Thursday, December 30, 2010

Obama Rising, Palin Falling

Or so the CBS news headline goes regarding a recent CNN poll tells us. It was posted by a "friend" on a certain popular social network, and "liked", of course, by several of his friends.   And so I read the story and went out and looked at the poll data.

When you get to the bottom of it, the data backing this PR-driven headline is that Palin, a non-encumbent, potential candidate who has not declared candidacy in a wide open field of potential candidates -- has had support by her party drop by 18 points in the last two years (down to a "measely" 49%). Meanwhile, Obama, the encumbent and presumed candidate has hand his support by his party rise by 2-5 points in the past few months, depending on which particular month you pick.   And these numbers fluctuate more like noise in the data, with no trending to the graph.

I'm shocked. SHOCKED, I tell you. :-)

Of course if you pick Obama's approval rating over the same period as the one over which Palin's is measured, you find it has had a fairly similar fate to Palin's.

Obama rising, Palin falling. O.... kay.

Obviousman here says we're comparing apples to ... frankly, turnips here, struggling to come up with a headline to impress those who wait to see where the masses are headed before they decide where they should be headed.

Polls to create the desired headlines. Oh yeah, everybody does it (meaning both, or "all" sides). But it's one of many things that are wrong with the way we do things around here.

When I pointed this out, the response I got was "it's just a poll".

Actually, at least CBS thought it was "news" enough to write a story that went to the lengths described above to torture a headline out of it that would catch people's attention ... in a certain way.   And the "friend" who says it's "just a poll" when someone challenged the story thought it important enough to pass along (you don't think that kind of behavior has anything to do with CBS's story, do you?)

For someone who is supposedly totally irrelevant she sure gets brought up in headlines a lot -- in stories designed to tell us all how totally irrelevant she is.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Tumbleweeds

(note: Morgan, ignore this post.  It is basically a SNUL post.  ;-)  )

Queue "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" theme.  With jingling bells instead of the rattle-snake sound.

This is kind of a "keep alive" post to let people know I'm still here.  But my priorities change for a few weeks this time of year, and unless I'm really inspired by something, it gets mighty quiet around here. 

It's a bit of a ghost town around here.  But I'm sure after the new year I'll be more persistent. 

I take advantage of others' blogs during this time, as I seem to have time to comment on them.  So if you want to look at my "latest" non-post, comment post .... look no further than here

A significant number of my posts have started out as comments on other peoples' blogs.  But I'm in good company.  Bill Whittle's entire blogging career, which led to his book Silent America, Afterburner (archived at PJTV), and his current (excellent, Excellent, EXCELLENT) Firewall series.... started out as a couple of comments on (an older incarnation of) Rachel Lucas' blog.

I'll never be as famous as Bill.  Hell, I'll never be as famous as Morgan.  But my shingle's still here.  It just has Christmas Lights lining the edge right now.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

God and Santa Claus

Over on another blog we, um... read.  And I'll leave it at that.

God & Santa Claus

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Left vs Left

A couple of good passages in a worthwhile post by one Daniel Greenfield on his Sultan Knish blog, speaking of the Assange saga.

The sheer perversity of this is that we are not looking at a showdown between a right wing Bush Administration and leftist activists. No, this is a confrontation between leftist activists in the Obama Administration and the State Department who want to use diplomacy to weaken American power and leftist activists like Assange who are obstructing them because their sole purpose is to sabotage America-- even when America is already sabotaging itself. It's a showdown between leftists who want to work within the system and leftist anarchists who want to smash the whole system.
and this
Getting power is only half the story. The left's problem has never been getting power, but using it. And the entire Wikileaks story is a reminder of how senselessly the left grasps power, men seizing it for their own self-glorification, only to bring it down on themselves over and over again. Because deep down in that basement of basements, there is no ideology, only ego. The rabid anti-Americanism is the ego reflex of the leftist manchild. In that deepest of basements, plans for the betterment of the world give way to conspiracy theories, to demons of greed, hate and envy. Those serpent entwined roots twist around themselves and strangle all that they create. And the only thing they breed is darkness. And more darkness.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Things I Know #32

It's been a while since I've hit upon a "Thing I Know" worth adding to the list. But here it is:

32. If someone says he's "post ideological", that person is undoubtibly a leftist. They're the ones that believe in a single, multicultural culture, that value judgements are "bad", and, of course that since their ideology is "right", it isn't really an ideology.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Revenue, Taxes, and "Fair Share" Redux

My reply to commenter BigVic on my previous post on the subject got too big to post in a comment.  So it gets its own post.

First, let's get the "value judgements" and hypocrite thing out of the way. I am not saying that anyone isn't free to "rail against" ... anything. Rail away, I do. What I am "railing against" here is the audacity of those who use the coercive power of government to restrict my liberty to engage in what may be self-destructive behavior. That is not hypocritical. It is fully consistent with what I believe.

True, I did assume that when you mentioned leaving out how the 51% gained their possessions that you were one of the pie people -- for if they didn't take it from someone else's piece, why would you care how they got it?

IMHO, Nobel prizes are overrated, being as much gauge of popularity of one's ideas at the time they are bestowed as anything else. And respected economists disagree vehemently over how things actually work. This is once again betrayed by the fact that you're still talking about models and theories as if they are fact. Milton Friedman used a model to ... "prove" ... this shows an inherent lack of understanding of scientific method.

Models don't prove anything. Evidence can support the accuracy of models, and good models can predict things with varying degrees of accuracy, but models never, ever "prove" anything. The sooner you understand this, the better your education will be. Take it from someone who figured that out after he graduated and wished he'd realized it sooner.

Besides, what you're saying he "proved" is that inflation is a monetary phenomenon. I think a fifth grader could have told you that without using a Dynamic Aggregate Supply model. Ok, maybe an 8th grader.

No, what I call "wealth" is the accumulation of property and/or the ability to obtain goods and/or services via trading what I have, or vouchers for what I have (money or credit against assumed future earnings). In aggregate, I suppose you change "I" to "We" or "They" and you have the equivalent of a "society's" wealth. But I tend to see the world first through the lens of the individual.

Not using the terms economists happen to use doesn't mean I have any less grasp of basic economics. As a matter of fact, I believe the fact that I can explain it without peppering it with academic jargon is an indication that I do actually have a grasp of it. If you can explain it to a fifth grader, you understand it. If you can't, it's quite possible that you just memorized the words some professor spewed out in a class somewhere.

"Giving" money to the rich is not what I was talking about. I was talking about "taking less" from them, or "not taking more" from them, whichever way you care to look at it (though I can see neither is the way you're accustomed to looking at it). Leaving more in the hands of those to whom it belonged in the first place is not "giving". And of course, it's not as simple as leaving them with x amount more gives you f(x) more jobs. One reason why economics will never be an exact "science" ... or a science at all ... is that humans are complex and have a bit of an unpredictable streak. Economics is at its core more the study of human behavior in the realm of motivations, needs, and desires than it is anything else. (the reason it can't ever be a real science is that it would be immoral to experiment on actual humans -- not that Marxists haven't been trying it for the last century).

But we can make some generalizations based on observations and our own human experience, and one consistent thing that we find in human behavior is that in general, the more one has, the more one is willing to risk. It's not that leaving more in the hands of those to whom it belongs directly causes them to go out and hire a few more people tomorrow, though that can happen. The bigger payoff is when that person or group of people decide to expand a business or perhaps start a new one, or perhaps a whole new industry which creates a whole slew of new jobs. Sure, some of them will go buy another yacht. But it's their money. Who am I to tell them what they must do with it?

As to restaurant workers, here's a little thought experiment. Suppose I go out and load a truck full of water and drive it around trying to sell it. In the Mississippi valley, where water supply is plentiful, I'd have a hard time selling it at all. Because it isn't worth anything to them. They have plenty. The demand is saturated with supply. I might have better luck in Arizona or New Mexico, though.

Now, suppose everybody cooked at home, and nobody went to restaurants. Well that was actually pretty much the case all over the country when my mother-in-law was young back in the WW-II days and before. There were few restaurants at all, and those were generally in hotels. But as America and Americans became wealthier, some people thought, "hey, what if I open a business where people actually come and we cook for them, serve them food, and clean up after them and ... they pay us to do it?"

At first it was just Mom and Pop and maybe a couple of the kids, but as the business became more popular, they needed more help. So they put out the word. "Hey, we need help. We'll pay this much."

And some people said, "yeah, I'll do that work for that much money." And so they were hired. That trade of labor for money (wealth vouchers) was worth more to him or her than whatever he or she was doing before, or they wouldn't have taken the job. Ergo, wealthier than before. And the restaurant owners got what they needed. They are also wealthier. They exchanged goods and services at a "price" agreeable to both. If it were not agreeable, they would not have agreed.

The new waitress didn't have a "right" to that job, and the restaurant owners didn't have a "right" to have labor supplied. It was a mutual agreement between free people.

The point here being that you get paid what your labor is worth to someone. You may do all the work in your restaurant where you cook and produce all the value ... but that's the point. What *is* that value? It is what someone will pay for it, and no more - no matter how hard you worked.

As to the Soviet Union's "fastest growing" there was, of course, the absorption of eastern bloc countries it had conquered (and their accumulated wealth, to be redistributed) from WWII, and from war reparations from Germany including equipment and industrial materials. Growth rates are funny things, too. A lot of times you can grow really fast from near zero to something quite a bit above zero, and still not be very big. I didn't say you can't grow an economy from zero by effectively enslaving a population. It also helps if you have a lot fewer mouths to feed when you, say, starve off a few million Ukrainians.  (Seems something like this happened in China, too.  Coincidence?)

When agricultural production dropped 23% in the Soviet Union during the second 5 year plan, they actually got it to go up by later by ... wait for it ... allowing peasants private plots to farm and allowing them to sell what they grew on them in the open market.

The sixth 5 year plan again discouraged the practice and ... funny thing.  Agricultural output went down again.  Weird!

If you're actually advocating moving to a system where people actually are literally forced to accept jobs they wouldn't otherwise agree to at prices fixed by "experts" in the government (with no *possible* chance of corruption, as an aside) -- I'm not going there with you. I'm squarely in the Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness camp. I know several people who lived under the Soviet and Chinese systems. Oddly, they don't have anything good to say about them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things Make You Go "Hmmmm"

This is interesting.

Phelps of the Westborough Baptist Church is apparently a Democrat.

Of course, I'm not saying that his views paint any other Democrats in a bad light -- far from it.  Every Democrat I know hates Westborough as much as I do.

On the other hand, if he were affiliated with, say, the Tea Party or the Republican Party or anyone on the political right at all, you know that the other side would be making the most of it as a giant, smearing paintbrush, with the huge megaphone they have by virtue of the fact that 80% of the media is on the other side.

"Tax Cuts" for The Rich

Boston Herald's Michael Graham comes up with a great illustration:

The tax deal Democrats keep claiming will “cut taxes for the rich” doesn’t cut taxes at all. It keeps rates the same. Unchanged. As in, “not lower than they are now.”

Of course I realize that tax rates are scheduled to rise, but not letting them rise isn’t a “cut” anywhere outside Washington. I’ve never seen an advertisement that said “C’mon down for big savings at the ‘We were going to raise prices but decided not to!’ sale!”
That there's pur-a-dee gold. :-)

What's Wrong With America II

On Fox this morning they warned the video of the shooting was "shocking" or "disturbing" before showing it.

What was disturbing was seing a bunch of grown men reduced to looking for places to hide in confused disbelief.

Imagine if we didn't have anti-gun laws that prohibit these board members from packing into the meeting room. Imagine if at least half of them (or even one of them) were armed. Imagine we lived in a culture where any potential "gunman" knew that would likely be the case.

We will never eliminate deadly weapons, or people who are willing to use them to do wrong. But deterrence works. We've disarmed ourselves, for the most part, as a society. And criminals, whether hardened or just whacked out ones who crave a momentary "high" of power before they go out ... know this and take advantage of it.

I give the head of the school board credit for asking if the others could leave -- that took some principle and fortitude -- guts -- and the woman who left and snuck back in with her purse and tried to whack the gun out of his hand from behind -- especially her.  She was thinking and acting.  That took guts.

Just imagine if she'd had a Lady Smith .357 revolver in that purse.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's Wrong With America

Michelle Obama the other day gave us a great example of what's wrong with America today when she opined publicly and psuedo-officially that in America ... obesity is a National Security Threat™.

Now ...Obesity, I'm not saying it's not a problem for more people than it used to be, don't get me wrong.  But the problem I'm talking about here is not obesity.

It's the fact that someone can say that obesity is a national security threat ... and expect that a significant portion of the population will take them seriously.

Loose, unenforced borders are a security threat. People who want to "fundamentally transform" America from its Constitutional base (be it by illegitimate  legislation and expansions of executive and judicial powers, or, say, pressure to move toward Sharia Law)  ... those are security threats.

But no.  There are eggheads and their "subjects" that will follow the "logic".
Mmmmm, let's see ... more Americans are fat than before, so more people joining the military are fat, and if you're too fat you can't fight  ... even though we're not supposed to call people "fat" ... I mean, that would be "insensitive".... ergo, America is weaker. Who can't see that?
(Never mind that it doesn't take a physically fit dude to guide a smart bomb to its target.)

No, fighting wars like they're criminal investigations against any alleged enemy combatant, not being able to wiretap calls from known enemy agents that come into or even pass through our territory, or self-flagellation while hostile nations develop nuclear weapons and borrowing 40% of our budget from unfriendly nations to indulge ourselves in opulent social programs ... $13 trillion debt and another $130 trillion in unfunded liabilities when our GDP is about $14 trillion annually ... no, those aren't threats.

It's cheeseburgers and pizza, man.

That and those damned Tea Partiers who are always blowing things up and shooting people down, slitting throats and all.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What I Said, Only A Little Different

We were yacking about the second amendment yesterday, and today I went to Ann Althouse's house .... "Althouse" ... to see what it was that Morgan was talking about here ... and then I clicked a link that took me to a post where she was talking about what we were talking about yesterday.

Got all that?  Ann was doing something I try to do -- and that is, keep people from using the wrong arguments even if their conclusions are right.

Anyway, I further mused in the comments section of her blog.  A bit of a re-hash of my post from yesterday.  Somehow if we could combine that post (which was born as aa comment I'd left on Morgan's blog in the first place) and this comment I left at Ann's blog ... I think we'd have a pretty darned good post.

So ... the second amendment doesn't protect handguns because they're not mentioned. Got it.

It doesn't mention hunting or sport shooting, either -- so presumably those activities aren't protected by it either. But oddly, this is what lefties keep bringing up to "soothe" us.

"the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

It doesn't say "the right of the people to bear arms for militia purposes shall not be infringed."

It does have that introductory clause that provides one important justification -- but again, if you're really going to try to sell us on the fact that the second amendment means we can go sports shooting or hunting and yet we can't keep one for our defense or the defense of others -- let's just remember that the amendment doesn't mention either of those.

What the main clause of the amendment says is:

"the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

It is very general because it is meant to be very general. It is a general right. If they only meant for us to be able to keep ... and BEAR them ... for a set of specific purposes, it would have listed those purposes.

Hunting, sports shooting, and self-defense were clearly understood to be covered, as we didn't immediately start defining those away as invalid. The militia clause can only be interpreted then as an additional, "oh, by the way, and we definitely mean THIS, too". As in "in addition to" what's generally understood.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Scope of the Second Amendment

I saw what this tool had to say in a video Morgan posted.

Since the scope of the second amendment isn’t specific, does that mean we can re-define it down to butter knives … or toothpicks?

Revisionists ignore the context from which the second amendment arose, and the arguments that were made at the time, and they just want to focus specifically on the wording and try to cast doubt and confusion to make their “solution” sound “reasonable”.

The second amendment, at the VERY least, should clearly cover self-defense. When you read the context of it’s development, it is also clear that offensive weapons would be needed to perform some of the tasks the founders had in mind for defending ourselves from oppresive government. I don’t have a problem with “machine guns” or “assault rifles”.

Nowhere in the second amendment does it even come close to talking about limiting use to sport shooting, — it doesn’t mention sport shooting at all. That doesn’t mean that sport shooting should be banned any more than it not mentioning hand guns or assault rifles means your right to keep and bear them can be infringed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's Time

I think I got this ad on RCP yesterday.  Or some news site.

One of "My" Senators, Claire McCaskill's mug ... on the ad.

And it got me to thinking.... it's like "Change".  They came up with an, ahem, "DREAMy" name for an immigration bill, for one thing.  I suppose it allows illegal aliens to dream big, or something.

Now they're not telling me it's urgent, or how it will help America, or how much it will cost us, or talking about what some of the possible long-term effects might be.

It's just time to pass it.  It's on the schedule.   Last week, it was not time.  And next week they need to be on to something else, I suppose.  But just like it's time for your nap or it's time for dinner ... it's time to pass the DREAM Act, apparently.  It's just time.  Mom said.

If we don't, we're all a bunch of poopie-heads.  Because it was time.  And we didn't.  And we wouldn't want that.

Me, I'm not so sure. I mean, if the people who think we have two Houses and two Senates are for it... I have a few questions about it. (HT The Blaze)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Revenue, Taxes, and "Fair Share"

My mother in law is in her 90's. In her own personal life, she's a fiscal conservative. But she's and old-school FDR Progressive when it comes to the government.

Still, her husband did well, and she has enough money to easily get her through the rest of her life on her own. She frets over how much she spends, though, because she wants to leave some for my wife and the boys.   I appreciate that, but ...

We keep telling her, "It's your money. We are expecting nothing. Spend it."

This morning we had Fox and Friends on, and Geraldo Rivera ... who is often on as a guest -- was there plugging the compromise on the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts to only people making $1,000,000 a year or more, instead of the $250K limit the administration wants. He said hey, it would be a great compromise, and asked how you could justify not raising some taxes on people who make that much.

Then there was a segment on some millionaires and billionaires that are supposedly "begging" the government to raise their taxes (to whom I would like to say, "fine, write out a check to the IRS. in any amount you'd like.")

And yesterday I saw this from Morgan on Facebook:

"Tax cuts are not an expense. Anyone who says anything to the contrary, is selling male-bovine-used-food, period, end of story, full stop."
It was all rolling around in my mind, and I'm sure I've said this before, but I'm always looking for new, better ways to get the message across to people.  (I'm not sure I'll succeed here, but this blog often consists of me working my thoughts out "out loud".)

The attitude that the "we need to tax the rich more to pay for all this" crowd is that 1) we need all of this, and 2) we must get the money from some[one]where.

We keep getting the argument from the other side that "The Rich" aren't paying "their fair share". Well what is fair? Would it be, say, if the top 5% paid over half the taxes? Becuase that's what it is, currently.

My wife and I pay 25% of our income in Federal Income Tax. People making over $250K pay 33% of their income in Federal Income Tax. They pay 8% more of a much larger number. And people making over $375K pay 35% of their income in Federal Income Tax. So it sounds to me like they are already paying more than "their fair share".

But it's really not about "fair shares". It's about people wanting something, seeing someone who has the means to give them what they want, and getting their grubby hands on the levers of government power to force those other people to cough up more of their dough. Not only are they already giving more dough, they're giving a bigger percentage of their dough for the cause. At what point will it become "fair" if it is not "fair" now?

The answer is never.

That's because the question for the big government types is never, "what are people willing to pay for?", it's "who can we force to pay for this stuff we think we need?" Or, for the politicians, "Who can we force to pay for this stuff we promised people to get their votes?"   As long as they can get someone else to pay for their wants or for "their" lagesse .... they'll just keep taking more.

They're in a constant state of tax-mining. Constantly scouring the country for the next group of people they can convince 51% of America, or 51% of American politicians -- that it's ok to take more money from them, for whatever reason. They're too rich. They have "bad" habits. It's for their own "good". Those are the biggies. From whom can we take money such that the number of people who object will be sufficiently small or can be socially marginalized -- so that voting to take more of their money is politically feasible.

Smokers. Drinkers. Millionaires. People who consume too much sugar. Fat. Meat. Non-Green energy sources. It's not only more money they're looking for, it's more places to establish money streams.

Of course, then they talk about things like, as Morgan pointed out, tax cuts "costing" money. No ... spending costs money. The only way something can "cost" you money is if the money is already yours, and you spend it on something. But future tax revenues aren't already "the government's". Higher taxes on you cost you money, because the money was yours.

It won't cost us a dime if my mother-in-law spends all of her money. We might, at some future date, GET more money if she doesn't ... but that is not the same thing. We are not entitled to any of it, and we expect none of it. If she wants to give it to us, that's great. But it's her decision.

When "the rich" get to keep more of their money, they create more jobs and make more people rich by expanding the economy. And that's a great point -- but ultimately not the real underlying point. That point is that it's their money is not our money. We have no more right to it than they have to ours.

Taxes are necessary to run the State, no question about it. But the State should be thought of as sort of a necessary evil, and treated as such. When it wants money, we should be highly suspicious from the outset, and be stingy about letting the Government do things that can and should be done by private citizens and groups of private citizens.

Most social programs fall into that category.