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!

This is interesting.  Not surprising, but interesting.  Popular Anti-Fracking Study Discredited by Colorado Health Department.  Relevant excerpts:

“It is difficult to draw conclusions from this study, due to its design and limitations,” Dr. Larry Wolk, CDPHE’s chief medical officer, said. “We appreciate continuing research about possible public health implications that may be associated with oil and gas operations in Colorado.

“With regard to this particular study, people should not rush to judgment.”

Why? Because the study didn’t distinguish between active wells and inactive wells. It also did not distinguish between vertical, horizontal, oil or natural gas wells.

“This makes it difficult to draw conclusions on the actual exposure people may have had,” Wolk said.

Further, the researchers never considered outside factors that may have resulted in birth defects, such as drinking or smoking.

“Without considering the effect of these personal risk factors, as well as the role of genetic factors, it is very difficult to draw conclusions from this study,” Wolk said.

Also:

The researchers noted in the study that they never bothered to check where the mother lived during conception or the first trimester. This is when most birth defects occur, so not knowing what was going on in the mother’s life at that time is a significant problem in determining whether fracking was to blame.

In other words, shoddy science.  A case in point; the study mentioned noted a decrease in birth defect among women who live closer to wells, a seeming contradiction that should have raised some alarms on the study’s methodology.  Why?

Because contradictions don’t exist.  When a seeming contradiction is found in a study of this nature, one should check their premises; one or more of them will be wrong.

Here’s the crux of this issue; there can be no absolute right or wrong answer in a policy issue of this nature.   There can only be tradeoffs.  There is a level of mess we will accept in order to increase our energy independence and lower the cost of energy.  Worried about Shy Bearour chronically high unemployment rate?  Stagnant tax revenues?  Runaway Federal debt? Explosion of numbers on welfare?  The answer is economic growth, and cheap energy is a supercharger for economic growth.

And no matter what side of any given issue you might take, relying on shoddy, self-contradictory  science makes for a shoddy, self-contradictory argument.

Animal’s Daily News

Sleepy-BearI didn’t listen to the State of the Union.  It’s nothing more than political theatrics, and no matter who the President is, everyone already knows what he’s going to say.  I’ve read the transcript, and this one was perfectly predictable in its banality and fact-challenged economic presumptions.   Some noteworthy commentary:

SOTU Response From A Veteran:  NO!

Krauthammer: ‘When Obama repeated Guantanamo, you knew he’d sort of run out of ideas’

The State of the Union:  Make it Stop!

Re-State of the Union.

Everything Joe Biden Did, Besides Listen to the SOTU.  Let’s be honest about this at least; daffy old Uncle Joe should have been retired years ago.

Instead of more SOTU discussion, have a read on tax policy, from Brian Domitrovic of the libertarian Cato Institute:  Tax Revolt!  It’s Time to Learn from Past Success.  Excerpt:

The achievements of the 1980s and 1990s stemmed from one source above all: the centerpiece of Ronald Reagan’s economics, the bill that Congress passed in the summer of 1981. This was the great tax cut that had been originally sponsored in Congress in the 1970s by Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and Sen. William V. Roth of Delaware, “Kemp-Roth.”

The tax cut of 1981 — which took all rates of the income tax down by an average of 23 percent, lowered the capital gains rate by 29 percent, and reduced business taxes — was the point of origin of the renaissance of the 1980s and 1990s whereby the economy expanded well in excess of the government.

The tax cut made everything else easy. First of all, it took the heat off the Splashing-BearsFed. The Fed did not have to worry about stimulating the economy, because growth flowed from the tax cut. Furthermore, lower tax rates made loopholes less important as a source of profit, so business focused more on real entrepreneurship.

The 1980s saw the turnaround from years of Nixon/Ford/Carter stagflation and ‘malaise,’ the process began with tax rate cuts (not tax cuts; tax rate cuts.  There’s a difference.) but also saw the Imperial Federal government swallowing a simplification of the tax code that eliminated a lot of exemptions and loopholes.  The result?  Tax revenues soared, the product of increased economic activity.

But there was a problem; Congress increased spending just as quickly.  Now, for about the last ten years, Federal policy has become as hostile to economic growth as it was friendly in the 1980s, and Congress continues to spend.

That, True Believers, is the other side of the tax policy debate.  No change in tax policy will extract us from the current fiscal mess until Congress learns to stop the runaway spending.

Mr. Domitrovic concludes:

Instead of conceding long-term mediocrity under Leviathan, we should take inspiration from our past, indeed our recent past. The last time we were stuck with 2 percent growth for the long term, the 1970s and the early 1980s, we mustered a means of narrowing government. The real results were so stellar that to recite them is to take us back to a world we have lost — but only 15 years ago.

Tax cuts, stable money, and the rendering of spending and regulation as superfluous are the formula of the supply-side revolution — the Reagan Revolution. They stand sentinel right there, not long ago in our history, as the way to advance through our sluggishness and purposelessness today.

He’s right.  But it’s only half of the picture.

Animal’s Hump Day News

2014_01_29_Hump Day
Happy Hump Day!

Coming to us today from the RealClearPolitics site, another winner from the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell:  The Inequality Bogeyman.  Excerpt:

One of the problems with so  many discussions of income and wealth is that the intelligentsia are so obsessed with the money that people receive that they give little or no attention to what causes money to be paid to them, in the first place.

The money itself is not wealth. Otherwise the government could make us all rich just by printing more of it. From the standpoint of a society as a whole, money is just an artificial device to give us incentives to produce real things — goods and services.

Those goods and services are the real “wealth of nations,” as Adam Smith titled his treatise on economics in the 18th century.

The esteemed Dr. Sowell hits to the very heart of the matter with this definition of “wealth,” and in so doing illustrates why government can not – by definition – create wealth.   Government can not create work; the only services government legitimately Peeking-Bear-150x99produces are ‘distributed’ services, such as fire and police protection, services which add value only retroactively following some unforeseen event.  Only private enterprise innovates, developing new goods and services before the need is anticipated.  This creates value; this creates wealth.  The very definition of entrepreneurship, creating value from ideas, is the wellspring of wealth.

Example:  Many of us on the wrong side of fifty remember what things were like before microwave ovens – and yet today, not only does every kitchen have one, most folks can’t imagine doing without one.  Value was created in the form of an entire line of products, producing wealth for millions, because of that innovation.  For a more recent example, see the iPod and iPad, devices that changed the way we listen to music and access information.  How many jobs were created by the production of those two devices alone?

BearDr. Sowell concludes:  Intellectuals’ obsession with income statistics — calling envy “social justice” — ignores vast differences in productivity that are far more fundamental to everyone’s well-being. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg has ruined many economies.

As usual, Dr. Sowell has it exactly right.

Animal’s Daily News

Harp BearSome random notes:

A Pen, a Phone, and a Flailing President. 

The Obama Administration may well be characterized by one word: from the article:  “Uninformed.”  When the administration does admit to knowing about some screw-up or another, it invariably seems to be someone else’s fault.

Moving on to the world of tech, it seems Microsoft is looking for a recovery from the massive Charlie Foxtrot that is Windows 8.  Both of my machines are still running Windows 7, and they will stay that way until Microsoft unscrews this particular mess.   Mrs. A has a hybrid tablet/laptop that runs Windows 8, and she isn’t impressed.   PerfectAs pointed out in the article, Microsoft seems to go through this process about every other major OS release, so maybe there is some hope for Windows 9.

One more, this one from the sexy world of science:  Graphene Condoms.   Advantages?  The thinnest and strongest condoms ever made, which presumably would boost condom use.  An issue with which I have no personal interest, as a happily married man on the wrong side of fifty whose spouse is a frighteningly good shot, but interesting all the same.

Work beckons.  Stay tuned, True Believers; more to come.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

This is an interesting take on current social and political trends from David Harsanyi:  America Isn’t Destined To Be More Liberal.  Excerpt:

Marijuana legalization or support for same-sex marriage is far more likely caused by a growing “live and let live” mindset than it is any burst of leftist idealism. And if the “live and let live” mindset starts bleeding into other areas of American life — say, education, health care and religious freedom — the left is in trouble.

In the end, the progressive agenda demands that you trust the state to control economic outcomes — an idea that is yet to be proved especially popular among Americans. Will it be? Who knows? But right now, what does seem to be growing is skepticism toward government, especially among the young. When Gallup asks about what people “think the most important problem facing this country today is,” it doesn’t bode well for the left that a plurality of people — independents, Republicans and Democrats — say it’s government. Fifty-three percent of Americans claim to believe government does “too many things.”

Facepalm-bearIt probably doesn’t speak well for the current state of affairs that, when you mention “government” to most people, they don’t think of their county commissioners, their city council or even their state legislature; they think immediately of that colossus in Washington, the Imperial Federal government.  Why is that?  Because for decades, it has grown ever larger, ever more intrusive, and far, far beyond its Constitutional boundaries.

The national government has only a few legitimate purposes:  To protect its citizens from foreign attack or invasion, to ensure the security of our borders and deal with international trade.  That’s really about it.  And, for that matter, government at all levels only has a few legitimate purposes; to protect the lives and property of citizens, and to provide a few essential distributed services, such as police, fire protection and basic infrastructure.  And, in terms of accountability, those services are most efficiently provided by levels of government as close as possible to the voters.

Grizzly-Bear-FaceBy way of illustration, look at the Imperial Federal government’s latest major project, the ill-named “Affordable Care Act,” better known as Obamacare.  It is a debacle of the worst sort, rammed through by a parliamentary trick, passed without any of the people who voted on it having read it (remember Nancy Pelosi’s notorious “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it” comment?)  Now the Obamacare chickens have come home to roost.  Employers are cutting hours, businesses are maintaining headcount below the magic thirty, and the less said about the healthcare.gov website, the better.

If this is what it takes to turn the country in a more libertarian direction, though, then it may have been worth it.

Rule Five Friday

2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (1)Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, a historian and scholar of classical times, a man whose opinion I respect, worries that we may now be in The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization.  Excerpt:

Over 90 million Americans who could work are not working (the “non-institutionalized” over 16). What we take for granted — our electrical power, fuel, building materials, food, health care, and communications — all hinge on just 144 million getting up in the morning to produce what about 160-170 million others (the sick, the young, and the retired who need assistance along with the 90 million idle) consume.

2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (2)Every three working Americans provide sustenance for two who are not ill, enfeebled, or too young. The former help the disabled, the latter take resources from them. The gang-banger has only disdain for the geek at the mall — until one Saturday night his liver is shredded by gang gunfire and suddenly he whimpers (who is now the real wimp?) that he needs such a Stanford-trained nerd to do sophisticated surgery to get him back in one piece to the carjackings, muggings, assaults, and knockout games — or lawsuits follow!

Given that the number of non-working is growing (an additional 10 million were idled in the Obama “recovery” alone), it is likely to keep growing. At some point, we will hit a 50/50 ratio of idle versus active. 2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (3)Then things will get interesting. The percentage of workers’ pay deducted to pay for the non-working will soar even higher. So will the present redistributive schemes and the borrowing from the unborn.

Why does Dr. Hanson’s opinion matter?

From his biography:  Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester 2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (4)courses in military history and classical culture.

Dr. Hanson is a scholar with few peers, a dedicated student of history with a deep background in the rise and fall of past republics, including the Rome and Greek republics – two nations which were in large part the inspiration for our own republic.  And it is familiarity with the manner in which those republics self-destructed that makes one pessimistic about our own future, for reasons Dr. Hanson articulates very plainly in this column many of his other works.

Dr. Hanson concludes:

2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (5)Each day when I drive to work I try to look at the surrounding communities, and count how many are working and how many of the able-bodied are not. I listen to the car radio and tally up how many stories, both in their subject matter and method of presentation, seem to preserve civilization, or how many seem to tear it down. I try to assess how many drivers stay between the lines, how many weave while texting or zoom in and out of traffic at 90mph or honk and flip off drivers.

Today, as the reader can note from the tone of this apocalyptic essay, civilization seemed to be losing.

I wish I could find more reason to disagree with him.

2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Daily News

Bear-stuffsA compendium of random notes today.

From Gallup:  65% Dissatisfied With How Government Works.  No shit.   Excerpt:

Republicans and independents are largely responsible for the overall decrease in satisfaction with government effectiveness in recent years. Satisfaction among Republicans and independents began to wane during President George W. Bush’s final year in office. This may have reflected mounting public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, coupled with the Democratic takeover of Congress after the 2006 midterm elections. Both groups’ satisfaction plummeted still more between 2008 and 2011, and has since dipped further.

With the performance of the Imperial Federal government over the last decade or so, what’s really amazing is that the number that are satisfied is still as high as it is.   Is it possible that 35% just aren’t paying attention?

Related:  Obama’s Polls Fall As Middle Class Gets His Number.  Excerpt:

Are you dazed and confused by Barack Obama, the nominal Democrat, whose conduct as president since 2009 has seen him sink from nearly 70 percent to 40 percent or less in the national polling, from which he has seemed to learn nothing, but still marches on?

Facepalm-bearFear not, the doctor is in: Fred Siegel of the Manhattan Institute, whose latest book, The Revolt Against The Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, explains all you wanted to know about Obama, and much else. It explains why he never became the new Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson at his best, as he and they belong to quite different wings of their party.

Read the whole thing.  It’s worth the time.

Finally, a science note:  CoGeNT Gives Further Backing to Annual Dark-Matter Variation.  Excerpt:

Science!A long-standing and controversial claim by the DAMA collaboration in Italy that it has observed dark matter has received fresh support from a US-based experiment. Like DAMA, the CoGeNT collaboration says that it continues to see a seasonal variation in the number of events registered in its detector. Such a variation would be expected if the Milky Way galaxy were shrouded in a “halo” of dark matter, but several other dark-matter searches have failed to see the effect.

Dark matter is one of the great mysteries in physics; now, we may be a bit closer to understanding exactly that that mysterious substance is.

And, on that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Animal’s Hump Day Inequality News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

This just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell: Fact-Free Liberals.  Excerpt:

Someone summarized Barack Obama in three words — “educated,” “smart” and “ignorant.” Unfortunately, those same three words would describe all too many of the people who come out of our most prestigious colleges and universities today.

President Obama seems completely unaware of how many of the policies he is trying to impose have been tried before, in many times and places around the world, and have failed time and again. Economic equality?

That was tried in the 19th century, in communities set up by Robert Owen, the man who coined the term “socialism.” Those communities all collapsed.

President Obama and various other pols, most (but not all!  Oh, no, not all!) on the left side of the spectrum, have been whinging on quite a lot lately about “income inequality.”  Dr. Sowell has repudiated the notion in a number of forums, including in his recent work The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy.  (I highly recommend it.)  The problem with bemoaning inequalities in income or wealth – they Sleepy-Beararen’t the same thing – are legion, but the most simple refutation is simple.  I’ve done so before in these pages, but that post has vanished into the ether, so here it is again.

Let’s say I invent something new, something sure to appeal to a broad swath of the consumer market.   My invention, the Super-Kool Hyper-Gizmo, sells in the millions and makes me a billionaire.

Now, where did that money come from?  From millions of voluntary transactions, millions of individual people who decided they wanted my Hyper-Gizmo more than the $109.95 purchase price.  Millions of voluntary transactions, in which both parties gained value – both parties walked away feeling they’d come out ahead.

Oh, and during the realization of the product, I also employed a few hundred or a few thousand people, and did business with suppliers, shippers, and many, many others along the way.  All of these things were again voluntary transactions in which both parties gained value.

Standing-BearThat’s how wealth is created.  Entrepreneurship is the wellspring of wealth; creating value from ideas.

It’s the rare pol that understands that, or any matter involving economics.  They don’t understand that the economy is not a zero-sum game; it grows.

Now, let’s consider the pols arguing that income inequality is a problem, and that something must be done about it.  No matter what the pol claims, no matter what he proposes, all government solutions boil down to one thing:  Taking wealth away from those who have earned it, and giving it to those who have not.  No matter what the pol’s claims, no matter what the pol’s promises, it must come to that.

And government – government is the only entity that can deprive you of your property without recompense, with the implied threat of force.  (Try not paying your taxes and see how long it takes the government to send men with guns out looking for you.)   Free citizens, legally, can only engage in economic activity voluntarily.  If a citizen takes another’s property by force, that is robbery; if he takes it by deceit, that is fraud.

Sad-BearThat’s the point that must be abundantly clear.  When a pol whines about “income inequality,” he is talking about confiscating the property of one citizen to give it to another.

The proper way to address this issue is through economic growth, but for the last decade or so the Imperial Federal government has been pursuing policies that may as well be deliberately designed to squash economic growth.