Nov 302009


Good! Very good! I see a bright future for Google in the world of advertising. It could sell bottled sewage, for example, by making the disclaimer: “Drinking bottled sewage is unlikely to decrease cholera incidence. It will probably cut cholera cases worldwide by less than ten percent.”

That’s for another time, though. For now it tried to sell something different:

Google news headline for a Washington Post article: “In health-care reform, no deficit cure.” Google news summary: “Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid’s health-care legislation is projected to cut less than 10 percent from federal deficits over a decade.”

In defense of the Washington Post, it should be pointed out that its article is not nearly as misleading as Google’s summary.

Nov 282009

Mike Ingels, aka The Erie Hiker, makes an interesting point about the global warming controversies in an article titled, “Climate Bill/Talks are a Train Wreck“. He points out that, according to polls, “there is a significant chunk of Americans who want a carbon cap, but DO NOT believe that there is solid evidence of global warming.”

So why would they want a carbon cap, then? Mike thinks it’s because people see local evidence of the results of our carbon excesses. However, another possible reason that comes to mind is the the bad effects on our foreign policy. But the polls don’t tell us that, as far as I know. I’ve made other comments in Mike’s blog article about the global vs local aspects.

But here is one more point: I hope that more careful polling would reveal that this segment of our society doesn’t want a carbon cap so much as it wants reductions in carbon emissions. I say this because a carbon cap is a recipe for massive corruption and abuse of governmental power, while reductions in carbon emissions can be accomplished without such abuses. But that’s just my hope. I don’t know if it’s really the case.

Nov 262009


No wonder the Obama administration seems to have such a narrow, constrained outlook on life.

I got the chart from Say Anything blog, which got it from The EnterpriseBlog, which says it came from a JP Morgan research report. But I like the post at the Say Anything blog because of the comments, especially those about the role of public workers. It seems some people got kind of defensive about it.

Nov 252009

Someone finally points out that Barak Obama’s decision-making re Afghanistan is coming to resemble Lyndon Johnson’s in Vietnam. Ben Shapiro mentions it in passing. Good. Saves me the trouble of saying the words “gradual escalation.”

(I’m not saying nobody else has pointed it out. I’d think it would be obvious to anyone who lived through the 1960s. But Shapiro’s is the first mention that I’ve seen.)

Nov 242009

This sounds interesting, especially since I am now engaged in the sad task of taking apart/destroying an old upright piano made a hundred years ago. It has a cracked soundboard as well as other defects, so there wasn’t a lot that could be done with it. But I’m learning a little about how those things were put together.

“Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano” by Madeline Goold. Reviewed by Alexandra Mullen


Nov 202009

Here it comes. First they go abstract on us and generalize the Fort Hood killing to blame it on extremism. Not extreme views about one’s religion justifying violence, but extremism in general. Then after they’ve expanded the definition, they’ll contract it and say the way to stop future Fort Hood instances is to clamp down on extreme rightwingers who don’t believe the government should control the population through health care, or who oppose abortion, or who value the 2nd Amendment protections.

Expand, then contract. Repeat as needed. I call it the blowfish technique.

Or maybe it’ll be more innocuous. Maybe they will stop future Fort Hood killers the way they protect us from terrorism by frisking white-haired grannies trying to make their way through airports with walkers and canes.

Nov 182009

Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek gives us an excellent summary of the downside of universal standards. To which I will add that if you have universal standards, you can much more easily have a winner take all, which means greater inequalities in wealth and income. (Equality of standards yields great inequalities of wealth.) If you have universal standards, then it is easier for the biggest, baddest (i.e. most efficient) institution to gobble up the others and become too big to fail, which then means huge bailouts and/or other corruption.

…Rather than have a set of experts come up with the best standard, I would prefer competition among standards. Let investor dollars determine which are the best standards. Maybe tehre would be convergence, maybe not. And when there are lots of standards, you can get improvement as people learn over time. But those universal standards struggle to improve. The people who design them have a tendency to defend them even when they’re flawed.

At the end of the discussion, a committee was mentioned, I think it was part of the UN, that was looking at some accounting issue. It was mentioned that the committee represented the different regions of the world. There was a representative from Africa, South America, Asia, North America, and Latin America. Because every part of the world had a representative, it was assumed in the conversation that everyone’s interests would be heard.

The word “representative” is usually used that way, but it really has no meaning. …

Nov 152009

I presume it’s not a surprise to anyone that Bank of America is having some difficulties in getting its preferred candidate to take the CEO job, given that any compensation package is subject to review by President Obama’s czar-operative, Kenneth Feinberg. [URL]

The scary part is that they will find someone to take it. They might even find someone who is adequate enough to do the job. But it will be someone who is politically compromised, and/or willing to become politically compromised. Sort of like we’ve seen with General Motors.

Nov 092009

This sounds like an interesting book:

“The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt” (2009) by T.J. Stiles.

It’s about one of my favorite decades, the 1830s. And I’ve been wanting to read more about the rise of industrial corporations. I’m especially interested in the adjustments that people had to make in their lives and outlooks in order to become cogs in the industrial machinery. But a book about one of the industrial tycoons could be interesting, too.

I learned about the book from an article in the weekend Wall Street Journal by the same author: “Men of Steel: Billionaires, like little boys, have long liked to play with trains. With his latest purchase, Warren Buffett is on track to be today’s Cornelius Vanderbilt.”

But one statement in the article almost convinced me not to waste my time. It’s this:

With the meltdown of 008, the public’s attitude [toward Wall Street] switched from love to hate overnight…

This of course is nonsense. Certain newspaper people have been trying to peddle this line, but I don’t know why they’d expect anyone to believe it. Hatred and detestation of corporate America has been part of the air we breath for as long as anyone can remember. What happened in 2008 probably reinforced a lot of peoples’ opinions. It may even have changed a few, though I don’t personally know of anyone in real life or on the internet whose view of Wall Street and business corporations underwent any fundamental change because of the 2008 meltdown. Politicians and their media flunkies like to exploit a crisis, of course, but one has to allow for the fact that they have an agenda.

Oh, well. I’m hoping the book is better than that one statement.

Nov 062009

Here is a letter I sent to Rep. Mark Schauer this morning.

Rep. Schauer,

Please vote against the Pelosi health plan. Please save your vote for health care reform, instead.

In past generations many of our young soldiers gave their lives to keep our country from going down the road where the Pelosi plan will take us.

Don’t let our country become a hellhole like the UK with a surveillance camera on every corner and anti social-behaviour ordinances that overturn the rule of law, but which are necessary to deal with the social pathologies that result when one’s personal decisions are of little consequence.

There is much the government can do to improve our country’s health care. Congress can remove the extreme injustice by which the self-employed, the unemployed, and and others do not enjoy the same tax advantages in purchasing insurance that those of us who work for large corporate entities have. Congress can empower people to make meaningful choices to manage health risks. These are dangerous and terrifying choices, but denying us the ability to make these choices, as the Pelosi plan will do when it takes its natural course, will make us less than human.

And Congress can help those whose pre-existing conditions preclude the purchase of health insurance. Forcing insurers to become something other than insurers, as the Pelosi plan does, is the absolute wrong thing to do about it.

I suspect that if we were allowed to see what else is hidden in the Pelosi plan before Congress gets a chance to vote on it, we’d find many other things wrong with it, too. Otherwise, why is it necessary to use deceit and secrecy to get a bill passed without our knowing all the details of what’s in it?