Dems Vs. Libertarians

Workers at and at have given us their presidential picks. They make for interesting reading. All but one at Slate is backing Obama. What a surprise that is! Most folks at the Libertarian seem to either be backing Bob Barr or nobody. Quite a shock there too, eh?

But what strikes me about the statements of these people is how much more nutty the Libertarians seem compared to the Democrats. Yes, there are a few Democrats of the "Defeat McSame to end the Reich of Chimpy McHilterBurton!" variety at Slate, but generally the statements there seem well thought out and reasonable. In contrast, more of the statements at seem juvenile. Even one of the questions answered by each of the folks at "5. Leaving George W. Bush out of consideration, what former U.S. president would you most like to have waterboarded?" is really inappropriate. Good for Penn Jillette for saying so.

Is the Libertarian party to be taken seriously? I have my doubts. Consider their nominee, Bob Barr. The guy is a nut job. Can't they find a more reasonable candidate?

Generally, I support limited government and personal freedom. In theory, I should be sympathetic to Libertarian views. In practice though, the Libertarian party never fails to disappoint.

Founding Fathers on Spreading the Wealth

Mr. Motl has put together a nice collection of quotes from America's founding fathers on redistibution of wealth and the limits of government power. Good stuff! Have a look. Example:

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” -James Madison

On the other hand, it's hard to argue with this woman. She also makes a good point:

Start making your list for Obama Claus now! (HT Instapundit.)

Obama, in his own words

Dare I link to the DailyKos? Obama writes:

Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the Democrats should trim their sails and be more "centrist." In fact, I think the whole "centrist" versus "liberal" labels that continue to characterize the debate within the Democratic Party misses the mark. Too often, the "centrist" label seems to mean compromise for compromise sake, whereas on issues like health care, energy, education and tackling poverty, I don't think Democrats have been bold enough. But I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don't work very well. And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

Read it all. Found via Gateway pundit, under the title "At Daily Kos Hate Website Obama Told Far Left to Fool Public To Further Cause." I have to disagree with Gateway; I don't get that message from reading Obama's essay.

In fact, it makes me feel better about a potential Obama presidency.

Happy Birthday To You!!!

It's my Steve's b-day today.


Stretched Analogies

John Hinderaker reminds me a bit of Adolph Hitler. Hinderaker is not a murderer of millions of people, of course, but here is the analogy: Hitler had a passion for writing about politics, law and culture.

Seriously, I'm a big fan of PowerLine. Mr. Hinderaker and the others at PowerLine have done a great job over the past several years of writing well thought out articles on law, politics and culture. But the start of that post had me laughing out loud.

This just goes to show that once in a while everyone who extensively writes or speaks publicly is going to say something absurd. If the speaker is famous enough, these gaffes will be repeated by his or her opponents ad nauseum, in an attempt to characterize them as typical.

A case in point is Rush Limbaugh. I haven't listened to Rush very much, and don't care too much for his program, but from what I have listened to I think he is nothing like how he is portrayed by his opponents. He is on the air for several hours every day. Out of those thousands of on-air hours, opponents pull a couple of absurd sentences out and claim that's the real Rush. It's nonsense.

Candidates and Trade

Via Instapundit, via Greg Mankiw, is this interesting article in the Times of India.

McCain is one of the few American politicians in either party with the courage and conviction to stand up to protectionist populism. By contrast, Obama embodies protectionism.

The whole thing is well worth reading. The best view is sometimes from the outside looking in.

Corey Miller, Well Driller

Sounds rather bitter and clingy.


This is cool. A scientific explanation for why people "see" apparitions:
[ Scientific American ] So far, they have found evidence that some apparitions may be brain benders caused by spiking EMFs (electromagnetic fields), and possibly even extremely low-–frequency sound waves (known as infrasound) so subtle that the ear does not register them as noise.

EMFs emitted by power lines and towers, clock radios and other electrical sources may help debunk myths that people or things are haunted...

Happy Divali 2008

Happy Divali Everyone!

It was a gorgeous fall day here in the Boston area. We had a good time at the local grade school's Pumpkin Fest. Lincoln grade school is very impressive too. Perhaps our Shivani will go there, if we are still living here in a few years.

Today is the first day of Divali. We are putting up lights and eating sweets. Best wishes to you and yours!

That Will Learn 'Em!

I liked comment #6 here:

I am high school teacher- I have done experiments with students’ grades- they have to pay a tax over 80% - with tax getting steeper after 90 and 95%. I often hear- its not fair- I worked for my grade.
To complete the wealth-spreading analogy, part of that grade tax should be added to the lower-scoring kids' grades.

This would probably be the most important lesson the students learn all year.

Culturally Out Of Touch

I've grown out of touch with popular culture. When I'm in the checkout line at the grocery store, I see a multitude of magazines and newspapers with beautiful people on their covers, and I have no idea who those people are. I read headlines like "Is it over for Jason and Melinda?" and "Trouble in paradise as Heather gives Bruce ultimatum!" and wonder why it is I'm supposed to care about these strangers. Now this story is making all the headlines: "Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother slain in Chicago."

"We can confirm that there is an ongoing investigation concerning the deaths of Jennifer Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, and her brother, Jason Hudson," Kasteler said in a statement. "No further comment will be made and the family has asked that their privacy be respected at this difficult time."

I feel sorry for Jennifer and her family. I wish them well, but I have no idea who they are.

That Chilling Effect

If you follow this link and type in a name, you can see what campaign donations persons with that name have made in recent years. Here is an example:

I can see that Ben Stein, "Self-Employed TV Star," residing on Shoreham Drive in West Hollywood, donated $2000 to the McCain campaign. Poor ol' Ben looks to be quite alone in his neighborhood. I can also see one of my sisters made a $1000 donation. I like her choice!

It amazes me that people think this is a good thing. Talk about an invasion of privacy, and freedom of association!

The Left drones on and on about McCarthy and HUAC's activities of 50 years ago. Their demand that certain citizens declare or deny their association with the Communist Party is considered a black mark in our history.

Now however, people who donate to political parties are "outed" by law on-line for everyone to see. You can see how much they gave to whom, and where they live. What if I want to belong to some fringe party? What if you are a Republican in West Hollywood? What if you are a Libertarian in Brookline MA? Is it any of your neighbor's business? What if you are an employer who would rather not hire a Democrat? Should you be able to check on line to see if your potential employee made some donations you don't approve of?

Who's business is it how much you give to a campaign?

Few people seem to care, but campaign finance reform has been a terrible infringement on our most fundamental rights; freedom of speech and association. How can I support John McCain in light of his support for this infringement?

A War We Can Win?

The US is under attack from a foreign invader: the Asian Longhorned Beetle.

WORCESTER, Mass. – A wood-devouring beetle has gained a foothold in New England, and authorities plan to cut down large numbers of infested trees and grind them up to stop the pest from spreading to the region's celebrated forests and ravaging the timber, tourism and maple-syrup industries.

I grew up amid the devastating epidemic of Dutch Elm Disease. It wiped out much of the elm-lined street of my home town. This new invader is even scarier, as it attacks many of the varieties of trees that make up the forests of the northeast:

The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) (ALB), called Starry Sky, or Sky Oxen beetle in China is native to China and other areas of eastern Asia where it causes widespread mortality of poplar, willow, elm, and maple trees.

The Federal Government has so far been doing a good job keeping the beetle at bay. Mostly this involves cutting down infected trees and burning the remains. Targeted insecticide also seems effective. I am glad they are taking this threat seriously. I'm not an enviro-nut, but I think this effort deserves our full support.

Ann says: I am still amazed that one street in our home town managed to keep all their elms, while every other street was devastated. If you're ever in Shorewood, Wisconsin, drive down Shorewood drive near the lake to see how the town used to look.

Since then, resistant strains of elm have been developed. It has reached the point where you were safer planting elms than maples--which these days have more diseases.

But this new bug sounds bad, if it can cross species lines to attack everything.

It seems to be "Bug Day" at Saltzafrazz!

Universal Preschool

For this video

I posted this comment:

I firmly believe we should experiment with publicly-funded pre-school over the next few years. Indeed, I suggest we have publicly funded day care for childern in the 1-4 year old range as well. Four years from now, we can evaluate these programs and end them if they turn out to be too burdensome for taxpayers. Full disclosure: I'm the parent of a 10 month old, and day care is costing us $1400/month for three 8-hour days per week of care.

I was being facetious, of course. My point was that I think this proposal is being promoted not just for the supposed benefits of early education. What parent doesn't want "free" child care?


This is a bit scary...considering we have these kind of spiders around here. Ours aren't nearly so big, though. Ours have an abdomen a bit bigger than a dime and make gorgeous webs across our back yard. If you go for a walk and look up, you'll often see these relatively huge guys hanging from the trees. They totally freak out my niece, and she won't walk by them.

Engineer Shortage

The supposed scientist/engineer shortage in the US is nonsense. John Tierney tells the truth

If the United States really has a critical shortage of scientists and engineers, why didn’t this year’s graduates get showered with lucrative job offers and signing bonuses?...

But employers don’t have to throw around that kind of money because there’s no shortage of workers — and they won’t be increasing their offers if the federal government artificially inflates the labor supply with an extra 100,000 graduates. As Daniel S. Greenberg wrote in the Scientist magazine in 2003: “Despite the alarms, no current or impending shortage exists, and never did. Instead, we’re glutted with scientists and engineers in many fields, as numerous job seekers with respectable credentials can attest.”

Read it all. Many of the comments are good too. I agree the alleged science/engineer labor shortage is a construct of the industries that employ scientists and engineers. That includes research universities. When they say they can't get good help, they mean they can't get good help at the price they want to pay.

Despite what you hear, American students aren't stupid. Indeed, they are smart enough to know that S/E types don't make a lot of money for the amount of education required. Those who do make good money often do so by getting an MBA and going into management.

Obama's plan to train another 100,000 engineers isn't going to work unless the wages for that kind of work go up. American students have better opportunities. It seemed at one point that everyone I went to grad school with was bailing out and getting a Wall Street job. Maybe that is changed now, and those folks will be looking for jobs. If there is a S/E shortage, they shouldn't have any trouble finding a new job, right?

Ann says: When I was first looking at engineering jobs, I learned that most are consulting jobs. That means they can fire you any time they want, also the vacation time was pretty much non-existent--new hires literally got no vacation time the first year, then they got a couple of days the second. No job security, lousy benefits, and less pay than similarly-educated peers. Yep, sign me up!

Draft Registration

Obama is right about this

"And I think that if women are registered for service -- not necessarily in combat roles, and I don't agree with the draft -- I think it will help to send a message to my two daughters that they've got obligations to this great country as well as boys do."

It's not a big deal, but I do think women should have to register for the draft. If, heaven forbid, there were a major war requiring the draft, there would be plenty of opportunities for women to serve. McCain thinks otherwise.

Disinvitation frenzy

Why is Michelle Malkin, of all people, celebrating the disinvitation of Bill Ayers from U of NE? She's treating it like a conservative triumph.

This strikes me as terribly wrong-headed. As conservatives, we should stand up for all forms of speech. More often than not, it is conservatives who are disinvited. Just as we stand against the practice when it is used against our speakers, so should we be against it when it goes the other way.

This is not a feather in the conservative cap, a trophy for the wall. It is a sad day when conservatives applaud the death of anyone's ability to speak and be heard. As is always said when things like this go against us, the correct response to speech you don't like is not to silence the speaker, but to answer their speech with your own. Let Ayers speak, but answer his speech with more speech, not less.

Legalize It!

Or decriminalize it. There is a reefer-endum on the Massachusetts ballot this November, called 'Question 2':

This proposed law would replace the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties, to be enforced by issuing citations, and would exclude information regarding this civil offense from the state's criminal record information system. Offenders age 18 or older would be subject to forfeiture of the marijuana plus a civil penalty of $100. Offenders under the age of 18 would be subject to the same forfeiture and, if they complete a drug awareness program within one year of the offense, the same $100 penalty.

This seems pretty sensible to me. Let's face it, the "War on Drugs" has been a colossal failure. I don't see why we are locking people up for smoking some pot. If an adult wants to do that, it's not any of my business, is it? Laws against public use, public intoxication, DUI, sales and manufacture aren't being removed.

Is holding an ounce of pot severe enough a crime to ruin someone's life over? I don't think so. It seems pretty much like a victimless crime to me. The serious crimes related to drugs seem more to be a result of their illegality.

Maybe I'm wrong. But I think that it's past time to try some new drug strategy. So I'm likely to vote 'Yes' on question 2.

I'll see what my wife thinks though. Mine is the only vote in the family.

Obama-Biden Health Plan

Let's go over the Obama-Biden HealthCare Plan point by point.

Require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums.
Covering pre-existing conditions isn't insurance. It's charity. Insurance companies will need to spread the extra cost by increasing premiums. This part of the plan gives a strong disincentive for people to get insurance. Would you buy auto insurance if you knew you could get coverage after you got in an accident? O-B will need to require coverage by law, like Massachusetts does.
Create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.
Frankly, I would like to see health insurance separated from employment, not more tightly bound to it. This credit should be offered to those who purchase insurance on their own.

Lower costs for businesses by covering a portion of the catastrophic health costs they pay in return for lower premiums for employees.
I'm not sure what means. Who will be covering that portion? The government? In return the government gets lower premiums for employees? "In return" is a strange term to use then. Odd that the O-B plan doesn't simply mandate catastrophic coverage rather than get the government involved in paying health costs.

Prevent insurers from overcharging doctors for their malpractice insurance and invest in proven strategies to reduce preventable medical errors.
Insurance companies are going to prevent medical errors? Or the government? Isn't that something the medical profession should be doing? How much charge is "overcharge?" How about legislation to prevent giant payouts to lawyers for bogus medical claims? You know, the kind of thing that made Edwards filthy rich.

Make employer contributions more fair by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees health care.
Hey, an O-B slip of the tongue! Admitting these contributions will be coming from "a percentage of payroll!" Repeat after me... "If the employer writes the check, the employer bears the cost, not the employee."

Establish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage.
I don't know any specifics of Congress' health plan, but dollars to donuts (a fair bet these days) it's creme de la creme. This is going to be affordable?

Ensure everyone who needs it will receive a tax credit for their premiums.
Free private health insurance for the poor? How poor? Is it ok if I ask what kind of coverage this will be?

Lower drug costs by allowing the importation of safe medicines from other developed countries, increasing the use of generic drugs in public programs and taking on drug companies that block cheaper generic medicines from the market
I agree with this, as long as patents are respected. However, I doubt this will work as well as promised. The fact is, some other countries regulate the cost of drugs more than we do. Drug companies are not going to allow the country with the lowest regulated price to act as a conduit for drug re-importation into the US near that lowest price. They will limit the supply to those countries. The countries will then threaten to ignore the patent protection. It will be a mess, requiring the US government to act to defend US drug manufacturers through trade agreements. Do you think that will happen?

Require hospitals to collect and report health care cost and quality data
Is there a hospital somewhere that doesn't do this?

Reduce the costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and their employees.
Um... a little vague about the details there, no?

Reform the insurance market to increase competition by taking on anticompetitive activity that drives up prices without improving quality of care.
Activities such as? I think they mean there are too few companies. How is that to be fixed?

The Obama-Biden plan will promote public health. It will require coverage of preventive services, including cancer screenings, and increase state and local preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
This isn't really insurance, because the cost of screening is a sure thing. If the screening costs everyone $500, the insurance company will raise premiums by $500 per person. It has to. Insurance isn't charity. Which cancer screenings will be covered? All of them? Wouldn't some cost/benefit analysis be in order?

Barack Obama will pay for his $50 - $65 billion health care reform effort by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 per year and retaining the estate tax at its 2009 level.
... Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year.
I'm sorry, but I just don't believe this O-B mantra of getting all this revenue from folks making $250k or more.

I read the more "detailed plan." Not really much more detail in there.

You Have Been Warned

Must-read editorial in the Wall Street Journal. It begins

If the current polls hold, Barack Obama will win the White House on November 4 and Democrats will consolidate their Congressional majorities, probably with a filibuster-proof Senate or very close to it. Without the ability to filibuster, the Senate would become like the House, able to pass whatever the majority wants.
then proceeds to outline a libertarian's worst nightmare.

Back When Hollywood Had Talent

I'm posting this just because it made me smile. It's Sammy Davis Jr back in 1933, when he was 6.

Found at the always entertaining Dirty Harry's Place.

Ann says: While were tapping today, how 'bout 2 of the best. I give you the Nicholas Brothers, will Cab Calloway singing "Jumpin' Jive", from the movie "Stormy Weather" (1943). These 2 inspired everyone who came after them:

Or how about a very talented lady. Ann Miller, "Easter Parade" (1948):

Put Down that Crystal Ball

From the New York Times:
IT started with a Harvard physicist acting on a hunch. It ended up producing a new material, called black silicon, that could have a broad impact on technologies ranging from ultrasensitive sensors to photovoltaic cells.

Stop right there! I don't know nuttin' about "Black Silicon" but I am really tired of reading about how every scientific advance "may lead to" a breakthrough in cancer or other medical treatment, computer technology, or energy production. If I had a dollar for every touted "breakthrough..."

You will see the same sort of language in grant proposals. If grant proposals are the measure, every scientist's research is of critical importance and "may lead to" tremendous advancements for humanity.

The trouble is, sometimes there really is an advance of breakthrough importance. How is the person who comes up with that going to be heard above the noise? Maybe "Black Silcon" is such an advance. But my initial reaction to the first paragraph in that Times' article is to roll my eyes and say to myself "blah blah blah, give me a break."

Nationalized Banks.

U.S. Forces Nine Major Banks To Accept Partial Nationalization

Why aren't more people shocked or upset by this? Isn't this a sea change in our economic system? Shouldn't it be getting more scrutiny and debate?

Have Trumpet, Will Excite!

I have decided to give the trumpet a try. I found my sister's old Getzen up in my parent's attic. It needed a bit of soldering, but otherwise seemed ok. My parents very kindly had the soldering done in Milwaukee and sent it to me last week.

So far, I have found it much more difficult to play than I hoped. It took me a couple of days to get from middle C up to G and back down. It took me until yesterday to get from C to the next C up. Today I hit a very weak D above that. I can easily go down to A below middle C. So I am making progress, but it is pretty slow. Not slow enough to discourage me yet though.

Dad thinks I should be sure there is nothing wrong with the trumpet; it's been up in the attic for about 3 decades. My guess is that there is nothing wrong with it, I just don't have the chops. I was hoping that playing the flute would have strengthened my lips a bit to make it easier, but it seems that the different embouchure means it's not much help.

In any case, I have a new-found respect for trumpet players! I can't imagine how in the world a guy like Dizzy Gillespie plays as high as he does. It's astounding.

What A Racket!

What a racket the textbook publication business is. Greg Mankiw has a new edition of his textbook "Principles of Economics." What justifies a new edition?

Why a new edition? The fundamentals of economics are much the same: Supply curves still slope up, and demand curves still slope down. But a lot has changed over the past three years, and the new edition covers recent developments in economic research, events, and policy. In particular, it includes over 40 new applications, including Case Studies and In the News boxes, to remind students that economics is about the world in which they live.

I have my doubts about whether any "cutting edge" economic research is required in an introductory econ text. Forty new applications are not necessarily better than the old applications. How about just issuing a brief paperback supplement to the current edition for those "In the News" bits? You could issue such a supplement every year, or have it on a website. Wouldn't that be more up-to-date than a new edition every five years or so, and thus be better for students?

Call me cynical, but I suspect there is another reason for a new edition. It has a list price of $193.95. Heaven forbid there be a market for used textbooks!

Insta Passion!

This is an unusual post for Glenn Reynolds, isn't it? Interesting.

Rent Control

I ran across (in the now defunct New York Sun) this editorial on rent control in New York City:

Ms. Jagger's case underscores the way that the price controls on rent benefit a lucky and privileged few at the expense of ordinary New Yorkers. As even New York magazine — hardly a stronghold of free-market economics — put it, "Why the hell does someone like Bianca Jagger get to have a rent-stabilized apartment, anyway?" And Ms. Jagger is only the latest celebrity to cross our rent-control radar. In a July 8, 2005, editorial, "Cyndi Lauper's Rent," we noted that the 1980s pop-music icon was enjoying a four-bedroom apartment on West End Avenue at a government-fixed rent of $989 a month. In a December 5, 2005, editorial, "Boomerang," we recalled actress Mia Farrow's $2,900 a month, 11-room apartment on Central Park West.

I don't feel like going into the stupidity that is rent control at the moment. What I wanted to point to is this hilarious reply from Bianca Jagger.

My work in the areas of human rights, social and economic justice, climate change, and the death penalty has been almost entirely pro bono.

For 25 years, I have travelled the world, campaigning without remuneration for the rights of the underprivileged.

Wow! I'm amazed they have the nerve to make her pay rent at all! Read it if you are in the mood for a laugh.

Obama Ad

Here's a new ad from Obama I saw on tv:

Well done, with a positive traditional message. I think it is very effective.

Planetariums Standing Guard... Ever Vigilant!

The Adler planetarium in Chicago sought Federal funds, with support from Obama, for a new planetarium projector, costing $3 million. They didn't get the funds, but McCain still knocked Obama during the last debate for supporting the pork. The Adler has issued a statement:

Science literacy is an urgent issue in the United States. To remain competitive and ensure national security, it is vital that we educate and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
National Security! Are any of us truly safe when the Adler must get by with a 40 year old projector? Many scientists are criticising McCain on this, saying it shows he is "anti-science." What hogwash, and what a bunch of whiners these scientists are. Pork is pork. There is no reason I can see why the Adler can't raise the revenue through selling tickets, or soliciting donations from Chicagoans. That's McCain's point; does there really need to be a Federal role in this?

I have gone to my share of planetariums, and they can be fun. But let's face it, they are mostly a thing of the past. When you can download Google Earth and Sky for free, is there really much of a point anymore?

Penn has pretty much the same opinion. He describes planetariums these days as mostly "Laser Zeppelin" as in Led. He's right.

Gay Marriage

A pro-gay marriage ruling today in Connecticut:

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay couples have the right to marry, making the state the third behind Massachusetts and California to legalize such unions through the courts.

The ruling comes just weeks before Californians go to the polls on a historic gay-marriage ballot question, the first time the issue will be put before voters.

I'm still waiting for opponents of gay marriage to explain what bugs them about this. I don't see how it affects me or my marriage if lesbians and gays get married. Same-sex couples can already adopt kids in certain states (such as mine). Many employers (such as mine) already extend benefits to same-sex partners. What's the big deal? I haven't noticed any ill effects.

The "slippery-slope to polygamy" argument seems like quite a stretch to me.

Sure, some are offended because marriage is most often a religious rite as well as a civil agreement. Fine, let's have government issue "licenses of civil marriage," and keep a healthy separation of church and state.

It's clear to me that it's only a matter of time before gays and lesbians have the right to marry in the US. That's the way the wind is blowing. Nearly all misgivings about it will be gone in the upcoming generation. I think there is something to having the majority of people accept this willingly rather than having it pushed on them by a relative handful of low-level judges. But I can't fault gays and lesbians for wanting and fighting for it now; you only live once.

In any case, I support gay marriage and would vote against any propositions seeking to ban it.

The Debate

John McCain just said he would instruct the Treasury to buy up all the shaky mortgages and renegotiate them. He says he wants to "stabilize home prices." In other words, he wants to make sure the price of housing remains higher than the market would have it. He wants to give millions of irresponsible people a windfall at the expense of the more prudent.

Can't we just start over again and get two more reasonable candidates?

McCain is pointing out Fannie and Freddie and their relation to the Dems. He points out the contribs from them to Obama, and his own role in the attempt to regulate them. I'm glad to hear him make the point.

Obama is calling this the worst economic period since the depression. Debatable; a bit premature. Obama blames the crisis on "lack of regulation." He isn't specific about what regulations he's talking about. He says we should coordinate with foreign markets on those regulations. Good luck with that.

My wife Jui says McCain is not answering the questions.

Question: "How can we trust either of you with our money, when both parties have gotten us into this?" Good question. Obama feels her pain. Obama points out the deficits. He will reform health care... yea, that will save $$$. He wants to develop new energy sources... yea that will save $$$. Free college! Yea, that will save $$$...

McCain feels her pain too. He'll take on the fat cats... like he did on campaign finance reform. Wow, I feel really good about that. Perhaps he can take out some other Constitutional amendment. He points out Obamas plan will cost $860 billion. McCain points out earmarks. That's small potatoes John.

McCain mentions he backs nuclear power!!! Hooray!!

Question: "Heath care, energy, entitlements... which is more important?" McCain says they all are. Lame, but expected. Reaching across the aisle. Nukes again!! New jobs? Alt fuels... yada yada. Obama says we need to prioritize. Energy $3.80/gallon. Bad for National Security. Russia Iran, Venezuela.. $15 billion/year for 10 years research. Says that will be enough. No, it won't. Health care is #2. #3 is education. Bizarre #3, I think, not really a critical Federal role. Obama answered the question. Impressive. Makes standard corporate welfare point.

"Since WWII we haven't been asked to sacrifice." That's good isn't it? McCain says we should eliminate Fed agencies that aren't working. Defense spending. Some projects that seem good to some. Spending will have to be cut in America. Recommends a freeze except for a few crucial programs. I like this answer.

Obama says a lot of you remember 9/11. Um... yeah. Need for each of us to think about how we are using energy. Explore off shore drilling!! Says 68 million acres of leased oil land is unused (complete nonsense). Weather proof your home. Turn off the lights, wear a sweater... shades of Jimmy Carter. Bring on the malaise! Double the Peace Corps. Here comes the Obama Youth! This stuff from Obama scares me. President should set the tone of sacrifice. Only those fat cats should be cut.

Enough Live Blogging. Kind of fun, but my wife wants to use the computer.

George McGovern and the Employee Free Choice Act

Kudos to George McGovern for coming out against the Employee Free Choice Act.

Previous related post.


This article pretty much sums up my position on the bailout.

What I did today

We got hit with 2 school projects this weekend, one for my nephew and one for my niece.

My nephew's was to carry the class mascot around all weekend and take pictures of it, then write up his adventures with the stuffed chimp. So, yesterday, we dressed it up in all of our bear-sized costumes, including Batman, Spiderman, and Superman. For the Spiderman one, we got down the spider webs from our last Halloween party and tied him onto it. For the Superman one, I made a semi-elaborate rig to suspend him over a bunch of fake pumpkins. Today, we took the mascot to the Tar Pits.

But today was mostly spent on my niece's project: a presentation on pencils. So, I spent about an hour gathering together all of the pencils in the house and taking various pictures of them. We spent some time researching pencils, and tangentially Henry David Thoreau--whose father was a pencil maker. It turns out H.D. Thoreau was an inventor and actually improved the way pencils were made in this country. He built his own graphite milling machine and experimented with clay/graphite blends. He also was a man after my own heart, and often referred to himself as a "civil engineer". Who knew?

Of course, that little bit of research wasn't enough. Oh, no, I had to volunteer to help her build a webpage for her presentation. (Her class has a "Smart Board" basically a big touchscreen at the front of the class that can be used to show webpages.) Problem was, the only web authoring software I had to use was the really, really bad and bloated Microsoft Word (and I though FrontPage was bad!!!) I ended up going back to basics and making some of the pages from scratch. Still, the presentation even includes a video of a CT of a man's abdomen--after he swallowed 42 pencils. (Yes, the man was insane. [I even had to make the movie out of still slides.])

Here's the webpage she and I put together. Unfortunately, thanks to doing it in Microsoft Word, it only really works well in IExplorer, and a lot of it just plain doesn't work in Firefox or Safari. If you want to see the page with the video, click here. (I did the tech stuff, but she decided on the content and layout.)

Update: I YouTubed the video (my first time YouTubing.)

Shrinking Ice Cream

Who's bright idea was it to shrink the standard size carton of supermarket ice cream from 0.5 gallons to 1.5 or 1.75 quarts? The last few times I've bought ice cream it made me hot under the collar. Irritation is not what I'm looking for in an ice cream. I think makers realized that if they didn't shrink the container, the price was going to head to over $6 per carton, and people would balk at that. It was up into the mid-5's before around here.

Do makers think we won't notice?

Fortunately, there always seems to be some brand on sale, and then it is typically, and surprisingly, about 1/2 price. I have absolutely no brand loyalty. I go with the cheapest. Let be be finale of seem.

Housing Bailout Passes

From the text of the new law:

19 REQUESTS.- Upon any request arising under existing in-
20 vestment contracts, the Secretary shall consent, where ap-
21 propriate, and considering net present value to the tax
22 payer, to reasonable requests for loss mitigation measures,
23 including term extensions, rate reductions, principal write
24 downs, increases in the proportion of loans within a trust

the Federal property manager shall
16 implement a plan that seeks to maximize assistance
17 for homeowners and use its authority to encourage
18 the servicers of the underlying mortgages, and con
19 sidering net present value to the taxpayer, to take
20 advantage of the HOPE for Homeowners Program
21 under section 257 of the National Housing Act or
22 other available programs to minimize foreclosures.
23 (2) MODIFICATIONS.—In the case of a residen
24 tial mortgage loan, modifications made under para
25 graph (1) may include—
1 (A) reduction in interest rates;
2 (B) reduction of loan principal; and
3 (C) other similar modifications.

...In addition, the Secretary may use loan guarantees and credit enhancements to facilitate loan modifications to prevent avoidable foreclosures.

Disgusting. Here is my government doing all it can to keep me from buying a home. Who wins and who loses? Winners:

1) Banks and owners of mortgage-based derivatives. The Government is going to buy their assets for more than the market price, to the expense of the taxpayer. The claims that they will get current market price is nonsense. Banks et al. can get market price for these assets now, on the market. The whole point of the legislation is to give them something better than that.

2) People who got in over their heads. This includes speculators, deadbeats, and the financially irresponsible. Oh yea, the "preyed upon" as well. The Government will be providing them relief for their debts. That part highlighted above is key. Once the Government buys a mortgage, it can (and will) simply waive the debt. Jubilee! The Democrats will be buying votes in this way for a generation. Oh, and there are bits in the law to prevent the IRS from taxing these waived obligations. After all, why should these people have to pay their fair share of taxes?

3) Homeowners. This is yet more legislation aimed at propping up home prices beyond what the free market would dictate.

Who loses? One group comes to mind...

1) Renters. No property? No mortgage? No benefit. Just more taxation to pay for it all. Who is generally more wealthy: people who rent, or people who own a home? Isn't this legislation stealing from the poor to give to the rich?

Note that bit about "In addition, the Secretary may use loan guarantees and credit enhancements to facilitate loan modifications to prevent avoidable foreclosures." Is the Federal Government going to directly guarantee home loans? Can we expect the effect on housing prices to be similar to the effect the Federal Student Loan program has had on college tuition?

In short, the Government has decided to risk 700 billion tax dollars playing the real estate market. It thinks it knows better than the experts who actually work in that investment field. Keep your fingers crossed.

Ann says: Here are some of my questions:

1) Will this suddenly make non-performing loans perform? (Answer: No, but the taxpayer will pay the mortgage instead of the person actually living in the home.)

2) Will this allow/force even one bank which deserves to close, which should close, to close? Or are bad banks going to be propped up?

3) A recession is likely with us right now, will this make us get to the other side of it faster? Or just drag it out over more years--which is exactly what happened in Japan in the 1990's for the exact same reason (real estate bubble, which the government tried desperately to stop from popping).

4) Will this do one thing to stop the same cycle from happening in the future? Will it reduce the push that the government induced for no-money-down loans? Or, when this all blows over, will they go right back to using the same loan methods?

5) Will this allow the natural mechanisms built into the capitalist/recession cycles to enforce market discipline? For example:
  • Will the weak companies close?
  • Will new innovations come along to take their place?
  • Will capital flow out of unstable companies to more stable and productive ones?
  • Will this allow overpriced assets to fall to more realistic values? (Absolutely not, since this legislation is designed and intended to prop up housing values.)
6) If people and banks who were burned this time around know that they will get bailed out in the future, will they be encouraged towards greater prudence?

7) Will people and banks which did display prudence and did not get in over their heads, decide that they won't be taken for suckers next time. They might as well get their piece of the next bailout and dive in to risk with their eyes shut tight.

8) Is this really the best solution to this problem?

9) Will we spend the next 100 years regretting this legislation? and how many bail-outs will we have in the century ahead?

10) Finally, is the cure worse than the disease?

Employment Update

I haven't updated my employment data in a while. It's not doing well. Here's the chart of the Household Survey as it is now. There is a clear inflection point at December of 2006, things flattened out after that, but there is a new trend--downwards.

One big unanswered question: What percentage of the downturn is illegal immigrants returning home, and how much of it is legal workers?

Obama Picks Up Crucial Endorsement

Homer Simpson

If he's good enough for Homer J. Simpson, he's good enough for me!