Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Privatizing Schools

The basic moral argument against public schools is the same as against government intervention in any sector of the economy – that it violates the rights of those from whom the means are extorted and of those who would have otherwise provided the services. But in some sectors the effects of government social engineering are much more pernicious than in others, and in that sense, if one must choose one’s battles, education is a great place to start. For example, though farm subsidies are immoral and harmful to both taxpayers and to the displaced competitors, at least the end result of the subsidies (except when farmers are paid not to produce) is healthy food. In the case of education, however, not only is every taxpayer violated and every would-be private competitor hamstrung, but in the end, children are indoctrinated rather than educated -- and in many cases we are actually paying teachers to argue for our own destruction, whether morally, economically, or most egregiously via violent jihad! (To carry the farmer analogy further it would be like paying the farmers to cloth us in poison ivy and feed us magic mushrooms and hemlock). That’s why I’m delighted that Dr. Brad Thompson will be giving an ARI-supported public lecture on:
The Separation of School and State:
The Case for Abolishing America's Government Schools
March 27th, 2007.
Details here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It's Later Than You Think

First UCLA and now George Mason University has abandoned free speech in the face of democratic and religionist threats. When the avenue of debate and persuasion is closed, the only remaining way for people to interact is via force and mob rule, making any type of peaceful society impossible. So be sure to speak out while you still can!

Update: Grant Jones provides some quotes from GMU's namesake that should put the administrators to shame, assuming they have enough moral fiber to even experience such an emotion.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Climate Police

Here's another resource to help debunk the global warming thugs: Climate Police (courtesy Art De Vany).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali - AEI Book Forum

She's got many interesting things to say during this hour long talk (link at top right of page). HT LGF

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Environmentalism = Religion

I always find it funny when environmentalists criticize religionists as irrational, dogmatic and bowing to Authority -- not because it isn't true (it generally is) -- but because the environmental movement is no different. The rise of the Goracle is just one more confirmation of this.

Clemson's Summer Conference - Capitalism and Atlas Shrugged

Diana has the info.

Humorous Debunking

Not only is the Week That Was informative, it also provides a bit of comic relief, e.g.:
Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores in upstate New York report brisk sales of the new Global Warming Shovel, which hit store shelves just in time for this week’s 9.5-foot snowfall. The shovels, made of a rigid form of lightweight GORE-TEX®, are specifically designed to remove the kind of snow spawned by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, “no matter how deep it gets,” according to the manufacturer.

Later this week, the company will also roll out its new Kyoto Mittens, “guaranteed to protect the wearer from the inconvenient truth of global warming-induced frostbite.”
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, a former advisor to Margaret Thatcher during her years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has announced a worldwide series of non-events July 7 to celebrate the non-threat posed by climate change. His Lordship's Clerk, James Rowlatt, is pleased to announce that not a single celebrity or pop group has agreed to participate in the non-events, which are scheduled not to take place in every nation on the planet to mark July 7 as "Global Hot Air Day".

In the spirit of these important non-events, six billion people worldwide have not joined Lord Monckton's non-pressure-group, Save The Planet From The Gorons. Lord Monckton said: "This is a tremendous non-result. Not a single person worldwide will be participating in our exciting program of non-events to mark Global Hot Air Day. This unanimous support from every person on the planet shows that the dwindling band of increasingly shrill climate alarmists, and their mouthpieces in the News York Times, the Boston Globe and the BBC, are near-unanimously outnumbered."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Private vs. Government Support of Iran

Yesterday's WSJ has an interesting editorial suggesting that no private companies would deal with Iran, not because they have a strong political view against the Iranian regime, but simply because it isn't in their selfish interest to do so (given Iran's complete denial of property rights). Unfortunately, that's where European governments step in and guarantee trade with the world's number one state sponsor of terrorism. Seeing this kind of lunacy makes me wonder how anyone in their right mind can argue that big government knows better than its own citizens what's good for them.

Gore's Wet Dream

Finally a solution to "global warming". In a way it would be much more honest if the IPCC, Al Gore, the NRDC, Patagonia, et. al. would get on the bandwagon and explicitly endorse killing off millions of people in the name of their hallucinatory vision of Gaiastasis -- rather than just doing it surreptitiously as has thus far been their habit. HT Classical Values

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sarbanes Oxley Continues to Take its Toll on the Good and the Honest

Results from a CFO Survey:
Shareholders and board members should prepare for record turnover among Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) in 2007, according to a new survey from executive services firm Tatum, LLC. Data from the survey suggests that compliance headaches such as Sarbanes-Oxley requirements and unrealistic demands from board members and CEOs will drive more than 2,300 CFOs from their positions in 2007.

"We are approaching an inflection point in the office of the CFO, and corporate America may soon find that creating shareholder value is impossible with what is quickly becoming an itinerant CFO," said Richard D'Amaro, Tatum Chairman and CEO. "Many CFOs are fired or resign not because they weren't a good match for the company when they were hired 20 months ago, but rather because the business has evolved so quickly that their capacity and capabilities are no longer an ideal match for the company."

A record 2,302 CFOs left their positions in 2006, according to independent research firm Liberum Research. A survey of more than 150 Tatum partners in the firm's Executive Practice last month indicates that 93 percent believe CFO turnover in 2007 will be as high or higher than 2006. Only seven percent of the respondents expect to see fewer CFO departures in 2007.

The survey also examined causes and solutions for the CFO turnover epidemic. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed cited compliance and governance issues as the primary driver of turnover, which was followed closely by unreasonable expectations from board members and other stakeholders at 30 percent.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Global Warming"

I've added two sites (whose titles should be self-explanatory) to the "occasional" section of the blog roll: Science & Environmental Policy Project - The Week that Was, and Global Warming Hysteria. Also be sure to check Art De Vany, Gus Van Horn, Mike's Eyes and Not PC on the "regular" blog roll for more coverage of the fiasco.

Update: Also worth checking out: Friends of Science

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Quick Hits

Not PC points out a "global warming" hearing cancelled due to the cold [snicker]. He also links to a great Wafa Sultan video from Danish TV in late 2006. I enjoyed Dr. Binswanger's response in the comments to this post. A friend of mine recommends the site: GodIsImaginary (I haven't looked through it, but I trust his judgment). Andrew Medworth has a nice post berating the intrinicist (a.k.a. religionist) position on the right to life, including the right to end it if it's unbearable. Via the Dugout comes this post detailing the limitations -- and therefore increased risks -- placed on our soldiers for the sake not of achieving victory but in order not to be "disproportionate".

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Iranian / Arab Impotence

This story, summarized by SeekingAlpha, illustrates once again just how ridiculous is the claim made by some revisionists that the "imperialist" West "stole" the Middle East's oil and that justice wasn't served until those countries "rightfully" took back the oil via nationalization. In fact the Middle East -- given its philosophy and culture -- couldn't discover or exploit any of the resource, and still can't even after stealing all the technology and machinery necessary to do it. Turns out that what it takes to succeed is a focus on reality and a respect for freedom and rights, i.e. capitalism -- not the anti-reason, anti-individual, anti-capitalist mentality and policies which hold sway throughout the region.
Despite sitting on 11% of the world's oil reserves, second only to Saudi Arabia, Iran's current output is only 3.9 million barrels a day (of which 2.5m are exported), versus over 6m barrels in the '70s. It recently reduced its 2010 production target from 5m b/d to 4.5m. Iran is facing a natural output decline of 8-10% per year, equal to 200-500,000 barrels a day, and lack of investment. It has signed no firm oil or natural gas contracts with foreign investors since June 2005. Oil sales of $47 billion in 2006 generated half its government's revenue, but lack of refining capacity means that Iran imports 40% of its gasoline. It spends $20b per year -- 15% of its economic output -- on gasoline subsidies to appease its population, resulting in a pump price of $0.35/gallon. That has led to double-digit domestic demand growth, to 1.5m b/d (triple its 1980 level), requiring the country to import 170,000 barrels of gasoline a day at a cost of over $4b in 2006. The government plans to start rationing gasoline in March, an unpopular move that has been postponed numerous times. If demand continues to grow at current rates, some analysts predict Iran's oil exports will dry up within 10 years. Iran buys gasoline from India, which is also planning a natural gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan, and is trying to attract foreign investment from Russia, China and Europe to boost its oil and gas output. But potential partners have signed few deals so far, preferring to see how the political situation plays out. Royal Dutch Shell and Spain's Repsol recently agreed to develop South Pars, the world's largest natural gas field, though a final decision isn't due until end-2007; France's Total is also in talks.
P.S. No doubt that in ten years people will be surprised when Venzuela's and Nigeria's production statistics show the same effect (assuming that the talk of nationalization in both of those countries comes to fruition).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

YouTube Videos of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I found this excellent interview of Ayaan after following Grant Jones' post linking to this interview. Both are well worth watching.

Onkar on Atlas Shrugged

Anyone who's read the novel might find this lecture of interest:
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Atlas Shrugged—America's Second Declaration of Independence
By Onkar Ghate
Free Public Event

In 1776 Thomas Jefferson announced to the world America’s plans for independence. For the first time in history, there was to be a nation and a government dedicated to the individual’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But from inception, and from both within and without, the ideals of the new nation were under attack.

Without a full justification of an individual’s moral right to pursue his own life and happiness—not serve his neighbors, God or country—the nation was vulnerable, and its founding principles were slowly chipped away. In 1957 the missing justification came with the publication of Atlas Shrugged. On this, the book’s 50th anniversary, we will examine the moral revolution launched by Ayn Rand, without which the political revolution of the Founding Fathers had to remain incomplete. We will see what this moral revolution has meant for America so far, and what it promises for the future. We will see why Atlas Shrugged should be considered America’s second Declaration of Independence—a declaration not of political but of moral independence.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sub-Prime Market

A few weeks ago, John Mauldin had a good explanation of the potential problems in the sub-prime lending market:
Let me give you a preview of a coming scandal, just to illustrate the chase for yields. In the US, about 25% of the mortgages on new homes are what is known as sub-prime mortgages. These are mortgages that are slightly less creditworthy and therefore offer higher interest rates. In the beginning this was a good thing, as first-time owners and those just starting out in life were given an opportunity to own their own homes.

But then came a world of liquidity looking for yield. Investors demonstrated a large appetite for these mortgages. Investment banks would buy those high-yielding sub-prime loans and package them into something called Residential Mortgage Backed Securities. Now, a sub-prime loan is not considered an investment-grade security. But when you put a group of them together into a pool and break them up into various sub-groups or tranches, through the alchemy of high finance, you turn lead into gold. You create high-grade bonds from sub-prime debt. In fact, 80% of those grouped together get a AAA rating, because that tranche gets the first monies paid back to the debt pool. And it probably is pretty safe money. No problems yet.

Then the investment bank starts slicing smaller parts of the pool and eventually ends up with the final 4% getting a below-investment-grade BBB rating. Again, this is all a good thing as it allows investors to buy the risk they want and makes for a more liquid real estate market. But then we start to get cute with alchemy. Not content with turning lead into gold, we start trying to do the magic on sewage.

Investment banks pool all these BBB tranches into yet another pool called a Collateralized Debt Obligation or CDO. The rating agencies have sophisticated models which tell them that with the increased diversification, 87% of these former BBB bonds can now be sold as AAA or AA investment-grade bonds. Only 4% is considered actual BBB debt. So we have taken an original security that is not investment-grade and turned all but less than 1% into an investment-grade bond.

Again, if all those mortgages pay off like they have in the past, then not too much problem. But recent research suggests that as many as 20% of these mortgages sold in 2005 and 2006 are going to default or foreclosure. But the CDOs assume that less than 1% will default. If the number of defaults is even half of that predicted, then someone is not going to get their full capital back, let alone the interest. And we are seeing home foreclosures at record levels in every part of the United States due to the large number of sub-prime mortgages.

Why such a growing default rate? Because investors kept throwing money at mortgage bankers, who found out they could sell mortgages with little documentation. For instance, you could get a loan without actually having to prove your income. So the bankers said, "Let's take the fees and run. Bonuses all around for selling more mortgages." Now there is anecdotal evidence that a small but significant portion of these low-documentation loans had some items that were misrepresented. You know, little things like whether you were actually going to occupy the home.
Since then there has been quite a bit of fallout, and for those interested, I've found this site to be a good way to keep track of the events as they unfold.

Understanding the Value of 'Morale'

It's unfortunate that the evil elements in society so clearly understand the importance of moral support and moral sanction, while the better elements too often choose to remain silent on life and death matters.

If groups like the Muslim Students Union, or the SDS, ultimately prevail, it will only be because the good forfeited its moral standing and silently acquiesced to the worst among us.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Art De Vany

A few months ago I mentioned that I'd begun using the crossfit exercise program. I am really happy with their approach, and given my satisfaction, I decided to research it further, which led me to come across Art De Vany's site and his musings on "evolutionary fitness". The more I read, the more I enjoyed his thought-provoking and independent approach to many subjects -- enough so that I've decided to add his site to the blog roll. Time permitting, I hope to write some longer posts on some of his ideas, but in the meantime here's a link to his blog postings on "evolutionary fitness" and a few of his recent posts which I think give a flavor of his style and thoughts:

Art de Vany on the "Greenhouse Effect" and on Climate Change.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Environmental Satire

The NYT has a funny (yet insightful) piece on today's chic environmentalists.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Evil Leads Only to Death

LGF has a good post on the Palestinians which serves as another illustration that evil has nothing positive to offer -- death is, and can be, its only result.