Archive for January, 2016


What he said (9)

January 16, 2016

From Frederic Bastiat, The Law (1850), p. 22:

Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates, confounds Government and society. And so, every time we object to a thing being done by Government, it [i.e., socialism and socialists] concludes that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of education by the State — then we are against education altogether. We object to a State religion — then we would have no religion at all. We object to an equality which is brought about by the State then we are against equality, etc., etc. They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat because we object to the cultivation of corn by the State.

You can read The Law here.

Via Ron Paul’s Liberty Report


More of that cult of the Presidency

January 16, 2016

David Harsanyi write a good column about executive overreach.

Obama’s Legacy is Executive Abuse

Over the winter break, I finally got around to binge-watching Parks and Recreation. In case you missed the show’s seven-year run, it’s about a fascistic small-town councilwoman who believes it’s a politician’s job to impose her notions of morality, safety and decency on everyone, no matter what voters want or what the system dictates. She is justifiably recalled by the people of her town after attempting to regulate portion sizes at fast-food restaurants but ends up running a federal office where she can do big things without the consent of the people.

Now, I realize that most of the show’s fans see the narrative in a vastly different light and the protagonist, Leslie Knope, as the sort of idealistic, compassionate and principled politician Americans should love. […]

When I got back from my winter vacation, America was still being run by a two-term president who believes it’s his job to impose his notions of morality, safety and decency on everyone, often trying to work around the limits the system places on him. This week, Barack Obama is going to institute new restrictions on Americans unilaterally—expanding background checks, closing supposed “loopholes” and tightening the process for law-abiding gun owners—because Congress “won’t act” and also because he believes it’s the right thing to do. Neither of those is a compelling reason to legislate from the White House.

Perhaps no post-World War II president (and maybe none before) has justified his executive overreach by openly contending he was working around the lawmaking branch of government because it had refused to do what he desired. Whether a court finds his actions constitutional or not, it’s an argument that stands, at the very least, against the spirit of American governance. Today many liberals call this “leadership.” […]

But more consequential—and this may be the most destructive legacy of the Obama presidency—is the mainstreaming of the idea that if Congress “fails to act,” it’s OK for the president to figure out a way to make law himself. Hillary Clinton’s already applauded Obama’s actions because, as she put it, “Congress won’t act; we have to do something.” This idea is repeated perpetually by the left, in effect arguing that we live in a direct democracy run by the president (until a Republican is in office, of course). On immigration, on global warming, on Iran, on whatever crusade liberals are on, the president has a moral obligation to act if Congress doesn’t do what he wants.

To believe this, you’d have to accept two things: that Congress has a responsibility to pass bills on issues important to the president and that Congress has not already acted.

In 2013, the Senate rejected legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases and to ban certain weapons and ammunition, and it would almost certainly oppose nearly every idea Obama has to curb gun ownership today. Congress has acted, just not in the manner Obama desires.

If President George W. Bush had instituted a series of restrictions on the abortion industry—seeing as it has a loud, well-organized and well-funded lobby that wants to make abortions “effortlessly” available—without congressional input, would that have been procedurally OK with liberals? You know, for the children? I don’t imagine so.

G.W. Bush was guilty of this too but Mr. Obama seems to be more brazen about it. And I don’t know which is worse, someone who does it on the sly or someone who rubs your nose in it.

Executive fiat isn’t a “party thing”: many politicians will try to work the angles regardless of their party affiliations. IMO, it’s an “uphold your oath of office thing.”

Congress should take it to the courts or, in flagrant cases, consider impeachment.

The scariest notion, as Harsanyi hints at, is that this type of thing is popular with the people who support the sitting president. It’s as though many people don’t get (or don’t care about) the way the U.S. Constitutional system was intended to work.


What he said (8)

January 13, 2016

"There are 1011 stars in the galaxy," [Richard] Feynman once said. "That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."


How do we get these bozos off the bus?

January 13, 2016

Kevin Williamson writes about a new program at Fannie Mae (FNMA).

The Committee to Re-Inflate the Bubble strikes again.

In lieu of the usual complex regulation larded with special-interest favoritism, here is a simple mortgage rule that could and probably should be adopted: No federally regulated financial institution shall make a mortgage loan without the borrower’s making a down payment of at least 20 percent derived from his own savings.

Period, paragraph, next subject.

Instead of doing that, we are sprinting flat-out in the opposite direction, with government-sponsored mortgage giant Fannie Mae rolling out a daft new mortgage proposal that would allow borrowers without enough income to qualify for a mortgage to count income that isn’t theirs on their mortgage application.

The Committee to Re-Inflate the Bubble strikes again: We’ve just legalized mortgage fraud. […]

In his article, Williamson refers to an op-ed at Investor’s Business Daily that Jeff G passed along last week.

Fannie Mae Rolls Out Easy Mortgage, Catering To High-Risk Immigrants

Subprime 2.0: The White House is rolling out a new low-income mortgage program that for the first time lets lenders qualify borrowers by counting income from nonborrowers living in the household. What could go wrong?

The HomeReady program is offered through Fannie Mae, which is now controlled by Obama’s old Congressional Black Caucus pal Mel Watt. It replaces the bankrupted mortgage giant’s notorious old subprime program, MyCommunityMortgage.

In case renaming the subprime product fails to fool anybody, the affordable-housing geniuses in the administration have re-termed “subprime,” a dirty word since the mortgage bust, “alternative.”

So HomeReady isn’t a subprime mortgage program, you see, it’s an “alternative” mortgage program.

But it might was well be called DefaultReady, because it is just as risky as the subprime junk Fannie was peddling on the eve of the crisis.

At least before the crisis, your income had to be your own. But now, as a renter, you can get a conventional home loan backed by Fannie by claiming other people’s income. That’s right: You can use your apartment roommate’s paycheck to augment your qualifying income. Or your abuela.

You can even claim the earnings of people who are not occupants, such as your parents, under this program. […]

This program is brain dead. I don’t even rent to people with a 45% debt-to-income ratio; it’s too risky. And FNMA wants to write mortgages for them at that ratio? And with only 3% down? And based on income from who-knows-where?

I’d say this is some kind of spoof but it appears to be legitimate news. Ready for the next bail-out, bro?

I wonder who really said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."



January 12, 2016

The Wall Street Journal reports:

NFL Owners Approve Rams’ Return to Los Angeles

The National Football League is headed back to Los Angeles in a big way.

After two decades without a team in the nation’s second largest media market, NFL owners voted Tuesday to move the St. Louis Rams back to the city they called home for nearly 50 years. NFL owners also gave the San Diego Chargers the right to join the Rams if the two franchises can work out a deal to share the planned stadium.

The vote came after years of negotiations, land deals, stalled talks and bare-knuckled lobbying within the exclusive club that is the NFL owners group. Ultimately, the owners voted to approve a move by one of its wealthiest owners, Stan Kroenke, who controls one of the most valuable large parcels of undeveloped land in the Los Angeles region—site of the former Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood where the franchise plans to build a $2 billion stadium, and Alex Spanos, scion of the Chargers, who has owned his team for more than 30 years. […]

What great news. Now Mr. Kroenke (and the NFL owners cartel) won’t be trying to milk the city of St. Louis and the State of Missouri to build him a stadium.

A recent report about Kroenke’s unflattering comments about St. Louis as a venue for pro football excited some public resentment here. What amused me most was his remark that game attendance “has been well below the League’s average”. Maybe you should have given some thought to prices, chief, particularly given the StL Rams dismal record.

Good bye and good riddance, Mr. Kroenke. Take your Rams and go home.

What St. Louis needs is a business like one that-comes-after-TWA or that-comes-after-Google or that-comes-after-Caterpillar. Something productive, in short.

What it doesn’t need is the liability of subsidizing a wealthy person’s entertainment company.


There’s more good news (says the person who couldn’t care less about pro sports).

Jaguars owner not interested in move to St. Louis

The Rams are gone. Mark Davis continues to insist he’s not interested in moving his Oakland Raiders to St. Louis.

So what about Jacksonville?

A small market that struggles to fill seats. Currently plays a game a year in London to help generate revenue. And owned by Shahid Khan. You know, the central Illinois businessman who unsuccessfully bid to purchase the Rams in 2010.

With the St. Louis market currently vacant as a result of Tuesday’s relocation vote by NFL owners, would Khan be interested in bringing his Jaguars to the Gateway City?

“I don’t see that at all, OK?” Khan said firmly.

He spoke just before midnight Tuesday in the lobby of the Houston hotel, where just a few hours earlier NFL owners decided to spurn St. Louis and let the Rams move to Los Angeles.


Like a North Korea with palm trees

January 12, 2016

That’s one tourist’s take in this article from The New Yorker.

Shopping in Cuba
In the markets and shops of Cuba, handicrafts are in ample supply but certain mundane provisions are not.

A Spanish-English dictionary, sunscreen, insect repellent, a towel, chocolate ice cream: these are the items that eluded me during a recent trip to Cuba. For all the hoopla about the island’s opening and the more than three million tourists who swamped it last year, Cuba is no country for shoppers. The more mundane the object of desire, the more exasperating it can be to find.

I’m not saying that these common items are completely unavailable in Cuba—I’m sure they are for sale somewhere on the island—but I couldn’t locate them. And I did look. […]

Having been a foreign correspondent in Eastern Europe in the nineteen-nineties, and more recently in China, I have some experience with Communist and post-Communist countries. In Cuba I saw elements of many of them, from Albania to Vietnam. Like Prague in the nineteen-nineties, Havana’s old city is swarming with tourists who gaze at the faded splendor of its Belle Époque architecture. Private restaurants inside these elegant wrecks, called paladares, beckon tourists with creative meals made out of the few ingredients available locally, mostly chicken, pork, cabbage, rice, and beans.

But Cuba also looks to me like a North Korea with palm trees. To be sure, Cuba has evolved politically, investing in education and health care rather than weapons of mass destruction. But the economic fundamentals in these last bastions of Communism are much the same. Like North Korea, Cuba maintains a distribution system in which citizens pay a low cost for inadequate rations of staple foods. […]

H.T. Jeff G

As the author points out, el socialismo cubano is more humane than some of the Asian and European variants. But, still, economic central planning has yet to work as well free markets (to the best of my knowledge).

It makes you wonder about the motives of people who keep imposing that planning on others, doesn’t it?


Not much, I hope

January 9, 2016

Here’s some news that might be good news on the asset forfeiture front. We’ll see how permanent this policy change is.

What’s next for feds’ seizure program after local payments stopped?

Local law enforcement agencies will no longer reap any rewards from a controversial federal program that allows police to take money and property from individuals – and keep up to 80 percent of it – even if those individuals are never charged with any crime.

That’s because the Justice Department earlier this month suspended payments from the “equitable sharing” program that normally paid out 80 percent of those funds collected to local agencies, citing budget cuts.

The move prompted cheers from those trying to eliminate or reform such seizures and forfeitures, with some saying the action could eventually reduce the number of officers who perform such seizures. But it has also raised major concern among those local agencies and the law enforcement community nationwide about the drop in potential funding. […]


More evidence for the limited government argument (2)

January 9, 2016

Moe Lane writes at RedState:

Washington Post admits that, no: electric cars were NOT worth it.

At least, if you use the rule of thumb that any time you ask a question in a headline then the answer is always going to be ‘no:’ “The government has spent a lot on electric cars, but was it worth it?” And the answer to the question is no in this case, too. There are three ways that the Washington Post (note that I am not criticizing WaPo article author Charles Lane, here: he’s obviously figured it all out already) could have worked that out ahead of time, in fact; all it had to do was look more closely at the title. […]

Read the whole thing; it’s brief. Better yet, follow the link the to WaPo article.

When electric cars get charged from solar cells or from zero point energy (assuming that’s practical), then I’ll buy one.

But to buy an electric vehicle which is charged by coal-fired generation (as mine would be) is just adding another step, with its particular inefficiencies, to the total energy use. TANSTAAFL applies to engineering as well as to politics. That’s why engineers won’t shut up about it.

It’s tough to beat the energy density in petroleum. Unless you’re willing to burn hyrdrogen or natural gas, or you’re willing to use nuclear sources, then you should burn petroleum. You don’t have to be an engineer to look this stuff up.

My view is that people should convert their vehicles to natural gas. It’s cheaper and it’s better in terms of emissions. If you’re one who worries about catastrophic warming, look at what the switch from coal to natural gas has done for US carbon emissions. They’ve fallen since 2007.

I always think that the example of places like Cuba, Venezuela, the Soviet Union, North Korea, the old ‘Eastern Bloc’ in Europe, und so weiter, would be enough to convince anyone that governments have no business trying to run markets.

But I’m learning not to be surprised when those examples aren’t convincing.


What she said

January 5, 2016

Mollie Hemingway vents about the Trump phenomenon. She makes some good points and is fairly amusing, so RTWT.

When It Comes To Donald Trump, I Hate Everyone
I hate Donald Trump, people who love Donald Trump, people who hate Donald Trump, and media who cover Donald Trump.

We’re now in month eight or so of Trumpmania. He has a core of support, and the media can’t get enough of him. The effect he has on people is fascinating. But it’s also remarkably annoying. Every casual utterance by Trump leads the news cycle until the subsequent outrage. And everyone flips out. Trump flips out. His fans flip out. His enemies flip out. The media flip out.

It’s enough to make you hate everyone. In fact, it does make me hate everyone. That probably includes you. Here’s a list of everyone in the Trump saga who is awful. […]

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