Saturday, February 26, 2011

The solution to high gas prices? Let's put in a 62 mpg mandate !!!

Derrick Z. Jackson is a typist for the Boston Globe.  He is deeply and profoundly wrong so often that I've "liked" him on Facebook just to keep in touch. 

Here's an excerpt from his latest, called "United States Must Break The Addiction To Foreign Oil". 
Unrest continues to spread, from the Middle East to the Middle West to . . . the gas pump.

The democracy uprisings against repressive regimes, many of which America propped up, has also fanned fears for the flow of oil. In response, Big Oil has jacked up its prices and gasoline is back up to $3.20 a gallon for unleaded in Massachusetts and is reportedly headed to $3.50 nationally. As the Obama administration tiptoes between popular protests and potentates who turn on our oil spigot, Americans are concerned about prices at the gas pump.
As well they should be.  What should we do?  OMG, what can we do

If only we had oil of our own, oil of our very own somewhere off the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and all those other little Yankee states in the middle where my geography is fuzzy? 
If only, if only.  

Seriously.  That part of Jackson's rant is so profoundly screwed up that it doesn't even rise to the level of being wrong.  The Middle East is in the middle of a huge upheaval, and that's going to jack with fuel prices for a while.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, has huge reserves.  Gasoline costs what it does at any given moment because that's what people are willing to pay at that moment, all other factors taken into account.
Competitors, especially small ones, have huge barriers to entry, all put in place by the people who stand in front of each other once a year for the SOTU speech, and rant about our addiction to foreign oil   Otherwise people would be out there drilling near the states listed above. 

One other is a funny thing.  Both sides need each other.  Whose economy do you think can last longer without the other?  U.S. Consumers or Evil Foreign People?  That's the question our politicians never ask.  Citizens of other countries now rely on American Dollars.  They can't eat, build houses, or educate their children without them.  Have you ever had a 25% drop in sales?  It's tough, isn't it? 

And when we give our dollars to those foreigners with funny names who worship funny gods, do you know what they have to do with them?  There's only one place where they accept green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on 'em. 

Back to Derrick Z. 

....Instead of whining about gas prices, Americans should be demanding that the Democrats and the Republicans make oil independence a top priority. Less than a year after the BP oil spill, energy has disappeared as a top issue of the day in current polling of Americans. This is even though energy affects everything from jobs to the environment to what wars we wage to how many blind eyes we offer to dictators who sit on fossil-fuel resources.
Like almost all other Statists, Derrick Z. can throw down an eloquent rant about how many billions of dollars we idiotically pay dictators, all in the name of "stability".  Derrick slams The Teleprompter Jesus for his response to the BP spill.  And after griping about our government's ineffectiveness, what does he want? 
What does he want? 
Derrick Z. wants more government involvement. 
Last month, the new Republican House majority, which has declared war on the Environmental Protection Agency, inspired infantile behavior from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The organization wrote Darrell Issa, the new House oversight chairman, to protest the potential cost of fuel-efficiency standards as high as 62 miles per gallon being considered by the Obama administration.
Yeah, 62 miles per gallon.  Declare it, make it so, get pro-active. That's all it takes.  Ask King Canute.   

Derrick, mandates and Congressional Performance Art won't get us anywhere. 
Building a "Fortress America", taking us back to a trading system like Feudal China's, won't get us anywhere.   We need the Evil Foreigners and they need us. 
We need for our government to leave everyone the hell alone.  Build some roads.  Referee in some disputes.  Defend the borders.  That's all. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stop The Evil Koch Brothers

Reason magazine has put up a link to a Reddit discussion about the evil billionaire Koch brothers.  You may have heard of them.  They support Radley Balko, Reason magazine, Cato, and a host of other outfits that try to undo the benevolent actions of our compassionate Lords and Masters. 
It seems that the Kochs have been among the leading contributors to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.  Since Scott Walker isn't wealthy enough to be cast as a super-villain, the Kochs are getting a lot of publicity. 
This was written by a freakin' genius calling himself Epistemicfail.  
As a student of the Passive-Aggressive Arts, I am humbled by his brilliance, and wish to study at his feet. 
Here goes:

They are trying to end the War on Drugs and increase civil liberties.
The KOCH brothers must be stopped. They gave $40K to Scott Walker, the MAX allowed by state law. That's small potatoes compared to the $100+ million they give to other organizations. These organizations will terrify you. If the anti-union thing weren't enough, here are bigger and better reasons to stop the evil Kochs. They are trying to:

  1. decriminalize drugs,
  2. legalize gay marriage,
  3. repeal the Patriot Act,
  4. end the police state,
  5. cut defense spending.
Who hates the police? Only the criminals using drugs, amirite? We need the Patriot Act to allow government to go through our emails and tap our phones to catch people who smoke marijuana and put them in prison. Oh, it's also good for terrorists.

Wikipedia shows Koch Family Foundations supporting causes like:

  1. CATO Institute
  2. Reason Foundation
  3. cancer research ($150 million to M.I.T. - STOP THEM! KEEP CANCER ALIVE!)
  4. ballet (because seriously: FUCK. THAT. SHIT.)

The Kochs basically give a TON of money (millions of dollars) to the CATO Institute. Scott Walker, $40K? HAH! These CATO people are the REAL problem. They want to end the War on Drugs. Insane, right? We know that the War on Drugs keeps us SAFE from Mexicans and keeps all that violence on their side of the fence. More than 30,000 Mexicans killed as of December! Thank God Mexican lives don't count as human lives. Our government is doing a good, no, a great job protecting us and seriously, who cares about brown people or should I say non-people? HAHAHA! Public unions are good, government is good, and government protects us from drugs and brown people. The Kochs want to end all that. Look, as far back as 1989 CATO has been trying to decriminalize drugs. Don't worry, nobody listens to them because they are INSANE.

CATO also rejects the Patriot Act. How can you hate the Patriot Act? Are you not American? They made it easy for you to understand by putting the word "Patriot" in the legislation. That means you should vote YES. Giving up our civil liberties is not a big deal. We need our government. Whether it's Obama or Bush, we can all agree that the TSA is really good at what they do. God, those patdowns feel SOOOO good.

The Kochs also support Reason Foundation. You don't know about that? Let me tell you. Basically, REASON Foundation is a bunch of cop haters. Last month, they did a "news" (as if we wanna know!) story on three cops that beat up an unarmed black kid. In the aftermath, the cops were suspended, sat around doing nothing and got paid (like that's a bad thing!). I don't know about you, but that puts a smile on my face for four reasons:

  1. I hate black people,
  2. I love the police,
  3. I love it when police beat up black people for no reason,
  4. I love that it comes out of taxpayers' money, because it's not like it's really my money.
The Kochs are trying to end this. The Kochs must be stopped.

CATO trying to cut defense spending:

Gay marriage. YUCK. That's just obvious. If the KOCH Brothers have their way, there will be homos getting married left and right. Here's another scary thought: gays raising children.

Here are some videos from Glenn Greenwald, one of those "gays." He writes for the liberal, but don't let that fool you. He's in the Koch Brothers' pocket. Here are some videos to prove my point:

Here's Glenn Greenwald talking about drug-decriminalization at REASON:

Yeah, he's that Glenn Greenwald that also defends WikiLeaks.

If there's one thing I know about billionaires, it's that they only care about money. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and George Soros. They aren't fooling me. Bill Gates isn't fooling me with his vaccination campaign in Africa. He's just trying to make African children live longer so they will buy more copies of Windows. Wow. Not even trying to hide it.

Now, I don't know why the KOCH brothers want gay people to have the right to marry. Everybody knows marriage is for a man and a woman. Even Obama believes that. Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve amirite? I haven't figured out the angle, yet. Maybe it's like this:

  1. legalize drugs
  2. legalize gay marriage
  3. sell drugs, oil and Koch napkins to gays at their weddings
  4. ????
  5. PROFIT$
I don't know exactly how it would work, but we can all agree that they're evil. Think about it. CATO and REASON are the only institutions OPENLY advocating these positions. Who would do such a thing? Have they no shame? Minority opinions MUST BE SILENCED.

Anyway, we must reject everything that the KOCH brothers do in Wisconsin and around the country. We will succeed as long as we stick to the GROUP-&-THINK.

YES WE CAN. The truth is always simple. You're either with us or against us.

twitter @epistemicfail

Stop the Koch menace. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I think we need some more calls for Civility

From Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit:

The activist is Tabitha Hale, whom Helen interviewed at SmartGirlPolitics a couple of years ago. And you’d think someone from the Communications Workers’ union would know better than to strike someone with a camera. But take a look at the video and you’ll see the angry, yet impotent face of today’s labor movement — right before the punch.

And some commentary from Jim Treacher on the incident.  The reference to "get a little bloody" is a reference to this Bozo who apparently missed The Teleprompter's speech:

This violent creep is with the Communications Workers of America, one of the groups that protested in front of FreedomWorks today, where Tabitha works.
“Get a little bloody.” “Take ‘em down.” Assault a young woman who’s doing nothing but videotaping you. All part of the New Tone.

I know Tabitha. She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’m sick of this crap. We get months of “Teabaggers are violent” — hell, years — when in reality, Tea Partiers have been the recipients of violence. Meanwhile, these union guys are ratcheting up the violent rhetoric and now actually assaulting people in broad daylight. Come on, somebody defend this violent jackass. I dare you.

Here's a pic of Tabitha Hale, the girl that he hit. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Black Swans and Bastiat

I was minding my own business, reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's brilliant book "The Black Swan", when I came across this next bit of libertarian brilliance. 

Here's a summary of Taleb's book from a guy named Aaron, from whose site I swiped the picture of the cover:
The premise of the book is simple enough. Basically, his thesis is that we think we know more about the world than we really do, and that there are “Black Swans” out there that exist beyond any models of forecasting we can build. The Black Swan notion comes from the belief people had for centuries - that all swans were white because no one ever saw a black swan, until they discovered it in Australia. Because people tend to imagine the world based on their empirical observations, people tend to have a “confirmation bias” that makes them notice things that fit their worldview, and ignore what they can’t fit in.
Taleb applies this comparison to investing, politics, relationships, etc. Parts of this excerpt seem kind of harsh at first, but please hear him out.  Great book.  This section is based on Bastiat's "Things Seen and Unseen" concept: 

What You See and What You Don't See

Katrina, the devastating hurricane that hit New Orleans in 2005, got plenty of politicizing politicians on television.  These legislators, moved by the images of devastation and the pictures of angry victims made homeless, made promises of "rebuilding".  It was so noble on their part to do something humanitarian, to rise above our abject selfishness. 

Did they promise to do so with their own money?  No.  It was with public money.  Consider that such funds will be taken away from somewhere else, as in the saying "You take from Peter to give to Paul."  That somewhere else will be less mediatized.  It may be privately funded cancer research, or the next efforts to curb diabetes.  Few seem to pay attention to the victims of cancer lying lonely in a state of untelevised depression.  Not only do these cancer patients not vote (they will be dead by the next ballot), but they do not manifest themselves to our emotional system.  More of them die every day than were killed by Hurricane Katrina; they are the ones who need us the most - not just our financial help, but our attention and kindness.  And they may be the ones from whom the money will be taken - indirectly, perhaps even directly.  Money (public or private) taken away from research might be responsible for killing them - in a crime that may remain silent. 

A ramification of the idea concerns our decision making under a cloud of possibilities.  We see the obvious and visible consequences, not the invisible and less obvious ones.  Yet those unseen consequences can be - nay, generally are - more meaningful. 

Frederic Bastiat was a nineteenth-century humanist of a strange variety, one of those rare independent thinkers - independent to the point of being unknown in his own country, France, since his ideas ran counter to French political orthodoxy (he joins another of my favorite thinkers, Pierre Bayle, in being unknown at home and in his own language).  But he has a large number of followers in America. 

(That's Frederic Bastiat the dachshund, posing by a pic of Frederic Bastiat the economist.)

In his essay "What We See and What We Don't See," Bastiat offered the following idea; we can see what governments do, and therefore sing their praises - but we do not see the alternative.  But there is an alternative; it is less obvious and remains unseen. 

Recall the confirmation fallacy: governments are great at telling you what they did, but not what they did not do.  In fact, they engage in what could be labeled as phony "philanthropy", the activity of helping people in a visible and sensational way without taking into account the unseen cemetery of invisible consequences.  Bastiat inspired libertarians by attacking the usual arguments that showed the benefits of governments.  But his ideas can be generalized to apply to both the Right and the Left. 

Bastiat goes a bit deeper.  If both the positive and the negative consequences of an action fell on its author, our learning would be fast.  But often an action's positive consequences benefit only its author, since they are visible, while the negative consequences, being invisible, apply to others, with a net cost to society.  Consider job-protection measures; you notice those whose jobs are made safe and ascribe social benefits to such protections.  You do not notice the effect on those who cannot find a job as a result, since the measure will reduce job openings. 

In some cases, as with the cancer patients who may be punished by Katrina, the positive consequences of an action will immediately benefit the politicians and phony humanitarians, while the negative ones take a long time to appear - they may never become noticeable.  One can even blame the press for directing charitable contributions toward those who may need them the least. 

Let us apply this reasoning to September 11, 2001.  Around twenty-five hundred people were directly killed by bin Laden's group in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  Their families benefited from the support of all manner of agencies and charities, as they should.  But, according to researchers, during the remaining three months of the year, close to one thousand people died as silent victims of the terrorists.  How?  Those who were afraid of flying and switched to driving ran an increased risk of death.  There was evidence of an increase of casualties on the road during that period; the road is considerably more lethal than the skies. 

These families got no support - they did not even know that their loved ones were also the victims of bin Laden. 

....Have the guts to consider the silent consequences when standing in front of the next snake-oil humanitarian. 

Yeah.  Let's do that. 
The pic of Unintended Consequences came from here. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From last night's dinner conversation

Topics from last night's dinner table conversations....

First some background.  My two sisters, my brother, my mother, one of my aunts, my sister-in-law and mother-in-law have all been teachers.  So education issues (like the protests in Wisconsin) are a hot topic.

My sister-in-law teaches 2nd grade.  One of her 2nd grade kids recently got suspended for 3 days because he brought a set of brass knuckles to school.   
I somewhat sheepishly showed everyone the scar over my left eyebrow, a remnant of a college fight I got into that (ahem...) didn't go well for me.  The other team had brass knuckles and I didn't.
My mother-in-law graciously turned the topic away from my 1983 defeat to a proposal that's going through the Texas House Of Representatives:
AUSTIN — Texas is preparing to give college students and professors the right to carry guns on campus, adding momentum to a national campaign to open this part of society to firearms.

More than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who sometimes packs a pistol when he jogs, has said he's in favor of the idea.

Texas has become a prime battleground for the issue because of its gun culture and its size, with 38 public universities and more than 500,000 students. It would become the second state, following Utah, to pass such a broad-based law. Colorado gives colleges the option and several have allowed handguns.

Supporters of the legislation argue that gun violence on campuses, such as the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Northern Illinois in 2008, show that the best defense against a gunman is students who can shoot back.
I'm not a Rick Perry fan, but I like the idea of a governor carrying a pistol while working in a 5K before breakfast. 
I can only think of one thing that could guarantee that The Aggie would never, ever be the victim of a mass shooting.  And that's to authorize her to shoot back. 
I have a minority opinion on that, though. 

One of The Aggie's male friends recently gave her a rifle.  I've never met the guy, but I can tell you two things about him. 

1. He likes my daughter. 
2. He's not a psycho.  Psychos don't like armed victims. 

My mother-in-law then brought up a legit question.  What would've happened if I'd been armed in 1983?  What if my opponents (yeah, it took two of them) had been armed with more than brass knucks? 
I honestly don't know.  But either way, I don't think I would have a scar over my left eyebrow. 

That eventually got us around to politicians and the protests in Wisconsin.  My mother-in-law can say the words "Rick Perry" and make it sound like "malignant tumor".  Her hot-button is that Texas once paid 10 grand a month for a temporary governor's mansion, while cutting back on education. 
Yes, 10K for rent is too much.  As I've stated numerous times on these pages, electing a governor or a president should be no more important than selecting a lawn service.  If the decision really matters to you, then your government has gotten too big.  Once we start building Executive Mansions or Governor's Mansions, the Battle For The Minds Of The People has already been lost. 

Here's the comparison that I brought up....The U.S. pays about $11,000.00 per year per child for education.  My sister-in-law has 21 kids in her classroom.  At 11K per kid, she's making $231,000.00 per year !!!

Well, no, she isn't.  She's probably making a fourth of that.  So what is happening to the other 75% of that money?  The other $170,000.00 ??? 
It's being wasted, wasted in quantities that make Rick Perry's temporary governor's mansion rental look like a bargain along the lines of The Louisiana Purchase. 

Folks, for the amount we're pouring down the Department of Education rathole, we could start hiring freakin' Socrates to teach our kids.  You could turn the $11,000.00 per kid into, say, an $8,000 voucher.  Cut the spending per kid by 3K.  Then turn teachers loose.  My sister-in-law could rent a room.  Feed the kids via a catering service.  Select and purchase her own curriculum.  Hell, she's already having to supply pencils, crayons, and a ton of other supplies out of her own check, because even at $11,000 per kid, the school district doesn't have the money to do it !!!!!

What in the name of Thomas Tocco is going on there ???

One last thing, and this is something I didn't think of until I woke up this morning.  My sister-in-law used to teach kindergarten, but got moved to 2nd grade.  She's going to request a permanent spot in 2nd grade because one of her best friends in the kindergarten area is retiring, and kindergarten doesn't have the same appeal without this friend as a co-worker. 

Here's the catch.  The friend is something like 53 years old, and is going to retire with pay. 

According to Wikipedia, this friend will probably live to be 80 years old.  Can any organization fund 53-year-old retirees? 
Is anyone surprised that the retirement funds are now in trouble? We've made some extravagant promises to teachers that we aren't going to be able to keep. It's that simple. 

Here's Sonny Green, doing a forgotten classic "Don't Write A Check With Your Mouth (that yo' body can't cash.)" 

I'm not going to make a habit of transtribing dinner conversations. People would stop talking to me. I wish y'all could've been there. Last night was interesting. Good food for thought. And if I'd had a .357 magnum in 1983....

Monday, February 21, 2011

Please let me know if I've gotten this wrong

Ok, lemme get this straight....

In the Middle East, groups of unemployed citizens are protesting against the decisions of their governments and government employees. 

In Wisconsin, government employees with above-average pay, cadillac benefits, tenure, and employment in a near-monopoly are protesting against the decisions of the citizens who employ them.   

Are people forgetting who is the employer and who is the employee? 

Would you agree to this kind of negotiation if you wanted to hire a new lawn service?  Plumber?  Babysitter? 

When a Statist union leader sits down at the table to "negotiate" with some state government employee over salaries and benefits, which side do you think represents your interests? 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to get people off the fence in the War On Drugs

You might remember this video of the Columbia Missouri SWAT raid, the one where they bust in, terrorize the family and shoot the dogs for a trifling amount of weed? 

....and maybe wishing they would have the balls to try that idiotic stunt in some more upscale neighborhoods? Maybe try breaking into some well-connected politician's residence in the name of The War On Personal Freedom? 

Well, it finally happened.  Here's the Cato Institute:

The SFPD and DEA found no piles of marijuana money at 243 Diamond St., one of six addresses raided simultaneously in San Francisco that morning. Instead, they found Clark Freshman, who rents the penthouse at the two-unit building. Freshman, a UC Hastings law professor and the main consultant to the television show Lie to Me, was put into handcuffs while in his bathrobe as agents searched, despite Freshman's insistence that they had the wrong place and were breaking the law…

Soon they may be called defendants in a lawsuit. A furious Freshman has pledged to sue the DEA and the SFPD for unlawful search and seizure of his home…

[Officer] Biggs describes 243 Diamond as a "two-story, one-unit" building in the warrant. There's no mention of Freshman or Larizadeh's son-in-law or seven-months pregnant daughter who were detained in the downstairs unit that morning. But property records — and a quick visual scan of the property — reveal it to be a three-story, two-unit building. That mistake alone may be enough to invalidate the search warrant.

Here's the San Francisco Examiner on what will probably happen next:

But Peter Keane, dean emeritus of Golden Gate University's School of Law, says there appears to be a problem. "There's been cases like this in the past where police have a warrant to search [a single residence], then they get there and it's a multi-unit building and they search the whole building. In those cases, people have sued and collected substantial settlements. I think whomever is representing the government better get out his checkbook."

I disagree.  The people of San Francisco shouldn't have to pay for this lawsuit.  Most of them would probably say that they don't approve of our version of Sharia Law.  The thugs who broke the door in and tied up the family should have to pay.  Here's a parting shot from someone who is no longer a neutral party in The War On Personal Freedom:

"I've been on the fence for years about the legalization of drugs ... and now I'm a victim of this crazy war on drugs," says Freshman, who pledged to sue until "I see [the agents'] houses sold at auction and their kids' college tuitions taken away from them. There will not be a better litigated case this century."

They really, really, need to stop doing this.  No matter how much we want to save and create jobs for narcs and SWAT teams.  No matter how much we want to support the private prison lobby, the counseling industry, the parole officer cartel, the urinalysis industry, the Department Of Homeland Security, the people trying to stamp out Afghan Opium production, and the people we're paying to ride around and monitor probationers' ankle bracelets.  They can eventually find other jobs where people WANT their services. 

And isn't it about time that we end the monopoly that the Mexican Drug Lords are enjoying?  Haven't we screwed up that poor country enough? 

So, good luck, Clark Freshman !  Sue 'em until that have a bright, radioactive glow.