Friday, February 27, 2009

Blunders on the Cheap

Human Events has done us all a favor by summarizing the top ten blunders that the Obama Administration has made in just the first month. I don't know if that is an all time record for rate of blunders, but if it isn't it is sure close.

The overwhelming impression is of an amateurish petulant child in a big hurry when what we need is something like careful thought and analysis. Obama seems to take relatively little counsel and none from those who don't already agree with him. The stimulus package looks like nothing but a debacle. His appointees are certainly not "change" — more like more of the same 'ole same 'ole. The policies are regurgitated New Deal which if they work as well as they did the first time will tank the economy and keep it tanked for a long long time. What we are not getting and what it increasingly is looking like we won't get is anything that plows any new ground. The change is all backward looking and a fast-track to extreme socialism. It hasn't worked in the past and nothing has changed. Check out Einstein's quote from the post two back. I think it applies.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taking Your Mind Off It All

One of the fascinating things to me is the way the internet keeps getting more and more information content and more and more dynamic. Social Networking software for example like Facebook and MySpace are taking off. Twitter, about as mindless a piece of software as I've seen is even ticking along.('s video about Twitter) Then there is YouTube and Yahoo and all the Blogs. None of these things were even around just a few years ago.

Now as more and more information gets out there it becomes more and more difficult to tell the good stuff from the not-so-good stuff and certainly the reliable stuff from the unreliable stuff. It all just reminds me of the George Carlin bit about having a place to keep your stuff.

One site I ran into because someone sent me a link was I don't know who is running this site but it's a pretty simple site. It has about fifteen or so videos a day that are just shown as links with a mouseover action that gives a slightly extended hint about what the link it about. Most of their videos are exceptionally interesting, which is the whole point. I watched a long one yesterday about the rise of the Linux operating system and there were some others on optical illusions. It's just a terrible time waster because you get hooked on the good videos. So if you have a moment or two or ten wander over to and check it out. By the way, if you click on Ben Franklin there you'll get a great video from on government.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stimulated by the Insanity of it all

Well this stimulus package has certainly been stimulating everyone. I've yet to see any positive press on it. Today my mailbox was full of messages about the number of Americans that are against it. One internet poll was running 50 to 1 against it.

It's a huge expenditure which seems likely to single handedly jack up the national debt appreciably. Currently the U.S. Gross Domestic Product is a bit less than 15 Trillion dollars, that's a lot, but the debt is about 9 Trillion and with the 800 billion or so of stimulus adjusted for interest we're looking at something like a 33% rise in the national debt from the long term effects of this one action. This is not fiscal responsibility. It isn't even fiscal irresponsibility. What it is is sheer reckless disregard for the health of the economy.

Apparently the Democrats are drunk with their newly found power and bent on making up for all the profligate spending they never had a chance to do. It is positively scary, especially in the aftermath of the stock market collapse. Your 401K may be different from mine but my IRA's and my 401K's have all tanked and now they want to spend money they don't have in huge quantities? Have they collectively lost their marbles? This is positively crazy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Review Surfing the Bimodals

Review surfing at is a hoot sometimes. I was doing that today since I've been reading Henry Hazlitt's book "Economics in One Lesson" mainly to remind myself of how economically illiterate most people are and what is scarier most politicians. So in that frame of mind I found a few books on Amazon dealing with the recent and past lunatic economic behaviors. The two books I found were Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse by Thomas E. Woods Jr. which has 10 reviews and New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America by Burton W., Jr. Folsom which has 22 reviews.

I virtually always check out the reviews, especially the negative ones. The positive ones are going to have a few prompted by friendship with the author or the point of view, but the negative ones are always either 1) mindless, or 2) full of venom and hence often more informative. Amazon reviews are from 1 to 5, sort of a Likert scale. Books with no very ideological flavor and which stir no great passions will have a range of reviews 5's 4's 3's 2's and an occasional 1.

They might look like a little bar chart.
3 XX
1 X
while the ideological ones are always bimodal having a lot of high grades and a lot of low grades and nothing much in between. That was the case with these two books.

Meltdown had 9 5* and 1 1* reviews.
New Deal or Raw Deal? had 15 5*, 2 2* and 5 1*
You can go look at them yourself. I think it is self-evident along with Henry Hazlitt that government spending is money displaced from it's proper role as the resources of those who earned it. Government has proper roles, but one of them is not taking people's money so the government can spend it indiscriminantly as they please. That is ultimately tyranny.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just Who Is Stimulated?

The stimulus package is an incoherent and ultimately fruitless exercise in government wastefulness and a power grab of monumental proportions. This is a policy with no precedent whatsoever that suggests it will be effective. The Investment Business Daily today had a few choice words to say on the subject in an article titled: Taxing the Truth which points out that the policies currently being pursued have never been successful. You know "never" "nada" or maybe "What part of The Great Depression was it that you didn't understand?"

So if objectively there is no reason to expect this stuff to work, and let's assume these guys have more than two neurons, so we can't simply ascribe it to idiocy, then there must be another reason. Sherlock Holmes would hit on it right away. It fits in perfectly with "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste" — this is just the biggest earmark opportunity ever. If you miss the boat on this one you're really a bozo so they all lined up.

One wonders how long Obama's honeymoon will be. So far it's hard to see anything he's done particularly right. It's going to be a long four years.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Money isn't real! Let me say that again: "Money isn't real." I don't mean that it's not real in the sense of being useless, but only in the very specific sense of being both intangible and ephemeral. Money is an acknowledgment of value owed, it's like a promise or a debt token. What it stands for is either a promise to reimburse someone for work they have already done, or a promise of restitution when it is money borrowed against future work.

Work has to produce something worth the promise. One of the problems with government is that most of what they do we could get along very well without but we have to promise them quite a bit for doing not much worthwhile. In fact much of what they do makes the rest of us less effective. I don't know how much time you spend preparing your income tax, but I spend way too much quality time filling out meaningless forms of great complexity so that I can give too much of my hard earned income to a bunch of idiots to waste. Does that sound like whining? Well maybe it is. I don't think there is much government does except national defense that couldn't be done a good deal better by the private sector or not done at all.

This latest stimulous package is over the top. A huge amount of money is going to simply be wasted with the claim (unproven and largely unprovable) that it is necessary to save the economy. Well (surprise, surprise) the government's primary effect on the economy is as a drag. More government meddling will make it more of a drag, so don't expect much stimulus from the stimulus package. It's just a big payoff to the Democratic constituencies. Better they give the people's money back to the people who can spend it efficiently on things that are really needed.

In a few years when they've made a total shambles of the economy maybe we'll be able to salvage something from the pieces. Maybe not.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Advantage: Principles, Disadvantage: Lack of Courage

Thomas Sowell's editorial yesterday which I cited concluded with this telling passage about Principles:

Too many Republicans seem to think that being "inclusive" means selling out your principles to try to attract votes. It never seems to occur to them that you can attract a wider range of voters by explaining your principles in a way that more people understand.

That is precisely what Reagan did and what Gingrich did in 1994. Most Americans' principles are closer to those of the Republicans than to those of the Democrats.

It is the only advantage the Republicans have. The Democrats have the media, the unions, the environmental extremists and the tort lawyers on their side. Why should Republicans throw away their one advantage by becoming imitation Democrats?

Joseph Sobran calls the Republicans "the stupid party" because while they have the right principles, at least better than the Democrats, they are forever showing the lack of courage of their convictions. They too have the "win at any price" syndrome which typifies either lack of principle or lack of courage. Most often I think it is the latter.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Politicians are just nuts!

If you want to find the source of total cluelessness, just go to Washington. It seems to be an illness that is contageous since if you send a representative to Washington they tend to catch it after a while regardless of the political party. Occasionally there are rare moments of lucidity as when the Republicans united against the so-called stimulous package. But the romance of government with failed economic policies continues unabated. See Thomas Sowell's column today.

Did these people ever take any economics? Oh yeah, I forgot, they're all lawyers. That might explain it. We seem poised to revisit depression era economics all over again. The New Deal didn't work! Let me repeat that. The programs much heralded by the left in the New Deal didn't work. The lessons of history suggest instead that they delayed economic recovery by a decade at least. If we work it right we can learn that all over again. Help!! The lunatics are running the asylum.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The World of the Clueless

Sometimes it is downright 'pathetic' as well as hilariously funny how clueless the new president can be. He probably needs a keeper now that he can pop off whenever he wants. Amir Taheri concluded his column in The New York Post titled PATHETIC 'MESSAGE'—OBAMA'S ODD ISLAMIC OUTREACH with:
"CASTING himself in the role of a "bridge" and dreaming of a return to an illusionary past, Obama appeared unsure of his own identity and confused about the role that America should play in global politics. And that is bad news for those who believe that the United States should use its moral, economic and political clout in support of democratic forces throughout the world."

Our new president on Al-Arabiya TV presented a view of the past that was simply imaginary. In short order Iran, in effect demanded that the U.S. withdraw from the Middle East leaving Israel at the mercy of those who would destroy her. I don't think the president is ready to play hard ball; he's probably not ready for little league.