Free Markets, Free People


You Know They’re Reaching …

When this is the best they can do (and they think what they’ve done is funny).

And for some reason, linking to the actual post they cite seems a little beyond them (read the comments – the commenters are no brighter than the blogger – they’re all talking about the garage sale post). I think that may have something to do with the grade level of the “humor”.

BTW, in case you’re in the dark, the guy pictured with me there is Kevin Whalen (the pic was taken at the ’07 Milbloggers Conference). That actually makes the title somewhat funny, but ironically the Sadly, No! kids appear unaware of that (be sure to read the explanation of the “joke” to be found in the title – uh, yeah).

It’s pretty sad when a site supposedly known for its biting humor bites it that badly.

Here’s hoping they don’t “wee-wee” up their next attempt as badly as they did this one.



Protest Songs – They Ain’t What They Used To Be

How bad is it? Watch this and cringe. This is a take off on the Peter, Paul and Mary (well, actually a Bob Dylan song, but PPM made it famous) song, “Blowing in the Wind”. At the end of this they all seem quite pleased with themselves – well, except for the guy on the right who appears to want to quietly back out of the picture.

As Reason’s Nick Gillespie says:

Remember the old line about how the left won the ’60s culture war because “they had better songs”?

Well, if the music matters in public policy debates, then this song is the ultimate weapon for opponents of single-payer health care. And folk music. And quite possibly, humanity itself.

Heh … Indeed.



Questions And Observations #5


For new readers, “QandO” is short for “Questions and Observations”.

  • “Scientific proof” that Islam is the “correct religion” thanks to an electron- microscope. Yes, “molecules took beautiful shapes everytime they are exposed to air vibrations from reading the holy Quran or saying the word islam or the muslim call to prayer.” But is there scientific consensus?
  • Apparently Hamas and al-Qaeda are fighting it out for the Gaza strip. 13 dead and 100 injured. Only al-Qaeda would declare Hamas as being “too liberal”. So how will the San Francisco anti-Israel protesters protest this? My guess is that somehow Bush will be the blame. Also note how hard the report tip-toes around identifying the Hamas opponents as al-Qaeda
  • 60 Brooklyn New York seniors gave Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner an ear-full, with one of them calling him a crook who was trying to bankrupt the country. Weiner’s response? “You have a lot of good talking points”. Yeah, my guess is her “talking points” were in reaction to his talking points. You have to hope the Dems keep handling all of their constituent protesters in such an appallingly ham-fisted manner. Hard to turn old folks in a deep blue district into racist red-necks though, isn’t it?
  • Zomblog does a terrific retrospective of the Bush/Hitler meme during the last 8 years that exposes the faux-outrage of both the media and the left for what it is. It’s a rather interesting reminder of how casual and how widespread it was. Just as interesting is the amnesia that both the media and left are seemingly suffering right now.
  • Lefties are up in arms with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey after he came out in a WSJ editorial against Obama’s health care reform. You see, Mackey’s company self-insures and provides its own health care coverage. And it works. Mackey tops it off by saying we should be moving toward “less government control and more individual empowerment”. Liberals are enraged and boycotting, believing Mackey is biting the hand that fed him. I guess the entrepreneurial capitalist won out over the sniveling collectivist. He knows what got him where he is and it wasn’t government. Me? I’ve never shopped at Whole Foods, but I’m going to now.
  • In all of this health care stuff, let’s not forget about cap-and-trade. The Heritage Foundation has a new analysis out. If the bill is passed and signed into law as is, look for a 58% increase in gas prices, a 90% increase in electricity prices, and a $3000 per family increase in goods and services. At a national level, we’ll see a loss of 9.4 trillion in aggregate GDP between 2012 and 2035 as well as a loss of 2.5 million jobs by 2035. Other than that, it’s a peachy keen bit of legislation.
  • And for our “bad salesman tip” of the week – remember when you’re trying to sell government health care as an alternative to private health care, alway invoke UPS and FedEx as the good example and the USPS as the screwed up example. Heh … sometimes you just have to know when to shut up.
  • Congressman Bart Stupak, D-MI validates the contention that most of the Democrats put party over country. Stupak told Detroit News columnist Frank Beckmann that protests weren’t going to deter him from voting yes on health care. He said, “We’re not going to allow a small, vocal minority to dissuade us (from) our goal.” IOW, “screw you folks, I’m just going through the motions in these townhalls, Nancy Pelosi has my vote”


Assuming Predictability

There is a reason that economists are so rarely featured in jokes. They tend to be rather dry people, who can and will estimate anything under magical “assumptions” designed to prove their point. In fact, the only jokes with economists I know involve them making assumptions. Which is really a shame because they make hilarious statements like the following all the time:

Economists are nearly unanimous that Ben Bernanke should be reappointed to another term as Federal Reserve chairman, and they said there is a 71% chance that President Barack Obama will ask him to stay on, according to a survey.

Wow. Seventy-one percent, eh? That’s an awfully exact number for a prediction isn’t it? It suggests there was some real numbers computed and weighted in order to arrive at a probability slightly less than 5 out of 7 that Bernanke would be reappointed.

But where did those numbers come from? And what exactly would they be? Moreover, who were the “economists” that are so “nearly unanimous” who arrived at this prediction? Inquiring minds want to know.

Of course, per the article, these same economists are all enthusiastic about the economy having bottomed out, and that Bernanke is largely responsible for that, er … “success”. Perhaps they only interviewed family members of the Fed Chairman who also happen to be economists? “Five out of 7 Bernankes agree!

By the way, there is a 26.3% chance that only economists and statisticians will comment on this post, but I’m keeping my top-secret formula for arriving at that conclusion all to my self. I’ll give you a hint, though: assume I know what you’re thinking.

The Hunt For Red Tomato

One of the things I love about living in the South is the food. Yeah, I know all about the propensity to fry just about anything that can be eaten. That includes two of those foods I love – fried okra and fried green tomatoes. And hell, if you haven’t had a fried pickle, you just haven’t lived.

But there’s much more to it than fried food.

For instance there is one goody that you’re most likely not going to find in a Pennsylvania roadside produce stand that is almost a staple at a Southern produce stand. I speak, reverently, of boiled peanuts. I can’t tell you how many northerners I’ve converted over the years to this Southern delicacy. I’ve stopped many a time while driving from, say Huntsville, AL to Montgomery to pick up a hot quart of these beauties. With plenty of paper towels and an ability to drive with my knee, I’ve eaten these things until the steering wheel has a bit of a salt crust. Please note: If you’ve been driving down I-75 and stopped at Jim Bob’s Pecan Farm and bought a can of “boiled peanuts” you are a true Yankee (and Jim Bob is still chuckling about it).

Another of my Southern favorites is the tomato sandwich (or “mater sammich” if you want to go deep South). Now, before you get all excited and run off to make one, there are some things you need to know.  While it is indeed a simple delight it does have certain stringent requirements that must be met before it is certified as the “real deal”.  So pay attention.

First, it has to be on white bread. And not some “artesian”, whole grain ,fru-fru white bread. We’re talking Wonder Bread white bread. Yup, if it isn’t made with overprocessed bleached white flour with no nutritional value, it’s not fit for a tomato sandwich.

Secondly it has to have mayonnaise on it. Real mayonnaise – not “lite” or aioli or any other nasty concoction that’s low on cholesterol. Mayonnaise. Real, honest to goodness, artery clogging Hellman’s. Or Duke’s.

There is a heretic band of Southerners who claim Miracle Whip is a sanctioned substitute, but purists turn up their nose at such a desecration of a sacred Southern staple.

And, of course, wonderful, vine ripe, plump and thick homegrown tomato slices. And that’s where the eternal hunt for the tastiest tomato comes in.

Now obviously you can grow your own – and that’s preferred. But if, in your harried and hurried life, lovingly caring for a few dozen tomato vines isn’t in your future, you must, of necessity, develop your tomato sources. And trust me one of them isn’t Publix, home of more tasteless tomatoes than Food Giant. Or is it the other way around. Over the years grocery stores have tried their best to improve their tomato selection, even dragging in the little red golf balls still on the vines. But they still taste like the picked-green-and-gassed store-bought maters.

No we’re talking sources which grow their own, vine ripen them and have enough for others to buy. As you might imagine Southerners hold their tomato sources close. We’re likely to share our winter tomato sources because we can appreciate the need for a decent tomato during that season when the tomato craving hits you. We all know a year round produce place that imports Florida tomatoes. Not the picked-green-boxed-and-gassed variety, but those that are vine ripened and sold locally in FL. While they’re a commercial brand in which most of the taste has been genetically removed in favor of pest resistance and longevity in storage, they still have enough tomato taste to get you through the dark times.

But when summer rolls around, it is everyone for themselves. And July is the peak of tomato hunting season because that’s when the heirlooms come in. For taste, it’s pretty darn hard to beat ’em. There’s a type for every taste (this morning I visited my heirloom source and came home with some beauties the size of my fist).

However, other than taste, there are other requirements for the perfect tomato sandwich tomato. I mentioned plump. Like in not grainy or mealy. Ye gods there is nothing worse than cutting into what looks like a fantastic tomato and finding the inside all mealy. Blech.

The tomato must be red, although some sort of orangish or pinkish tomatos, if they’re heirlooms, are becoming grudgingly accepted. But as good as they taste in a salad, don’t hand me any yellow looking tomato in my tomato sandwich.

Last but not least, it has to smell like a tomato. If I have to tell you what a tomato smells like, I’ll just refer you back to Food Giant because you wouldn’t know a good tomato if you were formally introduced.

So take your white bread, mayonnaise and beautiful, plump and tasty tomato and combine to make a sandwich. Salt and pepper to taste. By the way, the healthy aspects of the tomato are enough to offset the health destroying aspects of the bread and mayo making this a health neutral treat and not likely to be banned under the upcoming new health care regime.



The Magic Of Paying For Healthcare

I‘m so glad that the Democrats have settled on how to pay for their latest government boondoggle even if it is the same old formula:

House Democrats will ask the wealthiest Americans to help pay for overhauling the health care system with a $550 billion income tax increase, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Friday.

The proposal calls for a surtax on individuals earning at least $280,000 in adjusted gross income and couples earning more than $350,000, said the chairman, Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York.

It would generate about $550 billion over 10 years to pay about half the cost of the legislation, Mr. Rangel said. As the proposal envisions it, the rest of the cost would be covered by lower spending on Medicare, the government health plan for the elderly, and other health care savings.

Tax the rich and squeeze the health care industry with lower Medicare payments. Sounds like a very “healthy” and stable way of paying for “health care reform” doesn’t it?  A perfectly sure way to accomplish the stated Obama priorities of “expanding health insurance coverage to virtually all Americans and curtailing the steep rise in the cost of medical care while improving patient outcomes.”

Expand coverage, cut payments and improve outcomes.

Yup – “I believe!”

Pontiff Pontificates On Economics … Badly

When it comes to economics, the Pope should stick to poping. While it’s not uncommon for the papacy to issue decrees and opinions vaguely in line with common socialist principles (e.g. love thy neighbor, etc.), it is somewhat rare for the Pope to outright call for one-world government:

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for a radical rethinking of the global economy, criticizing a growing divide between rich and poor and urging the establishment of a “world political authority” to oversee the economy and work for the “common good.”

He criticized the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity.”

He also called for “greater social responsibility” on the part of business. “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty,” Benedict wrote in his new encyclical, which the Vatican released on Tuesday.

I wonder what happened to leave to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? Or how about that whole concept of “free will”; you know the very basis and foundation of our religious “faith” (which, of course, can only come from choice and not from force)? That seems to be under indictment with Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical.

Leaving aside world governance for the moment, the Pope really goes off the rails when he gets into economic policy. For example, at one point he decries “globalization” and “outsourcing” as little more than the rich preying on the poor:

Indeed, sometimes Benedict sounds like an old-school European socialist, lamenting the decline of the social welfare state and praising the “importance” of labor unions to protect workers. Without stable work, he notes, people lose hope and tend not to get married and have children.

But he also wrote that “The so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders — namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society — in favor of the shareholders.”

In short, managers should run their companies for the benefit of those who whine about the common good rather than for those who actually paid for the company (i.e. the shareholders). I’m guessing this is the “squeaky wheel” part of the sermon.

Yet, while outsourcing is deemed “bad”, the Pope also laments that poor countries aren’t better taken care of by richer ones. Towards that end

Benedict also called for a reform of the United Nations so that there could be a unified “global political body” that allowed the less powerful of the earth to have a voice, and he called on rich nations to help less fortunate ones.

“In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all,” he wrote.

Except for the fact that “development aid” is not wealth. Wealth is created through productivity, not handouts. Indeed, the surest and simplest way to aid development in poor countries to give them jobs … a.k.a “outsourcing.” Doesn’t that whole give a man a fish/teach a man to fish thing ring any bells, your Holiness? Moreover, the more things like outsourcing happen, then the greater wealth there is in the world, and the more work/wealth/happiness there is for everyone to enjoy. Again, I’m pretty sure that was something about loaves and fishes in the Bible that would help illustrate this point.

So much for Papal infallibility.

Just to be clear, I say all of this as a practicing Catholic who is raising his own children in the same tradition. I have great respect for the Pontif when it comes to matters of the spirit. I just wish he’d leave the day-to-day management to the rest of us.

Deadly Clashes in China

I assume, since China is a totalitarian state, that the US won’t have anything to say about the violence there for at least 10 days:

The official death toll in riots in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region rose sharply Monday, with the government saying that 140 had been killed in what appears to be one of the deadliest episodes of unrest in China in decades.

Police said at least 828 other people were injured in violence that began Sunday in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Witnesses said the conflicts pitted security forces against demonstrators, and members of the region’s Turkic-speaking Uighur ethnic group against members of the country’s Han Chinese majority. Many among the predominantly Muslim Uighurs have chafed at Chinese government rule.


As evening fell in Urumqi Monday, witnesses said that paramilitary troops of the People’s Armed Police, backed by armored personnel carriers, were patrolling largely calm city streets. Many businesses remained shuttered and gates of the city’s central bazaar, which was the scene of unrest Sunday night, were closed.

Police said they were still searching for dozens of people suspected of fanning the violence. Several hundred people have already been arrested in connection with the riot, police said, and the government said it was bringing “ethnic officials” from nearby areas to help with interrogations.

Of course the reason given by the Chinese government is much the same as that given by the Iranian government concerning the problems there –

The government blamed the unrest on a prominent exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, an activist group. Sunday’s demonstration was “instigated and directed from abroad,” according to a government statement cited by Xinhua.

Given that statement, you can expect silence from the Obama administration as they’ll want to ensure they’re not seen as “meddling” in China’s internal affairs. And I can promise you that the Uighur dissidents being rounded up by China’s police forces will not be offered a vacation in Bermuda.

Apparently the only country in which the “no meddling” policy is waved is Honduras.


This Blog Post Saved At Least 10 Jobs Today


At least that’s what the macro model I built says.  It has some very sophisticated algorithms.

According to the model, the associated bandwidth cost for this post was enough to keep the blog hosting gang going and because of that, they kept making payments on all the computer equipment, power and rent/lease obligations they have associated with their hosting site, which in turn kept a computer retailer/power company/real estate firm from laying off folks while also paying those down the line from them today and having the same effect.


Go ahead – prove me wrong.


Fun With Statistics

Remember, depending on the message you want to convey, stats can be very helpful:

a. The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.
b. Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000.
c. Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171. (Statistics courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services)

Now think about this…

a. The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000.
b. The number of accidental gun deaths per year (all age groups) is 1,500.
c. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.000188.

Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.

Guns don’t kill people – doctors do!

Ban doctors!

The point, of course, is stats can be used to scare you to death, especially when used in limited context or in isolation. The world is a dangerous place. Accidents are going to happen. When the gun grabbers talk about taking your firearms to prevent accidents, remind them of this statistic. It’s just as “valid” as theirs and it sometimes is helpful to illustrate absurdity with absurdity.