Friday, July 31, 2009

Dear Birthers

Much love for your Constitutional fidelity, but I'm hoping this rather thorough review of the issue by the WSJ quells your concerns.

I have to disagree that political ideas are a dime a dozen. They tend to be more like $3.27 trillion a dozen. If politics is war, ideas are the arrows.

Cash for Clunking Programs

Cash for Clunkers is D-E-D dead. There are two perspectives you can take on this. First, the program was a slamming success, which is why it ran through $1 billion of your money so fast. Second, the program's name could have been "free money for everyone that bought an SUV despite the horrible fuel economy", which could ONLY be successful if giving away money was your goal.

Some other thoughts on this:
The economists that ran the numbers on this are the same people that are running the numbers on health care.

Administration officials are looking to extend the program...which just means more of YOUR MONEY is going to be given away to those that previously made a bad economic choice. (Remember everyone: Capitalism stands for the proposition that if you made a bad economic choice, you will suffer for it thereby deterring future bad choices and encouraging the best allocation of resources [The best allocation of resources does not include a soccer mom driving around an empty SUV with an Obama sticker on it]).

If you made a good choice (i.e., bought a car with fuel economy in excess of 17 mpg), the cost of making that choice again by buying a hybrid or a Mini-Cooper will now be INFLATED by approximately $3,500 as the bad economic actors get this bump for free.

The car companies are riding a bubble that will eventually pop.

Finally, faithful readers of this blog have seen the term "moral hazard" bandied about (and probably knew what a "moral hazard" was way before it was mentioned here). The government, when an economic actor, is insulated from risk. This is why it is normally a bad idea to have the unsantized hands of government fiddling around with the innards of our economy. If it messes up, the worst thing that could happen is we turn to the government for help. To which they will reply:

"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

Stepping Outside Columbia

There are two groups of HoCo residents that have a (legitimate) gripe about their representation in the county and state government. Those on the southeatern side of Rte 95 and those in the North West portion of the county. I appreciate the tip dropped by a commenter on this story relating to the width/safety of the norther portions of 32 (anything above 108). Anyone who has traversed this portion of the highway knows that people use highway speeds despite it being two lanes and not particularly well-lit.

Admittedly, this is not a county council issue, but it does reflect the interests of what some may call an under-represented community. Between the two groups noted above, my sympathies go more towards those on the southern side of 95 as they have to share their representatives with Columbia-crats, who probably only venture to the Rte 1 strip mall for MOM's Poppyseed salad dressing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

GOP Time Out

There is a great article from The Daily Beast discussing the "yahoos" that seem to be pounding the GOP drum over the past 8 months. The author contends that those fighting for Obama's birth certificate are making a farce of the party and threaten to destroy it. I couldn't agree more.

The value of political parties, in their purest form, is a magazine of ideas that shows some flexibility, but holds to one core value (small government v. government utility) to promote the remainder of the planks. I hope that my boiling of the Democrat platform to "government utility" is without contention, as I think the most noble goal of Democrats is to raise up the under-represented and disadvantaged through the use of government. I certainly don't agree with the means, but I understand the reason behind it.

Right now the Republicans have a legion of people wearing American flags as polo shirts, calling Obama "Owe-bama", and railing about his birth certificate. It is disheartening. If you asked these same people about how the economy should be cured or how we should address rogue nations (remember when we used that term?) like North Korea, they'll stare back at you and say "I want the gubment out of my bidness...TEA PARTY, WHOOOO!" I don't mean to completely disparage those that I may otherwise agree with, but let's drop this crap. Obama is the President of our country. If you disagree with his ideas, come up with better ones and sell them to your community.

If you can't do that, you are wasting your time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Personal Responsibility

I read this article this morning and it ticked me off. A couple is suing Howard County after they allowed a guest to bring marijuana into their house, spread the pot and "paraphenalia" on their table, and otherwise display patently law-breaking behavior. The police mistakenly stormed their home on a search warrant that was meant for the house next door and killed their dog in the process.

I am a dog lover. Any kind, no matter the perceived disposition. That is not the issue here. The issue is that when you allow a guest to flaunt drugs around your house, you take a risk. Did they take on the risk of having their dog killed? Not necessarily. But did they put themselves in the gray area of law enforcement and privacy concerns, absolutely. In that gray area, there is a lot of play as to what rights you have. Terms such as "probable cause" and "reasonable suspicion" come into the mix. To now act the victim (our society's favorite character) and sue the county is ridiculous.

Further along that vein, a recent study has shown that the building costs of medical insurance that the Dems point to as a reason for universal coverage is largely attributable to obesity. People are getting fat. Those people have poor health. They want cheap insurance to address their health problems. No responsibility.

My final gripe is from a commercial I listened to this morning. It warned investors that stocks have risk. How stupid are we that we need a commercial to tell us that stocks have risk?

The more we coddle, the more we weaken.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Democracy's Marketplace

(I'm back)

The United States provides a unique brand of democracy in that the laws of the independent states provide a marketplace for policy ideas and tax schemes. Florida has no income tax, but high sales taxes. Various states allow civil unions between same-sex couples. If the enticement is enough to overcome the cost/convenience of moving, a citizen will move to the more favorable legal position.

As noted earlier on this blog, there is a debate on whether millionaires are moving out of Maryland to avoid the higher tax burden. This has been ridiculed by the Baltimore Sun. Among their arguments is the contention that the burden of moving would be more than the difference in taxation, therefore it is ridiculous to suggest they would move to avoid the burden.

However today, without comment or the collection of an opposing view, the Sun includes a statement of State Senate President Mike Miller suggesting that Maryland families may move to Delaware to enjoy the right to gamble on NFL football games. This argument was also used in favor of bringing slots to Maryland.

There are two derivative/supporting points that may be taken from this: 1) People would rather move for recreation than to preserve hundreds of thousands of dollars in income; 2) The Senate acknowledges that gambling is not recreation but a life shaping addiction.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good Bye US of A

I'll be heading to Cyprus for the next week on my honeymoon. I look forward to the opportunity to interact with another culture (possibly two in light of the current state of the island) and eat a lot of foreign cuisine. I might even make travel blog entry from the pictures I take (but promise not to put anyone through an insufferable slide show..."This is where Johnny had to go to the bathroom, but couldn't read the signs and went into the ladies room...oh how hilarious.")

In the meantime, please comment away with any links you find that other readers may enjoy. If the dollar drops too much while I'm gone, I may just end up making some money on the currency market.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Health Bill Simplified

I know the Health Bill is over 1,000 pages and too long to read. Thankfully the House Republicans have made a chart simplifying the issue.

They Don't Make Rights Like They Used To

Funny thing about "rights". Our founding fathers understood "rights" as limiting as much as they saw them as liberating. Your right to free speech limits my (unprotected) right to not hear things that bother me. As the famous quotes go, your rights end at the tip of your fist and mine begin that the tip of my nose.

Seeing rights as such, they made a Constitution with a Bill of Rights that was meant to protect those rights. There was great discussion about how the enumeration of said rights would do more to limit rights than protect them, since such enumeration suggests that those rights not encluded do not exist. You will hear this argument bandied about in "privacy rights" discussions.

Speaking of which, our Supreme Court then took the creation of rights from the realm of Constitutional certainty to the realm of "penumbras", wherein our unelected jurists determined that there are rights that are not so defined in the Constitution but may be inferred from the rights that do exist. They left this descernment to themselves for future cherry-picking.

Well now our Congress is tired of letting the Court and our Founding Fathers have all the fun. They seek to make a right to health care. There are many arguments for how this is an inferred right (see penumbra) as you cannot enjoy any of your rights if you are dead or dying. This particular argument has been tried before, and most often fails at the feet of "you need money to enjoy most rights, why don't we subsidize right enabling activity?"

Rather than this being an inferred right, I believe that we are creating a right in and of itself that will have its own penumbras and further rights to infer. As such, why aren't proponents amending the Constitution to create a government funded right to health care? We amended the Constitution to create an Income Tax. We amended the Constitution to drop the bottle. We even amended the Constitution to give it back! If we are creating a right that will exist for at least as long as I am alive and probably much longer, why not give it company with all of the other enumerated rights?

I've made my position on letting Mr. Fed check my vitals quite clear, but this is not an argument for or against universal health care. This is an argument in favor of nationwide argument.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Feedback & Accountability

Again touching on a subject from White Man's Burden, I wanted to talk about another reason why Government "Planners" tend to screw things up.

Pure Markets are entirely monsters of feedback. Economists, in their simplest form, are students of feedback. If McDonald's charges you too much for your hamburger compared to Wendy's, they lose you. In losing you, you send feedback. If a million "yous" are buying McDonalds out of hamburgers, they know they can raise the price, lose a few "yous", and possibly still make more of a profit.

Our Government's relation to feedback is distant. Our elections are spaced to enable our officials to make some politically unpopular decisions from time to time, but with a final "judgment day" that relies as much on who is running as what they did in office. This distance from pure economic feedback makes government programs (at least ten more steps removed) almost immune from feedback or accountability.

If you waited too long in line for your Driver's License, did you contact your state senator? If your Veteran Affairs benefits are improperly handled, do you call your senator? If you do, does your vote weigh heavily enough for him to act? If he does, does his action weigh heavily enough to make a change? If it does, does that change have any permanence? How long does change take?

One simple item (among many) to be concerned with about government encroachment is the fact that it is not accountable to feedback. Especially in time sensitive areas such as medicine, this is cause for alarm. If Blue Cross doesn't provide the care or customer service you want, you can switch to Aetna. Yes, the current edition of Obamacare provides a "public option", which will compete with private insurers, but the ridiculousness of this market "poison pill" has been well established (i.e., the public insurance will wipe out its competitors and will be immune to antitrust scrutiny...that last part I never thought of before...just typed it...and it is another HUGE problem).

So writes the semi-anonymous blogger who is accountable to a completely anonymous commenter. Ha ha.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Planners v. Searchers

I am reading a tremendous new book right now entitled White Man's Burden. I am uncomfortable with the title, but thankfully my wife bought me the Kindle for a wedding present, so I do not have to have the book on display as I ride the metro. Anyway, the whole push of the book is that Western foreign aid is completely wrong in its paternalistic approach to economic problems. The example he uses is that our economy is easily able to distribute 16 million Harry Potter books to fans the day it is released, yet $4 mosquito nets do not reach the vulnerable populations who need them to live. Why? Because foreign aid doesn't enable ground-up markets to form to distribute goods in accordance with need. He contrasts Planners, those who have a large scale plan of ending poverty in poor countries, and Searchers, those that search to enable the people to solve their own problems with direct financial support.

It is much more complicated than that and my amateur attempts at teaching myself economics is coming in handy, but the idea is much bigger than the book. One of the problems with Planners is that they want credit more than they want a solution. If they enable the poor, they are no longer the ones solving world problems. The self-actualized poor are solving their own problems. This reveals the innate racism of liberal government in suggesting that the privileged few know what is best for the disadvantaged many. The government will allow us to be taken care of for the rest of our days, as long as we are willing to enter a child-parent relationship with the trappings of allowances, curfews, and house rules.

What is scary about this is when the privileged few are able to take away the means of self-help/improvement. Once this happens, there is only one way and it is acquiescence. This is why government control of markets and our very health is terrifying. Another item in the book that I have not yet reached is how Planners can not only NOT help, but also stand in the way of improvement. An example of this in Western democracies is the welfare state that in practice discourages the family unit and creates a marginal tax for gainful employment from unemployment.

I heard the funniest argument on the radio the other day. Maynard from Ed Norris was arguing with a left wing stand in for Ed (really changed the show) who stated that since there were a lot of things our federal government did that were not in the Constitution, providing health care shouldn't be considered Unconstitutional. Left wing guy also fell back on the liberal stronghold of the "Elastic Clause" also known as the Necessary and Proper Clause. Well let's read it:
The Congress shall have Power - To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Think about all the things our federal government does, and try to imagine how our Founding Fathers thought that the whole mess would have leaked out of this small hole. Another fall-back (big government people hate Constitutional arguments, and will fall back often) is the supposed "General Welfare Clause", which is bumkus.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Taxing and Spending...means Health Care.

We have "a Republic, if we can keep it." The question becomes whether we are entering a stage where the power in elected officials maintains our democracy while dissolving its republic nature. Just as most states may allow you to vote on how you would like to be executed, you're still ending up in a box at the end of the week.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Maryland GOP

The Baltimore Sun appears to take great pleasure in writing articles about the current disarray within the Maryland GOP. In reality, party leadership is not as critical as the Sun makes it out to be.

In sports terms, the Chairman sets the formation, but it is the elected officials that write the plays. I spoken with a number of state officials that have expressed frustration with Maryland GOP leadership due to the over abundance of commitments they are asked to make on a variety of issues. What these commitments end up doing is tie the hands of our GOP Senators and Delegates so that they have no bargaineering power as a minority force. Furthermore, we should not have party officials dictating policy to politicians that have to gain independent and democrat votes in the general.

It appears that Mr. Pelura, whom I've never met, wants to be a policy wonk, when in reality he should be a cattle driver. Our officials need us to stir up the troops and build a volunteer base. Howard Dean didn't get Obama elected, but he made it possible for Democrats to win red states by stirring up and expanding blue contingents. If we are going to win in Maryland, we need our politicians to provide a consistent message and we need our party leadership to get it out.

That is if the GOP stands for anything other than religious maxims and corporate nonsense anymore.

In related news, Ehrlich's former speechwriter posted an editorial today. I love the ever so slight persuasive effort to get people behind Ehrlich's ghost candidacy rather than the growing camps behind rising stars such as Charles Lollar. We'll see. All I know is that people seem to care so much about what the party is doing state-wide when all that really matters is what's happening in the county. All politics are local.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Sarah Palin Chronicles

I'm no Sarah Palin fan. I think she is a straw man that the media and Democrats like to hold up as the Republican voodoo doll and say "Oh, you all like her so much...yes you do...well look at how stupid she is" as they throw insult after insult. I think it is unfortunate that this woman was given the false impression that she was some Republican savior, but I also feel that a real politician would have known better.

She is now resigning from her Governorship to "tend to other matters." Someone tell Sarah that those other matters better not involve the Appalachian trail because Gov. Sanford already used that one up. If she still has any hopes of being elected on the federal level and thinks resigning will help, I believe she is sorely mistaken. I thought she came off as a wing-bat before ("Russia is right off the coast") but now I'm sure.

Looks like the media will have to go back to saying Rush Limbaugh is the figurehead of the party. Funny how no one ever said Al Franken or Keith Olbermann were Democratic leaders.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Great Wash Times Editorial

Monica Crowley writes a fantastic editorial about "American Exceptionalism" and how the PC maxims of "everybody is great" have mucked up our government.

While reading, please remember that it is much cooler to think America is at fault for the troubles of the world and Europe is where peace, love, and harmony are growing.

Items to Consider

Asking GM to enter the small car market is like asking Hershey to make salad dressing. They'll make it, but everyone's going to go "Well...that just doesn't seem right at all...I'm going to stick with Paul Newman. Look at that smiling face...makes me feel healthy already."

Turning up the heat on Medicare Fraud ended up being similar to solving what appeared to be a rat problem when really it was a rat NEST problem. Government...Programs...Don't...Work. Especially in areas of health where you really can't say "no" to anything, while you shouldn't say "yes" to everything.

Columbia Mall is getting a Chipotle. Mmmmmmmm.

Jobless rate nearing 10%. "But...Obama...you said we 'uz...you said everything going to be ok if we voted for you...we did...and got these cool T-shirts...but...I guess I could get a job selling more T-shirts...they got these Michael Jackson ones now...but I mean, you said things would be ok."

You said we'd be ok.

From the positive side of the economic spectrum, Congressional field trips are at an all time high...improving the tourist economy in other countries.

Jerks.

I like the way you're thinking!

What is with the fake questions and the audience plants? That's what really gets my foil hat on. When the President of the United States is orchestrating the media, you need to be concerned. Leftist biases aside, they are not supposed to be working FOR THE PRESIDENT. Have they no shame? Doesn't the little boy or girl inside of them that wanted to speak truth to power and become a journalist cry out and say "phony!"? Don't they know that they are betraying their only purpose (other than history re-writes of celebrity lives)?

I may not get to post too much over the next three days as I will be visiting the in-laws (first time typing that) and a friend from law school up in New York. Enjoy the 4th and remember it as a day of revolution against those that did not respect our liberty. Remember that those that declared this revolution had every opportunity to create a government with social programs for health, poverty, and the environment, but chose not to. Also, be very thankful that our British rulers let us keep our guns.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Not Much Today

Sorry for not posting too much today. I've been looking for places to hide my way of life now that the Dems have a Super Majority in the Senate. If only Al Gore had kept that lock-box around, I would have finally found a use for it.

More importantly, please check out Anthony Jordan's new site (with a new post today).