Wednesday, February 10, 2010


From Limited Government to Leviathan

I’ve had discussions with several people about the U.S. Constitution and whether many federal gov’t programs are unconstitutional or not. I recently discovered the attached short history of how our federal government evolved from what was intended by the founders to what we have today.

I especially like his point about legitimacy, and how political and legal legitimacy is established thru the constitutional process and not elections to fill offices.

The author does loose me a bit on page 4 when he argues that additional amendments wouldn’t solve the problem. I guess I see his point tying moral legitimacy to the Lockean theory of natural rights, and I do agree with that theory and the implications for limited government, but I’m not sure I agree that if a super-majority of Americans no longer felt tied that theory that they could not legitimately abandon those principles for others thru the amendment process.

Other than that single paragraph that I question, I think this letter very accurately captures what has happened at a high level, and why that is a bad thing for our nation. I highly recommend taking 10 minutes for a careful reading of it. I welcome your thoughts.

The article is also found here:

A few quotes:

"Most of what the federal government does today is unconstitutional because done without constitutional authority. Reducing that point to its essence, the Constitution says, in effect, that everything that is not authorized—to the government, by the people, through the Constitution— is forbidden. Progressives turned that on its head: Everything that is not forbidden is authorized.”
"The federal government gets its powers by delegation from the people through ratification—reflecting mainly the (natural) powers the people have to give it—not through subsequent elections, which are designed primarily to fill elective offices. To be sure, many of the powers thus delegated leave room for discretion by those elected. That is why elections matter: different candidates may have different views on the exercise of that discretion—the discretion to declare war, to take a clear example. But through elections the people can no more give government a power it does not have than they can take from individuals a right they do have. In a constitutional republic like ours, it is the Constitution that sets the powers, not the people through periodic elections. But when powers or rights are expanded or contracted not through ratification but through elections and the subsequent actions of elected officials, and the courts fail to check that, the Constitution is undermined and the powers thus created are illegitimate.”

Friday, November 06, 2009


How American Health Care Killed My Father

You really need to read this article!
I have read, literally, hundreds of articles on health care this year. This article is the best I’ve come across from any source. It is written by a Democrat (and Obama supporter), but it is not partisan at all. If you want to understand the many forces standing in the way of better health care, read this article! A few paragraphs are quoted below.

Keeping Dad company in the hospital for five weeks had left me befuddled. How can a facility featuring state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment use less-sophisticated information technology than my local sushi bar? How can the ICU stress the importance of sterility when its trash is picked up once daily, and only after flowing onto the floor of a patient’s room?... Why, in other words, has this technologically advanced hospital missed out on the revolution in quality control and customer service that has swept all other consumer-facing industries in the past two generations?

I’m a businessman, and in no sense a health-care expert. But the persistence of bad industry practices—from long lines at the doctor’s office to ever-rising prices to astonishing numbers of preventable deaths—seems beyond all normal logic, and must have an underlying cause. There needs to be a business reason why an industry, year in and year out, would be able to get away with poor customer service, unaffordable prices, and uneven results—a reason my father and so many others are unnecessarily killed.

All of the actors in health care—from doctors to insurers to pharmaceutical companies—work in a heavily regulated, massively subsidized industry full of structural distortions. They all want to serve patients well. But they also all behave rationally in response to the economic incentives those distortions create. Accidentally, but relentlessly, America has built a health-care system with incentives that inexorably generate terrible and perverse results. Incentives that emphasize health care over any other aspect of health and well-being. That emphasize treatment over prevention. That disguise true costs. That favor complexity, and discourage transparent competition based on price or quality. That result in a generational pyramid scheme rather than sustainable financing. And that—most important—remove consumers from our irreplaceable role as the ultimate ensurer of value.

I’m a Democrat, and have long been concerned about America’s lack of a health safety net. But based on my own work experience, I also believe that unless we fix the problems at the foundation of our health system—largely problems of incentives—our reforms won’t do much good, and may do harm. To achieve maximum coverage at acceptable cost with acceptable quality, health care will need to become subject to the same forces that have boosted efficiency and value throughout the economy. We will need to reduce, rather than expand, the role of insurance; focus the government’s role exclusively on things that only government can do (protect the poor, cover us against true catastrophe, enforce safety standards, and ensure provider competition); overcome our addiction to Ponzi-scheme financing, hidden subsidies, manipulated prices, and undisclosed results; and rely more on ourselves, the consumers, as the ultimate guarantors of good service, reasonable prices, and sensible trade-offs between health-care spending and spending on all the other good things money can buy.

Would our health-care system be so outrageously expensive if each American family directly spent even half of that $1.77 million that it will contribute to health insurance and Medicare over a lifetime, instead of entrusting care to massive government and private intermediaries?

But let’s forget about money for a moment. Aren’t we also likely to get worse care in any system where providers are more accountable to insurance companies and government agencies than to us?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


TNR: Con Ed - Reading 'Lolita' in the Big House

In early February, I watched 16 men receive degrees in an extraordinary college commencement ceremony. Although there were caps and gowns and processional music, these degrees were given deep inside a maximum-security prison…

Still, what really moved me and my Bard colleagues to tears as we listened to the words of the four representatives of the Class of 2009 was the recognition of how weak the love of learning is among those for whom the privilege of moving seamlessly from high school into college is taken for granted. Why can we not engender the same motivation and attachment to a life of the mind when there are few real constraints on our students? In these times of economic distress, there is ever more skepticism about the utility of fields of study in the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences, which appear to have no immediate practical benefits. But, in the prisoners in Bard's program, we saw something we rarely see on our own campuses: recognition of the deep value of the pursuit of inquiry for its own sake.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


Taxes Explained... with beer!

Our Tax System Explained: Bar Stool Economics

Suppose that every day,
ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they
paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every
day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the
owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he
said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." Drinks
for the ten now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill
the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They
would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the
paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that
everyone would get his 'fair share?'

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted
that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would
each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested
that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same
amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four
continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men
began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the
$20,"declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got
$10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a
dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I got" "That's
true!!" shouted the seventh man."Why should he get $10 back when I got
only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the
first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system
exploit s the poor!" The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks so the nine sat
down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill,
they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money
between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is
how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the
most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for
being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they
might start drinking overseas; where the atmosphere is somewhat

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do
not understand, no explanation is possible.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Is Health Care a Right?

Last night in the Presidential debate, the candidates were asked whether health care is a "right" or a "responsibility." Obama said it is a right. McCain said it is a responsibility. Consider this:

The term "rights," note, is a moral (not just a political) term; it tells us that a certain course of behavior is right, sanctioned, proper, a prerogative to be respected by others, not interfered with—and that anyone who violates a man's rights is: wrong, morally wrong, unsanctioned, evil.

Now our only rights, the American viewpoint continues, are the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. That's all. According to the Founding Fathers, we are not born with a right to a trip to Disneyland, or a meal at McDonald's, or a kidney dialysis (nor with the 18th-century equivalent of these things). We have certain specific rights—and only these.

Why only these? Observe that all legitimate rights have one thing in common: they are rights to action, not to rewards from other people. The American rights impose no obligations on other people, merely the negative obligation to leave you alone. The system guarantees you the chance to work for what you want—not to be given it without effort by somebody else.

The right to life, e.g., does not mean that your neighbors have to feed and clothe you; it means you have the right to earn your food and clothes yourself, if necessary by a hard struggle, and that no one can forcibly stop your struggle for these things or steal them from you if and when you have achieved them. In other words: you have the right to act, and to keep the results of your actions, the products you make, to keep them or to trade them with others, if you wish. But you have no right to the actions or products of others, except on terms to which they voluntarily agree.

To take one more example: the right to the pursuit of happiness is precisely that: the right to the pursuit—to a certain type of action on your part and its result—not to any guarantee that other people will make you happy or even try to do so. Otherwise, there would be no liberty in the country: if your mere desire for something, anything, imposes a duty on other people to satisfy you, then they have no choice in their lives, no say in what they do, they have no liberty, they cannot pursue their happiness. Your "right" to happiness at their expense means that they become rightless serfs, i.e., your slaves. Your right to anything at others' expense means that they become rightless.

The above quotation comes from the article linked below and addresses the question of health care as a right. I encourage all to read it.

In case you won't follow the link to read the whole thing, here are a few more quotes:

We are seeing a total abandonment by the intellectuals and the politicians of the moral principles on which the U.S. was founded. We are seeing the complete destruction of the concept of rights. don't need to think of health care as a special case; it is just as apparent if the government were to proclaim a universal right to food, or to a vacation, or to a haircut. I mean: a right in the new sense: not that you are free to earn these things by your own effort and trade, but that you have a moral claim to be given these things free of charge, with no action on your part, simply as handouts from a benevolent government.

Under the American system you have a right to health care if you can pay for it, i.e., if you can earn it by your own action and effort. But nobody has the right to the services of any professional individual or group simply because he wants them and desperately needs them.

You have a right to work, not to rob others of the fruits of their work, not to turn others into sacrificial, rightless animals laboring to fulfill your needs.

The only hope—for the doctors, for their patients, for all of us—is for the doctors to assert a moral principle. I mean: to assert their own personal individual rights—their real rights in this issue—their right to their lives, their liberty, their property, their pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence applies to the medical profession too. We must reject the idea that doctors are slaves destined to serve others at the behest of the state.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


When the Rich Get Richer

An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of individuals.

Friday, June 20, 2008


What We Believe - by Robert Millet

Frequently asked questions of the Latter-day Saints concerning scripture, God, Christ, and salvation
1. How can the Latter-day Saints justify having additional books of scripture and adding to the Christian canon?
2. What do the Latter-day Saints really believe about God? Is it true that they believe man can become as God?
3. Do the Latter-day Saints believe that salvation comes through their own works rather than by the grace of Christ? Are they "saved" Christians?
4. Are the Latter-day Saints Christian? Or do they, as some have suggested, worship a different Jesus?

Monday, March 24, 2008 - Norquist: McCain Has Winning Strategy - Norquist: McCain Has Winning Strategy:
"John McCain is likely to win the presidential election because he is appealing directly to a growing coalition of those who want the government to do less for them, political guru Grover Norquist tells Newsmax.
“This election is turning out to present a very classic choice between those who want to be left alone by government and those who want government to do more and take more,” Norquist says. “McCain is speaking as a leave-us-alone guy and is articulating the threat of spending more clearly than any president did since Ronald Reagan in 1976.”"

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Archaeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief

The critical question concerns Book of Mormon authorship. Did Joseph Smith Jr. write the book, or was it revealed through divine means? This is where archaeology steps in as the only scientific means of gathering independent evidence of authenticity, and hence authorship. The Book of Mormon is unique in world scripture because its claimed divine origins can be evaluated by checking for concrete evidence in the real world.
To this point, I have shown that the content of the Book of Mormon fits comfortably with Mesoamerican prehistory, both in general patterns and in some extraordinary details.... The trend over the last 50 years is one of convergence between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican archaeology. Book of Mormon claims remain unaltered since 1830, so all the accommodation has been on the archaeology side. If the book were fiction, this convergence would not be happening. We can expect more evidence in coming years.
The accumulating evidence from archaeology and the impressive internal evidence demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient book of New World origin.

Get a free Book of Mormon here.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Federal Department of Toilets & Light Bulbs

MUTH’S TRUTHS » Federal Department of Toilets & Light Bulbs:
"The light bulb ban is simply the latest example of an increasingly intrusive federal government butting into the day-to-day affairs of the average citizen.

Remember the 1992 energy bill, in which Congress banned the 3.5 gallon toilet? It mandated that that Americans no longer use more than 1.6 gallons per flush. Of course, per the immutable Law of Unintended Consequences, the new 1.6 gallon toilets turned out not to be enough to, er, get the job done. So folks found themselves flushing two and three times per visit, thus using the same amount of water, if not more, than they did before Congress stuck its nose into our bathrooms.

Excuse me, but would someone please show me where the federal Department of Toilets and Light Bulbs is authorized by the United States Constitution."

Friday, November 09, 2007


Our Refined Heavenly Home

The nearer we get to God, the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things. If we could part the veil and observe our heavenly home, we would be impressed with the cultivated minds and hearts of those who so happily live there.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Chill Out

Bjorn Lomborg provides a calm voice in the heated debate over global warming.
"In this world of Republicans and Democrats, meat-eaters and vegetarians, dog lovers and cat lovers, we have a new divide. On one side are global-warming believers. They've heard Al Gore's inconvenient truths and, along with the staff of Time magazine, feel 'worried, very worried.' Humanity faces no greater threat than a warming Earth, they say, and government must drastically curb carbon-dioxide emissions. On the other side are those who don't think that the Earth is warming; and even if it is, they don't think that man is causing it; and even if man is to blame, it isn't clear that global warming is bad; and even if it is, efforts to fix it will cost too much and may, in the end, do more harm than good.

Standing in the practical middle is Bjorn Lomborg, the free-thinking Dane who, in "The Skeptical Environmentalist" (2001), challenged the belief that the environment is going to pieces. Mr. Lomborg is now back with "Cool It," a book brimming with useful facts and common sense.

Mr. Lomborg--"liberal, vegetarian, a former member of Greenpeace," as he describes himself--is hard to fit into any pigeonhole. He believes that global warming is happening, that man has caused it, and that national governments need to act. Yet he also believes that Al Gore is bordering on hysteria, that some global-warming science has been distorted and hyped, and that the Kyoto Protocol and other carbon-reduction schemes are a terrible waste of money. The world needs to think more rationally, he says, about how to tackle this challenge."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Freedom Fetishists

The cultural contradictions of libertarianism. :
"The Libertarian Party's paltry membership has never reached much beyond the 250,000 mark.... And yet, judging by their output in recent years, libertarians are in a fine mood--and not because they are in denial. However distant the country may be from their laissez-faire ideal, free-market principles now drive the American economy to a degree unimaginable a generation ago.
Since World War II, he argues in 'The Age of Abundance,' the libertarian principles of competition, free trade, and deregulation have given the United States a level of prosperity that would have astounded our ancestors. For most of human history (and, even now, for much of the developing world), the lot of ordinary people has been scarcity, brutal work, and lives cut short by ill health. No more--thanks to the bounty of modern capitalism.
On the one hand, libertarians make a fetish of freedom; it is their totalizing goal. On the other hand, libertarians depend on the family--an institution that, in crucial respects, is unfree--to produce the sort of people best suited to life in a free-market system (not to mention future members of their own movement). The complex, dynamic economy that libertarians have done so much to expand needs highly advanced human capital--that is, individuals of great moral, cognitive and emotional sophistication. Reams of social-science research prove that these qualities are best produced in traditional families with married parents."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


A Denier's Confession

Global warming is more alarmist than alarming.
"I confess: Though it may surprise those who use the term 'denier' so as to put me on a moral plane with Holocaust deniers, I have children for whom I would not wish an environmental apocalypse.

Yet neither do I wish the civilizational bounties built up over two centuries by an industrial, inventive, adaptive, globalized and energy-hungry society to be squandered chasing comparatively small environmental benefits at gigantic economic costs. One needn't deny global warming as a problem to deny it as the only or greatest problem. The great virtue of Mr. Lomborg's book is its insistence on trying to measure the good done per dollar spent. Do we save a few lives, at huge cost, as a byproduct of curbing global warming? Or do we save many, for less, by acting on problems directly?"

Monday, August 27, 2007


License to Kill Jobs

State certification boards are supposed to help consumers. They often stifle competition instead.
"Most of these barriers to entrepreneurship are invisible to ordinary people, who know they can't find a cab or affordable care for their children, but don't realize it's because state regulations make it hard to go into those businesses."

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Nine Nineties in Nine

Newt Gingrich's proposal for all Presidential candidates to agree to a series of 9, 90 minute discussions/debates preceeding the next election:
The current political system is not working....

For the most powerful nation on Earth to have an election in which swiftboat veterans versus National Guard papers becomes a major theme verges on insane. I mean, it's just -- and to watch those debates I found painful, for both people. They're both smarter than the debates.

But here's what's happened. We have invented a system where we replace big-city machine bosses with consultant bosses. Read the newspaper coverage. Who's your pollster? What advertising firm have you hired? Who's your consultant? Who did you hire in Iowa? Who did you hire in South Carolina? This is the new Boston.

And what's the job of the candidate in this world? The job of the candidate is to raise the money, to hire the consultants, to do the focus groups, to figure out the 30-second answers to be memorized by the candidate. This is stunningly dangerous.


There is a world that works and there's a world that fails. And you can see this as a YouTube -- three and a half minutes we did called FedEx versus Federal Bureaucracy. (Laughter.) And it's very straightforward. How many of you have gone online to check a package at UPS or FedEx? Just raise your hand. Look around the room. This is not -- and I want to drive this home for the news media -- this is not a theory, this is not Gingrich having interesting, unrealistic ideas. It is an objective fact in the world that works that if you invest in technology, you reward competence -- there are consequences for incompetence -- you focus on the customer, you have market signals, you have the Toyota production system, Six Sigma, Lee Manufacturing, the writing of Drucker, Deming, Juran and Womack -- it works, right?

Now, UPS tracks 15 million packages a day. A UPS truck has more computing power than Apollo 13. (Laughter.) FedEx tracks 8 million packages a day. That's the world that works. Here's the world that failed -- the federal government. The United States government today cannot find between 12 and 20 million illegal immigrants when they're sitting still. (Light laughter.) So just take those two comparisons. My answer, frankly, as a policy proposal, is that we spend a couple hundred million dollars, send a package to every illegal immigrant. (Laughter.) (Applause.) When they deliver it, we'll know where they are. (Laughter.)


Here's the proposal... I believe that every candidate should be challenged to commit that if they are their party's nominee, they will agree to meet once a week -- and Sunday night would be fine -- once a week with their main opponent, and the two of them would have a dialogue... I'd like to have a time keeper and require that the two candidates to pick the topics and require the two candidates to have a conversation without being interrupted except for fairness on time...

There are two core premises. The first is that it has to be open-ended. You should give the answer the length your answer should be. And the second is, it should be focused on a series of large questions around which people would be expected to bring solutions. And I believe two things would happen. I believe, first of all, an amazing percent of the American people would watch, and in the age of the Internet, all of the dialogue would be cached and people could go back to it. People would analyze it, people would take it apart. I believe, second, that candidates would grow and change.


The Partisan Worldview

Why Democrats demonize Rove and Republicans demonize Mrs. Clinton.
"Both political parties offer us a ready-made worldview, a lens through which we can look at our political environment and make sense of it.
The problem with these worldviews is that they are morally and philosophically simplistic. Here, I am not talking about liberalism and conservatism--the two great American political philosophies. Rather, I am talking about "Republicanism" and "Democratism." These are philosophies as well. Both boil down to the idea that, in the great march of American history, our side is in the right and their side is in the wrong. Our side grasps the Truth--and the other side is filled with the ignorant who do not understand It, or the evil who deny It. Like I said, morally and philosophically simplistic. Accepting a partisan worldview gives us a ready-made answer to any and all political questions we might think to ask ourselves. However, it does not mean that those answers have much grounding in the complicated reality that is American political life.
The psychological embrace of a partisan worldview is easy and satisfying. Both partisan narratives are easy to understand. Each helps us make judgments about a whole host of things for which we lack direct referents. Each is psychologically satisfying. Few things in life are more pleasurable than righteous anger. However, neither is all that valid on an empirical level. Embracing one might enable us to identify one actor as good and another as evil. It might allow us to feel good about ourselves. But it will not move us any closer to the reality of our politics. In fact, it will move us further from it. "


GOP Immigration Meltdown

"Mitt and Rudy make a run at taking over the Lou Dobbs chair.
"Both candidates, however, ignore the reality that more security measures will have limited effect if not paired with a guest worker program that gives foreign nationals more legal ways to access job offers in the U.S. The same goes for the Bush Administration's recently announced plans to step-up "interior" enforcement. Taking U.S. employers to the woodshed won't fix the illegal immigration problem, and it could do real economic harm."

Monday, August 13, 2007


The Kids Are All Right

Economic literacy test: High school seniors beat Congress.
"Pop quiz. Which has been most important in reducing poverty over time: a) taxes, b) economic growth, c) international trade, or d) government regulation?"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Propaganda Redux

"Take it from this old KGB hand: The left is abetting America's enemies with its intemperate attacks on President Bush. "

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


On Second Thought, Don't Surrender

"In an important and surprising New York Times op-ed piece, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both from the liberal Brookings Institution, describe a visit to Iraq, where they find that things are not as bad as--well, as New York Times readers have been led to believe. The piece is titled 'A War We Just Might Win':

'Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily 'victory' but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated--many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.'

O'Hanlon and Pollack report that Sunni sheikhs in Anbar province "are close to crippling Al Qaeda and its Salafist allies," that "the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate" in the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul, and that "the American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners."

They say the situation "remains grave," especially on the "political front," but they counsel against a quick retreat, as many Democrats on Capitol Hill have been advocating:

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.


Just Drill, Baby

Congress's energy policies would hinder America's economy. :
"America's domestic oil production is declining, importation of oil is rising, and gasoline is more expensive. The government's Energy Information Administration reports that U.S. crude oil field production declined to 1.9 billion barrels in 2005 from 3.5 billion in 1970, and the share of our oil that is imported has increased to 60% from 27% in 1985. The price of gasoline has risen to $3.02 this month from $2 in today's dollars in 1985.

Washington politicians will tell you this is an 'energy crisis,' but America's energy challenges are far more political than substantive. "

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


What We Pre-Empted

Today's world would be far worse if Saddam were still in power.
"Given the problems and U.S. casualties in Iraq, polls show a large majority of the American people believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Yet if we imagine what the world would look like today if Saddam Hussein had not been deposed, it seems clear that almost no outcome in Iraq would be as adverse to the interests of the United States as today's world with Saddam still in power."

Thursday, June 28, 2007


How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change the World? One. And You're Looking At It.

For years, compact fluorescent bulbs have promised dramatic energy savings--yet they remain a mere curiosity. That's about to change.
Sitting humbly on shelves in stores everywhere is a product, priced at less than $3, that will change the world. Soon. It is a fairly ordinary item that nonetheless cuts to the heart of a half-dozen of the most profound, most urgent problems we face. Energy consumption. Rising gasoline costs and electric bills. Greenhouse-gas emissions. Dependence on coal and foreign oil. Global warming.

Monday, June 25, 2007


No wedding, no benefits

"Society gives 'benefits' to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society. Therefore, when those who are not married, such as people in homosexual or cohabiting relationships, seek to receive such public benefits, they bear the burden of proof. They must show that such relationships benefit society (not just themselves) in the same way and to the same degree that authentic marriage between a man and a woman does.

This is a burden they cannot meet. Only the union of a man and a woman can result in the natural reproduction that is essential literally to continue the human race. And research clearly demonstrates that married men and women — and children raised by their married, biological mother and father — are happier, healthier and more prosperous than people in any other living situation. These are the true benefits of marriage."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Hitting the Wall

Reagan's prophetic Berlin speech, 20 years later.
"Rip Van Winkle has nothing on Jan Grzebski, a Polish railway worker who just emerged from a coma that began 19 years ago--just prior to the collapse of communism in his country. His take on how the world around him has changed beyond recognition comes at an appropriate time. It was 20 years ago tomorrow that Ronald Reagan electrified millions behind the Iron Curtain by standing in front of the Berlin Wall demanding: 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!'

Mr. Grzebski is, of course, thrilled to see the wife who cared for him and the 11 grandchildren he didn't even know he had. But he is also shocked at how his homeland has changed. 'When I went into a coma, there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed, and huge gas lines were everywhere,' he told Polish TV. 'Now I see people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin. What amazes me is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and never stop moaning. I've got nothing to complain about.'"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


'I Love Those Guys'

Embedded journalists in Iraq are having their minds changed left and right by U.S. soldiers.:
"'No matter what you think of the war, or what has happened here, you cannot be around the soldiers and not be completely affected. They are amazing people, and they represent themselves and the Army better than anyone could ever imagine.' "

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Ethanol's Bitter Taste

Congress is choking on corn-based fuel.:
"Corn ethanol seemed unstoppable, but a remarkable thing happened on the road from Des Moines. Just as the smart people warned, the government's decision to play energy market God and forcibly divert huge amounts of corn stocks into ethanol has played havoc with key sectors of the economy. Corn prices have nearly doubled, which means livestock owners can't afford to feed their animals, and food and drink manufacturers are struggling to buy corn and corn syrup. Environmentalists are sour over new stresses on farmland; international aid groups are moaning that the U.S. is cutting back its charitable food giving, and many of these folks are taking out their anger on Congress. "

Friday, May 11, 2007


Atlas Shrugged, at age 50

For most people [including John!], reading Atlas Shrugged is an unforgettable experience.
"The story is gripping, involving numerous mysteries and unexpected but logical plot twists. The characters are unique – what other book contains a philosopher-turned-pirate? And the writing is that rarest of combinations: at once clear and deep.

But for many readers, Atlas is even more: it's life-changing. Fifty years after its publication, how can a novel still exert this powerful an effect? Because in its pages Ayn Rand forces you to look at the world anew."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Dissent in Russia

Putin's police arrest Garry Kasparov and peaceful democrats.
"Peaceful protest is not a right accorded the subjects of Vladimir Putin's Russia. The violent clashes between riot police and pro-democracy demonstrators in Moscow and St. Petersburg over the weekend are business as usual for the master of the Kremlin."


Mission to the Moon

NASA's Mission to the Moon: How We'll Go Back — and Stay This Time - Popular Mechanics: "With the iconic Space Shuttle nearing retirement, the pressure is on NASA to design a new manned vehicle — one that will deliver us safely to the lunar surface by 2020 before building a lasting lunar base. From ensuring a safe launch to getting the vehicle back on the ground, here's an inside look at some of the toughest challenges Orion's engineers are now confronting."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


McCain's Finest Hour

Leadership sometimes means bucking public opinion.
"The Senator replied that he'd 'rather lose a campaign than lose a war.'"

Monday, April 09, 2007


Why So Gloomy?

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Warming.
"A warmer climate could prove to be more beneficial than the one we have now. Much of the alarm over climate change is based on ignorance of what is normal for weather and climate.
Is there any point in pretending that CO2 increases will be catastrophic? Or could they be modest and on balance beneficial?
Moreover, actions taken thus far to reduce emissions have already had negative consequences without improving our ability to adapt to climate change. An emphasis on ethanol, for instance, has led to angry protests against corn-price increases in Mexico, and forest clearing and habitat destruction in Southeast Asia. Carbon caps are likely to lead to increased prices, as well as corruption associated with permit trading. (Enron was a leading lobbyist for Kyoto because it had hoped to capitalize on emissions trading.) The alleged solutions have more potential for catastrophe than the putative problem. The conclusion of the late climate scientist Roger Revelle—Al Gore's supposed mentor—is worth pondering: the evidence for global warming thus far doesn't warrant any action unless it is justifiable on grounds that have nothing to do with climate."


Illegal Diplomacy

OpinionJournal Did Nancy Pelosi commit a felony when she went to Syria?
"The U.S. is in the midst of two wars authorized by Congress. For Ms. Pelosi to flout the Constitution in these circumstances is not only shortsighted; it may well be a felony, as the Logan Act has been part of our criminal law for more than two centuries. Perhaps it is time to enforce the law."


Democrats at War

Prime Minister Pelosi and Secretary of State Lantos undermine U.S. foreign policy--and maybe their own party.:
"So this is Democratic foreign policy: Assure our enemies that they can ignore a President who still has 21 months to serve; and wash their hands of Baghdad and of their own guilt for voting to let Mr. Bush go to war. No doubt Democrats think the President's low job approval, and public unhappiness with the war, gives them a kind of political immunity. But we wonder.

Once we leave Iraq, America's enemies will still reside in the Mideast; and they will be stronger if we leave behind a failed government and bloodbath in Iraq. Mr. Bush's successor will have to contain the damage, and that person could even be a Democrat. But by reverting to their Vietnam message of retreat and by blaming Mr. Bush for all the world's ills, Democrats on Capitol Hill may once again convince voters that they can't be trusted with the White House in a dangerous world. "


Romney to the Rescue

Mitt Romney's Got the Right Stuff for 2008

Editor note: I'm not yet ready to say Mitt is my candidate, but I sure don't see much that I object to either... This article is long, but has lots of background info on the guy.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


The Level and Distribution of Economic Well-Being

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke -February 6, 2007
"A bedrock American principle is the idea that all individuals should have the opportunity to succeed on the basis of their own effort, skill, and ingenuity. Equality of economic opportunity appeals to our sense of fairness, certainly, but it also strengthens our economy. If each person is free to develop and apply his or her talents to the greatest extent possible, then both the individual and the economy benefit.

Although we Americans strive to provide equality of economic opportunity, we do not guarantee equality of economic outcomes, nor should we. Indeed, without the possibility of unequal outcomes tied to differences in effort and skill, the economic incentive for productive behavior would be eliminated, and our market-based economy--which encourages productive activity primarily through the promise of financial reward--would function far less effectively.

That said, we also believe that no one should be allowed to slip too far down the economic ladder, especially for reasons beyond his or her control. Like equality of opportunity, this general principle is grounded in economic practicality as well as our sense of fairness. To a significant extent, American economic success has resulted from the flexibility and adaptability of our dynamic market economy."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Shooting Pain

A quick description of the Active Denial System and its purpose:

If you're worried about terrorism, upset about the war in Iraq, and depressed by global chaos, violence and death, cheer up. The U.S. military just invented a weapon that fires a beam of searing pain. Three weeks ago, it was tested on volunteers at an Air Force base in Georgia. You can watch the video on a military Web site (follow above link). Three colonels get zapped, along with an Associated Press reporter. The beam is invisible, but its effects are vivid. Two dozen airmen scatter. The AP guy shrieks and bolts out of the target zone. He says it felt like heat all over his body, as though his jacket were on fire. The feeling is an illusion. No one is harmed. The beam's energy waves penetrate just 1/64 of an inch into your body, heating your skin like microwaves. They inflame your nerve endings without burning you. This could be the future of warfare: less bloodshed, more pain.

Military technology has always sought a greater precision from a longer range. In the Persian Gulf War, Kosovo and Afghanistan, we exploited the increasing accuracy of laser-guided bombs. In the post-9/11 terrorist hunt and the occupation of Iraq, we've sent hundreds of remotely piloted aerial drones to spy and kill. But the lives protected by drones are ours. The pain beam is more ambitious: It can spare civilians and even the enemy. Precision isn't just the ability to kill. Sometimes, it's the ability to disperse and deter without killing.

The Washington Post, February 18, 2007

Friday, February 16, 2007


2008 Factoid

Of the four leading GOP presidential contenders in 2008 -- John McCain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani -- The only one of these guys who hasn't had multiple wives is The Mormon.


A Republican Party for the Future

Republicans lost the 2006 elections because they abandoned their principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility.
"The Republican Congress came to power in 1994 promising "the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money." But for the past six years, with Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress, they have instead delivered the biggest spending increases and the biggest expansion of entitlements since Lyndon Johnson, the federalization of education, the McCain-Feingold restrictions on political speech, and the Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory burden."

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Hillary on Iraq

From stalwart hawk to get out fast.
"The polls show her to be the favorite to be the next Commander in Chief, so what she really believes, and how firmly she'll stick to it, deserves to be debated. Here's a summary of the arc of Mrs. Clinton's public thinking on Iraq:"

Monday, February 05, 2007


Climate of Opinion

The latest U.N. report shows the "warming" debate is far from settled.
"The IPCC report should be understood as one more contribution to the warming debate, not some definitive last word that justifies radical policy change. It can be hard to keep one's head when everyone else is predicting the Apocalypse, but that's all the more reason to keep cool and focus on the actual science."


$34.06 an Hour

Public school teachers make $34.06 an hour. Is that "underpaid"?:
"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers earned $34.06 per hour in 2005, 36% more than the hourly wage of the average white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty or technical worker. "

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Space Exploration: Real Reasons and Acceptable Reasons

Comments by Michael Griffin on why space exploration is important, and why we are doing a bad job explaining it.:

"I've reached the point where I am completely convinced that if NASA were to disappear tomorrow, if the American space program were to disappear tomorrow, if we never put up another Hubble, never put another human being in space, people would be profoundly distraught. Americans would feel less than themselves. They would feel that our best days are behind us. They would feel that we have lost something, something that matters. And yet they would not know why.
Real Reasons are intuitive and compelling to all of us, but they're not immediately logical. They're exactly the opposite of Acceptable Reasons, which are eminently logical but neither intuitive nor emotionally compelling. The Real Reasons we do things like exploring space involve competitiveness, curiosity and monument building.
When you do things for Real Reasons instead of Acceptable Reasons, you have a chance to obtain Real Success. And so we have a conundrum. The cultural ethos in America today requires us to have Acceptable Reasons for what we do. We must have reasons that pass analytical muster, that offer a favorable cost/benefit ratio that can be logically defended. We tend to dismiss out of hand reasons that are emotional, or are value-driven in ways that we can't capture on a spreadsheet. But, Acceptable Reasons alone don't take us where we really want to go.

In my view, the space business more than most other endeavors suffers from the fact that the most important, the best, and the most basic reasons for doing it are Real Reasons and not Acceptable Reasons. The Acceptable Reasons – economic benefit, scientific discovery, national security – are, in fact, completely correct. But they comprise a derived rationale, and are not the truly compelling reasons. And again, who talks like that, about anything that really matters to them?
It is my contention that the products of our space program are today's cathedrals. The space program addresses the Real Reasons why humans do things. It satisfies the desire to compete, but in a safe and productive manner, rather than in a harmful manner. It speaks abundantly to our sense of human curiosity, of wonder and awe at the unknown. Who doesn't look at a picture of the Crab Nebula, synthesized from visible-light Hubble photographs and Chandra x-ray images, and say "Oh my God?" Who can look at that and not experience a sense of wonder?"

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Health and Taxes

The Bush proposal opens a debate for 2008.:
"The U.S. has long needed a debate over health care and tax subsidies, and President Bush got ready to rumble last night with his proposal to make insurance more affordable for most Americans.

For all the griping about our system, Americans have the most advanced health care in the world in part because we still have something resembling a private market for insurance. But it is not a truly efficient market because current tax policy lets businesses--but not individuals--deduct the cost of health expenditures. Thus most Americans with private insurance get it from their employers, which leads to inequities and insulates individuals from the real cost of their treatment decisions."

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Combat Obesity by Reducing the Earth's Gravity

Sense of humor key to his approach:
"New Idaho Congressman Bill Sali proposed a bill Wednesday to combat obesity by reducing the Earth's gravity, saying that's no more unreasonable than the Democrats' legislation to increase the federal minimum wage.

Both defy 'natural laws,' he said.

'The well-intentioned desire to help the poor apparently will not be restrained by the rules and principles of the free market that otherwise do restrain American businesses and workers,' Sali told the House of Representatives. 'Apparently, Congress can change the rules that would otherwise affect the affairs of mankind.'"

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Aztecs vs. Greeks

Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise.:
"We live in an age when it is unfashionable to talk about the special responsibility of being gifted, because to do so acknowledges inequality of ability, which is elitist, and inequality of responsibilities, which is also elitist. And so children who know they are smarter than the other kids tend, in a most human reaction, to think of themselves as superior to them. Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it. That among those obligations, the most important and most difficult is to aim not just at academic accomplishment, but at wisdom."

Friday, January 19, 2007


What's Wrong With Vocational School?

Too many Americans are going to college.:
"In engineering and most of the natural sciences, the demarcation between high-school material and college-level material is brutally obvious. If you cannot handle the math, you cannot pass the courses. In the humanities and social sciences, the demarcation is fuzzier. It is possible for someone with an IQ of 100 to sit in the lectures of Economics 1, read the textbook, and write answers in an examination book. But students who cannot follow complex arguments accurately are not really learning economics. They are taking away a mishmash of half-understood information and outright misunderstandings that probably leave them under the illusion that they know something they do not. (A depressing research literature documents one's inability to recognize one's own incompetence.) Traditionally and properly understood, a four-year college education teaches advanced analytic skills and information at a level that exceeds the intellectual capacity of most people."


Intelligence in the Classroom

Half of all children are below average, and teachers can do only so much for them.:
"Today's simple truth: Half of all children are below average in intelligence. We do not live in Lake Wobegon.

Our ability to improve the academic accomplishment of students in the lower half of the distribution of intelligence is severely limited. It is a matter of ceilings."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Hot & Cold Media Spin Cycle:

A Challenge to Journalists Who Cover Global Warming
"Global Warming -- just that term evokes many members in this chamber, the media, Hollywood elites and our pop culture to nod their heads and fret about an impending climate disaster. As the senator who has spent more time educating about the actual facts about global warming, I want to address some of the recent media coverage of global warming and Hollywood's involvement in the issue. And of course I will also discuss former Vice President Al Gore's movie 'An Inconvenient Truth.'

Since 1895, the media has alternated between global cooling and warming scares during four separate and sometimes overlapping time periods. From 1895 until the 1930's the media pedaled a coming ice age.

From the late 1920's until the 1960's they warned of global warming. From the 1950's until the 1970's they warned us again of a coming ice age. This makes modern global warming the fourth estate's fourth attempt to promote opposing climate change fears during the last 100 years. "

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