Possibly tasteless joke warning

Just thinking about the gun controllers’ plea after the Newtown shooting – “We must do something!“ 

Of course, what they wanted to do had, at least according to House Minority Leader Pelosi, virtually no chance of preventing a mass shooting like Newtown, or Aurora, or Phoenix, or….

[Here's the potentially tasteless joke....] If we were supposed to pass all this gun control because we had to “do something” to purportedly prevent mass shootings, when will the Left propose banning pressure cookers in order to prevent bombings like Boston?

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Sunshine drives the Tides?

I love seeing reporting like this.

Mark Tapscott, in the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog, writes about the disparity in reporting on money given by the various parts of the Koch family as opposed to the much larger amounts given by the leftist Tides Foundation. Seems the Tides Foundation gets about 5% of the media scrutiny that the various Koch-funded foundations get, and gives out 5 times more money than the Koch’s. 

Of course, reporting on that goes against the “narrative” that right-wing money is controlling our politics. 

Full disclosure: I wrote an article for FrontPageMagazine back in 2003 (one of my first paid pieces) on the Tides Foundation. They paid me the amazing sum of $100.  I should have tried to sell it to The Atlantic; might have made another $50… but I digress.

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Wonder, wonder

Depending on which pundits you read, or which networks you follow, you’d see both Obama and the GOP winning the whole budget battle.

Not sure who should win, probably neither.  Yes, we need to cut spending; there’s no doubt about it.  We’re spending more than we’ve ever spent in absolute (or inflation-adjusted) terms even if we’ve spent more as a fraction of GDP during WWII.

BTW, why would we ever want to match that spending level? Its not like we’re at war with another superpower (Al Qaida doesn’t post that much of a threat) and we’re not in danger of becoming isolated in the world because all our allies will succumb to Islamist invaders (at least not in the next few years, decades maybe but not years).

But, I digress.  The point is we spend too much, this is self-evident.  The way past it has two options: (1) spend less, or (2) tax more.

The second option is the favorite of the Left.  They want to raise taxes, primarily on the “rich” though they don’t mind raising taxes on everyone either (see further, the end of the payroll tax “holiday”). This ultimately will harm the economy by taking too much productive capital and giving it to the government. When that point is reached, is a matter of some dispute; suffice it to say that it could be reached at some point.

The first option is the favorite of the Right. They want to cut spending, reducing the size and scope of government. They say their preference is to reforming entitlements, since that’s where the big dollars of Federal spending reside and where the long-term danger in uncontrolled spending remains.

Not that any of the above has surprised anyone who has paid any attention to this mess. But, what is the answer? Certainly the sequester hasn’t many fans. Both sides claim it uses a meat cleaver approach to cutting spending. This is true….but only if one is using that meat cleaver on a wart.  Remember, that the entire sequestration process is supposed to save $1 trillion dollars over 10 years, and that we are expected to spend something like $30 trillion over that same period of time. This year’s cuts are less than $100 billion in an annual budget of $3 trillion. If we can’t find that rounding error amount in cuts, then we really aren’t looking.

But, for some reason everyone (meaning the Left and the Press) thinks that cutting that much government spending will reduce our economy drastically, and lose us 750,000 jobs! I am, obviously, not an economist, but I still don’t understand how an economy with 154 million workers and a GDP of some $15 trillion can be impacted that much by spending cuts of less than $100 billion. Seems like someone thinks that government spending has an incredibly high multiplier effect.

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Definition of Libertarianism

David Boaz, of the CATO Institute, writes of the top 10 ways to describe libertarianism. He mentions the “fiscally conservative/socially liberal” trope, of course, but I really like the unknown-to-me Ayn Rand quote:

If men of good will wish to come together for the purpose of upholding reason and establishing a rational society, they should begin by following the example of the cowboys in Western movies when the sheriff tells them at the door to a conference room: “Gentlemen, leave your guns outside.”

Not something you’d ever expect to see from Rand, is it? Not that I ever noticed violence in her writing (other than rough sex) before, but its a correct reading too.  As Boaz points out, it speaks to the primacy of persuasion over force.

(h/t: Instapundit)


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Why the Left doesn’t get military or hard sci-fi, Part 1

I saw a post on Fabius Maximus’ blog which angered me. It was a takedown of Jerry Pournelle’s CoDominium series, which includes books such as The Mercenary (now published as part of an omnibus volume called Prince of Mercenaries) going through a full future history to The Mote in God’s Eye.

The post tries to read short stories and novellas that were written in the 1970′s through the prism of today’s world, without looking at the proper context. Worse, the author doesn’t seem to really even read the stories in the first place, focusing on the battles rather than the aftermath.

For instance, the posts’s author cites a passage from The Mercenary (mentioning that the story was originally published in Analog in 1972) as “an obvious analogy to the USA of today.” Actually, no. It couldn’t have been to the USA of today, since Pournelle hadn’t lived in the USA of the 21st Century in the 7th decade of the 20th.

Instead, the Earth of the CoDominium series is seen as a logical progression from the world of the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, where an increasing percentage of Americans seemed to be involved with drugs and unwilling to get involved in their own economy, relying instead on welfare programs which were threatening to become more and more generous. Reflect, if you will, on the suggestions of a negative income tax, which (the wisdom or fallacy of the proposal notwithstanding) effectively paid people not to seek work. Certainly this was one of the flaws of the welfare state prior to the Clinton-era reform.

A further problem seen in Pournelle’s work was the flaw in the education system which still exists – that it doesn’t adequately prepare American youth for adulthood. Of course, it does make sure that everyone feels prepared at least so far as their soi-disant “self esteem” is concerned.

One thing in Pournelle’s world-building that does ring true today was the increasingly incestuous world of government and industry. As one of the lengthy quotes from The Mercenary states:

They were approaching an enormous bowl-shaped structure attached to a massive square stone fortress. Falkenberg studied the buildings carefully, then asked what they were.

“Our stadium,” Banners replied. There was no pride in his voice now. “The CD built it for us. We’d rather have had a new fusion plant, but we got a stadium that can hold a hundred thousand people.”

“Built by the GLC Construction and Development Company, I presume,” Falkenberg said.

“Yes … how did you know?

“I think I saw it somewhere.” He hadn’t, but it was an easy guess; GLC was owned by a holding company that was in turn owned by the Bronson family (a family high in the CoDominium government). It was easy enough to understand why aid sent by the CD Grand Senate would end up used for something GLC might participate in.”

“We have very fine sports teams and racehorses,” Banners said bitterly.

Oh, yes. You can see by the added material that the author at Fabius didn’t bother to include that he didn’t really want to mention that aspect which could be an analogy to the USA of today. You can see that again where the author claims that fans of Pournelle’s work would see the end of The Mercenary as a “happy ending.” He leaves out what happens at the end. The planetary society, if led by the “mob” as Fabius puts it, would have collapsed and a third of the population would have died in that collapse. That “mob” wanted to ignore the laws of basic economics that say that productivity is all that really gives growth to an economy. The politicians left think that Falkenburg’s efforts have saved their world….

“[...] We won’t thank you for it, but – you’ve saved a whole world, John.”

Falkenberg looked at him grimly, then pointed to the bodies below. “Damn you, don’t say that!” he shouted. His voice was almost shrill. “I haven’t saved anything. All a soldier can do is buy time. I haven’t saved Hadley. You have to do that. God help you if you don’t.”

Fabius goes on to one of the last of the Falkenburg part of Pournelle’s future history, Prince of Sparta, arguing that Pournelle applauds non-democratic, even aristocratic, governments. Again, its a matter of not reading thoroughly. Pournelle writes of a society which is democratic, but the franchise is limited to those who have earned it, through self-improvement and willingness to support the body politic. Not easy, but many of those born on the planet Sparta and even many of those transported manage to earn it. By the way, those “aristocratic” officers and soldiers aren’t counted as full citizens of Sparta either (though their service does count as part of their requirement for earning citizenship).

Fabius decries the “annihilation” of the Helots (the enemy in Prince of Sparta), never mentioning that the Helots are a terrorist group, using rather standard terrorist tactics in support of that same corrupt Earth government faction and more than willing to target innocent men and women in their attempt to trigger a violent revolution. Funny how that doesn’t make it into Fabius’ analysis, nor does the fact that the “47%” of Sparta strongly supports the “aristocratic” government, and a mass uprising of those middle and working class Spartans after the death of one of the Spartan kings is what results in the defeat of the Helot army, since the CoDominium space navy is ordered by the Earth faction to intervene and neutralize Falkenburg’s troops long enough for the Helots to detonate a nuclear warhead in the principal Spartan city.

Sorry, but yes the defeat…the annihilation…of a group wanting to destroy an entire city does strike me as a happy ending. Not so much for the death, but for the principle of defending one’s home. What surprises me is that someone writing on geopolitics would ignore such an important idea.

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Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb

Believe me, Professor Jacobson, if you (or any other blogger) want to link to me, please feel free!

Seriously, how dumb can a blogger be?  Traffic from any other blog is gold.  My stuff isn’t so special (and I don’t bother blogging so often) that I could afford to turn down any links.

Okay, maybe not….  I do delete plenty of spam links in the comments every post.  At least the bots seem to love me.

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You keep using that word…

One common assertion that I see from the left is that “The Right would think Jesus was a socialist.”

Uh, no, not really. I keep looking for the passages in the Gospel that bear this out, or even in the Epistles. I just can’t find them.

I can find where Jesus urges his followers and would-be followers to care for their brothers and sell everything they have and give what results to the poor. But I can never find that parable that tells disciples to give everything to the authorities in Jerusalem or even Rome for them to give to the poor.

Jesus knew that salvation was a choice and, depending on your particular flavor of Church, Faith and Good Deeds done voluntarily counted much more than deeds done because everyone was watching or because the tax collector demanded money for the poor (with, it must be added, a substantial cut for himself – another parallel to today’s welfare state).

Here endeth the lesson

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And this surprises…..?

Mickey Kaus provides reader feedback from users of electronic medical records.  You know, this was supposed to lower medical costs. Of course, you also know it hasn’t done any such thing.  Instead, it appears to be raising the cost.

Her billing has gone way up. Things she used to do but never add to her billing are now added automatically because the nanny program prompts her.

These things include automatic questions that the program wants asked (because someone in charge of developing the system wants them done, not because the medical provider wants to keep track) like asking about tobacco use and counselling someone to lose weight or the ever popular “are there guns in your home” question.  Of course, the doctor would probably have done it anyway but, as the quote above makes clear, now there’s a prompt to bill for that advice.  Funny how now just providing medical advice during an existing appointment would have generated yet another billing. 

The other way this sort of thing raises costs is by shifting workload.  Under the “old way” of practicing medicine, a doctor would have made some notes on an appointment sheet and a lower-paid transcriptionist or other clerical employee would have deciphered those notes into the patient’s chart. Not anymore:

“they’ve taken the highest paid person in the department and turned him/her into a data entry clerk”.

On average, she and her colleagues spend more time per patient wading through drop-down menus, clicking boxes and filling in required but utterly irrelevant information than they do at the bedside, actually treating the patient.

In short, it’s her experience that they see fewer patients per shift than they did previously, and spend less time with each one, now that they are required to sit down at a computer after seeing each patient and jumping through hoops to place orders instead of, as previously, simply telling the nurse what is needed and then moving on to the next patient. (emphasis in original)

The important part is that first line: taking the highest paid person in the office and having them do the lowest level of work. 

This seems to have been the problem with a lot of automation. Used to be, in knowledge work, there were these positions called “secretaries” which took dictation, and typed the dictated words into meaningful correspondence. Now we expect managers (mid-level at least) and many executives to write their own correspondence on the computer. We used to have those “secretaries” make travel arrangements if their principal had to go out of town on business. Now, the principals have to make their own arrangements and complete their own travel vouchers. Again, taking the higher paid employees do their own clerical work, taking time away from what they are truly paid for.

And this improves productivity exactly how?

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Hmmm, good plan

Just saw someone comment on one of those incredibly long Facebook threads on the idea of arming teachers. She said we should use the same security in schools we do in airports.

I can see that, if you want a security screen based on theatre that works more like a sieve. Oh, and it would eliminate bringing lunch from home. That is in the interests of the Federal nannies, isn’t it?

All is proceeding as I have foreseen….

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Election Post-Mortem Notes

  • Congratulations to the winners and those who supported them.  Condolences to the losers and their supporters.
  • Any talk of a mandate should be immediately stopped.  If George W. Bush was (deservedly) thrashed after the 2004 election for assuming he had a mandate for his reelection, so should this Administration. Its rare enough that a sitting President is reelected with less votes than he had before; its just lame to think that such a result is due to resounding support. When I started writing this post, I hadn’t seen any such claims, but I want to leave this marker just in case someone does think it.  (Okay, there are such claims now – New Republic for instance)
  • It is very sad for the GOP that they couldn’t beat as vulnerable an incumbent as Barack Obama. They couldn’t in spite of running a reasonably good candidate, probably the best that the party could field (there were better ones available, I think, but they couldn’t gain any traction between the country-club Republicans and social conservatives – more below on that). Romney was a good candidate, well funded, and ran a good campaign.  Yes, any campaign or candidate can and will make mistakes. Both Romney and Obama made their respective share of mistakes that could and usually were capitalized upon by their opponents. You shouldn’t blame the choice of candidate for Obama’s victory.
  • One big challenge for the GOP is (and has been) its image as an “angry white man’s” party. Face it, the GOP can’t win an election based on getting the majority of a shrinking slice of the electorate. Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and women voters have to be shown reasons – convincing reasons – to vote for the GOP.
  • Amazingly, libertarian ballot positions (gay marriage, marijuana legalization, even casino gambling expansion) made strong gains in yesterday’s vote. There’s a lesson in there for the careful reader. This sort of position speaks to the more tolerant suburban voter and somehow the GOP needs to find a way to thread the needle between gaining these voters and not losing the social conservatives. Maybe some reeducation is required….(its a joke folks)
  • Most of all, you have to admit: The American people voted for a continuation of the last two years.  In spite of the abysmal approval ratings for Congress and the Administration as well as the right/wrong-track polling split, they voted for much the same makeup of governance as we had the past two years. With the White House and Senate continuing in Democratic hands and the House of Representatives in GOP control, its obvious that the electorate wants divided government even when that government doesn’t do as much. This ties into the exit poll results that shows at least a plurality thinking that government does too much.
  • I’m tired of reading pundits.  They don’t know what they’re doing any more than the rest of the world does. 
  • Okay, Nate Silver might.  One correct (exact) prediction doesn’t make him an infallible soothsayer.  However, just because this one election followed his model doesn’t mean future ones will. As the prospectus says, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” I stand by what I tweeted yesterday morning: Michael Gerston had it right in yesterday’s WaPo.  Analysis such as Silver’s can be an excellent descriptor of the electoral landscape, but it is no guarantee of success.  Political success still depends as much on persuasion as to vision and ideas as anything else.  In this instance, there wasn’t much discussion of ideas or vision. It took until the last two weeks of the campaign before the victor even discussed anything close to a concrete plan, choosing to rely instead on personal attacks on Romney. Hey, it worked, okay? Just don’t let it fool you into thinking it always will.
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