Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Take the Boot Off the Throat of Producers

Not particularly philosophical, but fiery and inspiring in its own way:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Moderate" Islam

I've never been a fan of the term "moderate" to describe religious adherents, I think it's much better to categorize them as consistent or inconsistent.  Currently, Islam is more of an existential threat to rational people because its practitioners are more consistent and take religion's importance more seriously than do Christians and others.  An article at PJM by  Andrew McCarthy does a good job of showing how ridiculous it is to give Islamists a pass for being moderates.
(a) Not all Islamic supremacists (or “Islamists”) are violent, but the goal of all Islamic supremacists is the same: to coerce the acceptance of sharia. The methods of pursuing that goal vary: sometimes terrorism is used, sometimes non-violent avenues are exploited — meaning, Islamic supremacists co-opt legal processes, the media, educational institutions, and/or government agencies. But regardless of what methods an Islamic supremacist uses, his goal never changes: He aims to implement sharia. In Islamic supremacist ideology, sharia is regarded as the mandatory, non-negotiable foundation that must be laid before a society can be Islamized. Sharia is not “moderate”; therefore, you are not a “moderate” if you want it, no matter what method you use to implement it. For example, if you are an Islamic supremacist and you want to repeal the First Amendment in order to prohibit speech that casts Islam in a negative light, you are not a “moderate” — even if you wouldn’t blow up buildings to press your point.

(b) Islamic supremacism is not a fringe interpretation of Islam. It is probably still the minority interpretation in North America. Nevertheless, it is the predominant interpretation of Islam in the Middle East. Poll after poll shows us that upwards of two-thirds of Muslims in countries like Egypt and Pakistan want their governments to adopt and strictly enforce sharia. This is why the Islamic supremacist parties in the “Arab Spring” countries are currently enjoying such success in elections
He then goes on to show how we whitewash the threat of Islam, even denying the common underlying motivation that these killers have:
The Obama administration and the Republican establishment would have us live a lie — a lie that endangers our liberties and our security. The lie is this: There is a difference between mainstream Islamic ideology and what they call “violent extremism.”

The vogue term “violent extremism” is chosen very deliberately. To be sure, we’ve always bent over backwards to be politically correct. Until Obama came to power, we used to use terms like “violent jihadism” or “Islamic extremism” in order to make sure everyone knew that we were not condemning all of Islam, that we were distinguishing Muslim terrorists from other Muslims. (In a more sensible time, we did not say “German Nazis” — we said “Germans” or “Nazis” and put the burden on non-Nazi Germans, rather than on ourselves, to separate themselves from the aggressors.) But now, the Obama administration and the Republican establishment prefer to say “violent extremism” because this term has no hint of Islam.
Be sure to read the whole thing.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Seeing the Unseen

The loss of production that results from the increased taxes associated with Obamacare will be very real but largely unseen.  Here's one story in which it's made explicit:
An Indiana-based medical equipment manufacturer says it's scrapping plans to open five new plants in the coming years because of a looming tax tied to President Obama's health care overhaul law.
Cook Medical claims the tax on medical devices, set to take effect next year, will cost the company roughly $20 million a year, cutting into money that would otherwise go toward expanding into new facilities over the next five years.
"This is the equivalent of about a plant a year that we're not going to be able to build," a company spokesman told FoxNews.com.
He said the original plan was to build factories in "hard-pressed" Midwestern communities, each employing up to 300 people. But those factories cost roughly the same amount as the projected cost of the new tax.
"In reality, we're not looking at the U.S. to build factories anymore as long as this tax is in place. We can't, to be competitive," he said.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reject Economic Chauvinism

Harry Bingswanger has a good piece up at Forbes.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Regulatory State Sinks Greece.

It would be nice if there were more economists pointing these kinds of facts out.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How To Fight For Limited Government

Don Watkins and Yaron Brook offer some advice to the Tea Parties.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Obama's Definition of a Freeloader

James Taranto makes the following observation:
This isn't even Obama's only such revelatory comment of the past week. Politico.com reports that the president, in an interview with WTOL-TV of Toledo, Ohio, let the mask slip again when asked about the ObamaCare mandate tax. "It's less a tax or a penalty than it is a principle--which is you can't be a freeloader on other folks when it comes to your health care, if you can afford it," he said.
Of course this is a dodge. The administration claimed that the mandate was not a tax for political purposes but was a tax for legal purposes. Chief Justice John Roberts tied himself in knots to accept the argument Obama is now running away from. Between them, the solicitor general and the chief justice look as if they were too clever by 1.
What's objectionable about Obama's comment, however, is not "tax" or "penalty" or even "principle." It's the way he uses the word "freeloader."
Normally we think of a freeloader as somebody who sponges off others, which in the context of public policy means the government. A freeloader is an able-bodied welfare recipient, or someone who fakes a disability to collect Supplemental Security income, or who waits until his unemployment runs out before looking for a job. 
Now, think about how the ObamaCare mandate tax is structured. As Roberts noted in his opinion for the court in NFIB v. Sebelius, "It does not apply to individuals who do not pay federal income taxes because their household income is less than the filing threshold in the Internal Revenue Code. For taxpayers who do owe the payment, its amount is determined by such familiar factors as taxable income, number of dependents, and joint filing status."
The only people who pay the ObamaCare mandate tax are people who make a living. Actual freeloaders are exempt. What Obama calls a freeloader is someone who makes his own money and pays his taxes but does not spend his money in the government-approved way.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

President "You Didn't Build That"

I agree with the WSJ 's conclusion that the president revealed the soul of his campaign message in his recent Roanoke speech.  It's perhaps one of the most flagrant attacks on justice -- on the very idea of earning one's way, of achieving and thus deserving one's values -- that we've ever seen in presidential politics. And as such, it might be a low-point in anti-Americanism.

The battlelines are thus clearer than usual, and it's important that this be brought to the forefront for the entire political season. 

To assist in this, I've collected some of the better commentaries and sites here:

- Perhaps my favorite column is by Rich Lowry, including this segment:
The Obama riff is a direct steal from Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts who sent liberal hearts aflutter by throwing the same wet towel on the notion of individual success a few months ago. The Obama/Warren view is a warrant for socialization of the proceeds of success. Behind its faux sophistication is a faculty-lounge disdain for business, and all those who make more than tenured professors by excelling at it. Behind its smiley we’re-all-in-it-together façade is a frank demand: You owe us.
 For that most American figure of the self-made man, exemplified most famously by Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln, President Obama wants to substitute the figure of the guy who happened to get lucky while not paying his fair share in taxes. What a dreary and pinched view of human endeavor. What a telling insight into his animating philosophy. In his Virginia remarks, greeted with warm applause, Obama took down a notch anyone who has made it: “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”
 True enough, and we should value the dignity of all work, no matter how humble. But the hallmark of the man of extraordinary accomplishment isn’t simply work. Some of us may work as hard as Steve Jobs. Few of us are as single-minded, risk-taking, shrewd, or visionary. Millions of us could work twelve-hour days for years yet never come up with the idea for the iPad, let alone successfully manufacture and market it.
 To redefine Steve Jobs as the product of the (necessary and unremarkable) infrastructure and government services around him is to devalue human creativity. The Obama formulation goes something like this: Steve Jobs couldn’t get to work every day without roads; he couldn’t drive safely on those roads without a well-regulated system of driver’s licenses; ergo, the San Jose, Calif., DMV practically built Apple.
 - Here's a site dedicated to various pictures of personal achievements which the president denies (from which I shared the two photos here).

- Alex Epstein weighs in here, including this paragraph:  
The fact that builders benefit from others in a free society does not mean that they should be forced to “give something back.” It means we should all treasure living in a free society, and fight to make it freer. But if we are going to talk about who owes whom the most gratitude, then we should recognize that the biggest builders are owed the most. They have not only financed the lion’s share of government, they have, more importantly, created the most enduring achievements. When I think of whom I owe gratitude to, it is individuals like Steve Jobs, not the millions of patrons of America’s welfare state.
- Another worthwhile editorial includes this insight:
Yet on another level, the president's little lesson is self-evidently absurd. Lots of people attend public schools and have teachers. Very few people become Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Everybody uses the roads and bridges the factory owner uses to bring his products to market. But not everyone builds a factory.
The tax dollars that paid for those roads, bridges, schools, and teachers didn't just come from "someone else" or the "rest of us." They came from the innovators, the factory owners, and the entrepreneurs too. In 2009, the top 400 taxpayers paid almost as much in federal income taxes as the entire bottom 50 percent combined.
- Even milquetoast Romney got roused up (including my favorite line: "President Obama attacks success, and therefore under president Obama we have less success."). (Of course his insistence on rights being god-given is very worrisome.)

- Burt Folsom reminds us that for the most part, not only does the Federal Government not help businesses, it often targets them, including by various subsidies to competitors.

I'll conclude the list with an excerpt from Atlas Shrugged that is also making the rounds:
“He didn't invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?”
“Rearden. He didn't invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn't have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it's his? Why does he think it's his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.”
She said, puzzled, “But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn't anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?”
(Feel free to suggest other good links and commentary in the comment section.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Politicizing "Science"

A pretty damning summary of  the criticisms levied against the IPCC by the InterAcademy Council .  How is this not getting any news coverage?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Don't take the Media's Data for Granted

An interesting look at how a media truism is created.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Death of the American Spirit

Amazing that the ELECTED leader of our nation can now proudly assert:: "If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen."

How far (and perhaps irrecoverably) the nation has fallen...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pensions and Property Taxes

One factor in my personal decision to rent rather than own a house, is my fear that property is a sitting duck for any government short of funds.  I worry that all the pension crises at every level of government will cause massive increases in property taxes, since, as opposed to yourself and your income, you can't move the location of your property.  I think my logic has merit, and a piece in the WSJ corroborates it, though not exactly in the manner I'd envisioned.

 Bankrupt and quasi-bankrupt municipalities are considering hiking the transfer taxes on properties.  This, in an attempt to prevent people from leaving and thus remaining as taxpayers.  I expect such taxes (and the desperation they reveal) will knock down property prices in those locales.
Ultimately, however, the biggest victims of the city's fiscal crisis are taxpayers. Despite paring public services, the city projects $45 million annual deficits for the next five years. Since further service reductions could endanger public safety and cause an exodus of residents, the city manager and its director of finance suggest that the city explore raising revenues. Their recent budget analysis recommends increasing the property transfer tax by nearly 500%.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Undercurrent on Fracking

Excellent piece at the Undercurrent on fracking and more generally the proper way to evaluate technology. This observation in particular is crucial:
Notice that the emphasis is always on the potential damage, and never on the immense benefit that fracking delivers. Critics are blithely content to advocate banning the practice because it “injects toxic chemicals into our water supply,” without explaining how the chemicals get from the fracked location to the water supply, what harm is supposed to result, or why we can’t mitigate it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More on the Implementation of Obamacare

Here are two more good articles:

On why states should be motivated to avoid setting up "insurance exchanges" and hence foiling the roll out of Obamacare:
"Resisting the implementation of exchanges is good for hiring and investment. The law's employer mandate assesses penalties -- up to $3,000 per employee -- only to businesses who don't satisfy federally-approved health insurance standards and whose employees receive 'premium assistance' through the exchanges."
In other words, a state that declines to set up an exchange will protect the businesses of that state from avoidable and job-killing penalties.
On accepting the Obamacare tax instead of signing up for insurance. (Personally, as self-employed I've always carried catastrophic health insurance, though luckily I've never used any of it. It still costs me a lot more than $695/year, so after I look into it more thoroughly, I may be one of those who opts to pay the tax.)

Monday, July 09, 2012

Appreciating the Value of Electric Energy

A good column in the WSJ.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

A Welcome Development

The more I see of Governor Scott Walker, the more I like him.  Here's his approach to addressing the so-called higher education bubble.

The real solution, of course is to privatize the whole educational system, but compared to what any other governor (that I'm aware of) is doing, I think this is a real positive..

Friday, July 06, 2012

"Volume" under Obamacare

The WSJ carried a very well written article reprising the theme of Ayn Rand and Dr. Peikoff's lecture: The Forgotten Man of Socialized Medicine: The Doctor

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Fundamental Cultural Change Needed

As much of a disaster as Obama has been, I often wonder how much difference it would have made to have had a Republican in office (I lean to the answer "very little").  Roberts, Bush's appointee, is one recent data point, while this post reminds us of what Bush's regime did during the banking bailouts:

In a recent speech at Stanford (video here) former Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO Dick Kovacevich told the full story of how he was forced to take TARP funds even though Wells Fargo did not need or want the funds. The forcing event took place in October 2008 at a now well-known meeting at the U.S. Treasury with Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, as well as several other heads of major financial institutions.

In his speech, Kovacevich first described how he and the other bankers were told at that meeting that they had to accept the funds. He then paused and said to the Stanford audience: “You might ask why didn’t I just say no, and not accept TARP funds.” He then explained: “As my comments were heading in that direction, Hank Paulson turned to Chairman Bernanke, who was sitting next to him and said ‘Your primary regulator is sitting right here. If you refuse to accept these TARP funds, he will declare you capital deficient Monday morning.’ This was being said when we were a triple A rated bank. ‘Is this America?’ I said to myself.”

Our Constitution is too Good for Us

Good interview with Yaron Brook on the healthcare decision (~ minutes 7 to 34).

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Liberty Remains Forever Possible

Given the depressing SCOTUS ruling on Obamacare, I'm sympathetic the sentiments expressed in this post (though I'm not nearly as dejected or bitter).

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Burn Baby Burn

An excellent article on the recent Colorado wildfires highlighting the caustic, anti-man, soul of the environmentalist movement.  Highly recommended.