no cities).

What’s different between the two? At 7’s Shechem, he builds in response to God’s presence and promises. At 8’s Bethel, the altar and call do not get an answer. He’s probably disappointed—experientially (why not?) or even theologically (is God only local?). On the experiential, this points to the universal themes of thinking God will respond to our formulaic approaches—and our desire/demand that God would (always) respond—in particular, how and when we see fit (us controlling God?!). On the theological: especially in a time when people thought gods were local, this may leave Abram with the sense that God is not everywhere, always able or wanting to watch.

Abram “called on the name of the Lord”. As Borgman notes in a segue to the next passage: “God has promised Abram a great name, and now Abram invokes the name of the Lord…[this is] surely an important first step in relinquishing the effort to establish one’s own [name]…But immediately we read of the fiasco in Egypt. When it comes to everyday challenges, Abram’s initiative to preserve and promote himself, even at his wife’s expense, proves disastrous.”

does anyone know what happened to

Does anyone know what happened to

It has been a blog aggregator site, compiling politically-oriented blogs by state-- quite helpful for allowing me to follow happenings and encouraging people to check out my material. I can no longer easily get to other sites and don't want to follow them so closely by becoming a "follower". And I haven't been as active this summer as in the past, but my web traffic has fallen to levels I haven't seen since the first month or so.

It's been down for a week or so. I hope they get back up! In the meantime, consider becoming a "follower" (at the top left of the main screen).

UPDATE: From (the founder) Dave Mastio's Facebook site, this link says that it's gone-- at least until the economy picks up.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

political rhetoric vs. unwillingness to make economic/political trade-offs: Obama embraced Bush oil policies

I've often said that Bush should receive more blame on the economy and fiscal matters because he should have known better. The same could be said of Obama on the environment.

From Neil King and Keith Johnson in the WSJ...

Less than four months after President Barack Obama took office, his new administration received a forceful warning about the dangers of offshore oil drilling.

The alarm was rung by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., which found that the government was unprepared for a major spill at sea, relying on an "irrational" environmental analysis of the risks of offshore drilling.

The April 2009 ruling stunned both the administration and the oil industry, and threatened to delay or cancel dozens of offshore projects in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite its pro-environment pledges, the Obama administration urged the court to revisit the decision. Politically, it needed to push ahead with conventional oil production while it expanded support for renewable energy.

Another reason: money. In its arguments to the court, the government said that the loss of royalties on the oil, estimated at almost $10 billion, "may have significant financial consequences for the federal government."...

The Obama administration's actions in the court case exemplify the dilemma the White House faced in developing its energy policy. In his presidential campaign, President Obama criticized the Bush administration for being too soft on the oil industry and vowed to support greener energy forms.

But, once in office, President Obama ended up backing offshore drilling, bowing to political and fiscal realties, even as his administration's own scientists and Democratic lawmakers warned about its risks.

Bol/Christ and Mongiardo/Conway

Following up on two recent blog posts:

On the recent death of Christian humanitarian and former NBA'er Manute Bol, here's more from Mindy Belz in World...

Bol aimed through Christian-Muslim efforts to reconcile communities racked by 22 years of civil war. "We need something to symbolize how far we've come," Bol told Prichard.

It was a remarkable undertaking, considering that Bol himself had 250 members of his own extended family killed at the hands of Khartoum's Islamic government during the war.

On the Mongiardo decision not to endorse Conway (at this point) and its connection to (common but creepy) promises made by Conway's camp to retire some of Mongiardo's campaign debts, here's Joseph Gerth in the C-J...

Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo said Wednesday that "trust" will be the key factor in his decision about whether to endorse fellow Democrat Jack Conway in the Senate race
after he says Conway reneged on a deal to help him pay off about $80,000 in campaign debt...

Mongiardo said he doesn't know if it was his or Conway's advisers, or national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee officials, who brought up the idea of paying off the campaign debt...

childish reflexes

Working with my children the other day, it occurred to me that we have two sets of reflexes that are "naturally" bent-- one in the sense of omission; the other in the sense of commission.

On the one hand, my children are quick, by reflex, to respond to some injustice or pain done to them. And so, they respond with an unkind word or an act of (often greater) retaliation.

Our counsel in such cases is to squelch the existing reflex-- think before talking or acting, let it go (especially in the case of an accident), seek outside help (from us) if they have been significantly wronged and do not get proper redress.

On the other hand, my children are generally slow to apologize. (They are often quick to defend themselves-- independent of guilt or even ill motive-- but this takes us back to the first reflex above.) Even when they do something accidentally-- for example, stepping on my foot-- they don't (yet) reflexively say "I'm sorry".

Our counsel in such cases is to develop the appropriate reflex-- empathize with those you've harmed, make restitution as relevant, look to change habits to avoid repeating the offense.

Of course, the punchline is that I am quite capable of such childish reflexes (or their absence). Through the changes wrought in me by God's grace, my apprenticeship to Jesus Christ, and the empowerment of Holy Spirit, I am generally able to overcome the reflexes of the sinful nature. But they continue to fight for a presence and even a preeminence in my daily life.

Thanks be to God for His merciful forgiveness and His gracious provision!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Band of Brothers

Just finished reading my first Stephen Ambrose effort-- perhaps the most famous, given the BBC (HBO?) series...

Three thoughts:

1.) War is Hell. Ambrose's descriptions of what these men endured is brutal in so many ways.

2.) The dilemma of having a "tough but effective boss". Captain Sobel was so disliked that his men were making plans to kill him with not-so-friendly fire in battle. But Ambrose makes clear that his methods also allowed them to develop into fine soldiers and a fine unit-- and thus, he is responsible for much of their success. Ambrose depicts the soldiers as excited about how good they were but ambivalent about how they got there.

3.) The morals of those who served. Ambrose argues that they were far less likely than other soldiers to engage in rape, unnecessary killings-- and to some extent, looting. But Ambrose makes quite clear that many of the soldiers struggled in some other barometers of (more personal) immorality: drinking, cussing, and womanizing. This is not at all to diminish what they did-- or even to judge it. (On the latter, I can't imagine what it'd be like to face death, at a young age, so far from home and with the ability and peer pressure to do knuckle-headed stuff.)

But to draw application to the on-going debate about how good the 1950s were: it would seem that a relatively small proportion of these men were "Christian" (beyond the cultural sense). This connects to an observation I've made frequently-- that the children of the (dreaded) 1960s came from the parents of the 1950s. And although that may have been a more moral time-- with people united under the god of civil religion and civility-- it was not a particularly Christian time in our history.

O'Rourke on soccer (and the World Cup)

Some amusing stuff from the often-hilarious P.J. O'Rourke in the WSJ...

Dear International Soccer Officials, Participants and Fans,

Congratulations on a terrific World Dish or World Platter or whatever you've been having. It's very interesting, compared to curling....

I have one suggestion: Use your hands...In case you hadn't noticed, the goalies on your teams use their hands all the time. Hardly anybody ever scores a goal in soccer so obviously this works. And Uruguay's Luis Suarez, who plays the position of "thwacker" or "slacker" or something, used his hands to defeat Ghana and was carried off the field in triumph....

Your fingers don't seem to be otherwise engaged while you're playing. I could understand the hands-off business if you were carrying an egg in a spoon down the field or if, like me when I play soccer with my kids in the backyard, you were holding a beer and a cigar....

"Nil-nil" is not a sports score...Personally, I think it has to do with World War I. Nobody could decide who had really won and everybody had to have another whole World War to figure it out. What with millions of dead and all, winning got a bad name. The Europeans, especially, just gave up on winning. I'll bet that before World War I there were soccer matches with scores of 105 to 97 or, anyway, 8 to 3. Get over it. It's just soccer. No fire bombing of Dresden is involved. Go ahead and kick (or throw) that ball into the net and win big....

Like it or not, I've come to appreciate soccer. Any kid can play, which fits with the inclusive agenda of progressive schools. Although the corollary to any kid can play is that every kid must play because there is an iron grip to the warm hug of progressive inclusionism. Hence the vodka in my Vitaminwater. But it's good that there's a sport where kids don't need to be freakishly tall or massively strong or gifted with triathlon masochism. It's particularly good for me because I want my kids to play sports. That is, I want them out of the house so I can have the computer back. But my children possess body types best suited to contract bridge and even after 10,000 hours of computer games their hand-eye coordination is barely up to operating a light switch....I enjoy watching them run around like maniacs. It raises hope for a compliant bedtime....

There are many other ways that you could make soccer more attractive and engaging. For example, play it on an extremely steep slope. This did wonders for the luge....The vuvuzela is a brilliant stroke. One of my soccer-playing children is a 12-year-old girl. The sound of vuvuzelas is a huge improvement over the squeals of 12-year-old girls, let alone the Lady Gaga tunes leaking out of their ear buds....

life and (less state income) taxes: the case of LeBron James

A lot has been said about LeBron's decision to pack up and head from Cleveland to Miami.

People have talked about greed, but he's earning less.
People have talked about pride, but he's going to a team that already has a larger star.
People have talked about a lack of civic duty, but he worked for Cleveland for seven years.

Here's a WSJ piece on living the high life in Miami.

But another interesting consideration is state income tax burdens-- and how he will avoid that burden in his new home. Compared to Ohio, he will avoid taxes of about $1 million per year on his salary and a lot more than that on his endorsements. Compared to New York City's 12.85% tax rate, the numbers become even more ridiculous.

death and ($600 million less in) taxes: the case of George Steinbrenner

From Laura Saunders in the WSJ...

The timing of George Steinbrenner's death (in 2010) will probably save his heirs a ton of money in taxes.

The Yankees owner accumulated a net worth of about $1.15 billion, according to Forbes magazine—much of that stemming from the YES television network. Mr. Steinbrenner acquired the Yankees in 1973 for $10 million.

Because Mr. Steinbrenner died in a year when there is no federal estate tax, he potentially saved his heirs a 55% levy on his assets—amounting to a tax bill of about $600 million.

The 55% tax takes effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

If Mr. Steinbrenner had died in 2009, when the estate-tax rate was 45%, his estate-tax bill could have been nearer $500 million....

Two obvious angles come to mind:

1.) Why is there an estate tax in any case? Steinbrenner has already paid taxes at least once-- on all of that money. (If the money was earned illegally, then perhaps not; on the other hand, he's probably paid taxes on a lot of money more than once.)

2.) If Congress is going to have an estate tax, why have 45% last year, 55% next year, and 0% this year?!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

incumbent Isgrigg to run for re-election as Libertarian

Bob Isgrigg is the current county surveyor. Apparently, he is tired of the Democratic party and agrees with the principles of the Libertarian party. So, welcome aboard!

He'll have one opponent (a Democrat) in November.
l have one opponent-- a Democrat-- in November.
Here's the story from Braden Lammers in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune (hat tip: Greg Hertzsch)...

let's try to privatize some roads

From Debbie Harbeson in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune...

She has fun with "Clark County politicians" who have supported and then opposed the dreaded "wheel tax". Then she takes a poke at Barbara Hollis for telling taxpayers that the wheel tax is really not a tax, but rather a “user-fee”: "Common sense tells us this is not a user-fee. It’s not at all based on actual road usage."

From there, she points to a more glorious future where some/more roads are privately built and maintained--e.g., with Star Hill Road.

I would love to see this road become privately owned and operated. If there truly is a demand for this road, then let some group take it on and reap any profits from doing so.

If it’s impossible to make the road completely private, it’s certainly possible to operate according to actual usage by implementing a toll. If it does become a toll road, businesses who would benefit would still have lots of options. For example, they could give a discount equal to the toll price to any customer who spends a certain amount at participating businesses....

post-Flood New Orleans and charter schools

ReasonTV on the renaissance of public schools (through charter schools)-- after the tragedy of the Flood of New Orleans...

here comes those state/local govt layoffs

More turmoil for the national and state/local macro-economies-- more of what we've already seen as the tip of a big iceberg. But this is not a big surprise; in fact, it's something I've been predicting for some time...

From Paul Davidson in USAToday (hat tip:

Here's another headwind for a sputtering job market: State and local governments plan many more layoffs to close wide budget gaps.

Up to 400,000 workers could lose jobs in the next year as states, counties and cities grapple with lower revenue and less federal funding, says Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's

Layoffs by state and local governments moderated in June, with 10,000 jobs trimmed. That was down from 85,000 job losses the first five months of the year and about 190,000 since June 2009.

But the pain is likely to worsen. States face a cumulative $140 billion budget gap in fiscal 2011, which began July 1 for most, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities....