Archive for September, 2011

The Candidates Return to

And in the due course of time, every four years, presidential candidates return to Iowa. As a service to readers, I’m trying to keep an eye on the Council Bluffs calendar (and Sioux City on Sundays), so I can sneak over and record as many events as I can. While we see the debates, it’s often at these meet-and-greets that the candidates get a chance to do the retail politicking that will win or lose them votes.

This afternoon, it was Rick Perry’s turn, with an event at Tish’s Restaurant. He spoke for just under 11 minutes, didn’t take any questions, and dived right into the crowd to shake hands. He took a few more shots at Romneycare than we’ve seen before, updating the stump speech to talk about a Beacon Hill Institute report about its effects on the Massachusetts economy.

As these events are designed to do, it drew supporters, opponents, and undecideds, and Perry seemed to score his biggest applause on his standard line that he, “will work to make Washington as inconsequential as possible.” One Romney supporter I spoke with said that the crowd – about 120 people – was about the right size for a top-tier candidate event at this point in the cycle.

So presented here, for the record, is the current version of his stump speech.




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The Wyoming High-Flow Toilet Scam

Hat-Tip to Amy Oliver for this.  According to the Denver Post, utility managers are pushing to outlaw at a state level that which is already outlawed at a federal level: your normal, regular, works-with-one-flush toilet.  You wouldn’t actually have to trade it your working toilet for the hobbled version, but according to the proposed law, “manufacturers could not sell” regular toilets.

The water savings wouldn’t be trivial, but are mostly notional: two generations from now it could amount to enough for 88,000 families of four.  What population and use numbers went into that estimate, the Post doesn’t say.  Even now, that’s barely 5% of the population, when home water use accounts for less than half of total consumption.  And while the article notes that Denver’s sewage system functions less efficiently with lower flow, the operating costs of that inefficiency (both monetary and aquiferous), and the capital expense required to mitigate, go unmentioned.

Aside from the article’s shoddy economics, there’s also the incentive system it sets up.  There’s already quite a grey market in regular toilets from housing projects (friends of mine were careful to preserve theirs when they remodeled a few years ago), and this will only make it worse.  The ban would apply to manufacturers, not individuals or remodelers, so no doubt, there will soon be calls to “close the Home-Fixtures Show Loophole.”  And at least until the big boys move in, and add another layer of middle-men to the process, you’ll see wild-eyed dreamers thinking up schemes like this.


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September 11, 2011

So, for September 11, rather than watch politicians talk, I decided I’d rather take a nice long drive around a nice, long state.  As always, click to enlarge.

I saw this car gassing up in Blair.  There was a classic car show that morning in Herman, and the owner was driving it up there.  I suppose I should have known this, but the engine doesn’t bear any resemblance to the original.  In fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with it at all, except that it fits in the same space, more or less.

Who knew?  I would have guessed Solvang, but no, it’s in Blair.  There are these little enclaves all over the country.  Central Nebraska has a Swedish settlement, and there’s even a Czech-Slovak town up north.

The war memorial in Tekamah.  I hate to say this, but the Sherman was a fast, and very vulnerable death-trap of a tank.  I wonder how many names on that stone served in tanks like that one?

Another car headed for the rally.

I think this is still open (the For Rent sign is for an apartment), but I like the way they put the advertising right on the building.

The side of the VFW Hall has a little homage to the Lewis & Clark expedition, although it’s missing Sacagawea.  The portraits aren’t bad, though.  The guy all the way to the left (appropriately enough) is Jefferson.

Flags out for Patriots Day.  A lot of the small towns along the way had their flags out on Sunday.

People think Nebraska is flat.  Parts of it are, but not the parts near the Missouri.

There’s an Omaha Indian reservation north of, ah, Omaha, and they and some government agency or another have collaborated to put up a Missouri River overlook.  This is a close-up, and you can see on the other side of the far line of trees where the farmland is still drying out.

And this is a panorama.

Why?  Why not?

When I was in Arizona, driving through the Navajo reservation, I noticed one of their high school teams was also called the Indians.  Can we please just give University of North Dakota a break already?

The Winnebago tribe has put up a little sculpture garden, with statues representing the various clans.  I’m sure there are schoolkids who take away a great passionate yearning to be an ethnologist from this, but with only a sentence or two to each clan, it seems to me to be the worst combination of too little and too much information.  But it’s a pleasant spot, the trees will grow, and the statuary is appealing.

An ethanol train, pausing for a stop at South Sioux City, which if you say it fast enough, sounds like a classic DC restaurant.

Turns out that BNSF has a partnership of some sort with Ferrocarril Mexico.

Another interesting storefront, in Jackson, NE.

Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, call your office.

Turns out it’s collection of classic windmills, re-assembled and restored by some maniac, who then donated them to the county landfill.  No, really, that’s where they are.  But who knew there were so many different designs?

Newcastle, NE had a community picnic that afternoon.  I asked, and it was unrelated to The September 11th, it was just a nice day for a community picnic.  Kids still ride the fire truck.

A detour off of NE-12.

A grim reminder that the violence was not, as the textbooks would have you believe, all one-way.

Gavins Point Dam, which controls – in some sense of the word – the Missouri River down past Omaha.  Had they opened it earlier, there’s a chance that some of Omaha, many farmers, and at least one set of travel plans, would have been spared.

No way, no how Sage would have done this.  He hated the car, and it was enclosed.  This dog was having a grand time.

A marina on the South Dakota side of the river.

Coming up on sunset, approaching Blair again, this time from the west, I noticed the texture of the land.

And waited around for the sunset.

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Infrastructure and Spending

Word on the street is that President Obama will call for yet more “infrastructure” spending in his Wednesday Thursday night campaign speech address to Congress.  Russ Roberts, of Econtalk, makes the effective rebuttal to this idea (as with most of the President’s ideas, it’s too amorphous to call it a “plan”) in two posts, “Crumbling“, and “Shovel Ready.”  In Shovel Ready, he notes that Japan spent a decade spending money on “shovel ready” public works projects that provided little economic benefit above and beyond the circulation of currency for its own sake (or its own sake).

In Crumbling, he shows that we’ve been increasing the percentage of GDP spent on infrastructure for about three decades, and yet still hear complaints about “crumbling infrastructure.’  He then goes on to quote a New York Times column giving examples of waste here.  One thing he doesn’t mention is that building pointless roads isn’t just a one-time expense – we’re stuck with the maintenance of those roads pretty much forever, lest they, too “crumble.”

Of course, this was before the most recent “stimulus,” and all those orange signs proclaiming spending throughout the land and to all the commutants thereof.

Taken as a whole, it’s a powerful argument against the sort of fire-hose spending “plan” that will likely be announced Thursday night.

I happen to believe that infrastructure is one of the proper areas for government spending, for a variety of reasons.  How best to do that can be the subject of vigorous debate, but the story of the Kansas Turnpike shows the risks incurred when interstate projects aren’t attempted by an interstate authority.  (For the moment, I’m happy to revisit the debates over political economy from the 1940s, but not the 1840s.)

All of this is what makes the first stimulus package such a shame.  In the 1950s, we had the luxury of buying North Dakota’s support for I-95 with I-94.  We could make a lot of mistakes, and still get the thing basically right.  We don’t have that luxury now.  Wasting almost  $1,000,000,000,000 in “infrastructure” spending in 2009 doesn’t mean we get to go back and clean up the mess.  It means we don’t have the money to do it right this time, so there is no this time.

A friend of mine likes to bemoan Americans who won’t spend on infrastructure, but it’s probably one of the few areas where the overwhelming majority of us actually do agree.  And if the government weren’t so busy  doing all the other things it shouldn’t be doing, it might actually have the attention and money to get this one right.

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Monday Morning Spy

It’s looking more and more as though the Obama Administration didn’t have a post-war plan in Libya.  Radical Islamists will indeed be a part of the government.  And tribalism (to put the most polite possible face on it) is rearing its ugly head.

For Labor Day:  The bad of unions, and the good.  The Americans always saw ourselves as potential winners rather than losers, settling for what came along, explains why unions never really achieved the sort of radical political power they did in Europe.

View has long been a booster of ties to India.  So, a little news from that part of the world.  At least one Japanese economist sees India as overtaking China in Foreign Direct Investment over the next decade.  Perhaps, as long as the Reserve Bank of India doesn’t try to dictate its terms.   It’s only recently that currency controls have been loosened in India, so the bureaucrat-think is still strong there.  Even the paperless office doesn’t seem to be a goal, much less on the horizon.  Hey, I appreciate a good Selectric as much as the next guy – they’re smooth machines – but I don’t think View would have much readership without the Net.

The business establishment sees opportunity with China, rather than rivalry.  I’m not sure the Chinese see it the same way, and I think the world outlooks are sufficiently different that they’ll come into conflict eventually.

In the meantime, cultural schackles can be hard to shake off, even for immigrants.  I wonder if Indian immigrants to America see things the same way.  It’s possible, but my first guess would be that they don’t.

In the meantime, over in Europe, Merkel, in order to form a more fiscal union, may propose an end run around Lisbon, which was itself, an end run around the people of Europe.  I don’t see how a two-speed Europe is any more sustainable than the current model, but maybe there’s a plan in mind.

And in other European Trends We Don’t Want To Follow, in our zeal to record and hold the police accountable, we can’t destroy respect for them.  That way lies London.

Crumbling infrastructure?  We’re actually spending more. The two statements aren’t in opposition, of course.  If you go on a building spree, a lot of those projects will fall apart at the same time, and government’s never been very good at setting aside sinking funds for future expenses.  Our problem is that we’re spending the money in the wrong places.

Yes, Social Security IS a Pyramid scheme.

There are Icons, and then there are icons.

In a wide-ranging study (L’image interdite, 1994) the French philosopher Alain Besançon has argued that the fear and suspicion of images has influenced the development of religion and philosophy throughout recorded history, and has not disappeared merely because we are now surrounded and distracted by images on every side and at every moment of the day. Indeed, much of what disturbs people in our image-saturated culture is what disturbed the theologians of Islam (and Judaism – ed): namely, that the “graven image,” which begins as a representation, soon becomes a substitute. And substitutes corrupt the feelings that they invite, in the way that idols corrupt worship, and pornography corrupts desire. For substitutes invite easy and mechanical responses. They short-circuit the costly process whereby we form real relationships, and put mechanical and addictive reflexes in their place. The idol does not represent God: it defaces Him, in something like the way pornography defaces love.

Can batteries boost solar power? The author is clearly a booster himself, and I think he wishes away a lot of the economic, technical, and agricultural issues.  But it’s always worth know the latest.

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Sunday Spy

Having missed Friday, and of course, taken Saturday off, the Spy has a little catching up to do.

Irwin Stelzer at The Weekly Standard explains why American hasn’t lost its fundamental advantages:   “Translation: if we get our policies right, there is no reason America can’t recapture the optimism and energy that we once called “the American dream.”

As for getting the policies right, we could start here.

Now playing on TVs all across New York City.  Whoever the Republican nominee is, he’ll have a hard time carrying New York, so this is really a reminder to some of Obama’s biggest fundraisers

Remember the Water Cycle?  Rain to streams, to evaporation to clouds to rain?  That’s pretty much the Dems’ game: tax money, to failing businesses and unions, to political contributions.  Except the Water Cycle didn’t leak water the way this system leaks money.

What’s the matter with saying that, if this $1,000,000,000 is critical, it’s more important than some other $1,000,000,000 that the government is spending somewhere else?

The warmists’ war on science continues.

Just when you thought Moore’s Law was in serious danger, ever smaller flash memory is on the horizon.

Verlander is the MVP.  So what if he’s a pitcher?  I’m hoping that the Tigers will give him one last tune-up on the 20th or 21st down in KC, so I can drive down to see him.

Why the mortgage lawsuit against the banks is going to be a tough sell.  “Many of these same banks got themselves in serious financial trouble by gorging on their own toxic mortgage securities, which dims the fraud angle.  Unfortunately, being arrogant idiots with the risk appetite of a coked-up skydiver is not a crime.”

All that talk about the debt ceiling debate changing the discussion, maybe it wasn’t just talk.

“If you’re wondering exactly who has been the first to lose confidence in the European banking system, look no further. It seems that at the forefront is the European banking system itself.”

Apparently, Obama’s new economic advisor believes that increasing wages causes an increase the demand for labor.  There are some boutique situations where higher prices help define a brand.  Entry-level labor isn’t one of them.

A California ballot initiative would shift virtually all mortgage risk onto the lender.  You can see the ads now: “Welcome to California.  Cash Only.”  It’s as though someone was reading Atlas Shrugged, saw some of the legislative proposals there, and drew all the wrong lessons.

And lest we risk becoming too earnest, some corporations know how to communicate with shareholders.

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Friday Morning Spy

On the road, trying to avoid I-80 this time, so the spy is taking in some of the local color instead of drinking from the Internet firehose this morning.

And a for little comic relief, a blast from the 80s:


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Thursday Morning Spy

We begin overseas this morning.

China offers the defense of the guilty (a paraphrase of “contains significant errors and inaccuracies”) in response to a Pentagon report claiming that it’s pointing nukes at India.  Between that and a developing blue-water navy, China’s neighbors will either band together or cut a deal.

What’s that?  Did someone mention China’s navy?

One of the Mitt Romney’s weaknesses is his thin foreign and defense file.  But power abhors a vacuum, and right now, we’re sucking the life out of our own navy.  Good for him for calling attention to this.

And one last Asia post, noting again, for the benefit of friends of ethanol, non-friends of math, that when you reduce supply, prices rise.

The former European editor of The Guardian argues that, suddenly, the European people (as though they mattered) are in favor of more central power for Brussels.  Or at least they will be, once their betters tell them to be.

So the EU is being a thought-follower and banning 60-watt light bulbs.  Which leads the fluorescent bulb-makers to raise their prices by 25%.  The bulb-makers are just taking advantage of a rent-seeking opportunity, of course, but does anyone over there (or over here) understand that this is just sand in the already-lurching gears of world manufacturing?

James Lileks, call your office.  Tell them you’ll be going out for lunch.

The good news: Fannie and Freddie say the delinquencies have stabilized.  The bad news: that’s like hearing from your doctor that you’re in stable but critical condition.

DOJ on T-Mobile/AT&T: hey, if we won’t let them create jobs the old-fashioned way, can we at least skim a little off the top for the attorneys?

Megan McArdle on media bias: it’s not the answers, it’s the questions.  It’s Asymmetrical Information!

We’ve seen a lot of unconstitutional stupidity.  Here’s a case of constitutional stupidity.  What, aside from their own paychecks, are these regulators protecting?

Suitcase nukes.  Not what you think.  Because wind’s not an option there, either.

Today’s infographic: what do you call that body of flowing water nearby?

Privacy protection with Flickr, featuring an intuitive interface.  Adam Savage, paging Adam Savage.

And to close up for this morning, some thoughts on your next vacation.  “Hey Rocky, why don’t we jump off a cliff?”

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