Category Archives: News

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

Animal’s Daily News

Shy BearAn interesting tidbit from RealClearDefense and author Christopher Lee (no, not that Christopher Lee);  Is North Korea About to Collapse?  Excerpt:

If North Korea’s regime collapses today, it would most likely be due to Kim Jong Un’s lack of leadership, common sense, and rational judgment. Given the magnitude of the potential consequences triggered by a regime collapse, North Korea’s state of affairs cannot be ignored.  The international community must remain vigilant at all times and begin to organize jointly for such an event.  A disintegrating North Korea could turn the Korean Peninsula into a catastrophic and dangerous hot zone, in which uncontrolled nuclear weapons and an exodus of North Korean refugees could combine to be the worst destabilizing event imaginable in Northeast Asia with enormous implications for U.S. security.

North Korea is truly a pariah among nations – a rogue state run by a twisted little gargoyle with bad hair, third in a line of twisted little gargoyles with bad hair.  A failed Stalinist state, it’s not even a good failed Stalinist state – old Uncle Joe himself would have been disgusted with the thought of a hereditary dynasty calling itself Communist.

North Korea’s collapse is almost certainly inevitable – no nation lasts forever, and a horrendously restrictive nation like North Korea never ends well.  But while the short-term effects on the region will be unpleasant, maybe even  catastrophic, in the end to fPeeking-Bear-150x99ailure of a horrendous caricature of a nation like this can only be of benefit in the long run.

And as for the scion of the Kim dynasty, that latest in the line of twisted little gargoyles with bad hair – well, Mussolini ended up hanging from a lamppost.  Something along those lines would be a fitting end for Kim the Third.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

From our blogger pal Theo: America Loves Booze and Pot. Excerpt:

In 1919 the eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of “intoxicating liquors” in the United States and by 1933 the era of prohibition was over when the twenty-first Amendment rescinded it. Alcohol consumption was and is a social problem, but sometimes the government is not the right vehicle for dealing with them.

The United States is a huge market for what are deemed illegal drugs and, for many years, marijuana has been among them. That prohibition is now going the way of the earlier effort to make alcohol consumption illegal. Questions remain as to whether this is a good thing or not.

Theo’s contributor, Alan Caruba, concludes:

Americans love booze and love pot. What the long term effects on our society will be are unknown, but there will be effects.

Well, obviously.  Everything has effects.  Booze has been legal, as the respected Mr. Caurba points out, since 1933 – this time.  It should be legal.

Derp BearAnd you know what?  Pot should be legal too.

It’s not the place of government to protect us from ourselves.

It’s our place to make our own decisions.  It’s our place to decide what’s good or bad for us.  And the flip side of that is this:  It’s likewise not the place of government to shelter us from the consequences of bad decisions.  So, yes, pot should be legal, as booze is.  And if people abuse it and screw up, it’s on them.  If they screw up and hurt someone else, they face stern criminal penalties – their right to swing their fists ended at someone else’s nose, and they blew it.

It’s not complicated.  Good policy shouldn’t be complicated.

Animal’s Daily News

Sleepy-BearBrief update today, but this is worth the read:  The Idleness Trap.  Excerpt:

If you know someone among the long-term unemployed — a category that includes workers who have been jobless at least six months, but in many cases much longer — you understand what a frustrating and demoralizing experience it is, especially for midcareer professionals and managers in their 40s and beyond. There’s a drill. You polish your resume; you work your network; you apply for openings; you wait.

All the while, you try to maintain your enthusiasm and self-esteem. In a society that worships the work ethic and treats jobs as an indicator of social status, being without one is crushing for people who view themselves as responsible and productive workers.

It must be said that, from the perspective of potential employers, not hiring these workers can make sense.

Here’s the problem with unemployment/underemployement, which combined paint a dismal picture (labor force participation is at a Carter-era low) but the key problem isn’t necessarily tied to the employers themselves.  The root cause is government which, at almost every level, is hostile to growth.  Small business in particular Yes-YOU-bearis under the gun; overtaxed and over-regulated small business owners are increasingly going Galt.

And small business is the engine of economic growth and job growth.  Small business is the goose that lays the golden eggs, and that goose is slowly being strangled.

It’s not about lazy workers, or stingy employers.  It’s about overbearing government.

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.

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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.

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