Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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

J

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

O

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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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-13

I guess the NAACP cut off the live web feed of their debate on the Tea Party resolution. Transparency! #

RT @libertypapers: Tweeting from my new BlackBerry Bold :-) | Blackberry, huh? Cool. How are things back in 2006? #

Whoopi Goldberg: Mel Gibson isn't RACIST racist. http://usat.me?99735 #

RT @daveweigel: My post at the Daily Dish about why Sullivan is wrong about Trig Palin: http://bit.ly/cY7NoN | Kudos for that. #

Legal expert Lindsay Lohan has no intention of going to jail, "has seen 'Chicago' several times" to develop strategy. http://bit.ly/duAx2Q #

NFIB's business optimism index falls 3.2 points to 89. 90% of small businesses plan no hiring. http://bit.ly/b5TKv7 #RecoverySummer #

The future is now: BMW announces two new motorcycles powered by a 1649cc inline-6 motor weighing only 250 pounds. WANT! http://bit.ly/b0A2fw #

More trouble for BP: Now senators want to know if BP had anything to do with the Lockerbie bomber's release. http://bit.ly/cCLbYf #

Dianne Feinstein comes out against California's marijuana legalization initiative. http://bit.ly/dtxaa3 #

Moody's downgrades Portugal; Greece raises $2.04 billion http://usat.me?39249234 #

Backlash grows against full-body scanners in airports http://usat.me?39243942 #

BP: well could be contained today if new cap works http://usat.me?99677 | Keeping fingers crossed. #

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Denial is not a river in Egypt

The NASA/Al Jazera interview, where NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that one of his primary missions was to conduct an outreach to Muslim scientists and to essentially build the Muslim world’s self-esteem has now gotten an official and not unexpected response from the White House:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that such activities are not among Bolden’s assigned tasks. He said administration officials have spoken with NASA about the matter.

Read that carefully – it says nothing about those tasks having been among Bolden’s assigned tasks. It says the administration has "spoken with NASA" and that at the moment of Gibbs announcement – a number of days later – that the task Bolden outlined is "not among" them any more.

With this crew, you definitely have to weigh each and every word officially uttered and be able to read between the lines. No where in that statement is there a denial that it was a task at one time, and it is hard to believe that the administrator of NASA would get his priority tasks from the administration so badly screwed up, isn’t it?

Just sayin’ …

~McQ

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Deficits: Are Spending Increases The Same As Tax Cuts?

This weekend on on Fox News Sunday, Jon Kyl (rather inartfully) set up a classic struggle between political views of how government economics work:

Ezra Klein (and others) pounced on Kyl’s poorly expressed assertion (my emphasis):

What’s remarkable about Kyl’s position here is that it appears to be philosophical. “You should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans,” he said. Never! This is much crazier than anything you hear from Democrats. Imagine if some Democrat — and a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, no less — said that as a matter of principle, spending should never be offset. He’d be laughed out of the room.

Back in the real world, tax cuts and spending increases have the exact same affect on the budget deficit. This sort of comment is how you tell people who care about the deficit apart from people who are interested in exploiting fears of the deficit to shrink the size of government.

While Kyl’s phrasing lends to this sort of demagogic mockery, it’s hard to blame Klein, et al., after the spending binge that followed the Bush tax cuts of 2001. Kyl’s immediate point — that paying for some tax cuts by raising other taxes — is spot on. Shuffling around the types of taxes that one pays makes no sense if the idea is to let Americans hold onto more of their money. Indeed, he made exactly that point after his Fox News Sunday appearance (via Daniel Foster):

“Who does the money belong to?” Kyl asked rhetorically. “The money belongs to the taxpayer, to the people. The money does not belong to the government, and yet that’s what this kind of a rigid paygo rule would assume: that the money belongs to the government, and therefore if you’re going to deny the government some of that revenue through a tax cut, you have to make the government whole, because the government can never lose any money. That would mean that you could never reduce the size of government. Each year, when it gets bigger, it stays at that level or it gets bigger yet, but you can never reduce it.”

As Foster notes, “Kyl is openly advocating some ‘starve the beast’ unfunded tax cuts.” Klein counters this with a reasonable budgetary point: deficits are deficits, whether from reduced income or increased spending. Yet, this misses the real issue:

He who has the money expands; he who does not shrinks.

According to the “starve the beast” strategy, if government takes in less revenue than it spends, eventually it will have to cut spending in order to match revenues, and thus the government will shrink. At the same time, if the private sector has more money in its pocket, the economy will expand. While the efficacy of this strategy leaves much to be desired in practice, at least one part of the equation can’t be denied, i.e. the more money that the government takes in, the more it expands.

The same holds true for the private sector. The fewer taxes it is forced to pay (that is, the more money it is allowed to keep), the greater it expands.

So, the real question is, which do we want to expand: the private sector or the government?

Kyl is dead-on in his describing the pervasive attitude of statists of all stripes. They really think the money belongs to the government and should be dispersed as it sees fit (provided, of course, that government is run by officials suitably attuned to the “common good”). That is where the struggle lies. Statists believe that government is the best source of economic expansion while history individualists commend the opposite.

If the statists are correct, then we should want the government to expand, and deficits should be run up without commensurate spending cuts or, alternatively, with tax increases. If, instead, the private sector holds the key to economic expansion, then deficits (if any) should be met by spending cuts. Period.

To be sure, in order to live under a rule of law, some minimal level of government spending is required. Ideally, taxes, user fees, etc. pay for that minimal level, but there will always come a time when unfortunate events necessitate dipping into the red. It is in those times when raising taxes may be the best solution on a temporary basis (which hasn’t always worked out very well). Once those events subside, however, continuing to expand government spending can only be done to the detriment of the private sector, which will then shrink.

In the end, whether the electorate chooses an expansion of the state or the private sector will be the real deciding factor in whether the economy expands or not. All deficit spending may be equal in budgetary terms, but only one course will actually serve to expand the economy. On that score, Kyl has the better of the argument.

~MJW

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-12

.@MelissaTweets: Ready for President Palin?|The sun will set in a blazing red sky to the east of Casablanca before she is elected president. #

RT @daveweigel: Thus end the airline hell tweets. Up next: Not crashing!" | You hope. #

RT @jaseliberty @dmataconis @griftdrift: "headed tongue runoff" | Sounds naughty. #

Now you can build your own Google Android apps, even if you're not a programmer. http://usat.me?99590 #

More Americans' credit scores sink to new lows http://usat.me?39232584 #RecoverySummer #

RT @GaltsGirl @biggovt: NAACP Proposes Resolution Condemning Tea Party as Racist. | Well, that's sure to promote tolerance and inclusion. #

Democrats plan to Europeanize the DoD, reducing the ability to project force, in order to fund social programs. http://bit.ly/cys4vP #

Consumer Reports: iPhone4 is teh suxx0rz. http://bit.ly/cV5Jnn #

Microsoft wants to sell Windows tablets by the end of the year. Huh. Well, I'm sure it'll be as good as their phones. http://bit.ly/cPFTOS #

Democrat governors really don't want their party to address immigration. At least not in an election year. http://bit.ly/9m8rPd #

Predator drones: Our way of reminding Muslims that their past contributions to science have led to Hellfire missiles. http://bit.ly/af0kpl #

Swiss free Polanski; won't extradite director to U.S. http://usat.me?39232306 | Whew! Artistic crisis averted. #

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A little Middle East news

First, a rather interesting, but apparently ignored interview with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.  The quote makes me again wonder about those who continue to pretend it is Israel that’s the problem:

The official Palestinian Authority daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Tuesday wrote that when Abbas met recently with media figures at the home of the Palestinian ambassador to Jordan, he recounted that during an Arab League Summit in Libya in March he told his fellow leaders that he still preferred war against Israel, but could not do it alone.

"We are unable to confront Israel militarily, and this point was discussed at the Arab League Summit," said Abbas. "There I turned to the Arab States and I said: ‘If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don’t have the ability to do it.’"

Of course they don’t.  So instead they use terror tactics.  And this is from the supposedly “moderate” part of the Palestinian leadership.  No comment, apparently from Hamas.

As for the Arab League – 0 for 3.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that he thought that the country that that is key to stopping Iran from producing nuclear weapons is the US.  The question is, would the US actually pull the trigger?  That may be why Netanyahu frames his point by saying “Obama is the key”.

"There’s only been one time that Iran stopped the program and that was when it feared U.S. military action," Netanyahu said in the interview on "Fox News Sunday," adding that Iran’s nuclear program was advancing by the hour.

"The president’s position that all options are on the table might have the only real effect on Iran — if they think it’s true," Netanyahu said.

I think that’s a little “positive thinking” on the part of the Israeli PM.  Living where he lives, he knows someone is going to have to stop the nuclear train.  Israel took care of the threat in Iraq and recently in Syria.  But it may not have the capability to do so in Iran (although Saudi Arabia has made it known that an Israeli strike force would not be hampered should it decide to use Saudi airspace).

That doesn’t mean they won’t try if they have too:

When asked whether Israel might initiate military action, Netanyahu stressed that all options are on the table.

"The Jewish state was set up to defend Jewish lives and we always reserve the right to defend ourselves," he said.

With Israel everything is always on the table.  They don’t have the luxury of taking anything off of it if they hope to survive.

~McQ

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Balancing the budget on the back of the military

The very same people who spent us into fiscal insolvency have now decided that the way to recover budget savings in the coming years is to radically reduce the military and its effectiveness by reducing military spending dramatically. Certainly there are savings to be had within the military-industrial complex. But not like this.

Rep. Barney Frank’s Sustainable Defense Task Force claims to have found almost a trillion dollars that can be “saved” over 9 years by taking a meat axe to the services. Highlights, or lowlights if you prefer, of the 56 page document include:

-Reduction of the Navy from 12 planned aircraft carriers to 8 and 7 air wings.

-Reduction of the ballistic missile submarine force from the planned 14 to 6.

-Reduction of the nuclear attack submarines being built by half leaving 40 by 2020.

-4 active guided missile submarines cut.

-Freeze destroyer construction and cancel the DDG-1000 destroyer program.

-Reduce total fleet size from 287 combat ships to 230.

-Retire 6 Air Force fighter wings.

-Build 301 fewer F-35 fighters.

-Configure all nuclear strike bombers so they can only drop conventional munitions.

-Cancel additional C-17s and new refueling tanker project.

-Eliminate or curtail research on directed energy beam research and other advanced missile and space warfare defense projects.

-Slash the Army from 562,400 active duty personnel to 360,000 and eliminate approximately 5 brigade combat teams.

-Cut the Marine Corps by 30%, from 202,000 to 145,000.

-Cancel V-22 Osprey program and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

-“Reset the calculation of military compensation and reform the provision of military health care” – which essentially means a reduction in pay and benefits of about $120 billion for the troops and their families.

Additionally the report unilaterally suggests the reduction of our Minuteman III nuclear deterrent missile fleet from 500 to 160 – something not required by the new START treaty.

As anyone can tell, this goes far beyond an attempt to “save” money. If all of these recommendations were accepted and passed into law, the US military would be virtually gutted, filleted and left to dry in the sun. It would essentially become a home defense force incapable of projecting the power necessary to protect the vital national interests or respond to treaty obligations of the United States. And it would leave the field wide open for super-power wannabes to make their moves.

In reality, the Frank report is the written form of an unrealistic but consistent liberal dream they’ve held close to their hearts for decades. While constantly mouthing the platitudes of supporting our military and the troops, they hold no real love for the institution or its role in our society. The real desire of the left and some Democrats is to reduce the military to a much smaller state, abandon our leadership role in the world and instead focus their efforts and our money on making the US a liberal utopia.

At this time there couldn’t be more misguided policy available even if we were to try and purposely think of one. Should the provisions of this study be put into practice, the US would go from being a protector of the free world to prey.

~McQ

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The Obama administration? Anti-business? Surely you jest …

Ben White at Politico tells us:

Obama has been happy to be seen by voters as cracking down on Wall Street but those efforts have had an unintended result: feeding a sense that the president and his party are indifferent or even actively hostile toward big business, whether those businesses are Silicon Valley tech companies, Midwestern manufacturers or Main Street small businesses.

And it is more than just politics: Obama’s aides believe confidence in the general direction of White House policy has an effect on the willingness of corporations to hire, invest and push the economy toward a more solid recovery.

We’ve all heard about the $1.8 trillion that companies and corporations have saved while they sit on the side-lines refusing to invest or hire. We’ve seen the likes of Mort Zuckerman declare that the policies and attitude of the administration are decidedly "anti-business". And we’ve seen little or no evidence that anything the government has done has, in fact, spurred economic recovery.

So – what’s the administration’s answer? A public relations campaign where they essentially tell us things have happened we know haven’t, take credit for things they had little to do with and essentially try to spin their way out of the "anti-business" label.

Or, “business as usual”:

So the White House has launched a campaign to help instill that confidence, highlighted by Obama’s remarks on Wednesday stressing his commitment to lifting trade barriers as a way to spur economic growth. That was followed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s interview on CNBC’s “Kudlow Report” last night — following his spot on PBS’ “NewsHour” on Tuesday. Obama talked up the economy in Missouri Thursday as well.

In a Thursday interview, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel argued that rather than recoiling against Obama, business leaders should be grateful for his support on at least a half-dozen counts: his advocacy of greater international trade and education reform open markets despite union skepticism; his rejection of calls from some quarters to nationalize banks during the financial meltdown; the rescue of the automobile industry; the fact that the overhaul of health care preserved the private delivery system; the fact that billions in the stimulus package benefited business with lucrative new contracts, and that financial regulation reform will take away the uncertainty that existed with a broken, pre-crash regulatory apparatus.

But you see, businesses know all of that and they aren’t “grateful”, they’re alarmed.  Not only that, they don’t see private banks and financial institutions as the sole problem in the financial meltdown – but they do see government trying to pretend it was all Wall Street and greedy corporations, while Freddie and Fannie have become half a trillion dollar financial sink holes that politicians don’t want to talk about.

They also understand that the Bush tax cuts are expiring, new health care laws and taxes are pending, new and onerous regulations are in the offing and the lame duck Congress will most likely try to push through some version of cap-and-trade.  Add to that failing states like Illinois and California and the probability of higher taxes all the way around.

And then there’s the possibility of a double-dip recession.

Why wouldn’t business be sitting on their money given the “rest of the story” that the administration conveniently leaves out of their pitch?

This is a crew that has supreme confidence in their ability to propagandize anything and get away with it.  And why shouldn’t they – look who is sitting in the White House.  You’d have to believe if you can sell an empty suit to a majority of the nation, you can probably sell anything.

~McQ

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