Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Hype Continued

First, the idiotic statement:

I find it extraordinary that so many political leaders won’t actually talk about the relationship between climate change, fossil fuels, our continuing irrational exuberance about burning fossil fuels, in light of these storm patterns that we’ve been experiencing. Listen, since I’ve been sworn in as governor just seven months ago, I have dealt with—this is the second major disaster as a result of storms. We had storms this spring that flooded our downtowns and put us through many of the same exercises that we’re going through right now. We didn’t used to get weather patterns like this in Vermont. We didn’t get tropical storms. We didn’t get flash flooding. It wasn’t—you know, our storm patterns weren’t like Costa Rica; they were like Vermont.

That is from noted weather expert Vermont Gov. Pete Shumlin.

The only trouble is he is wrong. Way wrong. Way way way wrong. Way way way "My name is Pete Shumlin, I'm a moron and I don't know what I'm talking about" wrong.

Table 1: Tropical Remnants that Made Landfall In/Proximate to Vermont

Name Year Month, Day
[unnamed] 1927 November 3
Great New England 1938 September 21
#2 1949 August 29–30
Hurricane Baker 1952 September 1–2
Hurricane Carol 1954 August 31
Tropical Storm Brenda 1960 July 30
Hurricane Donna 1960 September 12
Tropical Storm Doria 1971 August 28
Hurricane Belle 1976 August 9–10
Hurricane David 1979 September 6–7
Hurricane Frederic 1979 September 14
Hurricane Gloria 1985 September 27
Tropical Storm Chris 1988 August 29
Hurricane Hugo 1989 September 22–23
Hurricane Bob 1991 August 19
Hurricane Opal 1995 October 5–6
Hurricane Bertha 1996 July 13
Hurricane Fran 1996 September 8–9

Shumlin was born in 1956, so Irene's remnants would be the 14th to have hit the state while Shumlin was around to see it.

"Never" sure ain't what it used to be.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Once In A Lifetime Storm"

The morons are out in force today: How Global Warming Is Making Hurricane Irene Worse

Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category Two storm, and is expected to track a path of destruction up the densely populated Atlantic coast....

Global warming pollution is far from the only reason that Hurricane Irene shouldn’t be thought of as a “natural” disaster. Much of the devastating potential of Hurricane Irene will be a consequence of past decisions about land use, construction and coastal preservation, mitigated by the brave work of public servants under attack by Tea Party conservatives. Even as we have polluted the climate to increase the threat from Atlantic storms, we have overbuilt the increasingly vulnerable coasts. Although Irene is being described as a “once in a lifetime” threat, the weight of the evidence indicates that this storm is merely a harbinger of our dangerous future.

Really, I wish the internet was a one strike and you are out kinda thing. Crap like this is so stupid on so many levels. In fact, it is too dumb to need to be fisked. It's self-fisking.

It's also anti-science. The only people working in the field of hurricanes that believe a global warming signal is detectable in the data are so far out of the mainstream that there is only one word for them: cranks. They are cranks because they will do anything to shoe-horn reality into their preferred personal ideological perspective.

As for Irene being a "once in a lifetime" storm, well, that could indeed be true... if you were a German Shepard that is. For those of us a little bit older, well, we have seen this sort of storm before. Just 15 years ago in fact:

This is Bertha, a storm from July 1996 which pretty closely follows the exact same track and intensity of Irene. If anything, Irene is a little weaker. The only difference between the two storms is the amount of "the world is ending" crapola we have to endure nowadays.

I do miss the saner days of the 90's.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's Decided: I'm Sitting Out 2012

Pawlenty Drops Out of Republican Race
Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, dropped his bid for the Republican nomination for president on Sunday morning, saying his disappointing performance in Iowa’s straw poll convinced him that his campaign had run its course.

Just hours after his third-place finish in Iowa, Mr. Pawlenty said on ABC’s “This Week” program that his message “didn’t get the kind of traction we needed and hoped for” in order to continue.

“There are a lot of other choices in the race,” he said. “The audience, so to speak, was looking for something different.”

This is too bad as Pawlenty was the only one worth looking at in this field. I've vetted the rest and came to the obvious conclusion: none of them is my cup o' tea.

I've no idea what I'll be blogging about next year, but it won't be the election.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Justice Done.

This is a quick update on a case I noted here on The Iconic Midwest back in 2009: Pa. judge gets 28 years in 'kids for cash' case

A northeastern Pennsylvania judge was ordered Thursday to spend nearly three decades in prison for his role in a massive bribery scandal that prompted the state's high court to toss thousands of juvenile convictions and left lasting scars on the children who appeared in his courtroom and their hapless families.

Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for taking a $1 million bribe from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as "kids for cash."

Ciavarella, who denied locking up youths for money, had no reaction as the sentence was announced. From the gallery, which was crowded with family members of some of the children he incarcerated, someone shouted "Woo hoo!"

In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering earlier this year. His attorneys had asked for a "reasonable" sentence in court papers, saying, in effect, that he'd already been punished enough.

Convicted felon Ciavarella was an ass right up until the end:

Then, in an extraordinary turnabout, Ciavarella attacked the government's case as well as the conclusions of the state Supreme Court and the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, a state panel that investigated the scandal. Both said Ciavarella engaged in wholesale rights violations over a period of many years.

Ciavarella denied it.

"I did everything I was obligated to do protect these children's rights," he said….

Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2 million in bribes from Robert Mericle, the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers, and of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Robert Powell, the facilities' co-owner.

Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, pocketed the cash while filling the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes. Ciavarella often ordered youths he had found delinquent to be immediately shackled, handcuffed and taken away without giving them a chance to say goodbye to their families.

Here hoping someone “misplaces” the key to felon Ciavarella’s cell.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wisconsin Results = No Speed Bump

Well, it's all over but the shouting:

Wisconsin Democrats knocked off two GOP state senators on Tuesday night, exacting a hard-fought political price on Republican lawmakers for restricting collective bargaining rights of state and local employees. National advocacy groups funneled tens of millions of dollars into nine races, seven of which have now been decided, turning a parochial skirmish into an all-out proxy war between Tea Partying conservatives and labor-backed liberals. But the historic recall effort, launched in the wake of intense union protests in February and March, ultimately fell one seat shy of reestablishing Democratic control of the state senate.

On an usual day of high energy and high turnout, Republican state senators Robert Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf cruised to wide-margin victories over their Democratic challengers, as fellow incumbent Luther Olsen managed to squeak by on a few thousand votes. Not all their colleagues were so lucky; Democrat Jessica King narrowly beat out Randy Hopper, while senator Dan Kapanke was easily felled by Democratic assemblywoman Jennifer Shilling. At the end of the night, the fate of the senate majority rested on Alberta Darling, the highest ranking Republican under threat of recall and one of the architects of the controversial collective bargaining legislation. She prevailed in the most bitterly contested and heavily funded recall fight, declaring victory near midnight as both parties scrapped over the final ballots.

The six districts that voted on Tuesday were ground zero in Wisconsin’s labor fight; each delivered substantial support to Walker’s gubernatorial bid last November, despite being carried by Obama in 2008.

It should also be remembered that all of the GOP seats at issue last night were last contested in 2008, which means Republicans won them during an election cycle that favored Democrats substantially. It was always going to be an uphill fight for the Dems, and they came up short.

To see how much of an uphill struggle it was one need only look at where I live, the 10th District. Here the GOP incumbent, Shelia Harsdorf, easily defeated her Democratic opponent, Shelley Moore. When I say easily I mean it. Not even close. This was despite the fact that copious resources were pumped into the Moore campaign. Indeed, Moore had a vigorous ground game here, which was far more visible than the Harsdorf campaign. It mattered for nothing. Moore still got crushed. In fact, Harsdorf won by a larger margin last night then she did in 2008.

It should also be noted, for all the talk I heard about high turnout rates rivalling presidential election years, it really didn't materialize that way. Oh, more people voted than usually do in these "off-season" elections, just not at presidential election levels. A little over 64 thousand votes were cast last night. However, in 2008 almost 99 thousand ballots were cast. That's a huge difference.

In the end, the Dems statewide got close. However, as the saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. It really doesn't count here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

On The Ground In Wisconsin's 10th Senate District

Turnout seemed noticeably heavy at the polls today.

I have no idea who that would favor. As usual in this election, the Democratic get-out-the-vote operation has been the more visible of the two. (My house was visited twice more yesterday.)

It's now, for me at least, wait and see time.

Welcome To Welfareland

In this piece excusing the rioters across Britain, the Guardian’s Nina Power points out the following as an “explanation” for what we are seeing:

 Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average

So, this one borough has an unemployment rate less than it has been nationwide in the United States for more than two years, and we are supposed to believe rioting is the appropriate response?

Oh, but there is more says Nina:

Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures.

I, for one, don’t care. I’m certain that even with the cuts the benefits available to the average Brit far exceeds that commonly available to people here in the States.  The idea these folks are being put into a third world situation is simply ludicrous. It seems much more likely we are dealing with spoiled brats and thugs.

Of course, any given situation may have a real point of contention or grievance that demands a call for justice, but that isn’t the “cause” of this display of mass criminality. What we are seeing here is less a cry of “justice!” and more a cry of “more! more! more!” and “gimme! gimme! gimme!”

Peg O’ My Heart

Last evening I made something new for the Mrs. and myself called a “Peg O’ My Heart”. It went over real well with the wife, and I liked it pretty well too.

The recipe:

2 oz. dark rumPeg

1 oz. lime juice

1/2 oz. grenadine

Shake the ingredients in a shaker half-filled with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

The drink is very fruit forward and more than a little sweet. This is in keeping with the time period of the drink. It pre-dates Prohibition when sweet drinks were far more common. In that it has more in common with 19th century cocktails than it does with the drinks of much of the 20th century. I personally didn’t find the sweetness cloying, but if you wanted to cut back on the sweetness making it with less grenadine (say two teaspoons) should work just fine.

I’ve seen on the net where some “Peg O’ My Heart” recipes call for 1 1/2 oz. of light rum instead of the larger amount of the dark.  This is a mistake, and may date from the time when Bacardi company was suing folks for making “Bacardi Cocktails” without using Bacardi rum. It very well could be some places got around that problem by tweaking the “Peg O’ My Heart” to bring it more in line with the “Bacardi Cocktail” (which consists of 1 1/2 oz. light Bacardi rum, 1 oz. lime juice, and 1 teaspoon grenadine.) The original “Peg O’ My Heart,” as far as I’m concerned, is simply the better drink.

Monday, August 08, 2011

You Know, I Really Want To Try...

...but the more I read intellectually dishonest crapola like this, the more I come to think the Left in this country is completely beyond rational discourse. That so many people find such idiocy to be compelling argumentation scares the hell out of me. I understand people will have different values and different perspectives that will inform their political beliefs...but democracy is only possible when most people are not completely blinkered.

I have no idea what the percentage is these days, but we are trending in the wrong direction.


From Politico: Wis. Dem memo: Victory predictions "dangerous"

Democrats on the ground here are increasingly confident they will pick-up two state Senate seats, but are warning that winning the third necessary for a takeover is a tenuous prospect.

Despite hype from some in the party apparatus about a "six for six" sweep Tuesday, the more realistic scenario is winning two or three seats, according to those involved in the ground game.

The most stark word of caution is included in a private memo obtained by POLITICO from the Democratic-leaning We Are Wisconsin group to its donors.

"In our final days, we remain cautiously optimistic about our chances to take back the Senate. But predictions of victory at this point are beyond premature – they’re dangerous," wrote We Are Wisconsin field director Kristen Crowell in an Aug. 3 memo obviously designed to lower expectations.

"While we have solid research suggesting there are races where we might secure a second and third potential pick-up, none of these of these races except 32 should be considered safe pick-ups (and even there we face challenges to get the ball over the goal line), and we are dealing with an unprecedented electorate that is very difficult to forecast," she continues.

After outlining the odds Democrats face in going up against the "unlimited resources" of "corporate interests, she warns the the predictions of three wins in bank are overblown.

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow, but I do know this: If the Dems don't win at least three senate seats they have lost... and lost big.

"But," one might ask, "why is that? Even if the Democrats do not take control of the Wisconsin state senate just getting close might force the Republicans to work with them a little bit."

No it won't. The things is, none of the seats tomorrow were last won by the Republicans in 2010 when conditions were just right for the GOP nationwide. They were all last contested in 2008, an election that was a mighty good one for Democrats nationwide. Wisconsin Democrats are attempting to make the case that Gov. Walker's term to date has been so unpopular the effect in the state will be greater than the positive effect the Obama candidacy had for Democratic candidates in 2008. Any way you slice it it is a ballsy argument.

However, because it is so ballsy "close but no cigar" won't cut it. Walker and Co. are much more likely to shrug their shoulders and say "That's all you got?" and continue on their desired course. Only putting an actual speed bump in the state senate will actually slow them down.

As for "the odds Democrats face in going up against the 'unlimited resources' of 'corporate interests'", all I can say is that isn't how it looks on the ground here in the Moore v. Harsdorf race. The Moore campaign has been much, much more visible in television advertising, direct mailings, and canvassing. Moore forces have knocked on our door five times in the last three weeks, while I've not seen any Harsdorf people. Moore mailings have outnumbered Harsdorf 10 or 12 to one. If the Harsdorf campaign has access to "unlimited resources" they have a funny way of showing it.

In any event, the political scientist in me is looking forward to seeing what happens tomorrow.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Moral Equivalency For Morons

Steve Benan (aka the dumbest columnist in America), "informs" his readers today that Republicans wanting to reduce spending is the worst public policy choice in the history of the country, somehow beating out:

A) Support for slavery (Democratic policy)
B) Support for expansion of slavery (Democratic policy)
C) Support for Jim Crow laws (Democratic policy)
D) Entry into the Vietnam war (Democratic policy)
E) Placing of Japanese-Americans into concentration camps (Democratic policy)

That's right, advocating for a reduction of the budget from #3.9tr to $3.7tr is worse.

Friday, August 05, 2011

A Water Carrier Too Far

Here is some “wisdom” for you courtesy of Jonathan Chait: What Caused The Deficit? A Reply To Megan McArdle

One of the most effective Republican themes of the last two years has been blaming President Obama for the explosive growth in the budget deficit since 2009. The accusation that "Obama's spending binge" has blown up the deficit has discredited any further fiscal stimulus, and helped encourage Republicans to use the debt ceiling as a hostage. The White House fought back with a chart showing that its policy changes contributed only a small fraction to the worsening deficit picture:

The chart the White House provides shows that, indeed, when you add up the seven years worth of deficits from the Bush years it is a larger number than the deficits Obama has racked up in three years.

OK, lets look at the deficits from 2001 to 2011.

Deficits 2001-2011 

And here are the raw numbers:

Federal Deficit
Fiscal Years 2001 to 2011
$ billion
Federal Deficit -fed
$ billion
2001 10286.2 -127.89 a
2002 10642.3 158.01 a
2003 11142.1 377.81 a
2004 11867.8 412.90 a
2005 12638.4 318.59 a
2006 13398.9 248.57 a
2007 14077.6 160.96 a
2008 14369.1 458.55 a
2009 14258.2 1412.69 a
2010 14660.4 1293.49 a
2011 15079.6 1645.12 b

a - actual reported
b - budgeted estimate in US fy12 budget

The average yearly deficit for this entire time period is $578bn. 

The average yearly deficit for the Bush years (2001-2008) is $251bn.

The average yearly budget deficit for the Obama years (2009-2011) is $1450bn.

OK, lets try and screw over the Bush numbers. Let’s throw out 2001’s budget surplus saying that was Clinton’s doing and, while we are at it, let’s take 2009 out of the Obama column and give it to Bush (since everything bad on God’s green earth is Bush’s fault anyway.) What do the numbers look like then?

The average yearly deficits for the Bush years (2002-2009) is $433bn.

The average yearly deficits for the Obama years (2010-2011) is $1469bn.

OK, but maybe that doesn’t tell the whole story. Maybe it was all those Bush tax cuts which acted like a poison pill which is only being felt now!

Alright, the Bush tax cuts were implemented between 2001 and 2003, and the Obama administration claims it cost the country $3000bn added to the deficit, or a yearly average of $375bn between 2004-2011.

Let’s see if such a story seems likely (data here.)

From 1996-2000 (the second Clinton term, when all was right with the world and everyone ate rainbows for dinner!) the federal government’s take via income taxes increased at the average yearly rate of  $73bn. Between 2001 and 2003 (when the Bush tax cuts were still in process) the average yearly tax decreased by an average of $73bn, as the recession took its toll. Between 2004 and 2008 after all of the tax cuts had been fully implemented, the average yearly take of the federal government increased by $90bn a year.

Remember, the Obama administration is claiming without the Bush tax cuts the yearly increase for the feds would have averaged not $90bn but instead $375bn. I’m sorry, but on what planet does that seem plausible?

Let’s do an experiment here. Let us pretend there are no such things as recessions, and let us further stipulate the increase in revenues of the Clinton years are a constant of economic reality. So, we will compare this fictional “Clinton number” with the real Bush numbers and see how close we can get to the $3000bn number uncritically accepted by Chait.

Before Bush tax cuts:

2001: C# - $1284bn  B# - $1145bn (+139)

2002: C# - $1357bn B# - $1006bn (+351)

2003: C# - $1430bn B# - $925bn (+506)

After Bush tax cuts:

2004: C# - $1503bn B# - $998bn (+505)

2005: C# - $1576bn B# - $1205bn (+371)

2006: C# - $1649bn B# - $1397bn (+252)

2007: C# - $1722bn B# -  $1533bn (+189)

2008: C# - $1795bn B# -  $1450bn (+345)

Do, in this completely unrealistic scenario where recessions do not exist and revenue growth is as constant a force as gravity, Bush comes up only $2658bn short all together.  The Obama administration and, evidently, the water carrying Jonathan Chait want you to believe the “realistic” number should be $3000bn.

That’s nuts.

Look, the recession has been bad and the recovery not so hot. Obama has every right to say, “Hey, we are really working under some economic constraints here.”  He has the right to say it because it’s true. However, the budgets he has submitted are not examples of constraints placed upon him by George Bush, they are his policy choices. To claim otherwise is simply dishonest.

(Post written using Windows Live Writer. I’m curious to see how this works!)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Michael Isikoff: Investigative Reporter!

From our intrepid Hero: Firm gives $1 million to pro-Romney group, then dissolves

NBC News
updated 8/4/2011 6:01:38 AM ET 2011-08-04T10:01:38

A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The existence of the million-dollar donation — as gleaned from campaign and corporate records obtained by NBC News — provides a vivid example of how secret campaign cash is being funneled in ever more circuitous ways into the political system.

The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for “high net worth individuals,” according to corporate records and the lawyer’s bio on her firm’s website.

Can't you just see it? Our hero doggedly filing FOI requests, or peeking into filing cabinets in the dead of the night, or getting behind locked doors to see what nefarious things lurk beyond... or even, and this would have been the most difficult thing of all, reading last Sunday's Washington Times: Romney campaign raises $12 million from just 90 donors

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised more than $12 million from just 90 donations so far this year in an unprecedented use of a fundraising account that can accept unlimited, loosely-regulated contributions in support of a presidential bid.

Disclosures filed Sunday show a supremely flush reserve for the man seeking to lead some 300 million-plus Americans, bankrolled by a few dozen in the finance industry, with some donations coming directly from corporations and others ascribed to near-anonymous addresses in Utah.

The total far overshadows that of similarly-structured funds set up to collect unlimited contributions in support of President Obama’s re-election.

Of four $1 million donations, two came from cryptically-named limited liability companies, or LLCs, sharing the same office suite in Provo, Utah. The only one with a recognizable name attached arrived from the 50th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper: The offices of John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made millions of dollars an hour betting on the implosion of the housing market.

Illustrating the poor disclosure that accompanies the lack of monetary limits on such accounts, the final million-dollar donation was reported simply as coming from “W Spann LLC” of 590 Madison Ave. in New York, with no suite number or other identifying information. That building has housed offices for Paulson, lobbyists Akin Gump and Bain Capital, the hedge fund Mr. Romney once led.

Indeed, our hero, showing none of the investigative skills of a latter day Sherlock Holmes, has managed to discover less information than was printed in the Washington Times four days ago.

At this rate, by sometime next week Isikoff will be unable to confirm or deny the existence of this person known as Mitt Romney.

Of course there is always the possibility that Isikoff did read the Washington Times piece and this is just a garden variety example of plagiarism.

That is modern jurnalism in a nutshell: incompetence or plagiarism.

What a choice!

Alarmists Have Lost The War, But Do They Know That?

You can be sure the upshot of this poll will be the demand for more complete indoctrination of the population. Too many Americans are making up their own minds! 69% Say It’s Likely Scientists Have Falsified Global Warming Research
The debate over global warming has intensified in recent weeks after a new NASA study was interpreted by skeptics to reveal that global warming is not man-made. While a majority of Americans nationwide continue to acknowledge significant disagreement about global warming in the scientific community, most go even further to say some scientists falsify data to support their own beliefs.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 69% say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data in order to support their own theories and beliefs, including 40% who say this is Very Likely. Twenty-two percent (22%) don’t think it’s likely some scientists have falsified global warming data, including just six percent (6%) say it’s Not At All Likely. Another 10% are undecided....

Republicans and adults not affiliated with either major political party feel stronger than Democrats that some scientists have falsified data to support their global warming theories, but 51% of Democrats also agree.

This is just another example of how you cannot fool all the people all the time. The very idea that Anthropogenic Global Warming alarmism was an example of disinterested science was always ludicrous. Disinterested science never demands an end to debate, and it never attempts to hide the uncertainties of what we know and what we don't now. Both of those impulses were the bread and butter of AGW alarmism, and people know it. It turns out most of the people know it.

Of course nothing will stop the true believer. After all they have too much ego, power and money wrapped up in the project to give it up now.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Me, Amused

It is always fun when I see something I've done and cast upon the waves of the mighty Internet ocean pop up in an unexpected place. Today I found a discussion of The Kinks album Muswell Hillbillies that embeds a YouTube video of the song "20th Century Man" which I made several years ago for a political theory class I was team teaching.

Good times.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Associated Press: Dumber Than A Box Of Rocks

From the couldn't make this up department: Northeast braces for temps near boiling point

The extreme heat that's been roasting the eastern U.S. is only expected to get worse, and residents are bracing themselves for temperatures near and above boiling point.

Really? Some place is going to be above 212 degrees? What is amazing is this isn't just an example of a stupid headline. The story itself makes the claim. How dumb can you get?

Part of me wants to go looking for sites that are believing this AP story. Another part of me is afraid I'd be too depressed by what I'd find.

Here is the screen-shot:

David Frum Ain't No Martin Luther

I agree with much of this piece by David Frum, but when he falls off the rails he really falls off the rails:

Give me a hammer and a church-house door, and I'd post these theses for modern Republicans...

5) We can collect more revenue without raising tax rates.

Republicans stand for low taxes to encourage people to work, save and invest. But how would it discourage work if we reduced the mortgage-interest deduction again?

Even if I agreed it wouldn't discourage work, what about the "save" and "invest" portions of the statement. Why did they all of a sudden disappear from the equation?

Did it hurt the economy when we reduced the maximum eligible loan to $1 million back in 1986?

I don't know. Why not link to a study confirming that it didn't. For all we know maybe it did have a negative impact. I hate it when people make rhetorical questions out of ones that are subject to empirical From does again in the very next sentence.

Do Canadians and Brits -- who lack the deduction -- work less hard than Americans?

Why, as a matter of fact they do. According to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development Americans work 8 more work days than Canadians and 16 more days than Brits. Additionally, Americans rank 4th in productivity while the UK and Canada rank 11th and 14th respectively. Any other empirical questions you want to ask? (Please note: I am not saying this difference between American and other workers is due to the mortgage-interest deduction. I'm merely pointing out that the difference exists where Frum claims it doesn't.)

Wouldn't higher taxes on energy encourage conservation? Who decided to allow inflation to corrode federal alcohol taxes by 80% over the past 50 years?

Wait a second, how are raising taxes on energy and alcohol an example of raising revenue without raising taxes?

But even then I'm calling bullshit on the numbers Frum is using when it comes to the alcohol tax. The rate 50 years ago was first established in 1951 at $10.50 per gallon. This rate was increased from a $9 per gallon rate established during World War II. (The federal tax on distilled spirits went from $2 per gallon in 1938 to $9 per gallon in 1944.) In 2010 dollars the World War II rate would be the equivalent of $110 per gallon (or about $22 for each 750ml bottle in Federal tax alone.) The 1951 rate would work out to $87 per gallon (or about $17.40 per 750ml bottle.) Is Frum advocating we should, as a matter of course, be taxed routinely at nearly the same level as during World War II? Nonsense.

Now, if someone wanted to adjust the tax to be in line with the last time it was raised (in 1991), which would mean taking it from the present $13.50 per gallon to $21 (i.e. from $2.70 to $4.20 per 750ml bottle), I could see a rationale. This is particularly so as such a number would be in line with what we have historically taxed alcohol at when we didn't have a world war ongoing. Even during the American Civil War when the spirits tax was raised 1000% between 1862 and 1865, the resulting tax would only amount to $28 per gallon in today's dollars. It says something about the change in this country that after the Civil War ended the emergency tax rate was dropped and alcohol taxes dropped from $2 per gallon to 50 cents (about $8.09 in 2010 dollars.) After World War II the "crisis" rate was kept.

So, while I agree with Frum on many particulars, this cavalier attitude about other people's money is really grating. It is one of the main reasons so many people are distrustful of "mainstream" Republicans these days as being no different than most Democrats when it comes to big government.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Oh! Blissful Day!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about today. I'm imagining a day in the future when we no longer have to read or hear about the hackery that is the average Paul Krugman column. I, for one, won't care if Krugman is simply put out to pasture or if he is abducted by space aliens and transported to another galaxy and installed in a zoo of outlandish creatures. (Though I'll admit the latter does hold an added appeal.)

It simply boggles the mind that anyone as contradictory in his statements as Krugman is is afforded any credibility. Let's take his account of the economy the last few years:

Act I) Economy tanks (in part because we followed a housing bubble strategy advocated by one Paul Krugman.) Krugman counsels a massive governmental intervention into the economy to forestall an economic panic. TARP and the other bailouts ensue.

Act II) Economy still reeling Krugman advises a massive increase in governmental spending to kick start the economy. Enter Stimulus. Deficits, says Krugman, are our friend.

Act III) Economy still not responding, Krugman attacks the "Wall Street bailouts" and claims there has been no increase in government spending. (The claim is patently absurd, but no one at The Times bothers to point this out. "He's rolling," they said.)

Act IV) Krugman's finger feels a different breeze and Krugman discovers two new facts: 1) deficits are problematic, and 2) entirely the fault of Republicans!

Act V) Today Krugman is claiming any alteration to the spending pattern he has previously called A) vital, B) nonexistent, C) inconsequential, or D) problematical, is the end of Democracy as we know it.

Uh, thanks Paul. Oh and Paul. if you see strange lights in the night sky feel free to run after them waving you hands in the air.