Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Thanksgiving

We had a nice Thanksgiving, and I hope you did too. Here's a brief video of some of the chatter that took place at meal time.

Thanksgiving humility

The free market, to the extent it is allowed to exist, provides us with incalculable benefits through the international division of labor. In this land of plenty, people aren't as thankful as they once were. Why? Austrian economists explain it with the principle of marginal utility. As Gary North writes,
People look at the value of what they have just received as income, and they are less impressed than they were with the previous unit of income. They focus on the immediate – "What have you done for me lately?" – rather than the aggregate level of their existing capital. They conclude, "What’s past is past; what matters most is whatever comes next." . . .

There is a major problem in thinking this way. It is the problem of saying "thank you." . . .

The problem is, we look to the present, not to the past. We look at the marginal unit – the unit of economic decision-making – and not at the aggregate that we have accumulated. We assume that whatever we already possess is well-deserved – merited, we might say – and then we focus our attention on that next, hoped-for "util" of income.

As economic actors, we should recognize that the reason why we are allocating our latest unit of income to a satisfaction that is lower on our value scale is because we already possess so much. We are awash in wealth. We are the beneficiaries of a social order based on private ownership and free exchange, a social order that has made middle-class people rich beyond the wildest dreams of kings a century and a half ago. Or, as P. J. O’Rourke has observed, "When you think of the good old days, think one word: dentistry."

Monday, November 23, 2009

ClimateGate

Scientists cheating to promote a political agenda? With governments drooling for more power and in line to expand exponentially if the global warming zealots get their way, it's easy to understand why we see data tampering, denial, and cover-up.
As the contents of a hacked climate change unit’s server in Britain were exposed on the Internet Friday, the event had some of the scientists involved scrambling to explain their emails and skeptics believing they had found a smoking gun. On the surface, the emails seem to indicate scientists modified data to fit the anthropogenic global warming theory, tried to silence dissenting opinions and reflect a concerted effort to restrict access to climate data possibly by deleting it.

The emails and documents were illegally obtained from a server at Britain’s Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia and then posted to a Russian server. From there, the file and its contents spread like wildfire across the Internet. Inside are over 1,000 emails and dozens of documents that detail private correspondence among some of the world’s top climate scientists.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The endless reach of the state

Writes Michael Rozeff:
Capital flight is a significant method of eluding the reach of the state and its oppressive regulations and taxes. Money can go anywhere on earth. The U.S. and other states want to close down this escape hatch. If one or a few states that operate tax havens or respect financial privacy do not cooperate, then the U.S. and other states look for ways to break them down.
They've done this to Switzerland and are doing it to all other states where wealth attempts to hide. The rationale is, some people - the very rich - are evading taxes, and this isn't fair. But unless you believe in double standards, cheating a thief is perfectly ethical. The assault on tax havens means less capital will be available for investment worldwide as money literally goes underground. As Rozeff notes, this "is a victory for proto–world government."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

IRS calls on Robert Kahre

Murray Rothbard described government as a criminal gang writ large. Here's one example of it.

For a background briefing on the Robert Kahre case, go here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Man builds stair-climbing wheelchair

Li Rongbiao, 67, and his wife Wang Huifang, 65, live in a fifth floor apartment in Beijing. His wife broke her leg, and it used to take them a half-hour to get from their apartment to the ground floor. Li decided to sell his apartment for £44,000 to spend his time working on an electric wheelchair that could go up and down stairs. After a year's work, he now has a foldable wheelchair that can climb nearly 3,000 steps - the equivalent of 50 floors -- on one charge. Read the story.

When government was a lot smaller, Americans used to invent things like this. Now, our most innovative products are new ways to go into debt while shifting the liability to others.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blood and Gore, Cap and Trade

The title refers to David Blood, a former Goldman-Sachs exec, and Al Gore, global warming alarmist, Nobel Peace price recipient, and former government employee. According to Paul Mulshine, Blood and Gore are set to make big bucks if the Senate passes the current cap and trade bill.
the British Broadcasting Corp. created quite a stir with an article headlined "What Happened to Global Warming?" In it, BBC climate correspondent Paul Hudson gave a summary of the problems facing the alarmists: "For the last 11 years, we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise."

Hudson went on to cite numerous scientists skeptical of the theory of anthropogenic global warming. But perhaps the most damning observation came from a scientist who supports the theory. Mojib Latif is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group that set the panic off with its 1996 report on global warming. According to Hudson, Latif concedes "that we may indeed be in a period of cooling worldwide temperatures that could last another 10-20 years."

Hmmm. Ten to 20 years is what I would call "the near future." Didn’t a certain former vice president of the United States win a Nobel Prize by pushing a movie that told us that the melting of the polar ice would cause sea levels to rise by up to 20 feet "in the near future?"

Perhaps Al Gore was talking about a different future, one in which he gets rich off the panic he helped create. If the Senate passes that cap-and-trade bill that’s now before it, Gore stands to make a fortune through his stake in the investment firm he set up with former Goldman-Sachs exec David Blood to deal in carbon credits.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pelosi's finest hour is our nightmare

The health care bill that Pelosi and company approved yesterday is estimated to cost $1 trillion over the next decade. The actual costs, of course, will be far higher, assuming the country is still around in 10 years. The bill passed 220-215. One Republican, John Cao of Louisiana, backed the plan, while 39 Democrats opposed it. According to Bloomberg,
Lawmakers hailed the step as a historic follow-on to the 1965 creation of the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled. They said the bill would cover 36 million uninsured Americans and curb costs. New rules would prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, and seniors would get help obtaining preventive care and medicine.
And I promise you, it will work as well as every other government program.

There is still some hope. The in-fighting in Congress could conceivably kill any kind of health care legislation.
The spotlight now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid is struggling to get the votes to even begin debate on his version. Once the Senate passes a bill, lawmakers from each chamber would work together on a compromise for a new round of votes, a process likely to take months.

Reid last week wouldn’t commit to meeting Obama’s goal of signing a health-care bill into law by the end of the year. Already, it has been almost four months since four of the five congressional committees assigned to work on health care passed their versions of bills.

And House leaders can’t be sure of retaining all the votes they won last night. The bill passed over the objections of Democrats who favor abortion rights after an amendment put restrictions on the use of federal funds for the procedure for people using new insurance purchasing exchanges. Some Democrats said they wouldn’t back final legislation with the provision.
Then there's always secession or nullification. On nullification, Wikipedia says:
Nullification is a legal theory that a U.S. State has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional. . . .

One of the earliest and most famous examples is to be found in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, a protest against the Alien and Sedition Acts. In these resolutions, authors Thomas Jefferson and James Madison argued that the states are the ultimate interpreters of the Constitution and can "interpose" to protect state citizens from the operation of unconstitutional national laws.
Is the provision of health care a constitutionally-assigned task to the government? No, it isn't; therefore, the states could nullify any bill passed on those grounds. Trying to slip it in on the back of the General Welfare clause makes a mockery of the idea of limited government (which in truth doesn't work, but that's another issue) and the Constitution itself.

Secession is appealing, but I think most people would find it hard to break ranks with the country they've grown up with. They would need something better, and since most people don't accept the libertarian philosophy of nonaggression in government, their idea of "better" would be loaded with problems, if they had any ideas at all.

But what about health care reform? If government shouldn't attempt it, who should? Here is an answer that deserves close attention.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dumb and getting dumber

Professor of Economics Walter Williams writes:
the longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers. In recent cross-country comparisons of fourth grade reading, math, and science, US students scored in the top quarter or top half of advanced nations. By age 15 these rankings drop to the bottom half. In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce." That's a sobering thought. The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get.
His solution? Unrestricted competition.
Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn't be surprised by the results. It's a no-brainer that the areas of our lives with the greatest innovation, tailoring of services to individual wants and falling prices are the areas where there is ruthless competition such as computers, food, telephone and clothing industries, and delivery companies such as UPS, Federal Express and electronic bill payments that have begun to undermine the postal monopoly in first-class mail.

Millions continue to starve in East Africa

The most popular villains said to be causing the pitiful conditions of these poor people are said to be either an insufficient amount of foreign aid or climate change. Julian Morris, Executive Director of International Policy Network, has a more radical theory. In a word, government. In his words, " it was and is the result of policies in the affected countries that inhibit freedom and incentives to trade, own land, and invest in diverse, prosperity-enhancing economic activities."

Subsistence farming dominated life before about 1800.
first in England and soon in many other parts of the world, people began to rise above subsistence. They specialized more narrowly than before in the production of certain goods and they traded with others who also specialized. This led to increased output, as specialists were able to produce more than generalists. Competition in the supply of goods drove innovation, which led to further increases in output. Agricultural production rose dramatically and famine declined. . . .

Since the 1920s, global deaths from drought-related famines have fallen by 99.9%. The reason? Continued specialization and trade, which has skyrocketed the amount of food produced per capita, and has enabled people in drought-prone regions to diversify and become less vulnerable.

In places where trade is restricted, people are forced to remain subsistence farmers. So, when drought occurs, the majority suffer and many die.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pelosi's Magnum Opus

David Harsanyi, a columnist for the Denver Post and author of Nanny State, refers to Pelosi's Health Care Package appropriately as Masterfleece Theater. It provides Americans with over 1,900 pages of lawyer-speak.
So curl up by a fire with a fifth of whiskey, and just dive in.

But drink quickly. In the new world, your insurance choices will be tethered to decisions made by people with Orwellian titles (1984 is only 268 pages!), such as the "Health Choices Commissioner" and "Inspector General for the Health Choices Administration."

You will, of course, need to be plastered to buy Pelosi's fantastical proposition that 450,000 words of new regulations, rules, mandates, penalties, price controls, taxes, and bureaucracy would have the transformative power to "provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending."

It's going to take some time to deconstruct this lengthy masterpiece, but as you flip through the pages of the House bill, you will notice the word "regulation" appears 181 times. "Tax" is there 214 times. "Fees," 103 times. As we all know, nothing says "affordability" like higher taxes and fees.

Ron Paul on Afghanistan, H1N1, Iran, and other issues

As interviewed on Russia Today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Migrating to a new Mac from an old one

Here are two problems I ran into that weren't resolved with Migration Assistant. Both solutions worked. I had my old G4 iMac on the same network as my new Mac laptop so I could access files as I needed them.

1. When running iMovie for the first time, I noticed it had no music resources, even though iTunes was running okay. Why couldn't iMovie access iTunes and get the list of songs? After a web search I found this item from Apple support:

Under some circumstances, you may not see the iTunes Library in other iLife applications (iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD).

Products Affected
iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes

Symptom
  • When selecting audio for a slideshow in iPhoto, the option to choose music from iTunes is not available. The pop-up menu says "iTunes not found".
  • When selecting audio in iMovie, the option to choose music from iTunes is not available. The pop-up menu says "iTunes not found".
  • When you click the Audio button in iDVD the message "Launch iTunes or later to populate this list" appears.
Solution
  1. Run Software Update to make sure QuickTime, Mac OS X and your iLife applications to up to date.
  2. Make sure that iTunes has been opened at least once.
  3. The iTunes Music Library.xml file may be unusable. Try recreating the XML file used to populate the music listing. Follow these steps:
  4. Quit iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and iTunes.
  5. Click the Finder icon in the Dock.
  6. Choose Go > Go to Folder
  7. Depending where your iTunes Music Library is, enter ~/Documents/iTunes or ~/Music/iTunes and click Go.
  8. Locate the "iTunes Music Library.xml" file and drag it to the Desktop.
  9. Open iTunes.
  10. Create a new playlist by choosing File > New Playlist.
  11. Quit iTunes.
2. When running iWeb the first time I couldn't access my existing website. Again, a Google search uncovered the following discussion from Apple:

If you still have your old Mac, the file is here:

~/Library/Application Support/iWeb/

Where ~ is your Home Directory.

Move the file to the same location on your new Mac.