Archive for February, 2012

Daily Glimpse February 22, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • “It Was a Horse!” “It Was a Mule!”
    Beldar on Obamacare’s cognitive dissonance: Flacks for the Obama Administration, including many lefty lawyers and law professors, would love to persuade you, the people, that they’re entitled to rely on one part of the Constitution, the taxing and spending clause, as a justification for Obamacare while they’re arguing in the federal courts over its constitutionality, […]
  • Colorado’s Debt
    Colorado’s Democrats like to make a big deal out of the state not being able to issue debt (even as they do everything possible to get around the restriction).  They’ll point to a low overall debt-to-GDP level, nominally 4.9%.  Once you adjust for pensions and other unfunded liabilities, we’re not in such good shape.  At […]
  • 60 People, 30 Transplants
    Via Donald Marron: The trick is finding those matches and extending them to larger groups. Today’s New York Times has a moving article that illustrates how far this idea has come. Kevin Sack recounts how the 60 people shown above were linked through a chain of 30 kidney transplants thanks to the efforts of Garet Hil and […]
  • Income Inequality and “Coming Apart”
    From Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek: The Fishtown folk at the top of the graph have never attended college. The Belmont people at the bottom have at least a bachelor’s degree. On average, the Fishtown folk are poor. The Belmont folk are much richer. If the poorest people have the highest divorce rates, the increase […]
  • The 2nd German Miracle
    From the Money Illusion: Starting in 2003, Germany under then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder began to implement a program of long-term structural reform called “Agenda 2010.” The idea was to transform Germany into an economy where business has an incentive to invest, and where labor has an incentive—and an opportunity—to work. This was pro-growth reform that would […]
  • Who Took The Wind Out Of Green Power’s Sails?
    Natural gas, that’s who.  With one of the all-time best wind power images. Mark Perry has the chart:

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Daily Glimpse February 21, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • Chicago Fed: Economic Growth in January above Average
    Via Calculated Risk: The Chicago Fed National Activity Index decreased to +0.22 in January from +0.54 in December, but remained positive for the second straight month for the first time in a year. … The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, increased from +0.06 in December to +0.14 in January, reaching its highest level since March […]
  • Taking on Ambush Elections Rule
    From the National Association of Manufacturers: Senator Enzi and Congressman Gingrey are invoking Congress’ right to review regulations issued by the federal government under the Congressional Review Act. The Act allows Congress to vote up or down on a final rule and is a privileged motion – meaning it cannot be filibustered and only needs […]
  • More Of That Smart Diplomacy
    US Trade Representative doesn’t know what “transparency” or “lobbyist” means: The US Trade Representative claims that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, closed-door copyright treaty being negotiated in even greater secrecy than the notorious ACTA, is “transparent.” Actually, he says it has “unprecedented” transparency, because an advisory group is allowed to see it under nondisclosure, and they’re not […]
  • Garbage In, Garbage Out
    More proof that you measure what you try to measure, no matter what you say you’re measuring: A growing world population, mixed with the threat of climate change and mounting financial problems, has prompted University of British Columbia researchers to measure the overall ‘health’ of 152 countries around the world. Encompassing both economic and ecological […]
  • Arctic Drilling Closer
    The Administration has approved Shell’s emergency plan for Arctic drilling off Alaska’s coast.  Sen. Begich is in favor of it, showing that for competitive states, interest can still trump ideology.
  • Competing Models, Different Availability for Adele’s “21″
    Turns out that Spotify turned down Adele’s conditions for streaming her “21″: Multiple sources confirm that Adele was willing to play ball with the streaming service, as long as the content was accessible only to paying subscribers and not to its freemium users…. The various strategies are understandable depending on the perspective. For Adele, it’s clear […]
  • Barnett’s Integrate Core At Work?
    Over at the New Geography, there’s a post comparing Arlington, Virginia (where I used to live) with Shenzhen, China: The two cities hold more similarities than differences. Both are thriving as a result of technological innovation, free market activities, and growth of their human capital. And both cities are now united under a common banner […]

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Daily Glimpse February 20, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • More Maximalist Executive Muscle-Flexing
    The SEC is apparently forcing corporate boards to vote on the “significant policy issue” that is Net Neutrality, despite the FCC’s lack of legal cover to even make it an official policy.  The DC Circuit Court unanimously ruled that the FCC didn’t have the authority to enact Net Neutrality, but it went ahead and did […]
  • More e-Textbooks
    Competition for Apple’s e-textbook creation software; platforms that offer more collaboration.  With unit production costs falling to zero, we’ll see how much of the cost is in the initial production (and how much more inefficiency can be wrung out of that), and how much is in the monopoly positioning of professors and university presses.
  • Consequences For Thee…
    The new Silicon Valley. Wealthy enough to insulate itself from the consequences of its leftism: High-tech firms once concerned themselves with many of the same things as other manufacturing companies. They worried about electricity rates, obtrusive environmental legislation, high housing prices, and dysfunctional public education. Many naturally supported Republicans, or business-oriented Democrats. But as tech […]
  • Nice Little School You Got There…
    …Shame if anything happened to it. The mayor of Providence, R.I., on Wednesday announced a deal with Johnson & Wales University under which the institution would more than triple its voluntary payments to the financially struggling city, to at least $958,000 a year, the Associated Press reported. The deal is subject to City Council approval. […]
  • Another Reason Not To Take the Ninth Circuit Seriously
    This time, on same-sex marriage, from Baseball Crank (Dan McLaughlin): Tradition, history, culture, social recognition: these things were good enough, not only for Justice Douglas in 1965, but for the Ninth Circuit panel majority itself in its own discussion of the reasons why the term “marriage” matters and has value – yet they suddenly become […]
  • Higher Ed Bubble Correction
    In Indian B-Schools: The Indian management education sector grew so wildly when demand was rampant (today there are 3,900 management schools with close to 3.5 lakh seats) that supply overshot demand by a long straw. And now comes the fallout. In a dramatic, though not entirely unexpected, development, as many as 65 business management colleges […]
  • Coriolanus
    A difficult tale, well-told: In his directorial debut, Fiennes takes a strong story and brings out its potential creating with a strong script and solid performances. Noteworthy in particular are Fiennes and Redgrave, a woman who seems to be speaking to the audience itself when she seeks to compel her son to change alliances. This […]
  • Redefining Religious Activity
    From Rabbi Meir Soloveichik: What I wish to focus on this morning is the exemption to the new insurance policy requirements that the administration did carve out from the outset: to wit, exempting from the new insurance policy obligations religious organizations that do not employ or serve members of other faiths.  From this exemption carved […]

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Guest-Hosting Backbone Radio this Sunday, February 19

On this Sunday’s action-packed edition of Backbone Radio, we’ll be hearing from David Goldman, who blogs pseudonymously as Spengler at PJMedia and for the Asia Times, on his book  How Civilizations Die,and events in Egypt and Iran as they unfold.

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How Civilizations Die - And Why Islam is Dying, Too REM Sleep

We’ll speak with Independence Institute education expert Ben DeGrow about a legislative attempt to open up the teachers’ contract negotiations up to public scrutiny.

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Following up on a Backbone Business segment from a year ago, we’ll look at a local programmer who’s brought Google’s smartphone payment software to its knees, and what that means for you.

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Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and tireless defender of American exceptionalism against political Islam, will join us to discuss Somali pirates, Syrian tragedy, and a controversy surrounding the NYPD and his film, “The Third Jihad.”

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In our third hour, we’ll be joined by James Bennett, who’ll discuss how Europe’s distresses may be England’s – and the Anglosphere’s – opportunity.

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The Anglosphere Challenge

And we’ll preview an upcoming Centennial Institute policy conference on Media and the 2012 Elections with Institute founder and director John Andrews.

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In-between, we’ll make time as always to discuss some of the issues of the week.

Please join us this Sunday evening from 5 – 8 PM, on 710 KNUS Denver, and 1460 KZNT Colorado Spring for Backbone Radio.

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This Chart Still Needs a Campaign To Speak For It

A few weeks ago, AEI linked to this Wall Street Journal chart:

The post was titled, “Romney’s Economic Case In One Chart,” and it should be. But charts don’t speak for themselves; they need to be explained.  In an age where pollsters routinely judge presidential prospects by the responses to the question, “Understands the problems of ordinary Americans,” it’s not enough to talk in abstract terms about getting the economy moving again, or screaming “Liberty!” at increasingly shrill pitches.  It’s not even enough to say that the ever-growing gap between the dark red line and the light red line represents wealth.  People need to be reminded why charts like this matter to them.

Like this:

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

But it is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope—because the nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out.

Eighty years of wealth accumulation later, we are not anywhere near so desperate.  But a large portion of this still applies, and it wouldn’t be too hard to translate it into modern terms.

That gap represents houses unbought, vacations untaken, memories not made.  It represents retirements not taken, or undertaken with too little money.  It represents families living closer to the edge of disaster, and thus closer to the trap of government assistance, since they can save less.  It represents education and training not gotten, success not earned.

Stasis is not starvation, but it is no less empty for all that, and it will, as Europe has shown, accelerate over time.  In a country when men and women pride themselves on being masters of their own destiny, it should be possible to explain what being at the mercy of hostile forces means.

The good news is that we know it’s possible, and that the man who made it work was one of the rare 20th Century patrician Presidents.

The bad news is that those words were spoken at his Second Inaugural, as he prepared to deepen and strengthen all the wrong solutions.

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Dan Santorum?

Those of us who suffered through 2010’s Colorado Republican gubernatorial campaign travesty should have learned some lessons.   So far, the national presidential nominating process is making me regret that Colorado is a trend-setter.

A similar dynamic – discontent with a front-runner, seen as hostile – or at best indifferent – to the Tea Party, and seen as hand-picked by an entitled establishment too timid to settle on actual conservatives to carry the party’s banner.  Both men, who seemed conservative enough in earlier incarnations, are had their bona fides questioned later.  In both cases, the criticism may be somewhat unfair, but it’s also led to a lack of enthusiasm for that candidate, and fueled talk of third-party runs, even before the nomination has been decided.

McInnis seemed to spurn Tea Party support, and then was victimized by a chiron during a national TV interview; likewise, Romney, while not going out of his way to the extent that Huntsman did, has also seemed to be relying on monetary advantages and strategic support of current and former office-holders in key states.

As a result, many Colorado Republicans decided to teach McInnis a lesson on the way to the nomination, only to find that the lesson they taught him left the party with a man who had no business being the nominee, and a party apparatus that was nevertheless honor-bound to support him – if only minimally – in the general election campaign.  (To be fair, many of us held Tancredo’s self-positioning for a 3rd-party run prior to the primary to be subverting rather than honoring his own party’s nominating process.)

Likewise, I believe that many, but by no means all, of those voting for Gingrich or Santorum are doing so in order to teach Romney or the party establishment a lesson, or to stretch out the process as long as practicable, perhaps even thinking it will lead to a brokered convention.  February was supposed to be Romney’s month, with a series of caucuses and primaries in states friendly to him.  Instead, he’s faltered, and Santorum has given conservatives reason to look to him as the last remaining credible”Not Romney.”  I’m not certain that they all actually want to see Santorum on the podium in Tampa accepting the party’s nomination in August.  But that’s where we could end up.

There are obvious significant differences between the campaigns.  Santorum is a two-term US Senator who knows something about fundraising and running a campaign; Dan Maes was not, and did not.  However badly he might do in the general election – and I think he would do very badly – nobody thinks he’s going to walk away with 11% of the vote.  However much Ron Paul may dream of a 3rd-party run, he’s nowhere near as attractive a candidate as Tancredo was to desperate Republicans in 2010.  It doesn’t look as though Romney’s put himself in a position to be torpedoed by members of his own party holding a grudge.  And of course, the gubernatorial nomination was a one-day primary; there was no opportunity to rethink the decision.

But even as more and more people assume that the Republican sold as the most electable will be the eventual nominee, much as people even on primary night assumed that McInnis would pull out a win, Obama’s re-elect numbers on Intrade keep rising.

The Republicans need this election to be a referendum on Obama; in both 2010 and so far in 2012, the nominating process has been a referendum on the front-runner.  Thus far, the Romney campaign has serially been able to create a series of successful one-on-one contests with other candidates.  He’s done so with the help of a national media that was McCain’s base until he became the nominee.  Some conservatives and libertarian-minded Republicans have been all too willing to chew up Mitt’s challengers from the right as not conservative, and now find themselves without a champion.  And the candidates themselves were better at making the case against each other or against Romney than they were at showing how they’d make the case against Obama.

At my own caucus, I closed the discussion by asking people to vote for whom they actually wanted to see as the nominee.  Not to vote as a protest against Romney, or to send a message, or as some cathartic gesture, but to vote for the man they actually wanted to see represent the party in the election.  I did this, reminding people of the consequences of playing games with their vote, which is how we ended up with Dan Maes as our nominee, and John Hickenlooper as governor.

None of which is to suggest that anyone abandon their candidate for the sake of an artificial “unity.”  If you want one of the three others still standing to be the party’s nominee, or believe that he better represents the party, there’s no sense in not supporting him.  But if you mainly believe that Romney needs sharpening or the establishment needs its nose bloodied, you’re playing a very dangerous game.

We’ve seen that movie before, and it ends badly.

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Legislating (Not) By The Numbers

Thursday’s discussion of the proposed in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants in the Jewish Community Relations Council (where I represent the Denver Academy of Torah as a school), provided an object lesson in the difference between government and the real world.

This bill differs from prior years’ efforts in that it creates a third category of student rates.  Currently, there is Out of State, which is supposed to be priced higher than the cost of educating the student and in-state with the COFF subsidy, which is supposed to be less than the educational cost.  The third category would be “In-state without the COFF subsidy,” which would supposedly be, Goldilocks-style, exactly the cost of educating the student.  In this way, claim SB12-015’s advocates, the new law would cost neither the university nor the taxpayer.

The problem is that this claim is completely unverifiable.

The legislature has been trying for years to get the University of Colorado to tell it how much it costs to deliver a bachelors degree-quality education to a student, without result.  The university either can’t or won’t calculate and divulge that number.  While it’s true that there’s no immediate outlay from the state treasury, there’s simply no way to guarantee that the bill won’t end up as a net cost to the state’s already-strapped public universities.

The bill pretends to get to the “at-cost” number programatically, rather than through actual accounting. The program numbers can’t be any better than guesses.  At the state capitol, this is what passes for reality.

Whatever one thinks of the politics and the wisdom of passing such a bill – and there are strong arguments on both sides – it’s clear that the proponents’ arithmetical arguments don’t add up.

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Inverting the State/Civil Society Relationship

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical. – Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Status for Religious Freedom

You can quote Jefferson like scripture.  But this is one of the three acts he had put on his tombstone, so I’d wager that he would stand by it, if pressed.

The President’s attempt to force Catholic hospitals to provide services forbidden by their religious beliefs have been roundly – and rightly – attacked as an assault on religious freedom of conscience.  Over-fond of the non-establishment clause, many on the left have forgotten the free exercise clause.

But combine this power grab with an earlier money grab, and a darker pattern emerges.  Remember, early in his administration, Obama floated a proposal to limit the tax-deductability of charitable contributions for high-earners.  (This proposal has recently been revived at the state level in Maryland.)  After all, the government needs the money.  Needs the money more than any private charitable organization needs it.

The safety net has always been sold – an accepted – as programs of last resort, intended for those for whom private organizations would not or could not care.  But by taking money away from charitable organizations for itself, Obama is reversing that equation.  To him, these services should be provided first by the government, and then civil society can fill in whatever it can with whatever the government decides to let it keep.  Moreover, it can’t even really decide what services to provide in accordance with the dictates of it conscience, but needs to provide what the government requires or permits it to.

When viewed as a package, the HHS regulations and the proposed tax law changes constitute less an attack on religion per se, and more an assault on the primacy of civil society.  Not content with filling in the gaps, the government has moved from that to competition with private charities, and any competition involving the government is inherently unequal.  This is exactly the sort of thing he has in mind for a second term, when he’ll be testing and often exceeding the limits of executive authority to enact his agenda, with or without Congress.

No wonder he doesn’t care if the Senate ever passes another budget.

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February, the Silas Marner of Months

Thirty days hath September
April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one
Except for February, which is endless.

Yes, I borrowed that from Charley McDowell, a Washington columnist of my youth.  But then, so did Tom Silvestri, by way of Ray McAllister, where I found McDowell’s Greatest February Hits.  He found 10 of them.  All we need is about 275 more, and we could market a nice February desk calendar. It might be possible, since the University of Virginia has his papers, and there’s a heading, “Columns – February, Seasons, Holidays.” Since he reprinted them from the old Washington Daily News Richmond Times-Dispatch archives, without fear of SOPA, PIPA, or Righthaven, so do I.  Consider this the Name of the Rose of blog posts.

•”February is set apart from other months by the outrages it perpetuates, including its fraudulent pretense to brevity.”

•”February dissolves hope like its rain dissolves taxis.” (A Washington perspective.)

•”We know the trickery of this month. Over the centuries it has become famous for its pretense to brevity on the calendar. In reality February is distinguished for weather that balefully stretches time, a month as long as the War of the Austrian Succession, a month of Mondays, an addled sequence of snow, sleet, rain, freezing fog, floods, mud, drizzles, sudden gales of old oak leaves, trash, parking tickets, forgotten Christmas bills, and expensive prescriptions. Yes, we have come to know that a glimmer of sunshine in February is just stage lighting for the entrance of furies.”

•”The only thing that goes fast in February is the occasional misapprehension that things are getting better.”

•”Not that anyone would by fooled by February once he got used to the pace and mood of it. It is . . . less exhilarating than the flu. It is the Silas Marner of months. . . . It is 28 Sunday afternoons in Philadelphia, except leap year, when it is 29.”

•”There is nothing short about February but the temper of man. February is when the battery quits, the snow shovel breaks on the ice, the glove is lost, the galosh is ripped, the milk freezes, the dessert doesn’t jell, the cat and the paranoid furnace run amok.”

•”There is enough of February left to do us in. But February also is capable of a joke in which it undermines our sanity by never getting notably unpleasant. To February, the greenhouse effect, global warming, is a thousand laughs.”

•”Whatever we don’t know, surely, we have learned not to look to February to make us feel better about anything.”

•”February has the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in it, but actually everyone in the world gets at least a year older in the course of February.”

•”What interests me about February was how long it seemed, how bleak and relentless, how humorless and, at the same time, how full of mockery for optimists and for groundhogs who thought they had seen a signal of better times.”

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Daily Glimpse February 1, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • Montgomery County DOT Thwarts BRT? @ggwash
    Seems so: Unfortunately, while publicly embracing this idea, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is unwilling to do what must be done to make it succeed. Asked to find a few places where buses could be moved faster right now, MCDOT refused, saying that it had to do a study first, and then didn’t […]
  • Why Does The Ailing West Aid Its #Islamist Enemies? @MelanieLatest
    We’re too steeped in reasonableness to recognize religious fanaticism when we see it: But the deeper reason is surely the Western belief that the world is basically governed by rationality. So all conflicts arise from grievances, and all parties can be persuaded to settle a quarrel in their own interests. Refracting everything in the world […]
  • Foundation to Virginia Colleges: Stop Wasting Our Money @chronicle
    The Beazley Foundation has, for the time being, had enough: The release quotes Richard Bray, chairman of the Beazley Foundation of Portsmouth, Va., as saying that the suspension is a stand against “the departure of numerous institutions from the discipline of a core curriculum fundamental to education in the liberal arts,” and that the report […]
  • Mozilla Questions Web Orthodoxies With Pancake @webmonkey
    Sounds like fun: Pancake, as the new project is known, will help Mozilla, “better understand what people do on the web, why and how they do those things, and how we can make those things easier and more efficient.” The goal of Pancake according to Mozilla’s new, awesomely titled Director of Pancake Stuart Parmenter, is […]
  • #Romney and Kosher Nursing Home Food @alanagoodman
    Less there than meets the eye.  Good for Commentary for getting to the bottom of this.  Over-reacting to these sorts of reports doesn’t do anyone any good, especially Jewish groups.
  • WTO Rules Against China on Rare Earths @engadget
    The WTO ruled that the export quotas and monopoly created an illegal two-tier pricing system.  If you’re going to have a free-trade system, then export quotas are a problem, but for a different reason.  China’s less interested in the cash (and the quotas aren’t really doing much for prices, anyway) than they are in forcing […]

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