Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Governor Awesome, please free Brian Aitken 

Dear Governor Awesome (by whom I mean New Jersey Governor Chris Christie): It is well-documented by now that I am one of your biggest fans. Indeed, I claim credit for the first online use of the "Governor Awesome" moniker, which has now spread far and wide. I would consider it a huge favor if you would free Brian Aitken. Not only does his conviction probably violate the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, it makes me sick.

Here is Brian's web page.

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Wikileaks: Other precincts heard from 

Right on schedule...

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Battlestar Galactica on sale 

Lest there was any doubt that I'm a total geek, I consider it my bounden duty to link to Amazon's huge sale on the complete series of Battlestar Galactica. I bought it because my individual disks are hither and yon, and it is high time I watched it all the way through from beginning to end. It is really, really, good.

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The NYT and Wikileaks: A puzzle I cannot crack 

It will surprise nobody that the editors of the New York Times are all for the Wikileaks dump, and that they conclude that the Obama administration is far more creditable than its predecessor. Quel surpise. Their editorial on the subject is, however, a classic example of the just plain strange reasoning and intellectual dishonesty that characterize that paper's usual editorial voice. There are at least two examples.

First, the editorial concludes that the leaks are in and of themselves a good thing:

There are legitimate reasons for keeping many diplomatic conversations secret. The latest WikiLeaks revelations will cause awkward moments not least because they contain blunt assessments of world leaders. The claim by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the leaks threaten national security seems exaggerated. The documents are valuable because they illuminate American policy in a way that Americans and others deserve to see.

Bizarrely, the editors do not address or even acknowledge the principle concern of the sainted Obama administration and its more thoughtful critics: That these disclosures will make future diplomacy much more difficult because our interlocutors around the world will be much less likely to be candid with us, and our foreign service officers will be much more guarded in their internal communications. If our State Department becomes (even) less effective as a result, will that not as a bureaucratic matter raise the influence of the intelligence agencies and the military, both disfavored by the Times? How do you write such an editorial and not deal with that?

Then there is this (emphasis added):
The administration may well be uncomfortable about disclosures of its wheeling and dealing to try to get governments to accept prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Slovenia was told that taking a prisoner was the price for a meeting with President Obama. We wish that the White House had been as energetic and inventive in its attempts to get Congress to shut down the prison.

Huh? How do you shut down Gitmo without first moving the prisoners? Since the number of Americans who would accept the transfer of those prisoners to the United States is roughly the sum total of the editorial board of the New York Times and the management of the ACLU, transferring the prisoners elsewhere is the only practical way to "shut down the prison." Even if you disagreed and support the transfer of the Gitmo detainees to the United States, the editorial would be more honest -- and orders of magnitude more credible -- if it made that point instead of eliding over it.

The editors of the Times are not just liberals, they are liberals who actively make their own side look thoughtless by pretending not to know -- or simply not knowing -- the main counterarguments against their position.

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"Miss me yet?" 

A "miss me yet?" billboard that is downright nasty.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Wonkery: Tyler Cowen updates his view of Obamacare 

Libertarian economist and longtime blogger Tyler Cowen updates his various opinions about Obamacare, including its likelihood of success. Worth reading, along with at least a few of the comments.

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Wikileaks and the Hezbollah war: Ambulances as ammunition trucks 

Longstanding blog readers will remember the controversy that erupted during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah over alleged war crimes by the combatants (my post on the subject here), including charges, abetted by the media and Human Rights Watch, that Israel had targeted ambulances. While various analysts, including one brilliant blogger, convincingly showed that at least some of these accusations against Israel were fraudulent and founded on manufactured evidence, Human Rights Watch has continued to assert that Israel's attacks on ambulances were criminal (see pages 5, 37, 39, and 43, among others).

Today, courtesy Wikileaks and French wire service AFP, we learn that Iran and Hezbollah were indeed using ambulances to smuggle munitions during that very war.

Iran used Red Crescent ambulances to smuggle weapons and agents into Lebanon during Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel, a leaked US diplomatic cable showed on Monday.

The 2008 classified cable which originated in Dubai quotes an Iranian source as saying the Iranian Red Crescent was used as a cover by members of the elite Revolutionary Guard to enter Lebanon during the conflict.

We await a retraction from Human Rights Watch with bated breath.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks bidness 

On the small chance you have not read them elsewhere, here is the opening New York Times article -- apparently the first of nine -- on the latest dump of secret documents by Wikileaks, these from the State Department. Whatever else one thinks about this Mother Of All Leak, they have effectively destroyed the credibility of the State Department, the favorite foreign policy agency of the doves. What foreign diplomat would dare speak candidly with our foreign service now? That will make the State Department even less effective. To get anything done, the American president, whoever he or she may be, will be more likely to turn to our intelligence agencies and military, the relative influence of which on American policy is bound to increase.

Of the related blog posts I have read tonight, this one at Hot Air is the best and quite closely reflects my own thinking (and indeed it shaped much of it). I would add this, however: For well over 100 years idealists have denounced secret diplomacy, arguing that it does more harm than good over the long run. Wikileaks may have effectively put an end to secret diplomacy, at least for a while, because interlocutors will have no confidence that their candid observations and backroom deals will remain confidential. We will therefore soon see whether the idealists are right.

FURTHER THOUGHT: If I were Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, I'd be worried about some much nastier country than the United States taking revenge and, more importantly, issuing a warning to any aspiring successor or copycat. There is no security that can put him out of reach of the Russians, the Saudis, and the Turks, should any of those very embarrassed countries decide that the world would be a better place with secret diplomacy. Both the Russians and the Saudis, at least, have killed people for much less. And, of course, there is the added incentive (for the Russians and Turks, at least) that most of the world will blame the United States if Assange ends up dead, so taking him out by some graphic and public method would seem to have a lot of upside.

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Environmentalism I can get behind 

This seems like an outstanding idea.

When Scotch whisky is distilled, it leaves behind two main waste products — a liquid called pot ale and draff, the remains of the grains used in the distilling method. These two waste products are being used by researchers at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland to create a new biofuel.

According to the Guardian, the Scottish have a £4 billion ($6.2 billion) a year whisky habit, and that habit leaves “copious quantities” of both pot ale and draff that in the past has gone unused. This biofuel can be used in regular cars — meaning there’s no need to adapt the engine as there is with some other biofuels. Researchers also say it's possible the biofuel could be used to fuel planes.

Faster, please.

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Public service announcement: "Cyber Monday" on Sunday 

Because I love you, my readers, I am supplying a link to Amazon's awesome list of "Cyber Monday" deals. There really are some good deals there.

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It's been ages since I linked to the O'Quiz, and not because I've been covering up my bad scores. Just didn't think of it. But BillOReilly.com linked my post on the GM "thank you" ad and that reminded me how fun the O'Quiz can be. Take it now, and post your score in the comments (especially if you do worse than my rocking 8 out of 10). Yeah, yeah, the current average is 6.22 out of 10 correct, which makes this one of the easier O'Quizzes in my memory, at least, but hey, it's Sunday, and many of you are probably already drinking beer.

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It bears remembering... 

...that Jimmy Carter is not only a clown, but a dangerous clown.

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Sunday morning procrastination tab dump! 

Including work administrivia, I have more chores today than the day is long. Unfortunately, I also have a lot of tabs! The choice is not as difficult as it appears...

Palin obsession watch: The New York Times has an article this morning about Sarah Palin that reports that she attended a book-signing and, er, signed books: Palin Sidesteps Politics at Iowa Book Signing. Utter and complete non-news and hardly fit to print. Perhaps it was published because of its byline: A.G. Sulzberger. If A.G. is the next generation of the Grey Lady's controlling family, I hope he has a second career planned, because this one is unlikely to last for his lifetime. Oh, look, a segue....

How do you define the "American dream"? Early to bed, early to rise, study hard, work hard, save your money, and you and your children can be better off than you were as a child? This is how the New York Times defines it (in a story about a worthless heir who squandered the proceeds from the sale of the family business):

But as so often happens to those lucky enough to realize the American dream of sudden riches, the money slipped through the Martins’ fingers faster than they ever imagined.

The "American dream of sudden riches"? Perhaps an all-too common attitude in the era of state-promoted lotteries, but sure that was not the American dream of old. That's not how Ben Franklin or Andrew Carnegie or Cornelius Vanderbilt did it. Or your grandparents, for that matter.

Princeton professor Cornel West says Barack Obama is racist, but -- you'll be relieved to know -- only in the same sense that George W. Bush was.

It's all about the incredibly hot accent: The American fascination with Russian women.

With the possible exceptions of my alma mater, Governor Awesome and Jenkinson's, the best thing about New Jersey.

You think the federal budget problem is large? It is not nearly as large as it will be if interest rates revert to the mean.

Are Republicans playing politics with the new START treaty? I hope not. This is serious business that ought not become a device for political advantage. Ratify the treaty now, and modernize our nukes when you've gotten the White House back. Besides, "Tea Party" Republicans and the government of Russia do not disagree on everything. If they can reach common ground on one incredibly complex and fraught subject of profound geopolitical consequences for the entire world, they might be able to agree on another.

An interesting story about the legal challenges to Obamacare, including the prospects for "severability." Let me once again remind you that we -- by which I mean any conservative with a brain -- do not want the individual mandate to go down and the requirement for "community rating" to remain in place. That sad combination would destroy the private health insurance system in a trice and make the government the sole payer for all Americans.

Barack Obama says he prays "every night." It is rude to doubt another's faith, but that just does not feel true to me. I believe the part about saying grace over food -- that sort of thing tends to be a family habit as much as a measure of actual faith -- but genuine personal prayer? It does not seem to line up with the rest of his personality.

The answer is YES. But be very, very careful.

TigerHawk boosterism watch: The Adirondacks has a new ski area with the return of Big Tupper. Here's the important point: It has its own beer.


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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Alan Simpson is a national treasure 

Alan Simpson is a national treasure, without being the least bit precious. Of course we have to raise the age at which we subsidize retirement. Indeed, I believe that our government should get out of the business of subsidizing retirement entirely, and should only subsidize disability (whether or not that disability is directly a function of old age).

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Deconstructing the GM "thank you" ad 

I am a poor target for advertising, because I stare at ads and take them apart as I watch them. Watch the new General Motors "thank you" ad, and then join me in discussing it below.


What a crock! Oops. Did I just say that? Let's take a more learned look at the General Motors "thank you" ad running -- not surprisingly, given the market -- during the Michigan vs. Ohio State game this afternoon.

Image by image:

1. A boxer going down. Was General Motors actually taken down by its competition? It was only in 2008 that Toyota passed General Motors as the world's largest automobile manufacturer. One would have thought that that the #2 player in the market could turn a profit, and certainly avoid bankruptcy. Competitive issues notwithstanding, the boxer going down is a false analogy. General Motors was not taken down by competition.

2. A rocket failing to achieve liftoff on the launch pad. General Motors did not fail to achieve liftoff. It is not DeLorean Motors, a start-up that never got off the ground. As the ad points out, GM has been in business since 1908.

3. Person with his or her head down at a desk. Is that a famous scene with which I am unfamiliar, or is it connected to the failed launch in the previous image? It might apply to General Motors if it implies "see no evil, hear no evil," but otherwise I cannot detect a connection.

4. Popeye drowning. Really? General Motors is the underdog Popeye the Sailor Man fighting to redress wrongs and protect his woman from indignity or peril? The analogy fails miserably, to the point of disrespecting The Popeye.

5. Delta House having learned of its expulsion for rank irresponsibility. Finally, something close to an image that reflects the reality of General Motors, a profoundly irresponsible company.

6. A motorcyclist in competition, wiping out while attempting a daring stunt. Sorry, General Motors has not attempted anything daring in at least a generation. The analogy is intellectually dishonest.

7. Various people, probably employed at the track or teammates of the downed rider, helping the aforementioned motorcyclist to get up. It cost them nothing to do so, and under the circumstances failing to have done would have reflected poorly on them.

8. Delta House's Bluto, refusing to accept the consequences of his own irresponsibility. Again, another honest image.

9. Popeye, rescuing himself without the help of anybody else. If this image is meant to be anything other than a contrast to the experience of General Motors, it is the most fraudulent analogy in the entire commercial.

10. Harry S Truman and the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline. Where's the recovery from "falling down" there? The only failure was by the editors of the Chicago Tribune.

11. A successful launch of an entirely different rocket. Perhaps a good image if the message is "try, try again," but that is not what happened with General Motors, is it?

12. The boxer, like Popeye, standing up on his own without anybody else's assistance.

This ad is so intellectually dishonest it can mean one of only two things: (1) That the management of General Motors understand this fraud and hope that we are fools, or (2) that the management of General Motors are themselves fools. Both have been true in the past, but -- speaking as a taxpayer -- I was hoping the company had moved beyond that.

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Fat lip watch: The box-out that shook the world 

An unusually nuanced take on the pick-up basketball game and the thrown elbow that cost our president a fat lip and 12 stitches (egads) to repair it.

I'm just glad it wasn't the annual "alumni" game. If Dubya had thrown that elbow, we'd all have had to watch Keith Olbermann that evening just so we could say we saw the explosion.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Banking explained in song 

For my money, it remains the case that "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank" from Mary Poppins remains the most accessible presentation of the arguments for and against merchant banking. It is all right there, isn't it? Simply brilliant.

Yes, I've posted it before and probably will again -- I think of "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank" when I read stories like this (insufficient investing of tuppence) or like this (as long as the banks of Germany stand, Germany stands). But, when all is said and done I love the enthusiasm of the mocked and derided bankers for building things -- railroads in Africa, dams across the Nile, and plantations of ripening tea.

Y'ask me, we need more of that kind of enthusiasm. A lot more.

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A walk in the Virginia woods 

I was in Buckingham County, Virginia for Thanksgiving with my brother and sister and their families. Today we took a walk over hill and dale, and I snapped some pics.

Walking the silage

Corn rows

The family cemetery...

Family cemetery, Buckingham

Old South

November meadow...

November meadow


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Black Friday dumping of the tabs 

Good morning. If you know what's good for you will avoid the malls and shop from home while cruising your favorite blogs. Or maybe get outdoors and do something fun. How about that?

Dat said, I have some tabs to dump on you, my apparently willing victims.

Fox in the hen house watch: In the federal government, annual compensation increases are recommended by a creature called the Federal Salary Council. Two weeks ago, Barack Obama made the annual appointments and reappointments. You will be no doubt shocked to learn that "by law" the Council consists of "three experts in labor relations and pay policy and six representatives of employee organizations representing large numbers of General Schedule employees." In other words, the government unions recommend their own pay increases under the watchful eye of three professors. If I were a Tea Party Republican, I would propose a change in the law to include private sector human resources executives with an exemplary record of controlling payroll and benefits costs.

Perhaps you were wondering why German voters may continue to be willing to bail out Europe's debtor countries. There is a lot of debt in the world yet to unwind.

If a corporate lawyer made the sort of drafting errors that are apparently totally acceptable in legislative practice, he or she would be fired on the spot. What staffer will be fired because of this? Nobody, because the Congressional staff lives in "soft America" (ref).

Why is Obama failing? Because his opponents are, at the same time, incompetent and evil geniuses.

How far we have fallen. Can you see the bottom?

Was the "medieval warm period" local, or global?

News you can use: Australian Firm To Sell World's First Armpit Testosterone Lotion In US.


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Public service announcement 

Yes, it's Black Friday. While I am always reluctant to discourage a contribution to GDP, my advice is to avoid the malls and the big box stores today. The morning's deals at Amazon are actually quite remarkable.

Friendly reminder, you can put a few bucks in to the pocket of any blogger you want to reward at no extra cost to you when you are going to shop at Amazon anyway. Just click through any Amazon link on their blog and if you buy any Amazon product, not just the product advertised, the blogger gets a little tip. No doubt there are more deserving or needy bloggers than me. My point is that you should not waste the opportunity.

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The most important Thanksgiving lesson 

My ancestor, William Bradford, began life as a socialist and ended it as an individualist, at least in one way that mattered. The lesson of Thanksgiving:

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.

That's why they nearly all starved.

When people can get the same return with less effort, most people make less effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. This went on for two years.

"So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented," wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, (I) (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land."

In other words, the people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

"This had very good success," Bradford wrote, "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many."

Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623.

Now get to work!

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

In which I'm on the side of John Conyers 

Apparently 81 year-old Democratic Congressman John Conyers was spotted riffling through an issue of Playboy magazine on an airplane. Perhaps not the classiest move in the world, but you have to admire his, er, get up and go. Reminds me a bit of my edgiest great aunt, who occasionally pushed against the boundaries of propriety, at least as defined in her circles, and, when reproofed, would say "I'm an old woman and I'll do any goddamn thing I want."

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Country roads 

I rode my bike through southside Virginia today, along Route 623 in Buckingham County and then down the Plank Road to Farmville, 13.85 miles each way, and (obviously) almost 28 miles round trip. I was out a little under two hours, and racked up around 1400 feet in total ascent, assuming the Garmin was bringing in the altitudes accurately. A really nice way to start a day of eating and drinking.

Grandma's Country Store, at the corner of 623 and the Plank Road, was closed for the holiday.

Grandma's Country Store

I saw perhaps a dozen cars in each direction, and almost as many hunters. All were quite friendly, even though I am probably the first dude they had seen in black cycling pants with the "Castelli" logo down the legs. The sight is not particularly attractive. Given that I probably would have shot me under such circumstances, I appreciate their equanimity.

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Giving thanks 

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the hurly-burly of our lives in the middle of the Great Recession, it is easy for we Americans to forget how fortunate we are. I am grateful every day, but do not really reflect as often as I should on my enormous good fortune. Simply being born in the United States puts one ahead of at least 85% of humans (which allows for the possibility that being born in other OECD countries is not half bad). Being born in, say, the last 50 years has been far better for most people than having been born earlier, however much we might romanticize the early days of the republic. Finally, then, if you were fortunate enough to have been born in good health and to a loving family you got a jump on virtually all humans now alive or who have ever lived.

That's not "born on first base"; that's born sliding in to home.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Make yourself useful: Support 1099 repeal 

Among the various deadweight costs the ruling Democrats have imposed on our struggling economy is a new and massive requirement on businesses to issue Form 1099s to virtually everybody and every company with whom they do business. The costs and managerial attention required to comply are considerable, the benefit is dubious (the hoped-for elimination of some tax evasion in business-to-business transactions), and the threat is considerable (that it is a back door into a value-added tax). Therefore, if you want to make yourself useful call or email your Representative and Senator and, er, petition them to support 1099 repeal. Or, you know, demand loudly, if that's how you roll.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Mid-morning chuckle: TSA bumper stickers! 

Unless you are a staunch defender of the TSA, these "TSA bumper stickers" are definitely worth a minute of your precious time.

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Amazon's "Black Friday" deals today! 

Our favorite retailer, Amazon.com, is "leaking" its "Black Friday" deals early. Lots o' great deals, fer sure.

And remember, if you buy your Amazon stuff (not just now, but at any time and whether or not the things advertised) by clicking through a link or a banner ad (such as in this post or on our right side bar) on a blog, the blogger gets a little tip at no cost to you. We're not worthy, you say? Too libertarian for your tastes? Well, then, find a blogger who is.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

All alone? You can be touched for free. 

SNL still makes it happen.

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Governor Awesome on double standards 

Awesome! Chris Christie, New Jersey's own Governor Awesome (our nickname is catching on!), has more than a little fun at the expense of the New Jersey Education Association. I reckon its some of the best stand-up you'll see this month.

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So, you've been watching football all weekend... 

...and you still don't know why it is a bad thing if "your erection lasts more than four hours," do you? Uh, answer here.

You can't say that we don't tackle the important questions here at TigerHawk.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mid-Saturday hanging in LA dumping of the tabs 

Egads, I have accumulated a small but elite gathering of tabs for your enjoyment, and my public-spiritedness requires that I dump them unto you before my computer crashes or I otherwise have to shut 'er down.

The sad and tragic end of a heroic dog. This story bummed me out so much I thought twice about passing it along, but in the end decided to share the gloom.

Francisco D'Anconia's speech on the meaning of money. I had forgotten how eloquent it is, including particularly as an expression of the meaning and purpose of work.

What if the shoe had been on the other foot?

A student body president and otherwise very impressive fellow turns out to be an illegal alien. There is in the story something to consider regardless of your position on the illegal immigration problem.

Governor Awesome brings down the house! As usual.


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Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday night conservative fun 

You know, it's Friday night, and if you've had your cocktail hour and are sneaking a peak at your blogs, perhaps while your beloved is getting ready for your evening out, you might get a chuckle out of the 25 "best" Ann Coulter quotes about liberals.

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Libertarian snark of the day 

From my Facebook scroll:

Government says 1 in 5 Americans is mentally ill. 1 in 5 Americans work for the Government. Do the math.

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Friday afternoon exploitation post: The Beyonce ad banned in the UK! 

Allegedly, this ad was banned in the United Kingdom. I wonder why.

Regular blogging will resume when I get around to it.

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Public service announcement 

Cook much? As previously reported, I'm sans kitchen at the moment, but you might find delight in this Amazon compendium of "gifts for gourmets.".

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The aristocracy of pull and what it means for business formation 

Our government is making it harder all the time. Please make it stop:

As a Democrat whose politics are undeniably liberal on social issues, I lamented the outcome of the midterm elections. But as an entrepreneur with two software start-ups under my belt, I couldn't help but celebrate - and more than a little. As the fall campaigns wore on, I had found myself listening closely to the Tea Party, nursing the hope that its message would push both major parties to change the way they do business.

To understand my motivation, pick up the November issue of Washingtonian magazine. The annual Salary Survey notes on Page 81 that top trade association leaders (industry lobbyists) make multimillion-dollar salaries to "keep tabs on what the federal government was doing or might do."

These outsize earnings are symptomatic of a disease that is slowly killing the American economy. We are creating so much regulation - over tax policy, health care, financial activity - that smart people have figured out that they can get rich faster and more easily by manipulating rules on behalf of existing corporations than by creating net new activity and wealth. Gamesmanship pays better than entrepreneurship.

Absolutely, positively, read the whole thing. Especially if you're one of those liberals who claims not to understand why the Obama administration's regulatory policy is working against its fiscal policy (meaning, of course, that the fiscal stimulus is wasted, and our children's standard of living is compromised for very little benefit).

Title reference explained here.

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GM IPO propaganda 

The NYSE, which seems to have up-regulated its propaganda arm in recent months, sent around an email to we corporate tools with photos from yesterday's "initial" public offering of the common stock of General Motors. I rather liked the one below. And, yes, the scare quotes around "initial" are totally appropriate.


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A short note on the United States dollar 

Once again, the United States dollar has defied naysayers who say it is doomed as the world's reserve currency. The reason, it seems, is that greenback sucks less than the alternatives. Barely.

Given all that stress that the Federal Reserve's currency debasement program is laying on the global economy, last week's G-20 summit in South Korea should have been the monetary equivalent of a military degradation for the U.S. dollar. The greenback should have been slapped across the face, stripped of its medals, and cashiered from the ranks of respected currencies. Instead the dollar escaped unscathed, retaining its privileged status as the world's reserve.

However, the meeting did have its dark moments for America. The troubles starting even before the summit began with the failure of president Obama to conclude a long-planned trade deal with South Korea. Once the G-20 meetings began in earnest, the United States made scant headway with its main initiative to pressure the Chinese on Yuan revaluation. Just when it looked like the dollar would benefit from strife in Europe, a joint statement by key European leaders signaled that potential problems within the euro-zone may have been averted. In other words, nothing from this meeting should give any confidence that the dollar has a bright future.

Over the past three years, while the Chinese Yuan has appreciated ever so slightly against the U.S. dollar, it has depreciated against almost all other major currencies. As a result, one may have expected wider support for America's calls for appreciation of the Chinese Yuan. But in Seoul this issue was buried amidst rancor and fractious all-night meetings between splintered partners. Most participants were so focused on America's second campaign of quantitative easing, that the question of Yuan appreciation was moved to the back burner.

In an effort to avert competitive devaluations, the U.S. proposed that nations should restrict their current account surpluses and deficits within agreed percentages of economic output. Ironically, this idea had been proposed by the British at Breton Woods in July 1944. But this was at a time when war-ravaged Europe was in huge current account deficit. America was in massive surplus and vetoed the idea. Now that America is in chronic deficit, it is surplus countries such as China, India, Brazil, and Germany that oppose the idea.

Read the whole thing.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Phone camera dump while I watch the Bears in a bar in Beverly Hills 

Yes, the only post more lame than a tab dump is a phone camera dump, but that's all I got while I sit at a bar in an Italian restaurant in the heart of Beverly Hills. So, the most recent pictures stored on my Blackberry in something approximating chronological order...

Your Blogger, enjoying the sights in Texas last weekend.

Me, Texas

The TH living room, fearfully cluttered because it doubles as the kitchen while the actual kitchen -- behind that plywood panel -- is being, er, reconstructed.

The TH living room

The fairly disturbing sign inside the kitchen door of the restaurant in which I ate lunch on Monday. Noticed, obviously, only after I had eaten that lunch.

The sign in the restaurant in which I just ate

A skin disease? No!. A big old bread bubble in the Indian restaurant in which I ate Monday evening. I did not look at the inside of the kitchen door.

Indian bread monster

Dawn over Las Vegas, yesterday morning.

Dawn over Las Vegas

The giant aquarium in the lobby at Mandalay Bay (the name of which irritates me, by the way, because Mandalay is manifestly land-locked).

Acquarium, Mandalay Bay

At McCarran International Airport, yesterday afternoon, I put a $5 bill in the dollar slots and won $160 on my second pull. I cashed out immediately.


A "blueberry martini" at the Thompson Beverly Hills last night. Yes, the name is offensive to martini-lovers the world over and, yes, it calls my own masculinity very much in to question -- when I hesitated, the waiter announced unbidden "lots of men order the blueberry martini," which pretty much nails the point -- but it actually tasted very good.

"Blueberry Martini"

City of Angels, downtown, around lunch time.

Los Angeles


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The Eurozone financial collapse, explained 

This strikes me as a pretty good explanation for the recent strengthening of the United States dollar vs. the Euro notwithstanding QE2...

No, really.

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Progressive disillusionment 

I don't think that it is fair that President Obama's base has started to beat up on him so much. If I was a part of that base, my view would be, hey, we are not even a quarter of the way through his two-term presidency, let's be patient.

Instead, there is venting on the pages of the New York Times in the Letters section today:
"If he caves in once more and allows the tax cuts for the wealthy to be extended, even temporarily, I will give up. After 50 years of voting Democratic in every national election, I will just stay home in 2012.

If the country is going to deteriorate as a result of bad government policy, I would rather let the Republicans take the whole blame and look for another Democratic leader, one with enough backbone to defend important principles"
"Mr. Obama’s campaign vow to rise above partisanship was much more than mere talk; he seeks to rise above all conflict and become the person who reconciles the divided parties: the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Pakistanis and the Indians, as well as the Democrats and the Republicans closer to home.

It is my serious concern that the president, far from being either aloof or humble, has all along thought of himself not as a political leader struggling to make his point of view prevail, but as a man of peace, with an almost divine mission.

This 75-year-old liberal finds the possibility that President Obama may not be in office after the next election surprisingly painless. I find it entirely just that when a man is too good to fight, he should lose."
The excerpts above are just two of the more biting ones; read all five letters, which illustrate various strains of progressive angst. This could get really ugly.

UPDATE: I agree with frequent commenters QuakerCat and DEC that the use of the term "progressive" ought to stop as it relates to the reference above, so I will not use it henceforth. Fellow Princetonian Katrina vanden Heuvel used to refer to roughly the same group of people as "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party" when she appeared on various cable TV shows, so maybe TDWOTDP will be the new acronym (she included herself in that group, as I recall).

I should note that in the title of the post, I was kind of going for a pun, as in, progressive = increasing.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tax uncertainty 

Is there any more graphic measure of the incompetence of our federal government than that it is the second half of November and nobody has the first clue what their tax rates will be for 2011? If one steps back and reflects on that single fact, the forehead-slapping failure of our political class stands out in high relief.

Sorry to belabor the obvious, but occasionally the obvious bears belaboring.

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A short note on airport security 

Every now and then I am reminded how different my attitudes are from the average dude. The controversy over the airport security scanners is a case in point. Of all the stupid sham security rules imposed in the cause of air security in the last thirty years, the fear that somebody might see and even retain a shimmery Silver Surfer silhouette of my 48 year old bod just isn't one of them. I would happily walk through one of those things if I could keep my shoes on, carry on fluids in normal sizes, leave my belt on and my coins in my pocket, and natter on in great good humor about the C4 strapped to my love handles. That would be an awesome trade. But all this sudden sturm und drang, after years of indignities, over these silhouettes? I really don't get it. Maybe one of you can explain it to me.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wikipedia entry of the day: Rum 

For your contemplation and erudite commentary while I fly to points west...


If you find any mistakes, be sure to edit the entry.

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The Obama Justice Department's smearing of Governor Awesome 

Last week, the Justice Department released the report of an internal investigation that showed that (while serving as a Justice Department lawyer) Chris Christie had spent an aggregate of about $2100 spread over 23 separate trips in excess of government guidelines. The report found similar violations by other former U.S. attorneys. The Justice Department did not, apparently, release a report that found travel violations among existing employees, a decision that caused more than a few conservatives to wonder whether the Inspector General was playing politics.

Turns out our fears may have been well-founded.

The Daily Caller has learned that the author behind the recent report from the Department of Justice that targeted five former U.S. attorneys for excessive travel expenses has had, according to our sources, a troubled history in the DOJ and attempted in the past to use her position to smear conservatives....

The report’s author, Maura Lee, began her DOJ career in the civil rights division, but now works in the DOJ Office of Inspector General. Hans von Spakovsky, former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, supervised Lee and told TheDC that he was “astonished” when he found out she was the author of the report.

According to von Spakovsky, Lee was “one of the most belligerent, unprofessional lawyers” he encountered during his time at the DOJ. “Because of her,” he said, “we had to completely change our security protocol.”

Another former senior DOJ official who asked not to be named confirmed Lee’s involvement in strategizing to leak information to the Washington Post, saying that she was not a trustworthy person and had major political motivations.

Rarely have I read such a bare-knuckled story, even online. If it is not true, Maura Lee has one heckuva libel case. If it is true, then this looks like an orchestrated political attack by the Department of Justice on a Republican rising star.

Frankly, I find the idea that the Justice Department would unabashedly smear an opposition political leader a lot more threatening to our democracy and civil society than a full-body scan, but maybe that's just me.

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Charles Rangel: Guilty, guilty, guilty! 

Charles Rangel, in the immortal words of Gary Trudeau, is guilty, guilty, guilty!

As if we didn't know.

Details here.

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QE2 explained 

I don't care who you are, if you have the slightest shadow of a thread of a sense of humor and even if you work at "the Goldman Sachs," you will think this is funny.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

European history in a nutshell 

Another reason why the flash movie is the greatest innovation in pedagogy since the blackboard.

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Help me out: What's the funniest movie of all time? 

At a long evening event with colleagues, and the question has come up: What is the funniest movie of all time? I'm sure your opinions are more interesting than theirs, so give it your most learned effort.

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The Otter Defense 

Captain Ed over at Hot Air is pitch-perfect in characterizing Charlie Rangel's rant at his ethics hearing as a brilliant use of "The Otter Defense," first used in the movie Animal House.

Watch both imbedded videos at the link.

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Monday wonkery: A close look at food price inflation, or lack thereof 

Invictus at The Big Picture takes a look at food price inflation and deflation as calculated by the government. Incidentally to the main point of the post, there is a very interesting chart showing "food at home" (meaning groceries) as a percentage of the American household budget. It has fallen from about 20% when I was born to maybe 7% now, which has effectively liberated a huge proportion of household income (which has itself risen considerably) to spend on fun and games. Or, of course, housing and health care.

Collateral point to irritate many of my crunchy friends: The next time you hear somebody denounce, or you yourself denounce, factory farming, consider your awesome kitchen and your ICD and your television bill and your iPhone and wonder whether you could still afford them if you were spending 20% of your income on groceries. The answer is "probably not."

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Obama's "shellacking" abroad 

Take a guess. Who wrote this?

Shellacked at home, shellacked abroad. President Obama's Asia trip is extending a losing streak with the latest setback - a refusal by other major financial powers to follow his lead to revive the global economy.

The president's nostrums, which began with a call for stimulus-style pump priming by other nations, had evolved into a plan to ease wild swings in currency values and overboard trade imbalances. But he got next to nothing in showdown meetings with other leaders of the G-20 nations, or major economic powers. U.S. leadership, once taken for granted, has all but vanished, and no one's in charge.

The National Review? The Wall Street Journal? Rush Limbaugh? Hardly! The editorial board of the farookin' San Francisco Chronicle. That's gotta hurt, because when you've lost Nancy Pelosi's hometown paper, you've lost America.

OK, not really, but it does prove that even the mainstream media can no longer both ignore the administration's incompetence and look at itself in the mirror in the morning.

Remember when liberals used to complain that George W. Bush was acting against the wishes of all the really cool foreign leaders and that was a terrible thing? Why are those same liberals silent now? I'm mystified. I'm confused.

I am baffled, even.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

A walk in the Texas hills 

Rather than watch my Hawkeyes blow a shot at the Big Ten title at the hands of Northwestern for the second year running, I went on a beautiful walk in the hill country south of Austin. We went to the state park at Pedernales Falls, and I took some pictures.

Pedernales Falls

OK, the falls qua falls are not so impressive, but the colors of the river, the rock, the flora, and the sky added up to a remarkable November moment.

Pedernales Falls

A giant's knee?


Who is John Galt?

On a rock

Pedernales river


Cypress along the Pedernales

Texas flora

The river has eroded the rock in some remarkable ways.


Water cave

Pedernales river

Texas colors

Pedernales River


Texas hill country flora

MORE: A commenter posted this link of "before and after" flash flood fotos at Pedernales Falls. Really cool, and really scary.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday afternoon exploitation post: Culturally curious pictures of Katy Perry 

Yet another example of the perfidious influence of creeping sharia law on our culture.

OK, not really.

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A poll of conservative bloggers: What do they really think about Sarah Palin? 

Right Wing News is out with its regular poll of conservative bloggers (which, unaccountably, does not include me, probably because I'm soft on certain issues), this time to measure their reaction to the results of the 2010 elections. It is worth looking at, in part for two interesting results.

First, they love Sarah Palin, or at least credit her with having a big impact (emphasis in the original).

1) Out of the following people and groups, which do you think was the most valuable player in the election cycle?

Jim DeMint: 10.6% (7 votes)
The NRCC: 16.7% (11 votes)
The NRSC: 0.0% (0 votes)
Sarah Palin: 62.1% (41 votes)
The RGA: 9.1% (6 votes)
The RNC: 1.5% (1 vote)

Second, they overwhelmingly believe the results were more an indictment of Democrats than a vote for Republicans (and I agree):
5) Which of the following would you say is a more apt description of the Democrats' historic election losses?

A) People voted against the Democrats: 92.6% (63 votes)
B) People voted for the Republicans: 2.9% (2 votes)
C) It was more about the economy, racism, a tantrum, people wanting change, or other factors than either party: 4.4% (3 votes)

One might easily read these results together to suggest that Governor Palin is more effective attacking Democrats than she is articulating the merits of the GOP. That, I think, would be a fair assessment of her. So far.

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Governor Awesome on "greed and arrogance" 

In the new New Jersey, it is unwise for local officials to feather their own beds with taxpayer money in violation of state policy. Why? Because Governor Awesome will specifically identify you and the stunt that you are trying to pull. To wit:

Now, the last time I put one of these up teachers from around the country construed it as teacher-bashing on Christie's part and, by extension, mine. While that may be true out of context, Christie has in fact gone to great lengths to distinguish dedicated teachers from the teachers union and the school administrations, which sustain each other in a sort of back-scratching feather-bedding symbiosis. First, the top-heavy administration is a useful dumping ground for tenured teachers who are burned out on teaching or who never ought to have been hired in the first place, but who can't be fired because of union rules. Second, it is politically impossible for a school superintendent to crack down on the unions if he himself is working the loopholes to avoid state rules.

Keep it coming, guv'na.

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What motivates us? 

This is a fascinating talk on the science of motivation, and it might well change how you manage your employees or think about the competence of your boss.

For those of you who work in public companies, public accounting firms, are corporate lawyers, or the Securities and Exchange Commission, consider the foregoing with reference to the internal controls requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley law. Discuss.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

My teenage years die just a little 

An obscure actress named Michelle Nicastro has just died after a ten year battle with breast cancer. She was just 50, and a class ahead of me. When you are "perhaps best known" as the girl who introduced Harry and Sally -- a manifestly bit part -- you are -- sorry -- not a big wheel.

But Michelle Nicastro's death makes me a little sad. In 1978, when I was just 16, my then all-boys prep school put on a rather good production of South Pacific in a joint venture with a local girls school. Michelle Nicastro, then a senior, played the female lead, Nellie Forbush, and blew us all away. She was to our hormone-addled brains absolutely gorgeous, with a voice that would cause lions to lie down with lambs and -- this was important then -- absolutely awesome breasts. Breasts that would one day take her life.

Suffice it to say that I was not the only boy at Lawrenceville then who had a crush-from-afar on Michelle. Those among my classmates who read this blog might want to say a little prayer tonight, for a little bit of our blessed teenaged years has died, and we have been reminded, again, of our mortality.

Michelle Nicastro, may you rest in peace.

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My whereabouts 

Hey, I'm flying to Austin tonight, and as my schedule would have it I may have some time tomorrow (Friday) afternoon -- from, say, 4 to 5:30 -- to get together for a beer with loyal readers in the area. If you are interested send me an email by, say, 3 p.m. at the address on the right sidebar.

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Apparently, Allah hates Remembrance Day 

The Religion of Peace(tm) was out and about in England today. Apparently, but not surprisingly, Allah is not much for remembering the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who gave it all for Great Britain in Flanders Fields and other hallowed ground.

Islamic protesters sparked fury today after they burned a model of a poppy and deliberately broke the silence at Armistice Day commemorations in central London.

I suppose I'm just happy that the British still had "fury" to be sparked over this sort of thing.

Religion of peace watch

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Another honor for Hobey Baker '14 

Hobey Baker is already and icon and a legend, and his legacy will not change as the result of another honor, but he will be inducted tonight into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. He was born in Bryn Mawr, a suburb of Philadelphia.
The remarkable resume he amassed in that brief lifetime reads like some early-20th-century hybrid of the Boy Scout Oath and a Jack Armstrong novel. An all-American athlete and a war hero, Baker was Pat Tillman without the ambiguities.

The Philadelphia native was muscular, blond, handsome, wealthy, brave, honorable, generous, and so athletic he eventually would land in both the Hockey and College Football Halls of Fame.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, who attended Princeton with him, borrowed Baker's gilded persona for This Side of Paradise, the novel whose main character, Amory Blaine, also bears his middle name. Princeton's hockey arena and NCAA hockey's version of the Heisman Trophy are named in his honor.

"Had Hobey Baker not existed," reads the jacket of Emil Salvini's biography, Hobey Baker: American Legend, "some clever wordsmith would have been compelled to create him."
Like Jim Thorpe and Jim Brown, Baker may be one of the greatest multi-sport athletes in American history. The linked article makes mention of the possibility of a future movie about him, which I would pay good money to see.

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Annals of preppy behavior 

I learned how to ride a horse as a boy, but I never thought of it as a mode of transportation to school.
Roby Burch has hung up his spurs.

The suburban cowboy who rode his horse, Jet, to and from the Haverford School everyday is now taking a more conventional ride: his mom or dad.

Burch, 16, won hearts for his gumption in rising before dawn to ride the family's big white Perchon four miles to school, then back home to Gladwyne after football practice.

But much has happened since the beginning of the school year when Roby and Jet first clip-clopped along the streets of Lower Merion on the 45-minute ride between the Burch's huge estate and Haverford.

For one thing, Roby became a media star. Then came the inevitable backlash. Students complained about special treatment. The board of trustees, worried about lawsuits, made Jet leave the grounds.
I can certainly appreciate that various readers of this story may have quite different views as to whether there is an inherent charm to Roby's story, or whether it is an example of idiosyncratic behavior by an out-of-touch elitist family, but the significant aspect of the tale to me is that -- of course -- the lawyers ruined all the fun.

The earlier story from September, along with a slide show with good pictures, is here.

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One of my favorite poems, for the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

"In Flanders Fields"

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Presumptive Speaker Boehner's small carbon footprint 

Air Pelosi hangs up its wings: In the category of walking the walk on conservation, Presumptive Speaker Boehner is going to save the planet a heap big pile of carbon in the coming years:

Presumptive Speaker Boehner just told reporters he’s flown commercial for 20 years and will continue to do so as Speaker.

Not to mention saving the taxpayers money and bringing government closer to the people.

Good move.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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A short note on soaring government salaries 

At a time when private sector compensation is compressing (in part because of the slack labor market), the federal government is shoveling money at the bureaucrats. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama are guilty, but the latter has tremendously accelerated the trend of the former.

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds....

Top-paid staff have increased in every department and agency. The Defense Department had nine civilians earning $170,000 or more in 2005, 214 when Obama took office and 994 in June...

The biggest pay hikes have gone to employees who have been with the government for 15 to 24 years. Since 2005, average salaries for this group climbed 25% compared with a 9% inflation rate....

Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3% annually above inflation compared with 0.8% for private workers, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

To me, the most suspect of the foregoing factoids relates to widespread above-inflation increases for the longstanding employees. This reverses the structure of private sector compensation, which goes up largely (i) to perceived top-performers at risk of being snapped up by other companies, and (ii) to attract perceived top-performers from other companies. Average performers usually stay with a company or leave it for reasons largely unrelated to pay, and the longer they stick around the more you know that they are motivated by non-monetary benefits.

The soaring government pay is itself a measure of bad management. Why? Because compensation efficiency is one important measure of managerial effectiveness. An effective executive does such a good job of motivating his employees that they will tolerate a large gulf between what they are actually paid and what they might get from a competitor because the non-monetary benefits of staying put outweigh the increased monetary compensation available by switching jobs. If an executive only loses employees who are bid away with large increases, you know he or she is doing a better job of leading and managing than an executive who loses people for little or no increase.

Nobody in government seems to understand that basic point.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sometimes when we touch, the dishonesty's too much 

It is nice to see a politician from another country have to spin the truth regarding greeting issues with an important international visitor:
A conservative Muslim government minister admits he shook hands with first lady Michelle Obama in welcoming her to Indonesia but says it wasn't his choice.

Footage on YouTube shows otherwise, sparking a debate that has lit up Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the blogosphere.

"I tried to prevent (being touched) with my hands but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me (so) we touched," Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring told tens of thousands of followers on Twitter.

While Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, the vast majority practice a moderate form of the faith. But Sembiring has flaunted his conservatism and says he avoids contact with women who are not related to him.
Somehow, this doesn't quite ring true to me, since, based on my experiences while a student at Princeton (where the First Lady was Class of '85) three decades ago, it would be extremely unusual for a female undergrad to initiate physical contact, unwanted or otherwise. There could well be a certain degree of receptivity, but the women were too smart and polite to, er, force themselves onto an unsuspecting and naive or pious man.

So, let's go to the video tape.

Mr. Sembiring has such a nice smile, it is hard to believe he is engaging in this diplomatic activity with great reluctance. Maybe he was just intimidated by the height mismatch, like a point guard trying to post up a power forward.

I obviously come from a different culture than Mr. Sembiring, but I have found that embracing contact with women who are not related to me has been a worthwhile experience.

I believe that Mr. Sembiring did the normal thing that politicians do in a receiving line, and then decided he should back and fill a bit to placate his base. The First Lady is caught up in a tempest in a teapot for which she bears no responsibility.

What would Dan Hill say?

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Trick play 

From "Bomber Girl," a gadget play for the ages:

Trick Play Touchdown - Watch more Funny Videos

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Gunning for Governor Awesome 

The Philadelphia Inquirer was undoubtedly pleased to run this story on its front page today:
Gov. Christie, while serving as U.S. attorney, billed taxpayers for luxury hotels on trips and routinely failed to follow federal travel regulations, according to a report released Monday.

The report, released by the U.S. Department of Justice's inspector general, found that while many U.S. attorneys and their subordinates approved their own travel and expenses, the vast majority complied with the approved government lodging rate.

However, the investigation found, "a small number of U.S. attorneys routinely exceeded the government rate, by large amounts, with insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification."
If you have the patience to read the story all the way through, you will find in the 12th graf that the aggregate amount by which Christie's hotel expenses exceeded the government allowance during his tenure was $2,176. There were some other questions raised regarding transportation expenses, amounting to smaller figure.

Undoubtedly, the story is generating chuckles in the teachers' lounges throughout New Jersey, and the story does slightly undercut the moral high ground of someone who is doing his best to significantly reduce expenditures at the state level. Christie can probably make this story go away forever by agreeing to cut a check for a few thousand bucks, and stating that in retrospect, he should have tried harder to stay within the allowances, and to the extent he did not, he feels now that he should go out of pocket. I am not sure whether that is the right or wrong approach, but the symbolism and the mild mea culpa might be powerful.

But the question remains -- a front page story in a major daily newspaper over a few thousand dollars of expense overages?

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One for the Princetonians: Lahiere's is closing 

Here's a bit of abrupt news that will rock Princetonians, town and gown alike, of all generations:

The 91-year-old Lahiere’s restaurant, Princeton’s first world-class eatery and host to dignitaries from King Hussein of Jordan to Bob Hope, will close its doors forever on Saturday, November 13.

A lot of people who wear tweed jackets six months out of the year will be sorrowfully disappointed by this news. Indeed, I am sorry that I will not be in town Saturday for the Last Supper, having been invited for dinner by a classmate who scored a coveted table. That relatively minor regret will, however, be salved if that institution's rare Princeton liquor license passes to an innovative chef who will raise the local restaurant game.

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Unfortunate headline of the month 

Who says the mainstream media is always on the side of Barack Obama? If the Associated Press had called up Rush Limbaugh and asked him to write the headline for this story, it wouldn't have come out any uglier from the White House's point of view...

Painful headline of the month

"At home in Indonesia...." Seriously? Bwahahaha! Even if you're not a "birther" -- and I most decided am not -- it just doesn't get funnier than that.

It will be interesting to see how long that headline survives in the write-through.

MORE: The linked story also contains a helpful clarification that you do not often seen in news about American presidents (emphasis added):

The president, who is Christian, is eager to hold up Indonesia as a model: an overwhelmingly Muslim nation where other religions are respected freely and an evolving democracy is gaining strength despite a legacy of corruption.

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Afternoon book recommendation 

Sad to say, I popped awake last night around 1:30 and did not easily fall back asleep, probably because I had set my alarm to go off at 5 am so I could make an early spinning class at my gym. Yeah, mock away, but my resting pulse is probably lower than yours. (A low resting pulse is something to be competitive over when you're almost 50.)

Anyway, I passed the time with Michael Crichton's last book, Pirate Latitudes, which came out in paperback about six weeks ago. I don't read more than a few novels a year, but I have always liked Crichton and his last book does not disappoint. Unless you don't like pirate stories (in which case you are a weenie), it is quite the rollicking good read.

But don't tell me how it ends -- I probably won't finish it before Thursday.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Watch Matt Lauer's interview of George W. Bush 

I tuned in a few minutes late to Matt Lauer's interview of George W. Bush, and recommend that you do the same if you read this post in time (or see it online, where it will no doubt be available, later). It is interesting, and gives a glimpse in to Bush that many of us might not have seen before. All will agree, left and right, that the differences with the current president are striking.

I note that President Bush's book Decision Points is #1 on Amazon. I ordered a copy after seeing some of Lauer's interview.

UPDATE: GWB, on approval ratings of presidents: "If you chase popularity, you are chasing a moment, a poof of air." True in a sense, but popularity is not a mere decorative festoon on one's presidency. It is also a proxy for a certain sort of political leverage, or lack thereof. I respect Bush for doing what he believed was right whether or not it was popular -- to the extent that is true, and it was not always so -- but he put his agenda at risk by squandering his popularity. He may not have had a choice in this given his own limitations and the hostility of the chattering class, but so it was.

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Governor Awesome highlight reel: To the GOP, "put up or shut up!" 

If I heard him right, yesterday (and perhaps before) Chris Christie endorsed my favorite solution for federal spending, an across-the-board cut of some percentage in every single program, including entitlements. Leave no department or agency or federal program unscathed. That is "shared sacrifice," as the governor says, and it is necessary to establish the credibility that will allow for more nuanced cutting down the road.

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Annals of aircraft safety: Time to sac the goat! 

The next time your flight is delayed because of "equipment maintenance," demand to know when the airline is going to sacrifice a goat. Because if they have not done that yet, they obviously are not doing everything possible to fix the goddamn plane.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Governor Awesome on the tunnel too far 

New Jersey's governor Chris Christie -- Governor Awesome to you and me -- explains to David Gregory why he didn't take all the supposedly free money from the feds to build a new tunnel under the Hudson, for which decision he took grief from all the usual suspects.

I love a politician who cares about me in my capacity as a productive citizen and can explain himself clearly. If we had ten more dudes like Governor Christie it would be morning in America all over again.

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Here we go again: Angering our "traditional allies" 

We had to spend most of 2001-2008 hearing from Democrats about how dreadful it was that George W. Bush was pissing off our "traditional allies" by dint of his "unilateral" foreign policy. This was never actually true for any real country other than France or Germany, and query whether Germany even counts as a "traditional ally," but the facts mattered little to the narrative. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said it, and the press, by and large, bobbed its head up and down.

Now the Obama administration is doing the same thing, this time by acting unilaterally in fiscal policy and pushing the Fed to do the same in monetary policy:

Last Wednesday was a hinge point in history. The United States decided to drop all pretence of being interested in leading – or even being part of – a coordinated global policy response to the most serious economic crisis in more than 70 years.

America is now isolated and the rest of the world is furious. The widespread use of capital controls and even a lurch into 1930s-style protectionism are both far more likely than just a few days ago.

The Federal Reserve's words may have been anodyne. "We will adjust the programme as needed to best foster maximum employment and price stability," said the US central bank's Open Market Committee. But by announcing another round of "quantitative easing", America is rightfully incurring the wrath not only of the emerging giants of the East, but the eurozone too.

Of course, no where will you read in the New York Times or see on any non-Fox network that the Obama administration has shown contempt for international opinion or our "traditional allies." But that is what it has done. Now, being a retrograde "national greatness" wingnut I don't care what dem ferners think, but in principle the transnational progressives who control Washington do. Where's the outrage?

The tragedy is that it is in the service of a bad policy. The QE2 is pushing on a string, and will lead only to the depreciation of our currency and wealth-destroying inflation. Interest rates are as low as they are going to go. The economy is not sluggish because money costs too much or is otherwise too scarce, and in any case wasn't the last crisis caused by too much credit? No, the economy sucks because people are pessimistic. They are pessimistic because they know that most companies are shrinking, or shrinking from opportunities to grow. We corporate tools and our small business brethren are hunkering down, hoarding cash, and reducing debt even though interest rates are trivial, rather than speculating on new ventures. Why? Because we do not know whether our decisions will be condemned as anti-social or illegal after the fact or regulated in to unprofitability on a moment's notice. We live with this uncertainty, which makes us pessimistic and defensive, because the current federal government has been waging a regulatory and rhetorical war against virtually all enterprise that does not meet some obscure liberal test for social respectability. End the war on enterprise, stop and reverse the regulatory madness, act as though you actually want the private economy to grow, and we -- meaning American business people -- will make it grow. As we always have done.

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