Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Outsourcing "outrage"

A union, outraged over the fact that non-union workers were being used in the construction of a Washington office building decided to protest and picket. 

But, uh, it was just too hard or too much of a hassle to have real union people do it, so they hired some non-union unemployed at minimum wage instead:

"For a lot of our members, it’s really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage—$8.25 an hour—to walk picket lines.

Which I’m sure has the developer and non-union workers in the building just quaking in their boots.

The article goes on to say that a lot of protest groups and advocacy groups have hit a bonanza with the unemployed.  They can hire them for peanuts (min. wage) and swell their groups and pad their numbers in public.

For the unemployed?  Well, I’m sure any little bit does help, of course.  And it sure beats standing on street corners waving “we buy gold” signs – I guess.

But keep that in mind the next time numbers are quoted at a protest or rally for something.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-16

The University of Michigan Consumer Confidence Index dropped to its lowest reading since last August. http://yhoo.it/9MHpKL #RecoverySummer #

This is troubling: Army reports record number of suicides for June http://usat.me?39298286 #

.@CMDeB: Don't get me wrong, I still think its about the best thing EVER. in reply to CMDeB #

RT @CMDeB: A vagina is not a shield of protection. | My understanding is, however, that it regularly requires one. #

When the oil was leaking, Mr. Obama was always saying "BP this" and "BP that". Now that it's capped, he's saying "we". Uh huh. #

Now that the oil well seems capped, Mr. Obama is regaling reporters with how "we" stopped the oil. Umm, "we" didn't stop anything. BP did. #

Read the whole thing: The Jobs Americans Should Not Have to Do? One must wonder what kind of society we have become. http://bit.ly/a9ZaCP #

Consumer price index falls; could deflation be in future? http://usat.me?39296364 #RecoverySummer #

Mortgage rates remain at lowest level in decades http://usat.me?39287466 #

Army reports record number of suicides for June http://usat.me?39298286 #

Well, she's gonna be working this shit out in therapy for the test of her life. http://usat.me?39294670 #

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Ignorance of history is no excuse for racism

T

he NAACP and a certain Democrat have, this week, alleged the Tea Party (in whole) is racist.

In the case of the NAACP, it is a story much like private unions – an organization that was once very relevant trying to maintain its relevance and becoming more marginal and hysterical as a result.

In the case of Representative Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX), it’s the usual – pure, unadulterated and stultifying historical ignorance. In Jackson-Lee’s case, she addressed the NAACP saying:

And I thank you professor very much. I’m going to be engaging you with those very powerful numbers that you have offered on what the tea party recognizes, uh, or is recognized as. Might I add my own P.S.? All those who wore sheets a long time ago have now lifted them off and started wearing [applause], uh, clothing, uh, with a name, say, I am part of the tea party. Don’t you be fooled. [voices: "That’s right.", applause] Those who used to wear sheets are now being able to walk down the aisle and speak as a patriot because you will not speak loudly about the lack of integrity of this movement. Don’t let anybody tell you that those who spit on us as we were walking to vote on a health care bill for all of America or those who said Congresswoman Jackson-Lee’s braids were too tight in her hair had anything to do with justice and equality and empowerment of the American people. Don’t let them fool you on that [applause]….

A history channel documentary about the period puts it very succinctly:

 

As Meredith Jessup points out at Townhall:

Yes, the Klan removed their "sheets" and Sheila Jackson-Lee was SO outraged, she decided to run for public office… on their party’s ticket.

It’s time to stop allowing the revisionist history that has been so much a part of the Democrats attempt to disassociate themselves (with, unbelievably the NAACP’s help) from their sordid, racist past.  Just remember, Bull Conner, Orville Faubus, Lester Maddox and George Wallace weren’t Republicans – and the last member of the US Congress who wore the sheets Jackson-Lee denounces was the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd.

The only racists I see out there are those who falsely accuse others of it out of malicious desire to silence their political opponents by again playing the race card where it doesn’t belong.  And that would include the NAACP and Ms. Jackson-Lee.

‘Nuff said.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-15

DISCLOSE bill has passed the Senate. Just a little less liberty in"the home of the free". #

.@dmataconis @jaseliberty @beckychr007: 2. Multiple-party government trends to be unstable. See Italy, and 60 governments since WWII. #

.@dmataconis @jaseliberty @beckychr007: 1. The Constitutional structure of the US government makes more than 2 parties…problematic. #

Gallup says economic pessimism is on the rise, as consumer confidence drops to its level 15 months ago. http://bit.ly/c4iwsq #RecoverySummer #

Gallup says economic pessimism is on the rise, as consumer confidence drops to its lowest level in 15 months. http://bit.ly/c4iwsq #

.@jaseliberty @beckychr007: Re "the two party legal monopoly"| I'm not sure what you mean by this. What laws require 2 parties? #

Mortgage applications sink to a 13-year low, while foreclosures rise. http://bit.ly/9hm991 #RecoverySummer #

The big honkin' Droid X Android phone, with its 4.5 inch screen, goes on sale today. To Verizon customers, anyway. http://bit.ly/bx93Xw #

BP Says Cap Is Repaired and Oil Cutoff Test Can Proceed. http://bit.ly/adjSrp #

Initial jobless claims dropped today, but seasonal factors may be giving us a misleading view. http://usat.me?39284834 #

Well, the dogs have ripped thecable hookup to the outside of the house apart. That's just the end to a perfect day. #

Yummy! http://twitpic.com/25cls3 #

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"Recovery Summer" is a big "no sale"

Gallup’s latest poll brings us back to reality:

Gallup Daily tracking finds Americans’ confidence in the economy significantly lower so far in July than in June. And confidence in June was, in turn, down from May. The Gallup Economic Confidence Index for July 1-13, at -35, is lower than any monthly average in more than a year.

Recovery summer isn’t off to a very blazing start.  If the administration and its spinmeisters think they’re selling the recovery, they need to “reset” their calculation:

The decline in confidence seen in recent months is owing primarily to mounting public skepticism with the economy’s direction. Thus far in July, 30% of Americans, on average, have said the economy is getting better and 65% have said it is getting worse, for a net -35 economic outlook score. This is down sharply from -13 in April.

Economic confidence is a critical key to any recovery.  Once consumers are sold on the economy’s recovery, positive growth is usually the result.  The opposite is also true.  That’s because consumers who have lost confidence in the economy are more likely to put off buying anything but necessities.  The obvious economic repercussions of that sort of thinking is to slow growth and thus delay (or kill) any recovery. 

The political problem here (I think the economic problems should be obvious to all) is that the confidence of the consumer in the economy is heading down while all the spin is telling us we’re recovering quite well, thank you very much.

In other words, the political sales job on the economy and recover – critical to Democrats going into the mid-term elections – isn’t taking.  Consumers hear the pitch, look around them and not seeing what is said to exist, are rejecting it for the reality they are seeing and living.

Bad mojo for Dems looking at an election in 4 months.  That’s has caused all sorts of inter-party whining, wailing and fighting.  Meanwhile companies do what companies do when they lack confidence in the economy (and the policies of the government) – nothing.

Economically, without a true miracle, things will not begin to turn around sufficiently in the economy to be of any help to Democrats in November.  It appears it isn’t a question of whether or not they’ll lose seats, it is a question of how many.   With the numbers we’re seeing in various polls about how the electorate views the Democratic Congress and Obama administration’s economic policies, it’s clear that most have decided that giving the GOP another chance is the least of their bad choices for this coming election. 

Whether that has much of any impact, given the demonstrated obstinate nature of this administration, in the new Congress (and assuming they take control of at least on house in Congress) remains to be seen.  But if the Republicans take the House, the great blame-shifter in the White House will have a new entity on which to blame any continued economic failure.

Or, shorter for the GOP, be careful of what you wish for.

~McQ

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Beware of the new Obama job creation claims

T

he NY Post reminds us that the Joe Biden/Christina Romer dog-and-pony show now currently touring and touting some amazing "magical" job creation numbers are the same crew that gave us other estimates of job creation in the past:

Last year, when they touted their jobs figures, they wound up backtracking — after it turned out that hundreds of jobs were included from congressional districts that didn’t even exist.

Biden later admitted the data were flawed, noting that "further updates and corrections are going to be needed."

Then he and Obama bragged about new job numbers for May — some 430,000 of them. Except that 411,000 were temporary, part-time positions created by the Census Bureau.

Now the claim is that somehow, despite the unemployment numbers, they’ve managed to “create” or “save” anywhere from 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs with their excellent management of the financial and economic crisis.

Of course no one can put a finger on what jobs were “created” or, really, what jobs were “saved.”  Says Romer, apparently trying desperately to keep some shred of professional integrity in tact:

"There’s obviously a lot of uncertainty about any jobs estimate," Romer acknowledged.

Really?  That’s certainly true of the estimates this administration has put forth.  However, as the Post points out, the timing of this estimate is perfect.  This estimate shows an increase of 20% over the last estimate that was found to be based in fraudulent numbers.  As the Post notes, this estimate arrives just as Obama’s poll numbers are down.

All that anyone really needs to know is that this all started within the administration when it promised that the massive pork bill of nearly a trillion dollars it passed early in its tenure would keep the unemployment rate under 8%.  It didn’t.  In fact it didn’t even come close.  And the figure is now around 9.5% and shows no indication of falling anytime soon.  Where these magic jobs are and why they haven’t had any impact remains a mystery.

Of course the entire point is to understand that they can (and are) claim whatever they wish and it’s pretty hard to check.  But skeptics, like myself, aren’t going to be convinced by mere claims.  Hard numbers that can be checked and verified will have to follow.  And it is my contention that when they do, we’ll see a repeat of the previous two attempts at pulling the wool over the eyes of the America people for political reasons – something this administration shamelessly attempts pretty consistently on a number of fronts.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-14

BP has started a pressure test to see if the leaking well is truly capped. #

The Fed has lowered its estimate of economic activity. http://usat.me?39274478 #RecoverySummer #

http://bit.ly/9ln4o4 U.S. retail sales tumbled a second straight time in June, falling more than expected. #RecoverySummer #

RT @dmataconis: Megyn Kelly-Kristen Powers. Those two don't like each other.| I'm surprised we got out of it without a C-bomb being dropped. #

I wonder what workman's comp will charge my company for this. #

The nice thing about an emergency room in a small town is that you get right in, even with a minor complaint. They gave me ice. #

Well, I managed to burn my hand at work first thing this morning, so I'm off to the hospital. Great. #

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Quote of the day – "Post-racial" dumb quote edition

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ake Tapper brings us today’s QoD from none other than our "post-racial" president while being interviewed in South Africa. The quote pertains to al Qaeda’s operations in Africa and in particular the bombings in Uganda.

"What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself. They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains."

Per Tapper, White House aides explained that as “an argument that the terrorist groups are racist."  Not just generally racist, but their racism is aimed at blacks:

Explaining the president’s comment, an administration official said Mr. Obama "references the fact that both U.S. intelligence and past al Qaeda actions make clear that al Qaeda — and the groups like al Shabaab that they inspire — do not value African life. The actions of al Qaeda and the groups that it has inspired show a willingness to sacrifice innocent African life to reach their targets."

So what the hell was Iraq?  Who were the suicide bombers there?  And when the AQ operatives flew the planes into the World Trade Center, how many were “African” and how much “innocent African life” was sacrificed to reach their targets.

This is absurd.  Al Qaeda is an equal opportunity killing machine.  If they have a prejudice it is against all things western and all things non-Muslim.  Their method of operation is to use those locally they can recruit and, if necessary to import fighters.  But anywhere they’ve ever operated that haven’t given a rip about “innocent … life”.  In fact, their violence against innocents in Iraq was their undoing.

I can’t tell you how uninformed and, frankly scary it is to think our top leadership actually believes this stupidity.  Al Qaeda has a single purpose – to see their distorted, violent and totalitarian brand of Islam conquer the world.  And they will use anyone or kill anyone who will either advance that goal or stands in its way.

To pretend that they are merely another in a long line of racist groups and their racism is aimed only at Africans is to essentially say these people know nothing about the real al Qaeda, their history or their goals.  And that, folks, should scare the living hell out of you.

~McQ

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Subsidize journalism with public funds? The bad idea that won’t go away

E

ver since the internet has thrown the private journalistic business model into disarray, the idea that perhaps public funding should be used to "save" private journalism has found purchase among some.

I, as you might guess, wouldn’t be one of the "some".

This time it is Lee Bollinger, Columbia University’s president, pushing the "public/private partnership" necessary to "save" journalism. He cites the BBC and NPR as examples of the sort of partnership he’s talking about. However, he wants to expand that, obviously, across the board. His rational for such an expansion is to claim we’re essentially doing that now anyway. His examples?

Meanwhile, the broadcast news industry was deliberately designed to have private owners operating within an elaborate system of public regulation, including requirements that stations cover public issues and expand the range of voices that could be heard. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld this system in the 1969 Red Lion decision as constitutional, even though it would have been entirely possible to limit government involvement simply to auctioning off the airwaves and letting the market dictate the news. In the 1960s, our network of public broadcasting was launched with direct public grants and a mission to produce high quality journalism free of government propaganda or censorship.

The institutions of the press we have inherited are the result of a mixed system of public and private cooperation. Trusting the market alone to provide all the news coverage we need would mean venturing into the unknown—a risky proposition with a vital public institution hanging in the balance.

You have to love this convoluted thinking evident here – letting the market alone provide all the news coverage is “unknown” and “risky”.  Getting government more deeply involved in regulating and subsidizing “journalism”, however, apparently isn’t.

What Bollinger really doesn’t want, much like the priests and monks of Gutenberg’s era, is to loose their monopoly on providing the news, just as the priests didn’t want to lose their monopoly on the possession of and therefore the interpretation of the bible.  Unfortunately the printing press changed that dynamic forever.

In this era the internet has forever destroyed the journalistic business model that provided monopoly power to “journalistic” institutions by removing the barriers to entry.  For minimal cost, anyone can publish on the internet.  And the proliferation  on the internet of sources and opinions on the news – some far better than the traditional outlets provided – have decimated their advertising revenue base as readers turn from high cost alternatives to low cost ones.

Welcome to creative destruction – a lynch pin of capitalism and the engine for advancements in technology and the delivery of goods and services.  Lower cost and better delivery will usually always win out over higher cost and poorer delivery.

If you want the news as quickly as you can get it (assuming the internet didn’t exist) and your choices were newspaper, network news and cable news, which would you most likely choose?

Obviously – and the ratings and subscription info seems to support this – you’d choose cable news.  Who wants stale stories delivered the next morning via newspaper, or appointment TV, where you have to take time to sit down and watch when they decide to broadcast to catch a half hour capsule of the news?

So this revolutionary change didn’t start with the internet.  The internet has simply expanded the choices and put the “traditional” outlets in even more disarray.

It isn’t the job of government or the taxpayer to subsidize the old and discredited business models to which the Lee Bollingers of this world cling.  What Bollinger should do, instead, is join the legions of owners, publishers and other experts working hard day and night to find a viable new business model that will preserve at least part of the “traditional media”. 

But all government subsidy will do is intrude in a dynamic changing market and distort it. And journalists of the traditional media will simply become one more rent seeker among many.  We don’t need to be moving toward more crony capitalism, we need to be moving away from it as quickly as possible.

Bollinger is sure that the system he envisions could easily be kept free of government interference and journalistic integrity would be maintained. He sites various examples that he’s sure proves his point.  But that’s not the point – at least not the one that is important (even if I don’t believe his point to be true in the long run).  What is important is the government should have no role whatsoever in subsidizing a “free press”.  When it does, no matter how benign the subsidy, the word “free” disappears from “free press”.

And intellectually that’s a non-negotiable point.

~McQ

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Nanny State savings

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ne of the most insidious things about the development and expansion of the Nanny State is the programs that pave the way usually sound like a "good thing".

For instance, who wouldn’t think that saving for your future isn’t a good thing? Anyone? However, doing so if you so choose is the way a free people would approach that subject. Which is why, even though it may sound good to some, I would adamantly oppose any government savings program imposed on us:

The White House and congressional Democrats, with the backing of the AARP, will soon put forth a plan to automatically enroll new private-sector employees in investment retirement accounts (IRAs).

The measure will apply to new workers at firms that don’t currently offer 401(k) retirement plans, according to AARP, the lobby group for seniors. Workers would have the choice of opting out of the accounts.

Now most of you will spot the fact that the worker at a firm that doesn’t offer a 401(k) now is already able to open an IRA should they so choose. What the government and it’s crony – the AARP – are planning to do is change the choice. Now you will have an IRA unless you opt out.

Can anyone tell me where the burden will fall to ensure compliance? I mean what’s the natural collection point for this sort of paperwork? What entity will have to provide the initial paperwork as a matter of routine when the new employee is hired, ensure the option is presented and, if the employee chooses to open an IRA, provide assistance in doing so as well as provide the automatic payment allotment to the IRA?

And, last but not least, there will be a need for a new government bureaucracy to monitor and ensure compliance. In fact, this is just another in a long line of intrusions that most freedom loving people would say is none of the government’s business.

Defenders of a program like this would claim there’s nothing wrong with it, savings is good, and besides, new employees have an opportunity to opt out.

Well, right now, they have an opportunity to opt in. And that’s the point. Those who want to can choose to do so now without any government involvement or business compliance involved at all.

This boils down to another burden and cost imposed on business and yet another intrusion by government under the auspices of "you are unable to make smart choices for yourself, so we’ll do it for you".

Is anyone yet growing tired of that?

~McQ

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