Thursday, June 30, 2011

A resolution for your discussion 

Sitting here as I am in suburban Salt Lake City, I propose a resolution for friendly debate in the comments:

RESOLVED: If the Utah Tea Party were in fact politically powerful and if it believes what it purports to believe, it would move to privatize Utah's manifestly socialist system for the distribution of alcoholic beverages in packages.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our "leaders" are dangerous, incompetent, irresponsible, idiots 

Exhibit A:

From the White House, National Journal’s Marc Ambinder reports that Obama believes he can get the Republicans to cave on taxes if he first lets the bond markets panic in late-July. Obama then hopes that Wall Street and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will force Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to compromise, like he did on the FY 2011 budget deal earlier this year.

Outside the White House, more and more prominent Democrats are questioning whether the debt limit is even constitutional. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., became the latest Democrat to raise the argument yesterday. If there is no debt deal, and bond markets do panic, what is stopping Obama from just ordering Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to issue more debt? If Obama can just ignore the War Powers Act, why not the debt limit too?

That is a very dangerous game of chicken to play in lieu of actual leadership.

Everybody agrees that we need to promote economic growth. Liberals believe that you have to spend a ton of money now to increase aggregate demand so that people start spending and businesses start hiring. That will increase economic activity and therefore tax receipts and therefore the long-run will take care of itself. Conservatives believe that people are not spending and investing now because they are worried about the long run, so if you solve (as in reduce or eliminate) the long-tail liabilities people will be more willing to consume and take risks now and therefore the short-term will take care of itself. Liberals have had their way for almost four years, and it has not produced enough economic growth to make people secure enough in the future that they are willing to take risks now. So let's try the conservative way, with a bone to liberals to get the votes.

My proposal:

1. Increase the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare to 75 gradually, on a sliding scale. Add, say, three months to the retirement age for ever year a person is under 65 today.

2. Eliminate cost-of-living increases for Social Security, and thereby create a powerful constituency -- old people, and future old people -- who will oppose policies (fiscal, monetary, and regulatory) that promote inflation. There is no better way to prevent future debt bubbles, so it might save us a cycle of boom, bust, and bail out.

3. In return, repeal all the Bush tax cuts -- not just those for "rich" people.

That still leaves a lot of work to be done -- regulatory reform, the development of a rational system of taxation, re-fixing health care finance, deflating big state governments, and getting more bang for our buck out of the Pentagon -- but if our "public servants" just did those three things the world's capital and entrepreneurs would flood in and the American economy would explode with joy.

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Accumulated tabs for your lunchtime reading 

Various items that I have been reading...

Is debt suffocating the recovery? Yes. Mostly, we have transferred it from the private sector to governments, all around the world. We -- meaning just about everybody everywhere -- need to repay a good bit of it before we can turn around our standard of living. Let's get cracking.

Contra: Are rising sales of beach badges on the Jersey Shore a favorable leading indicator?

Old news, but I've been busy. Quite an accomplishment, especially in New Jersey.

For the first time in memory, a Republican is contending for mayor of the Borough of Princeton.

Annals of climate hysteria: A prediction (from 1969) that the Arctic would be free of ice in 1989. And so it goes.

Clash of cultures? Last year, every identified rapist in Norway was Muslim. Some cultures are more prone to violence than others, and it is usually ugly when they collide.

Notes from the Blago trial:

It is dreamland stuff. Crazy stuff. Like when in his sometimes tearful, sometimes bold, and often bizarre self-defense from the witness stand, Blago tells the bewildered jury, "I had a man-crush on Alexander Hamilton." This was certainly one of the odder statements made in the history of jurisprudence, to say nothing of the history of Alexander Hamilton.

I, too, have a man-crush on Alexander Hamilton, but struggle to see how that would help me in my defense.

Should we dig up William Shakespeare to see if he smoked weed?

The bad news: Japanese researchers have detected radiation in all the people who lived near the Fukushima plant. The good news: In every case, the detected levels were "minute" and not a threat to human health.

John Lennon: Reagan supporter.


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Hague to Gadaffi: "You're under arrest!" 

I am no fan of Muammar Gadaffi, but for some reason, it was slightly amusing to me to read that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant:
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Monday for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and rebels trying to oust him said their forces had advanced to within 80 km (50 miles) of the capital Tripoli.

The court approved warrants for Gaddafi as well as his son Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity. ICC prosecutors allege they were involved in the killing of protesters who rose up in February against Gaddafi's 41-year rule.
I hope Gadaffi falls from power, but the legal gymnastics of the ICC amount to little more than window dressing. Whenever the ICC or UN issues a similar edict, it is in large part based on the implied threat of the ability of the U.S. to project military force, pretty much anytime, anywhere. Lacking such an implied threat, it reminds of a scene in a pretty funny movie (no, not Team America and the angry letter scene with Kim/Blix, NSFW), when actor Brian Keith, playing a policeman on a New England island, takes out his pad and tries to write a ticket to the Soviet submarine commander in "The Russians Are Coming." A young Alan Arkin is excellent in that scene and the entire movie, and does a great accent.

That is, law enforcement at any level only works when you actually have the power to enforce. Under the previous U.S. administration, it was clear that the ICC was not particularly friendly to the U.S. or the U.S. military (I recall serious discussions by significant European politicians with influence at the Hague to indict Bush and/or Rumsfeld); now, the ICC relies on the U.S. to provide its warrant with some meaning.

: Spelling "Hague" (not Hauge), as pointed out by Southern Roots in the comments below.

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Bachmann Overdrive 

U.S. Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) is announcing her candidacy for the presidency today, and is already considered to be the frontrunner in the February 2012 Iowa caucuses, where she is a native daughter.

Leaving it to the wisdom of TigerHawk readers, how would you assess her chances at this point?

What are Michelle Bachmann's chances as a candidate for the presidency?
She may well win Iowa, but not the Republican nomination
She has a good shot at the Republican nomination, or could be a VP
She'll be the nominee, but has little chance against Obama
She can run a competitive race against Obama
She should start measuring drapes for the Oval Office
pollcode.com free polls

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adirondack moss 

We walked up Ampersand Mountain today in rain that came in fits and starts. The trail, never easy, was particularly muddy and slippery, but the forest was green as I have never seen it. I took a couple of pictures of mountain moss with my phone camera along the way.

Mountain stream

Wall o' moss

There may, or may not, be more where those came from, depending on whether I download my actual camera.

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Investigating Google 

The New York Times reports that the FTC is investigating Google's business practices:
Google confirmed on Friday that the Federal Trade Commission had opened an antitrust investigation into its core search and advertising business.

The inquiry has the potential to turn into the biggest showdown between the United States government and a major technology company since the Microsoft antitrust trial that began in the late 1990s.

In a regulatory filing, Google said that a day earlier it had “received a subpoena and a notice of civil investigative demand” from the commission. Google said that the agency’s investigation concerned its “business practices, including search and advertising.” In the brief filing, the company added, “Google is cooperating with the F.T.C. on this investigation.”
I think it is fair to say that Google knows how to play hardball in business as well as any technology enterprise (look at a few of the comments at the NYT link from past customers), and that the company's "Don't be evil" mantra was a pleasant enough saying in its early days, but whether it has reached the point of being anti-competitive in the search engine market will be challenging for the FTC to prove. How difficult is it for a user to switch search engines to Bing or a metasearch engine such as DogPile? If switching costs involve less than a minute of the user's time, it might be difficult for the government to demonstrate that harm has come to users or to advertisers/customers -- disgruntled advertisers have other options to hawk their online presence if Google hikes its rates.

There is a history of government investigations of technology companies -- AT&T (leading to its breakup into the "Baby Bells"), IBM, Microsoft, and now Google. Whatever your point of view or regulatory philosophy, a scan of the stock charts of AT&T, IBM and Microsoft around the times of the investigations (and in the years following) suggest that now might not be the time to invest fresh money into Google common stock. Naturally, there are many confounding factors influencing the performance of the companies and their stock prices, including the natural maturation of a high-growth business into a more steady-state model. A technology company has relatively more pressure on it to constantly innovate, and an FTC investigation and the resulting marginal increase in the cost of capital will not help the innovation process.

Of course, a more cynical view of the FTC investigation might be that it is a coordinated warning shot to the many highly liquid employees of Google as to where they might want to make their political contributions during the 2012 election cycle. Nice search engine and map thingy you have there, it'd be a shame if something happened to 'em...

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Good News, Everyone! 

Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing gay marriage in New York!

This has taken way too long to come into being. Hopefully this will start a trend and help gays and lesbians across America be accepted in their communities.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Housing crisis factoid of the day 

Where are all the home buyers? Interestingly, credit standards have tightened so far that fully one-third of people who would have qualified for a prime mortgage a few years ago cannot today.

We all well know the subprime market is dead. I had not realized that fully 1/3 of potential prime borrowers are now no longer considered qualified by virtue of higher FICO scores being required by banks. Simply put, we’ve apparently got big issues on both sides of the equation (way too much supply, and a demand problem that is being exacerbated by banks’ newfound religion on credit standards). Exactly how is the tremendous slack supposed to be picked up?

If you have an extra house, you might consider becoming a landlord.

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The stoogification of the Washington Post 

This is as good a round-up of the ATF's Operation "Fast and Furious" as I have seen. Among other things, it shows how the Obama Administration used the Washington Post as its (presumably) unwitting stooge.

For those of you who have not cottoned on (even the New York Times has taken notice), the ATF's Fast and Furious program amounted to state-sponsored subversion -- some would say terrorism -- at the expense of Mexico, in all likelihood to make domestic political hay. Here is a useful timeline of events, with links. Various people on the right have compared "Gunwalker" to Iran-Contra or Watergate. Maybe, maybe not. It is yet early, and there is little chance if the Washington Post does not actually mind being a stooge.

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The Libya war in a nutshell 

This short post says just about everything one needs to know about our war in Libya. From its justification to its execution, the whole thing just seems, well, theoretical rather than practical.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

A walk in the Adirondacks 

We walked almost nine miles around an Adirondack lake this afternoon, and I took some pictures along the way. Our themes were dramatic stumps, colorful flora and fauna, and natural selection.


This one looks like a residence, and probably is one.

Stump mania!

Stump mania

Loving the stumps!

Flowers and other colorful things...

A wild iris, right there in the woods.

Wild iris

Adirondack wild flower

I believe this species is butterflyensus oldnassus.

Princeton flutterby

Then, because I promised "natural selection," herewith a just-severed fawn head. We are not sure what is responsible, but we suspect a fox or, perhaps, a coyote.

Red in tooth and claw...

Nature is indeed red in tooth and claw.

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Adirondack morning tab dump: In which I get agitated on many subjects 

Sorry it has been so quiet around here. The TH Son and I flew back from Europe on Sunday, and just about every moment since then has been taken up with work, catch-up chores, family time, and -- last night -- the drive up to our place in the Adirondacks. I am now here for two days off, and very much enjoying drinking strong coffee, catching up on the latest, and gazing out over an idyllic lake. So at least I can share my tabs and accompanying thoughts with you, our faithful readers.

Sarah Palin is called for jury duty. My first reaction was to think that if I were the prosecutor I'd make the defense burn a peremptory (meaning, for those few of you who are neither lawyers nor play one on TV, make the defense use up one of its limited number of opportunities to dismiss a potential juror without the agreement of the judge). Then I decided that Governor Palin might be a very sympathetic juror in certain cases, and would have the potential to hang a jury that included a Palin-hater.

John Hawkins of Right Wing News interviews my friend Ann Coulter about her new book. Among other things, Ann continues to push Governor Awesome for president, this time at the expense of Texas Governor Rick Perry:

Chris Christie could eat Rick Perry for breakfast — so to speak.

See, she says things even liberals can agree with!

This is no way to treat a Porsche.

Al Gore wants enlightened people to have fewer children so as to save the earth. There is a lot that is asinine in his argument -- click through the link if you can stand it -- but I rather like the eugenics of it: Fewer children of people who do what Al Gore tells them to do probably improves the gene pool.

Liberal cartoon of the day. I don't agree with it, but it is damned effective. To be clear, I would support repeal of all the Bush tax cuts in return for a root and branch dismantling of federal entitlement programs. The latter would unleash such a powerful response in both the real economy and the capital markets that it would easily replace the higher taxes even I would pay.

Another gender gap closes.

Michael Barone makes a point that I have long thought obvious -- there is a reason why the "Greatest Generation's" big government accomplishments (the vast public works of the Roosevelt administration, winning World War II, and so forth) was accompanied by stifling cultural conformity.
Victory in World War II conferred enormous prestige on the leaders of the big units—big government, big business, big labor—who had led the war effort at home. No wonder that levels of confidence in the big units and their leaders remained high for a generation—higher, I suspect, than they had ever been before the Midcentury Moment and higher, certainly, than they have been since.

No wonder, also, that Americans in the Midcentury Moment were unusually conformist, content to be very small cogs in very large machines: They married and bore children at record rates for an advanced society; they worked as organization men and flocked to mass-produced suburbs; they worshipped in seemingly interchangeable churches. This was an America that celebrated the average, the normal, the regular.

The liberals who long to return to the Midcentury Moment seem to forget that it was a time of enormous cultural uniformity that stigmatized being unmarried or unchurched or gay. The huge menu of lifestyle choices from which we can choose today was a very short menu with very few choices then.

In the end, why am I for small and limited government? Because history teaches that among the choices of (1) democracy, (2) heterogeneity, and (3) effective and efficient government, one must pick any two. It is no surprise that our only era of effective government on a large-scale came just after the only period in American history when we effectively banned immigration and before the political emancipation of blacks. Since I like democracy and am all in favor of a free, tolerant, and heterogeneous society, I believe that virtually any government program over which the voters have influence will descend in to a wasteful and counterproductive mess, ultimately captured by some narrow constituency. I believe that liberals instinctively agree, which is why they much prefer actions by federal judges and regulators, both of whom are effectively beyond the reach of voters, to detailed legislation from the United States Congress.

Next topic. Disingenuous claims of the Obama administration, one of the objectives of health care reform is to stifle innovation. That is why it includes a tax on the revenues of medical device companies, which will (obviously) substantially raise the return hurdles on investment in new products and thereby entrench old products. The reason for this is that the social engineers in the White House believe that most innovation in medical technology drives up costs -- that manufacturers use the opportunity of a next generation product to raise prices. This cramped attitude stands in stark contrast to the chaotic-capitalist view that seems self-evident to me: that most innovation in health care as in all industries does not occur in revolutions but in tiny incremental steps that, over time, add up to a great deal. One cannot point to very many incremental changes in automobile design between the Ford Model-T and, say, a Lexus 450h that accomplished a provable difference in "outcomes," but the accumulated innovation, each on top of the other, sure made our lives much better. So it is with medical technology, which is why even small innovation is important to our children.

Anyway, it is not only Obama care that is stifling innovation. So is the Obama FDA, which has massively increased the time it takes to get "substantially similar" new products approved.
The average time taken by U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clear a 510(k) application increased 37 percent between 2006 and 2011.

Many of you will live more painful, less comfortable, or even shorter lives because of Obama administration policy. Remember that.

More later.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Florence from above 

We climbed to the top of the Duomo this morning, and I took a few pictures of Florence from above. Some of the shots are wide angle, and some are not, which accounts for the differences in scale.

Florence from above

Florence 016

Florence 009

Florence 007

Florence from above

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Rule of law watch: Does Barack Obama have a fool for a client? 

Long-standing fans of the back-and-forth will remember the enormous grief that the Bush administration got for following the opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel, particularly on the question of enhanced interrogation (or, if you are a liberal, "torture"). The accusation was, more or less, that the OLC's incumbent, John Yoo, was turning analytical cartwheels to arrive at the result that Dick Cheney wanted. Well, it turns out that on the question of the Libya war, Barack Obama overruled the OLC.

President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

As both the New York Times and John Elwood point out, it is "extraordinarily rare" for a president to overrule the OLC -- prior to Barack Obama, the last president to do it was FDR. Obama has now done it twice. Perhaps the president has such confidence in his own legal acumen that he does not need no stinkin' OLC approval. It brings to a mind the old adage that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.

In any case, we await with bated breath -- not -- the sanctimonious bleating about the "rule of law," which inevitably erupts from the press and academia during Republican presidencies.

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Another beautiful moment in climate "science" 

The fudging of climate "data" -- and, as importantly, the pronouncements of putatively objective agencies -- continues apace:

The credibility of climate change science took two more hits this week. The first occurred when it was revealed that a prominent Greenpeace activist Sven Teske had been a lead author of a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change renewable energy report. The second happened when researchers at the University of Colorado admitted that they had included an unacknowledged "adjustment" in their sea level rise figures....

Mark Lynas, who is decidedly not a climate change denier*, has called foul on this conflict of interest. To illustrate the problem, Lynas invites readers to consider this scenario:
An Exxon-Mobil employee – admittedly an energy specialist with an engineering background – serves as a lead author on an important IPCC report looking into the future of fossil fuels. The Exxon guy and his fellow lead authors assess a whole variety of literature, but select for special treatment four particular papers – one produced by Exxon-Mobil. This paper heralds great things for the future of fossil fuels, suggesting they can supply 80% of the world’s energy in 2050, and this headline is the first sentence of the ensuing IPCC press release, which is picked up and repeated uncritically the world’s media. Pleased, the Exxon employee issues a self-congratulatory press release boasting that his paper had been central to the IPCC effort, and urging the world’s governments to get on with opening up new areas to oil drilling for the benefit of us all.

Well. You can imagine the furore this would cause at Greenpeace. The IPCC would be discredited forever as an independent voice. There would be pious banner-drops by Greenpeace activists abseiling down Exxon HQ and harshly criticising the terrible stranglehold that fossil fuel interests had achieved over supposedly independent science. Campaigners everywhere would be up in arms. Greenpeace would feel doubly justified in taking direct action against new oil wells being opened up in the Arctic, and its activists could demonstrate new feats of gallantry and bravery as they took on the might of the world’s oil industry with some ropes and a rubber dinghy somewhere near Greenland.

How is the Exxon scenario different from what has just happened with the IPCC’s renewables report? And why – when confronted with this egregious conflict of interest and abuse of scientific independence – has the response of the world’s green campaigners been to circle the wagons and cry foul against the whistle-blowers themselves?

Read the whole thing. In there you will also see this:
[The statement in question] comes from an IPCC press release. The study on which the claim was made wasn't made public until a month later. By then the media had moved on, and the meme that renewables could solve climate change by 2050 launched.

There is no surer sign that a "scientific" study is actually propaganda than that the press release precedes the publication of the study, which forecloses confirmation of the claims of the release against the actual peer-reviewed study. It is, in effect, the implicit repudiation of the scientific method in the publication of scientific findings, and no respectable scientist should traffic in it. Instead, scientists should fight for the study and the data to be simultaneously available online so that we can vet the media coverage and the advocated policy prescriptions in real time.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

A few pictures of Florence 

The TH Son and I arrived in Florence around two this afternoon, and after dumping our bags we set out for a seven hour walkabout. We had gelato, beer, pizza, art and culture, shopping, beer, cheese, wine, and pizza in that order. Here are a few pictures along the way. Begging forgiveness for the limited annotations, but I'm tired and have to get to bed for another day of fun along the way...

Pontevecchio posing...

TigerHawk son on the Pontevecchio

Florence's "Duomo"...

Florence Duomo

Florence Duomo

High relief on that facade...

Florence Duomo

The town hall, formerly both the home of the Medici family and the capital of Italy.


Back across the Pontevecchio...

Bird bust

We spent a couple of hours doing art in the Pitti Palace, and I charmed a guard in to letting me take a few shots from one of the upper windows...

Florence from the Pitti

Florence from the Pitti

The girls of the Pitti Palace, just wanting to have fun...

Pitti Palace girls

Pontevecchio at night, on the way home, camera propped on the next bridge...


And, finally, Your Blogger enjoying every minute of it...

Your blogger in Florence

Perhaps more tomorrow, if we are both lucky.

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A moment in Milan 

We had an awesome dinner in downtown Milan last night after a day of meetings in the suburbs. I grabbed a few shots on my Blackberry on the way back to the car.

The Duomo, the third largest Christian church in the world (after St. Peter's in the Vatican and the cathedral of Seville). The Duomo has just been cleaned -- I saw it briefly about five years ago, and it was dark with soot, acid rain, and pigeon guano. No more, that is as white as it is ever going to be.


A late stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II. McDonald's scored some awesome real estate in there, right across from Prada. Not sure how Prada feels about it, but there you go...


On to Florence and a day off from work. I will carry around the good camera.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Inflammatory internet graphic of the day 

In my email this morning.

As a bit of organic internet propaganda, this isn't bad. True, it is not really intellectually honest because these other activities (other than the first, which requires probable cause) are at least technically voluntary, even if they are practically necessary, but since when is propaganda intellectually honest?


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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mitt Romney needs this approval like a hole in the head 

Politics ain't bean bag, and I've seen some low-down dirty dog maneuvers, but this one is tough to beat:

Former Vice President Al Gore on Wednesday praised GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his acknowledgement of global climate change.

Gore, who has championed climate issues since losing the 2000 presidential race, posted a note on his blog that praised Romney for being consistent on his position that humans have contributed to rising global temperatures.

How's Mitt going to recover from a blow like that?

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Alamo Drafthouse follow-up 

Remember last week's post about Austin's Alamo Drafthouse, which has a hilarious zero-tolerance policy against texting during movies? CNN's Anderson Cooper liked the video so much he nominated the Drafthouse's owner, Tim League, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

My first thought: "Ridiculous." My second thought: "Well, there have certainly been less qualified winners."

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A day in Gent 

The TH Son is accompanying me on a week of business in Europe. Today we visited our European distribution center near Gent, Belgium, after which the two of us walked around that beautiful town for a mere 2 1/2 hours before hopping the train for Brussels airport. I snapped some pictures with my Blackberry along the way (and, yes, that is my finger that clownishly mars a couple of the shots).

The alleged "oldest hotel in Western Europe," now operated by Best Western.

The oldest hotel in Western Europe

The accusing statue above the Gent police station, made famous by a popular television show I have never heard of (the TH Son: "CSI: Gent!").

The "famous" Gent police station

We stopped for beer, and had to choose among 250 kinds...

So many choices...

We succeeded!

Beer never fear!

The Castle of the Counts (1180), which houses a museum of torture instruments in recognition of its exceedingly violent history. Sort of a Flemish Abu Ghraib...

Castle of the Counts

The view from the castle...

View from Castle of the Counts

Doing the tourist thing in full corporate regalia...

Your blogger, Castle of the Counts



I hope to go back.

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Notes from Belgium: A warning about the VAT 

I am in Belgium on business (with my son along for some fun on the side), and -- me being me -- I could not help but pick up a copy of the English-language newspaper Flanders Today. It includes a business news article that ought to remind every American that a value added tax -- often proposed by politicians who want to lower the visibility of taxes to voters -- by necessity ushers in regulation that virtually all Americans would regard as intolerably intrusive.

The organisation representing small businesses in the hotel, restaurant and catering industry in Flanders is to bring a case to the Constitutional Court against a law that obliges restaurants to operate with a new “smart” cash register from 2013.

According to Horeca Vlaanderen, the cash registers, designed to tackle the main methods of tax evasion by restaurant owners, will put one in three establishments out of business by making it impossible for them to employ casual staff, thus increasing costs....

The new system would involve a sort of “black box”, which would register every transaction and would only be accessible to the inspectors of the finance ministry. One of the favourite methods for restaurants to avoid tax is to take meals paid for in cash off the books. The new system would make that impossible. In addition, the registers can only be operated by wait staff who log into the system with their social security number or identity card, so that their employment is also registered.

Now, this system of "black box" registers "accessible to the inspectors of the finance ministry" is obviously a means by which Belgium's government will crack down on businesses that are evading the VAT and employing casual labor outside of Belgium's strict social laws. In other words, some of the businesses that must submit to this requirement are law-breakers, and others must do because the government does not know how to separate compliant firms from non-compliant ones. The real problem, though, is a taxation and labor regulation regime that is so burdensome that there is a huge return on evasion. The evasion, in turn, justifies government intrusion in to every corner of commercial life.

Point is, the next time you hear an American politician or policy wonk propose a VAT, remember that it comes at the price of a massive new regulatory burden that will be alien to the sensibilities of most Americans and offensive to our culture. Politicians will deny it, but there it is, a cautionary tale in the policing of Belgian restaurants.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Killing jobs at the EPA 

Here is yet another example -- they are legion -- of the Obama administration's regulatory policy running contrary to its fiscal and monetary policy.

The administration and its allies in Congress and the Federal Reserve are spending trillions to stimulate the economy, and then burdening it with extraordinary regulatory confusion, uncertainty, and straight up expense. It is no wonder that two policies so profoundly in conflict have done so little to improve the economy. This has been going on for more than two years and shows no signs of abating. The only question is whether the president understands the inherent conflict in his policies and simply prefers to satisfy the tremendous pent up demand on the Democratic left to re-regulate American business (an ambition largely frustrated since the second half of the Carter administration), or does not. I honestly cannot decide which explanation is more likely to be true.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Government Totally Sucks 

By Tenacious D. Lyrics NSFW or Children.

(The thumbnail in the original post had the F word in it.)

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Long shot wins at Belmont 

Not being much for the ponies, I did not watch the Belmont Stakes yesterday. This most demanding of the Triple Crown stakes races was, however, very exciting, won by a long shot in the final moments (a $2 bet paid $51.20). The call of the race, now on YouTube, is a classic.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Good news that goes unreported: The end of crime 

The rate of violent crime in the United States is at its lowest level in 40 years, and is at 1/3 the rate of 1994. This is an astonishing improvement in national well-being, yet it has gone substantially unreported, a point well-documented in the linked post. I respectfully suggest, in no particular order, why the media has done such a poor job of reporting the end of crime:

  • The media loves reporting on crime because people love hearing about it. The absence of crime is, well, boring.

  • Crime has declined simultaneously with a surge in incarceration. It would appear that the view of American conservatives -- that bad people commit crimes and that we will have less crime if we remove the bad people -- is as true as these things ever are. The media hates it when conservatives are right.

  • Crime has continued to decline notwithstanding a terrible economy and rising poverty. Recent evidence suggests that, in fact, poverty does not cause crime. Again, the media hates it when conservatives are right, or at least appear right.

  • The decline in crime has occurred under Democrats and Republicans, so there is no partisan advantage in taking credit for it. If politicians are not talking about it, the media loses interest very quickly.

  • There may be other reasons.

    One other observation, which troubles me: The big decline in crime, especially violent crime, has occurred during the "war on drugs," which many of us (including me) believe is bad policy. Perhaps we need to reconsider our point of view, at least insofar as we oppose the war on drugs because we believe it encourages crime, rather than discourages it.

    Release the hounds.

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    Saturday morning avoiding-the-DMV tab dump 

    Among my tasks this morning: Sitting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles to change the registration on the household cars and get them inspected. So, naturally, I'm in Starbucks reading on line and sharing links with you, my ever more stalwart brilliant and loyal readers.

    Whatever his awesome union-busting cred, this seems like a reason to vote against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. This is the sort of corporate favoritism and job-killing regulation routinely pushed by the Obama administration. No Republican ought to sign any such nonsense law.

    Two editorial judgments of the Los Angeles Times, compared. Reuters says "no bombshells."

    Speaking of the Palin emails, the WaPo shows (not unsympathetically) that the rumors regarding Bristol Palin and Trig long pre-dated John McCain's designation of Sarah as his running mate, and were thought to originate with an Alaska Republican who opposed Palin. Is there any American politician who has had to endure such attacks on her children? Where is the outrage?

    Who is the number one target of "hate crimes" in Canada? Answer: Nothing ever really changes. In Canada, Jews are number one target of hate crimes in absolute terms. In the United States, in per capita terms, which is obviously a less severe disparity. Yale, however, shuts its program to study anti-Semitism, appearing to cave to an Iranian boycott.

    The Saudis turn against OPEC.

    A history of political posturing over the federal debt-ceiling. Yes, it is bi-partisan nonsense that goes back more than 70 years. That said, if it can be used to cut federal spending -- and I struggle to think of federal spending I would not happily cut -- I suppose it has value as a parliamentary device.

    Sell in May, go away! Stock markets have been down six weeks in a row, the longest multi-week decline since 2002. Worse, if you are a chartist (click through) it looks like the declines have just begun. Since the stock market is about the only thing going well in the economy, this is extremely bad news for Barack Obama, because his moneyed donor base will feel a bit less hope and changey this time around.

    Related: GroupOn, by some measures the fastest growing company in the history of the world, has timed its IPO badly, and will not top-tick the market.

    "Strategic defaulters," the next entitlement class. If you owe money and can pay it you ought to whether or not there is a defect in the underlying documents. You may not like your mortgagee, but that does not make you any less a thief.

    More links at Maggie's Farm, including this bit of invigorating news.

    TTYL, unless I die of old age at the DMV.

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    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Public service announcement 

    I would be remiss if I did not link to Amazon's huge sale of "summer fun" products. Share the joy!

    (1) Comments

    Thursday, June 09, 2011

    East of San Diego 

    Flying home yesterday afternoon.... What a country we live in.


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    Big oil does it again 

    My favorite company in my second favorite industry does it again:

    Exxon Mobil said Wednesday it has discovered an estimated 700 million barrels of oil equivalent at a deepwater well off the Louisiana coast, a major find that a top House Republican argued should push the administration to speed up offshore permitting.

    "This is one of the largest discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico in the last decade,” Exxon Mobil Exploration Company President Steve Greenlee said in a statement.

    This, notwithstanding continued administration resistance to deepwater drilling:
    Until October last year, the US government banned all deepwater drilling in the gulf, even for wells that had been started.

    Since the ban was lifted, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the new offshore regulator, has issued drilling permits for the deep water at a much slower rate than its predecessor, the Minerals Management Service.

    Since October, the bureau has approved 86 permits for deepwater drilling, but only seven of those have been for new wells, out of 41 applications for new well permits.

    The integrated oil companies are a supply-chain miracle in the face of staggering political, regulatory, geopolitical, and geological obstacles. In so doing, they make us all prosperous. It is not in our interests to raise their rate of return hurdles without getting a substantial public benefit in return, yet that is exactly what the Obama administration has done in the last year. Remember that.

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    In the mail... 

    A review copy of The Patriot's History Reader: Essential Documents for Every American. An impressive and interesting collection. Where else can you find the Articles of Confederation and Barack Obama's "new beginning" speech from 2009 in a single volume? How can any "patriot" live without it?

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    Remember the Alamo... Drafthouse 

    Whatever your feelings about texting during a movie -- I have done it -- this is one very memorable admonition against it. Awesome viral advertising for the Alamo Drafthouse, too, insofar as the video has generated more than 1.1 million views on YouTube in just six days.

    As often as I have been to Austin, I have never been in that place. I do, however, know the cousin of the owner so I am apparently a single degree of separation from a social networking genius.

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    Wednesday, June 08, 2011

    Texas tea over the years 

    The "complete history" of the price of oil, reconciled against world events:


    Fire at will in the comments with reference to energy policy or the lack thereof. I will be in the air for the next six hours, and will delight in robust discussion in my absence.

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    Homeowners: "Negative equity" by state 

    An interesting post at Calculated Risk discusses the impact of "negative equity" on the housing market. The problem is much greater in some places than in others. The implication is that the beneficiaries of the housing bubble were not evenly distributed -- in certain states, pre-crash sellers presumably made huge profits. Those same states were then disproportionately responsible for the costs of supporting the financial system during the financial crisis. While one might expect that these extreme regional differences would be fodder for a national "conversation" about the extent to which state laws, regulation, and banking practices exacerbated the bubble, that is unlikely to happen because neither political party would benefit from it.

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    Monday, June 06, 2011

    Be very careful... 

    ...before mocking Sarah Palin.

    Liberals are so disrespectful of Palin that they cannot even imagine that she might be right in her understanding of history. It is just at that point that the overconfidence of the left slips in to arrogance.

    (38) Comments

    Sunday, June 05, 2011

    The Tyranny of the Intactivists 

    The subject of male circumcision is not one that usually enters the body politic, but the New York Times reports today that San Francisco will have a measure on the ballot this fall which, if passed, "would make it illegal to snip the foreskin of a minor within city limits." The anticircumcision activists call themselves "intactivists."

    Religious Jews (and Muslims) see this as an assault on religious freedom. Setting aside the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment for the moment, it seems to me that this is the worst sort of Nanny-Statism -- it is the state, er, inserting itself between the parents and child in an effort to "protect" the newborn. There is no physiological parallel between the much more harmful practice of female genital mutilation and male circumcision. FGM is recognized as a human rights violation and prevents the victim from having a regular sex life. Circumcised males are fully capable of enjoying a robust sex life. Whatever the religious origins of the practice might be (with respect to male circumcision), there are non-religious reasons to snip or not snip, and parents should be free to choose.

    If you don't want to have your newborn son circumcised, great, if you do, that's also great. Making either option illegal? That's downright un-American. Even when Kramer argued against it on "Seinfeld," I don't think he wanted it to be against the law. The Jack Black character in the movie "Year One" also was anti-snip, but was forced to flee Abraham's village.

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    Saturday, June 04, 2011

    Investments you wish you made, part deux 

    In tech, nothing is forever:

    As of the close of markets Friday, Apple was worth more than Microsoft and Intel combined.

    In 1998, the "Wintel" alliance had a combined market capitalization of $339 billion, compared to Apple's $3.5 billion, and now the two numbers are equal.

    A few months back, along the same lines.

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    Friday, June 03, 2011

    And here you thought "limousine liberal" was only an expression! 

    If the Obama administration were trying to toss Sarah Palin a red-meat talking point, could it have done better than this?

    Limousines, the very symbol of wealth and excess, are usually the domain of corporate executives and the rich. But the number of limos owned by Uncle Sam increased by 73 percent during the first two years of the Obama administration, according to an analysis of records by iWatch News.

    The governing class needs to live well.

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    Thursday, June 02, 2011

    Everything "you know" about fossil fuels is wrong 

    So says a very interesting article in Salon, which rounds up the news that is familiar to those of us who think the oil and gas industry is awesome, but which has not yet worked its way in to the MSM narrative.

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    Cloudscapes over America 

    Yesterday, I flew west from Newark to Austin, and passed some thunderstorms along the way. I took some pictures which my Blackberry.




    (6) Comments

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