Category Archives: News

My thoughts on the news of the day, both local, Colorado, national and international.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

A long day yesterday finds yr. obdt. back in northern Indiana today, for a three-week stint.  The traveling life is many things, but settled and boring aren’t among them.

I’ve always kind of liked San Francisco Chronicle columnist Deb Saunders, all the more so after a few years ago when I actually had an informative and pleasant email exchange with her on the topic of schools.  Today we have this from her Bay Area keyboard:  Government Can’t Say No.  Excerpt:

The Social Security Disability Insurance program is in big trouble. In 2016, the program’s trust fund is expected to run out of money. When that happens, there will be “large across-the-board cuts for all beneficiaries,” warn James Lankford, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees entitlements, and Jackie Speier, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat. Those cuts will be painful for the “truly disabled,” whom the system originally was designed to serve.

Washington has a choice to make: provide for the truly disabled or the newly disabled.

CongressLet’s be honest; Social Security as a whole is in big, deep, no-shit trouble, and nobody in Washington has the stones to try to fix it.  But the disability program has been a problem for years due to massive overreach.  And here’s the real money quote, in which Ms. Saunders nails the problem:

There’s such a huge backlog that the SSA has yet to review cases approved by infamous “red flag” judges Charles Bridges and David Daugherty. According to their regional chief, Bridges awarded benefits to nearly all the 2,000 claimants who came before him each year. Daugherty approved 99.7 percent of cases before him, to the benefit of 8,413 individuals. Estimated lifetime cost: $2.5 billion.

…The professor thinks the SSA should get rid of all 1,400 administrative law judges. “They are counterproductive. They introduce more errors than they eliminate,” Pierce told me. “They have absolutely no relevant training, no expertise, and they’re overruling people who have relevant training and expertise.” What’s more, he wrote for Cato in 2011, the $2 billion freed up by their removal could be used to “hire a large number of talented people to manage” important programs.

Angry-BearThis is the continuing problem with bureaucracy in general; there is little consequence for the lazy and incompetent.  One sees it in microcosm in the issue of handicapped parking permits; every community, it seems, has at least one physician who will sign off on such a permit for anyone who asks, on any pretext – sore feet, an aching back – and that causes problems for the truly disabled.  So it is here, with the “red flag” SSDI judges referred to in this article.

But there’s one big difference.

These damned red flag judges, through either deliberate malfeasance, laziness or stupidity, are costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars.

They shouldn’t just be cashiered.  They should be jailed.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Energy policy rates an entire section in the Animal Manifesto, so it was with considerable interest that yr. obdt. noted this story in Forbes:  Fossil Fuels Still Rule But Don’t Worry — We Have Plenty Of Uranium.  Excerpt:

The 2014 Annual Report of the AAPG Energy Minerals Division Committee (Michael D. Campbell, Chair) just came out and its findings are quite interesting (EMD Uranium 2014). It’s a good read if you want to know the state of uranium in the world, but also covers a lot of material on all energy fronts. I have taken freely from it for this post. Full disclosure – I am on the Advisory Group to this committee.

Energy minerals focus on ores of uranium, thorium and helium-3 as materials useful for fission and fusion reactors. But rare earth elements (REE) and other energy-important or high-tech materials are also included (see figure below).  Although coal is the most developed of all energy minerals, it has its own category and is not included in EMD analyses. Oil and gas are not minerals as they do not have a defined three-dimensional arrangement of their atoms in space, the definition of a mineral.

The common wisdom, that limited uranium supplies will prevent a substantial increase in nuclear energy, is incorrect. We have plenty of uranium, enough for the next 10,000 years. But uranium supplies are governed by the same market forces as any other commodity, and projections only include what is cost-effective today. Like natural gas, unconventional sources of uranium abound.

Fishing BearWhat is interesting in the world nuclear power picture is the use of thorium as a reactor fuel – something both India and China are aggressively pursuing.  Thorium is more abundant than uranium, the by-products of the thorium fuel cycle are far less weaponizable (a serious consideration, when you consider nuclear rogue states like Iran and North Korea.)

So why isn’t the United States pursuing nuclear power?  There are some nuclear plants in the start-up or approval process right now, but that process is difficult and heavily regulated.  The newest generations of reactors are as close to baka-yoke as is possible.

CongressOne wonders what the holdup is.  But then, our energy policy for the last 30-40 years has generally been incomprehensibly stupid; the Keystone pipeline, for example, remains in limbo, and that tiny few miles of pipeline requiring the signoff of the Imperial Federal government is the sticking point.

Still, that’s Washington, where stupidity all too frequently abounds.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Another week begins, and with it an interesting definition of libertarian ideology regarding race, this one from Reason.com.  Excerpt:

I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force. According to this view, the philosophy sets out a prohibition on the initiation of force and otherwise has nothing to say about anything else. (Fraud is conceived as an indirect form of force because, say, a deceptive seller obtains money from a buyer on terms other than those to which the buyer agreed.)

How can libertarianism be concerned with nothing but force? This view has been dubbed “thin libertarianism” by Charles W. Johnson, and it strikes me as very thin indeed. (Jeffrey Tucker calls it “libertarian brutalism”; his article explains this perhaps startling term.)

As I see it, the libertarian view is necessarily associated with certain underlying values, and this association seems entirely natural. I can kick a rock, but not a person. What is it about persons that makes it improper for me to kick them (unless it’s in self-defense)? Frankly, I don’t see how to answer that question without reference to some fundamental ideas. Different libertarians will have different answers, but each will appeal to some underlying value.

Race is an interesting topic, especially given today’s political culture.  There is a distinct tendency on the political Left to shout “racism!” whenever anyone, for any reason, opposes President Obama’s policies.  But what’s interesting that the most pervasive, actual racism in the United States today is espoused by these same people on the political Left.

How?

Sad-BearBy thinking that race is defining.  By thinking and believing that individual people, for no other reason than the incredibly shallow, stupidly irrelevant fact of skin/hair color, should think a certain way, believe certain things, and vote for certain political parties.  The Left – and plenty on the Right, too, let’s be honest about it – ascribe to the idiotic notion of “group” or collective rights and interests.

But a group can not have interests.  A group can not have rights.  Only individuals can have interests or rights.

It’s baffling why so many people don’t understand that.

Rule Five Friday

2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (1)To go along with some summery Friday Rule Five totty, we have an interestingly timed follow-up to Wednesday’s post regarding the Koch brothers comes today in the form of a Wall Street Journal article from Charles Koch himself.  Excerpt:

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (2)A truly free society is based on a vision of respect for people and what they value. In a truly free society, any business that disrespects its customers will fail, and deserves to do so. The same should be true of any government that disrespects its citizens. The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

There are plenty of pols on both sides of the aisle who fit the mind-set bemoaned by Mr. Koch, namely, that the typical American is incapable of managing his or her own life.  Example:  I favor 2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (3)privatizing Social Security at least to the extent that taxpayers should be able to manage their own money – that we do away with the idea of a “trust fund” that may be raided by Congress at will for whatever boondoggle strikes their fancy at the moment, the taxpayer’s “contributions” (use of scare quotes intentional; “contribution” implies that the transaction is voluntary.)  Instead, the taxpayer’s withholding would go into a fund, with their name on it, that they can manage and even pass on to their heirs.

“But Animal,” comes the inevitable question, “what if some people manage their funds badly and lose money?”

2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (4)The reply:  “How am I responsible for other people’s poor decisions?”

This is the kind of thing Mr. Koch is describing; the explosion of intrusive, overbearing government.  He concludes:

Those in power fail to see that more government means less liberty, and liberty is the essence of what it means to be American. Love of liberty is the American ideal.

If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off—not just today, but for generations to come. I’m dedicated to fighting for that vision. I’m convinced most Americans believe it’s worth fighting for, too.

I don’t know about most Americans – not any more – but I think it’s worth fighting for, too.

2014_04_04_Rule Five Fridy (5)

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

From the New World Dictionary:

oligarchy (ˈɒlɪˌɡɑːkɪ)

— n , pl -chies
1. government by a small group of people
2. a state or organization so governed
3. a small body of individuals ruling such a state
4. chiefly ( US ) a small clique of private citizens who exert a strong influence on government

So, who qualifies as an “oligarch?”  Like “decimate” this is a term that’s roundly abused.  The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page weighed in on the idea recently.  Excerpt:

You may have noticed that our friends on the left have begun to refer to the Koch brothers and other rich conservatives as “oligarchs.” Like calling evangelicals “jihadists” and the tea party “racist,” this comparison to the billionaires in Vladimir Putin‘s circle is meant to stigmatize and marginalize these men politically and socially.

140331-koch-ness-monsterThis latest Saul Alinsky tactic got us thinking about who really qualifies as an American oligarch. If the definition is someone who becomes rich by association with government power and policies, and then assists those in power, the Kochs would barely make the list. Their companies are usually harassed by government.

The list, with supporting data, is wonderfully illustrated by Doug Ross here (image from that site.)

The demonization of political opponents is nothing new, dating at least back to the Roman Republic – if you think pols today have problems with incivility, read some of Marcus Tullius Cicero’s speeches, especially those about Mark Antony.

Cicero really, really hated Mark Antony.  He was eloquent about it, but the hate really comes through in his speeches to the Roman Senate.

But I digress.

The fact is, the Left – in and out of government both – are demonizing the Koch brothers for activities that some of their own staunchest (and richest)  supporters are guilty of, in spades.  Demonization is one thing, hypocrisy another; while there is plenty on both sides of the aisle, this example by the Left is particularly egregious.

And what’s more – the examples listed on the left side of the political spectrum have, by and large, made their fortunes through collusion with government, while the Koch brothers – agree with their politics or not – have made their fortunes by providing products and services that people want to buy.

Ayn Rand called it the “aristocracy of pull.”  In this as in many other things, she was remarkably prescient.

Animal’s Daily News

bears-cute-awesome2-12An interesting story out of Selma, Alabama, wherein a would-be robbery perp was taken all the way out by an armed citizen – read here and here.

Money quote from that second story:

Law enforcement officials are calling Marlo Ellis a hero in the wake of Thursday’s shooting at the Dollar General in Orrville.

Ellis shot and killed Dallas County resident Kevin McLaughlin after McLaughlin entered the store, reportedly shouting and waving a gun.

Authorities said that as McLaughlin was leading a group of people into a break room, Ellis turned and used his own pistol to shoot McLaughlin. Ellis’ weapon was concealed according to Sheriff Harris Huffman.

McLaughlin was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting.

Facepalm-bearNow, here’s the catch:  The Dollar Store in question had a “no guns” policy, and the CCW holder and proclaimed (by local law enforcement, no less) hero of the moment may face trespassing charges for bringing his weapon into the store in violation of their posted signs.

It’s unclear whether this is a corporate policy or the local store’s idea.  There are Dollar Stores here in Colorado, but honestly I’ve never been in one.  But in this specific instance, if the company proceeds with charges against Ellis, they would bring to mind the Austrian’s reply to Russia after the Russians helped put down a revolt during the Crimean War:  “We will shock the world with our ingratitude.”

Really, to avoid looking like a gigantic collection of jackasses, Dollar Store really needs to just let this one go.

Rule Five Friday

2014_03_28_Rule Five Friday (1)Let’s build a little bit on yesterday’s post about stupid politicians with a real-life example; Iowa Democrat Dismisses Chuck Grassley As ‘A Farmer From Iowa Who Never Went to Law School.’  Excerpt:

If there’s one thing that candidates should have learned from the 2012 election season, it’s to watch what they say in closed-door fundraisers. One Iowa Democrat apparently didn’t get the memo.

While attempting to court a group of lawyers at a South Texas fundraiser, Rep. Bruce Braley took a swipe at Sen. Chuck Grassley by warning of a possible Republican Senate majority after the midterms.

2014_03_28_Rule Five Friday (2)“You might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Braley said in a video released by the conservative America Rising PAC. “Because, if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

If there’s one thing that candidates should have learned from the 2012 election season, it’s to watch what they say in closed-door fundraisers. One Iowa Democrat apparently didn’t get the memo.

While attempting to court a group of lawyers at a South Texas fundraiser, Rep. Bruce Braley took a swipe at Sen. Chuck Grassley by warning of a possible Republican Senate majority after the midterms.

“You might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Braley said in a video released by the conservative America Rising PAC. “Because, if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

2014_03_28_Rule Five Friday (3) Grassley is the ranking member of that committee. Braley, who practiced law before joining the House, told the crowd he would be someone on the Senate Judiciary Committee with “your background, your experience, your voice, someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years.”

Speaking as someone who was raised by an Iowa farmer who never went to law school and never practiced law, it would be easy to take this rather personally.  The Old Man, even today at 90 years of age but in fine physical and mental fettle, is far better suited, both temperamentally and intellectually, to serve in Congress than 99% of the incumbents – maybe 100%.

But the real eye-opener is this comment:

…Braley, who practiced law before joining the House, told the crowd he 2014_03_28_Rule Five Friday (4)would be someone on the Senate Judiciary Committee with “your background, your experience, your voice, someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years.”

Holy shit.  Is that supposed to be a recommendation?  If there are two things this nation needs, it is 1) tort reform, and b) fewer lawyers in Congress.

I’m a big fan of term limits, but I’d rather have ten Grassleys in the Senate than one Braley.  Let’s hope Iowa voters kick this nitwit to the curb.

2014_03_28_Rule Five Friday (5)

Animal’s Daily News

Ever wonder why pols seem to be getting dumber?  Have a look at this first of a series of three videos in PJMedia’s Trifecta series.

See Part 2 here – and watch for the upcoming Part 3.

Here’s the question:  How do these nitwits get elected?  One possible observation is that the majority of voters in their respective districts/states themselves lack the mental brainpower to think their way out of a wet paper bag.   Another is the sad state of our electorate today, with nearly 50% dependent to one degree or another on government, because of which many pols who are Facepalm-bearpathetically, profoundly ignorant on a host of issues nevertheless can muster the brainpower to promise voters more and more of someone else’s stuff.

Anyone with enough brains to pound sand knows islands can’t capsize.  Unfortunately a room-temperature IQ apparently isn’t a bar to elected office.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Some random tidbits on this fine Hump Day.

From the always-worth-reading Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  Loud + Weak = War.  Speaking loudly and carrying a twig, in other words, is a recipe for failure.

More on that topic:  If NATO Doesn’t Stand up to Putin, it’s finished.  Note to the Telegraph’s copyeditor:  NATO is an acronym, and should be rendered in all caps.  What ever happened to the rules of written English, anyway?

Speaking of NATO – this from the Wall Street Journal, NATO’s Military Decline.   One could just as easily write an article on the West’s military decline – it would be just as apt.

Moving east (or East, if you prefer) How Japan Could Turn the Tables on China.   Of late Japan has been making some noises of rearming, Sleepy-Bearand who could blame them?  Japan’s entire post-war military posture has been based on the presumption that America, bound by treaty obligations, would have their backs – and they aren’t so sure about that any more.  And who could blame them?

And finally, it looks like the missing Malaysian airliner has been found – maybe.  Who knows?

On that note, we return you to your Wednesday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily News

Harp BearThanks to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

This just in from the folks at Reason:  The 3D Economy – Forget Guns, What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes?  Excerpt:

Imagine what will happen when millions of people start using the tools that produced The Liberator to make, copy, swap, barter, buy, and sell all the quotidian stuff with which they furnish their lives. Rest in peace, Bed, Bath & Beyond. Thanks for all the stuff, Foxconn, but we get our gadgets from Pirate Bay and MEGA now.

Once the retail and manufacturing carnage starts to scale, the government carnage will soon follow. How can it not, when only old people pay sales tax, fewer citizens obtain their incomes from traditional easy-to-tax jobs, and large corporate taxpayers start folding like daily newspapers? Without big business, big government can’t function.

Naysayers to this scenario point out that the typical 3D printer is still expensive (a canard; technology always drops in relative price as it becomes mainstreamed) and that users still have to buy raw materials and software (somewhat accurate; raw materials will also become cheaper, but software is effectively uncontrollable.)

This tech, Reason accurately points out, has the potential to set manufacturing on its ear.  However, world-changing new tech always does; the invention of the automobile and Henry Ford’s introduction of mass production in the automotive industry changed the world, and drove several competing industries into near-extinction almost overnight; buggy-whip makers, horse tack manufacturers, farriers and coachbuilders suddenly found themselves looking for other work.  This will do the same; it will be awfully hard for TV pitchmen to convince you to buy the new Whang-O One-Hand Bottle Opener for just $9.95 (Order NOW and we’ll double the offer!) when the typical consumer will be able to download a pattern and print their own.

Reason concludes:

Be prepared, however, to expect some pushback from your local regulators. Over the past decade or so, as newer technologies and fewer opportunities for traditional employment have prompted more people to act in entrepreneurially innovative ways, government’s response has been the same: Consumers must be protected against strawberry balsamic jam made in home kitchens. Tourists must be protected against immaculately maintained carriage houses that can be rented on a daily basis for below-hotel rates. Travelers must be protected from cheap rides from the airport.

Shy BearWhen government realizes that self-produced plastic shower curtain rings are far more potentially disruptive than self-produced plastic pistols, it’ll be more than libertarian entrepreneur-iconoclasts at risk.

3D printing gives consumers much, much more control over a wide range of consumer goods – how they will be produced, designed, bought and sold.  The down side:  Government at all levels in institutionally incapable of surrendering control.  This is a technology that threatens to place a vast swath of consumer goods outside the taxable, regulated grasp of industry and in the direct control of consumers.  Watch for the inevitable shouts of the need to control this – probably “for our own good.”