Free Markets, Free People

LA Times


Kinsley restores my belief in the irony impaired left

Michael Kinsley goes on a bit of a tear about states subsidizing the film industry in an LA Times piece.  Kinsley is just flat upset that states are giving way subsidies to “millionaires”.  Frankly, I don’t think government should be subsidizing any industry.  But back to Kinsley:

Government, in order to work, must be a monopoly. The appeal of the movie industry to beleaguered state treasurers, in addition to its glamour, is its mobility. There are no huge factories. Regardless of where the movie is supposedly set, it can be shot almost anywhere. And it will employ locals and spend money.

But mobility giveth and mobility taketh away. Pit the states against one another and the subsidies will inevitably become more generous and less effective at the same time.

The same logic applies when the competition is foreign. True, we might tire of having to watch film after film often implausibly set in Vancouver. But in any attempt to outbid Canada for the privilege of hosting a movie shoot, even a successful effort will be self-defeating.

"Governors and legislatures should call ‘cut!’ on cynical efforts to kill forward-looking incentive programs for film and TV production, in New Mexico and in all other states," Richardson says.

"Cynical" is an odd word to describe people (and there aren’t many) who want deeply indebted state governments to stop forgoing billions in tax revenue in the futile effort to entice the movie business to make its next western in Erie, Penn., or wherever.

Whatever indeed.  I don’t disagree.  For once I can give Kinsley kudos. 

Well, almost.   In the same article he says, talking about Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico (and the “Richardson” quoted above):

Richardson might well be a candidate for one of the "respected elder statesman" seats that come open every generation (sort of an American version of the British House of Lords, only chosen by the media instead of the government), bringing with them memberships of prestigious commissions, offers of ambassadorships, opportunities to express concern on "Charlie Rose" or the PBS "NewsHour" shows (if those institutions manage to survive the current Republican onslaught) and so on.

Yes, you caught it.  He’s talking about the subsidy the Federal government gives the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a multi-million dollar corporation that helps fund PBS, another multi-million dollar tax subsidized entity.

Irony – still a mystery to much of the left.

Next Kinsley will be urging us to buy a book on how to save the trees.

~McQ


Why health care reform makes the economy Obama’s fault

The “blame Bush” strategy for explaining the economy isn’t resonating with voters an LA Times story tells us.  And I think the reason is summed up very nicely by a 68 year old woman from Columbus, OH:

But Peggy Swope, for one, isn’t so sure. There are plenty of reasons the economy tanked, says the 68-year-old independent, and it’s not like Obama has done such a great job turning things around. "He was so fixated doing what he thought he needed to do on healthcare that he let everything else go," said Swope, a Columbus retiree.

Now we obviously can get tied down in arguments of whether or not Bush had a hand in the downturn and whether or not Obama really could do all that much.  But those arguments are going to fall on deaf ears because, as we’ve pointed out many, many times, in politics, perception is reality.  And I think Ms. Swope’s perception of why we’re still in the economic shape we’re in is one that is shared by a large number of voters.

And most voters aren’t interested in what got us there – that’s history, and besides, even if you believe Bush to be at least partly at fault, he’s been gone for almost 2 years.

What they are interested in is why it got worse and most importantly, why it doesn’t seem to be getting any better in the economy.  And blaming that on Bush is a hard sale – especially when Democrats spent all their time and effort on ramming health care through and essentially ignoring the economy as millions more Americans joined the unemployment line.

So:

Though most Americans remain critical of Bush’s record on the economy — 71% in a recent USA Today-Gallup poll said he deserved a great deal or moderate amount of blame for the slow growth and high jobless rate — more than half of those polled were unhappy with Obama’s performance. More to the point, they hold him responsible for fixing the problem, regardless of who caused it.

Bottom line: blaming Bush is a loser and viewed as nothing more than the usual sniping that politicians do at this point.  This economy now belongs to the Democrats and Obama. They chose health care over jobs.  Now they get to pay the piper.  Playing the blame game isn’t going to advance the Democrats chances anymore.  That era is ended.  They’re now stuck with the one they run.  And the voters are in no mood for the games of 5 year olds when it comes to the economy.

~McQ


More Hope and Change – Rendition-style

Remember the uproar on the left about “rendition” and how that sort of thing was simply “un-American”, unconstitutional and a legal travesty? I’m not going to pretend I don’t agree with many of the arguments made then. But that’s not the point of this post.

The point is how the left was again punked by the man in the White House. Recall this from the Obama campaign website:

“From both a moral standpoint and a practical standpoint, torture is wrong. Barack Obama will end the use torture without exception. He also will eliminate the practice of extreme rendition, where we outsource our torture to other countries.”

And:

As a candidate last year, President Obama vowed to end “the practice of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries.”

And 7 days after his inauguration, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting the CIA from conducting “extraordinary rendition”.

But last week a Lebanese man was snatched by the FBI in Afghanistan. His claims sound faintly familiar. He charges he was stripped naked, subjected to a cavity search and photographed among other things:

In court papers, Azar said he was denied his eyeglasses, not given food for 30 hours and put in a freezing room after his arrest by “more than 10 men wearing flak jackets and carrying military style assault rifles.”

Azar also said he was shackled and forced to wear a blindfold, dark hood and earphones for up to 18 hours on a Gulfstream V jet that flew him from Bagram air base, outside Kabul, to Virginia.

Before the hood was put on, he said, one of his captors waved a photo of Azar’s wife and four children and warned Azar that he would “never see them again” unless he confessed.

“Frightened for his immediate safety . . . and under the belief he would end up in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib to be tortured,” Azar signed a paper he did not understand, his lawyers told the court.

His crime? Terrorism? A Taliban leader? A person making terroristic threats? Someone who had engaged in combat against Americans?

Well sort of – he apparently inflated some invoices.   And the Obama administration was out to serve warning that they just weren’t going to put up with that.

Now, I recognize that we only have his word about what was done to him, and he could certainly be embellishing certain aspects of his incarceration for effect, but the FBI admits to part of it apparently feeling that this invoice padder was a threat on a par with Osama bin Laden and should be treated accordingly:

Prosecutors, however, said that Azar was “treated professionally,” kept in a heated room, offered food and water repeatedly and “provided with comfortable chairs to sit in.”

They said he was photographed naked and subjected to a cavity search to ensure that he did not carry hidden weapons and was fit for travel. Court records confirmed that Azar was shackled at the ankles, waist and wrists and made to wear a blindfold, hood and earphones aboard the plane.

Prosecutors also said that FBI agents read Azar his rights against self-incrimination on three occasions, and that he “voluntarily” waived them.

The FBI agent in charge, Perry J. Goerish, denied in an affidavit that Azar was “told he would never see his family again unless he confessed.”

Additionally an accomplice who was arrested with him has not made similar charges, but has pled guilty to those charges.

But the bottom line is a foreign national was snatched in Afghanistan, shackled, blindfolded and whisked off to an undisclosed location (it ended up being the US) and, in effect, treated just like the terrors suspects the CIA had taken previously.

Yet the LA Times decides:

Their case is different from the widely criticized “extraordinary renditions” carried out after the Sept. 11 attacks. In those cases, CIA teams snatched suspected Al Qaeda members and other alleged terrorists overseas and flew them, shackled and hooded, to prisons outside the United States without any arrest warrants or other judicial proceedings.

Ah, well, there you go – this apparently was legal, so, you know, that makes it all okay. Pretty much exactly the same thing except this time there was a legal veneer to help everyone, to include the LA Times, declare this case is “different”.

Yeah? Seems just like old times to me.

~McQ


I Don’t Think That Means What He Thinks It Means

Dan Neil, an LA Times entertainment writer, takes this lesson from the GM bankruptcy:

The final chapter of that merger plays out this week as GM weathers a reorganization that will leave the federal government owning 70% of the company. In the midst of the deepest recession since the 1930s, it’s hard not to see GM’s bankruptcy as a signal moment in a larger history. If mighty GM can fail, cannot also the United States? And the answer is, absolutely.

This is the lesson of GM’s bankruptcy, and it has little to do with market share and miles per gallon. It’s a rebuff of the notion of exceptionalism. Any organization that fails to sufficiently safeguard its means of self-correction and reform, that forsakes long-term investment for short-term gain, that piles up debt year after year, will eventually fail, no matter how grand its history or noble its purpose. If you don’t feel the tingle of national mortality in all this, you’re not paying attention.

While I essentially agree with the thrust of his point, I don’t think the term “exceptionalism” as it is used when speaking of America, has anything to do with flouting the laws of economics. They are called “laws” for a reason, and no one has yet to find an “exception” to them. We have, however, discovered over and over again that attempts to make exceptions to them fail miserably.

The exceptionalism most speak of when they use the term in conjunction with America has to do with law, ethics and philosophy of life – the foundations of the country that make it exceptional. But economics? Of course we can “fail” if we do the stupid things we’re doing. And, unfortunately, we seem bound and determined right now to prove that point. But that has nothing to do with our “exceptionalism”.

~McQ


Stray Voltage

A very interesting piece in the LA Times about some European muslims who failed at the job of “holy warrior – or did they?


Pakistan is discovering that their unwelcome guests in the Swat Valley are harder to get rid of than cockroaches.


Apparently Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), the outspoken Democratic chairman of the Agriculture panel, isn’t happy with the Waxman/Markey Cap-and-Trade bill and is promising trouble.


It seems even the NY Times is catching on to the Obama rhetorical devices.  Helene Cooper points out that some of Obama’s “enemies” are “straw men” and Sheryl Gay Stolberg notes that many of Obama’s “nuanced” positions would be flip-flops if it was anyone else.  Of course both articles were published in the Saturday NY Times, so its not like they’re really calling Obama to task.


The Washington Post, examining Venezuela strong man Hugo Chavez’s latest attempt to destroy any domestic opposition, wonders if the Obama administration’s silence on the matter constitutes sanction by silence.  Well if that’s the case, what does Nancy Peolsi’s silence about the use of waterboarding constitute?


A porn star is considering a run for the US Senate from Louisiana.  Given the fact  that she’s only worked in a different type of porn than what goes on in the US Senate, she ought to fit right in.


The NY “bomb plot” has apparently degenerated into an “aspirational” one.


And finally, it looks like Brits are finally fed up.  According to reports, a big “vote the bums out” movement is taking shape in the UK.  We should be so lucky.