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July 29, 2011

UPDATE: We are Experiencing Technical Difficulties...

Now we're just waiting for the new computer to be delivered by the communist Chinese so we can get back to our libertarian blogging. That'll show 'em! In the meantime, we've ramped up our tweeting (in sidebar to the right), and are otherwise busy preparing for the coming debtpocalypse should our leaders here in Washington fail to find a way to agree on the appropriate speed at which we should bankrupt our children's future. The choices are: A) Fast. B) Faster. So you can understand why there's so much rancor. J.

July 29, 2011 at 05:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 25, 2011

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties...

Testpattern

We were already kind of busy last week when we had a computer crash. That's not a euphemism, we're talking tiny little broken pieces. That's what happens when a first-generation Mac Air's notoriously weak hinge meets a 21-month-old's notorious lack of appreciation for expensive Apple hardware.

Since blogging on an iPhone app, even blown up to iPad dimensions, is not a particularly pleasant experience, I'm going to wait on the arrival this week of the just-released Mac Air update and use the intervening time to think of how I'm going to pay for it.

They still pay for blood, right?

Not mine, Baby Moron's.

I'm kidding, of course! There is no way I would sell Baby Moron's blood.

It would make him too weak to work in the mines.

J.

July 25, 2011 at 08:35 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 19, 2011

Your Papers, Please. And Yes, I’ll Hold Your Teddy Bear While You Look For Them.

It has been a right of passage for generations now.  As the heat of summer presses in, young children across the country excitedly set up tables and chairs, mix up large batches of ice cold lemonade, set out cups, and create hand-scrawled signs announcing they are open for business.  Then they wait with giddy anticipation for that first person to walk up and say the words they’d been waiting to hear:

 “I’ll need to see your permit or I’m shutting you down.”

These are the memories children will cherish forever.  Christmas mornings, that first day of school, and being run out of business by the government for lacking the proper papers.

Of course, this is America. We cherish the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great.  That’s why here, like nowhere else, if you want to open a lemonade stand, why, all you need is some lemons, a few cups, and a can-do spirit!

And $180 for a business license, peddler permit, and food permit, as some little girls in Georgia recently discovered.

These are just kids, of course, so it’s kind of heartening to watch them in their innocence, believing they can sell a product to willing buyers in a mutually agreeable exchange of goods and services absent express permission from the authorities. 

Ah, to be a child again! But as the Chief of Police pointed out, governmental authorities didn't know how the lemonade was made, who made it or what was in it.

Imagine!  Having lemonade prepared by some neighbor kids without close state supervision. Why, you could come down with any number of lemonade-borne illnesses, including an acute case of Sour Mouthicitis, and the need for a Lemon-Seed-in-my-Cupectomy.

But that’s not the only reason we need supervision of lemonade stands. As a couple of families in Wisconsin discovered recently, the government also has a responsibility to see to it that the health and well-being of entrenched moneyed interests are protected from the unwarranted competitive assault of little girls selling lemonade on their front lawns:

“It's certainly not that Appleton is against little girls setting up their cookie and lemonade stands. But the overall intent of the ordinance was to protect the vendors at these events. To get a little bit of security to the vendors who were at the events.”

Add to the list of oil companies, banks, and health insurers, nine-year-old girls, who are simply wielding far too much power to be allowed to operate absent stringent government restrictions.

Call them, “Too Cute To Fail.”

And so join us in celebrating this very American of traditions, and rest assured that the American dream is alive and well.

You had that dream notarized, right?  Also, you’ll need it in triplicate.

J.

July 19, 2011 at 01:13 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 15, 2011

Consider it “The 1456th Rail” of American Politics

One of the ways you can tell Congress is serious about our fiscal crisis and the looming possibility of a debt default that would result in “catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades,” is its devotion to focusing laser-like on problem.

Take, for example, Senator Kay Hagan and Representative Tammy Baldwin, who have joined together to show the American people they understand the constraints the government must live under.

By proposing to spend $40 million a year to “promote media literacy and youth empowerment programs.”

Called the “Healthy Media for Youth Act,” the proposed bill would also:

“Authorize research on the role and impact of depictions of girls and women in the media, to provide for the establishment of a National Task Force on Girls and Women in the Media, and for other purposes.”

Choices have to be made, people, hard choices, choices that aren’t going to make everyone happy, but we still must live up to the commitments we have made as a nation.

Such as addressing the growing crisis that:

“Competition over narrow beauty standards and attention from boys… damages girls’ friendships.”

If examining the friendships formed among adolescent girls isn’t an essential function of the federal government, what is, we ask you? What is?

Addressing this, one of the aims of the grant program would be:

“Promoting healthy, balanced, and positive media depictions of girls and women among youth.”

Just so you know, you should not find it at all chilling that the federal government wants to fund research that would “promote” state-approved forms of speech and expression.

It’s for the children, you know.

Besides, when they say, “media,” all they mean is:

“The term ‘media’ includes television programs, motion pictures, video games, music and music videos, the Internet, social media, digital video recorders, cell phones, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and other emerging technologies designed for communication, entertainment, education, or information.”

But other than that, your right to free speech remains totally uninfringed.

Regardless, in a moment when major credit agencies are considering downgrading US Government debt out of concerns over high deficits and a lack of credible action to address them, it is good to know that at least some politicians in Congress know how to prioritize, such as spending money to investigate why:

“More than half of girls (55 percent) admit they diet to lose weight.”

In totally unrelated news:

Obesity Epidemic Continues to Spread.”

J.

July 15, 2011 at 10:36 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 12, 2011

The Real Question is, What Goes Better With Self-Righteous Indignation? Red or White?

Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan last week was caught red handed in an act no politician wants made public:

Flagrantly spending his own money.

That was simply more than one Susan Feinberg could take. After all, as a former economist and current Rutgers University professor, Mrs. Feinberg knows fully well that decisions regarding how you should spend your money are best left to the government.

They’re experts, after all.

However, there was Congressman Ryan, at a fancy schmancy restaurant flaunting his ability to afford a gourmet meal. Okay, so Professor Feinberg was also at the same restaurant enjoying a gourmet meal, but there’s an important difference:

Professor Feinberg supports Obama.

So she began to monitor the Congressman, who was out with two other gentlemen. Then, the bottle of wine came out, followed quickly by Mrs. Feinberg’s cell phone, which she used to snap some pictures of the outrage as it transpired. A quick look at the wine list confirmed her suspicions:

It was expensive.

How expensive? Try $350 a bottle.  To put that in the proper perspective, consider this: That’s enough money to provide the average family of four with 6/7ths of the money they’d need to buy a bottle of wine served at a White House state dinner.

Now that’s a lot.

In her note that evening to Talking Points Memo, Professor Feinberg drove the point home further, applying her extensive background in economics:

"I was an economist so I started doing the envelope calculations and quickly figured out that those two bottles of wine was more than two-income working family making minimum wage earned in a week." 

Do NOT try to perform these kinds of calculations at home. Remember, Professor Feinberg was an economist and has been trained in advanced arithmetic including honors-level courses in addition and post-graduate work in multiplication. (Clearly sacrificing time she could have spent studying grammar.) In fact, you can tell Mrs. Feinberg is a serious academic intellect by the sheer number of exclamation points she uses on her web page.

°My BIG paper appeared in the December, 2006 issue of the American Economic Review!

°CLICK HERE!!: Video of my commentary on intra-firm trade on Maryland Public TV! (7/04)

°Served on the International Economic Advisory team, 2004 Kerry-Edwards Campaign

°Speech in Haiti (in French!) on market reforms and privatization. 
Coming Soon: Audio Excerpts of Interview with Radio Metropole (Haiti)!

Oh my God! Haiti! In French! Oh my God!! Guys, you SO have to click here!!!

Naturally, the professor was “stunned” at the Congressman’s behavior. To think, here was the GOP’s champion of getting the government to spend less of your money, flagrantly spending his own money on $350 bottles of wine. The word "hypocrite" obviously comes to mind, assuming you don't know what the word hypocrite means.

Well, she wasn’t going to take that sitting down, emboldened as she was by the $80 bottle of Thierry et Pascale Matrot 2005 Meursault that she and her husband were sharing, generally considered to be the common, “working man’s wine,” often enjoyed by factory workers after a long, hard day, doing… whatever it is factory workers do, since Ms. Feinberg’s experience outside of academia consists of the three years she spent in advertising in France in the ‘80s.

And so, in keeping with common etiquette practices, she confronted Congressman Ryan, asking him “how he could live with himself,” accusing him of ethics violations, and creating a scene that ended with management having to intervene.

You can look it up in Miss Manners.

As it turned out, contrary to some accusations, Representative Ryan was not dining with lobbyists, but a couple of economists. He paid for his own dinner and wine, and otherwise complied with all Congressional ethics guidelines.

In totally unrelated news, President Obama continues to lead by example in his call for political civility and respect.

J.

July 12, 2011 at 11:19 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 07, 2011

They’re Flying in Their Taxis, Taking Tips, and Getting Hosed…

If you had to name the number one concern facing the residents of the District of Columbia, home to our nation’s Capital, what would it be?

A)   Drugs
B)   Crime
C)   Schools.
D)   Way too much taxicab competition.

If you chose “D,” you just might have a future as a DC City Council Member.

Known as the “Professional Taxicab Standards And Medallion Establishment Act of 2011” (because calling it the “Fewer Cabs At Higher Prices Act” didn’t test well with focus groups), the proposed law seeks to put an end to people thinking they can just compete for business in an open market.

Like that’s ever worked.

Rather than the relatively open system dominated by owner-operators and the ability for new entrants to enter the market, the proposed law would require the possession of a “medallion” before taxi services could legally offer their services, and those medallions would be rationed eliminating at least a third of all taxis available today and increasing prices by 25% or more.

What is being overlooked are the many advantages a medallion system offers.  According to a report (pdf) by DC’s Chief Financial Officer, Natwar, M. Gandhi:

“Introduction of a medallion system institutes entry barriers to the taxicab market by restricting the supply of taxicabs. There is broad consensus among economists that such restrictions allow a small group of private citizens—those who are among the first round of recipients of medallions—to earn windfall profits at the expense of consumers and drivers without medallions.”

Okay, sure, maybe taking a cab in the District will cost a little more. But according to Mr. Gandhi, you have to look at the whole picture:

“Evidence from other jurisdictions suggests that limiting entry into a taxicab market leads to a decline in overall service: consumers pay higher fares, wait longer for an available taxicab, face more service refusals, and receive less service than they would otherwise. Service to the outlying areas of the city becomes poorer, and in order to meet the demand, an alternative off-the-books market may develop with poor safety, security, and insurance standards.”

Maybe Mr. Gandhi isn’t the best cheerleader for the new Medallion system. Instead, let’s go straight to the source:

John Ray, the lobbyist who wrote the bill on behalf of a large incumbent taxicab operator who would have one of the first shots at the medallions:

In the District, a “come one, come all” system results in a disproportionate cab-per-resident ratio of one cab for every 93 residents. In New York and Boston, the cab per resident ratios are 1-to-625 and 1-to-338, respectively.”

How much longer must DC residents suffer from this burden of convenience?

But it goes deeper than that. The people Mr. Ray is really concerned about are the drivers themselves:

“Recently, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) lifted the $19 maximum-fare cap and imposed a $1 gas surcharge to help drivers increase their earnings. Could it be that there are too many drivers chasing too few fares?”

Too bad nobody told the drivers (language warning for those of you who are at work and/or are Mormons):

And then there’s the corruption inherent in a system in which small special favors are doled out by the government as opposed to great big huge ones:

“But the District’s “open-entry” system is, in part, why this unregulated industry fell victim to an “audacious and long-running [from 2007 to 2009] scheme” to obtain licenses to operate cab companies in the city.”

Much better that the industry be further regulated by the DC Taxicab Commission that has had hardly any corruption at all. In fact, all these issues are being aired out in the open in public meetings where everyone has the right to monitor and report on the proceedings, and by “monitor and report on the proceedings,” we mean, “get arrested for monitoring and reporting on the proceedings:”

DC: Land of the free, and the home of the incarcerated.

No word on whether they were able to flag a cab home after being released.

J.

July 7, 2011 at 05:01 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 05, 2011

Don’t Know Much About Biases…

In his debut piece as a contributor for Newsweek/Daily Beast, entitled, “The Founding Fathers, Unzipped,” Columbia University history professor Simon Schama notes that:

“The Constitution’s framers were flawed like today’s politicians, so it’s high time we stop embalming them in infallibility.”

Newsweek being a highly acclaimed mainstream journalistic institution, and the Daily Beast being on the Internet, you of course know that the professor can back up his claim that the Founders are “routinely canonized in the current fairy-tale version of American origins that passes muster for history by those who don’t actually read very much of it.”

First, Professer Schama notes even though Thomas Jefferson is believed by Tea Party adherents to have had a “passion for minimal government,” and his “…aversion to overbearing government makes him a Tea Party patriarch,” there is a dark reality that they must face:

He may have written the Declaration of Independence, but were he around today Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have a prayer of winning the Republican nomination, much less the presidency… For Thomas Jefferson denied that Jesus was the son of God. Worse, he refused to believe that Jesus ever made any claim that he was. While he was at it, Jefferson also rejected as self-evidently absurd the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection.”

As the professer lectures us:

“History is like that—full of knotty contradictions, its cast list of heroes, especially American heroes, majestic in their complicated imperfections.”

 So, to sum up the Professor's logic:

  1. Tea Party people admire Jefferson’s passion for limited government.
  2. Jefferson wasn’t a Christian.
  3. Therefore Tea Party people are idiots.

But it doesn’t end there. Tea Party people are also guilty of:

“…treating the Constitution like a quasi-biblical revelation instead of the product of contention and cobbled-together compromise that it actually was. Even the collective noun 'Founding -Fathers' planes smooth the unreconciled divisiveness of their bitter and acrimonious disputes.”

The lesson to be learned from this?

“History is a book of chastening wisdom to which we ought to be looking to deepen our understanding of the legitimate nature of American government—including its revenue-raising power, an issue that deeply captivated the antagonized minds of that first generation.”

In other words:

  1. Tea Party people have too high a regard for the Constitution.
  2. They also tend to use the strange, unfamiliar phrase, “Founding Fathers.”
  3. We need to raise taxes.

As professor Schama points out, “Instead of knowledge, we have tricorn hats,” and then proceeds to cite instances in which politicians and commentators have mangled history, and by “politicians and commentators,” he means, “conservative politicians and conservative commentators.”

Because we all know that liberals never mangle history.

J.

July 5, 2011 at 11:06 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack