Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vulnerability has a strength of its own.

On the advice of a Noodlefood commenter (PMB), I'm reading William Zinsser's "On Writing Well". In it I came across this passage which I thought was worth passing on both for its sentiment and its turn-of-phrase:
My encounter with the principals began when I got a call from Ernest B. Fleishman, superintendent of schools in Greenwich, Connecticut. "We'd like you to come 'dejargonize' us," he said. We don't think we can teach students to write unless all of us at the top of the school system clean up our own writing." ...

What appealed to me was the willingness of Dr. Fleishman and his colleagues to make themselves vulnerable; vulnerability has a strength of its own.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Honk if I'm paying for your golf cart

I sometimes wonder if politicians and economists get together behind closed doors and compete to see just how a great a sham they can foist on the public in the name of collectivism and altruism (e.g. "stimulus" in the name of the "public good")?
In South Carolina, sales of these carts have been soaring as dealerships alert customers to Uncle Sam's giveaway. "The Golf Cart Man" in the Villages of Lady Lake, Florida is running a banner online ad that declares: "GET A FREE GOLF CART. Or make $2,000 doing absolutely nothing!"

Golf Cart Man is referring to his offer in which you can buy the cart for $8,000, get a $5,300 tax credit off your 2009 income tax, lease it back for $100 a month for 27 months, at which point Golf Cart Man will buy back the cart for $2,000. "This means you own a free Golf Cart or made $2,000 cash doing absolutely nothing!!!" You can't blame a guy for exploiting loopholes that Congress offers.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hyperinflation on the Horizon?

Though I don't make much of any one indicator or statistic, I thought this was interesting (from John Mauldin's weekly newsletter):
"There have been 28 episodes of hyperinflation of national economies in the 20th century, with 20 occurring after 1980. Peter Bernholz (Professor Emeritus of Economics in the Center for Economics and Business (WWZ) at the University of Basel, Switzerland) has spent his career examining the intertwined worlds of politics and economics with special attention given to money. In his most recent book, Monetary Regimes and Inflation: History, Economic and Political Relationships, Bernholz analyzes the 12 largest episodes of hyperinflations - all of which were caused by financing huge public budget deficits through money creation. His conclusion: the tipping point for hyperinflation occurs when the government's deficit exceed 40% of its expenditures.

"According to the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) projections, US federal expenditures are projected to be $3.653 trillion in FY 2009 and $3.766 trillion in FY 2010, with unified deficits of $1.580 trillion and $1.502 trillion, respectively. These projections imply that the US will run deficits equal to 43.3% and 39.9% of expenditures in 2009 and 2010, respectively. To put it simply, roughly 40% of what our government is spending has to be borrowed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Catching Up

I'm way behind on my reading and blogging and will be gone on a hiking trip next week, but I did want to post a few important links for those of you who haven't seen them yet. (I assume most readers here are regular NoodleFood readers, but since I know a few aren't I'll post some of the highlights along with an encouragement to become regular NF readers.)


Paul Hsieh has been on a productive tear, with two Op-Eds out, one in the Christian Science Monitor "Health care in Massachusetts: A warning for America" and one in the Denver Post "The Real Stakes". Thanks and congrats to Paul for all his hard work and success.


Freedom of speech is under attack in many ways. Here's a scary story of what happened to Dan Edge when he tried to lead a respectful and lawful protest against a curfew law in Greenville. (The comments to this post are also worth reading.)

Here's an example of the government telling private enterprise what they can and can't say (hint: disagreeing with the administration's viewpoint is on the prohibited list). It's worth reprinting the government's language in this matter:
CMS is concerned that, among other things, this information is misleading and confusing to beneficiaries, represents information to beneficiaries as official communications about the Medicare Advantage program, and is potentially contrary to federal regulations and guidance for the MA and Part D programs and other federal law, including HIPAA. As we continue our research into this issue, we are instructing you to end immediately all such mailings to beneficiaries and to remove any related materials directed to Medicare enrollees from your website.

Please be advised that we take this matter very seriously and, based upon the findings of our investigation, will pursue compliance and enforcement actions.
And here's a report on the FTC's new guidelines forcing bloggers to disclose any material connections to products they may discuss, review or endorse. The "guidelines" are necessarily and purposefully non-objective so that bureaucrats will have to weigh each instance on a case-by-case basis.

I don't think it's hyperbole to start wondering when we'll have a Speech Czar and when we do, that may mean the end of any peaceful and rational disagreement -- so speak up as forcefully and often as you can to help ensure that we can continue to argue for a better society.


Diana Hsieh has started a great new project (on top of her podcasting) . She's developed materials to help lead Atlas Shrugged reading groups. There are currently three such groups on-going in Colorado and she's generously made the material available to others who might want to follow suit. (BTW if anyone in the coastal Orange County, CA area wanted to start a group, I'd try to attend.)


Gus Van Horn brings us an inspiring story of a young entrepreneur in Malawi. Now imagine what that type of person could accomplish in a capitalist society.


The Financial Post has a good article on the causes of the financial crisis and the dangers of increased regulation. I liked this section (emphasis added) as well as those explaining how regulation forces homogeneity and therefore susceptibility to the same risks:

IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL misunderstanding that the market is rational and at some sort of equilibrium, where all information and wisdom are incorporated in decisions. Neoclassical economic models filled with unrealistic assumptions about humans and the economy should always have warning stickers attached to them. The market is nothing other than all the millions of decisions that we all take as we produce, act and invest -- and the tiniest bit of introspection is enough to realize that we do not behave like the textbook models. Since finding lots of information before acting takes time and costs money, we often go with our gut, following rules of thumb and copying what others have already done. That is why the market has a herd instinct. When others seem to be successful at something and get rich on it, you follow suit. After a while, the hollowness of the enthusiasm becomes apparent, and then it often changes into overblown fear that soon ushers in recession.

A key lesson to be drawn from such events, however, is that borrowers, lenders, bankers and brokers are not the only ones to be affected. Politicians, bureaucrats and central bankers are at least as likely to succumb to the herd instinct -- and they have special power. If you act in a different way from what they have approved, they may take your money or even send you off to jail. This gives them the ability to head the march of the lemmings and set its pace.

Friday, October 09, 2009


Congratulations to Burn Notice for being picked up for a fourth season! I'm delighted as it's my favorite show and one that really adds to my life. (And after the FireFly experience, a great show being renewed is truly a noteworthy and praiseworthy event.)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Dangers of Arbitrary Government Force

Here's a scary concretization of the dangers of both non-objective law and unaccountable government agencies and bureaus:
Mr. Norris ended up spending almost two years in prison because he didn't have the proper paperwork for some of the many orchids he imported. The orchids were all legal - but Mr. Norris and the overseas shippers who had packaged the flowers had failed to properly navigate the many, often irrational, paperwork requirements the U.S. imposed when it implemented an arcane international treaty's new restrictions on trade in flowers and other flora.
There's more, read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Government Force as a Corrupting Influence

I enjoyed the opening of this article, as well as its warning. (HT John Lewis via OActivists). Here's the intro:

There are all kinds of corruption. Some are pretty easy to identify. You can’t miss it when a congressman sells the public’s vote for money, say, or a husband sets his personal promises at nothing in order to score some extracurricular sex. But the slow rot that enters the soul of individuals when the tendrils of the state overcreep the life of a society—that’s a little tougher to define. It may just be the toadying deference that steals into your behavior with the guard who searches you at the airport. Or it could be the baksheesh you pay the safety inspector to keep your business from being shut down. But as subtle as the effects may be, the rule is ironclad: the more areas of life are funded and regulated by government, the less free you are, and the more corrupt and servile you ultimately become.

Through the work of artist and blogger Patrick Courrielche, Andrew Breitbart’s new website Big Government—reporting the news so the mainstream media won’t have to—has just released a sickening transcript of an August 10 conference call jointly hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts, the White House’s Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve, an initiative overseen by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency. The purpose of the call was to urge a group of pro-Obama artists to get out there and start creating art that would support the president’s agenda on health care, the environment, education, and community services. Speaking at the request of “folks in the White House and folks in the NEA,” Michael Skolnick, political director for Obama-mad hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, told the assembled artists, “All of us who are on this phone call were selected for a reason, and you are the ones that lead by example in your communities. You are the thought leaders. You are the ones that, if you create a piece of art, or promote a piece of art or create a campaign for a company, and tell our country and our young people sort of what do and what to be into, and what’s cool and what’s not cool.”

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

OActivist July 2009 Compilation

The compilation of OActivist activity for July 2009 is now up.