Liebherr shows off the power of their Excavator (that's backhoe to you non-construction people). I promise you this is the coolest thing you have seen all day!
Friday, September 25, 2009
It would be hardly appropriate to address the existence of this video, without addressing the items that Zennie Abraham has pointed to today in responding to what he somehow perceives is a racially motivated witchunt on Michelle Malkin's part in her coverage of the video. The first is video that Abraham brings up is one of kids at Jesus Camp being directed to praise President Bush.
The second item is a song that kids were taught for an appearance by Laura Bush, praising Congree, FEMA and Bush for their work after Katrina.
Our country stood beside usNow, first of all, I would be remiss in allowing Zennie Abraham off the hook for his claiming that Michelle Malkin's coverage of the Obama Song video is racially motivated. His own argument falls under its own weight.
People have sent us aid.
Katrina could not stop us,
our hopes will never fade.
Congress, Bush and FEMA
People across our land
Together have come to rebuild us and we join
Now I'd bet Michelle would say, "Aww, that's so cute!" Why? Because the kids are white and its George Bush? Yeah, right. And so there's the racial problem - she can ignore singing if its done by white school kids praising a white Republican President, but if the subject's America's first black President, she gets really mad.First of all, apparently Mr. Abraham is color-blind himself, and didn't notice the african american boy in the video he brings to our attention. Who knows, perhaps he assumes the boy is a "token" included for purposes of diversity by the filmmakers? Doubtful given the boy's exuberance in his praises for God. More to the point, however, to move out of the useless realm of racial politics, it is important to point out that Mr. Abraham's video is from a religious camp, and not a public school. Children there are being indoctrinated in their families' faith in a private setting.
This has been the big argument from all who are outraged at the Obama Song video. This is happening in public schools, funded by taxpayer dollars. Many have argued that this has never happened before. This is where Abraham's citations are important. He is showing us, even though his point is ignorant of anything that matters, that this has in fact, happened before. This is where his citing the FEMA song is much more pertinent, and where his closing reprimand of Malkin would carry some weight, if only his own argument weren't one rooted in race relations.
You've got no choice here; no cherry picking. Either accept them all, or denounce them all.The answer, of course, is that everyone should denounce such individualized indoctrination. This is not something that a Democrat should look at and say is OK just because it's Barack Obama. Neither is the FEMA song something a Republican should defend just because it was George Bush. Both Republicans and Democrats absolutely must discourage such behavior on the part of our educators, whether public educators, like those in the Obama and FEMA songs, or private educators, like those in the Jesus Camp video.
The reason is simple. There is always an indoctrination of the young that takes place in any learning setting. We have all gone to school and been taught songs glorifying the United States. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful, the Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America. The list is endless. But the list is full of important songs. Every song instills in us a sense of pride for liberty, for freedom, and love for the beautiful country we call home. Such feelings indoctrinated into us are feelings that inspire us throughout our lifetimes to live lives of purpose, and act with reverence for where we live. The bravest and most dedicated amongst us choose to go into service to defend our highest principles of freedom and liberty.
The types of songs I've listed above are the songs of my childhood that still fill me with pride. Every now and then, they can be sung so beautifully as to raise goosebumps on one's skin, or to bring a tear to one's eye. All of them were written for this purpose. All were intended to instill a lifelong love of the United States of America into the listener, a love that would run deeper than any personal disagreement with the politics of our leaders. All were intended to unify us in common song, in common reverence for our principles.
As innocuous as something like a cute song being made up by teachers to show reverence to a visiting president, any visiting president, may seem to some folks, we have to recognize that everything of this sort is indoctrination, whether intended to be or not. And in the end, the indocrination of the minds of the youth toward an individual is particularly dangerous, not only for the health of the country, but for the health of the minds of the children.
A simple question can be posed. If time is spent now glorifying Barack Obama in the minds of those kids, what then are those kids going to think in three more years if Barack Obama is no longer the President? Likely they will wonder with disillusionment where their leader went. Perhaps some of them may become resentful, having been taught to equate the United States of America with Barack Obama. Thus their love of country would become damaged, and a longer period of readjustment to the realities of a republic would need to take place. The practice in general becomes divisive for the country as a whole.
This is the case for educators of any persuasion. Indocrination of a love of the United States of America as a land of freedom and prosperity and opportunity can instill a sense of team unity that will transcend political differences for a lifetime. Indoctrination of love for individuals can only be damaging, and in the end, worthless.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
HR 1207 has garnered widespread support for one very simple reason. The Federal Reserve is accountable to no one. Whether one is of an Austrian leaning economically, and wants this country to follow the moral path of sound money, or one is a ruthless big government zealot foolishly hoping for more political control of monetary policy (as if this were possible), the attraction for transparency is universal.
Some, like Henry Bee, argue that an open and transparent audit of the Federal Reserve would be "economic suicide." I have countered those arguments, and subsequently gone on to have a comment-battle with Mr. Bee over the issue in this post.
All of the talk, all of the Tea Parties, all of the grass-roots activism pulling in support for HR 1207 has worked. The time is now for HR 1207. Tomorrow, Friday morning, September 25th, the House Committee on Financial Services is holding hearings on HR 1207.
The show begins at 9:00 AM EST and will be broadcast live on the web. Go here to check it out. Even if you don't really care about it, think of it as a gameshow hosted by Barney Frank. Then you can laugh on a Friday morning!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve acknowledged Wednesday that an economic recovery was under way, but signaled that it was still much too early to start raising interest rates.
In a statement following a two-day meeting by the Fed’s policy makers, the central bank repeated that it would keep its benchmark overnight interest rate at virtually zero for “an extended period.” That almost certainly means until at least some time in 2010.
Lost Decade, here we come.
The Lost Decade (失われた10年, ushinawareta jūnen) is the time after the Japanese asset price bubble's collapse (崩壊, hōkai), which occurred gradually rather than catastrophically.
The strong economic growth of the 1980s ended abruptly at the start of the 1990s. In the late 1980s, abnormalities within the Japanese economic system had fueled a massive wave of speculation by Japanese companies, banks and securities companies. A combination of exceptionally high land values and exceptionally low interest rates briefly led to a position in which credit was both easily available and extremely cheap. This led to massive borrowing, the proceeds of which were invested mostly in domestic and foreign stocks and securities.
Recognizing that this bubble was unsustainable, the Finance Ministry sharply raised interest rates in late 1989. This abruptly terminated the bubble, leading to a massive crash in the stock market. It also led to a debt crisis; a large proportion of the debts that had been run up turned bad, which in turn led to a crisis in the banking sector, with many banks being bailed out by the government.
Michael Schuman of Time Magazine noted that banks kept injecting new funds into unprofitable "zombie firms" to keep them afloat, arguing that they were too big to fail. However, most of these companies were too debt-ridden to do much more than survive on further bailouts, which led to an economist describing Japan as a "loser's paradise." Schuman states that Japan's economy did not begin to recover until this practice had ended.
President Obama -- Stop Talking! In the first half of the George W. Bush administration, when the 43rd president was popular, Bush spent a great deal of time traveling around the United States giving speeches: sometimes advocating various causes, sometimes at fundraisers, sometimes simply appearing before some organization. That any president should use the public's time -- and the million-a-day cost of moving and protecting the president -- at partisan political fundraisers is offensive. All postwar presidents, Democratic and Republican, have appeared at partisan fundraisers at taxpayers' expense, and TMQ thinks this should be banned. Some Bush speaking appearances became controversial, when the Secret Service or Republican Party operatives tried to forbid anyone critical of Bush from entering the speech locations. But the key point was not that Bush was making speeches under questionable circumstances; the key point was that he was making way too many speeches, period. Ultimately, substituting speechifying for governing diminished Bush's presidency. Now Barack Obama has started down the same path.
Merely in the past two weeks, President Obama has given a major health care address to Congress, a major address on bank regulation on Wall Street, a speech to the nation's schoolchildren (who were considerably better behaved than Congress), a major address on the economy to the AFL-CIO in Pittsburgh, a speech on health care in Minneapolis, a speech on health care at the University of Maryland, a speech marking the anniversary of 9/11, a speech to the UAW at an auto plant in Lordstown, Ohio, a speech in New York honoring Walter Cronkite, a speech at an Arlen Specter fundraiser in Philadelphia, a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (it's not a caucus, it's a Caucus Institute), a speech at a picnic in Cincinnati, a speech lauding a posthumous winner of the Medal of Honor, a speech about community colleges in Troy, N.Y., and a major speech on climate change at the United Nations. You can track presidential speechmaking here. This paragraph lists only his prepared speeches at public events: I exclude media appearances and informal presidential remarks during the greeting of world leaders, literary figures or sports teams. Obama is making way too many speeches.
The first reason he's making too many speeches is that speechifying is time-consuming. Writers prepare the texts, but Obama must think about what he wants to say; rehearse what the writers come up with; travel to the speech location; give the speech and travel back. A speechmaking appearance outside the nation's capital pretty much nails the day. Obama's trip to Los Angeles to give a speech and appear on "The Tonight Show" nailed two days, taking jet lag into account. Just because jets make travel convenient -- when FDR left on the battleship Iowa to attend the 1943 Tehran Conference of Allied leaders, his travel time each way was more than a week -- does not mean constant flying around is sensible. When does Obama have time to do the actual work of governing?
The next concern is that too-frequent speechmaking devalues the presidential voice. When the president speaks occasionally, he commands attention; a president who speaks all the time becomes just another clanging cymbal in the background yammer. I bet Obama gives 10 speeches for every one given by John Kennedy. At the current rate, by 2010, an Obama speech will no longer be viewed as an important moment.
More than this is the concern that speeches are stage-managed to stroke the president's ego, which is the last thing any chief executive of either party needs. There's always an adoring crowd, waving banners, saluting soldiers, with thunderous applause. Surely all recent presidents come away from such stage-managed speeches thinking, "They love me!" Surely the younger George Bush gave so many speeches in his first term because it was flattering to his ego to be surrounded by cheering crowds who would clap loudly even for inutile banalities. But the office of the presidency isn't about fun for its holder. Bush wanted to give speeches to sympathetic crowds to make himself feel good. If Obama is speechifying for the same reason, this does not speak well of him.
Most important, too-frequent speeches turn the president into an actor reading lines. Barack Obama's job is not to get applause: his job is to improve the country. But improving the country is pretty challenging, whereas going out and getting applause is a snap. We don't yet know if Obama can reform health care or negotiate with hostile powers or reduce the national debt; we know for sure he can get applause. It's disturbing to see him spending so much time and energy chasing ovations, which have zero lasting value, while putting off the real work of reform. A president who gives speeches all the time becomes a blowhard who likes to hear himself talk but never gets around to accomplishing anything. For Bush, by his third year in office, his road speeches sounded like he was campaigning -- he would speak vaguely about an agenda while wagging his finger against Washington, skipping the complication that he was in charge of Washington. This is already creeping into Obama's speechmaking. Lately he has been wagging his finger about "folks in Washington" as though he's not one of them, to say nothing of Folk Number One.
One of the core realities of politics is that it is a thousand times easier to campaign than to govern. Sarah Palin quit being a governor because that's a lot of work, the work requires you to cooperate with opponents, and you're held accountable. In campaign speeches, by contrast, you can denounce opponents and promise the moon, but never take responsibility. Being president of the United States is a huge amount of work. Giving speeches and being love-bombed by adoring audiences sure sounds like a more pleasing way to spend the day. It's time Barack Obama stopped giving so many speeches and concentrated on leadership.
Will The Car Czar's Children Inherit His Title? Right now, Glenn Beck and others on the right are obsessing about President Obama having too many czars, some of whom are not Senate-confirmed. Is this shocking? As Paul Light of New York University showed in his 1999 book "The True Size of Government," the number of political appointees directly controlled by the president is surprisingly small, fewer than 3,000 positions. Most Washington executive officials are civil servants, military personnel or foreign-service officers, over whom the White House has suasion but not hiring-and-firing authority. It does not offend me that the president grants portfolios to advisers: I am not clear on why this offends Beck, other than, perhaps, he needs his rabies booster shot. Conservatives rarely object when governmental czars behave like actual czars, such as in 2002, when Tom Ridge was George W. Bush's security czar and was busily approving restrictions on civil liberties. But I do worry that recent presidents have too much redundant overlap among councils, directors, czars and czarinas, and that Obama is worsening this trend, which seems most pronounced in intelligence, economics and environmental policy. Consider:
Obama has an Environmental Protection Agency, plus a Council on Environmental Quality chaired by Nancy Sutley, plus a White House-level special environmental adviser, TMQ's pal Carol Browner, plus environmental divisions in the departments of Energy, Transportation and Interior, plus a Fish and Wildlife Service, plus a Bureau of Land Management. He has a Treasury Department, plus a Federal Reserve, plus a Council of Economic Advisers chaired by Christina Romer, plus a National Economic Policy Council chaired by Lawrence Summers, plus a White House special economics adviser, Paul Volcker, plus an Office of the Trade Representative, which does economic policy. The Council of Economic Advisers has, in turn, its own staff of economic statisticians, though an entire Bureau of Labor Statistics exists to compile economic data, while the Federal Reserve also has an econ stats division. What do such overlapping advisers and councils do? Fight for the president's attention.
Overlap is worst on the security, military and intelligence fronts, where the top of the United States government increasingly looks like a scene that Gilbert & Sullivan cut from "H.M.S. Pinafore" as unrealistic. Obama has a Secretary of Defense, a Secretary of State, a CIA director, a Director of National Intelligence, a National Security Adviser, a National Security Council, a President's Intelligence Advisory Board, a President's Intelligence Oversight Board, a National Security Agency, a Defense Intelligence Agency, separate Air Force, Navy and Army intelligence commands, a National Counterterrorism Center, a Department of Energy Office of Intelligence, an FBI Directorate of Intelligence, a State Department Intelligence and Research branch, a Treasury Department Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, an Office of National Security Intelligence at the Drug Enforcement Administration, an Office of Intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, a Secret Service, a National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and a National Reconnaissance Office. All these in turn have their own internal hierarchies: For instance, the Treasury Department Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence has a Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Office of the Secretary.
Several of these top-heavy, intersecting security and intelligence entities were created in the wake of 9/11, apparently on the assumption that terrorists would be afraid of very large, slow-moving bureaucracies. Though the United States already had a CIA director, whose grand formal title is Director of Central Intelligence, in 2004, Congress added the Director of National Intelligence; at the time, Tuesday Morning Quarterback quipped that the new official should be dubbed the Director of the Director of Central Intelligence. On paper, the Director of National Intelligence is superior to the CIA director, so surely you know who this august individual is. One canny tactic of the Director of National Intelligence is to post our antiterrorism strategy on the Web, complete with colorful graphics. Are the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of Central Intelligence working together tirelessly in the national interest? No, they are engaged in a childish food fight regarding who gets to sign memos. You can bet all the overlapping councils and directorates spend as much time in turf wars regarding trite markers of personal prestige, such as sitting close to the president during photo-ops, as they do in service to the taxpayer.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
In the film, Michael describes capitalism as evil. I disagree. I don't think capitalism is evil. I think what we have right now is not capitalism.While she's flip-flopped the last sentence, her point is correct.
In capitalism as envisioned by its leading lights, including Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall, you need a moral foundation in order for free markets to work. And when a company fails, it fails. It doesn't get bailed out using trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. What we have right now is Corporatism. It's welfare for the rich. It's the government picking winners and losers. It's Wall Street having their taxpayer-funded cake and eating it too. It's socialized gains and privatized losses.
1. What role does the Federal Reserve have in our current economic downturn, and how would auditing the Fed improve our situation.
2. Do you think you were treated fairly by the mainstream media during the 2008 Presidential Primary?
3. Why do you support the decriminilization of marijuana?
4. How do you feel about the way you were shown in the latest Sacha Baron Cohen film, Bruno?
5. Do you feel that fear-mongering from conspiracy theorists helps or hurts the cause of Liberty?
6. Why do you oppose the income tax?
7. What do you make of President Obama's approach to Iraq and Afghanistan now that he's been in office?
Hat Tip: C4L
Friday, September 18, 2009
Also, apparently you qualify as a "first time homebuyer" for that $8,000 credit so long as you haven't bought a house in the past three years.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I am referring to the fact that at 2:16 PM this afternoon, the House passed HR 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009. The act effectively takes one last deep drag from the Student Loan cigarette, and flicks it to the ground, in another industry takeover. The Washington Post reports:
Earlier I posted about a similar bill in the Senate, and one whose existence now makes significantly more sense. The bill is S.1541, a bill introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, "A bill to amend title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to authorize private education loan refinancing under the Federal student loan program."
Currently, the federal government supports college lending in two major ways. Under the Federal Family Education Loan Program, which dates to the 1960s-era Great Society, it subsidizes banks and other entities that lend students money at favorable rates, and it guarantees lenders against loss if students default. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, launched in the early 1990s, the government itself is the lender.
Education Department data show that 4,463 postsecondary schools participated in the public-private program in the past academic year, accounting for about $74 billion in loans. The direct lending program had 1,742 participating schools in the same span, with $22 billion in loan volume. If the House bill becomes law, new lending under the government-guaranteed program would end. Essentially, the government would become the sole originator of federal loans.
It only makes sense that if the federal government is going to take over responsibility for making student loans, that they assume all the rest of the outstanding ones as well. If the House bill flicked the cigarette to the ground, the Senate bill stamps it out altogether.
The House bill passed today almost strictly along party lines. Republicans are obviously wary of yet another government takeover:
"It is another government takeover, in this case of a $100 billion loan industry," said Rep. John Kline (Minn.), ranking Republican on the committee. He drew a parallel to the health-care debate, in which an expanded federal role is also at issue. "It's Congress stepping in and choosing the public option instead of the private option, the private-public partnership," Kline said. Two Republicans on the committee support the bill; most are opposed.And members of the $100 billion industry are no less concerned.
"If the Department of Education, in its monopoly, didn't do a good job, the schools and students wouldn't have someplace else" to obtain loans, said John F. Remondi, vice chairman and chief financial officer of Sallie Mae, based in Reston. "Our view is, what's kept them honest to this point in time has been the competition from lenders like ourselves."I'll be digging through this bill tonight to try to find out some more details on the latest takeover, including an apparent amendment entered by George Miller on making sure ACORN and their ilk are not involved.
Choice and competition, anyone?
Patriot Room links. Thanks!
In something of a sidebar statement over at Patriot Room, Bill Dupray mentions that, while on a blogger's conference call with members of Congress, "there is a debate in the House tonight to eliminate the private student loan industry and have the federal government be the sole source for college tuition."
After I pulled my jaw off the floor, I hit Thomas and did some searching. While they may be debating it in the House, a bill is already in committee in the Senate that would appear to offer what amounts to a nationalization of student loan debt. The bill is S.1541, a bill introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, "A bill to amend title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to authorize private education loan refinancing under the Federal student loan program."
Pertinent information is as follows:
(a) In General-Note the ever important wording that "such sums as may be necessary" are "hereby made available." There is no discussion of how this bill will be funded.
(1) AUTHORITY- The Secretary shall carry out a Private Education Loan Debt Swap program in accordance with this section.
(2) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS- There are hereby made available, in accordance with the provisions of this section, such sums as may be necessary to make loans under this section through refinancing to all individuals eligible to receive private education loan refinancing under this section.
(3) PRIVATE EDUCATION LOAN- In this section, the term 'private education loan' has the meaning given the term in section 140 of the Truth in Lending Act (15 U.S.C. 1650).
(b) Eligible Debt Swap Loan Borrower- An individual shall be eligible to receive private education loan refinancing under this section if the individual--Essentially this makes anybody who has taken out a private loan for college since 1994, up until now, that is in repayment, eligible to refinance their loan through the federal government, so long as you have not completely blown them off altogether.(1)(2)
(A) was, at any time after July 1, 1994, eligible to obtain an unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan under section 428H for a period of undergraduate or graduate enrollment;
(B) incurred at least 1 private education loan for such period of enrollment;
(C) is not enrolled in an eligible institution on at least a half-time basis;
(D) remains indebted on at least 1 private education loan eligible for refinancing under this section and--
(i) has never obtained an unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan under section 428H;
(ii) has borrowed an aggregate amount under the unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan program under section 428H that is
less than the maximum aggregate amount indicated under section 428H(d) for loans
first disbursed on or after July 1,
(E) is not in default on a loan made, insured, or guaranteed under this title;
(F) has made not less than 2 consecutive payments on the private education loan to be refinanced and is not more than 90 days delinquent on such loan; and
(G) has not previously obtained refinancing under this section; or
(A) was, at any time after July 1, 2006, eligible to obtain a Federal PLUS Loan under section 428B for a period of graduate or professional enrollment;
(B) incurred at least 1 private education loan for such period of enrollment;
(C) is not in default on a loan made, insured, or guaranteed under this title;
(D) has made not less than 2 consecutive payments on the private education loan to be refinanced and is not more than 90 days delinquent on such loan;
(E) does not have an adverse credit history; and
(F) has not previously obtained refinancing under this section.
(c) Refinancing Under the Debt Swap Loan Program-Again, here we are with more bread and circuses. You get to refinance any private loan you've taken, through the federal government, at rates equal to those of Federal Stafford or Direct PLUS loans. Pretty sweet deal for someone like me, with private loans in repayment at the 8% - 15% range. Pretty sweet deal for the banks that have given those loans to people that have no way to pay them. Pretty sweet deal for the Federal Reserve, who will just print off another couple hundred billion dollars to fund this bill, and then collect the interest on loaning that money to the government. Not too sweet a deal for you and me as taxpayers, though, once the tax hike hammer falls.
(1) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall refinance or make a payment on a private education loan in accordance with this subsection for an individual who is eligible for private education loan refinancing pursuant to subsection (b).
(2) TYPES OF LOANS THAT SHALL BE REFINANCED- A private education loan is eligible to be refinanced under this subsection if the loan was incurred--(3) LOAN LIMITS- The maximum amount of a private education loan that may be refinanced under this subsection is--
(A) after July 1, 1994, and before July 1, 2010; and
(B) to pay the cost of attendance for enrollment in an eligible program at an institution of higher education eligible to participate in programs under
this title.(4) INTEREST RATE- The interest rate for a private education loan refinanced under this subsection shall be--
(A) for an individual described in subsection (b)(1), an amount equal to the sum of unpaid principal, accrued interest, and late charges of all private education loans eligible under paragraph (2) incurred by such individual not to exceed the maximum aggregate amount of unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans under section 428H(d) for loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008, applicable to an undergraduate student under such section if the individual incurred such loan to enroll in an undergraduate program or applicable to a graduate student under such section if the individual incurred such loan to enroll in a graduate program, less any amount previously borrowed by such individual pursuant to section 428 or part D; and
(B) for an individual described in subsection (b)(2), an amount equal to the sum of unpaid principal, accrued interest, and late charges of all private education loans eligible under paragraph (2) incurred
by such individual, less any amount previously borrowed by such individual pursuant to section 428B for such period of enrollment in a graduate or professional program.
(A) for an individual described in subsection (b)(1), the same interest rate applicable to an unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan; and
(B) for an individual described in subsection (b)(2), the same interest rate applicable to a Federal Direct PLUS loan.
UPDATE: Did some more digging on Thomas and it looks like the House version of things is HR 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009. More after I've had some time to dig into that one.
UPDATE: HR 3221 passed the House today at 2:16 PM EST.
UPDATE: More info on HR 3221 here.
After his triumph in India and Pakistan and his Nobel Peace Prize, Borlaug turned to raising crop yields in other poor nations especially in Africa, the one place in the world where population is rising faster than farm production and the last outpost of subsistence agriculture. At that point, Borlaug became the target of critics who denounced him because Green Revolution farming requires some pesticide and lots of fertilizer. Trendy environmentalism was catching on, and affluent environmentalists began to say it was "inappropriate" for Africans to have tractors or use modern farming techniques. Borlaug told me a decade ago that most Western environmentalists "have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things."
Environmentalist criticism of Borlaug and his work was puzzling on two fronts. First, absent high-yield agriculture, the world would by now be deforested. The 1950 global grain output of 692 million tons and the 2006 output of 2.3 billion tons came from about the same number of acres three times as much food using little additional land.
"Without high-yield agriculture," Borlaug said, "increases in food output would have been realized through drastic expansion of acres under cultivation, losses of pristine land a hundred times greater than all losses to urban and suburban expansion." Environmentalist criticism was doubly puzzling because in almost every developing nation where high-yield agriculture has been introduced, population growth has slowed as education becomes more important to family success than muscle power.
In the late 1980s, when even the World Bank cut funding for developing-world agricultural improvement, Borlaug turned for support to Ryoichi Sasakawa, a maverick Japanese industrialist. Sasakawa funded his high-yield programs in a few African nations and, predictably, the programs succeeded. The final triumph of Borlaug's life came three years ago when the Rockefeller Foundation, in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a major expansion of high-yield agriculture throughout Africa. As he approached his 90s, Borlaug "retired" to teaching agronomy at Texas A&M, where he urged students to live in the developing world and serve the poor.
Often it is said America lacks heroes who can provide constructive examples to the young. Here was such a hero. Yet though streets and buildings are named for Norman Borlaug throughout the developing world, most Americans don't even know his name.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Hat Tip: Chicagoist
The reality of misgovernment, meanwhile, is not something you can grasp simply by donning a tricorn hat and musing on the majesty of Lady Liberty. It requires, among other things, close attention to the following irony: That many of the most destructive and even corrupt policies of the past few decades were engineered by exactly the sort of people who claim to be motivated by freedom and liberty. Our friends on the Mall no doubt imagine themselves as guiltless accusers, but if they really want to understand how our country got to this sorry state, they need to take a long hard look in the mirror.
Such a statement belies the fact that a vast accounting of the people involved in the Tea Parties over the past six months, leading up to the mass of humanity collecting in Washington, DC, are people that have literally never done anything political in their lives. These are people like me. Up until this past election, I had never voted in my life. I became intensely interested in our political atmosphere as I watched Barack Obama rise literally from a back-room political nobody, to the Office of President.
The phenomenon was astounding to me, as it appeared to me that he rode a wave of anti-Bush, anti-Republican hatred to the office, promising a new day, when what I saw was someone using that wave to slide a wholly new ideology into the top executive office. This spurred me to start this blog back in January. Some new political philosophy discussion needed to begin to take place, and I felt I could be a voice. Something that is not Left, and not Right, as we have come to know them, both of them corrupted and flawed and untruthful. A new way of thinking about politics has become necessary, and the more we discuss, the more we find that everything old is new again. We are relying on what should have always been relied on. Freedom. Liberty.
I believe change is necessary in Washington. And I think the hundreds of thousands of people that showed up there last Saturday believe change is necessary as well.
Thomas Frank is wrong to accuse us as being the people that have wrecked, Washington. We are not representative of the type of Big Government, defecit spending Bush-era Republicans. We are as angry at the Right as we are terrified of what the Left is trying to do. The "leaders" on the Right of late have abandoned the principles of Freedom and Liberty. It is time that they know it. We are those who have been idle. We are those who have kept to ourselves and lived our own lives. And now we are the beast that has been awoken.
Thomas Frank is right, though, however badly he missed the mark in his final statement. We have only to look ourselves in the mirror to find the people to blame. Our decades of inaction, of being the silent majority, must come to an end, and they are coming to an end. What is swelling is not a movement of the Republican Right, and cannot be a movement of the Democrat Left. It is a movement of a people that want their government to do what it was created to do: Protect our Freedom. Protect our Liberty.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
War is still our largest yearly budget item.
If we are to retain our intellectual honesty and credibility in arguing for healthcare reform from the perch of anti-big-government spending, we also need to re-examine how it is we view ourselves as a country in terms of war.
In his book Liberty and Tyranny, Mark Levin defines neoconservatives as those conservatives whose primary concern is that of a strong national defense for the country by the federal government. Indeed, this is the primary responsibility outlined in the Constitution that the federal government is actually supposed to do, as opposed to the myriad items it is expressly directed not to do.
The problem has become, since the failure of communism in the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, that as a country we have philosophically assumed it to be our duty to spread democracy to all those "less enlightened" countries around the world.
I am 28 years old. We have twice in my lifetime invaded Iraq, both times under false pretenses. I am not some tree-hugging hippie here. Once we have gotten into these conflicts, I have been all for finishing them. We are all on the same team and we should all want to win, once in. But at the same time, we should realize that just as it is ludicrous that the government should expect to be able to obliterate 1/6 of the economy, thereby depleting its revenues, and replace that entire sector with itself, thereby expanding its spending, it is also ludicrous to believe that we can continue to expand our defense spending for the purpose of conducting war abroad without ever stopping.
This is especially the case in terms of the idea of "spreading democracy." Spreading democracy has become the default justification by the Neoconservative Right for the fact that we have spent the past nine years in Iraq, and now are ramping up efforts in Afghanistan.
What everyone on the Right, including the Neoconservative Right, must acknowledge is that the idea of "spreading democracy" is just as socialistic, if not moreso, on a global scale, as is nationalized healthcare on a country-wide scale.
Every dollar that is spent overseas is taken from our pockets and redistributed across the globe to the benefit of other countries. In peaceful countries where we are "forward deployed" to be the on-call default option for NATO, our soldiers are paid and spend their money in those other countries, boosting the economies of those countries. In countries like Iraq that we have invaded under the guise of spreading democracy, but for the actual purpose of attempting to better control the flow of oil, we have spent nearly a trillion dollars and an entire decade's worth of time in establishing a democratic government.
From a global economic standpoint, this may eventually make sense, but only if we were to spend the next decade, and another trillion dollars in
In essence, we have, over the past decade, participated in the greatest redistribution of wealth the world has ever seen, allocating a trillion dollars to an overseas empire that cannot be sustained, all in the name of a different kind of altruism.
We on the Right like to rail against our own government for daring to proclaim that they know better than we do how to spend our money when it comes to providing for our own health. If we are intellectually honest on the Right, then, we must also rail against our government for daring to proclaim that countries in the middle east are more deserving of our dollars being spent on improving their democracies than we are. We might ask, "What might that trillion dollars have been spent on here at home to improve our Republic instead?" I do not deign to stoop to the level of the Left and assume it should have been spent on schools or healthcare or welfare in some absent-minded argument that throwing more money at welfare programs would make them better. But one has to wonder, what else might we citizens have done with a trillion extra dollars in our pockets over the past ten years?
It's time that the Right comes to grips with the fact that the government has been spending, and continues to spend, like a drunken sailor, money on all the whores in the foreign port. Like that sailor, it's no surprise that all that spending has us coming back to the states not only broke, but also diseased.
PARIS — A tempest that erupted on Saturn in January has become the Solar System's longest continuously observed lightning storm, astronomers reported on Tuesday.
The storm broke out in "Storm Alley," a region 35 degrees south of the ringed giant's equator, researchers told the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, near Berlin.
Thunderstorms there can be as big as 3,000 kilometers (nearly 2,000 miles) across.
The powerful event was spotted by the US space probe Cassini, using an instrument that can detect radiowaves emitted by lightning discharge."
The reason why we see lightning in this peculiar location is not completely clear," said Georg Fischer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in a press release.
"It could be that this latitude is one of the few places in Saturn's atmospher that allow large-scale vertical convection of water clouds, which is necessary for thunderstorms to develop."
But another possibility for the southerly location of "Storm Alley" could be seasonal, said Fischer.
In 1980 and 1981, the Voyager spacecraft flew by Saturn and observed lightning storms near the equator.
It could be that the mega-storms will now shift back to equatorial latitudes as Saturn continues its crawl around the Sun. A "year" in Saturn is equivalent to more than 29 Earth years.
The previous record-breaker for a Solar System thunderstorm was an event that lasted seven and a half months, running from November 2007 to July 2008, also spotted by Cassini.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I suppose I could be biased to the Packers given my status as a fan. However, I've watched their entire preseason and if one thing has ever been clear to me, it's that their offense cannot be stopped. I've watched Rodgers make throws, splitting the corner & safety zones on a sideline route to Driver's back shoulder on a line, for instance, that you'd expect out of Manning or Brady. He's making it look easy and is starting to get some preseason hype as a potential MVP. If he doesn't put up 4,000+ and 30+ TD's, it will be because of injury. Grant also looks to be healthy again and hitting his cutbacks with authority. Could be a big year for him too.
The question on the Packers is the defense. Nick Barnett didn't play much of the preseason, still recovering from last year's ACL, and first rounder Clay Matthews also had injuries. Both were projected to start at LB in the new 3-4 scheme. Even with those guys not getting time until the fourth preseason game, the defense generated 12 sacks, 8 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries. They still showed a tendency to give up first downs on third down and middle-to-long, something that they were horrible with last year, and that needs to be fixed, but this is a different defense. It has a chance to be dominant. I think it will be in the top half of the league with a chance for top ten, but it still needs work.
All that said, the Packers strength of schedule is something like 30th in the league. It's a recipe for success all around.
Even still, the Vikings are going to be the other team to be reckoned with in my opinion. One of the best defenses in the league, plus the best running back in the league, and now a good quarteback, and throw Percy Harvin in the mix. They've got something to work with up there this year. I think when push comes to shove, though, that Favre is just too mistake prone in big moments for the Vikings to win when it matters. He's shown that too many times to believe he can overcome himself, in my eyes.
There's a lot of talk about the Bears as well, now that Cutler's around. I've never been as high on Cutler as many people seem to be. He seems to me to be Favre-lite, but without a Holmgren-like disciplinarian to throw him a backhand now and then and reign him in. Hence, 4,500 yard talent, and no winning record. Now he's got nobody but a tight end and a running back to throw to. Plus the defense looks terrible this year. If injuries hit, I wouldn't be surprised to see Detroit finish 3rd ahead of the Bears this year.
The NFC West is the NFC West. Arizona looks hideous this year. Their game against the Packers saw the Packers up 38-10 at halftime, ones-against-ones. They were only 9-7 last year and got on a run in the playoffs. Forget about it.
The NFC East is going to beat the hell out of each other all year like they always do. There's a ton of talk about the Giants this year, as usual. I just don't see it. Eli isn't as good as the hype, and unless Hakeem Nicks somehow becomes Andre Johnson, he's not working with much at receiver. The Redskins are still struggling to pull things together. At the end of it all, I think the Eagles probably eek out a division win there at 10-6. Too much offense there to ignore them.
The NFC South will be all about the Saints. The Bucs are ashambles, the Panthers have Jake Delhomme at QB, who will cost them at least two games, even while DeAngelo Williams compiles 2,000 total yards, and the Falcons just won't be as good as they were last year. I don't believe in them at all.
Overall I think the Packers, Vikings and Saints compete for best record in the NFC. Probably looking at something like this:
1. Packers 12-4
2. Saints 11-5
3. Eagles 10-6
4. Cardinals 9-7 (but who knows or cares who comes out of the west)
WC1. Vikings 11-5
WC2. Panthers 10-6
As a friend of mine has said, and as the Cardinals proved last year, the playoffs are a crapshoot, especially this early. So I will refrain from making predictions on the playoffs until such time as my above predictions come to fruition.
Enjoy the first weekend of the season!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Such were the words President Obama last night claimed were his core principles in providing affordable health insurance for all. As a means to providing choice and competition, the President said, we should institute a public option that doesn't have to deal with such pesky things like highly paid executives and all that extra "wasted" money that constitutes the evil bane of man's pitiful existence, PROFIT.
As I read today that Andrew Sullivan considers those of us on the Right side of this argument over health care reform to be intellectually bankrupt for wanting to see tort reform take place, calling it the "crown jewel of Republican cost control," as if this was the only thing that has been proposed by either the Republican party, or anyone else on the Right, I am as frustrated now as I have been silent throughout the entire healthcare debate. I have been relatively silent throughout the process as I have, quite frankly, not had time to sit down and pore over the bill on my own, and many others have done quite a sufficient enough job of it that I felt my voice would not be as purposeful. But Sullivan, as is often the case, knows full well how to push buttons, and whether he knows or cares who I am, he has managed to push one of mine.
The very thought on his part, and it is a thought that is widely held by those on the Left, is twofold. Part A is to point out that everyone that is remotely on the Right side of an issue is stupid. Part B, when confronted by the impossibility of someone on the Right side of an issue who can both read and infer consequences via logic, is to deride them, sneeringly when possible, as a Neocon, or oftentimes in a sophomoric twist, just a "con" and therefore a liar, and then to declare the argument over.
Perhaps if Sullivan and his ilk were to remove their ears from betwixt the President's legs, they might hear his words.
Choice and competition. Choice and competition. Choice and competition.
As of last night it is the President's own new mantra. But it is a mantra as empty and as meaningless as was the one that won him the presidency. A government option would do no more at offering people choice and competition than the post office offers to Fedex or UPS or DHL. Those companies are in the business of providing a service that the post office cannot: reliability. Do they do it at a higher price than the post office? Of course they do. They're doing it at real market prices, not subsidized-by-the-taxpayers prices. But if I send a letter out in a Fedex envelope and pay the money they ask for it to be there first thing tomorrow morning, it will be there first thing tomorrow morning. This is not something that the post office can provide, and this is why we pay Fedex or UPS or DHL.
Allow me to stay on these terms. Let's say that I live in Illinois, and I have the post office available to me as an option, along with Fedex, UPS and DHL. Fedex, UPS and DHL are not competing with the post office on price, and are not attempting to. Instead they are competing with each other. Each of them have rates that are very easy to find out, and for the most part, are competitive on pricing with each other. All are reliably delivering the next day for $20, and you can track those deliveries step-by-step to their location until they are signed for by their receipient. The post office is delivering for $0.43, assuming you can wait a few days and assuming you don't mind if the mailman maybe takes it to the wrong place or loses it.
Now let us imagine that there are 100 other companies in the United States that provide the service that Fedex, UPS and DHL provide. All 100 of those companies are able to provide the same service for less money. I should be able to solicit those services from one of those 100 other companies instead. But let us imagine that the law of the land is that I am not allowed to. That being the case, Fedex, UPS and DHL are all perfectly content to continue charging me $20, blissfully immune to the existence of the post office, since they know they are providing a better service no matter what. The only way for me to get service that is as good or better is to go to a company outside of Illinois. The only way for this to happen is to change the law.
This is the situation we find ourselves in with the law of the land pertaining to insurance companies. There are 1,300 insurance companies in the United States providing health insurance. That's an average of 26 insurance companies per state. It makes zero sense whatsoever that I should not have access to 1,274 more insurance companies.
That would be choice.
That would be competition.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Then one is encountered with the True Liberal Outlook on what it is to be of a Right persuasion.
There is no thought that perhaps we have core values by which we live our lives. There is no thought that perhaps we give great deals of attention to studying the history of our country, the constitution, economics, health care, and myriad other issues. There is only hateful, spiteful rhetoric. We are all hicks. We are all stupid. We have no respect for authority. We are all homophobes and racists. Our parents didn't love us. We have no humanity. We are scum. We are to be mocked, to be ridiculed.
Ladies and gentlemen, Steven Weber.
It is nonsense like this that has the President, the Congressional Left, and Left entertainment radio and telivision reaping the rewards of being impossibly out of touch with both reality, and the people in "flyover" country.
To make fried butter, the butter itself needs to have an outer coating, or shell, if you will — something that can withstand the bubbling cauldron of the deep fryer.
“I mean, butter by itself does not taste good,” Gonzales said. “Nobody just grabs a stick of butter and eats it. That would be gross.”
So here’s what Gonzales does: He takes 100 percent pure butter, whips it until it is light and fluffy, freezes it, then surrounds it with dough. The butter-laden dough balls are then dropped into the deep fryer.
For purists who just want the unadulterated taste of butter, Gonzales serves up plain-butter versions of his creation. For others who want a little more pizzazz, he offers three additional versions with flavored
butters: garlic, grape or cherry.
While dining at the restaurant at the end of the universe, a waiter asks the above question of Arther Dent (the last earth man in existence.. kinda). As my fellow fans of Douglas Adams' comedy SyFy series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will recall the waiter was referring to the fact that in order to clinch the debate of the morality of eating other animals scientists had genetically engineered special cows who not only wanted to be eaten, but who were given voices in order that they be able to actually say so.
Which brings us to this stirringly dumbfounding article I came across during my morning coffee. The article is a quick read and poses the question - 'if we have the ability to remove the suffering of animals via genetic engineering do we not then have a moral obligation to do so?'
Cage raised chickens often have parts of their beaks removed to prevent them from pecking their neighbors to death, would not it be better if the chickens could be made not to feel the pain this undoubtedly causes? Isn't it better if the cow you're going to eat walks out to your table and amiably chats with you for a while about which parts of his flanks are getting the most tender?
My response is not the horror and salad-demanding outrage that Arther Dent felt, but more an eye-rolling Kif-like sigh. Genetically engineering something to want to be eaten solves no debate in the minds of vegetarians (or their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans [to rip a line off from Anthony Bourdaine]) because their objections are often moral and empathetic in nature, having more to do with a need to be moral demigods of the animal kingdom than actually harming animals.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, far right, speaks while colleagues play solitaire on their computers as the House convenes Monday night to vote on a new budget. (AP)
I bring up a brief discussion on the nature of inflation in response to possibly one of the most foolish articles I have seen lately. At Seeking Alpha, Henry Bee writes that Auditing the Fed is Economic Suicide. In an incredible feat of intellectual gymnastics, Bee lays down the accusation that somehow the public knowing what is happening with the money supply will be the end of the free market:
The free market understands that auditing the fed is a very dangerous line to cross. If crossed, U.S. inflation will likely skyrocket over the next decade to unseen levels. U.S. economy tanks. Bond investors lose money as interest rates rise. Stock investors earn negative real return as equity risk premium rises and aggregate PE ratio tank. The US Dollar erodes due to higher domestic inflation relative to foreign inflation. Gold and commodity prices rise.Perhaps we can forgive Mr. Bee for being Canadian, and therefore not understanding the history of the Federal Reserve and monetary policy in the United States. Or perhaps we can direct him to the aforementioned Milton Friedman, or maybe Murray Rothbard, or F.A. Hayek, for some simple education on monetary policy. Remember, "gold and commodity prices rise" only in terms of the value of the money itself. They are physical, tangible things. They always retain the same value, and it is the value of the money itself that changes due to inflation. After beginning with the Vault, Bee continues and moves on to the Balance Beam:
I'll interrupt Mr. Bee while he's still doing some of his simple posing, and before he really gets going with the tumbling. Inflation is caused by a central bank that loses control of its money supply? I think not. Remember, inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. Inflation is caused by the introduction of more money into the supply. Who introduces more money into the supply? The central bank. The Federal Reserve is our central bank. Incidentally, Mr. Bee might be interested to know that since its inception, the Federal Reserve has practiced nothing but inflationary monetary policy and, in about 100 years, has managed thereby to devalue the dollar by approximately 97%. It would seem then, that the Federal Reserve itself has been the cause of inflation all along. But I will allow Mr. Bee to continue:
How Does Auditing the Fed Cause Inflation?
Inflation is caused by a central bank that loses control of its money supply. There are two ways that a politically compromised central bank can lose control of its money supply.
Bee makes a good point here in defending the separation of
Road to Inflation #1: Repeating the Political Cycle
When the central bank is not independent, politicians have historically pumped up the money supply (for temporary economic boost) shortly before an election to buy votes with a lower unemployment rate. After the election, the effects wear off, returning the economy to its natural rate of unemployment but at a higher inflation rate than before. Because it is hard to fight off inflation quickly, by the time the next election rolls around the economy has not been squeezed back to its original inflation rate. Politicians pump up the money supply again, this time from a higher base inflation. As this cycle repeats itself, the central bank loses control of the money supply.
That said, I would like to ask Mr. Bee a simple question. What makes you suppose, Mr. Bee, that the Federal Reserve is not already unduly influenced by politicians? As I have explained in the past, the Fed is largely a conglomeration of private banking institutions, overseen by a Board of Governors, headed by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, currently Ben Bernanke. The Board of Governors is a seven-member panel appointed by the President of the United States. This means, Mr. Bee, that seven people who, through their appointment, answer to the President, and the President alone, control all that is our monetary policy, all that is our money supply, and therefore all that is our inflation. If Ben Bernanke and six others answer only to the President, how exactly is the Federal Reserve not influenced by politics in the manner you suggest already?
Bee goes on to discuss a second road to inflation:
Now honestly, there is only just so much we can forgive of Mr. Bee for his being Canadian. This really represents a complete lack of attention to current events. Inside of a four month period, the Federal Reserve just financed a $700 billion bailout of the US Financial industry through TARP, an effort, mind you, that resulted in all that money going to the noble purpose of, well, nobody really knows, followed by the $800 billion stimulus package. Based on Barney Frank's admission in the video found in this post, Ben Bernanke indicated to him when the bailouts began with AIG, that he had $800 billion to play with. Well that covered TARP. The only logical inference then is that the Fed printed the rest to finance the stimulus. Our central bank is already following this road, Mr. Bee. The only question is, how much have they inflated the money supply?
Road to Inflation #2: Financing Government Spending
A central bank that lacks independence from politicians makes it tempting for the government to finance an inappropriately large portion of its spending through printing money. A central bank that promises to finance too much government spending also loses control of the money supply.
Well the answer from the Fed has been, to this point, simple. Silence.
When seven men who answer to one man control the entire money supply, and hold no accountability, they can do as they please. Adding a check to this highly centralized power by making their actions transparent to the public cannot be a bad thing.