Monday, August 31, 2009

Whatever - The New York Times decides (now) that "Cash for Clunkers" was inefficient when it came to reducing greenhouse gases - so let's try a gas tax! (H/T TTAC)
The ways of the world - Old Jarhead: "Twenty economic facts of life." #1 might be good enough: "People do more of what they're rewarded for doing and avoid what they're punished for doing." (H/T Maggie)
A nation of laws, until we have to follow them - Remember that law the Democrats in Massachusetts passed for a special election in case a Senate seat needed to be replaced? As Emily Litella would say "never mind": "Gears move on possibly naming Kennedy replacement." Because the "voice in the Senate" is critical when it's not appointed by a Republican governor.
Crimson tide

Robert Samuelson surveys the ocean of debt:

In 1946, after World War II, the ratio of publicly held federal debt to GDP was 108.6 percent. Since then, the economy (our income) has generally grown faster than the debt. In 1974, the debt-to-GDP ratio reached a post-World War II low of 23.9 percent, and even in 2007, it was only 36.9 percent. That was manageable.

By contrast, today's prospective colossal borrowings dwarf likely economic growth. The Obama administration's latest projections, released last week, show nearly $11 trillion of borrowing from 2009 to 2019. In 2019, the debt-to-GDP ratio would be 76.5 percent. This could be too optimistic, because it assumes some spending restraint and tax increases. A projection by the Concord Coalition, a watchdog group, adds about $5 trillion in borrowing in that period. In 2019, the debt-to-GDP ratio could be roughly 100 percent.
Uncharacteristically, Samuelson doesn't even mention the unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs and government pensions which have swollen full of promise without the means to pay. La-dee-da, let's spend another trillion dollars:

Easy come, easy go - August 2009 was one of those rare five-weekend months and it's been a looong time since payday. Many bills were paid tonight, but I do like electricity.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Langewiesche - I was following a link on Instapundit to the Top 10 books that don't get enough respect and suddenly I was face-to-face with "The Outlaw Sea." That book is on my shelf after reading Mr. L's articles in Atlantic magazine and it's a good'un, mostly for its portrayal of modern-day pirates, long before Navy Seals got involved.
It's a wonder(wall) he's lasted this long - Noel Gallagher (the talented one) quits Oasis, claiming he just can't work with his brother Liam anymore.
I'm a Marxist - Go over to Maggie's Farm to see Chico Marx play the piano with an apple. He makes it look so effortless.
Whip Embrace inflation now - We can't possibly raise taxes enough to pay for all the new federal spending. How are we going to get out of the debt hole? Ace of Spades HQ has the solution: "Inflation is like bacon. There's nothing it can't do."

Problem solved! (claps hands)
The adults in the room

I love the first two grafs of this WashPost story: "Tax pledge is a target as deficits, debt grow Obama advisers will not rule out broad-based tax hike"

During last year's campaign, President Obama vowed to enact a bold agenda without raising taxes for the middle class, a pledge budget experts viewed with skepticism. Since then, a severe recession, massive deficits and a national debt that is swelling toward a 50-year high have only made his promise harder to keep.

The Obama administration has insisted that the pledge will stand. But the president's top economic advisers have refused to rule out broad-based tax increases to close the yawning gap between federal revenue and government spending and are warning of tough choices ahead.
In other words, junior senator Barack Obama is stamping his feet and screaming "no!" while the big men are insisting: "We're going to have to eat that spinach."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lots of zeros - Greg Mankiw notes the economic hole we're facing over the next decade is closer to $14 trillion than the White House estimate of $9 trillion. Hey, what's an extra $5 trillion among friends?
I see you Katy, Texas - Welcome to the right-wing ramblings of a true Conservative! I'm also a top-notch fiber optics engineer. So I got that goin' for me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stand back, ma'am, I'm an economist - Political Math strikes back at Paul Krugman's deficit calculations in "How big is $9 trillion." It's really big and intractable problem when mandatory spending (i.e. entitlements) is growing faster than our ability to raise revenues.
Blogging from 30,000 feet

I got a promotional card to access WiFi on the plane so I'm typing this from high above Georgia, or maybe South Carolina. Technology! Everybody needs access to the Net all the time. By the way, after a couple days at the SPE conference and a couple hours wandering through airports, I can see why the smartphones are called "Crackberry." Geez, give it a rest already.

Here's my first sky-high link: Ted Kennedy's death just like 9/11.
Enhanced interrogations - Nancy Pelosi knew and lied about it.
If you want to ask a question in a public forum, apparently you need ID.

For government-run health care, not so much.
Access in Austin

I refused to pay the $10/day fee to access the Internet at my hotel so I've been out of the loop since Monday. But now I'm in the Austin/Bergstrom airport and they have free access.

I can't possibly add anything about Ted Kennedy. Rest in peace, and all that. What I'm waiting to see now is if the Massachusetts State House circumvents their own law of Senatorial succession, the one they passed when they feared that Republican governor Mitt Romney might appoint a replacement for John Kerry. Special election? Nah, never mind.

I managed to catch Austin's famous live music scene and it was a treat to hear bands playing all styles of music from rooftops and alleyways and concert halls.

My presentation to the Society of Petroleum Engineers went well. Those Texans are really down-to-earth (get it?) Everybody but everybody has a Blackberry/smartphone nowadays. I think my phone has a calculator.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Heading into Austin city limits

I'm going away on another business trip this week so updates may be spotty depending on access. I couldn't find a decent Austin City Limits clip on YouTube so here are The Shins with "Phantom Limb." See you soon.

Out, out, darn Ted - Jeff Jacoby in the Globe: "Kennedy should resign."
"High Fidelity" for the tween set

This weekend, I took the kids to see "Bandslam" which is a "battle of the bands" movie set in New Jersey. On the surface, it's one big movie cliche: there's the unpopular music-genius kid, the blonde cheerleader, and the bookish, brooding but pretty girl who comes to life at the big competition.

Her name, by the way is Sa5m (the 5 is silent), Vanessa Hudgens up there.

Somehow it all comes together in an upbeat ska rendition of Bread's cheesy classic "Everything I own." Check it out.
Too good to excerpt - Mark Steyn: "Why the stimulus flopped."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Constitution says "no"

Many moons ago (don't ask me to find the exact post) I wondered on this blog whether it was Constitutional for the Massachusetts health insurance mandate to force people to buy health insurance. In other words, it doesn't feel right that a government compels its citizens to buy something. Yes, you can force people to buy auto insurance to drive a car but - it you're dead-set against this expense - you don't have to drive a car. On the other hand, everybody in the Bay State must obtain health insurance if they don't already have it through an employer.

As the public option fades from the national debate, it's looking more like the Administration may try to duplicate the Massachusetts model. But then I read this in today's WashPost: "Illegal health reform"
But can Congress require every American to buy health insurance?

In short, no.
Say what now? The lawyers writing the article stipulate that the government can raise taxes to pay for a health care system although not to "penalize conduct" and "the federal government doesn't have the power to regulate Americans simply because they are there." Since we'll get no guidance from the Obama Justice Department, I think I'm going to have to check in with some of the law blogs.
Spamming for Obama - Fox News is reporting that the White House used taxpayer money to hire a third-party spammer to send unsolicited emails, drumming up support for health care reform. I don't know how the executive branch gets access to taxpayer money, which is normally a power held by Congress. Developing hard, as they say.
For the record, I was a Jason Mraz fan before you

I just heard this little bit of music trivia today:

Singer-songwriter Mraz's "I'm Yours" notched its 70th week on the Hot 100. Thanks to 4.4 million total downloads and airplay on top 40, adult top 40, adult contemporary and triple-A (adult alternative album) radio, "I'm Yours" beat LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live" for the song with the longest life on the singles chart.
Mraz is a lyrical wonder who blends sublime melodies around his words. Here he is wearing his silly hat (as usual) playing to an enthusiastic Dutch crowd that know all the words:

This is my favorite song from "We sing we dance we steal things"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Break out the shovels

Remember that stimulus package we had to pass double-quick, Arlen Specter? Opinion Journal: "There's no evidence for the theory that state spending has shortened this or any other slowdown"

Even those who think government borrowing is a free lunch can't possibly believe the government has already done enough "stimulus spending" to explain the difference between depression and recovery.
CNNMoney recently calculated that the stimulus plan has spent just $120 billion—less than 1% of GDP—mostly on temporary tax cuts ($53 billion) and additional Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment benefits. Less than $1 billion has been spent on highway and energy projects. Commitments for the future are much larger, but households and firms can't spend commitments.
We're going to need some economic stimulus because soon we're going to need new tax revenues to pay for the stimulus.

Extra - Megan McArdle has good news/bad news on the budget. We're putting slightly less than expected on the national credit card.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And that's that

Senator Kent Conrad says: "There are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option. There never has been."

House speaker Nancy Pelosi says she "can't pass bill without the public option."

What we have here is a failure to legislate.

Anybody can sell a dollar for eighty cents - Business Week: "Cash for Clunkers chugs to a halt."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Medicare is great, except when it's terrible, and I'm not being indecisive

Opinion Journal: "Obamacare's contradictions"

"The only thing I would point is, is that Medicare is a government program that works really well for our seniors," he noted in Colorado. After all, as he said in New Hampshire, "If we're able to get something right like Medicare, then there should be a little more confidence that maybe the government can have a role-not the dominant role, but a role-in making sure the people are treated fairly when it comes to insurance."

The government didn't get Medicare right, though: Just ask the President. The entitlement is "going broke" (Colorado) and "unsustainable" and "running out of money" (New Hampshire). And it's "in deep trouble if we don't do something, because as you said, money doesn't grow on trees" (Montana).

So the health-care status quo needs top-to-bottom reform, except for the parts that "you" happen to like. Government won't interfere with patients and their physicians, considering that the new panel of experts who will make decisions intended to reduce tests and treatments doesn't count as government. But Medicare shows that government involvement isn't so bad, aside from the fact that spending is out of control-and that program needs top-to-bottom reform too.

Voters aren't stupid. The true reason ObamaCare is in trouble isn't because "folks aren't listening," but because they are.
What the heck is Obama's teleprompter smoking?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PDQ MBA - Slate: "How to become a management guru in five easy steps."
Get in line, Grandma - Here's Harvard economist Martin Feldstein with "Obamacare is all about rationing": "The Obama strategy is to reduce health costs by rationing the services that we and future generations of patients will receive." Wow, limited services and an extra trillion dollars in debt? What's not to love?
The big bluff - How appropriate that I'm watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN: Drudge is reporting that the "Dems will go it alone" on health care legislation. Oh, that's rich. The Senate can't pass public option and the House won't pass a bill without it. Meanwhile, the polls continue to show that the longer this show goes on, the less Americans like it. Go for it, Dems!

More - From Gateway Pundit and Hot Air.
And now something different - Megan McArdle: "So now, after long debate, it seems like the solution may be health care co-ops. Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems like we've undergone a lot of stress to invent . . . Blue Cross/Blue Shield."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Coldplay's "Okkey rules"


  2. PRODUCTION MUST BE AMAZING, RICH, BUT WITH SPACE, NOT OVERLAYERED. LESS TRACKS, MORE QUALITY, GROOVE AND SWING. Drums/rhythm are the most crucial thing to concentrate on; diff. between bittersweet and science of silence.
  6. ALWAYS KEEP MYSTERY. Not many interviews.
  7. GROOVE AND SWING. RHYTHMS AND SOUNDS MUST ALWAYS BE ORIGINAL AS POSSIBLE. Once jon has melody, twist it and weird it some.
  8. Promo/review copies to be on VINYL. Stops copying problem, sounds are better.
  9. Jaqueline sabriado, ns p c c, face forward.
  10. Think about what to do with charity account. Set up something small but really enabling and constructive. Ref; j olivier fifteen
The Light Child brings salvation to all - Peter Wehner has a great post over at Contentions about how Obama's self-regard is steamrolling over the facts in the health care debate: "Obama's self-conceit becoming self-parody."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Details to follow

President Obama has an opinion piece in the New York Times today where he once again explains his plan for health care reform. Except there's no plan there, just the same amorphous promises that everything will work out: we'll simultaneously have "high quality" and "affordable coverage" while "bringing health care costs under control."

I think Obama is using Steve Martin as a policy adviser:

"You can be a millionaire and never pay taxes. You say 'Steve, how can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes?' First: get a million dollars."
And Instapundit puts it this way:

Obama: I’m going to turn healthcare upside down. Not sure how.
People: I don’t think I’ll like this.
Obama: Haters!
This whole process has been opaque and, even as the White House prepares to jettison the public option, there's this kind of imperious attitude that everybody who wants some details on the plan are "astroturfers" or shills of the evil insurance companies. Obama claims he wants debate but whenever he's pressed, he can't answer the most basic questions such as how to pay for healthcare or whether the federal government will just repeat the costly mistakes of reform experiments in Hawaii and Massachusetts.

Extra - Ann Althouse goes off on Obama's call for "conversation."
Color me green unsurprised - The Truth About Cars: "The Cash for Clunkers program is a car industry bailout dressed up as a green initiative."
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. - It looks like both Democrats and Republicans in the Keystone State have had enough of Arlen Specter.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Even in Nancy Pelosi's backyard - Bay Area Patriots stage an anti-Obamacare rally in San Francisco. Counter-protesters were minimal.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On that note - I'm going to see Mom tomorrow, so blogging may be light and/or non-existent. See you soon.
Must love dogs - Unbelievable. A couple months ago, I bet a guy at work that no NFL team would be foolhardy enough to hire dog-torturer Michael Vick. Turns out I owe somebody a Coke. Everybody always complains that these highly-paid, little-denied athletes do these things because they always think they can get away with it - and they're right. Depressing.
Unclear on the concept

Don Surber notes that, to combat the nation's highest unemployment rate, Michigan is discussing ballot proposals that will significantly increase the cost of doing business.

The News Junkie at Maggie's Farm quips: "Michigan is determined to commit suicide. If they want to, nothin' you can do to stop 'em. It's a free country." Considering the auto bailout and "Cash for Clunkers" is costing America billions of dollars, I fail to see how it's "free."
The Charlie Rich method

Chalk this up to "things I did not know." It turns out the prostitution is legal in Rhode Island as long as it's done behind closed doors:

The “spa’’ is among more than 40 operations in Rhode Island that act as thinly-veiled brothels, according to law enforcement and groups that monitor the spa business. The spas are well known and largely untouchable by police and prosecutors because state law permits prostitution so long as it takes place discreetly, outside public view.

Prostitution has flourished in Rhode Island, and the state has the distinction - a dubious one, many say - of being the only state in the nation to permit what is often referred to as indoor prostitution, a phrase that distinguishes it from streetwalkers’ solicitations.
Well, there's at least one business that's doing well. Still, I don't recall this ever coming up on "Providence."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mama weer all crazee now - All of those nutty teabaggers at the health care forums are making an impact: "New Gallup polls shows town hall protests winning over independents."

Of course, it's possible they're having no impact at all because it seems like every time Obama has a news conference, support for health care reform drops.

Extra - Victor Davis Hanson: "On dishing it out."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Clunker quote of the day

From the NY Times: "A clunker of a program?"
"What we ended up with," said one senior Obama administration official, who would not speak on the record because he was being critical of his own administration's environmental bona fides, "is a program in which you trade in old clunkers for new clunkers."
Cash for Clunkers was a crutch to an industry that couldn't make a profit on its own, for dubious environmental benefits, with a big helping of moral hazard. Why not stimulate the glass industry by heaving bricks through car windows? It's a win-win!

Extra – Reuters: "How 'Cash for Clunkers' is adding carbon."
Christian convert follow-up - Remember this story about a girl in Ohio who went missing when she converted from Islam? It turns out she's alive and well in Florida: "Muslim teen who converted to Christianity says family threatened to kill her."

Monday, August 10, 2009

First do no harm

Robert Samuelson on Real Clear Politics: "Obama's health care will make it worse"
No president has spoken more forcefully about the need to control costs. Failure, he's argued, would expand federal budget deficits, raise out-of-pocket health costs and squeeze take-home pay (more compensation would go to insurance). All true. But Obama's program would do little to reduce costs and would increase spending by expanding subsidized insurance. The House legislation would cut the uninsured by 37 million by 2018, estimates the Congressional Budget Office. The uninsured get care now; with insurance they'd get more.

"You'd be adding a third medical entitlement on top of Medicare and Medicaid," says James Capretta, a top official at the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004.
I've said this before with regard to Social Security but I'll repeat: the federal government has over-promised to Americans for too long and, now that the baby boomers are retiring, there's no money to pay for the current entitlement liabilities much less for new ones.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

CBO whack-a-mole - Douglas Elmendorf breaks out his big mallet one more time: "Congressional budget expert says preventative care will raise - not cut - costs."
Health care when you can find it

The biggest paper here in Western Massachusetts has a story today on the Bay State's state-run health insurance plan. It turns out that "access" and "insurance" are two different things: "Obstacles block reform efforts"

There is now near universal health coverage in the state, but, here in Western Massachusetts, reform to date still means only one managed care organization in some areas for Commonwealth Care members, fewer than a dozen community health centers in the region and a public transportation system that can make it arduous for some low-income residents to get to their doctor.

"There are definitely more people who are covered with insurance, and have an insurance card, which is a good thing," said Suzanne Smith, director of health services for Northampton-based Tapestry Health. "But, that's not to say there still aren't barriers to access."
I've written before about how the shortage of primary-care doctors makes the health reform effort moot. Now imagine the dis-incentive to become a general practitioner when the government decides to pay you well below the prevailing rate, as Medicare does today.

With the public option on life-support, it looks more likely that Obama will adopt a Massachusetts-style health insurance mandate. Charles Krauthammer explains what this means for the whole country:

There will be only one way to make this work: Impose an individual mandate. Force the 18 million Americans between 18 and 34 who (often quite rationally) forgo health insurance to buy it. This will create a huge new pool of customers who rarely get sick but will be paying premiums every month. And those premiums will subsidize nirvana health insurance for older folks.
Well, it's about time we did something for older Americans.
Red light district - Boy, Mother Nature is not a NASCAR fan. I've lost count of the rain delays and rainouts this season. Last week's race at Pocono was pushed off until Monday and it's looking like today's race at Watkins Glen is iffy. TV ratings are down as is attendance at the tracks. More people are going to bail out next year if they drop $100/ticket just to watch drying trucks slowly circle the track.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Elevating the debate, continued - Shut up, they explained: "I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking."

GMTA - Ace (after my post): "Shut up," Obama explained.
Elevating the debate - Do you oppose government-run health care? Paul Krugman knows why: you're a racist. Steven Pearlstein just thinks you're a liar.

Extra - Legal Insurrection: "We're all political terrorists now."

Hey, can you hear that? It's the sound of a million Americans scraping those "Dissent is Patriotic" bumper stickers off their cars.

More - Betsy has more data from those right-wing zealots at the CBO.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

80's flashback

Astroturfing madness - Angry protesters show up at Dallas AARP meeting, watch "Matlock", take nap. The unions decide it's time to bust some grayheads.
Spoiler alert! - Well. I just finished watching the season finale of my new favorite show "Burn Notice" and it was a doozy. I'll just say this: over three seasons I don't think I ever saw Michael directly murder somebody. Oh, sure, he set up situations that led to other bad guys "taking care of business" but emotion got the better of him tonight.
Groovy tunes - Hooray! My copy of "Under the Covers, Vol 2" arrived from Amazon today.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Boston Globe spins MassCare, fails

The Globe had a very strange editorial today titled "Mass bashers take note: health reform is working" As Hemingway wrote: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

I addressed a lot of the problems with the Bay State's health care reform last month but the Minuteman hits the phony numbers in the editorial:

So, what the Globe is cheerfully describing as a cost of a mere $88 million per year is really a cost *increase* averaging $88 million per year. But I like their thinking - if they don't raise the newsstand price of their paper they can report that it costs me nothing to buy it. Quite a promotion.
Maybe the Globe should have read its own op-ed page from a couple months ago: "Coverage should be: universal, not tied to a job, affordable for individuals and families, affordable for society, and it should provide access to high-quality care for everyone. The state's plan flunks on all counts."

Rocks for recovery – Here's Caroline Baum on Bloomberg: "Cash for clunkers is just a broken windshield."
Carbon tax = more nukes – Here's a little factoid about nuclear energy from "Why nuclear power is part of our future": "We have 104 licensed commercial nuclear reactors - generating about 20% of our electricity and more than 70% of all carbon-free electricity."

Wired magazine recently had an article about how China's unstoppable growth is being fueled by a construction boom of all kinds of energy, including nuclear. Maybe we should pay attention seeing as China will soon own the United States.
Battle of the mustaches

John Stossel zings the NY Times columnist in "Impossible Promises":
I keep reading about health-care "reform," but I have yet to see anyone explain how the government can make it easier for more people to obtain medical services, control the already exploding cost of those services and not interfere with people's most intimate decisions.

You don't need to be a Ph.D. in economics to understand that government cannot do all three things. (Judging by what Paul Krugman writes, a Ph.D. may be an obstacle.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Apply the inverse-Scotty calculation to all government-run healthcare programs

You remember Scotty from Star Trek? If he said it would take him four hours to fix the warp drive on the Enterprise, that meant two hours - tops. When it comes to federal spending on health care, any number is going to be the lowest of the lowball. Here's a little history from the Medicare system:

When Medicare was enacted in 1965, official government projections foresaw hospital spending - the program's largest component - reaching only $9 billion in 1990. Actual Medicare spending on hospital care in that year was $66 billion, or over seven times as high. One result is that Medicare's payroll tax is now nearly double what its sponsors said would be necessary (having been raised most recently in 1994), and Congress increasingly relies on other revenue sources to meet Medicare's obligations.
And let's not forget this more recent government program. WashPost: "Medicare drug benefit may cost $1.2 trillion - Estimate dwarf's Bush's original price tag."

The White House released budget figures yesterday indicating that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than President Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003.
And what is the Congressional Budget Office saying now?

But even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that none of the health plans pending on Capitol Hill would control long-term spending, and that ones with the elements Obama wants would add around $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.
If the CBO is saying $1 trillion, go ahead and assume $3 trillion.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Walter Cronkite: first Dumont TV reporter on the moon - Paper of record, indeed: "The Times published an especially embarrassing correction on July 22, fixing seven errors in a single article - an appraisal of Walter Cronkite, the CBS anchorman famed for his meticulous reporting."
Look, up in the sky! It's the tax hike trial balloon!

Is Barack Obama – despite his repeated promise during the campaign – going to raise taxes on the middle class? Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is setting up America for the big Kool-Aid "Oh yeahhhhh!!!!"

To get the economy back on track, will President Barack Obama have to break his pledge not to raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans? In a "This Week" exclusive, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told me, "We’re going to have to do what’s necessary."

Geithner was clear that he believes a key component of economic recovery is deficit reduction. When I gave him several opportunities to rule out a middle class tax hike, he wouldn’t do it.

"We have to bring these deficits down very dramatically,” Geithner told me. “And that's going to require some very hard choices."
You got duped, America. Snookered, tricked, suckered, pwn3d. Here's your visual for contemplation:

Recap - Here's my post from a month ago: "Your taxes will go up."
I'm sure there's an innocent explanation for this - Jawa has a report about a 16-year old girl gone missing in Ohio. Side note that probably has nothing to do with her disappearance: she's from a Muslim family and recently told them she was converting to Christianity. Maybe she was giving herself a driving lesson and got lost.

Saturday, August 01, 2009