Archive for April, 2011

Civilization: Is the West History?

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Great documentary from Britain’s Channel 4. Looks at how Western Civilization came to dominate the world and where that stands now. Credits 6 “killer apps” of Western Civilization’s success: Competition, Science, Property, Medicine, Consumerism, and Work.

Part 1 – Competition:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arhBShGlZjI

Read the rest of this entry »

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An Informed Electorate – 2011 Primaries

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So I live in Bloomington, IN, but feel free to abstract the principles. I’ve been kind of lazy this time as there’s nothing national (or state) and I’m not nearly as clear on local policy compared to national policy (they do have significantly different priorities). Regardless, due diligence requires me to say what I can.

Voting: http://bloomington.in.gov/vote

  • Voter Registation Deadline: April 4
  • In Person Absentee voting opens at the County Clerks office: April 4
  • Deadline for Absentee-by-mail applications: April 25
  • Municipal Primary Election Day:
    • May 3
    • 6:00am – 6:00 pm

Yes, I get it, you don’t know where to vote, etc. This can help you (in Bloomington) figure out your city council district: http://bloomington.in.gov/sections/viewSection.php?section_id=383

You can now go here: https://indianavoters.in.gov/PublicSite/Public/FT1/PublicOnBallotSearch.aspx to find out who you’re voting for beyond the mayoral race. This is what I got:

Election Office Candidate Party
BLOOMINGTON MAYOR (MONROE) JOHN GUSAN DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON MAYOR (MONROE) JOHN M HAMILTON DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON MAYOR (MONROE) MARK R KRUZAN DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON CITY CLERK-TREASURER (MONROE) REGINA M MOORE DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON CITY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBER – DISTRICT #6 (MONROE) SANDI COLE DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON CITY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBER – AT-LARGE (MONROE) TIMOTHY MAYER DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON CITY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBER – AT-LARGE (MONROE) ANDY RUFF DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON CITY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBER – AT-LARGE (MONROE) SUSAN J SANDBERG DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON CITY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBER – DISTRICT #6 (MONROE) STEPHEN VOLAN DEMOCRATIC
BLOOMINGTON CITY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBER – AT-LARGE (MONROE) JENNIFER K MICKEL REPUBLICAN
BLOOMINGTON CITY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBER – AT-LARGE (MONROE) EDWARD E SCHWARTZMAN REPUBLICAN

This appears to be a great resource (h/t Mark Kruzan — this is not an endorsement, it was referenced in his campaign literature): http://meetingarchive.catstv.net/

These are democratic forums:

03/07/2011: City Council Districts 1-6
http://meetingarchive.catstv.net/?view=video&video_id=760&search_action=search&page=1&keywords=DEMOCRACY

03/21/2011: This is the second of two Forums. The forum will feature the candidates for City Clerk, City Council At-Large, and Mayor.
http://meetingarchive.catstv.net/?view=video&video_id=776&search_action=search&page=1&keywords=DEMOCRACY

So yeah,

Update: Bloomington Primary results from the Bloomington Herald Times

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Honesty

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When I was about six or seven years old, someone about my age moved in next door. During the inevitable first meeting, he asked me if I liked KISS. I said I was crazy about them (in some terms). I had never heard of them.

I went on to get some of their albums, (between my parents indulging me and my limited income): Double Platinum, Alive II, Love Gun, Peter Chris’ solo album, probably others, but not many. I still light up when I hear early KISS.

In lunch line in elementary school (2nd or 3rd grade), a friend asked me if I liked ELO (Electric Light Orchestra). I’d never heard of them and misunderstood him and said “Yellow is awesome, I love Yellow!” I don’t think he corrected me at the time, but it was a humbling moment when I recognized my error.

I’ve worked really hard to eliminate lying for the sake of flattery since then. It’s worked out pretty well.

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The Myth of the Clinton Surplus

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I’ve seen this argument before, but never seen it so well put. The Clinton surplus is a lie.  This is not to say that we weren’t close to a surplus, or that Bush 43 didn’t greatly expand the deficit as Obama has greatly expanded it since, but I find it telling that telling the truth about a good economic situation was not enough and so numbers were twisted to create the illusion of a surplus.

Craig Steiner hopefully puts this issue to rest in his article, The Myth of the Clinton Surplus (h/t iOwnTheWorld). Below are U.S. Treasury data for the Clinton years.

Fiscal
Year
Year
Ending
National Debt Deficit
FY1993 09/30/1993 $4.411488 trillion
FY1994 09/30/1994 $4.692749 trillion $281.26 billion
FY1995 09/29/1995 $4.973982 trillion $281.23 billion
FY1996 09/30/1996 $5.224810 trillion $250.83 billion
FY1997 09/30/1997 $5.413146 trillion $188.34 billion
FY1998 09/30/1998 $5.526193 trillion $113.05 billion
FY1999 09/30/1999 $5.656270 trillion $130.08 billion
FY2000 09/29/2000 $5.674178 trillion $17.91 billion
FY2001 09/28/2001 $5.807463 trillion $133.29 billion

 

Despite an FY2000 deficit of “only” $17.91 billion, there is no surplus. Period.

Regardless, President Clinton claimed a surplus. How did that work? Craig explains:

As is usually the case in claims such as this, it has to do with Washington doublespeak and political smoke and mirrors.

Understanding what happened requires understanding two concepts of what makes up the national debt. The national debt is made up of public debt and intragovernmental holdings. The public debt is debt held by the public, normally including things such as treasury bills, savings bonds, and other instruments the public can purchase from the government. Intragovernmental holdings, on the other hand, is when the government borrows money from itself–mostly borrowing money from social security.

Looking at the makeup of the national debt and the claimed surpluses for the last 4 Clinton fiscal years, we have the following table:

Fiscal
Year
End
Date
Claimed
Surplus
Public
Debt
Intra-gov
Holdings
Total National
Debt
FY1997 09/30/1997 $3.789667T $1.623478T $5.413146T
FY1998 09/30/1998 $69.2B $3.733864T $55.8B $1.792328T $168.9B $5.526193T $113B
FY1999 09/30/1999 $122.7B $3.636104T $97.8B $2.020166T $227.8B $5.656270T $130.1B
FY2000 09/29/2000 $230.0B $3.405303T $230.8B $2.268874T $248.7B $5.674178T $17.9B
FY2001 09/28/2001 $3.339310T $66.0B $2.468153T $199.3B $5.807463T $133.3B

Notice that while the public debt went down in each of those four years, the intragovernmental holdings went up each year by a far greater amount–and, in turn, the total national debt (which is public debt + intragovernmental holdings) went up. Therein lies the discrepancy.

When it is claimed that Clinton paid down the national debt, that is patently false–as can be seen, the national debt went up every single year. What Clinton did do was pay down the public debt–notice that the claimed surplus is relatively close to the decrease in the public debt for those years. But he paid down the public debt by borrowing far more money in the form of intragovernmental holdings (mostly Social Security).

Read the whole thing. He goes on to describe the ponzi scheme of social security and to answer common arguments against his reasoning.

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Robyn Hitchcock

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I posted a Soft Boys video recently (I Wanna Destroy You) and didn’t really get into the fact that it was by Robyn Hitchcock (It was his first band that I’m aware of). I don’t own any of his stuff at the moment, but intend to rectify that. My first encounter with Mr. Hitchcock was the video of “Madonna of the Wasp” on MTV when I was in high school. It made no sense, but I loved it. It still makes no sense, but I looked into it. I went to songmeanings.net, which has the lyrics, comments, and obnoxious ads. The lyrics are typically sparse for the author, but one commenter (squareson) adds some light from an interview with Hitchcock. Here’s the comment: madonna_of_the_wasps

To summarize, it appears to be about whether a tortured artist will forgive a succubus.

Oh yeah, Kimberly Rew was a member of the Soft Boys and later had a hit with the Hitchcock penned song, “Walking on Sunshine”  by Katrina and the Waves — Whoa-oh and it’s time to feel good.

Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians — Madonna of the Wasps

Al | Myspace Video

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Facebook post

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Just posted this on FB and realized it may get lost, so wanted to save it for my own self, cause I really like it:

“The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist” — Charles Pierre Baudelaire
But just in case (just kidding, Love is the answer):

Update: If the devil exists, he needs to be destroyed, but destruction is its mechanism so screw that. A righteous god would be really handy right now.

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Ezra Klein’s Bias and Spin

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The graph all budget discussions should start with by Ezra Klein has been getting a lot of play on the left as a “solution” to the budget crisis: Do nothing. By nothing he means allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, resolve the Medicare Doc Fix, and implement The Affordable Care Act.

The graph shows “The CBO’s baseline projection of the federal primary budget as a percent of GDP after passage of health reform” according to the article that Ezra linked to. The article has quite a different spin on the graph in question. Though not necessarily contradicting Ezra’s claim of budget balancing through inaction, its point is “Did Americans fail to notice that the health reform law spends a lot of money and includes a lot of tax increases? If so, that’s not just a Democratic messaging problem, but a Republican one too, and a general media failure. What more would it take to communicate this?”

That ever-rising revenue line (keeping up with entitlements) is coming from higher taxes. Mr. Klein also ignores the fact stated in the original article that “The primary budget excludes interest on the debt, which is large. If you don’t like the graph in that link, here’s another.”

Different interpretations of graph data are all well and good. However, more issues are brought up in Ezra Klein’s “Let It Ride” Plan is A Quick Trip to Cloud Cuckoo Land from The Sundries Shack (h/t Doug Ross). Specifically, the unrealistic and unprecedented GDP predictions. From the article:

There’s a bit of an understatement in there that blows a rather gaping hole in the entire plan. When the CBO says that a revenue figure of 23 percent of GDP would be “much higher than has typically been seen in recent decades” it fails to note that we have never seen a revenue figure larger than 20.9 percent of GDP. Furthermore, even when the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent, we still didn’t crack a 60-year average of 19.5 percent of GDP. In other words, the CBO’s alternative plan on which Klein pins his hopes assumes that the government will take in at least 3 percentage points more of all the goods and services we create in a year than we’ve ever taken and that we’ll keep taking at least that much for the next 80 years. Oh, and if you’re wondering how revenues have been looking lately, what with all the new taxes and fees rolled out by the Democrats over the last two years, you can find that here in Table 2.3. We took in 14.9 percent of GDP in 2009 and 2010, down over 2.5 percentage points from the year before. In fact, we haven’t hit that 19.5 percent average since 2001.

But just ignore that, Ezra. Federal revenue as a percentage of GDP will rise on the wings of hope and change as they never have before.

When not proposing his own elegant solution, Klein has been attacking Paul Ryan’s Roadmap as a bad joke. Thankfully, Jennifer Rubin (also of the Washington Post) takes his critique to task in Paul Ryan’s Desperate Critics, exposing outright dishonesty or a lack of comprehension on Klein’s part. Just a sampling:

Ezra also pronounces, “The wealthy, meanwhile, would see their taxes lowered, and the Defense Department would escape unscathed.” These assertions are wrong. The president preserved the Bush tax cuts; the Republicans propose keeping rates where they are and going after corporate welfare that benefits the rich. In a revenue-neutral reform with lower rates, itemized deductions (which benefit the rich) would be removed or limited. Ezra is also wrong on defense. On this Ryan and the president agree to implement the cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Is Paul Ryan’s plan perfect? I doubt it, but it seems to me a serious proposal and a starting point for real discussion about hard economic issues facing our country. If anyone is a joke, I think it’s Ezra Klein.

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Bill Whittle on Taxing the Rich

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The Great Bill Whittle took the hilarious dissection of Michael Moore’s absurd statements about taxing our way out of our debt crisis by Mary Katherine Ham to a new level, expanding from the richest Americans to corporations, the ones who make over $250K, and much more. Still doesn’t add up. He takes some inspiration from this iowahawk article.

 

 

Now that we’re clear on that, what are we going to cut?

 

 

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Hats off to Sad Hill News

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I really need to visit Sad Hill News more often. Great site. Here are just a couple of recent posts that I found to be awesome:

Border? What border? Sorry, I’m pre-occupied with the budget and Libya:
Janet Napolitano: The Borders Are Safe So Just Ignore The Mass Graves Found Yesterday In Mexico, Near The Border

Corporate and union cronyism:
Washington Post and CBS Receive Nearly $2 Million In ObamaCare Taxpayer Subsidies

Oh, and hat tip to The Great iOwnTheWorld for turning me on to them.

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Hayek on the Rule of Law

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From Chapter 6 of The Road to Serfdom, “Planning and the Rule of Law”:

The Rule of Law was consciously evolved only during the liberal age and is one of its greatest achievements, not only as a safeguard, but as the legal embodiment of freedom. As Immanuel Kant put it (and Voltaire expressed it before him in very much the same terms), “Man is free if he needs to obey no person but solely the laws.” As a vague idea it has, however, existed at least since Roman times, and during the last few centuries it has never been so seriously threatened as it is today. The idea that there is no limit to the power of the legislator is in part a direct result of popular sovereignty and democratic government. It has been strengthened by the belief that, so long as all actions of the state  are duly authorized by legislation, the Rule of Law will be preserved. But this is completely to misconceive the meaning of the Rule of Law. This rule has little to do with the question of whether all actions of government are legal in the judicial sense. They may well be and yet not conform to the Rule of Law. The fact that someone has full legal authority to act in the way he does gives no answer to the question whether the law gives him power to act arbitrarily or whether the law prescribes unequivocally how he has to act.  It may well be that Hitler has obtained his unlimited powers in a strictly constitutional manner and that whatever he does is therefore legal in the judicial sense. But who would suggest for that reason that the Rule of Law still prevails in Germany?

To say that in a planned society the Rule of Law cannot hold is, therefore, not to say that the actions of the government will not be legal or that such a society would be lawless. It means only that the use of the government’s coercive powers will no longer be limited and determined by pre-established rules.  The law can, and to make a central direction of economic activity possible must, legalize what to all intents and purposes remain arbitrary action. If the law says that such a board or authority may do what it pleases, anything that board or authority does is legal — but it’s actions are certainly not subject to the Rule of Law. By giving the government unlimited powers, the most arbitrary rule can be made legal; and in this way a democracy may set up the most complete despotism imaginable.

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