Saturday, March 31, 2012

We're back on this nonsense again? - Althouse: "Obama wants to make this country 'a little fairer'" by bringing up the Buffett rule again: "Okay, well thanks for reminding me not to let my income spike up over $250,000. I want to remain in my safe cocoon of acceptably restricted income. I don't want to be one of those people who is making things feel unfair."

At this point, I'd almost like to see Congress pass the law so Republicans can say: "OK, that took care of a day of borrowing.  Now what?"

Oh but the "fairness" of it all.  The sweet, sweet fairness.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Things I do in the supermarket that drive my wife crazy - open thread

I need a break from politics.  Here are some stuff I do in the grocery store on those rare occasions when I'm shopping with my wife:

I'll hum a riff from "Brown Sugar," hold up braunschweiger and say "How come you taste so good?"  "Just like a sausage should."

In the detergent aisle: "Will I ever find Joy?"

In the cereal aisle: act like I can't find a certain cereal then say: "Kix just keep gettin' harder to find!"  Bonus more-obscure alternative: insist that I should pick out a cereal because "You shouldn't let other people get your Kix for you."

Also in the cereal aisle: "How come I can never find Regular K?"

Before it was discontinued by Nabisco, I'd turn the boxes of "doo dads" upside down so they'd read "spap oop."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Left discovers epistemic closure

Remember when it was the political Right who wouldn't listen to reason because our TVs are permanently tuned to Fox News?  When it comes to Obamacare, Nancy Pelosi found that her explanation of its Constitutionality - "are you serious?" - perfectly lucid.

Objective journalists like Jeffrey Toobin were predicting 7-2 or even 8-1 decisions for Obamacare, because, well all those other arguments against the legislation were just plain silly.
That’s what happened this week. There appears to be no question in the mind of anyone who read the transcripts or listened to the oral arguments that the conservative lawyers and justices made mincemeat out of the Obama administration’s advocates and the liberal members of the court.
This came as a startling shock to the liberals who write about the court.
Somebody is living in the epistemic closure cocoon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Don must have misheard you

Just a teensy piece of your freedom - Look at all the neat stuff you'll get!  Andrew Klavan "Obamacare - how nice people crush freedom": "In other words, there’s always a good reason to take your freedom away — your health, the poor, your evil opinions, the lousy way you raise your kids — and never a reason to preserve freedom except the love of freedom itself. Thus, so often, the people destroying the American way of life are actually nice people who just want to help."
Hey, where you goin' with those jobs? - Greg Mankiw: "We're number one!"  In corporate tax rates, that is.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Let's not....get too excited

Naturally, I'm pleased about the events at the Supreme Court today:
Today was the most important day in the history of the individual mandate. And it might be the day the individual mandate died, based on the conservative justices' creative and painstaking assault on the law. "This was a train wreck for the Obama administration," Jeffrey Toobin told CNN. "This law looks like it's going to be struck down."
Of course a ruling won't be made until June but the overwhelming impression is that the conservative justices took the position - never really refuted by the other side - that the individual mandate gives the government limitless powers.  One of my favorite parts was when Justice Kennedy took on the idea that health care is "unique": "And in the next case, it'll say the next market is unique."

I'm sure the other side will say that the justices are "ignoring the law."  But I wonder how much of the Court's considerations are influenced by the fact that Americans have never liked Obamacare and, two years later, dislike it even more.  It's gotta make it easier, listening to the will of the people.

Extra - NY Magazine: "How Paul Clement won the Supreme Court's oral arguments on Obamacare."

More - Links at Instapundit.

And this - Opinion Journal: "A bad day for unlimited government at the High Court."

Monday, March 26, 2012

A stupid, tendentious primer on the Commerce Clause

I subscribe to the Atlantic, which I consider to be a well-balanced magazine, so I was psyched to see an article by one Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza titled "How Obamacare will be settled: a primer on the Commerce Clause." Goody: I'd like to get some additional legal background beyond Wickard v. Fillburn.

It starts out well enough with a clinical discussion of the individual mandate, severability, and how various Circuit Courts have ruled on Obamacare thus far.  But then this, after noting that the Supreme Court will be hearing an appeal from an Eleventh Circuit ruling:
Senator Rick Santorum has used these statistics to claim that the Ninth Circuit is a "rogue" court and "a pox on the western part of our country." Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have called for the abolishment of the Ninth Circuit. But Santorum and Gingrich's complaints about the Ninth Circuit have been discredited. Last term the overall reversal rate was 72 percent. While the Ninth Circuit was reversed 79 percent of the time, the Fifth Circuit -- at 80 percent -- and Sixth Circuit -- at 83 percent -- had higher reversal rates.
Reverse-affirm ratios cannot reliably forecast individual case outcomes. Statistics are particularly uninformative in this instance. There are too many variables -- and too few data points since Justice Elena Kagan's confirmation -- to predict how the Court will rule on the Eleventh Circuit appeal.
Huh?  In what wafer-thin connection did Santorum and Gingrich get dragged into this discussion?  More critically: after citing the reversal rates for three other Courts, why can't we know what the reversal rate is for the Eleventh Circuit?  In the course of a single paragraph, suddenly it's all murky.  After citing all the other Courts, we dare not conjecture on the 11th.

I did a search on Google and the very first link goes to an article noting that the Eleventh had one of the best affirmation rates among the Circuit Courts with 40% of all decisions upheld and a "B+" rating.  Was this sloppy reporting or just an underhanded way to wave away the truth that the 11th's ruling might be upheld?  If I had doubts about the author's objectivity, they were soon wiped away as she rattles through Commerce Clause cases.  Here we come to the second case by the Rehnquist court that pushed back on an expansive interpretation of the Clause:
The second major blow came five years later in U.S. v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, another five-four split.
"Major blow?"  I personally would have said "major victory" but you get the point.  It was "another 5-4 split" meaning it was Scalia and his buddies spiking the punch.

Then we get to the section about potential conflicts of interest involving Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Kagan. You could argue that Thomas has some legitimate issues with his wife's finances.  Scalia went to a dinner with some conservatives - that's it.  But Elena Kagan was Solicitor General and was clearly involved with legal discussions regarding Obamacare.  Here's how whatshername reports this:
Critics of Justice Kagan are demanding her recusal on the theory that she may have assisted in preparing the defense of Obamacare while serving as Solicitor General.
Incisive!  Well, that's the "theory" of Kagan's "critics" and you know how they can be.  Maybe she did, maybe she didn't - moving on everybody!

Finally, we come full circle to the persuasive reasoning of the Sixth Circuit.  Wait, what?
The answer to the inactivity argument for supporters of Obamacare is that individuals who do not buy insurance are still active in the health care market. The Sixth Circuit was persuaded by this logic, citing the $100 billion in health care costs incurred by the uninsured each year.
Didn't you just tell us, Ms. B-P, that the Sixth Circuit is the most reversed Circuit Court in the land?  Why would we rely on the ruling of a court that gets it wrong 83% of the time?!?

I could go on but let's just say that Rebecca spends four paragraphs on Solicitor General Verrilli's arguments for the case and doesn't even mention his counterpart Paul Clement.  This was advocacy and agitprop masquerading as journalism and it wouldn't be so annoying if it weren't so common.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Yeah, you would think so - Here's Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe: "As Dems rack up debt, youth should flock to GOP."  How much longer can this era of cheap debt go on?  My fear is that Americans will be lured deeper and deeper into the forest and then - too late - we'll find we're in a debt spiral.  Young Americans who will foot the bill of high debt and rising entitlement costs should think twice.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Debt-to-revenue ratio at an ironic 911% - Mark Steyn: "Gradual insolvency about to speed up."
Twitter fun - Twitchy: "Conservatives take over #ILikeObamacare."
Bizarro World update - Hot Air: "NY Times credits Bush, Cheney with U.S. energy surge."
Compulsory commerce - George Will "Obamacare's contract problem": "Now the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian public interest law firm, has focused on this fact: The individual mandate is incompatible with centuries of contract law. This is so because a compulsory contract is an oxymoron."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kind to be cruel

Here's John Stossel on my favorite topic in "What is fair?"
“Think about Social Security in terms of what would happen if a private company came up with a deal like this,” Goyette said. “The president of the company says, we’ve got to sell some new policies tomorrow to pay you what you’re due when you cash in today. They’d lock these guys up.”
Goyette was referring to the fact that your payroll taxes are not invested. The money is spent right away, and the government counts on new money from current workers to pay retirees. The touted trust fund doesn’t exist.
“There’s no trust. There’s no fund. There’s no security. And the really bad thing—this is what’s really destructive—it has changed the propensity of the American people to save for themselves....We’re creating a multigenerational calamity. And it’s right at our doorstep.”
We’ve taught people to be dependent. But dependence robs us of our dignity and keeps poor people poor.
The thing is I understand the genesis of Social Security and how it was important to protect seniors in a post-Depression economy where physical labor was the main kind of work.  But little of that fits into a 21st century economy where seniors have much more wealth than younger Americans and work has become more automated and much less physical.

Now we've raised generations of Americans who have not saved for retirement because they're living on the completely incorrect notion the government will provide in old age.  They're in for a rude, rude awakening.
The individual mandate's slippery slope - From the law blog Volokh Conspiracy "The individual mandate case is not easy": "In reality, the plaintiffs have never argued that the unprecedented nature of the mandate by itself proves that it is unconstitutional. Rather, their brief repeatedly emphasizes that the main reason to strike down the mandate is that there is no logical way to uphold it without giving Congress virtually unlimited authority to impose other mandates."

An annoying aspect of the Obamacare supporters is the emphasis on the "unique" nature of health care in that virtually everybody will need it.  While that may be true, opening up the Commerce Clause to this level of coercion casts aside the limited and enumerated powers listed in the Constitution.  It seems unlikely that some future Administration (of either stripe) will not succumb to the easy road of Commerce Clause fiat.  Then it won't be quite so unique.

Extra - Charles Krauthammer "The Reckoning": "Rarely has one law so exemplified the worst of the Leviathan state — grotesque cost, questionable constitutionality and arbitrary bureaucratic coerciveness."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

After the subsidies

Well Solyndra went belly-up and they've halted production of the Chevy Volt.  But the Obama administration insists that we need to give these clean energy alternatives a chance (with taxpayer money, of course).  But what happens to a long-and-heavily subsidized "clean" energy source has its crutch taken away?  NPR: "Ethanol industry lurches in wake of lost subsidy, oversupply."
After predicting they would survive the end of a major federal subsidy without problems, it looks like officials at the nation's ethanol producers may have been too optimistic.
Since the subsidy ended Dec. 31, ethanol profit margins have declined sharply, even slipping into negative territory. Experts see no quick turnaround in sight.
Whoops.  If only we had given ethanol a couple more decades.

Extra - Hot Air: "Green-jobs subsidies created 1 job for every $4.85 million spent."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Growth would be nice - The Grumpy Economist: "Austerity, stimulus, or growth now?"
Italy without Italians - Walter Russell Mead recounts how Italy's sclerotic and dysfunctional economy, which has pushed youth unemployment above 30%, is forcing Italians to leave the homeland or move home with the folks.  With little hope for the future, the birth rate is way below the replacement rate.
Let the sun shine in

President Obama visited a solar panel factory today as part of his "it's not my fault gas prices are high" tour.  Here's the inevitable nut graf from Q&O: "More green energy 'winning'":
Construction of the plant involved over 300 part-time jobs, but currently only five full-time employees operate the plant, a Sempra spokeswoman confirmed. That comes out to $10.8 million in tax-dollar subsidies per employee.
But, really, can you put a dollar amount on taxpayer money spent on green energy?

Extra - Ace: "Obama baffled as his "green" investments produce no jobs."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Caught in the debt trap

Via Zero Hedge, here's a good explanation of the interest expenses on the national debt if interest rates reset to historical levels.  Hint: taxing the "rich" won't save us.

Maybe the government can just mandate that we send more Valentines - CNN: "Postal service: We need more junk mail."
Forget it's Obamatown

Raising the national debt by almost $5 trillion in eight years: "unpatriotic."

Raising the national debt by almost $5 trillion in less than four years: "spenderific!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

The problem, my friend, is blowing in the wind

Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Electricity claims fizzle for seven Reno windmills"
The windmills were built with about half of a $2.1 million federal energy grant the city received in the economic stimulus package Congress passed in 2009. So far, Geddes says they have saved the city $2,785 after generating 25,319 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
Another success for Steven Chu!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Obama poison-pilled the debt compromise

There's a remarkable behind-the-scenes story in the WashPost about the secret meetings between House speaker John Boehner and President Obama.  It looked like Boehner and House majority leader Eric Cantor were going to sign up for hundreds of billions in tax hikes in exchange for significant changes to entitlement programs, which comprise the major drivers of future deficit spending.  And then.....
What happened? Obama and his advisers have cast the collapse of the talks as a Republican failure. Boehner, unable to deliver, stepped away from the deal, simple as that.
But interviews with most of the central players in those talks — some of whom were granted anonymity to speak about the secret negotiations — as well as a review of meeting notes, e-mails and the negotiating proposals that changed hands, offer a more complicated picture of the collapse. Obama, nervous about how to defend the emerging agreement to his own Democratic base, upped the ante in a way that made it more difficult for Boehner — already facing long odds — to sell it to his party. Eventually, the president tried to put the original framework back in play, but by then it was too late. The moment of making history had passed.
To be fair: it would have been equally difficult for Boehner to sell tax hikes to the House as it would have been for Obama to sell Medicare cuts to the Democrats.  But then the White House tried to pass off the heavy lifting to the "Gang of Six" and then to the Supercommittee.  When the whole deal fell apart, Obama took to the airwaves and - how can I put this? - lied about how the Republicans wanted a "cuts only" approach to deficit reduction.

Powerline has more commentary on the "grand bargain" and how Obama treated Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as bit players during his negotiation follies.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

We had to pass it to find out how much we hate it

Politico has an update on Obamacare: "Four hard truths of health care reform"

1.) Some people won't get to keep the coverage they like
2.) Costs aren't going to go down
3.) It's just a guess that the law can pay for itself
4.) "The more they know, the more they'll like it" isn't happening

Golly, weren't all these things accurately predicted by opponents of taking over one-sixth of the economy?  The history of American entitlements is one of low initial cost estimates followed by out-of-control costs.  Forcing price controls and mandates inevitably lead to shortages.  What a mess.
Good energy question - Tina Korbe asks why we don't just end government subsidies on all energy sources, instead of beating up on "big oil" all the time?  After all, we haven't exactly been getting a good return on investment at the renewable companies.
Forward looking at backward ideas - Mark Steyn: "Future generations will laugh at us for taking Obama seriously."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Patriot League! - USA Today: "Upset: Lehigh dispatches No. 2 Duke."

Fark piles on "For the last time this season, Duke sucks."  Hey, I called it.

Extra - Allahpundit: "America rejoices."
It's not disaster containment, it's a jobs program - Doug Ross: "Administration spending millions to train firefighters how to combat exploding Chevy Volts."
Many a bracket died tonight - Holy cow, did you see Norfolk State knock off #2 seed Missouri tonight in the NCAA tourney?  Wow.  Great stuff.

There's only one team I'm rooting for: Lehigh.  Ever since I read John Feinstein's "The Last Amateurs" I've been a fan of the Patriot League and the college basketball players who will (probably) never make it to the NBA.  I think they have a good chance against Duke tonight.
Another issue that, curiously, can wait until after the election

Let's see, there was the debt ceiling debate and the Keystone pipeline decision, and now the White House is signaling they're going to hold off on the "free" contraception for Catholic groups for further review:
Basically, it was a thinly veiled attempt to punt the entire issue into 2013, thus allowing the president to continue his doublespeak on the issue — pretending that he is interested in protecting religious liberty with pronouncements about a forthcoming concession while the policies he actually implements go in exactly the opposite direction.
In other news, it's been over 1040 days since the Senate passed a budget.  That can wait, too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Wars against arithmetic don't end well" - American Interest: "NY suicide caucus votes down Cuomo pension reform."  In only a couple years, New York's pension obligations will consume one-third of the state budget.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When the facts contradict the narrative, print the narrative

That's how they roll at the NY Times.  Mickey Kaus examines how the Times spins poll results that don't help their hero:
These are not close results. It’s hard to read this poll and not conclude that, contrary to some accounts, Obama wasn’t such a genius to pick a fight over mandated contraception coverage–because he appears to be losing the public debate on the question. That’s a conclusion the Times story effectively hides from readers.
It’s also one possible explanation for Obama’s otherwise somewhat mystifying overall drop in approval during the period–March 7-11–when the poll was in the field. But not an approved explanation.
Gas prices are the official MSM explanation. Got it? Gas prices.
I guess that the Times conclusion that the polls are "reflecting volatility" isn't as flashy as the Weekly Standard's straightforward: "By 21-point margin, Americans oppose birth control mandate."  After all, numbers are confusing unless they can be used to explain confusion.  Margins of error and all that jazz.

Extra - Ace: "Washington Post in full 'Protect Obama' mode."
Election time's a'comin - The Hill: "Obama energy chief disavows 2008 remark in favor of raising gas prices."  How convenient.

Monday, March 12, 2012

No mo town

Now that Harrisburg has dodged bankruptcy, will the next city to go belly up please step forward?

Not so fast, Stockton.
If we don't get free coffee, it's like the terrorists have won

Allysia Finley makes the case for mandates in "Coffee is an essential benefit too."  I like this part, turning the contraception/religious liberty debate on its head:
Republicans might argue that requiring Mormon charities to serve coffee is a violation of "religious liberty" since the Mormon church's doctrine proscribes coffee, but this argument is a red herring. Leading medical experts recommend drinking coffee. Moreover, 99% of adults have drunk coffee at one point in their lives (including most Mormons).
The Minuteman is all in favor of the latte liberty: "Wake up and smell the (free!) coffee."  And surely the insurance companies can get behind the "free" benefit of cough drops.  After all, cough drops now means significant savings from throat surgery later.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sharecroppers in the U.S.A. - Here's Jeff Jacoby in today's Boston Globe: "Medallion system shackles cabbies."

Friday, March 09, 2012

Paging Billy Crystal - CBS News: "Louis C.K. pulls out of reporter dinner after criticism."
Oh yeah, and there's this - Lost among the unemployment numbers for today: "U.S. budget deficit hits all time high in February."  The U.S. is borrowing 54 cents for every dollar it spends?  Yawn.  Don't worry: Paul Krugman told me that bond rates are still low.

"How did you go bankrupt?"
"Two ways.  Gradually, then suddenly."
 - Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Maybe if you're the Osmond family and you're commuting to Topeka

Here's the smartest president ever yesterday:
Now, because of these new standards for cars and trucks, they're going to -- all going to be able to go further and use less fuel every year.  And that means pretty soon you’ll be able to fill up your car every two weeks instead of every week -– and, over time, that saves you, a typical family, about $8,000 a year
Now I could make the obvious joke here about how Obama reads whatever is on the teleprompter.  But at some point wouldn't we expect the President to review his speeches in advance and say: "Whoa, that seems awfully high for gas expenditures, much less anticipated savings."  Sadly, no.

Extra related - Ace: "This administration seems to have a very theoretical connection with reality."

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The demographic dual-edged sword - Interesting interview in Opinion Journal with a research who says there will be "Bad News for Boomers" when they retire en masse.
In short: when all the boomers start to cash out their 401(k) and stock portfolios to fund their retirements, well, somebody has to buy those securities.  Too much supply + not enough demand = low value.
Government program designed to be merely expensive becomes expensive and useless - Fox News: "Stimulus money meant to help 400 job seekers reportedly helped 2."  Even if it helped 400 workers, that comes out to $27K for a new set of work clothes.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The greatest election news tonight EVER

PC World Geektech: "Hackers elect Futurama's Bender to the Washington DC school board"
Electronic voting has earned a pretty bad reputation for being insecure and completely unreliable. Well, get ready to add another entry to e-voting's list of woes.
One Bender Bending Rodríguez was elected to the 2010 school board in Washington DC. A team of hackers from the University of Michigan got Bender elected as a write-in candidate who stole every vote from the real candidates. Bender, of course, is a cartoon character from the TV series Futurama.
This was not some nefarious attack from a group of rogue hackers: The DC school board actually dared hackers to crack its new Web-based absentee voting system four days ahead of the real election. University of Michigan professor Alexander Halderman, along with two graduate students, did the deed within a few hours.
I can relate to Bender because he's just like me...awesome in every way.

Plus, I can get behind his political position of "A Poppler in every pot."

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Golden State, indeed

LA Times: "Salary 'spiking' drains public pension funds" in California.
Approaching retirement, Ventura County Chief Executive Marty Robinson was earning $228,000 a year.
To boost her pension, which would be based on her final salary, Robinson cashed out nearly $34,000 in unused vacation pay, an $11,000 bonus for having earned a graduate degree and more than $24,000 in extra pension benefits the county owed her.
By the time she walked out the door last year, her pension was calculated at $272,000 a year - for life.
Nice work if you can get it.  Well, I guess those are the rules and Marty played them to the tune of a quarter-million+ a year.  I'm sure the hundreds of students protesting tuition hikes in California state colleges will sympathize.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Chevy Volt put on hiatus

WashPost: "GM to suspend production of Chevy Volt"

Never a good sign:

Extra - From the Truth About Cars.  Looks like 1,300 GM workers will be watching soap operas for the next five weeks.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Don't violate my First Amendment rights: buy me a new computer

This is the best explanation I've seen of the contraception issue: since when does failing to provide something for free equal an abrogation of rights?  Hit & Run: "Does reproductive freedom imply a right to free birth control?"
Supporters of Obama's birth control rule conflate liberty with subsidies, insisting that you are not really free to do something (in this case, use contraceptives) unless it's free. According to this logic, observant Jews do not have religious freedom unless the government pays for their kosher food, bloggers do not have freedom of speech unless taxpayers buy them computers, and Americans in general do not have a right to keep and bear arms if they have to pay for guns with their own money. By contrast, the religious institutions that object to the contraceptive mandate are not asking for subsidies; they are resisting them. They object to a regulation that forces them to pay for products and services they consider immoral. They want the freedom to offer their employees health plans that do not cover contraception and sterilization.
On a related note, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was questioned at a Congressional hearing about who was eventually going to pay for all this new contraceptive care.  She replied: Dude, it's totally free because "The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for the cost of contraception."

But if we're trying to avoid pregnancies, why is the government paying for boner drugs?  CBS News: "Medicare benefit to cover Viagra."

Ah, there anything it can't do?