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Trans-Pacific Partnership? Pretty Pointless Pal. February 23, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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Another of the President’s proposals from his State of the Union Address:

47. Boost exports, complete negotiations on Trans-Pacific Partnership

“To boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Yee-haw!! Another Asian economic cooperation organization. Let’s see, we already have APEC, which has been eclipsed by SCO, so what does the TPP buy us?

Well, per their website, it’s our chance to: “…boost U.S. economic growth and support the creation and retention of high-quality American jobs by increasing exports…”

There’s just one leetle problem with the plan. Just one minor catch. A slight bump in the road, if you will. A gnat in the proverbial ointment. A…

Anyway, here are the Asian members of the TPP:

  • Singapore (2012 Exports = $36 billion)
  • Malaysia (2012 Exports = $13 billion)
  • Vietnam (2012 Exports = $4.6 billion)
  • Brunei (2012 Exports = $0.2 billion)

So let’s say that we doubled the exports to those countries overnight, which would take huge chunks of their economies, but whatever (Exports to Singapore, for example, are already 13.5% of their GDP). And let’s assume that none of our TPP partners (like Canada, Australia and Mexico) encroach on our exports. Yep, that would be $54 billion, or 0.3% of our GDP. Even in that unlikely scenario, the result is insignificant.

This isn’t Obama’s only export-related proposal, but it wasn’t worth mentioning.

The Minimum Wage Spiral to Doom February 23, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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USA Today has a nice compilation of the proposals the President made during his State of the Union address. Among the 66 proposals, two are juxtaposed in a scary kind of way:

31. Raise minimum wage

“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.”

32. Tie minimum wage to inflation rate

“So here’s an idea that Governor Romney agreed on last year – let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.”

So lessee: raising the minimum wage is inflationary. Then you adjust it for inflation, then its inflationary, then you adjust it…

If you have to have a minimum wage, then I don’t think anyone objects to adjusting it for inflation. But if you’re going to adjust it twice (as the President proposes), you can run into serious problems. The real issue is how much initial adjustment you initially make. If it’s too much, the system can go unstable, with spiraling inflation (as well as increased unemployment, failed businesses, etc.).

Raising it by 25%?

That’s probably too much.

Watching the GOP Get Ground to Dust by Demographics February 22, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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How screwed are we? Oh mightily, I’d say, based upon this handy little tool from Chris Wilson of Yahoo News. He’s taken the demographic projections for the next 50 years and projected how voting will go based on voter turnout and party preference for each racial group. As you can see, things look pretty bleak for our heroes.

You can use the slider bars to change the assumptions of turnout and party preference, but I don’t think you can come up with a realistic scenario that looks hopeful.

Prove me wrong? *Sob*

Much Ado About Nothing February 22, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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Reuters goes hardcore Pollyanna on the economy with this uber-upbeat headline:

Analysis: U.S. companies plan to spend, a boost for the economy

U.S. companies’ capital spending plans are holding up, and mostly exceeding Wall Street forecasts, in the face of policy concerns created by arguments in Washington over the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling and now automatic spending cuts.

Their willingness to spend on new offices, plants and machinery, as well as a pickup in deal making, shows that they are starting to dig into the massive amounts of cash that has been collecting more dust than interest on their balance sheets. That could prove a welcome counterpunch to a softer outlook for spending by consumers and government.

Sounds like companies are ready to unleash a tidal wave of spending, doesn’t it? So out with it!! How much more are they planning to spend!?!

Those that have issued guidance are expecting to spend $1.59 billion on average in 2013. While that’s only a modest increase from the 2012 average of $1.57 billion, it is above the analysts’ estimates.

You’re kidding.

You got me off the couch over a 1.3% increase in spending? A rate of increase that’s smaller than inflation? And that’s supposed to be significant just because the analysts were more wrong than usual?

Say what you will about this president, but he has managed to generate unrealistic optimism among his faithful like no president before him.

I Hereby Denounce Michael as an Unrepentant Pythagorean February 21, 2013

Posted by Sobek in News.
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That is all.

Ends, Means, and Slavery February 17, 2013

Posted by Sobek in News.
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I’ve probably watched this video about five thousand times in the last couple weeks, and I’m ready to watch it that many times more.  Ear worm warning:

Fun fact: that video was shot entirely on location at The Hostages.

Mrs. Sobek and I just watched Lincoln.  I thought it was great, and the casting for Secretaries Seward and Stanton was brilliant, if you know what those guys looked like.  Mrs. Sobek liked it too, but there was something about it that bugged her – the same thing that bugged her about the movie Amazing Grace, which I also recommend.  Specifically, both movies involve idealistic men with the laudable goal of ending slavery, using legal means to do so – and also a fair bit of skullduggery.  I agree with that assessment; the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Lincoln had no constitutional authority to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Missus and I both like the ends, but there’s something highly unseemly about the means.

Why should we care about process, though?  If everyone agrees slavery died a long overdue death over a century ago (longer, in the case of England), who cares about process (or, in the case of Lincoln, a little corruption and arguable perjury)?

Because I hate it when the Left pulls that crap against me.  Who cares if ObamaCare was passed in the dead of night, using laughably illegal “reconciliation,” without letting anyone actually read the damn thing, using some odd combination of the tax power when it’s a tax and the Commerce Clause when it’s not a tax, if the end (getting everyone the health care they need) is a worthy goal?  (We’re pretending here that (a) that really was the goal, and (b) the bill will actually do that.)  Who cares if the President violated the war clauses by attacking Libya, if Ghadaffi was a bad man (never mind Leftist inconsistency when you mention Saddam Hussein or the Taliban, or the fact that Bush did have Congressional authorization)?  Who cares if Harry Reid has broken federal law every year he failed to pass a budget, so long as the checks keep rolling out?

I care, for one.  Partly because I hate all that crap, and partly because Obama and his cronies are making a mockery of the Constitution they swore an oath to uphold and defend.

So how to evaluate Lincoln, who was a great man, a noble man of vision, who achieved a noble goal through illegitimate ends?

My answer to Mrs. Sobek was that I can admire the man while acknowledging his faults.  That might sound a little obvious, but it’s something I’ve only been able to arrive at gradually.  The more history I read, the more I learn about the “great” men of history, the more I’ve had to just accept the fact that great men can have some very prominent flaws.  I read a biography of Thomas Jefferson where the author talked about historians wrestling with the question of how the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence could own slaves.  My answer is, what’s the problem?  The man can live inspired moments of greatness, and also have the character flaw of massive hypocrisy.  I read a bio of Andrew Jackson and couldn’t help but admire the man, and that without ignoring or explaining away his utterly horrific treatment of the Indians.  Martin Luther King may have been a great man, but he was also an unrepentant plagiarist, unworthy of the title “Dr.” by any measure.  I can admire Benjamin Franklin without overlooking his philandering, or appreciate Jim Morrison’s music without worrying about the fact that he was cooler than I will ever be.

But wasn’t Lincoln’s skullduggery worth it to get the Thirteenth Amendment passed?

I won’t say yes until someone can persuade me that, but for Lincoln’s lawlessness, the Thirteenth Amendment could not have passed.

A Theory About the Decline of American Civilization February 16, 2013

Posted by Sobek in News.
3 comments

Tolstoy said that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I wonder if that’s true of failed civilizations, too.  That is, it seems like all free countries should look similar, because their people are free, but every great civilization that has collapsed, turned to anarchy or tyranny, has done so in its own unique way.  Because there is an infinite variety of ways government can encroach on the people and an infinite variety of ways a free society can turn into an unfree one.

I’ve been considering how Russia was a great nation, and then the Soviet “experiment” happened for 70 years and turned the place into a totalitarian nightmare of suffering.  Iran has been a great nation several times in its history, and is currently in its own “experiment” phase.  Iranian totalitarianism has some features in common with Soviet totalitarianism – just like in China, or Cuba, or North Korea – but each country has its own version of totalitarian nightmarishness, and each got there in different ways.

So what I’m saying is, America may well be on the fast track to decline and awfulness, but that doesn’t mean we can predict how we’ll get there based on past experience in other countries because we’ll find our own, unique way.

A propos of nothing, I was curious what I’d get if I googled “robot giraffe,” and here’s one part of the answer:

A vision of the future

A vision of the future

That interesting thing was made by Andrew Chase.  Would it freak you out to know that thing moves?  Because it does.

And you can get lost in its dreamy blue eyes.

And you can get lost in its dreamy blue eyes.

Some more of Mr. Chase’s work here.

Hey, Obama, Leave Them Kids Alone! February 15, 2013

Posted by Michael in News.
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“High Quality”

Those were the only two words President Obama uttered during his State of the Union address that interested me. Here is the context:

He went on:

In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.  We know this works.

President Barack Obama, State of the Union, February 12, 20

Just yesterday, Obama went on and on about this in Georgia. You can see his comments here. He clearly thinks that early childhood education is a political winner.

But, but, Mr. President, how exactly do you “know this works”?

We turn to the White House blog for an answer.

Leading economists agree that high-quality early learning programs can help level the playing field for children from lower-income families on vocabulary, social and emotional development, while helping students to stay on track and stay engaged in the early elementary grades. [Emphasis supplied]

High Quality Education for All Children

Wait a minute, why are we citing the opinion of “leading economists”? They surely have no expertise to measure the effects, much less sort out the variables and causal relationships, that arise from preschool education.

I’ll tell you why.  Educational experts have found that federally sponsored preschool is a failure.

You may well ask, what educational experts? Why, the ones hired by the Department of Education (and who will never be hired again) to evaluate its own Head Start program.

Head Start is an $8 billion per year federal preschool program, designed to improve the kindergarten readiness of low-income children. Since its inception in 1965, taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on the program.

But HHS’ latest Head Start Impact Study found taxpayers aren’t getting a good return on this “investment.”  According to the congressionally-mandated report, Head Start has little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of its participants. In fact, on a few measures, access to the program actually produced negative effects.

Head Start a Sad and Costly Failure

And that’s putting it nicely. Let’s be frank, Head Start is just a massive babysitting service that gives welfare moms a chance to relax and watch some cable TV. (And God forbid that they would have to rouse themselves to make lunch for their kids.)

So, with $180B wasted over almost 50 years, one might reasonably ask why we should flush more money down this toilet. The answer is — Uncle Sam will now do it with “high quality,” which really means more money. And thus Obama’s careful qualifier.  People like Obama (and especially his friends in the liberal teachers’ unions) cannot conceive of the possibility that a federal program is an abject failure. They can only conclude that it was “under-funded.”

It’s inconceivable that preschool education is properly the pursuit of parents, family, friends, churches, charities, and local school boards. Oh no, there must be a leading role for bureaucrats in D.C.

Hey, Obama, leave them kids alone!

(more…)

Obama Promise-Breaking In Progress: Exports Aren’t Doubling February 12, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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I’ve been keeping track of President Obama’s 2010 SoTU promise to double exports by 2015; a promise that was a linchpin of his plan to restore the economy. At the time, pundits scratched their heads and asked, “how the heck is he going to do that?”

Well, the short answer is: he ain’t.

ExportsRealityvsObamaDec2012

Why did he make a promise that he had no ability to keep? My guess is that he had no idea of what he was promising and that he wouldn’t have cared if he did.

Swift and Credible? February 12, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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From Politico:

President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday that the United States and its allies will take “swift and credible action” over North Korea’s latest nuclear test—a move he denounced as a “highly provocative act.”

But what, exactly, is “credible action?” Action that’s believable?

Perhaps that’s supposed to contrast with the President’s actions that were unbelievable. Such as:

  • Raising taxes during a recession
  • “Laser-like focus” on the economy (or was that “imperceptible?”)
  • Doubling deficit spending
  • Letting the Benghazi embassy hang while he jetted to Vegas for a fundraiser
  • Jumping in with premature verdicts on the Henry Louis Gates and Trayvon Martin cases
  • Wasting huge amounts of money on premature green initiatives. In a recession. Using deficit spending.
  • Obamacare (I think that speaks for itself)

The list goes on, but you get the point. With this president, it’s not “swift and credible” so much as “swift and beggaring the imagination.”

A Tale of Two Crazy People February 11, 2013

Posted by Sobek in News.
5 comments

LauraW linked the story of the most recent FBI bust of a would-be jihadi on American soil, this one in Oakland (semi-serious question: if a massive bomb exploded in downtown Oakland, would we really be able to tell the difference?).  CAIR is not enthusiastic:

“Did the FBI take a [mentally ill] aspirational terrorist, make him an operational terrorist and then thwart their own plot?” Billoo asked. “CAIR has been saying this for years now: It’s the FBI’s job to stop operational terrorists. It’s not the FBI’s job to enable aspirational ones.”

I do not see eye to eye with Ms. Billoo.  I wonder if she would feel the same way if the defendant were, say, a right-wing extremist who had plotted to blow up a mosque.  How close should the FBI let such a person get to actually hurting someone before intervening?  Perhaps she thinks the best course of action is to quintuple the number of FBI agents in America so that more citizens can be monitored without intervention.

(more…)

Excerpts from the Einstein Translation of the Holy Bible February 8, 2013

Posted by Sobek in News.
4 comments

1 John 4:8 – “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (relatively speaking).”

 

John 1:5 – “The light shines in the darkness at a rate of 186,000miles per second squared, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

 

Job 30:18 – “In his great power God becomes like clothing to me; he binds me like the strong nuclear force.”

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