Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween special: Sarah Palin and Barach Obama as you've always imagined them 

If you have ever played a violent shoot 'em up computer game, do not miss this video.


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Culture war post of the evening: A trial lawyer's wife 

If these quotations are accurate and in context, Mrs. Belovich is not a delightful person. Nor is it clear that she is out of step with a certain segment of her party.

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Barack Obama's concession speech 

Candor that is the change you've been hoping for: A draft of Barack Obama's concession speech in the event that he loses Tuesday. Heh.

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Badge of honor 

One need not agree with everything Pamela Geller writes to admire and even covet this accolade. Whatever the result of the astonishing presidential election campaign of 2008, Pam will have this memory to cherish forever.

CWCID: "Larwyn".

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The Great Carnak: 7, 8, 12, and 6 

Question: How many Americans were killed in hostile action in Iraq in October, September, August, and July, 2008, respectively?

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Barack Obama calls me selfish 

Warning: I use a bad word in this post.

Apparently I am selfish because I do not want to pay more taxes. Accordingly to Barack Obama, I should want to pay more than the large proportion of my income that already goes to the government.

To recap prior posts, the United States has a more progressive system of income taxation than most other OECD countries. Affluent Americans who live in states run by Democrats, especially those who work for a living, pay more than 40% of their income in direct taxes now, and close to 50% when you throw on other typical taxes. As previously reported, our income taxes, payroll taxes, and residential property taxes amounted to 41% of our income in 2007. Add to that consumption taxes, payroll taxes paid on our behalf by our employers, and our share of corporate taxes, and we paid about half of our income to the government. If you add in our charitable contributions -- Obama seems to believe that gifts are just another form of tax -- then we were definitely over 50%. We further note -- for the record -- that we pay a substantially larger percentage of our income in taxes than Barack Obama has done, and have given more to charity even in years when our income was comparable. Yet we are supposed to want to pay still more, and if we do not we are "selfish."

Fuck him.

MORE: A classier and more analytical version of essentially the same sentiment.

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Be grateful for the Speaker we have 

The speaker of the Iranian parliament flapped his gums this week, threatening the United States with homicide bomber attacks. What is Speaker Pelosi going to say in response?

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Do some retirement planning in the next four days 

Via Maggie's, a nifty little tool for doing your retirement planning. Plug in your current 401(k) balance, and see how it ends up pro forma after taking into account the platforms of the various candidates.

My suggestion is that you do some retirement planning in the next four days!

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Long division is beneath the New York Times 

The New York Times has a story that is as close to self-parody as you are likely to see: "Inquiry Targeted 2,000 Foreign Muslims in 2004." The opening paragraph says it all:

An operation in 2004 meant to disrupt potential terrorist plots before and after that year’s presidential election focused on more than 2,000 immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, but most were found to have done nothing wrong, according to newly disclosed government data.


So then you think that the "inquiry" must have really been invasive, or offensive to somebody's rights under the United States Constitution or whatever nonsense document might be promulgated by the United Nations. You would be wrong. Here's the worse that the Grey Lady could came up with, presumably with help from something called "the National Litigation Project at Yale Law School," which, by the way, sounds a lot scarier than anything that happened to these Muslims:
One foreigner, in the country on a student visa, was asked his “opinion of America,” according to internal investigative reports. He responded that he was “living the American dream and cared greatly for the equal opportunities, rights and values that are afforded in America.” Another person, from South Asia, was asked about a mosque he attended and told an agent that “the mosque did not espouse any radical or fundamental form of Islam or denounce the United States in any way.” A third visa holder was asked if he owned any chemical or biological explosives. He said he did not.

No. Way. Our security asked an immigrant for his opinion of America, another one whether his mosque preached subversion, and a third whether he owned illegal explosives? And then we accepted their answers and sent them on their way? Does not the BushHitler Reich know that there is a constitutional right not to be asked questions? So when's the Night of the Long Knives II?

Now, the New York Times and the Yalies who are flogging this issue say that 79% of the 2000 or so of the immigrants questioned in connection with anti-terror programs before the 2004 elections were from Muslim countries, so "this was profiling." Well, we can all have a little fun with statistics, and that's without saying that 100% of the people who attacked New York and Washington in 1993 and 2001 were immigrants from Muslim countries, or that all the members of the only international terrorist group actually to declare war on the United States are Muslim. In fiscal 2004, 517,277 people originating from the Muslim countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia entered the United States as tourists or other non-immigrants (source data in Excel file here). This number no doubt understates the Muslims who entered, because I did not count people from the Balkans, Russia, sub-Saharan Africa, India, the Phillipines and, dare I say it, the United Kingdom, all of which countries have substantial Muslim populations known to harbor international terrorists. So Homeland Security "inquired" into something less than 0.2% of the Muslims who came in to the United States that year, asking them for their "opinion of America" and such.

If we are profiling Muslim immigrants, we certainly aren't doing a thorough job of it. But then, if the Times had even the slightest interest in writing good news instead of making a political point on behalf of Yale's "National Litigation Project," it would have at least done that simple math. You know, for context.

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Happy Halloween... 

Trick o' Crat!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jack o' TigerHawk! 

For those few of you who have not read the caption at the top of this blog, the University of Iowa's hawkeye logo is known as the "Tigerhawk." This year, I carved a Jack o' TigerHawk...

Jack o' TigerHawk!

That ought to scare away the little bastards tomorrow night... bwahahahaha!

Hawk above, and an awesome tiger here!

Meanwhile, Mrs. TH carved this J o' L. What is it supposed to be? Sadly, my sense of imagery is so literal that I had no idea, but the TH Daughter knew it right away.

Mystery Jack o'

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Suicide note: Asking the wrong guy for help 

Barack Obama truly is all things to all people, sometimes to the point of pathology. Or parody. Or tragedy.

A man lept to his death, and left suicide notes asking that Barack Obama help his family. Obviously, this poor sap did not read conservative blogs...

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ExxonMobil's blockheaded timing 

This post is about 12 hours late because the day job was weighing me down, but I have a question that remains worth asking: Why did ExxonMobil decide to release its record earnings today, instead of -- say -- next Wednesday? There are only two explanations. First, XOM's executives actually want Barack Obama to be elected. You know, because why not go with the guy who has promised to increase taxes on your company's profits, cap your salary, and let unions organize your refineries without elections? Or, second, because they are idiots.

I struggle to imagine what the third reason would be.

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Socialism watch: How progressive do we have to get? 

Here we've all been worried that Barack Obama's policies would spread our wealth all the way into socialism, and it turns out we're socialist already! Emphasis added.

Barack Obama's admission that his policies would "spread the wealth around" has ignited a nationwide discussion of how progressive the tax system should be and how it should be used to redistribute income among Americans. Obama has been very successful in bolstering the conventional wisdom that the U.S. tax system does not place a significant enough burden on wealthier households and places too much of a burden on the "middle class."

But a new study on inequality by researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris reveals that when it comes to household taxes (income taxes and employee social security contributions) the U.S. "has the most progressive tax system and collects the largest share of taxes from the richest 10% of the population." As Column 1 in the table below shows, the U.S. tax system is far more progressive—meaning pro-poor—than similar systems in countries most Americans identify with high taxes, such as France and Sweden.

Herewith, the aforementioned table:

Tax progressivity in the OECD

Not to brag or anything, but in 2007 my federal and state income taxes, wage taxes, and property taxes came to 41% of my income. So, excluding all consumption taxes (sales, gasoline, booze, travel, etc.) because I did not keep track and indirect taxes (particularly my "share" of corporate taxes paid on the profits of companies in which I own shares and my company's share of my social security taxes), I must have paid more than 50% of my income over to the government. Barack Obama would add between 5 and 11 percentage points to that number, which means that my personal "tax freedom day" will be in August or September.

I'm feeling demotivated already.

MORE on motivation here. With math.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Family last: The British press finds Barack Obama's aunt and uncle 

It took the respectable British press to do what the entire American media -- even the evil Fox News -- could not do. The Times of London has actually located Barack Obama's Kenyan-American aunt and uncle. In Boston. Massachusetts. The story reflects so poorly on Barack Obama that if you saw it on a no-name righty blog you would write it off as libel:

Barack Obama has lived one version of the American Dream that has taken him to the steps of the White House. But a few miles from where the Democratic presidential candidate studied at Harvard, his Kenyan aunt and uncle, immigrants living in modest circumstances in Boston, have a contrasting American story.

Zeituni Onyango, the aunt so affectionately described in Mr Obama’s best-selling memoir Dreams from My Father, lives in a disabled-access flat on a rundown public housing estate in South Boston.

A second relative believed to be the long-lost “Uncle Omar” described in the book was beaten by armed robbers with a “sawed-off rifle” while working in a corner shop in the Dorchester area of the city. He was later evicted from his one-bedroom flat for failing to pay $2,324.20 (£1,488) arrears, according to the Boston Housing Court.

Is Obama deliberately ignoring the condition of his aunt and uncle, or are we supposed to believe that the assembled research capabilities of the first billion dollar presidential campaign could not have located them?

This is the best part:
Aunt Zeituni is now also living in Boston, and recently made a $260 campaign contribution to her nephew's presidential bid from a work address in the city.

Speaking outside her home in Flaherty Way, South Boston, on Tuesday, Ms Onyango, 56, confirmed she was the “Auntie Zeituni” in Mr Obama’s memoir. She declined to answer most other questions about her relationship with the presidential contender until after the November 4 election. “I can’t talk about it, I just pray for him, that’s all,” she said, adding: “After the 4th, I can talk to anyone.”

Apparently Aunt Zeituni's location was fully available to anybody doing even a superficial review of the contributions made to Obama's presidential campaign. Oh. Wait a minute...

This story is eerily reminiscent of the moment back in December 2007 when Obama seemed to brag that his grandmother lived in a "hut" back in Kenya. The press ate it up, but he dropped that talking point after conservative bloggers wondered why he had not helped the poor woman pay for a better house. Call me a bonehead, but we are beginning to see a pattern here. Indeed, I have finally figured out why somebody who has been as successful as Barack Obama believes that the government must help people who cannot or do not help themselves: He simply does not understand that helping the poor, unlucky, or incompetent is first the responsibility of family.

MORE: In response to various comments that defend Barack Obama on various grounds, I wrote a responsive comment that I liked enough to move into an update:

To those commenters taking the other side:

1. I completely agree that one is not responsible for the financial well-being of every relative.

2. I further agree that if one happens to have a lot of relatives from a poor country, be it Kenya or, for that matter, half of Europe circa 1945, it is unreasonable to demand that one locate them and ensure the well-beinng of all of them.

So I do not condemn Obama for deciding not to help his African relatives in the abstract.


3. He has used these people -- his grandmother, his aunt and uncle, and so forth -- as props in his political narrative. He wants us to measure him in part by his relationship to these Kenyans, but -- and here is the harsh part -- only as that relationship is described by him. What if his characterization of that relationship is misleading? What if it turns out that while he is delighted to cite these people as evidence of his humble beginnings -- that is what I mean by using them as props -- he is not so delighted to consider them as part of his family? Is that not at least a potentially useful insight into the character of this man about whom we know so little?

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Old school: 1958 vs. 2008 

Regular readers know that I rarely post the internet joke du jour, but this one seems to be right down our strike zone. I supply it as a public service on the small chance that I am not the last conservative in America to see it:

Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.

1958 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack!
2008 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.

1958 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.
2008 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1958 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2008 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

1958 - Mark shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.
2008 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.

1958 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, and goes to college.
2008 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.

1958 - Ants die.
2008 - BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated; Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1958 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2008 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces three years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes five years of therapy.

Sadly, there is very little actual parody in this joke.

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Tank Watch: Michelle Malkin rounds up the top Obamania moments of the year 

This is really only the tip of the iceberg.

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BDS claims another victim 

This is laugh out-loud funny:
Writing in his latest book, “An Enemy of the People,”(Doukathsan Press) Velvel said, “In everyday life, someone who refuses to recognize the actual facts of the world around him, and who instead lives in a dream world in his head, is regarded as not being sane, as being, to use the blunt words, insane or crazy. Why is it different when it is a national leader who refuses to recognize facts in the world and instead lives in a dream world in his head?”

Velvel goes on to say, “Most interesting is the idea that Bush suffers from a condition called ‘dry drunk’. Essentially, this means that even if one eventually stops drinking, as Bush did, years of alcoholism cause irreversible damage to brain chemistry. Results of this damage include such Bushian traits as rigid judgmentalism, irritability, impatience, grandiosity, obsessive thought patterns, incoherent speech and other unlovely characteristics.”

“Bush also seems to have chacteristics,” Velvel continues, “that, whether or not they are characteristic of ‘dry drunks’ are symptomatic of people who don’t fully have a grip. These include immense anger, exploitativeness, arrogance, lack of empathy, and difficulties arising from relationships with one’s father.”

“With regard to the specific analyses of Bush, there seems to be wide agreement that Bush is a sociopath, defined, one gathers, as someone who feels no empathy with others, who cannot feel for others, who does not feel or care for their pain (to use Clintonian jargon,”) Velvel writes.

“That Bush is utterly devoid of empathy seems plainly true to me. Unlike Lincoln or even Lying Lyndon Johnson, who sent people to their deaths but agonized over it, Bush is thought by the shrinks, and appears to the lay eye, to give not one damn about how many Americans he kills, let alone Iraqis.”

Explaining why Bush can’t feel guilt, Velvel writes: “Given his defense mechanisms, one gathers, and his psychology of having to overcome obstacles, overcome his father, etc., one gathers that Bush is a sociopath (or another word for it, a psychopath). Using charm as a vehicle for aggrandizement, he can’t allow himself to feel guilt and so feels no empathy for all those he smashes up in his pursuit of is grandiosity and delusions.”

There "seems to be wide agreement" that Velvel suffers from "Bush Derangement Syndrome", a condition which causes the victim to:

- become unmoored from logical argument and unburdened with using facts in argumentation, seeking to foreclose any conventional argument by loudly asserting personality deficiencies or insanity of those with differing views
- be prone to grandiose delusions of omniscience particularly with respect to 'knowing' the underlying psychology of people they have never and will never meet
- experience intense feelings of inadequacy, usually due to the deteriorating status of their title and/or institution, typically overcompensating with violent and narcissistic group-identification behaviors, such as intense class-ism or regionalism.
-speak in self-contradicting psychobabble; rationalize empty, emotive arguments by the sheer intensity of their feelings

This condition is particularly common in academia, where many professors have found their position in society is not nearly as revered as they hoped, often, they suspect, for good reason. As a noted expert said "“In everyday life, someone who refuses to recognize the actual facts of the world around him, and who instead lives in a dream world in his head, is regarded as not being sane, as being, to use the blunt words, insane or crazy." But we must have more empathy than to just label these well-meaning souls insane.

There is plenty to criticize in this administration. Thank goodness we have Velvel, Oliver Stone and their ilk to provide light comic relief!

PS: "Dean Velvel is cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, a law school purposefully dedicated to providing minorities, immigrants, and working-class students a quality, affordable legal education." Let's hope the students emerge from the School with argumentation skills better than their Dean, who wouldn't make it in 1L (or high school history) with this - unless it were delivered on cabaret night.

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Testimony: "Sarah Palin's a brainiac" 

The former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine spends time with Sarah Palin and comes away impressed. If you have a lot of liberal friends, I guarantee that you will drive them insane if you send them the link.

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Megyn Kelly for press secretary 

The next Republican president, whoever he or she may be, really ought to hire Megyn Kelly as White House press secretary. Assuming, of course, that Rachel Lucas is willing to move to Washington.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Khalidi tape update: The LAT explains 

A couple of days ago this blog and a few million others on the right kicked up a ruckus over the purported suppression by the Los Angeles Times of a video tape that showed Barack Obama at an event in honor of a fairly unpleasant Palestinian activist. I sent an email to the LAT's ombudsman complaining, and posted the link.

Well, the LAT has explained itself. Apparently it has the tape only by dint of a promise not to release it. The LAT says that it keeps the promises it makes to its sources.

My guess is that this story is not over, but it is probably over for the next week.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Grey Lady tightens her girdle: Cutting back by flying coach! 

Oh, the sacrifices they make!

Bill Keller, the editor-in-chief of the New York Times, apparently felt the need to emphasize to his employees that he is flying coach.

Keller told employees they will have to live on the lean side. "A deep, sustained recession will mean the search for savings and the quest for new revenues continues, that there will be no luxuries and little comfort."

The same goes for him, Keller noted. "I was flying back from California the week before last and by chance I was seated next to someone from the advertising department of the Times. (In economy class, for the record)," he said.

I should hope so. Indeed, it is unfortunate that Keller actually had to make the point, since the New York Times Company has been suffering financially for so long one would have thought that it would have banned first class travel a long time ago.

I am a senior executive -- one step from the top -- in a profitable and reasonably large public company. We fly coach everywhere, including across the Pacific or overnight to Europe. Yes, flying coach around the world is miserably uncomfortable (especially when you have to travel a lot), but at the end of the day it is a small sacrifice compared to other decisions we make to keep our company profitable. How are the leaders of the New York Times Company going to make the tough decisions necessary to save their business if they still have to explain that they are now flying coach?

MORE: Note that my mocking of the Times is not a wish for its demise. I am no gravedancer, and agree with Warren Mayer. I do, however, believe that the Times would greatly improve its business if it moved closer to the American center, rather than the Manhattan center.

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I am sure he meant rich in spirit 

If we needed more evidence that the Obama campaign is confident of victory, consider that it is already defining "rich" down. Rich was $250,000. Now "rich" is, by implication, $200,000, and Joe Biden is bidding $150,000. Anybody ready to bid $100,000?

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A new reason for breast implants 

The Vietnamese have come up with an entirely new reason for breast implants. I guarantee that it is not what you would expect.

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"Why McCain is getting hosed in the press" 

One of the leading hosers of the McCain campaign explains why it is only natural that McCain should get hosed, and, by the way, it has nothing to do with the political opinions of reporters.

Seperately, I'd like to add that the word "hosed" is not used often enough in the mainstream media.

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Why Employee Free Choice is no choice 

Peter Kirsanow explains why the "Employee Free Choice Act" actually strips employees of, well, choice. It is indeed as lucid an explanation as you are likely to read.

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Irony watch: Citing Sarko 

In the bizarro world news of the day, a liberal Israeli newspaper and American conservative bloggers -- count me in! -- are citing the president of France as authority for the proposition that Barack Obama is "immature" in his conception of Iran.

Next thing you know, we will be ignoring our "traditional allies".

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The economy in graphs 

There are a lot of ways to look at the condition of the global economy. This post graphically illustrates how quickly we may be contracting. It is interesting, but you will need to take a Prozac shower after reading it.

Meanwhile, the stock market is up this morning, but we all know the real action happens in the last ten minutes. Check in around 3:45 this afternoon to see where things stand.

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"Small donor" watch: A remarkable report from CBS News 

Via Glenn Reynolds, the Tiffany Network issues a remarkable report on Barack Obama's fundraising.

It is remarkable that CBS News would run a report even this critical of Barack Obama even this late in the election cycle. Too late to make a difference, but early enough to allow CBS to claim it was fair to John McCain!

It is remarkable that this story had to be broken by bloggers and their readers, but entirely unremarkable that CBS News made no mention of that fact.

It is remarkable that the Obama campaign has exploited a loophole -- the "small donation" exception to disclosure requirements -- in the federal campaign finance laws to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. It disabled the standard credit card validation function on its web site so that it could "plausibly" deny any knowledge that thousands of donors had exceeded the legal limit by giving in small bits, and it opted out of the government system to avoid the aggregate spending limits.

It is remarkable that we have heard none of the usual complaints of "money politics" that issue forth from the press when Republicans raise a lot of money. Why would that be?

It is unremarkable that the Democrats and the press were so willing to assassinate campaign finance reform when it worked against their candidate. This year, there is a Republican candidate who -- for better or worse -- has led the fight to regulate campaign finance reform. The "hope and change" candidate has made a mockery of John McCain's principled commitment to campaign finance regulation, humiliating him before his fellow Republicans who never supported the McCain-Feingold law. With the lesson of Barack Obama's bait and switch, will any national politician support campaign finance regulation ever again? There would be no surer sign of stupidity or senility. The regulation of campaign donations is effectively dead, and it was Barack Obama who killed it.

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Unionization in a declining economy 

The Wall Street Journal, which is doing the work the McCain campaign should have done weeks ago, is running an op-ed this morning that makes the useful historical point that the Wagner Act -- our basic federal union law -- significantly prolonged the Great Depression.

Then, in 1937, the DJIA plunged 33% in what is often called "a depression within a depression." Joblessness skyrocketed.

A principal factor in the meltdown that year was the U.S. Supreme Court's surprise 5-4 decision in early April to uphold the constitutionality of the Wagner Act, which had passed two years earlier. This measure, which is still the basis of our labor relations regime, authorized union officials to seek and obtain the power to act as the "exclusive" (that is, the monopoly) bargaining agent over all the front-line employees, including union nonmembers as well as members, in a unionized workplace.

As Amity Shlaes observed in her recent history of the Great Depression, "The Forgotten Man," within a few months after the Wagner Act was upheld, industrial production began to plummet and "the jobs started to disappear, with unemployment moving back to 1931 levels," even as the number of workers under union control was "growing astoundingly."

Given the reality of unions in the workplace, the law meant that efficiency and profitability were compromised, by forcing employers to equally reward their most productive and least productive employees. Therefore subsequent wage increases for some workers led to widespread job losses.

Suffice it to say that "card check," the Employee "Free Choice" Act that Barack Obama has pledged to sign and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are committed to enacting, will increase the unionization of private sector employees. If you believe that the least competent and diligent employee should be paid as much as you (or, obviously, if you are incompetent or dilatory) and if you work in an industry that cannot easily move offshore or be automated, you should be delighted at the prospect. Otherwise, vote McCain.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Interbank markets slowly recover 

I get a lot of mailing list emails that purport to keep me abreast on the latest in financial news. This one, which arrived this evening from the capital markets desk of a major investment bank, was more than usually lucid on a number of subjects:

It is hard (even in a performing countercyclical industry) to trade up when the average High Yield bond has gapped wider by almost 25bps per day. The pressures on the debt and equity markets are just too great. There is still significant delevering, continued forced redemptions by faltering hedge funds, and the economic effects of the "credit crisis" are opaque at best. In fact, there isn't much information value in looking at secondary trading levels of High Yield Bonds or Loans, given this pressure, as there is no fundamental reason why the average Term Loan should be trading below historical recovery rates. The market is going to have trouble trading tighter until the higher quality end of the spectrum improves and the interbank market (the "pipes" of the system) get unclogged.

There is a pretty simple and concise summary of risk measures that can be readily observed that highlight where the interbank market is on a daily basis. One of the most easily observed measures (and easiest to understand) is the TED Spread. It is the interest cost banks pay when borrowing from each other, less the borrowing cost the US Government pays for the same time period. The Economist had a good quick (2 minute) video description of what this measure is and why it matters (link provided here) [embed below added].

As a point of reference, for the two and a half years before the credit crunch began the TED Spread barely moved, and averaged 42bps. During the second half of 2007, the TED spread jumped to 127bps and peaked at 464bps right before the US government announced it plan to take equity stakes in Banks in early October. The good news is that this level has decreased precipitously to 275bps today. The TED Spread has largely traded sideways for the last week, but 3 month LIBOR has continued to decline in this period.

So, despite the Dow making a new cycle low today, and the High Yield market continuing to make new wides, the interbank market is improving, which is a necessary step to getting the debt markets back open to help performing Healthcare companies get access to new funding at rational rates.

The credit markets were, by the way, the main subject of Saturday's episode of "TigerHawk TV," which you might find especially illuminating after having read this post.

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The most ridiculous campaign promise yet 

Who says that there is no room for laughter in these tense final moments of this endless election year? Dane Cook wishes he could bust a line this funny:

And on concerns that Democrats might control both the White House and Congress she said the following.

"Elect us, hold us accountable, and make a judgment and then go from there. But I do tell you that if the Democrats win and have substantial majorities, Congress of the United States will be more bipartisan," said Pelosi.

What a strange world we live in that politicians can say such things and not get laughed off the stage even by their own supporters.

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A note to Princeton alumni 

The "Prince" staff writes a blog called "The Prox." Lotsa pitchers 'n' stuff.

In case you are interested. I'll put it on the sidebar under "Specialty Blogs."

MORE: And don't miss this under-watched YouTube video of a flight over the university on a beautiful fall day. It is better in hi-res.

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A new O'Quiz is up! Test your command of ridiculous factoids against the Quiz and your peers. This week's quiz seems easier than most -- I scored 8 out of ten against a current average score of 6.44 -- but the typical "passing" O'Quiz score would be a D or F in most high schools.

As usual, post your scores in the comments section. But only if your ego can handle it.

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Traffic as an economic indicator 

Declining gasoline prices notwithstanding, traffic on Southern California's highways seems to have fallen off dramatically. Is that because habits of conservation learned in the last year have become, well, habits, or is it just another sign that the economy is in a power dive?

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Tank Watch: Is the press buying access? 

Jonah Goldberg makes a very smart point that goes a long way to explaining why the a major newspaper would bury a video that casts Barack Obama in a bad light, the entire national media would ignore his campaign's uncontrolled donations process, and this year's myriad other offenses to the craft of journalism:

[A]s a general proposition I think there's an additional explanation why the press has been burrowing deeper into the Obama camp: post-election access. This is certainly not news to you, but most of the reporters covering these campaigns want to be rewarded with White House correspondent jobs. Others just want access to the next administration. Many figure that ripping into the Obama campaign now would be like wounding the king without killing him.

It is essential that the Obama campaign sustain that dynamic for the next week, and it explains why it has so harshly cut off those few journalists who do not hew the line.

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"Card check" link of the day 

The Corner's Peter Kirsanow continues to post about the Employee "Free Choice" Act, the most underpublicized among Barack Obama's worst policy prescriptions. Excerpt:

Some of the commentary responding to my observations about EFCA's mandatory arbitration provisions emphasized the benefits to workers of getting a contract done quickly; no longer can employers drag out negotiations to the point that employees want to get rid of the union. Under EFCA, the employees will get a "contract" in a more timely fashion.

False. They won't get a contract.

Under EFCA, the terms set by the arbitrator will be the furthest thing from a "contract." It won't be an agreement between management and labor. Rather, wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment will be dictated by a government appointed arbitrator. The mandate will be binding on the parties for two years. Neither the company nor the employees can reject it (At least when the Central Committee set the wages for tractor assembly workers in the Leningradskaya oblast there was always the possibility that the wages might change later that afternoon).

Broken-record time: The Employee Free Choice Act is a terrible piece of legislation. If Barack Obama wins the White House and the donks book big gains in the Senate, it is hard to see what stops this job-destroying law.

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Hominids: Smarter than you think 

There is new evidence that hominids learned how to start and control fire almost 800,000 years ago, much earlier than has long been believed.

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Deflating graph of the day 

This graph shows "breakeven" inflation rates embedded in treasury inflation-protected securities. The breakeven rate is the average CPI that would have to be experienced over the life of the bond for the yield to be exactly the same as the non-inflation protected bond. The three lines represent the two-year breakeven (yellow), 5 yr (orange) and 10 year (white) over the last few months.

The market is implying annual deflation of 5% in CPI (headline) over the next two years. Mind you, there are no post-war periods of ten years or more with inflation less than 2%.

For reference, here is a long term plot of year-over-year CPI change.

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The Khalidi tape: The Los Angeles Times needs to come clean 

Andy McCarthy poses a useful thought experiment:

Let’s try a thought experiment. Say John McCain attended a party at which known racists and terror mongers were in attendance. Say testimonials were given, including a glowing one by McCain for the benefit of the guest of honor ... who happened to be a top apologist for terrorists. Say McCain not only gave a speech but stood by, in tacit approval and solidarity, while other racists and terror mongers gave speeches that reeked of hatred for an American ally and rationalizations of terror attacks.

Now let’s say the Los Angeles Times obtained a videotape of the party.

Question: Is there any chance — any chance — the Times would not release the tape and publish front-page story after story about the gory details, with the usual accompanying chorus of sanctimony from the oped commentariat? Is there any chance, if the Times was the least bit reluctant about publishing (remember, we’re pretending here), that the rest of the mainstream media (y’know, the guys who drove Trent Lott out of his leadership position over a birthday-party toast) would not be screaming for the release of the tape?

Er, no.

If this seems a bit inside blogball, read Andy's piece and Gateway Pundit's original work on the subject (which I linked a few days back).

It seems to me that the credibility of the Los Angeles Times, such as it is, requires that it release this tape or, at a minimum, describe exactly what is on the tape and provide a cogent explanation why it will not be released. That much should have happened already, and it needs to happen today or tomorrow so that voters can have enough time to make up their own minds about the tape's significance.

Furthermore, if there are mainstream media reporters out there who know the editors of the Los Angeles Times, it is your job to interview them. You are now on notice that there is a potentially huge cover-up going on. C'mon! Are you sitting on the campaign bus next to the LA Times guy? Ask him to give you his boss's cell phone number and get the damned interview!

Yeah, right. As if a reporter would actually do that.

In case you are interested, here is the link to the "readers' representative" page, where you can send an email inviting the LAT to dig more deeply.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama has wanted to "spread the wealth" for a long time 

Barack Obama's ambition to use the law to redistribute wealth pre-dated the impact of the "Bush" tax cuts. Check out these interview excerpts from 2001:

This video has only been seen about 1650 times so far; I suspect that number is going to go up a lot in the next few days.

MORE: Drudge linked to the video this morning, so its viewership is going through the roof. We were one of the first bloggers to get it up, though, so if you check in here regularly you probably saw it here first! Anyway, Ace has much more, including an audio file of the entire interview.

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A cautionary tale 

If you are a climate change activist, it is probably best not to make specific predictions that will be quickly proven wrong.

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The consequences of the sexist attacks on Sarah Palin 

The director of an advocacy organization for women, Women's Watch, eloquently denounced the sexist attacks on Sarah Palin in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

I cannot predict who will win the presidential campaign, but I already know who will lose big: all women.

I realized this when I saw a 20-something male student who attends a class in the community college where I teach, wearing a T-shirt that read, "Sarah Palin is a C-." He wore it in public, in broad daylight, and without shame or even consciousness of what he was doing....

The sexism that I believed had been eradicated was lurking, like some creature from the black lagoon, just below the surface. Suddenly it erupted and in some unexpected places.

Instead of engaging Palin on the issues, critics attacked attributes that are specifically female. It is Hillary's pantsuit drama to the power of 10. Palin's hair, her voice, her motherhood, and her personal hygiene were substituted for substance. That's when it was nice.

The hatred escalated to performers advocating Palin be "gang raped," to suggestions that her husband had had sex with their young daughters, and reports that her Down syndrome child really was that of her teenage daughter. One columnist even called for her to submit to DNA testing to prove her virtue. Smells a little like Salem to me. I was present at an Obama rally at which the mention of Palin's name drew shouts of "stone her."

"Stone her"? How biblical.

The sexism direct at Palin really has been appalling. Everybody has their own yardstick, but for me it is this: There is essentially no criticism aimed at Palin that does not apply in spades to John Edwards, yet we heard none of this garbage from the media or in popular culture in 2004. The differences between Palin and Edwards on such matters as relevant experience, attractiveness, vanity, fitness as a parent and spouse, character, an appealing personal narrative, charisma, and so forth are small and favor Palin where there is a difference, yet we heard none of these attacks four years ago. There are only two possible explanations for the disparate treatment, and they probably both apply. The first is the gender of the target -- it is easier for people who have a mental image of the president as a man to conclude that Edwards was "ready" to be president and Palin is not. The second reason is, as Glenn Reynolds observes, "when you campaign for The One all sins are forgiven in advance." I think it is very hard to find a third plausible explanation for the different treatment of Palin and Edwards.

Helen McCaffrey is right about this: In its zeal to elect Barack Obama, the Left and its fellow travelers in the popular culture have legitimized a certain kind of contempt for women, a belief that if you cannot visualize a woman in a job it is somehow acceptable to blackball her candidacy. The presidential election of 2008 has, indeed, been disastrous for the cause of women who would compete on the same field as men.

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Murtha and Biden on SNL 

I was cooling my heels in Newark airport last night and schlepping around to prep schools for most the day today, so I am probably the last righty in America to see the hilarious drubbing of Joe Biden and Jack Murtha on "Saturday Night Live" last night. True, SNL waited until the conventional wisdom declared Barack Obama's lead to be insurmountable, but if it takes down Jack Murtha it will have made a useful contribution nonetheless. As a public service for those of you who are even more behind than I am, here it is:

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The rise and fall of the SUV 

The New York Times business section this morning features a long article on the automobile industry. It includes this graphic breaking down sales of General Motors SUVs by model and year. The volatility is almost as shocking as the apparent inability of GM management to anticipate at least some of it.

General Motors SUV sales trends

I, for one, am glad that the SUV "era" is over. Yes, we own one which we use for pulling our horse trailer, but it is wasteful and annoying that the large ones became routine transportation in the suburbs. I will not be sorry to see fewer of the "dreadnought class" on New Jersey roads. You cannot see through them, you cannot see around them, and too often their drivers do not understand that they are driving a truck, not a car. There is a difference.

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Air travel blows, part deux 

Because I know you care, I did not get to Brussels last night. After nine hours in Newark airport, most of it spent at the gate surrounded by agitated Belgians, I threw in the towel and drove home, arriving -- unexpectedly, of course -- at 3 a.m. It was joyful for everybody.

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Obama flunks SOX 

Mark Steyn has more on the hilarious and probably intentional failure of internal controls at the Obama campaign. If it were a public company it would have to disclose a material weakness, and its auditors would wonder whether its "tone from the top" had actually encouraged the practices in question. Fortunately for politicians of all parties, we do not hold government to anything like the same standard of accountability that applies to private businesses with public stockholders.

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"I am Bill" (Ayers) 

Only read this if you enjoy the funny stuff.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Air travel blows 

I've been in Newark Airport for six hours. My flight to Brussels (Continental 60, for those of you keeping track at home), scheduled to leave at 6:30, has been delayed on account of equipment problems. I would not mind so much, except that the staff here has passed along consistently wrong information. If at any point Continental had given a realistic forecast of the departure, I could have repaired to the lounge or even cancelled my trip. Instead, I am really tired, and have not even begun to fly.

Sadly, when it comes to air travel, truth is the first casualty.

RUBBING SALT IN THE WOUND: In the category of modern miracles, I've been swapping emails with colleagues who are in Sydney working on a project. It being Sunday afternoon there, they decided to have drinks on the harbor. This photo is not five minutes old (as of 12:06 a.m.)...

Sydney Opera House

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The WFTV kerfuffle 

A newscaster from WFTV in Florida grills Joe Biden, and the campaign puts the station out in the cold. My friend Fausta is, well, peeved.

Naturally, I have several reactions.

First, the questions were, indeed, obnoxious to the point of being ineffective. Whatever we think of Barack Obama, you have to get pretty fringy to think that he is actually a Marxist. Biden won that exchange when he asked "are you kidding me?" Silly Joe the Plumber questions crowded out an excellent opportunity to quote Biden back to Biden and really make him squirm.

Second, journalists ask equally obnoxious, left-wing conspiracy-oriented questions of Republicans all the time. The effect is different, though, because we are used to seeing aggressive questioning in that direction. You get the feeling that "people" think it is less cricket when the VRWC actually gets a television reporter to carry its water. That asymmetry gives the Obama campaign the air cover to cut off those few journalists who take the gloves off.

Third, Fausta is absolutely right that Joe Biden lied -- or is at least shockingly ill-informed -- when he said that the Obama campaign had given no money to ACORN. In fact, it has given $800,000 to a subsidiary of ACORN. Now, you might defend Joe on the ground that he was making a technically true point from a corporate governance perspective, but that strikes me as answer-parsing to a Clintonesque degree. Does anybody think that the corporate veil transfigures Biden's "not one cent" denial from total horse-pucky to something akin to truth?

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Is an Obama victory inevitable? 

Regular readers know that I am as prone to despair as the next McCain supporter (notwithstanding to wear my McCain/Palin hat in such hostile venues as Princeton and Newark Airport), but is it really true that Barack Obama is headed for a landslide victory? Consider this unscientific argument contra. Whether or not the author is right, you know he is unafraid to be mocked.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Jews for Obama 

A friend of mine who supports Barack Obama and who separately dislikes the Israeli right, bent my ear about all the support Obama was getting from American Jews who were fed up with the Bush administration. Actually, according to the polls Jews are supporting Obama at the same rate that they supported John Kerry, about 75%. I am unpersuaded that voting for Obama is the most self-interested thing that Jews might do on November 4, but he is a Democrat and has certainly said the right things recently. The question, of course, is whether Jews are the rubes. More on that here, and here. Not to mention here.

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Clintonian signals: A TigerHawk poll 

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will campaign together for the first time next week. Does that mean (i) Bill and Hillary Clinton have decided that Barack Obama is in trouble and might not win, (ii) Bill and Hillary have decided that Barack Obama is definitely going to win, or (iii) neither, it is just devious Axelrodian strategery.

Since I will be flying to Brussels all evening, take the poll!

Why is Bill Clinton campaigning side-by-side with Barack Obama next week?
Because Bill and Hill have decided that Obama might lose, and they do not want to be blamed.
Because Bill and Hill have decided that Obama is definitely going to win, so they might as well suck up.
Neither, it is just some nefarious campaign strategery.
Free polls from Pollhost.com

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TigerHawk TV: Memories of my grandfathers 

My second, and perhaps last, video blog post is up. I discuss the current financial crisis, take the long view, and ask that Princeton do me the favor of beating Harvard. Your comments, generous and otherwise, are welcome as long as they are interesting, funny or constructive. Presumably that is a low standard.

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The latest psychological ailment 

In these parlous times one has to get one's yucks somewhere. Fortunately, there is straight-faced comedy gold on the front page of the New York Times this morning:

Gov. David A. Paterson’s top aide resigned on Friday, stripping the governor of his right-hand man just as he prepares to tackle a worsening fiscal crisis that could make or break his first term.

The resignation of the aide, Charles J. O’Byrne, came a week after revelations that he had failed to pay his federal and state income taxes for five years beginning in 2001, which he said was a result of his clinical depression.

Mr. Paterson had initially expressed support for Mr. O’Byrne, saying that he did not believe Mr. O’Byrne’s past tax problems and depression should force him out of a job he did well.

But statements from Mr. O’Byrne’s lawyer that his tax delinquency was close to $300,000 and that he may have suffered from a syndrome that causes people to not file their taxes worked to intensify the furor, which seemed likely to disrupt Mr. Paterson’s focus on the legislative elections and the budget talks ahead.

If this new pathology catches on in a big way, America's pharmaceutical companies ought to get to work on a systemic drug that prevents it. That would certainly put them back in the good graces of the Democrats.

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The government bubble: When will it crash? 

Is the generational surge in "human resources" spending by the government its own bubble? If it is true that all things eventually come to an end, what will be the end of the modern welfare state?

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MoveOn makes a funny 

MoveOn.org has produced a viral video that even I think is pretty funny. Here's an example customized for occasional TigerHawk comment troll (and former TigerHawk roommate), Christopher Chambers.

Yeah, I know, I should not publicize anything that MoveOn does. Well, lefties so rarely display a sense of humor about politics that when they do I think we should give them credit.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Annals of medicine: Another advance in the war on MS 

Regular readers know that a loved one suffers from MS, and that I occasionally report on interesting advances in the war on that disease. Today we learn that a leukemia drug may improve outcomes in multiple sclerosis patients:

Researchers at the University of Cambridge said Thursday they have found that a drug originally developed to treat leukaemia can halt and even reverse the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS).

In trials, alemtuzumab reduced the number of attacks in sufferers and also helped them recover lost functions, apparently allowing damaged brain tissue to repair so that individuals were less disabled than at the start of the study.

"The ability of an MS drug to promote brain repair is unprecedented," said Dr Alasdair Coles, a lecturer at Cambridge university's department of clinical neurosciences, who coordinated many aspects of the study.

"We are witnessing a drug which, if given early enough, might effectively stop the advancement of the disease and also restore lost function by promoting repair of the damaged brain tissue."

Wow. Let us keep our fingers crossed that others can replicate these findings. And let's do it faster, please.

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Registration politics 

ACORN has apparently lied -- at least in the "Bush lied, people died" meaning of the word -- about the numbers of new voters it has registered. Forget those 1.3 million new voters; the truth is roughly 1/3 [typo fixed] that number. And this according to the New York Times.

Community organizers, apparently, are as prone to lying as politicians. There's something to remember in that.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Tax accountant wanted 

Work for TigerHawk!

If you are an experienced (7-10 years) corporate tax accountant with demonstrable FIN 48/FAS 109 experience, would like an exciting career in a recession-proof industry, and live within commuting distance of Princeton, New Jersey, I have a great job with your name on it. Send an email with your expression of interest and some few facts to support your claim of experience to tigerhawkblog@gmail.com. I'll respond with more details if you appear to be a qualified candidate.

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Forward this to your liberal friends... 

...in the event of a McCain victory!

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"Card check" unionization video of the day 

Today's Employee "Free Choice" Act video:

Unions pose a classic problem in economics. By leveraging specific legal privileges, they are able to capture benefits for their current members and externalize the costs both to the businesses that they "organize" and other sectors of the economy. It works for a while, because an industry can, for a time, shift profits from its investors to the union members. Eventually, though, things fall apart. Quality declines because workers know that they really cannot be fired, customers leave, and capital flees to businesses that generate higher returns. If you doubt me, consider the relative health of the heavily unionized industries: Railroads, airlines, automobile manufacturing, newspapers, and integrated steel. The unionized businesses in all those industries provide famously worse service than the non-union businesses. See, e.g., Southwest Airlines vs. U.S. Air or United, and General Motors or Chrysler vs. Honda or Toyota.

Involuntary unionization: Just the thing we need to restart growth in the economy.

MORE: I am an idiot for going from memory rather than checking. Fortunately, I have layers of fact-checkers! Southwest Airlines is unionized, as various commenters have pointed out.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

George McGovern on "card check" 

John McCain will not make the case against compulsory "card check" unionization, but George McGovern will:


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The Obama campaign: A material weakness in internal controls 

As a chief financial officer and student of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley law, I have both a practical and a philosophical interest in "internal controls" over financial transactions. It fascinates me that one presidential campaign -- John McCain's -- appears to have adequate internal controls in place to prevent purely fraudulent campaign donations, and the other -- Barack Obama's -- does not. Is it out of line to wonder whether his campaign's casual regard for controls will extend into Barack Obama's White House?

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God validates Sarah Palin: Arctic sea ice returns to normal range 

Arctic sea ice, the melting of which has become one of the favorite bits of pop-sci "evidence" that the planet's climate is warming, has recovered so quickly from its summer lows that it is just a hair below the "normal" range.

In recent years the press has covered every twitch in Arctic sea ice coverage with breathless headlines. Not now, though. Given that this manifestly good news would undercut those who have mocked Sarah Palin for her position on, well, the "endangerment" of polar bears, we should not expect any coverage of this story in the mainstream media until the second week in November.

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If you need only one reason to vote against Barack Obama... 

As I have written before, if you need only one reason to vote against Barack Obama it should be the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act. Peter Kirsanow makes the point here, and I will write something much longer when I get a moment. Suffice it to say that it will radically alter the relationship between employers and workers, and not in a good way. Unions will be able to organize your workplace without an election, and will be able to force binding arbitration of collective bargaining agreements simply by sticking to an unreasonable position for four months. Obama has made its enactment a priority, and with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress it is hard to see what stops this bad bill from becoming law. Yes, it will be a great boon for the labor unions that provide the foot soldiers in Democratic elections, but it will create an enormous incentive move jobs outside the United States.

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Stuff is getting cheaper in a hurry, and that's the opportunity 

Help is on the way, but Barack Obama is not the help you have been waiting for. Prices are the help you have been waiting for.

If you actually have money, lots of things are becoming inexpensive in a hurry.

If you are "short" a house, they are getting cheaper very fast. For example, if you need a decent five bedroom house in Princeton, New Jersey, we can put you in our "extra" one for a lot less than we would have wanted a year ago.

The price of oil is down 54% since July. Do you buy oil, or things made from oil?

The Euro is down from $1.60 to $1.28. That means that anything made or sold by Europeans is 20% cheaper than it was in the spring.

Even Google shares are getting cheaper, but not as fast as other companies. The market capitalization of Google, which has fallen by half in the last year, still exceeds Boeing, MMM, and American Express combined.

This is all so much cold comfort if you have lost your job and cannot get another one, or if you borrowed more money than you can afford to pay back even if you keep your job. If, though, you keep your job, live as far below your means as you can force yourself to do, pay off debt, save your money, and keep your eyes wide open to opportunity, the conditions necessary to build the next fortunes, large and small, are unfolding right now.

That's as inspirational as I am likely to get today.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

3000 professors "support" William Ayers 

Three thousand professors have signed a statement of support for William Ayers. Presumably the purpose of this is to mainstream Ayers and show solidarity with the version of Barack Obama who was Ayers' friend, as opposed to the more recent Obama who just happened to live in the same neighborhood.

Then there are those who hope to validate their own anti-war years:

Keach voiced a similar opinion regarding Ayers's involvement with the Weather Underground, saying he "disagree(s) with Ayers's tactics," but he signed the statement "without any hesitation." Keach also protested the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, and said he wanted to show "solidarity" with Ayers.

My reaction: Only 3000 professors have signed this petition? There are, after all, 1.7 million tertiary education instructors (professors and instructors universities, colleges, and junior colleges), a majority of whom hold opinions well to the left of the center of even the Democratic Party.

MORE: The list is here. The only Princeton name is one Jan Logan, the Assistant Director, University Center for Human Values. Hilariously, his her office address is 306 Marx Hall. I shit you not.

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Red meat: Sarah Palin on foreign policy 

The most accessible candidate on any national ticket imagines the crises that Joe Biden was warning us to prepare for. Not bad stuff. While I agree with FP Passport that Palin's worry that Russia might invade the Ukraine in the near future is probably misplaced, it is bizarrely comforting to see old-fashioned Bear-baiting make a comeback. Makes me feel as though we are back in familiar territory.

Anyway, enjoy.

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Tiger pictures of the day! 

You rarely see women in bikinis swimming with tigers...

Hello, kitty!

Tiger cuddles

Tiger picture of the day


CWCID: A loyal reader.

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The new survivalists 

The preparedness meme continues to intrude on the MSM. This from MSNBC:
With foreclosure rates running rampant, financial institutions teetering and falling, prices for many goods and services climbing, and jobs being slashed, many Americans are making preparations for worse times ahead. For some, that means cutting spending and saving more. For others, it means taking a step into survivalism, once regarded solely as the province of religious End-of-Timers, sci-fi fans and extremists.

That often manifests itself as a desire to secure basic emergency resources — what survival guru Jim Wesley Rawles describes as “beans, bullets and Band-Aids.”

Rawles, speaking by phone from an “undisclosed location” somewhere between the Cascades and the Rocky Mountains, said he has seen traffic on his Web site, SurvivalBlog.com, explode in the last year.
This isn't news to regular readers, but I enjoyed the reference to our favorite daily preparedness read, Survivalblog.

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That whole free lunch thing 

Steve Saville:
Now that the investment boom has gone bust and the necessary adjustment process has begun, we are being told incessantly that the solution to the problems caused by massive increases in the supplies of money and credit is additional massive increases in the supplies of money and credit. And given that the private banking industry is no longer capable of driving the monetary expansion, we are being told that the central bank and the government must become even more involved.

The latest in a long line of policy moves designed to curtail the necessary adjustment process is the government's plan to provide capital directly to the banks. It seems that almost everyone is in favour of this idea, which suggests, to us, that few people appreciate the basic economic truth that the government has no capital. Any capital provided by the government to the banks will first have to be extracted from other parts of the economy via taxation or inflation or borrowing. In other words, the government's provision of additional capital to sick businesses can only happen at the expense of the more healthy parts of the economy.

Whether the advocates of increased government spending and the various other re-inflation policies realise it or not, at the root of their proposed 'solutions' to the crisis is the idea that it is possible to get something for nothing. It is axiomatic that an increase in production must precede a sustained increase in consumption; that saving is the basis of long-term economic growth; that no individual can become rich by spending more than he earns; and that no country can become wealthy, or recover from a recession, by consuming more than it produces. And yet, most commentators have deluded themselves into believing that you can get around the problem of inadequate real savings by simply increasing the supply of the medium of exchange, and that you can bypass the need for increased consumption to be funded by increased production by simply getting the government to spend like a drunken sailor.
This makes a lot of sense to me, and unfortunately does not bode well for the strategies that have been enacted to date. But I'm no economist. Why is Saville wrong?

(CWCID: Mish)

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The stupidist "ethics" prosecution in the history of the universe 

Fellow Princetonian Alison Leigh Cowan has uncovered the "zero tolerance" outrage of the month.

A Brooklyn high school librarian donated a copy of his daughter's new book -- a well-reviewed graphic novelization of "Macbeth" -- to the school library and placed it on the library's "new books" table with a little sign that said "Best Book Ever Written." A totally understandable "proud father" move if there ever was one.

So naturally he was hauled before New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board, fined $500, and forced to sign a confession. The librarian sadly un-donated his daughter's book and expunged it from the library's catalog.

There are two stories here, one comic and the other tragic. The comedy is in the idea that New York City's "Conflicts of Interest Board" could not find anything more egregious to investigate than this father who is proud of his daughter. It is not as if he sold her books to parents. He put an obviously humorous sign under what is by all indications a meritorious new book that he had given to a public school library. No parent ever took Girl Scout cookie orders in a New York City office?

The tragedy, of course, is that the petty little turds who rendered this decision have humiliated this man who is working for the children in New York's public schools. What possible lesson should come from this other than that New York government is a crushing bureaucratic combine?

A link to the offending version "Macbeth" in question is below. According to a reviewer on Amazon, it is "far superior to Cliff Notes or the old Classic Comics" as a primer on the play. Get it for your kids and poke New York City's ethics inquisition in the eye!

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The "comprehensive" argument against Barack Obama 

Hot Air posts the "comprehensive" case against Barack Obama. Sadly, it is far from comprehensive. Among other omissions, it ignores the single most idiotic plank in his economic platform: "card check" unionization and other "reforms" designed to destroy the fluidity of the American labor market. Read the Heritage Foundation's critique of the "Employee Free Choice Act" -- an Orwellian title if there ever was one. In addition to depriving employees of their right to vote on whether to unionize, it gives the unions enormous leverage in negotiations over collective bargaining agreements. It is hard to imagine a more efficient way to drive "good jobs" off shore.

Fortunately for Mexicans, Chinese, Pakistanis, and even some Europeans, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid all support this law. It is rare that all these countries get so much support from American politicians, even Democrats.

If you run a business with more than a very few employees, if Barack Obama wins your life is going to get much more complicated long about March next year.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Euro rout 

Since early this morning on the East coast of the United States, the price of a Euro in dollar terms has fallen from around $1.32 to $1.29, or more than 2% in less than a single day. How low with the Euro go?

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Beat me to it 

I was going to write something on Jacob Weisberg's incredibly illogical attempt to pin the financial crisis on 'libertarianism' (quotes because Weisberg is definitionally challenged).

and Matt beat me to the punch.

Here's a choice bit from Matt Welch, pointing out how Weisberg's drole little spit-ball of ennui has backfired:
Weisberg's beef with libertarians stretches back from even before the speculative capital-fueled Internet boom helped create his current job (along with the charity of a man whose wealth Weisberg finds downright immoral). No doubt he, like Thomas Frank and everyone named Naomi (not to mention their ideological cousins on the neoconservative side of the aisle), wants to use a second blip in a quarter century of consistent growth and worldwide poverty-reduction as an excuse to pretend that capitalism is fundamentally flawed, or that libertarians ever had anything to do with George W. Bush.

Is this the New Regime getting ready to round up the first ideological suspects against the wall? I'd suggest something far more comical. There's something almost poignant about the bland Process Liberal center-left, with a financial crisis in its quiver and a super-majority wind at its back, still feeling wobbly enough to attack a set of ideas that are marginal at best to the two-party debate. Why, it's almost as if Weisberg's not confident that Americans will join him in Defending Government!

Ilya Somin lays out a few of the logical problems:
Recent American economic policy has not been especially pro-market in areas outside finance regulation either. During his first five years in office, George W. Bush presided over the biggest expansion of government spending in decades, including a major increase in regulatory spending.

Second, even if one can say that the US was following market-based policies in recent years, the same can't be said of European nations such as Germany, Iceland, and Spain, all of which have had mortgage/financial crises at least as severe as ours. If the financial crisis discredits "libertarianism" in the US, does it also discredit German social democracy? In my view, neither is true. But Weisberg's logic points in that direction.

At some point I'll write that post naming one of the obvious villains in the financial crisis - Basel II and the race to the risk-based bottom it encouraged. Nobody will read it, but the truth has its own merits.

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GirdingGate: Looking at the bright side 

FP Passport observes that Joe Biden's suggestion that we "gird our loins" against a possible testing attack early in Barack Obama's presidency is not helpful for the Democrats:

The problem is, seven years after 9/11, and despite several valiant efforts, Democrats still have a hard time talking about fighting terrorism in a way that both tough enough and convincing. Luckily for them, the enormity of the financial crisis is likely to eclipse the fallout from Biden's comments in a few days, but it's a problem that the party is going to need to figure out. Until then, Biden is probably right to just change the subject and wait for this to blow over.

You have to admit, the probable elevation of Joe Biden to the Vice Presidency has its possibilities.

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Of all the Republican endorsements that Barack Obama has collected, none are more rattling than Ken Adelman. James Joyner explains why, and rightly observes:

It strikes me as odd, indeed, to vote for a presidential candidate who disagrees with you on the most fundamental issues in the vague hope that he’s been lying to you throughout the entire campaign.

And Obama's campaign has portrayed him as substantially to the right of his personal history.

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A curious tidbit from Iran 

In today's Iran News Round-Up by Michael Rubin, Ali Alfoneh, and Ahmad Majidyar, there is this curious aside:

Former Islamic Republic foreign minister Ebrahim Yazdi: "One of my grandchildren is active in the [U.S. presidential candidate] Obama campaign and asked me to meet Obama, but since I did not consider a meeting with Obama proper, I abstained from doing so...prior to the revolution we had secret activities, but in present circumstances we don't believe in secret and opaque activities [meetings with the U.S. presidential candidate]..."

Any Farsi readers out there who can validate the translation in the link? How about journalists willing to ask the Obama campaign whether it proposed or discussed a "secret" meeting with Yazdi?

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In the wilderness 

Here is an amusing article about how Hollywood Republicans -- a couple of nice cats, as my father would have said -- are "stifled." At the risk of drawing ire from those of you who wish me to stay positive, I fear that condition will spread like an epidemic in the next year. As Joe Biden recommends in such circumstances, gird your loins.

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My whereabouts 

I'm either driving or in budget meetings most of the day, so blogging from me, at least, will be light. Send me amusing links to my now functioning and correctly-typed email address, and I'll put them up when I get a break. If I can I will put up a couple of scheduled posts.

In the meantime, note that the oil markets do not believe, so far, that OPEC's putative production cuts will have a meaningful impact on oil prices. How low do you think oil will go in the next three months?

Also, note that the Euro is down to around $1.32. The dollar has risen against the Euro by almost 20% since the spring. Perhaps we are not headed in the wrong direction after all! Anyway, if you still have cash money, that European vacation you wanted to take is a lot cheaper than it was in July.

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News you can use: Disco can save your life! 

This bit of news puts the Bee Gees in an entirely new light:

When it comes to performing CPR, the trick may be in channelling your inner Bee Gee.

A new study shows that matching the tempo of the Bee Gees' 1977 disco classic "Stayin' Alive" helps people performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation to reach 100 chest compressions per minute, the mark recommended by both the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the American Heart Association.

Of course, listening to that music would sap one's will to live, which might well countervail the benefit of more perfectly timed CPR.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Palin appeases, and pleases, the national media 

Sarah Palin seems to have disposed of at least one objection of her critics, that she has not made herself available to the national press corps:

It was less than two weeks ago when Sarah Palin astonished her traveling press corps by lifting the curtain (literally) and journeying to the back of her campaign plane to answer reporters’ questions for the first time after 40 days on the campaign trail. But the candidate who has been criticized for having a bunker mentality when it came to the national media can now lay legitimate claim to being more accessible than either Joe Biden or Barack Obama.

In the past two days alone, Palin has answered questions from her national press corps on three separate occasions. On Saturday, she held another plane availability, and on Sunday, she offered an impromptu press conference on the tarmac upon landing in Colorado Springs. A few minutes later, she answered even more questions from reporters during an off-the-record stop at a local ice cream shop.

By contrast, Biden hasn’t held a press conference in more than a month, and Obama hasn’t taken questions from his full traveling press corps since the end of September. John McCain—who spent most of the primary season holding what seemed like one, never-ending media availability—hasn’t done one since Sept. 23.

It is obvious that Sarah Palin is coming up to speed rapidly, which in turn give credence to this thesis.

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Broken record time 

Arctic sea ice is now more than 30% above the level of 365 days ago. Of course, you already knew that from the headlines in the important newspapers announcing the glad tidings that the Arctic ice cap may not melt to nothing after all.

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He Said What? 

Joe Biden continues to bear gifts for John McCain.

In this particular installment, Biden tells supporters that some adversary of the US is likely to create an international incident to test Obama, and the Obama- Biden ticket will need their supporters to, well, support them, because it's not clear that whatever path of action they choose will "be right."

Where does this guy come up with this stuff? Please read the entire thing.

He goes on to make some hubristic comment about having forgotten more about foreign policy than most others know, thereby making me feel even better about the Democratic ticket and its ability to manage foreign policy.

Ok, let's give Biden his due. He's probably right on this one. If elected, Obama will face a serious and dangerous foregin policy challenge early in his presidency.

Who's that make you want to vote for?

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