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Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Little Hair of the Dog

December 10th, 2012 - 3:50 pm
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It’s an extra-ranty edition.

Labor of Love

December 10th, 2012 - 2:38 pm

Saving — and rebuilding — the bridge of the Enterprise-D.

The US won’t be the only superpower by the year 2030? Don’t look so shocked — it was inevitable. It also isn’t true.

American power was bound to decline in relative terms, as China caught up and Russia regained its footing. It’s also the human nature that when one power is dominant, smaller powers will band together against it. That has nothing to do with whether a power is relatively benign, like the US, or an evil empire like Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany.

But we also seem to be entering a period where all powers might be in decline. China may grow old before it grows rich, to borrow Mark Steyn’s memorable phrase. Not helping things are China’s “Potemkin skyscrapers.” When their bust comes, as it must, it’s going to be brutal. And tough to climb out of while also in a demographic decline.

Speaking of demographic declines, Russia never did regain its footing. And the population is shrinking by nearly a million a year. Russia has a lot of people — and a lot of years — before it ceases to exist. But Moscow is also finding it’s tough to be a mineral-based power in an information age. They should have learned that lesson in the mid-’80s, but… still nope.

And Russia is just the meaner, more brutish version of what’s going on in Europe and Japan. Awash in debt and scarce on babies is no way to go through life, folks. Yet we seem to be catching …down… with them.

There’s a nugget of a bad Will Smith (or a good Vincent Price) movie in there somewhere.

What do all these impending failures have in common? Bad governance. Western nations have ridiculed and disincentivized family and babies. And who can afford the little ones in Obama’s economy, anyway? Russia got there sooner, as utter hopelessness merged with free abortion-as-contraception. China went with a one-child policy that might have seemed like a good idea at the time — but is proving troublesome as the country will end up with 100,000,000 too many men.

What it comes down to is, the human race may well become the first species to legislate itself out of existence.

So: Welcome to a world without superpowers. Or people.

Jihadi Cheat Sheet

December 10th, 2012 - 10:05 am

News you can use: The Secular Idiot’s Guide to Syria’s Jihadist Groups.

Soon enough, I’m sure, one of these will be in possession of whatever is left of Assad’s chemical arsenal, so we’d best get to know them.

Obama Says: Take Your Medicine

December 10th, 2012 - 7:19 am

Dan Danner on ObamaCare’s un(?)intended consequences:

Recent news media coverage has highlighted larger businesses reducing employee hours below 30 hours per week in order to avoid the employer-mandate requirements or penalties. Smaller businesses, too, might be forced to reduce employment below the 50 full-time equivalent employee threshold, or resist growing above the threshold, to avoid the mandate. None of these options is productive, and they ultimately harm employees and the economy. Replacing one full-time position with two part-time positions is not job creation.

Don’t be silly — of course it’s job creation. Soviet hospitals didn’t use wheelchairs, because a stretcher requires two employees to operate. We’re just following the Soviet path to prosperity.

More seriously, big business is going to love this stuff. Small business now has a very good reason to stay small, or face the increased costs (and hence increased risks) imposed by ObamaCare. Our entrenched interests are becoming ever more entrenched.

Progressivism is an essentially feudal system, and we’re the serfs.

Tax THIS!

December 9th, 2012 - 11:30 am

Just a reminder, taxes are already going up on “the rich” in just three weeks:

Starting Jan. 1, investment income for individuals earning over $200,000 and households earning over $250,000 will be subject to a new 3.8 percent tax. Further, regular income above those thresholds will be hit with a .9 percent Medicare surtax. Should the Bush tax rates expire for those workers, those increases will be compounded.

What Obama wants is additional tax increases on top of the ones he and the Democrats imposed two years ago.

UPDATE: I almost forgot why I put “the rich” in quotes. And that is, you’re now “in the top 2% of earners” if you’re in the top 20% of earners. The NYT has that story for you:

Affluent people are much more likely than low-income people to have health insurance, and now they will, in effect, help pay for coverage for many lower-income families. Among the most affluent fifth of households, those affected will see tax increases averaging $6,000 next year, economists estimate. [Emphasis added.]

That top fifth includes households making $75k or so a year. But, yes, please let’s do keep talking about “millionaires and billionaires.”

It’s Obama’s party. We’re just paying for it.

Lather. Tax. Repeat.

December 8th, 2012 - 1:52 pm

Let’s just call today “Repeat Saturday.” From the NYT:

Even if Republicans were to agree to Mr. Obama’s core demand — that the top marginal income rates return to the Clinton-era levels of 36 percent and 39.6 percent after Dec. 31, rather than stay at the Bush-era rates of 33 percent and 35 percent — the additional revenue would be only about a quarter of the $1.6 trillion that Mr. Obama wants to collect over 10 years. That would be about half of the $800 billion that Republicans have said they would be willing to raise.

Huh. You don’t say.

How am I supposed to blog about the news when I’m so far out in front of it?

Unwinding the Unwindable

December 8th, 2012 - 9:58 am

The Fed’s thirteen-digit balance sheet is proving a little sticky:

“There is certainly an issue about unwinding the balance sheet” in a way that “is effective and continues to support the recovery without creating inflation,” St. Louis Fed Bank President James Bullard said in an interview in October. The central bank might have to “revisit” the 2011 strategy, he added.

The Fed is already buying $40 billion a month in mortgage- backed securities to boost the economy, and policy makers meeting Dec. 11-12 will consider whether to purchase more assets. John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, has proposed adding $45 billion of Treasury securities a month.

The bigger the balance sheet, “the riskier the exit becomes,” Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said during a Nov. 20 speech in New York.

Huh. You don’t say.

If This Goes On –

December 8th, 2012 - 7:16 am

Trifecta: Was Barack Obama predicted by… Robert Heinlein?

The Week in Blogs

December 8th, 2012 - 5:00 am
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Friday Night Videos

December 7th, 2012 - 9:21 pm
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I was spending the night at my friend Chris’s house and we were watching Friday Night Videos and this song came on and I entered puberty.

True story.

The Times They Are A-You-Know-What

December 7th, 2012 - 3:16 pm

I just typed “Michigan is a right-to-work state,” and without being facetious, and the Earth did not open up and swallow me whole.

Imagine that.

Cargo Cultists Revisited

December 7th, 2012 - 1:12 pm

I hate to repeat myself, but sometimes (rarely, but sometimes) I’m just so gosh-darned right that my words bear repeating. Here are a few from June of 2011 I was reminded of by the impending fiscal cliff:

Cargo cults arose in the South Pacific during the Second World War. US soldiers and marines would arrive on an tropical island, and one of the first things they’d do was build an airstrip. Then the cargo planes would arrive and — Americans being Americans — our boys would share their loot with the half-starved locals. Candy, clothes, condoms, whatever.

The war eventually ended and the soldiers left and the cargo planes stopped coming. So the locals would make their own airstrips, using whatever tools they had — some quite elaborate. Then they’d stare at the skies and wait for the cargo planes to return.

That’s what quantitative easing is. “Print the money,” they say, staring at the skies, “and the goods will come.”

Well, no.

The goods must first be produced, and with the expectation of a profit. I know it’s fashionable for Paul Krugman to assert that “uncertainty is just a myth.” But this idea that there are Person Units called “Businessmen” who continue to produce goods no matter what government does to them is a liberal conceit. It’s the same liberal conceit that believes there are other Person Units called “Doctors” who will go on treating patients and finding new cures for diseases, no matter what government does to them.

People change their behavior as incentives change. And for the last three years, the incentive has been to hunker down and try not to get hurt.

But Krugman and the rest are immune to simple reason and plain facts, because they’re creatures of faith. They’re cargo cultists. Print the money and the goods will rain down magically from the skies.

We’ve tried that twice now. It hasn’t worked. And so the cargo cultists tell us that the gods are angry gods. We have not appeased them enough. We must print more money. We must have a third round of quantitative easing. That will make the goods appear.

We hearing the same argument now over federal spending: We have to keep printing checks to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, or the economy will implode.

Well, no.

I mean, yes. Yes, the economy is going to implode. Big Fat Washington is sitting on its chest, whacking it in the head with a big burlap sack filled with dollar coins and demanding to know why it won’t produce any jobs. This is after Big Fat Washington sicced the Lilliputians on the economy and then stole its wallet. Poor guy just can’t catch a break.

What I’m saying is, the money won’t mean anything — whether or not Washington is printing all the checks — unless the goods and services are being produced. But so long as Obama and the Chicago Squad remain in town, the builders and doers are going to stay just as hunkered down as they were last year.

Government is King

December 7th, 2012 - 10:36 am

Where the jobs are:

Seventy-three percent of the new civilian jobs created in the United States over the last five months are in government, according to official data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In June, a total of 142,415,000 people were employed in the U.S, according to the BLS, including 19,938,000 who were employed by federal, state and local governments.

I don’t want to hear one more goddamn word about sustainability.

And “growing the middle out?” There’s nothing for the middle to do but be crushed under the weight of the Leviathan.

It Tolls for Thee

December 7th, 2012 - 8:50 am

Came across three big links to this New Geography piece over the last couple days, so I figured I’d better finally sit down and read it. Because what it looks like is, if my sons do pursue any of the careers I’ve been nudging them towards, I might just be nudging them towards human bondage. Read:

Ironically the new taxes will have relatively little effect on the detested Romney uber-class, who derive most of their income from capital gains, taxed at a much lower rate. They also have access to all manner of offshore dodges. Nor will it have much impact on Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires, or the Hollywood moguls and urban land speculators who constitute the Democratic Party’s “good rich,” and enjoy many of the same privileges as their wealthy conservative counterparts.

The people whose wallets will be drained in the new war on “the rich” are high-earning, but hardly plutocratic professionals like engineers, doctors, lawyers, small business owners and the like. Once seen as the bastion of the middle class, and exemplars of upward mobility, these people are emerging as the modern day “kulaks,” the affluent peasants ruthlessly targeted by Stalin in the early 1930s.

It never was about taxing the rich. We know this. Unless taxes are flatter and far, far simpler, the rich just don’t have to pay like we do. There’s no loophole for that little fishing boat you’ve been saving for, but John Kerry can keep his yacht wherever.

There’s big money to be squeezed from the upper-middle class, but that’s only the beginning. The real money is smack-dab in the middle of the middle class. You’d hardly know it, what with declining real wages and declining household net worth. But the middle class makes decent money, and they make it every two weeks, and goddamn that beast in Washington must be fed.

If they can’t squeeze it out of you through withholding, they’ll squeeze it out of you through ever-more-expensive insurance you’re required to buy — and which they now tax. They’ll get it out of you by taxing the pacemaker your mom needs. They’ll tax the bejeebus out of your utility company, with the “savings” passed on to you. They’ll make your car more expensive with new CAFE rules. If you hang on to your old car, they’ll make you pay through a VAT or whatever scheme comes next to bleed you dry.

You’re made to pay because they need your money to buy the vote of the guy who makes one less dollar than you do, and who can’t get by without his ObamaPhone and wants another hundred bucks on his EBT card. It’s not his fault — he’s just taking advantage of the system. And you aren’t.

We live in the Welfare State. Act accordingly.

Your Friday Morning Dose of Doom & Gloom

December 7th, 2012 - 7:11 am

540,000 people gave up hope and left the workforce in the month of President Obama’s re-election, compared to just 146,000 new jobs. That’s an almost four-to-one ratio.

We live in the Welfare State. Act accordingly.

First We’ll Bandage a Few Wounds

December 7th, 2012 - 6:26 am

Trifecta: Tea Party 2.0 — now what?

GM Back On the Hook?

December 7th, 2012 - 5:10 am

This case was so under-the-radar it never popped up in any of my Google Alert emails about GM stories. But it won’t stay there:

A New York federal judge may rule imminently on a case that could reverse the General Motors (GM) bailout and send the company back into bankruptcy, according to sources close to the case.

At issue is a backroom deal hatched by GM to fulfill the Obama administration’s demand for a quick bankruptcy, draining the automaker of nearly all of its cash on hand and leaving it in worse shape than it was when it collapsed in 2009.

One condition of GM’s bailout was to shore up its overseas subsidiaries. On the eve of entering bankruptcy, the company cut a $367 million “lock-up agreement” with several major hedge funds to prevent GM Canada from failing. The agreement ensured that GM could spin-off its liabilities to “old GM,” while using a multi-billion dollar bailout to create a new company.

All of that could be reversed if bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber reopens the process and rules in favor of old GM trustees, who are suing the hedge funds at the center of the lockout agreement.

If GM’s bondholder’s finally end up being made whole, it would go some small way to returning a little bit of certainty to this lawless economy.

Out of the Frying Pan…

December 6th, 2012 - 4:05 pm

ObamaCare will reduce costs by increasing your expenses. Or something:

Obamacare “imposes a new sales tax on health insurance that starts at $8 billion in 2014, increase to $14.3 billion in 2018, and will continue to increase each year,” AHIP explains to introduce the study on the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). Although the government taxes the health insurance providers, the Congressional Budget Office acknowledged in 2009 that the cost “would be passed on to purchasers and would ultimately raise insurance premiums by a corresponding amount.”

In ten years, that’s an extra $10,000 per family of four. Howls of protest from families feeling the pinch will result in the single payer system Obama wanted all along.

Then they’ll really own us.

It’s the Spending, Stupid

December 6th, 2012 - 1:55 pm

It’s also the stupid spending. Here’s George Will:

At the end of the Clinton administration, when the budget was balanced (largely by revenue generated by commercialization of the Internet), annual federal spending was $1.94 trillion and revenue was $2.10 trillion. “Adjusting for inflation and population growth since the start of 2001,” Dorfman writes, “today’s equivalents would be $2.77 trillion and $3.00 trillion,” and a $230 billion surplus.

What is to blame for today’s huge imbalance? The George W. Bush tax cuts? The recession? Obama’s spending? Dorfman answers yes, yes and yes — but that “spending is the main culprit” because: Today federal revenue is $2.67 trillion (slightly less than “the Clinton equivalent”) and spending is $3.76 trillion, so we are spending $987 billion more than we would be if we had just increased Bill Clinton’s last budget for inflation and population growth.

George W. Bush’s “compassionate” “conservatism” really lifted the lid for what followed. The idea was for Republicans to spend like Democrats, only without all the nasty taxes. Tax & Borrow & Spend Democrats were replaced by Borrow & Borrow & Spend Republicans.

As soon as the Democrats returned to power, they could point to the awfulness of the Bush budgets. When they did that, they could (and did) say that Republicans didn’t spend enough, which they’d always said before. This time, though, they were pointing to enormous GOP budget (which Democrats said were still too small) and to enormous GOP deficits (which Democrats had zero intention of shrinking).

They also got to point to the Bush tax rates and claim that “the rich” aren’t paying “their fair share.” I mean, just look at those huge deficits.

So when the Republicans tried to mount a defense, they looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars. But they have no one to blame but themselves, for following along with Bush’s folly.

The War on Pinups

December 6th, 2012 - 12:30 pm

Seriously.

So, here’s a little something for all my friends in the military. Just pull up your new favorite VodkaPundit post after the brass leaves.

A Dreamer’s Holiday

December 6th, 2012 - 11:18 am

Mandate:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 19% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the government should increase federal spending to help stimulate the economy. Sixty-two percent (62%) oppose new spending as an economic stimulus.

He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

Required Reading

December 6th, 2012 - 10:10 am

The NYT has a cute report on famous and semi-famous misquotes of famous people, but this bit stuck out:

Gandhi’s words have been tweaked a little too in recent years. Perhaps you’ve noticed a bumper sticker that purports to quote him: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” When you first come across it, this does sound like something Gandhi would have said. But when you think about it a little, it starts to sound more like … a bumper sticker. Displayed brightly on the back of a Prius, it suggests that your responsibilities begin and end with your own behavior. It’s apolitical, and a little smug.

A smug bumpersticker on the back of a Prius? But that’s unpossible!

Senator Jim DeMint will step down next month to head the Heritage Foundation.

That’s one less sane voice on fiscal issues on the Hill, and such perfect timing.

So It’s Come to This

December 6th, 2012 - 7:40 am

Trifecta: Even dolphins will bite the hand that feeds them. Shocking video of a brutal assault.

Q is Real and He Works for the North Koreans

December 6th, 2012 - 6:13 am

No kidding, this is real-life James Bond stuff:

South Korea recently revealed three weapons captured from a North Korean agent. Two of the weapons were disguised to look like a pen. One contained a poison tipped needle. The poison used is a muscle relaxant that causes paralysis and eventually suffocation (as the lungs stop working). Another version of this poison pen fires a small bullet containing the same type of poison. A third weapon was a small flashlight that contained three bullets that could be fired one at a time. This weapon was tested by South Korean technicians and found to work perfectly.

South Korean officials did not immediately respond to questions concerning the enemy agent’s rumored shoe phone.

Surface Sales: Even Worse Than We Thought

December 6th, 2012 - 5:04 am

Ouch:

While some see potential in Microsoft’s Surface tablet, most industry watchers appear to have written off the device at this point. Orders were reportedly cut in half following a slow launch, and Microsoft’s (MSFT) debut slate has been hammered time and time again by reviewers and analysts. The latest to pile on is Boston-based brokerage firm Detwiler Fenton, which estimates that when all is said and done, Microsoft will have sold fewer than 1 million Surface tablets in the slate’s debut quarter.

Apple sold 300,000 iPads on the very first day — and that was almost three years ago, when the tablet market simply didn’t exist until Apple conjured it up.

Trifecta: Prices are low, and they’ve got hypocrisy in bulk at Costco.

To Nuke or Not to Nuke

December 5th, 2012 - 2:44 pm

It’s been a long time — maybe never — since I found myself nodding to something from the editors of CSM. But here it is:

The rationale for any US intervention in Syria may be important for Americans to know sooner rather than later. Intense fighting has erupted around Damascus. President Bashar al-Assad appears dangerously cornered. On Monday, Mr. Obama seemed to tip his hand more strongly on the moral versus self-interest question. He warned Mr. Assad that “there will be consequences and you will be held accountable” if the Syrian Army uses its stockpile of chemical weapons.

The weapons pose little or no threat to the American homeland. Yet Obama’s moral stance on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction – similar to his tough warnings to Iran about building a nuclear bomb – has pushed him to promise a response in Syria that is only lightly veiled as one involving force. That contrasts with no threat of US force to end Assad’s killing of tens of thousands of civilians.

I must be stupid, because all of this smart diplomacy just confuses me.

This morning I wanted to focus my comments on the abuses dished out by the media and news companies, but the biggest offender is…

Twitter.

Yes, Twitter. The microblogging site where I live and breathe when I’m not here at PJMedia. Twitter is easily is worst of the bunch.

If you want to use a Twitter app, it had better be the Official Twitter App and nothing but the Official Twitter App, because Twitter has put the squeeze on developers and is forcing them off the platform. Now, I read a lot of praise for the Official Twitter App, but officially it sucks.

Why? You can’t see who’s re-tweeting your Tweets. I throw a lot of one-liners out on Twitter, and I need to know what works. And the way to find that out is to see if people (and how many people) are giving it the old RT. But that’s classified info on the Twitter app.

So just load up your mobile browser, right? Wrong. That info is locked down there, too.

Why? F***-all if I know. (Sorry. I watched The Commitments last night again.)

Anyway, Twitter has become useless to me on mobile, and for reasons I can’t figure out and they won’t reveal. I suspect the problem lies in the fact that Twitter’s board members think they have the next multibillion-dollar website, when in fact it’s “merely” a multimillion-dollar website. And they’re going to drive it down the tubes trying to make it something it isn’t.