Archive for November, 2012

Just who do you worship?

“If people are still unable to see the connection, and are intent on condemning Beck for doing something so wrong, while at the same time defending Serrano — well, I guess there is only one thing left for me to do.”

David Garth takes note of a Glenn Beck stunt with a Bobbling Obama. Beck’s intent was to highlight a $15,000 government funded ‘art work’ and that he did. What can be seen is just what many very vocal individuals worship and just how little considering of their own behavior they do.

Leave a Comment

Demagoguery exposed: tax cuts edition

“the debate heats up once again as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, it’s worth taking the time to highlight some of the things most people never knew about the Bush-era tax cuts.”

John Merline exposes 5 Dirty Little Secrets About the Bush Tax Cuts, one of those ‘Bush’ things that have played a large part of the ‘blame Bush for everything’ demagoguery that has been popular over the last few years.

With the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the rich did end up paying more, federal revenue increased, and the income gap decreased. Getting a handle on such a reality, though, takes work both in collecting data and in intellectual understanding of nuance. It is much easier to see tax as a zero sum game and drink the kool-aid of excess simplification and statistical obfuscation.

Leave a Comment

Petard? Tax cuts propaganda meets reality

about those Bush tax cuts for the rich …

“To be fair, these two decade-apart positions are not entirely incompatible. Bush cut the tax bills of the rich by much bigger dollar amounts than the tax bills of everyone else. Still, more middle-class people got a tax cut than rich people, and many of them got a bigger reduction in percentage terms, too: The top tax rate fell 4.6 percentage points; the lowest rate fell 5, and the second-lowest rate fell 13.

As a result, The Joint Committee on Taxation says extending the middle- class tax cuts will shave $2.7 trillion in revenue over 10 years. The White House says ending the tax cuts for the richest 2 percent would raise $849 billion over a decade. In short, less than one-fourth of the Bush tax cuts benefit “the rich.”

But you’d never have known that latter point from the way Bush’s critics talked at the time.”

A. Barton Hinkle takes a look at reality in George W. Bush, Middle Class Champion, Less than one-fourth of the Bush tax cuts benefit “the rich”.

The tax cuts that helped spur recovery from the Tech Bubble recession ten years ago have been a class envy lightning rod for years. As with many such issues, they were misrepresented for the convenience of bashing an opponent and promoting an idea. Now that the tax cuts are set to expire, reality is back on the table. If they are allowed to expire, the incessant assertions that the tax cuts were only for the rich will hit many non-rich in the wallet, which makes the reality much harder to hide and deny.

That there is still a problem with bias and point of view is evident in how many calls there are for Republicans to bend and allow higher taxes and how few (if any) there are for Democrats to bend and tackle entitlements and spending.

Leave a Comment

Up against it is not a call to play nice: Hanson on the vote

“A final take on the election: Mitt Romney was a glittering Sir Galahad who, given his impressive horse, armor, and lance, along with his decency and piety, assumed that he could win a joust in a fair charge against the other team’s knight. Instead he waded into a sudden fray where he was swarmed, mobbed, cut off, pulled off his magnificent steed, had his matchless armor yanked away by a mob of foot soldiers, and then, once stripped clean, was clubbed and maced beyond recognition.”

Professor Hanson has his take on Learning from the Election. Ten points. All worth considering. What these ten points say about many voters is not pretty.

Leave a Comment

Public pandering to FUD mongering: climate edition

“Climatology is no longer recognisable as a science but has morphed into a fundamentalist ideology of a millenarian nature. Science only serves it to enhance claims of authority and certainty. Scientific ethics and evidence are employed selectively in accord with the noble cause of saving the planet from the corruptions of humanity and capitalism. Any conflicting reason or evidence is never sufficient for doubt but is only a test of faith to be overcome. Any opposing argument is not simply incorrect but driven by wilful evil, in league with big business if not Satan himself.”

John at Powerline suggested an essay by Walter Starck to Speak loudly and carry a busted hockey stick. It provides a good rundown on the current state of the global warming jihad.

“This blanket rejection of any possibility other than the hypothetical threat of AGW has led to some strange behaviour for people who modestly proclaim themselves to be the world’s top climate scientists.”

As to why, Starck offers an hypothesis:

“One doesn’t need to be particularly capable to speculate about some dire consequence of warming, receive widespread publicity and be treated as an important expert. Unlike in real science, no colleagues will dispute them and the few sceptics willing to question anything will generally be ignored and denigrated by all their peers. The news media will describe them as experts and provide the public attention they know they deserve but somehow had never been recognised by anyone else until they climbed onto the climate bandwagon. Grants then flow and jetting off to attend important conferences in attractive places with all expenses paid provides frequent welcome breaks from the tedium of academia. Perhaps best of all, is a delicious feeling of importance and moral superiority over all of the high achievers striving so hard to discover something of consequence about the real world. The only personal cost is to one’s own scientific integrity and that’s not worth much if one is just another unrecognised minor league academic no one had ever heard of before they joined into the climate alarm. In any case, saving the planet is the noblest of all causes and absolves any tinge of guilt in such regard.”

Save the planet … sounds familiar … new threats are being invented all the time … will intellectual integrity ever rise to the mainstream?

Leave a Comment

Growth of a myth: Ecology version

“Fracking’s move into pop culture goes beyond the silver screen, and some of music’s most legendary acts are also tackling the topic. The Rolling Stones’ new tune “Doom and Gloom,” released as part of the band’s 50th anniversary collection, includes direct references to fracking and cryptically ties the process to water pollution.”

New techniques for gas and oil well productivity are providing a case study in fear driven ideology establishing modern myths that damage and destroy. It is one Republicans should study to better understand techniques used against their candidates. It is the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) thing all over again. It was also there in the 60’s movement and the subject of many songs.

Fears over fracking spilling into popular culture describes it as a “controversial drilling technique.” Other sources have asserted that it is new technology. The claim is that it pollutes the ground water used for drinking. Fracking is controversial only in that some folks have taken it up as a means to act out and pretend they are trying to save humanity. It has long roots in its development and there is no evidence that it has adverse impact on drinking water supplies. In these sorts of ‘controversies’, though, facts and reality don’t seem to matter. Fear and ignorance are the driving factors.

“There’s certainly an uptick in Hollywood’s involvement in energy issues. Part of the reason is, [critics’] arguments don’t stand up scientifically,” Mr. Eshelman said. “They can’t win this argument based on facts and science, so they have to turn to a community that is going to listen to them. They find that with the Hollywood crowd and the entertainment community.”

Perhaps Mark Steyn had it right when he suggested that funds normally oriented at campaigns be redirected towards making blockbuster movies to contrast with the ‘feel good’ anti-human, anti-business, and anti-technology propaganda films that are produced to promote causes that fly in the face of reality.

Leave a Comment

About that obsession with economic classes

“What I’m suggesting might seem like a subtle or even trivial shift in how we look at the world. But that sort of shift can be huge in terms of how it changes behavior. Class warfare strikes me as a dangerous worldview. It encourages a win-lose approach to government policy in order to pursue the elusive unicorn of “fairness.” A more productive way to view the world is in terms of net creators and net consumers of wealth, at least so long as society makes it possible for any net consumer to become a net creator by going to school, training for a job, or investing in start-ups. For the middle class, it might simply mean spending less than they earn. I think this approach gets you to a healthy economy faster than a class war.”

Scott Adams provides some thoughts about Wealth Creators versus Wealth Consumers 11/26/2012. Hidden in his idea is that many wealth creators are not necessarily in the dollars game. He mentions philanthropists but misses the classes of others who generate wealth but not for their personal monetary gain. These classes include many volunteers and religious leaders, for example. That would get into some thought about why it is that the most capitalist societies tend to not only have very many money producers but also the most vibrant nonprofit social welfare efforts.

This also gets into the problem that those who set themselves apart by their efforts also tend to be impugned. The sneering at the nerds in schools is just one example. The rich, the over-achievers, the people who work hard to climb the ladder of success in their chosen field are often seen as ‘showing up’ those who don’t want to put in that effort.

The change in point of view would be back towards where the hard working, self made, successful were considered role models. These people were on parade at the Republican convention this year. The modern view, however, seems to use some other criteria for their models.

Leave a Comment

Money math and ideologic unperinnings: The big picture

“On one side, we have the Republicans, whose primary concern is economic growth and debt/deficit reduction, and on the other, the Democrats, who seemingly lie awake at night worrying about income inequality. The big lie of the campaign was that the Republicans were opposed to increases in “revenues” (code word for soaking the rich), when the reality is that the Democrats don’t care as much about revenue as they do about “social justice,” as exemplified by the president’s Marxist remark during one of his primary debates in 2008 that he would increase the capital gains rate even if it reduced revenue, out of “fairness.” And so concerned is he about the debt, that he doesn’t even know how much it is.”

Rand Simberg describes The Ideological Underpinnings of the Tax Rate Debate as a matter of a dynamic situation rather than a static one. At its simplest level, the example is the zero sum game often used by one side to calculate budgets compared to the growth of wealth concept used on the other. The ‘equitable distribution’ of what exists now as if that is all there is to it, an arithmetic approach, gets into concepts of having to punish some in order to achieve social justice or to be ‘fair.’ The growth of wealth concept, on the other hand, is a dynamic vision needing calculus concepts of rate of change and relationships between variables rather than simple arithmetic. Fairness and social justice in the growth of wealth approach are matters of freedom rather of punishment.

What is particularly troublesome is that the zero sum economic ideology has a history of failure that seems to make no impression on its adherents.

Leave a Comment

Foundation of an epithet: does it matter? did it ever?

“Now, the cynical motivations behind this relentless drone of slander and stupidity are too numerous to count. Such moral bullying makes white liberals feel better about themselves. It scares moderates and centrists away from the Republican party, and it no doubt helps dissuade wavering blacks from even thinking about giving the GOP an honest look. Obviously, it helps boost black-voter intensity on Election Day. It also does wonders to stifle journalists terrified of having their racial bona fides questioned in any way. And it helps a feckless left-wing black political class explain away its own failures. Racial slander is like duct tape: There’s no limit to what you can do with it.”

Jonah Goldberg describes The GOP and Racism, Yet Again. It goes to the idea that a lie repeated often enough becomes a truth – if the listeners allow it. The sad reality is that the listeners, the voters, do indeed seem to be on board. Since it is a positive feedback loop, one has to wonder just how loud the squeal has to get before the listeners cover their ears to avoid the pain.

Leave a Comment

A new dance: The doctor’s view

Regulation and law handcuffs on relationships and needs: About how your annual physical exam will require a new dance to a new song as single payer government regulated healthcare becomes dominant. It’s all about that ‘free stuff’ some expect to get.

“If you are here for that annual exam, you will not be covered if you want to discuss any new ailment or unstable condition. I cannot bait and switch to another code — that’s illegal. We, the physicians, are audited all the time and can lose our license for insurance fraud.”

Dr. Peter Weiss explains A Physician’s New Reality: Patients Ask Me to Break the Law. The core issues are those of mistrust and cost. The mistrust shows up in the careful description of what a doctor can do and can not do as well as in how it is billed and managed.

“we are obligated by law to code specifically for the reason of the visit. An annual exam is one specific code; you can not mix this with another code, say, for rectal bleeding. This annual visit covers the exam and “discussion about the status of previously diagnosed stable conditions.” That’s the exact wording under that code — insurance will not cover any new ailment under that code.

If you are here for that annual exam, you will not be covered if you want to discuss any new ailment or unstable condition. I cannot bait and switch to another code — that’s illegal. We, the physicians, are audited all the time and can lose our license for insurance fraud.”

The problem is a common one in business. Management exists to control things in order to be sure that the proper things get done in the proper way so that costs are controlled. The problem is that such control can become the focus rather than the purpose of the business. When the business loses its focus on why it exists, it fails. Since government does not have failure as an option, it has little to divert its attention from process and back to product. That is what is happening in health care.

Leave a Comment

Stoning Oliver: modern propagandists

“The viewer is never told of Soviet practices, like the brutal occupation of Eastern Europe by the Red Army and the overthrow of its governments and installation of Soviet puppet regimes, except when the narrative justifies this as necessary for Soviet security.”

Clifford May calls it Stone-faced lies. There are a number of people who want to rationalize what they believe but run afoul of reality. One way they can can gain comfort in the viability of their belief, sans reality, is by building a community that supports them. Several of these people are rather gifted movie makers. Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States” is an example.

It’s the intangibles again. Good story telling vs far off, in both time and place, things that happened to other people. Catering to the inner fears and uncertainties rather than to intellectual integrity.

Leave a Comment

It’s the intangibles, stupid!

“the central effort — “fiscal responsibility” — is both intangible and harsh, not exactly a winning combination. Republicans need to discover what Americans really want — those small, digestible, attainable things. That would be a good start on the long road to political recovery.”

Jeffrey Birnbaum thinks that Republicans lost by running on intangible issues (Deficits and the economy are too abstract). This is something Romney knew as illustrated by his 47% remark and his conclusion about gifts being the reason for his loss. Both observations were also used to impugn him, but that effort only serves to illustrate how an intangible can be used to good effect by separating ‘them’ from ‘us’. The intangibles are why some think the Republicans need a charismatic leader or someone who can connect distant implications and consequences to far away from the person concepts with force.

Much like in Animal House, the consequences of one’s actions are too much trouble to think about. The problem, as many countries have found out, is that a country is not like a movie and the consequences and implications cannot be ended with a fairy tale.

Leave a Comment

Paradigms: What is known that isn’t so

“Note that this isn’t a question; it is a statement of what the interviewer believes to be a well-known fact. Yet it is an absurd perspective on Obama’s first term, pretty much the opposite of the truth. “

John Hinderaker takes a look at The Marco Rubio Interview, and the Budget Negotiations. One of the more noticed items in a GQ interview with Marco Rubio was a gotcha’ question about the age of the earth. That one is a set up to portray a Republican as an ignorant rube even if his answer was much on line with Obama’s.

John notes that the interviewer also suffered from other problems. The false paradigm and absence of intellectual integrity in much of the surface media was on parade. The example here, that the Republicans have no agenda, is one example. The recent comments by a Democratic Party leader about Republicans being only old white men is another. There is dissonance between how easy it is to show that these ideas are false and the confidence by which they are held as true. The problem the Republicans have is that following the confidence is much easier than assessing the reality.

If you ever wondered how Castro, Chavez, Stalin, and the rest of their ilk gained power, a study of the dissonance John notes should provide clues.

Leave a Comment

Zero sum game? The Laffer Curve experiments

“The relevant question is where we are on the Laffer Curve. Are we on the part of the curve–the “prohibitive region”–where an increase in marginal tax rates will reduce revenues and a decrease in marginal tax rates will increase revenues? For the United States, I think the answer is pretty clearly no.

But what about for California? We are about to have an empirical test. Proposition 30 garnered about 54 percent of the vote earlier this month. One provision is a one-quarter percentage point increase in the sales tax rate.”

David Henderson says It’s not Go Galt: It’s Go to Texas. That is the federalism option that is not available when it comes to national taxes. One of the key features of federalism – keeping governance as local as possible – is that a citizen can remove himself from governance he does not like and find something closer to what he can tolerate. This has been happening in states such as California where people have left the state to find less oppressive governance.

The issue is not about something that has binary features. O’Reilly had trouble with this trying to understand Stossel’s argument that price ‘gouging’ in disasters like Sandy could be a good thing. Rather than seeing high gas prices moderate behavior over a continuum, O’Reilly could only see a grandma who could no longer afford any trip for necessary purposes. The reality, shown time and again, is that people respond to high gas prices by cutting back on trips, sharing rides, and doing other things. The same happens with taxes. There are all sorts of ways to reduce tax burdens and the more tax there is, the more effort is put into finding them.

The experiment in California is just how much you can raise taxes and obtain the expected revenue increase. There is a penchant to dismiss Laffer Curve ideas and envision a simple more tax means more revenue theory. Those hated Bush tax cuts illustrate something different from this. They were installed to combat the Tech Bubble recession and federal revenue rose after they were implemented. That debate is on the table right now because the cuts are set to expire very soon.

California and a few other states are leading the tax increase effort. Economists watch and wait in order to get some idea of just how high the taxes can go before adverse effects start to decrease government revenue.

“Jerry Brown, who pushed hard for this tax increase, and the California voters who voted for this, are playing with fire.”

some deny there is any fire potential — that gets into class warfare and envy …

Leave a Comment

Consequences of voting: Union edition

“Union idiots are free to choose this course of action but they are also going to have to live with the consequences of that choice. The important thing is that these people get no public assistance benefits whatsoever. In this economy there is no reason that people struggling to get by should subsidize people who throw away jobs.

People voted for irresponsibility, now they must get it. No soft landings, no pity. It’s time for harsh lessons to be learned.”

Ace of Spades HQ describes the result from a Union that decided striking a company in bankruptcy was the way to go. Perhaps they were a bit too comfortable and well off to consider the implications?

This episode has another highlight as it appears it is being blamed on Romney via Bain Capital (even though neither had anything to do with this situation). That may indicate that the Blame Bush thing is getting a bit old in the tooth and a new villian is needed.

Leave a Comment

A free pass? Katrina vs Sandy

“After Katrina, President George W. Bush was lambasted for FEMA’s response to the storm. Those aware of the situation in Far Rockaway and other hard-hit areas of New York know that the situation isn’t much different than New Orleans post-Katrina.”

Some are asking: Why Isn’t Sandy Obama’s Katrina? « Commentary Magazine

No helicopters rescuing people from the floods; FEMA sold off its trailers (but may have to buy new ones) for temporary housing; Bush was excoriated but now very little attention is paid to the death and destruction and poor government response.

“With the media’s silence and the public’s amnesia over the impact of the hurricane, President Obama has once again received a free pass on yet another issue of national importance. The media’s outcry over the devastation after Katrina led to a massive influx of aid in the form of governmental agency involvement, subsidies, and private charitable organizations’ assistance. Without that outcry, the victims of Sandy should be wondering what kind of attention they would be receiving if the president’s party began with an R, not a D. “

Free pass, indeed.

Leave a Comment

It’s the distance: urban life

“They have forgotten that mankind’s natural state is poverty and that strenuous, heroic efforts are required to produce the astounding affluence and abundant paraphernalia of our modern, affluent lifestyles. To use Marxian terminology, urbanites have become alienated from economic reality.”

Mark Hendrickson asks: “What Explains The Partisan Divide Between Urban And Non-Urban Areas”. He notes that “If presidents were elected by acreage rather than by head count, Republicans would win national elections by landslides.” His suggestion is that voting patterns of urban vs rural reflect something towards the ideas in Logan’s Run. Inside, it all seems to be an idyllic society. Outside, reality is different. Today’s urban life isn’t so separated but the idea is that urbanites vote the way they do because of their distance from the nitty gritty world of manufacturing and farming and direct contact with nature every day. There is a security blanket that protects one from massive social debt. When that security blanket wears thin … well, there is the Greece to consider for what can happen. Will California, Illinois, and New York follow?

Leave a Comment

Understanding the election

“President Obama won the election for the same reason George W. Bush was re-elected: Americans overwhelmingly favor the incumbent. Sitting members of the House of Representatives have been re-elected over 85 percent of the time since 1964.”

Gregory Ferenstein has a good look at the recent election in It’s Incumbency, Stupid: Romney’s Fail Was Fate.

“Elected incumbents enjoy unparalleled preparation time and access to their old supporters. Obama had four years to prep for the 2012 election and millions of contacts waiting to be switched on as volunteers and donors. This last advantage is especially important.”

“Orca [the Romney get out the vote support software] was a rush job, slapped together in the little time since Romney’s nomination, and never had a chance at being tested at scale. Under those conditions, it’s not a surprise the system experienced issues.”

The dissection of the vote has pundits talking about catering to minorities and adjusting ideologies and finding flaws in candidates and campaigns. That is mostly just noise. Incumbancy nearly always has an edge. In this election, the incumbant support dropped significantly but the challenger was not able to take advantage of that. The vote swing just wasn’t quite enough, especially where it really counted.

Now, where was the story about the woman who ran over her husband because he didn’t vote? That is one way to express disappointment over a failure to exercise one’s responsibilities as a citizen.

Leave a Comment

Straw man episodes: Buying the vote

“The evidence is that money is not as important in determining outcomes of election as people think. Apparently, we aren’t puppets of the rich and powerful who mindlessly follow the plutocrat with the deepest pockets.”

Via Meadia notes Citizens United Not End of the World citing election research.

Of course, it is a convenient straw man. These days, those who have money are evil so it is obvious that election outcomes that one doesn’t like must be because the election was bought. Reality speaks a different tune, though.

“Apparently voters follow their own perception of their own interests and values when they vote and are not so easily bamboozled as campaign consultants would have politicians believe.”

This might be a bit over-simplified as well. People are not often closely in touch with their own interests and needs. The last election has ripe material for examining that.

Leave a Comment

Setting the example: California

“All of has made me wonder if California is a harbinger of our future. Its economy is in a pitiful condition. It just voted to raise taxes substantially on its most productive citizens. Its Hispanic population (legal and illegal) is large and growing. And it has become a one-party state.”

Scott Johnson wonders: California, here we come? California is often considered to be a political indicator. The recent election certainly took the ‘Animal House Nation’ ideas of ignorant dependency, envy, and ‘feel-good’ to a new level. This despite the state pension system being threatened enough to be a factor in the bankruptcy of several cities. But that just illustrates another problem that was clearly present in the last election.

“the electorate did not on average hold Obama’s pitiful record against him. Voters split about equally on the question of which candidate would better handle the economy — here I am drawing directly from the AP report — and about half said former President George W. Bush is more to blame for the current economic problems, while 4 in 10 laid the blame with the current president.”

The ‘blame Bush’ thing is something worthy of study because it represents a propaganda success that Radio Moscow in the early 70’s would have envied. It seems to be well correlated with a psychological fixation that denies any threat to its world view. The election results cannot be understood until this phenomena is also understood.

California is a bit ahead of the rest of the country in its fixation on the ideas that the only way to raise government revenue is via higher taxes, especially on those who produce more wealth. It demonizes those that do not think government is the solution and projects the sources of its problems on its opponents. The voting public either swallows this propaganda or loses interest in participating. The results are likely to be tragic. California, being one of the wealthiest regions on the planet, will tell us what it takes to survive and just how much damage can be sustained.

Leave a Comment