Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Atlas Shrugs

And so it begins (from Bloomberg):

John Mack and Kenneth Lewis, the chief executive officers of Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp., said pay limits tied to federal rescue funds have prompted some top employees to leave the companies.

“I had a hedge fund say to me, ‘I can hire anyone I want from you and Goldman,’” Mack said at the bank’s annual meeting today in Purchase, New York, referring to rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Some units lost a dozen people, he said, without identifying them. Lewis, speaking at his annual shareholder gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina, also blamed the restrictions for departures.

“We have lost strong revenue generators over the past three months to competitors that are not facing the same compensation restrictions that we are,” Lewis said.

We might be witnessing history in slow motion. Take note as the statist policies embraced by the cadre in Washington drive the US economy into the sludge of stagnation and European-like mediocrity.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We Love Trainwrecks

The super lawyers at Powerline have dissected the latest report on TARP:

What conclusions can we draw? 1) The government's $3 trillion and counting TARP program represents the greatest opportunity for sharp operators to profit at taxpayer expense in history. 2) The Obama administration is either in favor of giving Wall Street sharks this opportunity or, at a minimum, doesn't much mind doing so. (If this seems odd, remember where Obama got the biggest chunk of campaign contributions in 2008.) 3) It may be that the TARP complex of programs is the beginning of a national-socialist type takeover of the financial services industry by the federal government. Thus, 4) we can only hope that this turns out not to be the case, and TARP is only the biggest--and perhaps, by the end of the day, the crookedest--waste of taxpayer money in history. Finally, 5) so far the only person or organization who appears to be looking out for the taxpayers is the Special Inspector General. We will be reading his future reports with great interest.

The cynic in me (which, admitedly occupies most of my being) loves this. Whole report here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Federalism Amendment

Professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown Law (and counsel for the petitioner in Raich v. Ashcroft) proposes a new amendment to US Consitution in the WSJ:

Section 1: Congress shall have power to regulate or prohibit any activity between one state and another, or with foreign nations, provided that no regulation or prohibition shall infringe any enumerated or unenumerated right, privilege or immunity recognized by this Constitution.

Section 2: Nothing in this article, or the eighth section of article I, shall be construed to authorize Congress to regulate or prohibit any activity that takes place wholly within a single state, regardless of its effects outside the state or whether it employs instrumentalities therefrom; but Congress may define and punish offenses constituting acts of war or violent insurrection against the United States.

Section 3: The power of Congress to appropriate any funds shall be limited to carrying into execution the powers enumerated by this Constitution and vested in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof; or to satisfy any current obligation of the United States to any person living at the time of the ratification of this article.

Section 4: The 16th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed, effective five years from the date of the ratification of this article.

Section 5: The judicial power of the United States to enforce this article includes but is not limited to the power to nullify any prohibition or unreasonable regulation of a rightful exercise of liberty. The words of this article, and any other provision of this Constitution, shall be interpreted according to their public meaning at the time of their enactment.

I like it. Such an amendment would effectively restore the Founder's view of the states as independent laboratories of political experimentation. The Founders knew that people in Massachusetts would not want to live under exactly the same laws as people in Alabama - so they set up a system known as federalism, which allows different states to choose different policies. How novel. Only now, when the people of Massachusetts or California vote to do something the rest of "us" don't like, we petition the Feds to put a stop to it (e.g., gay marriage or medicinal marijuana). Whole article here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama's Brave Leadership

The President has instructed his cabinet to cut no less than $100M, in the aggregate, from the budget, which (according to George Will) amounts to:

...about 13 minutes of federal spending, and 0.0029 percent -- about a quarter of one-hundredth of 1 percent -- of $3.5 trillion.

If the Agriculture Department sliced the entire $100 million, that would be equal to 0.1 percent of its fiscal 2008 budget.

Ha. Laughable. Whole depressing piece here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ron Paul Republicans

Ex-New Mexico GOvernor, Gary Johnson, may be the man or, so says Bill Kaufman at The American Conservative:

At breakfast the morn of the rally, I sat across the table from a friendly dude wearing a peace-sign T-shirt and looking like an affable old surfer. He introduced himself as Gary Johnson, the former two-term governor of New Mexico. Over the next day, I spent a fair amount of time chatting with Governor Johnson: mountain-climber, triathlete, vetoer of 750 bills.

He told me that he may take a shot at the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 as an antiwar, anti-Fed, pro-personal liberties, slash-government-spending candidate—in other words, a Ron Paul libertarian.

South Carolina governor Mark Sanford seems to be carving out similar space in the GOP. While Sanford’s stubborn parsimony within the spendthrift GOP is welcome—he is surely a stream of fresh air in a mephitic party—consider, if you will, Gary Johnson.

Yes, as a congressman Sanford opposed the U.S. intervention in Kosovo under a Democratic president; Gary Johnson opposed a Republican president’s war upon Iraq. Sanford reluctantly endorsed McCain in 2008; Johnson emphatically endorsed Ron Paul. Sanford has potential on civil liberties; Johnson, like Paul, has the guts to call for the legalization of marijuana and an end to the drug war.

Whoe thing here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Randians Love Beer

From Reason:

Beer and individualism go together like beer and pretzels, according to a study reported in the February Journal of Consumer Research.

Marketing researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio compared beer guzzling habits across dozens of countries. Using a scale developed by the Dutch marketing researcher Geert Hofstede, they ranked nations based on levels of individualism. On average, levels of beer consumption were higher in individualist countries than in collectivist countries, a finding that withstood adjustments for differences in income, climate, gender, and religion. The researchers found similar results within the United States.

Higher levels of beer consumption were documented in states such as Montana and Oregon, which also ranked high in individualism.

Then, in the name of science, the researchers gave 128 college students free beer. After priming some of the testees to focus on collectivizing forces, such as family, and priming others to focus on themselves, the researchers sat back and counted the drinks consumed. The students primed to think like individualists knocked back more beers than the collectivists.

See. It's part of my chemical make-up. Backoff. To be sure, the Founding Fathers, models of individualism, if anything, were notorious guzzlers of malty goodness. And in the immortal words of Ben Franklin, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Adventures in Protectionism

St. Cecilia's Catholic Church in Rochester, Pennsylvania, has sold homemade pies as part of its fish-fry fundraisers for as long as anyone can remember. But not this year. A state inspector showed up and warned them that it's illegal to sell homemade foods. Fortunately, a nearby bakery heard about what happened and kicked in a few pies for the church to sell. State officials say that churches often snitch on other churches that don't meet all the state requirements for food service.
Tip BrickBat.

Paging Pete Seeger

Is anyone else (besides David Boaz and me) wondering where all the anti-war protesters have gone? At CATO, Mr. Boaz accurately notes:

President Obama rose to power on the basis of his early opposition to the Iraq war and his promise to end it. Now he has doubled down on the war in Afghanistan and has promised to keep the war in Iraq going for another 19 months, after which we will have 50,000 American troops in Iraq for as far as the eye can see. If McCain had proposed this sort of minor tweaking of the Bush policy, I think we’d see antiwar rallies in 300 cities.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Yale law prefessor, Jonathan Macey, provides an interesting insight in the WSJ:

To socialize the American economy, it is not necessary to nationalize every business in the United States. All it requires is to put the corporations that control the finances of all of the companies in the economy under government control. And that is what is happening now.

Whole thing here. And on that note, my professor, Tom Smith, adds:

When a business fails, it dies. Or did. But when a terrible government idea fails, it lives on, especially if it makes people in power more powerful. I feel like I'm watching a slow motion train wreck here, only it's worse, because when a train wrecks, nobody is standing there telling you it's really for the best that trains should wreck and that you're stupid to say it's a bad idea for trains to run into each other.

Baby Steps to Three O'Clock (Cuba)

I guess this is a very, very small step in the right direction. But, as Mike Moynihan pointed out last May, Obama has been mushy on Cuba policy from the start. Go figure.

There Should Be a Law

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill that would amend its child porography laws to also include people over 60 and the disabled, even if they are mentally competent. The bill would ban people from making or distributing "with lascivious intent" any films or videos showing the elderly or disabled nude.
From BrickBat.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ability to Suffer

The NYT has an interesting article on the notion "animal rights" today:

What we’re seeing now is an interesting moral moment: a grass-roots effort by members of one species to promote the welfare of others. Legislation is playing a role, with Europe scheduled to phase out bare wire cages for egg production by 2012, but consumer consciences are paramount. It’s because of consumers that companies like Burger King and Hardee’s are beginning to buy pork and eggs from producers that give space to their animals.

In recent years, the issue has entered the mainstream, but even for those who accept that we should try to reduce the suffering of animals, the question remains where to draw lines.

More bokononist on this subject here and here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


South Africa appears to be doing all it can re-join its neighbors in the planetary gutter. Democracy, indeed.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Stuart Varney on the Obama administration's refusal to accept the return of TARP funds:

The government wants to control the banks, just as it now controls GM and Chrysler, and will surely control the health industry in the not-too-distant future. Keeping them TARP-stuffed is the key to control. And for this intensely political president, mere influence is not enough. The White House wants to tell 'em what to do. Control. Direct. Command.

Whole thing here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

This is Absolutely Infuriating

In town for a conference, a director of Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty is detained by TSA at the St. Louis airport because when asked to explain why he's carrying $4,700 in cash (it was proceeds from book and ticket sales at the conference), he asks the agents to tell him what law requires him to do so. He managed to surreptitiously record his conversations with TSA officers on a cell phone:

TSA - the creation of George W. Bush - lest you forget.

Dim Bulbs

George Will on State-favored Light Bulbs ('Climate Change' content):

A San Francisco -- naturally -- couple emerged from Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" incandescent with desire to think globally and act locally, in their home. So they replaced their incandescent bulbs with the compact fluorescents that Congress says must soon be ubiquitous. "Instead of having a satisfying green moment, however," the Times reported, "they wound up coping with a mess."

The bulbs, says the Times, "do not do well in hot places with little airflow, like recessed ceiling fixtures," and some do not work "with dimmers or three-way sockets." And: "Be aware that compact fluorescents can take one to three minutes to reach full brightness. This is not a defect." Well, if you say so. Because all fluorescents contain mercury, a toxic metal, they must never be put in the trash, so Home Depot and other chains offer bins for disposing of dangerous bulbs. Driving to one of these disposal points might not entirely nullify the bulbs' environmental benefits. Besides, the Times summarizes the Environmental Protection Agency's helpful suggestions for coping with the environmental dangers caused when one of these environment-saving bulbs breaks:

"Clear people and pets from the room and open a window for at least 15 minutes if possible. Avoid vacuuming. Scoop up larger pieces with stiff paper or cardboard, pick up smaller residue with sticky tape, and wipe the area with a damp cloth. Put everything into a sealed plastic bag or sealed glass jar. In most cases, this can be put in the trash, but the EPA recommends checking local rules."

Worrywarts wonder what will happen when a lazy or careless, say, 10 percent of 300 million Americans put their worn-out bulbs in the trash. Stop worrying. What do you think? That Congress, architect of the ethanol industry and designer of automobiles, does not think things through?

Ha. Whole thing here.