Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The law trumps empathy - It was yet another 5-4 Supreme Court split in the Ricci case, but buried in the details is the fact that not a single Justice affirmed the reasoning that SC nominee Sonia Sotomayor used to rule against the New Haven firefighters claiming reverse discrimination.

MJ knew the score - Fox News: "Jackson left his father out of most recent will." Heh.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sucking out the last bit of marrow - If anybody doubts that Michael Jackson's father only saw his kids as human ATMs, check out this Fox News story "Joe Jackson: Michael's funeral will be large, open to public": "After plugging his record company, Michael Jackson's father Joe said in a press conference outside his home Monday that the familiy was planning a large public funeral for the deceased singer."

T-shirts, $20, official programs $10. Stay classy, Joe.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Spending money we don't have - Washington Post: "The debt tsumani - The CBO's latest warning on the long-term deficit is scarier than ever." Hmmm...this seems to have been a constant theme of a certain underappreciated blog.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Larry Summers = Dick Cheney - That's what Spiegel Online says in "Chancellor Merkel visits the debt president."

Extra - Gateway Pundit: "When a far left German mag starts bashing Obama you know the honeymoon is over."

Cap and trade chimera - According to Powerline, the energy bill that passed through the House of Representatives yesterday doesn't exist. That is, the 1000+ page bill was "replaced" with a 300-page version that nobody read and it wasn't formally incorporated into the original. What gives?
Almost heaven, West Virginia - Today I passed through West Virginia on my way to a relative's wedding in Virginia. There's not much to note here except I saw a coal hopper and a 30-foot cross made out of a crane truss.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goin' south - I'm heading to a cousin's wedding in Virginia this weekend. Blogging is questionable. See you soon (although probably tomorrow).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The national train wreck

What could I possibly add that hasn't been said about Michael Jackson's untimely death? Fifty years old...damn.

Let's be honest: did anybody really see Jackson living to a ripe old age? Multiple surgeries, a questionable mental state, a dysfunctional support system; it all came together to suck the life, heart, and soul from the man. If he had the strength and willpower, Jackson would have been better off to exile himself and cut the cord from the life that was programmed for him from an early age.

Go fishing. Read some Hemingway. Watch game shows. Make spaghetti. Drive an RV to the Grand Canyon. Get drunk at a NASCAR race.

Too late. Even so, he was planning a comeback tour and the life he's only known. A shame that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who knew Gwyneth Paltrow could sing?

It's been a crazy day with a take-home final due and my son's swim meet. So let's just enjoy Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis from the underrated movie "Duets." Good night!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Beware the Massachusetts model for health care

Here's Mark Steyn:

The minute health care becomes a huge, unwieldy, expensive government bureaucracy it's a permanent feature of life and there's nothing anyone can do about it. That's why Republicans need to resist this in Congress, because if we cross this line we can never go back.
As usual, look to Massachusetts for the triumph of "good intentions" over sound government policy. The Bay State health care mandate that was supposed to expand coverage while keeping costs manageable has resulted in a system 1) twice as expensive as estimated, 2) where nobody can find a primary care doctor, resulting in 3) a spike in expensive ER visits.

But, like the Big Dig, there's no going back. We're stuck with it and the steadily climbing taxes required to support it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The distaff rule of Sparta

Do you remember this scene in "300" when King Leonidas got the nod from his wife to start a war with Persia?

According to today's Boston Globe, there may be some truth to it:
Feminism is generally associated with modern, progressive society. Yet few people know that ancient Sparta - infamous for its militarism - granted women exceptional rights. Spartan women could inherit, own, and bequeath property; they were fed and schooled as much as men; they had complete freedom of movement; they married later and could even get away with adultery. So why would the tough Spartan men allow this to happen? Upon subjugating its neighbors - whose population vastly outnumbered Sparta’s - Sparta needed its males to focus entirely on training for war and its females to focus on managing the subjugated population and estates. To give the women sufficient capability and incentive, especially in the absence of men, the men had to grant the extra rights to women, the authors of a new study argue. However, as in modern times, more autonomy for women was associated with lower fertility, which ultimately led to Sparta being unable to field a large enough army, losing control of its subjugated neighbors, and rescinding the rights of its women.
Another classic case of overextension, I fear.
Hysterical hyperbole of the day - Firedoglake: "The gravity of America's health care crisis is the moral equivalent of the 19th Century's bloody conflict over slavery. This is not hyperbole..."

Stop right there. Yes it is.
Stealing an election - Interesting, but maybe obvious, point made over at FiveThirtyEight: by Western standards it may be difficult to rig an election because responsibility for the counting is split up, requiring many conspirators. Not so in Iran, where all the votes are "counted" by the Interior Ministry who are beholden to the current government in general and the mullahs in particular.
Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran - Review and continuous update at Hot Air.

I know that some are annoyed at Obama (ice cream, anyone?) for his measured response to the Iran crisis, but I really don't know what the United States could do about the unrest over there. On the one hand, we want to stand up for freedom and democracy but then we don't want to play into the mullahs' hands by intervening in Iran's internal affairs. Frankly, cellphone cameras and the Internet are the greatest weapons against the Islamic theocracy right now. Let the truth out.

More - Gateway Pundit is all Iran right now. Keep scrolling.

Update (6/21) - It looks like Peggy Noonan largely agrees with me.
All the news that's fit to spin - The New York Times needs to read their own paper; occasionally it contains "facts." The Minuteman reveals how "Emotion trumps research every time."

Extra - Shady poll reporting, also.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Linear programming and stuff - Blogging may be light this weekend as I'm working on my take-home exam for Decision Analysis. It involves a small amount of programming, the likes of which I haven't worked on since my Fortran days.

That's right: I said "Fortran." Laugh it up, kids.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Careful what you wish for, health reform edition - That darn Congressional Budget Office keeps making estimates on health care reform that gives everybody sticker shock. The Atlantic reports that part of the blame for this goes to Obama's budget director Peter Orszag who beefed up the CBO to handle the number-crunching.

The cost estimates may be a little too honest for the White House. Prepare the (more flexible) OMB numbers.

More - It has begun: Nancy Pelosi attacks the CBO.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Commentary of the day

Here's Michael Totten on Contentions:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has almost no support among Kurds whatsoever. Claiming he “won” 70 percent in Kermanshah is as outlandish as Dick Cheney winning San Francisco and Berkeley in a landslide.
It could happen...in bearded Spock universe!
"Perfectly logical," says mirror-universe Spock.
Republic of fear

I have an acquaintance (friend-of-a-friend) who is from Iran. He probably doesn't me to blog about this, but he was asked if he heard any news directly from home. His response was that he doesn't dare ask about the protests over the telephone for fear of the government listening in. Everything's coming over the Internet.

These crowds of protesters keep growing and I think everybody's waiting to see if it peters out or whether we're witnessing "Tiananmen Square 2" in the making.

More - CNN: "Iranian protesters mostly unfazed by government warnings."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Que sera sera

Driving home today, I heard a news story about California's intractable fiscal problems. And I thought to myself that the Golden State's only option left is to slash spending and "let the chips fall where they may." Then I thought...where did that particular phrase come from?
No matter what the consequences, as in I'm going to tell the truth about what happened, and let the chips fall where they may. This metaphoric term alludes to chopping wood and is usually joined to a statement that one should do what is right (that is, the woodcutter should pay attention to the main task of cutting logs and not worry about small chips).
Thank you, Internet!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sorry, kids

Economist: "The biggest bill in history"

Not since the second world war have so many governments borrowed so much so quickly or, collectively, been so heavily in hock. And today’s debt surge, unlike the wartime one, will not be temporary. Even after the recession ends few rich countries will be running budgets tight enough to stop their debt from rising further. Worse, today’s borrowing binge is taking place just before a slow-motion budget-bust caused by the pension and health-care costs of a greying population. By 2050 a third of the rich world’s population will be over 60. The demographic bill is likely to be ten times bigger than the fiscal cost of the financial crisis.
H/T Maggie's Farm. I'm so weary of repeating this, but I'll give it another try. There's no point searching under the couch cushions for money to pay for universal health care. That money has been spent a long time ago to pay for Social Security and Medicare. There's nothing left. It's gone.

"The system is unsustainable." Any of this getting through? For heaven's sake, let's not pour gasoline on the fire with a public health care program that will tip us permanently into European socialism.
Maybe they like the little guy - Sister Toldjah: "Independent pre-election polling indicated wide margin of support for Ahmadinejad." Yeah, it stinks that the crazy guy is going to be around for a few more years but, let's face it, nothing much was going to change in Iran anyway. The mullahs hold all the cards and the nuclear program was going to continue no matter what.
Geek speak - Check it out: "Top 20 websites every scientist (or engineer) ought to know." Tragically missing is the Britney Spears guide to semiconductor physics. Science can be fun!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Special request – My cousins are participating in a fundraising walk for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure in the fight against breast cancer. If you'd like to contribute, click here and then hit the button to donate. Any amount is welcome. Thanks!
Twin perks

On a less-serious note, here's a story on the - ahem - "enhanced" benefits available to nurses in the Czech Republic:

PRAGUE - When Petra Kalivodova, a 31-year-old nurse, was considering whether to renew her contract at a private health clinic here, the offer of special perks helped clinch the deal: complimentary German lessons, five weeks of vacation, and free liposuction and silicone breast implants.
This is a family blog, so I'm going to end commentary here.
A blessing for a sick girl is a dilemma for a country

If you want to look into the hard questions that need to be answered before this country lurches headlong into nationalized health care, check out this front page article in today's Boston Globe about a very ill girl with Gaucher disease in Costa Rica:

For Jose and his family, it was as though a hand had reached down to answer their prayers. But in that moment, something else had happened as well: The Cambridge drug company Genzyme had just found its first potential patient in Costa Rica. And now that it had found one, it would supply the drug to Tania, but at an astonishing cost - $160,000 a year, possibly for the rest of her life.

This was far more money than the Costa Rican government had ever paid for a drug, and Genzyme would not bend on the price. The country's health officials were forced to weigh the prospect of a healing gift for one girl against the needs of a nation struggling to care for millions.

Should Tania get the drug?
Costa Rica's health board decided "no".

Costa Rica's healthcare system was considered a success story, and it was succeeding not because it spent freely, but because it spent carefully. The challenge of paying for Cerezyme, a product at the extreme high end of the brand-name drug business, was something new.

Inside the health ministry, a committee of doctors met to decide Tania's case. They reviewed the medical literature on Cerezyme's effectiveness - whether all patients clearly benefited (they don't) and whether Tania would, which was uncertain. In the end, the committee voted, unanimously, to deny the payment.

"We have 600,000 hypertensive patients, 120,000 diabetics," said Chaves in an interview. "That's where they set the priorities."
With help from the American drug company (Genzyme) the Gonzalez family sued the government:

The case reached Costa Rica's constitutional court in July 2003, and the results were swift. At the hearing, Dr. Saborio testified about Tania's diagnosis; he said she definitely had Gaucher disease.

"They asked me what her future would be if she didn't receive the medication. And I told them exactly what would happen: eventually she would die," said Saborio. "And that was it . . . I think there was little doubt about what the right decision was."

It took an hour. The court told Costa Rica that Tania would get her treatment, and Genzyme would get paid.
A happy ending for Tania, to be sure, but there's always the question of how finite resources might have been spent for the rest of the Costa Rican population.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rigged election in Iran - That's the opinion of U.S. analysts following election returns. The main opponent to Ahmaninijad failed to win his own hometown while another conservative candidate got less than 1% of the vote. So I guess that's a little fishy.

Extra - More from Gateway Pundit on protests in Tehran.
Spending yourself to fiscal balance rarely works. OK, it never works.

George Mason professor of economics Tyler Cowen has an opinion piece in the New York Times where he reviews some arcane economic theory:
The demand for universal coverage sounds like a moral imperative to “take care of everybody,” but in reality it would make only a marginal difference when it comes to the overall health of the American population. The sober reality is that universal coverage is another way to spend money, which may or may not be a good idea.

The most likely possibility is that the government will spend more on health care today, promise to realize savings tomorrow and never succeed in lowering costs. It is rare that governments successfully cut costs by first spending more money.

Mr. Obama has pledged to be a fiscally responsible president. This is the biggest chance so far to see whether he means it.
Spending costs money? Who knew? Thanks, professor!
Creeping towards Europe - Mark Steyn on "The smothering embrace of nanny government": "The British National Health Service is the biggest employer not just in the United Kingdom but in the whole of Europe. Care to estimate the size and budget of a U.S. health bureaucracy?"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Same as it ever was - Contentions declares the victor in the Iranian elections: "The winner: the mullahs"
Stanley Cup game 7 - In only the 15th game 7 in NHL history, the Pittsburgh Penguins are facing off in Detroit against the Red Wings. I don't know who to root for: on the one hand, I'd like to see Pittsburgh win but then hasn't Detroit suffered enough?

Scoreless after the first period. Stay tuned.
Update: Pittsburgh up 1-0 early in the second.
Two-on-one breakaway: Pittsburgh up 2-0.
Six minutes left in the game, the Red Wings score. It's 2-1.
Detroit pulls Osgood. Empty net for the last 1:30.

Pittsburgh wins the Stanley Cup! Hooray for them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Iranian elections tomorrow - We're probably not going to know the results until Saturday but, according to the Guardian: "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces defeat if election not rigged, say Iranian experts."  There's always a loophole.

From what I've heard on the news Ahmadinejad's main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has been campaigning with his wife and is expected to capture the female vote and the youth vote in a country where a large percentage of citizens are under 30.  Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad has been bussing in supporters for his campaign rallies.

Violence is expected if the vote is close.
Send in the clowns - Via NPR, here's "The least appropriate wedding songs ever."  Be sure to read the comments.
Mixed messages - This editorial from The Truth About Cars urges Americans to "Boycott the GM Boycott" and buy cars from Detroit.  But it starts out with a story about how the author's father's tranny seized up the morning after he bought the Buick home from the dealer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A gnawing question - Can you trademark a chocolate bunny?  European chocolatiers are in court to find out.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Processed meat products + heat + Jr-bashing - I have to prepare for our annual NASCAR fantasy league picnic tomorrow. There will be hot dogs along with discussions as how Dale Earnhardt Jr. can't find his pit stall with GPS and a neon sign.
All together now - Megan McArdle has a great post explaining how a government health care program largely depends on getting young, healthy workers to subsidize less-healthy participants.  Also, the bureaucracy will be mind-blowing.
Good news, everybody! - Via Free Republic, Comedy Central has ordered new episodes of the greatest show ever: Futurama.  Yay!

Monday, June 08, 2009

One week and counting - Speaking of zombies, the Chrysler sale to Fiat was put on hold by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, pending arguments by Indiana pension managers. Fiat has warned that if the sale isn't finalized by next Monday, everything's off the table, meaning that Chrysler could be liquidated. Yeah, right...Obama's going to let that happen.
It's up to you, New York, New York

Wow, I don't think anybody saw this one coming: "Two Dems defect in NY Senate, control flips to GOP." Ed Morrissey adds some perspective: "What better way to complete a day in which Barack Obama’s economic policies lose the majority in a Gallup poll, Dems lose the edge on the GOP in a Rasmussen poll on economics, and the Supreme Court apparently blocks Obama’s dictatorial dissolution of an American carmaker than to highlight a “parliamentary coup” in Albany, NY?"

Suddenly the zombie party of the GOP is showing some life, and only a little more than 100 days into the Chosen One's administration. Evan Thomas, deploy the sycophantic/teenage crush prose! Accelerate to spending speed! Stand by to release the bonds!
Bye-bye Boston Globe - The Globe's largest union rejected wage and benefit cuts in a narrow vote tonight.
Everybody's paying for the Big Dig

After the federal dollars dried up, the state had to find some other way to pay for the $15 billion dollar project (original cost: $2 billion.) So Massachusetts diverted money from MassPike tolls:

Massachusetts Turnpike commuters have paid $442 million in tolls to cover Big Dig expenses over the past three years, according to a financial analyst hired as part of a class action lawsuit against the Turnpike Authority.
Commuters, politicians, and state officials have long argued that tolls collected on the turnpike have been used to pay off unrelated portions of the $15 billion project, amounting to a back-door tax that unfairly burdens one segment of the public.
It never ends. Can't we fill the damn thing back up with dirt?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Vader and Son

It was difficult to think up the perfect post title to go with this picture from a Boston Globe article. Other potential choices included:

The Force and the Word
The Vader, the Son, and the Holy Dollar
"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine"
Dark Lord vs. Lord of Light
The Vader and Child reunion is only a motion away
"I find your lack of faith disturbing"
And so on.
Good news from Lebanon - The beautiful Lebanese babes have been deployed because Hezbollah was defeated by a pro-Western coalition in national elections.
Heck of a job, Baracky - Gateway Pundit: "Big government spending programs having opposite effect on economy."  Unemployment is spiking, the deficit is exploding, and the bond markets are spooked because "investors are saying the Fed can't just print money out of thin air..."  So instead of tamping down mortgage rates so distressed homeowners can refinance, nervous bond investors are pushing rates higher.

Extra - Some humor from Vodkapundit: "The grand unification theory of sucking."
From the city that brought you the Big Dig - Boston Globe: "Boston's $300K toilet nearly ready."  The outlandish cost is almost entirely due to the effort of working through Beantown's array of public regulations.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Load the plutonium into the DeLorean - Here's some fun-ness to start off the weekend: "15 essential moments to (re)visit if you had a time machine."  It goes into the past as well as the future (e.g. first contact with an alien species, Cubs win the World Series).

Just off the top of my head, I would add the crucifixion of Jesus, Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, and the moment that Alexander Graham Bell called for Watson and opened the age of telecommunication.  For the future: mankind travels to another planet, Mars I suppose.
Brown down - Expat Yank is on the frontline to Labour's implosion in England.
Unemployment up again - I look forward to Paul Krugman's article explaining how all the encouraged workers are causing the unemployment rate to spike by looking for work.  Perhaps he could start by explaining the shape of this graph.

Extra - Speaking of Krugman, Greg Mankiw all but calls him a liar on public health care reform.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How times have changed! – In the bad ole days we had "discouraged workers" but now we have the "funemployed!"

Also, I checked my 401(k) today and it's "broke-tastic!"
The big oneThe Corner: "On Tuesday, President Obama sent a letter to Senators Kennedy and Baucus outlining what kind of bill he wants and will support. And what he wants is a government takeover of American health-care, plain and simple." This will be the largest expansion of entitlements since Medicare and Obama doesn't have the slightest idea how to pay for it.

Extra - More on the health reform cramdown at Patterico.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Thank Washington for that pothole

Boston Globe: "Road fund running low, Obama says"
The Obama administration is warning lawmakers that the trust fund that pays for highway construction will go broke in August unless Congress approves an infusion of as much as $7 billion.
How is it possible that the federal government can spare $50 billion for General Motors, run a $2 trillion deficit, but still not have enough money to keep the roads paved? Seven billion dollars nowadays is a rounding error.
Mortgaging our future

Today Fed chair Ben Bernanke warned that long-term economic growth is endangered by the huge new levels of debt taken on by the federal government. Contentions looks forward to "Our high tax, low growth future"
Since we must scale back fiscal borrowing as we move into the future, there are only two alternatives: to accept far higher levels of taxation, or to accept a U.S. economy that is significantly smaller and slower-growing than it would otherwise have been. (The consequences of the latter, of course,are high unemployment and less material well-being for individuals.)

What would be a logical way to navigate between those alternatives? Adopt a high-tax policy that does as little as possible to burden highly-productive individuals, businesses and capital, thus lessening the impact on the size and dynamism of the economy.

But we already know that the President wants to do exactly the opposite. Faced with an evil choice between much higher taxes and a smaller economy, Obama is on track to give us both.
Right now, Washington is gorging on cheap borrowing supplied by the Chinese. Do they think this can continue? Here's the response when Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner told a Chinese audience about the U.S. Treasury bonds they've purchased: "Chinese assets are very safe."
The comment provoked loud laughter from the audience of students.
Guess not.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

So long and thanks for all the Corvettes - Another contributor at The Truth About Cars writes that this is "The End" for General Motors: "In other words, one way or another, GM is heading for liquidation."

At this point, I'd be content if we didn't throw good money after bad once GM looks for Bailout part VIII.
On second thought - With the scenario of terrorists filling mainland prisons looming, suddenly Americans think closing Gitmo is a bad idea.
They all thought I was crazy

Today I was proven correct about something so I'm going to post the Elliot Reed "I told you so" dance:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Eleventeen and kerjillion - The Treasury department is just making stuff up now.  (HT: Maggies Farm)

And then there's this: "U.S. debt = $668,621 per household."
Less is a lot more expensive - Patterico has a good post about how Uncle Ted is trying to impose Massachusetts-style healthcare on the whole country.  Always with the "good intentions" instead of the results, which include costs that are double above projections and a state-wide shortage of primary care doctors.

Extra - WashPost: "Health reform's savings myth"
General Zombie Motors

The automobile blog The Truth About Cars is, of course, all over the bankruptcy of General Motors (keep scrolling and scrolling). According to Paul Niedermeyer, GM has been among the walking dead for 17 years:

How do you write an obituary for an entity that’s been dead for seventeen years? Like that high-school Biology frog-leg experiment, GM’s twitching since 1992 was due to externally administered stimuli. Yes, I would have much preferred to write GM’s obit in ’92. Back then, the guilty party was merely GM’s brain-dead management. It would have been easy just to rag on about all the lame cars they built. But it’s become a lot more complicated and uglier. Now we all have blood (and red ink) on our hands. And it’s not going to wash out easily.
Not to drive a cliche into the ground (with a car cliche!), but there's a lot to suggest that GM's management felt they were "too big to fail." These guys were stuck in a different age of three-martini lunches while the floor mats shifted under their feet.