Dec 112008

Who cares which people were Senate Candidates No. 1 through 5? What I want to know is the name of the non-profit that would have benefited Governor Blagojevich.

Everyone already knows that politicians are bought and sold. What might be new is the ways by which non-profit organizations can be profitable to politicians.

The affidavit states that Senate Candidate 1 was likely to be supported by Obama for the seat, and that the Illinois governor was mulling a variety of ways to capitalize on such an appointment. Blagojevich allegedly wanted a corporate board appointment for his wife or millions in donations to a non-profit organization for his benefit, or even an appointment as secretary of health and human services, in exchange for appointing Senate Candidate 1. (Obama nominated former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for the Cabinet post Blagojevich wanted on Thursday.)

Fox News article [Emphasis mine]

Dec 112008

Here’s the word “refute” in the lead sentence of a Fox News article:

Patti Blagojevich’s father, sister and brother are refuting the foul-mouthed portrait that’s been drawn of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s wife since his arrest, saying the first lady has been living in a pressure cooker.

Here’s what has to say about the meaning of the word “refute”:

Refute – verb (used with object)

  1. to prove to be false or erroneous, as an opinion or charge
  2. to prove (a person) to be in error

I read that whole article. In it I learned that Patti Blagojevich is “a mother, a sister, and a devoted wife.” I learned that “she is particularly protective of her family.” I learned that she is “loyal to a fault.” She will sometimes “jump down [our] throat” if you argue with her husband. She is going through a rough time. Her family is angry about the scrutiny she is getting.

But nowhere did I find the slightest refutation of the “foul-mouthed portrait that’s been drawn” of her. In fact, her father even corroborated it somewhat.

You’d think that a news article that starts off with an assertion like this one did would then try to back it up.

Dec 082008

President-elect Obama is lucky that his media followers don’t think carefully about what he says:

“Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) — President-elect Barack Obama said the U.S. recession will worsen before a recovery takes hold and that he will offer an economic stimulus plan “equal to the task” without worrying about a short-term widening of the budget deficit. Dealing with the loss of jobs, frozen credit markets, falling home prices and other signs of economic turmoil is “my number one priority,” Obama said on NBC today. Later at a Chicago news conference he said “more aggressive steps” are needed to cope with the housing crisis.”

  1. So short-term the economy will get worse.
  2. In the short-term the deficit is going to get worse.
  3. His stimulus plan that we’ve been hearing about lately? A long-term infrastructure spending program.
  4. And what is his long-term spending program going to do to the deficit? Something to worry about, maybe?

I had hoped that at this point I would be able to switch to saying something good about Obama’s idea of a long-term infrastructure plan. Yes, it will do more harm than good. Going into debt to solve a problem created by too much debt does not seem like a winner. But things like roads and bridges would give him something to show for our money in the end, even if it makes the financial situation worse and more drawn-out.

Unfortunately, I took the trouble just now to read beyond the headlines. It looks like he is using a very expansive definition of the term “infrastructure.” With the direction he’s taking, it’ll be a program to spend massive amounts of money on every special interest represented in Congress.

Saying something nice about Obama will have to wait for another time.

Computers in classrooms? I thought by now we had gotten over that fad and had been chastened by the results. And something that becomes obsolete in 5 years is not exactly infrastructure.

Greater broadband availability? Yes, that could be called infrastructure. But why should the government build this, when municipality after municipality has failed financially in its efforts to provide government-sponsored internet. Why not instead fix the tax and regulatory climate (including an abolishing or reform of the E-rate program) so that private companies will be motivated to build broadband services. Then local governments will have services to tax and so increase their revenues. And there will be obscene profits to tax, too, which will provide revenue. Why would government want to shut off its income-producing sources?

Technology in doctor’s offices? Spending on all this technology stuff may be a way to pay back all the high-tech workers and industries who spent so much money on his campaign. But why not instead create an economic climate in which doctors will be able to adopt the technology when it proves its ability to improve efficiency and make more money for them?


Dec 062008

Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek makes the case for layoffs on NPR’s Planet Money. More specifically, he explains how restrictive labor laws that make it harder to fire employees or lay them off also make it too expensive and too risky to hire employees in the first place. If there is anyone unfamiliar with that argument, now there is no excuse not to get familiar with it.

I certainly buy it, but there is also the matter of making it politically palatible. Too many libertarians make the argument, which is fine as far as it goes. But they don’t go the next step, which is to argue that we need to make an economy in which job loss is not so devastating, in which people can pick up and carry on.

The left of course has its own ideas on how to do that, mainly through social-welfare programs. There is a place for their safety nets — I for one would not advocate abolishing them — but the way they’re usually implemented makes them more like a trawler net than a safety net. And of course the motives of the left are less than pure when it comes to these things. Leftish minds concentrate wonderfully when it comes to designing programs to grow the government and make people dependent on their tender mercies. They go blank when it comes to ways to allow people to maintain their dignity and make their own choices.

Here are a few areas in which conservatives, libertarians, and non-leftish liberals could make a society in which job loss would not be so terrible:

  • Remove zoning regulations that make it hard for laid-off workers to start their own home-based businesses.
  • Remove the type of small-business regulation that almost requires specialists to deal with — including the kind of time-consuming, mind-numbing paperwork and kissing up to government officials that is so distasteful for independent-minded people. Again, this is so people can run their own businesses on the side or to provide an outlet when jobs are lost elsewhere.
  • Income tax cuts
  • Change the tax laws to foster portable benefits programs. And yes, maybe there is a place for a greater government role in paying for catastrophic or chronic health care (which could be done while reducing government involvement in other health care).
  • Property tax cuts
  • Change the tax laws that encourage people to get up to their eyeballs in debt, and instead make it worthwhile for them to save for a rainy day.

There are others that might come under the category of “A more equal capitalism” but I’ll stop here for now.

Dec 062008

Civil Service Reform

Yet during the past 60 years, it has been the civil service (viewed as professional and technocratic) and not political appointees (seen as corrupt or unqualified) that has gained the upper hand in public opinion. Indeed, many senior officials in the federal government would view the very term political as pejorative.

— Paul Musgrave in Slate, 2 December 2008

Have the courage of your inconsistencies

So I say to Americans: if you want your young people to develop character, have the courage of your inconsistencies! Excoriate sin, especially in public places, but turn a blind eye to it when necessary.

— Theodore Dalrymple at City Journal (h/t Arts & Letters Daily)

Joe Biden’s economic advisor

He holds a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts from the Manhattan School of Music; a Masters Degree in Social Work from the Hunter School of Social Work; a Masters Degree in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Social Welfare from Columbia University.

— Quoted by Banion King at SCSU Scholars

Industrial policy: GM’s magical plan

Now, the most obvious response to all of this is to say that I’m the fish at this table, because this is not a real business plan, but simply a political document. It exists to provide political cover to members of Congress. But if that’s the case, it’s an unintentionally beautiful illustration of why industrial policy fails. It’s both economically crucial and very hard to allocate capital well; that’s why people who are good at it make so much money. Businesses struggle to do this well, and they’re really trying. What do you think the odds are that this is a wise use of money, when the people involved are barely pretending to try?

— Jim Manzi at The American Scene

Dec 042008

This is obviously a media campaign more than news reporting. a) There has been a sudden spate of stories like this — obviously part of an orchestrated campaign. b) A crack investigative reporter would have learned that large numbers of students already go to community colleges because of economic pressures.

Some observers contend that most state schools are unlikely to adopt enrollment caps… But others fear that amid economic turmoil and declines in state tax revenues, the schools will have no choice. Would-be students would be forced to either forgo higher education or attend two-year community colleges, many of which face the same economic pressures.

— Reporter Robert Tomsho on page one of the Wall Street Journal, 3 December 2008

This suggests that the Big Three auto makers are missing out. They ought to threaten that if they don’t get a bailout they will be forced to put a cap on the number of cars they will allow people to buy.

But if the auto manufacturers and university administrators really want to put the fear of God into Congress, they should threaten that if they don’t get a bailout, they will campaign for a sustainable economic environment in which people can afford their products.

Dec 042008

Bailing the bailout

If he was serious about this, Hank Paulson would be escorted from Washington by U.S. marshals. … Mr. Bush, I had thought you were actually going to do what you said you were going to do with the $700 billion. You did not do it; your Treasury Secretary continues to audible at the line of scrimmage.

–Economist King Banion of SCSU Scholars, 13 November 2008

Interactive learning

How does “a virtual learning environment” differ from “interactive learning” (what learning isn’t “interactive”, come to that)…

Sam Leith at 25 November 2008

Upcoming fad: blogs without headlines

The judge ruled that since the blog had a headline, that made it an online newspaper, and brought it within the law’s remit.

— John Ozimek at The Register, 26 September 2008

We’re up against 2-year-olds

…we have to start thinking about changing everything we’re up against….especially adults who use the word “safety” the way 2-year-olds use the word “No!”

Free Range Kids

Dec 032008

Earlier today there were Google Top Stories about some substantial gains for Franken in the Minnesota recount. This had followed a long drought of Top Stories about the recount, ever since the news started turning sour for Franken. But tonight on Drudge I found a link to a story about some even more recent gains for the Coleman side. There is not a peep about that one in Google’s Top Stories.

For those who like parades, this is great. There are two competing parades, each with its own bandwagon.

Dec 032008

Michelle Malkin says there is bipartisan talk of a bailout for the newspaper business in Connecticut. No, really. Yes, there have been spoofs about the need for newspaper bailouts, but in this case they really mean it.

What next? Bailouts for mainline Christian churches whose fat endowments are getting skinny? All in the spirit of the same First Amendment that covers the church as well as the press?

I wonder what these people think about the principle that there is no such thing as federal aid without federal control. But who knows, maybe that’s exactly what they want.

Dec 022008

I get a kick out of those people who say our presidential campaigns are too long, that they get tired of all the campaign ads. If anyone still thinks the campaign ever ends, s/he should read the campaign advertisement for Obama in today’s Boston Globe.

Headline: “Diverse security team is united in fighting terrorism

Diverse. United. The modern versions of Motherhood and Apple Pie!