Archive for December, 2009

December 31, 2009

TOM BLUMER: Economic Rebound? What Economic Rebound?

Related item here. John Galt was unavailable for comment.

December 31, 2009

“LOOK! IT’S THE ANGEL OF DEATH. Let’s go get him!”

December 31, 2009

AFTER-CHRISTMAS MARKDOWNS on power tools.

December 31, 2009

PAUL CASSELL ON THOSE DISMISSED BLACKWATER CHARGES: “In my view, the charges should never have been filed. The prosecutors made novel use of federal criminal statutes, including charging the contractors with heavy mandatory minimum sentences for use of firearms (i.e., machineguns) in the commission of a crime of violence. The dismissal is long overdue.” I suspect the decision to prosecute had political overtones.

December 31, 2009

KILLING THE D.C. SCHOOL VOUCHER PROGRAM: Because protecting bureaucrats’ rice bowls is more important than, you know, actually educating.

UPDATE: “Democrats Resegregate DC School System.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

I keep thinking -hard- about what an amazing example the DC Voucher program could be… if it was really adopted as a cause celebre on the right. Not just as a punchline, but as a going concern.

There just aren’t that many recipients, and there’s a mighty strong overlap in DC between “underprivileged” and “permanent Democrat voters.” And these identical voters are personally steamed. They can recognize being completely jobbed. If there’s one spot to push to shatter this particular unholy alliance, it is precisely this spot.

Think of it as a reverse-ACORN. Scholarships are strictly need based – not race based. An endowment focused on K-12 instead of higher education.

I’m not quite sure the Glenn Reynolds DC Scholarship Fund has quite enough panache ;)

But just think of the same idea with different marquee players:
The Ronald Reagan Scholarship Fund.
The Rush Limbaugh Scholarship Fund.
The Sarah Palin Scholarship fund.

Please leave off my last name if you find any of this postworthy.

What do you think? Reach out to these folks and raise some money? (More here). Though that bit about lacking panache kinda hurts . . . .

UPDATE: Arnold Kling likes the idea. “The conflict between voluntary charity and progressive tax-funded spending is a very interesting potential battleground. Progressives want to shift away from charitable giving and toward taxes, while libertarians (or civil societarians) ought to be aiming for the reverse.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Heather Benes writes: “I suggest a Thomas Sowell/Walter E. Williams scholarship fund for those D.C. kids.”

MORE: Reader Catherine Elkins writes:

I love this idea and wish it had been an option when doing my last minute year-end contributions last night! If you and/or others who may write you can get anything like this set up, I look forward to seeing links here to contribute. My guess is, the sooner it can be done, the better, so that some of these families can plan for the next school year with an idea of funds/funding available.

I’d offer to help but I don’t know the first thing about setting up scholarship funds. I’ll contribute, though!

Anybody know anything about setting up scholarship funds?

December 31, 2009

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE: AALS Panels: “informative and engaging”?

I don’t attend the AALS very much. It’s too crowded, it’s at a bad time of the year, and frankly it just feels like a waste of my time when I go most of the time. I prefer the Southeastern Association of Law Schools conference, which is in the summer, is smaller — so that you can hang out in the bar in the evenings and talk to people — and more fun. I should probably give AALS another chance, as I haven’t been in several years, but it won’t be this year.

December 31, 2009

BACKDOWN? TSA drops subpoenas issued to bloggers who published security directive.

Well, it was getting a lot of bad publicity. And, as I’ve suggested before, bullying bloggers is a bad bet. But, from the comments at BoingBoing, “As a forensic computer examiner, I’m now wondering what they did with the forensic images that they made of these guy’s computers.”

Meanwhile, all bloggers should get one of these! That said, I’m a bit torn. I don’t believe in “shield laws” that would let journalists avoid subpoenas or testimony because of their profession; if such should exist, they should include bloggers but I’d rather they didn’t. This, however, looked more like bullying than a legitimate inquiry. It will backfire, of course, as bloggers will no doubt pay more attention to the TSA’s doings as a result. Maybe that’s punishment enough . . . .

UPDATE: From the comments at BoingBoing:

Speaking as an attorney, I would advise you not to let this go. Make an ethics complaint against the government attorney that signed the subpoena in DC or the jurisdiction they are licensed to practice law in. You don’t subpoena someone, then just “let it drop.”

They will be forced to: (1) admit there was no basis for the subpoena, in the first place, (2) make a dubious “national security” claim as to why they can’t discuss, which will dog them for their entire career, or (3) admit that they made a forensic scan of a citizen’s computer and used the evidence to pursue a whistleblower, after having used a subpoena to strongarm a citizen (again, something that will arise again ten years later during his Senate confirmation hearing for another position).

Long story short, government drones who use their subpoena power to bully citizens blowing the whistle on government incompetence deserve to be held to account. Do not back down, an ethics complaint is very low cost, and very high reward.

In general, ethics complaints are a good response to legal bullying. Much of what lawyers do in their bully capacity is questionable under the ethics rules — one of my colleagues who teaches legal ethics was commenting to me a while back that he was surprised how seldom people file complaints on unethical behavior in IP cases — and though bar ethics committees are often less than diligent, dealing with this stuff is a hassle.

December 31, 2009

MAN OF THE YEAR: Sarah Palin?

December 31, 2009

A COMING HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE?

Even before the financial crisis intensified the upward pressure on college costs, the price of a degree was soaring. Since 1980, the average cost of tuition and room and board has grown by a staggering 121 percent while median household income has risen a mere 18 percent, according to federal data. But the credit boom earlier this decade provided some relief for families.

Wall Street financiers packaged student loans into securities and sold them off to investors, who could trade them just like stocks. That, in turn, provided more money for lending, helping to make student loans cheaper and more available. Even people with poor credit histories could easily get a loan.

But during the last academic year, private student loan volume fell by half as financial firms became wary of lending to students, who generally do not have long credit histories. Officials from Sallie Mae, the industry leader in student lending, said they expect another significant decline this year.

Nor have families been able to keep borrowing against the value of their homes, which seemed for years to appreciate with no end in sight. Second mortgages have been shrinking along with real estate values. Money made available by banks to homeowners through home-equity lines of credit has fallen by 25 percent, to $538 billion, since the end of 2007, according to federal data.

About a decade ago, financial planners began to tout the benefits of 529 plans, which invest families’ savings in the stock and bond markets with the aim of keeping pace with the growth in college expenses. Even before the crisis, these plans couldn’t keep up. Then, in 2008, the average 529 plan lost 20 percent of its value.

So you’ve got an industry with skyrocketing prices, fueled by easy credit taken out by those who didn’t fully realize how much it was costing them. Now the credit’s harder to get, and people are much more aware of the downside of debt anyway. What’s next?

December 31, 2009

WORRIES ABOUT INFLATION.

“We have the most potentially inflationary policy I have ever observed in a developed country,” said Alan Meltzer, a Fed historian and professor of political economy at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh.

According to widely used economic models, the way consumers perceive the prospect of future inflation has clear implications for prices themselves. Once higher costs are taken for granted, they are more easily tolerated.

Several indicators are already hinting at that possibility.

I’m investing in polyester leisure suits. It’s the one thing from the 1970s that hasn’t started its comeback yet . . . .

December 31, 2009

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Transparency: Man reviewing intel center also created and ran it. “Why not just hire TAC to review itself? That would follow the ACORN example, at least. Having the man who ran and designed the system as the leader of an investigation by definition makes it anything but ‘independent’.”

December 31, 2009

DONE WITH MY GRADING; I did not employ this approach. But it looks more tempting every year . . . .

December 31, 2009

WELL, THE ELECTION’S OVER NOW: All Charges Dismissed in Blackwater Shooting Case.

December 31, 2009

NORTH SLOPE JOBS for Virginia?

December 31, 2009

SOME YEAR-END ADVICE at the Berman Post.

December 31, 2009

TARGETING BLOGGERS, NOT BIG MEDIA: “The most troubling part of this TSA going after bloggers deal is that it wouldn’t be happening had it been the New York Times that broke the story.” Imagine gang warfare — you don’t take on a gang that can fight back. On the other hand, taking on bloggers has been a bad bet in the past, and so far it’s generating bad publicity for the TSA. More on that here.

December 31, 2009

TIPS TO add years to your life. With Sanjay Gupta and Aubrey de Grey.

December 31, 2009

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: A New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Accept U.S. Decline.

December 31, 2009

THINGS THAT DON’T SUCK: So I’ve got this Black & Decker jump-starter/compressor/power source and I’ve found it very handy for topping off tires. (The RX-8′s combination of low-profile tires and finicky tire-pressure sensors means that I get an alarm whenever the temp drops significantly). I haven’t used it to jump-start anything, but it looks like it ought to work well. On the other hand, this gadget from Duracell has less jump-start power (300 amps instead of 450) but puts out 110v AC, too.

Related: Power Preparedness.

UPDATE: Reader Brian King offers what he calls a “semi-review” of the Duracell 300:

I bought one of these recently – was looking for a compressor, but this one had the extras for not much more money.

So far, I’ve only used the compressor (which did the job … two tires from about 25psi to 35psi in just over 5 minutes each … the pressure gauge is pretty reliable even while pumping, which is nice) and the inverter (to charge a blackberry – I know, what a waste to take DC and convert it to AC only to have the charger turn it back into DC again, but it did the job, too).

When they add a few USB ports, I’ll buy another one!

Not a bad idea.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bruce Webster writes:

I actually have two of the larger model (B&D Electromate 400):

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Decker-VEC026BD-Electromate-Jump-Starter/dp/B000EJS9IM/ref=pd_sim_auto_3

This model has two 120 volt AC outlets, beside two 12 volt DC (car-style) outlets. I’ve been using them to power the Christmas lights on a live 8′ pine tree at the entrance to our driveway (about 160 yards from our house; it was that or 1/10th of a mile of extension cords). One unit will keep the Christmas lights going 6 to 7 hours; recharge time appears to be roughly 12 hours, but it may be less than that (I’ve been recharging them in the garage, so I don’t really see when they’re done).

Kinda wish I’d bought that one. Or maybe this one, with a USB charger port.

December 31, 2009

READER MARK PARR SUGGESTS THAT I NEED ONE OF THESE for my next scuba trip. But not the red ones — that’s sure to be fatal. . . .

December 31, 2009

ANNIE JACOBSEN: Armed TSA Agents Threaten Travel Journalist.

December 31, 2009

HOT ENGLISH DORKS LOOKING TO PLAY WITH OTHER HOT ENGLISH DORKS: At the MLA this year, hooking up with each other instead of employers?

December 31, 2009

WORST TWEET OF THE YEAR?

December 31, 2009

THE ROOT CAUSE of terrorism.

December 31, 2009

MICHAEL YON: “Only during such times are strong men and women of greatest importance. At all other times we have Hollywood.” Beautiful photos. Remember that Michael’s work is supported by reader donations, so if you like it, you might hit the tipjar.

December 31, 2009

KANSAS: Dems Lose Another Top Recruit. “Whatever new ruling paradigm Democrats may have thought they were going to build on Obama’s shoulders after 2008 has collapsed. But it was bound to happen. Obama is way to the Left and the party was recruiting centrists.”

December 31, 2009

ATOMIC UNDERGROUND: Deep inside ORNL’s Holifield research facility.

December 31, 2009

IS EXECUTION MORE IMPORTANT THAN DESIGN? Kenneth Anderson revisits Richard Posner on counterterrorism.

And while we’re revisiting Posner, here’s our podcast interview of Posner focusing on his book, Not A Suicide Pact: The Constitution In A Time Of National Emergency.

December 31, 2009

I MENTIONED SARAH HOYT’S DarkShip Thieves earlier, and reader Amanda Green writes to note that Sarah blogged the book’s rather convoluted route to publication.

December 31, 2009

MILES O’BRIEN: Captain Underpants And The Illusion Of Security. “Here is what any moron can see as plain as day: our $40 billion dollar post-9/11 airline security net is a total joke – a White Elephant of epic (and potentially tragic) proportions. The truth is the only aspect of our post 9/11 defense that has turned out to be 100% effective are the passengers themselves. Without really thinking about it we have become an airborne militia – all watching and ready to kick al Qaeda butt at the drop of… a pair of trousers. It began in Shanksville – it effectively thwarted the shoe-bomber – and now Captain Underpants.”

December 31, 2009

TOBY BUCKELL: “I’m glad the year’s over. 2010 is going to rock.” I’ve had years like that. This wasn’t one of them. Not such a great year for the country, but a pretty good year for me personally, getting better as it went along. I have every intent of seeing 2010 rock, too, though. And I hope you feel the same way!

December 31, 2009

YEAH, BUT WITHOUT ANDREW SULLIVAN’S ANTI-TORTURE BLOGGING IT WOULD HAVE BEEN 56%: 58% Favor Waterboarding of Plane Terrorist To Get Information.

UPDATE: “My conclusion: the debate is over, and Dick Cheney won it.”

Reader Michael Gebert blames Andrew: “If fighting terrorists creates terrorists, surely being an endless hypocritical scold about waterboarding creates Dick Cheneys.” Yeah, I actually agree with Andrew on torture, but the more I read his stuff, the weaker my sentiments on the subject get . . . .

December 31, 2009

HMM: No Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Fraction in Past 160 Years, New Research Finds. You could still get ocean acidification, but this means that global warming, if any, can’t be because of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, if there isn’t any.

UPDATE: Looking at the abstract in Geophysical Research Letters, I think I’m wrong, above — I believe the “fraction” that’s constant isn’t the fraction of CO2 in the air, but the fraction of emitted CO2 that remains in the air. So atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could still be rising, just not as rapidly as models predict. Sorry — the news story was confusing, at least to me.

December 31, 2009

LOSING WEIGHT the Taco Bell way.

December 31, 2009

IN THE MAIL: From Sarah Hoyt, DarkShip Thieves. Eric S. Raymond says it’s like old-style space opera, but with better world-building.

December 31, 2009

OBAMACARE unites left and right.

December 31, 2009

NINE BIG STORIES the Mainstream Media Missed in 2009.

December 31, 2009

ABA ACCREDITATION MISCHIEF? “Without further clarification, the ABA could easily threaten the accreditation of a law school if a substantial percentage of the faculty signed a brief opposing Grutter–like diversity admissions.”

December 31, 2009

IT’S HARD TO GET BY, just upon a smile.

December 31, 2009

BEST OF 2009: The Boob Czar.

December 31, 2009

CHRIS DODD TOPS THE LIST of most corrupt politicians of 2009.

UPDATE: Oops, didn’t notice that the list he’s topping is alphabetical. But hey, I’d give him top billing even if his name were Zwilnik!

December 31, 2009

BEST DIRECTOR OF THE DECADE? Clint Eastwood.

UPDATE: Col. Douglas Mortimer — who you’d expect to be a fan — writes: “The best thing about Clint Eastwood? Every film he has ever made. Every single one. Has been brought in by him on time and under budget. Would that he had been President.” Well, a man’s got to know his limitations. . . .

December 31, 2009

BUREAUCRATS ALWAYS DO A GOOD JOB. JUST ASK THEM. TSA Salutes a ‘Very Good Year’ Despite 2009 Security Failures. “The message made no mention of TSA snafus over 2009, including several highly critical reports by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security and the inadvertent posting on the internet of confidential documents revealing airport security procedures.”

December 31, 2009

ANOTHER MASSACRE in gun-free Europe.

UPDATE: Reader Eric Brandel says that Finland is less gun-free than most of Europe: “Due to their history of having been attacked by, and successfully defending against, both the Germans and Russians in WWII (something they are very proud of), the Finns have been a little more reluctant to give up their firearms than the rest of Europe. In fact, obtaining firearms in Finland is easier than it is in some places in the US. Personal firearms of all types are legal, and obtainable, assuming you do not have a history of mental illness or committed a serious crime. The biggest difference between their laws and ours is that you must be licensed to own guns, and then have a license for each gun you own.”

December 31, 2009

OBAMACARE CAN ONLY HELP: New growth industry: Medical tourism.

December 31, 2009

DAMON ROOT: New York’s Decade of Debt.

December 31, 2009

ANTIAGING AND MORE: The year in biomedicine.

December 31, 2009

PREACHING TOLERANCE, but practicing bigotry.

December 31, 2009

MORE ON TSA VS. BLOGGERS, from Wired. Plus, a contrarian take at Aviation Week.

UPDATE: Reader Wayne Duncan emails:

This is the money quote from the story:

A former federal prosecutor who asked not to be identified told Threat Level that the TSA is being heavy-handed in how it’s handling the matter.

“It strikes me that someone at TSA is apoplectic that somehow there’s a sense that they’re not doing their job right,” he told Threat level. “To go into this one reporter’s house and copy his computer files and threaten him, it strikes me that they’re more aggressive with this reporter than with the guy who got on this flight.”

Threatening public safety — wrong. Making bureaucrats look bad — unforgivable!

December 31, 2009

AT REASON, the best and worst things of the decade.

December 31, 2009

JAMES PETHOKOUKIS: What Ben Nelson Didn’t Tell Nebraskans Last Night.

December 31, 2009

OUCH: “The people calling for Rush Limbaugh to die are the same people who ask to control your healthcare.”

UPDATE: A contrast.

December 31, 2009

BRINGING TOGETHER TWO AMERICAS: JOHN EDWARDS’ WIFE MEETS HIS LOVE CHILD.

December 31, 2009

A PLEA: “President Obama: Please don’t harm one half million of the poorest people in Africa.”

December 31, 2009

PRIORITIES: White House takes four days to respond to terror attack, but responds to Cheney criticism in matter of hours? Obviously, they’re more scared of Dick Cheney than of terrorists.

December 31, 2009

NICK GILLESPIE: Public Sector Drives Deep Into The Night. “There is a looming showdown in American society between public-sector employees and the rest of us, in terms of job security and, especially, unsustainable gold-plated retirement and health benefits that are working hard to bankrupt whole states such as California, New York, and New Jersey. As with some parts of the private sector (domestically owned auto companies, for instance), basic compensation packages were hammered into place in a very different America, and conferred massive future benefits when politicians were either too stupid or too cowardly to confront basic questions of fiscal responsibility. Do you want to spend your life (and have your kids spend their lives) to pay ever-increasing taxes for teacher, cop, and bureaucrat retirements at early ages? Especially while you’re expected to fully fund your own? This is a social contract that needs to be redrawn ASAP.”

It’s not a contract — those involve voluntary exchange — but it will be redrawn, one way or another.

December 30, 2009

NEWS: White House Visitors Log: ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis In Obama Residence Week Before Sting Videos Launched.

December 30, 2009

AN AFTER-CHRISTMAS SALE on TV Shows On DVD.

December 30, 2009

MEGAN MCARDLE on buying vs. renting.

December 30, 2009

CLIVE CROOK: A Double Standard On Obama And Terrorism? “Well of course Republicans are playing politics–which is deplorable, and something that Democrats would never do. But in my circle–I mix with all kinds–it isn’t just Republicans who were incredulous at the still-growing catalogue of errors, and awe-struck by Janet Napolitano’s initial view that the system had worked.”

December 30, 2009

DICK CHENEY: MAN OF THE DECADE?

December 30, 2009

CARBON TAX STRUCK DOWN AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL: In France.

December 30, 2009

HOT AIR: Quotes Of The Day.

December 30, 2009

SCOTT BROWN winning the online battle?

The real question is, how’s he doing on donations?

December 30, 2009

OUR NEW “POST-MODERN RACE PROBLEM.” (Via Ann Althouse, who comments, “Steele writes an excellent essay — providing a great starting point for the self-examination that will be required of us in the years to come as we ask ourselves how this charming young man became President of the United States.”)

December 30, 2009

LIMBAUGH IN HOSPITAL WITH CHEST PAINS. In Hawaii. If I were Obama’s press guy, I’d set up a hospital visit.

December 30, 2009

A “GOVERNMENT-CAUSED DISASTER” — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s role in the financial crisis. “When a private citizen like Bernie Madoff commits fraud, he gets a long jail sentence. But when Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and the well-connected (and now rich) Democrats who headed Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae commit fraud, they simply send the bill to the taxpayers. Or, rather, the taxpayers’ children.”

December 30, 2009

THE MLA AND JEWISH LITERATURE: “English departments that would never allow themselves to be without experts in the literatures of many racial and ethnic groups in the United States don’t think twice about failing to have a knowledge base in American Jewish literature. Further, the view of many here is that discussions about multicultural literature that ought to include Jewish writers simply don’t.”

Plus this: “Jewishness has been associated with Israel, white privilege, colonialism and racism.” Just more of the way in which anti-semitism has been assimilated to “progressivism.”

December 30, 2009

A TERROR CRACKDOWN on bloggers? It would have been nice to see such keen interest in the sourcing of certain MSM terror stories, in prior years.

UPDATE: Xeni Jardin: “As soon as airlines and airports began implementing the directive — and that began before the bloggers posted their copies—the contents of the directive were no secret. So why the strong-arm tactics?” They’re sending a message, the way the Bush Administration didn’t with other leaks. . . .

December 30, 2009

THE JERSEY SHORE NICKNAME GENERATOR.

December 30, 2009

SO HOW’S THAT BAILOUT GOING? Feds take over GMAC. “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses.” Bad money after . . . other bad money. But hey, it’s not their money, it’s yours, so what do they care?

UPDATE: A reader emails: “Ditech is a wholly owned subsidiary of GMAC – So now Fannie and Freddie have a blank check, what does that do for Ditech?”

ANOTHER UPDATE: And who was running GMAC? A guy with ties to Bernie Madoff.

December 30, 2009

SO AFTER MONEY TALK INVOLVING MEGAN MCARDLE AND DAVE RAMSEY, and advice from Toby Buckell, various readers have asked if I have any financial advice. Not really. Except, like Clint Eastwood says, that a man’s gotta know his limitations.

We don’t follow the Ramsey approach. It’s good for people who have debt problems, but we’ve never had those as we’ve avoided debt. My approach is tailored to my laziness, and lets savings be the control on spending. I decide how much money to save, and it goes into a money market account, automatically every month. The key is that this account is for money to go into, not to come out of, except for major purchases (like a house or car) or emergencies. I have a separate “slush fund” savings account that also gets an automatic deposit every month, and that gets hit up for routine unscheduled things like home and car repairs. Every once in a while I sweep money out of the “don’t touch” money market account into another account at a different bank that is inconvenient enough to access that I don’t take money out of it. (I guess that’s the “really don’t touch” account). At the end of the year, I look at the various account balances and know if I’ve saved as much as I planned; usually it turns out to be more, as I sometimes put unscheduled money — speaking fees, royalties, etc. — in there instead of the slush-fund savings account if I’m feeling flush.

This system turns my considerable sloth into an asset; savings is automatic, while spending takes effort. Taking money out of those “don’t touch” accounts is an event, meaning that I think about it before I do it, and thus don’t do it much. Likewise, almost the only credit card I use is American Express, which I pay off every month. You can stretch the payments, but, again, you have to make a conscious decision to do so, which means you have to think about it and realize how dumb it is, so I don’t. But the key is to prioritize saving first. Once I’m saving what I’ve planned to, I don’t have to worry about what I’m spending; it’s taken care of.

I was taught this “pay yourself first” approach in high school, and it seems to work. If you’re already deep in debt, then the Ramsey method is better. But if you’re like me — a fairly steady income punctuated with occasional unexpected “extra” money and, of course, occasional unscheduled expenses — it works pretty well, and requires fairly little thought. The Insta-Wife (with whom I am, happily, very compatible on this stuff) is a bit more OCD about things because she likes thinking about money and budgets, but her approach pretty much tracks this one too.

And that’s perhaps the best financial advice: Marry someone you’re financially compatible with. I seem to recall that The Millionaire Next Door had millionaires listing their spouses as one of the main reasons they wound up with money. I think that’s probably right.

UPDATE: Theodore Simon writes:

When it comes to saving, my wife and I are of like mind. During our marriage we have followed a strategy very similar to yours with one exception. Since money is fungible and can be removed from any bank, no matter how inconveniently located, we have always taken our “don’t touch money” and invested it in 20- and 30-year municipal bonds, which we have forced ourselves to hold to maturity. More recently we have invested in iBonds with the same idea in mind, which again serves to place our savings beyond the range of everyday temptations to spend. Some people might be surprised how much money you can save over four decades with that kind of discipline. Even with the meltdown of the economy in 2008, we are well off in our retirement, having enough savings to travel widely, cover our daily living expenses, pay for long-term health care insurance, and live comfortably in the way we had always intended.

Barring all but the worst personal catastrophes, the advice you gave really works. It certainly has worked for us.

Personally, I’m reluctant to tie up all my major savings in long-term fixed-income instruments, but then I’m younger. And the larger point holds. You can save a lot of money if you try, and on the other hand you can spend an amazing amount of money without really trying at all . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Travis Blake writes: “Saw your post on Dave Ramsey – your approach sounds a lot like the method in the book linked below (The Wealthy Barber). I’m generally not fond of budgeting, but the ‘pay yourself first’ approach has served us reasonably well (although, for full disclosure, we have never done automatic savings).”

MORE: Reader William Manuel writes:

The pay yourself first strategy is great; the rest is awful. Let’s say you and your wife are mid 40′s. One of you is probably going to live to 90. Therefore, your investment time horizon is 50 years. Over any 10 year period, the probability of equity generating a greater real return than debt (bonds & money markets) is, I’m estimating, over 90%. Over a 50 year period, it is inevitable. Therefore, get your money out of the money market and into a broad market index. Even when you retire, your time horizon is still 20-30 years and suggests the majority of savings in equities.

Well, the post above is about saving, not investing, and in fact my retirement investments, etc., are mostly in equities. But in fact, stuff in money markets and CDs has done pretty well compared to stocks over the past decade — and, looking at my TIAA-CREF account, the small portion of my money in the fixed-income Traditional Fund did better over the past 20 years than the CREF Stock Fund, and I would have been better putting my money in CDs than in most of the mutual funds I’ve been in, which have all been highly-regarded blue-chip funds. Of course, this is a lousy market, and results would have looked different a couple of years ago (and if I were closer to retirement I would have gotten at least partly out of equities then). But honestly, though the long-term superiority of equities is something you hear about a lot, I’m not convinced that it’s so easy to realize in practice. Retrospectively you can always find stocks or funds that did really well, but spotting them prospectively is a lot harder.

December 30, 2009

UH OH: Pilots’ union: The system didn’t work after the attack either.

UPDATE: Ron Radosh: Will Obama Now Protect Us?

In last night’s remarks, President Barack Obama made another one of his late-in-the-game, 180 degree turnarounds. Not only did the system not work, as asserted by Robert Gibbs and Janet Napolitano after the Christmas Day incident aboard Flight 253, but now the President is calling it a “systemic failure” in our intelligence agency apparatus. No longer is it, as Obama said earlier, an “isolated incident” committed by the “alleged” terrorist.

The government, it is clear, knows that al-Qaeda was behind the attack, had information beforehand that someone from Nigeria would be involved, and had “warning signs” that were ignored. And just as before 9/11, intelligence agencies either did not share material some of them had with the other parts of the security apparatus. It also is now known that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had engaged in much activity that gave even his father cause to worry, as President Obama acknowledged.

Read the whole thing.

December 30, 2009

WELL, IT’S NOT LIKE HE’S A REPUBLICAN OR ANYTHING: Ellen Karis: Why Does Hollywood Keep Hiring Charlie Sheen?

December 30, 2009

REPORTING ANOTHER FLIGHT 253 ARREST, confirming a passenger report that had earlier been unconfirmed. But now they’re saying the second person was detained for “reasons unrelated to the attack.” Lots more coverage here.

December 30, 2009

TAXPROF: Dave Barry: Obama Blames Bush Administration For Tax Code.

December 30, 2009

GLOBAL WARMING WON’T PREVENT AN ICE AGE IN A COUPLE OF THOUSAND YEARS. “I would prefer we didn’t burn up all the limited supply of fossil fuels now so that we could burn them later when we really need to heat up the planet.”

We need to reach a stage of technological development where stopping an ice age is relatively easy. We should certainly be there in 2000 years if we don’t blow it.

December 30, 2009

TAXPROF: TurboTax: The Geithner Edition.

UPDATE: Folks here are not amused.

December 30, 2009

CUTTING A SWATH: Apple’s Magic Mouse.

December 30, 2009

ALFONZO RACHEL: We’re All In Tiger’s Doghouse.

TIGERDOGHOUSE

December 30, 2009

SOME OF MY LEFTY READERS are writing to ask why I wasn’t criticial of Homeland Security under Bush? From this, I assume they didn’t start reading my site until Obama was elected. Hey, all that extra traffic had to come from somewhere. . . .

But for those who are late to the game, try this or this. Or just go here and keep scrolling.

December 30, 2009

WIRED: How Algal Biofuels Lost a Decade in the Race to Replace Oil.

December 30, 2009

NHTSA LAUNCHES DISTRACTED DRIVER WEBSITE.

Coming soon — flashing “Don’t Be Distracted While Driving” billboards! Where the type is just a shade too small to read without squinting . . . .

Hey, don’t laugh — I saw something like this in Columbus a couple of months ago.

December 30, 2009

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: A Humpty-Dumpty View Of The World.

December 30, 2009

MAUREEN DOWD: As the Nation’s Pulse Races, Obama Can’t Seem to Find His. Is it just me, or does he seem like he’s not enjoying the Presidency as much as he expected? Plus, comparing Janet Napolitano to Janet Reno? Harsh. (Via Ed Morrissey, who notes that Dowd’s sounding like Cheney these days. “If Obama has lost Maureen Dowd, then perhaps the outrageous outrage that erupted this morning over Cheney’s remarks should be reconsidered. Be sure to read Dowd’s entire column, a sentence I thought I’d never write.”)

December 30, 2009

RADLEY BALKO: The Criminalization Of Protest: Police and politicians ignore the First Amendment when we need it the most.

December 30, 2009

SHOCKER: States with the highest taxes also rank as the unhappiest.

December 30, 2009

NICK SCHULZ: “I Didn’t Have Time to Write a Short Bill, So I Wrote a Long One Instead.”

December 30, 2009

I.R.S. OFFERS TIPS FOR YEAR-END CHARITABLE DONATIONS.

If you’re looking for places to donate, might I suggest the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Institute for Justice, or the Foresight Institute? Or, of course, Horse Haven of Tennessee.

December 30, 2009

TEA PARTY GROUPS growing in North Georgia. And everywhere else, which is a mixed bag for the sclerotic, out-of-touch Republican leadership . . . .

December 30, 2009

A SENATE HEALTH-CARE BILL timeline.

December 30, 2009

POLITICO: What Obama’s Probe Is Finding: “If the dots had been connected, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried to detonate the bomb, would have been denied entry to the U.S. or at least screened more thoroughly, the reviews have found. . . . Several clues to the unfolding plot were not shared sufficiently within the intelligence community. The CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center, which was created on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, did not adequately alert the FBI or others who might have acted on information they received.”

UPDATE: “Hoekstra deserves an apology.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: “Don’t Worry. We’ll be much better at health care.”

Plus this: “And speaking of Napolitano’s abysmal performance over the weekend… where’s Hillary? Was she made Secretary of State for the purpose of hiding her away?”

December 30, 2009

REVIEWS OF THE NEW SHERLOCK HOLMES MOVIE from Randy Barnett and John Nolte.

December 30, 2009

IN THE MAIL: From Nick Schulz and Arnold Kling, From Poverty to Prosperity: Intangible Assets, Hidden Liabilities and The Lasting Triumph over Scarcity.

December 30, 2009

MICHAEL BARONE:

It looks like a happy new year for you — if you’re a public employee.

That’s the takeaway from a recent Rasmussen poll that shows that 46 percent of government employees say the economy is getting better while just 31 percent say it’s getting worse. In contrast, 32 percent of those with private-sector jobs say the economy is getting better, while 49 percent it is getting worse.

Nearly half, 44 percent, of government employees rate their personal finances as good or excellent. Only 33 percent of private-sector employees do.

It sounds like public- and private-sector employees are looking at different Americas. And they are.

Private-sector employment peaked at 115.8 million in December 2007, when the recession officially began. It was down to 108.5 million last November. That’s a 6 percent decline.

Public-sector employment peaked at 22.6 million in August 2008. It fell a bit in 2009, then has rebounded back to 22.5 million in November. That’s less than a 1 percent decline.

This is not an accident; it is the result of deliberate public policy.

And only bitter-clinger types could possibly object. You know, extremists.

UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin writes: “Oh, so that’s what John Edwards meant about the two Americas!”

December 30, 2009

POLITICO: Blue State Governors Rip Senate Health Bill.

December 30, 2009

THIS’LL SOLVE OUR HOMELAND SECURITY PROBLEMS! Napolitano Wants To Unionize TSA Employees.

December 30, 2009

A CLIMATEGATE INTERVIEW, at BigGovernment.com.

December 30, 2009

THE NEW HIP TREND: Canning and pickling! I’ve noticed a lot of people going on about this on Facebook, but I thought that was just my weird friends. Turns out it’s my hip friends!

December 30, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS, KID: “They just took my money.”