Archive for August, 2011


Penn Jillette doesn’t know

August 20, 2011

There’s lots of good stuff in this opinion piece by Penn Jillette, especially for those who had trouble with Epistemology 101.

I’ve always thought that people shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit ignorance. I’d much rather hear that you don’t know than to hear some face-saving claim to knowledge that you don’t have. I’m reminded of the aphorism, "It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so."

Here’s a snippet from Jillette’s op-ed.

My friend Richard Feynman said, “I don’t know.” I heard him say it several times. He said it just like Harold, the mentally handicapped dishwasher I worked with when I was a young man making minimum wage at Famous Bill’s Restaurant in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

“I don’t know” is not an apology. There’s no shame. It’s a simple statement of fact. When Richard Feynman didn’t know, he often worked harder than anyone else to find out, but while he didn’t know, he said, “I don’t know.”

When I found Jillette’s piece linked in a Samizdata post, this was ‘graph it quoted.

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.


An excellent choice of adjective

August 20, 2011

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection described the Democrats and Obama as having a voracious appetite for class warfare. I thought that was a great description and that voracious was an excellent choice of adjective.

The Legal Insurrection post quotes (and links) a post at The Tax Foundation blog. Here’s a snippet from that Tax Foundation post. But go RTWT; it’s brief.

The Facts Contradict Obama’s Calls for Higher Taxes on the Rich and Corporations

During his attempt to calm the markets yesterday, President Obama once again signaled his belief that America needs higher, not lower taxes. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Obama’s remarks had “included a call for tax changes that would boost payments from ‘wealthy Americans and corporations,’ but this phrase was taken out at the last minute. None the less, Mr. Obama seems obsessed with the notion that wealthy Americans and corporations are not paying enough taxes.

The President’s notions are not, however, grounded in fact. Let’s review the data on individual taxpayers first:

Recently released IRS data for 2009, shows that taxpayers earning over $200,000 paid 50 percent of the $866 billion in total income taxes paid that year, or $434 billion. Skeptics will say, “That’s because they earn the majority of the income in America”. Not so. These taxpayers earned 25 percent of the $7.6 trillion in total adjusted gross income in the country that year.

And the Obama administration just can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong with the economy (link to another Legal Insurrection post).

One would think they’d never heard of regime uncertainty, eh?


So maybe I’m not delusional

August 13, 2011

It’s always amazed me that anyone tries to make a Constitutional argument for the individual mandate – the requirement to buy health insurance – portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I’ve mentioned earlier that Radley Balko nailed that angle pretty well.

So it’s reassuring to hear a(nother) federal court agree that Congress doesn’t have the authority to pass such a law.

Appeals Court Strikes Down ObamaCare’s Individual Mandate, Calls It “a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority.”

Posted on August 12, 2011, 1:35PM | Peter Suderman

No, Congress can’t just decree that individuals must buy a private product, even if the market has unique properties. To do so would be more than unprecedented; it would be an unconstitutional overreach. That’s the gist of what an 11th Circuit appeals court said today when it ruled in favor of 26 state governments by saying that the federal requirement to purchase health insurance contained in last year’s health care overhaul is unconstitutional. From the ruling:

The individual mandate exceeds Congress’s enumerated commerce power and is unconstitutional. This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives. We have not found any generally applicable, judicially enforceable limiting principle that would permit us to uphold the mandate without obliterating the boundaries inherent in the system of enumerated congressional powers. “Uniqueness” is not a constitutional principle in any antecedent Supreme Court decision.

However, the panel, made up of two Democratic appointees and one GOP-appointed judge, did overturn lower court Judge Roger Vinson’s decision to invalidate the entire law, preferring to strike only the mandate and related provisions.

It will be interesting to see whether the Supreme Court agrees with this circuit court. Decisions on the matter have gone both ways in different courts.


Amen, Mr. President

August 13, 2011

When I was a kid of 12, delivering the Peoria Journal Star to the people on my route, I started reading Ann Landers’ advice column. I recall something she often said to advice-seekers: "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

That’s the first thought that popped into my head when I read the article quoted below.

Obama: Something is wrong with country’s politics


Seeking to align himself with a public beleaguered by economic uncertainty and frustrated by Washington, President Barack Obama declared Thursday: “There is nothing wrong with our country. There is something wrong with our politics.”

His toughly worded message — he said there was frustration in his voice, in case anyone missed the point — came amid a series of polls showing that people are disgusted with political dysfunction and are dispensing blame all around, including on Obama.

I think you’re absolutely right, Mr. President. There is something wrong with our politics.

What could that be?

Maybe it’s because your administration has been asserting control over more and more segments of the economy and those have become politicized? Health care, auto makers, large investment banks all come to mind as examples of the crony capitalism you espouse – where the businesses being bailed out or subsidized start to spend their efforts seeking political favors instead of focusing on their customers and markets. Of course, a lot of this started during the Bush administration but you’ve had three years to change course. And haven’t.

Maybe it’s because your administration uses the political system to pay for political backing by labor unions? Here’s an interesting chart I ran across this week.

Maybe it’s because all levels of government continue to impose relatively minor but annoying regulations — like those on light bulbs and lemonade stands? This isn’t your personal responsibility, of course. On the other hand, it fits right in with the leadership example your administration sets.

Maybe it’s because the way your administration has expanded the political sphere over more and more areas of peoples’ lives means that you’re going to see a lot of resentment of that expansion?

Or maybe it’s your party’s never-ending spending increases in the face of record deficits and debt levels? All the debt ceiling deal did was make some promises about slowing the rate of increases in spending in the future. It didn’t actually reduce current spending. That was a great compromise, wasn’t it? Yep, just what a bad balance sheet needed.

I think what’s wrong with our politics, Mr. President, isn’t that the Congress won’t stop wrangling about toeing your administration’s line.

The problem is that your administration has an unreasonable line that many of us aren’t at all interested in toeing. I hope my representative continues to vote to obstruct your policies.

God bless gridlock.


Business management myths

August 6, 2011

This is an old piece; it’s from 2006. But I found it very entertaining, since I’ve often wondered exactly what it is that people learn at business management schools.

The Management Myth

Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting firm. If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an M.B.A. Study philosophy instead

By Matthew Stewart

During the seven years that I worked as a management consultant, I spent a lot of time trying to look older than I was. I became pretty good at furrowing my brow and putting on somber expressions. Those who saw through my disguise assumed I made up for my youth with a fabulous education in management. They were wrong about that. I don’t have an M.B.A. I have a doctoral degree in philosophy—nineteenth-century German philosophy, to be precise. Before I took a job telling managers of large corporations things that they arguably should have known already, my work experience was limited to part-time gigs tutoring surly undergraduates in the ways of Hegel and Nietzsche and to a handful of summer jobs, mostly in the less appetizing ends of the fast-food industry.

The strange thing about my utter lack of education in management was that it didn’t seem to matter. As a principal and founding partner of a consulting firm that eventually grew to 600 employees, I interviewed, hired, and worked alongside hundreds of business-school graduates, and the impression I formed of the M.B.A. experience was that it involved taking two years out of your life and going deeply into debt, all for the sake of learning how to keep a straight face while using phrases like “out-of-the-box thinking,” “win-win situation,” and “core competencies.” When it came to picking teammates, I generally held out higher hopes for those individuals who had used their university years to learn about something other than business administration.

Plus I’d like to keep a link to it handy for times when I need to refute some particular example of MBA-style nonsense.


A nice tribute

August 3, 2011
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