Tuesday, October 25, 2011

He CAN'T be this stupid, can he?

The inventor of the Austrian language and supporter of the intercontinental railroad is at it again.

We've catalogued a number of the President's ridiculous mistakes/falsehoods before (there's a nice summary here) and once again, it's math that he's struggling with.

Yesterday he told supporters at a Las Vegas fundraiser that:

"Last week, we had a separate vote on a part of the jobs bill that would put 400,000 teachers, firefighters and police officers back on the job, paid for by asking people who make more than $1 million to pay one-half of 1 percent in additional taxes. For somebody making $1.1 million a year, that’s an extra $500. Five hundred bucks. And with that, we could have saved 400,000 jobs. Most people making more than $1 million, if you talk to them, they’ll say, I’m willing to pay $500 extra to help the county. They’re patriots. They believe we’re all in this thing together. But all the Republicans in the Senate said no."

Of course, an elementary school student could tell you that one-half of one percent on a $1.1 million income is $5,500, not $500. And this wasn't a one-time slip of the tongue: He said it three times in a 15-second span.

The President has pretty much cemented his reputation as a dim bulb, but something like this goes right to the very competence of his staff. Understand that it's a very long road from a speechwriter's keyboard to the President's teleprompter. A speech is reviewed by a higher-up in the speechwriting shop. Then it goes to someone in the policy shop. Then it's normally reviewed by the Chief of Staff, and all along the way there are other folks sticking their noses in and making comments, edits and suggestions. (Peggy Noonan's book, What I Saw At The Revolution provides great insight into the White House speechwriting process.)

And yet, NOWHERE along the line did ANYONE say, "Hmm, that math doesn't seem right. I should check that. Does anyone have a calculator handy?"

Set ideology aside for a moment and realize that this kind of mistake - happening on a recurring basis - indicates a White House staff that just simply isn't very competent. When things like bad numbers and the intercontinental railroad repeatedly make it to the teleprompter, it's easy to see why this administration has made so many really, really dumb mistakes. The diversity hire at the top isn't very smart, and he doesn't care if the people he hires are either, as long as they share his left-wing, socialist view of the world.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A man without his machine

I'm not a big fan of Conan O'Brien, but he had a nice little bit this week about the theft of the presidential teleprompter. Enjoy (and sorry I can't eliminate the commercial...bear with it.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

"If everyone has a degree, then nobody does"

Just a little while ago, I had a few musings (see here, here and here) about the declining value of a college education.

Now, it turns out that the same realization has hit many of those in the collection of communists, anti-Semites and anarchists who call themselves the "Occupy" movement. Whether it's on Wall Street, in D.C. or in downtown Minneapolis, the few coherent complaints that come from the group often boil down to "I have a degree and I can't find a job." National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke has spent some time in lower Manhattan, and filed this report, which I found interesting. Enjoy.

The number of people participating in the Occupy Wall Street sit-ins because they are angry that their education has not yielded the fruits that they hoped it would becomes more apparent by the day. Many of the protesters I have met are understandably ruffled that they are unemployed, and they often finish their remonstrations with a non-sequitur, delivered as if it were a knockout blow: “And I went to college!” Well, one might ask, “So what?”

I first noticed this “college = good life” fallacy back in England. A close friend of mine was looking for a job straight out of college, and remained unemployed for six months while he searched for what he described as a “graduate job.” Outside of those careers that rely on specific skills and expertise — doctors, veterinarians, and so forth — I have never been sure quite what this term means. My friend has a degree in modern history. Congratulations! But there is no obvious career path for this qualification. Why should it lend itself more to working in, say, finance than to working in a 7-Eleven? Compare this attitude to that exhibited by another friend of mine — a recently naturalized American citizen. After her parents escaped from the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s and fled to the United States, her engineer father worked as a garbageman for five years until he found a job which tallied more closely with his abilities. At no point did he complain. Was it a waste of talent? Undoubtedly. Did he have a right to a “post-graduate job”? No. That’s just not how free economies work.

Yet you would not know this from the prevailing attitude. Each year in Britain, scores of intellectually average people graduate from intellectually average institutions for no better reason than that they think they should. Emerging from graduation ceremonies, they proudly wave an expensive piece of paper above their heads, which in many cases is worth little more than the Munich Agreement. And months later, when the euphoria abates, they wonder out loud why they are no more employable than before. Given the promises of milk and honey that have been made to them, this is apprehensible. But those promises have always been laughably misguided. The late Labour government’s promise to send 50 percent of British children to college is based upon a staggering failure of logic, which has not yet been exploded. It was, until a few years ago, possible to draw a direct line between the possession of a university degree, and a better paying job. This was not the product of a timeless ironclad equation, but because the default was not to go to university; to have a degree thus set one apart from the crowd. But if everyone has a degree, then nobody does. We are now caught in a spiral in which a master’s is the new degree and, soon, a Ph.D. will be the new master’s. Would that economics classes had given our children an understanding of the importance of adding value. You don’t pay your plumber more because he has a degree in physics.

In the West, we are hard at work establishing a culture that fetishizes education, and instills the belief that college — regardless of its content or application — will, and should, inexorably lead to a better job, or a better life, or even a better America. Worse, that one has a right to these things. In doing so, we have created a Potemkin aristocracy, one based upon the erroneous and tragic conceit that having letters after one’s name intrinsically confers excellence. We are happily encouraging our children to join its ranks, regardless of whether there is any evidence that to do so will be in their interest. This is supremely ironic, given that so many of America’s billionaires — i.e. those who pay for more educations and create more jobs than anyone else — are college dropouts. Indeed, both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates failed to finish college. Can we say with a straight face that this has adversely affected them, or America at large?

On Thursday, I met a guy down in Zuccotti Park. He speaks six languages, but he has nothing useful to say in any of them. He is the movement’s perfect spokesman.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

9-9-9, Herm Cain and David Gregory

I first wrote about what an impressive fellow Herman Cain was back in May (click here for the post) so it's nice to see him doing well the past month or so. Part of his appeal is that he seems like a pretty straightforward, no-nonsense kind of guy who is willing to say what's on his mind.

Today he had an interesting exchange with David Gregory, host of Meet the Press, as Cain tries to explain his tax reform plan, which he calls "9-9-9" (9% income tax, 9% corporate tax, 9% national sales tax). I think the approach has a lot of appeal, though I need to study it more.

David Gregory, however, feels no such obligation for further study. His handlers in the Democratic Party have told him it's bad, and so he devoted a great deal of time this morning trying to trip Cain up about the plan, by talking about its effect on state sales taxes. Cain tries over and over to explain that the plan has nothing to do with state taxes, but Gregory just isn't smart to enough to figure it out. The relevant transcript:Link

MR. GREGORY: The other defect in the plan comes from fellow conservatives who say, “You’ve got some problems here.” … “The real political defect,” the Journal writes, “of the Cain plan is that it imposes a new national sales tax while maintaining the income tax. … A 9 percent rate when combined with state and local levies would mean a tax on goods of 17 percent or more in many places. The cries for exemptions would be great.”

MR. CAIN: Don’t combine it with state taxes. This doesn’t address state taxes. If you add them together, yes, you’ll get that number. This is a replacement structure. These are replacement taxes. They’re not on top of anything.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. CAIN: We replace capital gains tax. We replace the payroll tax. We replace corporate income tax, replace personal income tax, and replace the death tax. It is a replacement tax structure.

MR. GREGORY: But where do state taxes go? You’re saying they’re going to be repealed?

MR. CAIN: If you–with the current structure, you have state taxes, right? So with this new structure, you’re still going to have taxes–state taxes. That is muddying the water.

MR. GREGORY: How so?

MR. CAIN: Because today, under the current tax code, state taxes are there if they have it. If they don’t have a state taxes, they don’t have it. It has nothing to do with this replacement structure for the federal tax code.

MR. GREGORY: But that doesn’t make any sense to me. If I’m already paying state taxes, and I have a new Cain administration national sales tax, I’ve got more state taxes.

MR. CAIN: No you don’t.

MR. GREGORY: How so?

MR. CAIN: David, David.

MR. GREGORY: You’re not saying they’re going away.

MR. CAIN: Your state taxes are the same. Your federal taxes, in most cases, are going to go down. That’s muddying the water.

MR. GREGORY: The Wall Street Journal says you have one on top of the other. There’s a combined levy.

MR. CAIN: That is not correct, David.


MR. CAIN: Let’s try this one more time. State taxes are there today. The current tax code is a 10 million word mess. You have probably 100–you have thousands of loopholes and tricks and what I call “sneak attaxes” in the current code. State taxes today, whatever they are, zero or some number, has nothing to do with replacing the tax code. Nothing.

I once heard someone say to another person, in exasperation, "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you." The fact that David Gregory, entrusted with hosting Meet The Press, can't grasp the distinction between federal and state taxes tells you a lot about the pool of talent at NBC.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another great moment in journalism

The Senate is preparing to vote on the President's "jobs bill" and the run-up to the vote gives us a nice glimpse of the mindset at the Star-Tribune and other mainstream media outlets.

The current makeup of the Senate is 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans and 1 "independent," the self-avowed Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who virtually always votes with the Democrats. In addition, if there is a tie vote, Vice-President Joe Biden - to whom the Constitution assigns the role of President of the Senate - can cast a tie-breaking vote.

Again, important point: The Democrats control the Senate. Remember that.

Now comes the "jobs bill." It's not really a jobs bill, it's just a multibillion dollar tax increase coupled with more government spending, similar to the 2009 "stimulus" bill that failed to create jobs and ballooned the deficit. It's a bad idea, but that's beside the point for this discussion.

The bill isn't going to pass, and it isn't going to pass because the Democrats - who, remember, control the Senate - can't get 50 Democrat senators to vote for it. If they could get to 50, Biden could break the tie, and the bill would pass.

But there are a number of Democrats - current estimates range from four to six - who oppose the tax increases and/or other components of the bill, and who say they will not vote for it.

We keep hearing that "bipartisanship" is what we need in Washington. Well, the opposition in the Senate to this bill is very bipartisan: Both Republicans and Democrats oppose it, while the only votes in favor of it are coming from one party, the Democrats.

So how does the Star-Tribune headline the story on their web site? "Republicans prepare to kill Obama jobs bill."

Isn't that beautiful? A bipartisan coalition in an institution controlled by Democrats opposes a bill, but it's "the Republicans" who are going to kill it.

Don't ever doubt that the Strib and its fellow travelers at the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. are totally in the tank for the Obama administration, and that what they report is much more propaganda than it is journalism.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sorry Steve, you were no Edison

I know this will be hard for those of you who know me to believe, but I was a bit of a bookwormish little nerd as a kid, as opposed to the bubbling, outgoing, sparkling extrovert I have become. (Turn off sarcasm generator now.)

Early on - and I'm talking first and second grade - I learned to love the library. I was lucky enough to develop pretty good reading skills at a young age, and the school library was my favorite place to hang out. In particular, I loved a series of books called the "Landmark series" of American history. Whatever I wanted to learn about history - The Alamo, Abraham Lincoln, the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson, Pearl Harbor - was all there in a book written specifically for elementary school kids. I learned to look for books that had that little Landmark chevron logo in the upper right corner of the cover, and I soaked them up.

And one that particularly captured my imagination was the Landmark biography of Thomas Edison (pictured here). I because engrossed in the story of his curiosity and his way of experimenting over and over until he could figure something out. I read dozens of these Landmark books, and Edison's story is the one I remember most.

Years later, I would end up working for General Electric, a company that was formed by merging the company Edison himself founded - Edison General Electric Company - and a competitor known as the Thomson-Houston company to become General Electric. Having admired Edison so much as a child, I got real pleasure in working for the company he founded.

(Today, of course, GE is practically a criminal enterprise, famous for making billions in profits without paying income taxes, dumping pollutants in the Hudson River for decades, turning out crappy appliances and getting government to subsidize its "green" business units that can't earn a spot in the competitive marketplace. (You know those stupid CFL bulbs that don't give you enough light and contain dangerous mercury to boot? GE became one of the first to figure out how to make them, then spent millions lobbying the government to make them mandatory.) But I digress...another story for another day.)

So....my point (and I'm getting to it) is that I always considered Edison an historical giant, which he certainly was. And though I admired the recently deceased Steve Jobs, I cringed a little when I heard or read commentaries about his death that called him things like "The Edison of his generation," because, frankly, there is NO Edison of this generation.

So I was pleased to come across this commentary in The American magazine, written by Vaclav Smil, which you can read by clicking on here: http://www.american.com/archive/2011/september/why-jobs-is-no-edison.

I don't write this to denigrate Jobs in any way, but it's a nice chance to bring Edison's name up to a new generation, and remind people of what a remarkable genius he was. And if you're rummaging around a garage sale and find any of those old Landmark books, buy them for your kids. Someday they'll thank you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oh, those "evil" corporations

You've probably seen this posted in several other places, but I like it so much I'm going to put it up here anyway. What little coherent thought that is coming out of the "Occupy Wall Street" and similar protests seems to be centered around the notion that corporations are evil.

Of course, corporations are nothing more than an organization of people who produce goods and services that people have the option of purchasing. I'm not sure what's inherently "evil" about that, but this graphic does a nice job of pointing out the silliness of the idea. Enjoy. (click on the picture for a bigger view).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, R.I.P.

I'm not one of those people - though I've worked with some, particularly graphic designers - who get emotional arguing about the utility and reliability of Apple computers vs. PCs. That doesn't limit, however, my admiration for Steve Jobs' story as an entrepreneur and innovator. But rather than have you read my own (inadequate) thoughts, I'm just going to turn this over to Kevin Williamson of National Review Online, who sums it all up pretty well, and uses it as a great illustration of what people with ideas and a vision can do for society, versus those who sit and wait for government to do something. Enjoy Kevin's work.


By Kevin D. Williamson

I don’t know what Steve Jobs’s politics were, I don’t much care, and in any case they are beside the point. The late Mr. Jobs stood for something considerably better than politics. He stood for the model of the world that works. The model that made this:

into this:

and this:

into this:

That old Motorola cinderblock would cost about $10,000 in 2011 dollars, and you couldn’t play Angry Birds on it or watch Fox News or trade a stock. Once you figure out why your cell phone gets better and cheaper every year but your public schools get more expensive and less effective, you can apply that model to answer a great many questions about public policy. Not all of them, but a great many.

Jobs was sometimes criticized for not being a philanthropist along the lines of Bill Gates. Take this article, for example:

Last year the founder of the Stanford Social Innovation Review called Apple one of “America’s Least Philanthropic Companies.” Jobs had terminated all of Apple’s long-standing corporate philanthropy programs within weeks after returning to Apple in 1997, citing the need to cut costs until profitability rebounded. But the programs have never been restored.

CNN, being CNN, misses the point. Mr. Jobs’s contribution to the world is Apple and its products, along with Pixar and his other enterprises, his 338 patented inventions — his work — not some Steve Jobs Memorial Foundation for Giving Stuff to Poor People in Exotic Lands and Making Me Feel Good About Myself. Because he already did that: He gave them better computers, better telephones, better music players, etc. In a lot of cases, he gave them better jobs, too. Did he do it because he was a nice guy, or because he was greedy, or because he was a maniacally single-minded competitor who got up every morning possessed by an unspeakable rage to strangle his rivals? The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that that question does not matter one little bit. Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. Profits are not deductions from the sum of the public good, but the real measure of the social value a firm creates. Those who talk about the horror of putting profits over people make no sense at all. The phrase is without intellectual content. Perhaps you do not think that Apple, or Goldman Sachs, or a professional sports enterprise, or an internet pornographer actually creates much social value; but markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values. That is not the final answer to every question, because economic answers can only satisfy economic questions. But the range of questions requiring economic answers is very broad.

I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.

And to the kids camped out down on Wall Street: Look at the phone in your hand. Look at the rat-infested subway. Visit the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, then visit a housing project in the South Bronx. Which world do you want to live in?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seems realistic, doesn't it?

As some of you may be aware, there is a group of nutjobs calling themselves "Occupy Wall Street" who have been setting up camp in New York's financial district for a couple of weeks. Copycats are springing up around the country, and they seemed to be the same types of protestors we had in St. Paul for the Republican National Convention: Anarchists who have no real aim other than generating attention for themselves.

But I wanted to be fair, and so I went to their web site, where one of the protestors listed the demands the group has. They are:

Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending “Free trade” by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.

Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.

Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

Demand four: Free college education.

Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.

Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America’s nuclear power plants.

Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.

Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the “Books.” World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the “Books.” And I don’t mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.

Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.

Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.

So that all seems pretty reasonable, eh? Dissolve all debts, pay everyone at least $20 an hour whether they work or not and spend $2 trillion on infrastructure and "green energy." All that's missing is mandatory missions to the moon to harvest the green cheese, and free pixie dust rations for everyone.

I'm guessing that not too many of these kids have spent time in an economics class, or perhaps any classroom. But I'm sure it won't take long for the New York Times, Washington Post or Star-Tribune to call them something like, "An authentic voice of a generation yearning for social justice and equality."

How goofy is Maureen Dowd?

Granted, most people who live outside of the planet Manhattan - or its moon, Washington, D.C. - have never heard of Maureen Dowd. She's a New York Times columnist who has had her lips firmly planted on Obama's buttocks for a number of years.

In today's Times, writing about Chris Christie's decision not to run, she summed up the political mood of the country with this remarkably out-of-touch-with-reality sentence:

"Americans who have been hurt want to identify the villains, and Obama is loath to target villains."

Huh? Has anyone in the history of politics sought out and scapegoated villains more than Obama?

In less than three years in office, Obama has gone out of his way to demonize:

George W. Bush
Oil companies
Corporate jet owners
Insurance companies
Talk radio hosts
Oil "speculators"
Billionaires not named Warren Buffet
The Tea Party
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The European economy
Greedy doctors
The Japanese tsunami
Large corporations
The Supreme Court
Pick-up truck owners
And of course, Republicans in Congress who would like to vote on his "jobs bill" (see post below).

There is almost no one in the world that the President isn't willing to demonize. He's managed to take an office once known as "the most powerful position on Earth" and turn it into an inconsequential little job that is totally controlled by a vast, worldwide collection of bad guys.

Of course, this may not all be recognizable from the Planet Manhattan, which would explain Dowd's continued defense of a failed presidency.

No shame in the White House

In case you doubted that the President's "jobs bill" was nothing more than a political play - rather than an attempt to create jobs - the White House removed all doubt with a ploy so cynical that even I'm shocked by it.

Republicans in the Senate are anxious to bring the jobs bill to a vote. In fact, Republican leader Mitch McConnell went to the floor of the Senate Tuesday to ask "unanimous consent" - a parliamentary move - that the bill be brought to the floor for a vote. But Democratic leader Harry Reid objected to the motion and blocked the bill from consideration.

Less than 15 minutes after this, the Obama campaign sent an email out to its supporters, complaining about Republican obstruction of the bill, and suggesting that people "Find Republican members of Congress on Twitter, call them out, and demand they pass this bill."

In other words, Obama and the Democrats have no intention of passing the bill, and introduced it only for the purpose of NOT passing it, then complaining about it not being passed, and trying to blame Republicans. These are the same folks that campaigned on "hope and change" and "no more business as usual." Their contempt for the American public is on full display, which may be why, according to this poll, ANY Republican candidate for President is six points ahead of Obama at this point.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Once in a while a sports figure will give a sportswriter a really, really good quote. And then there are other times, when they something almost incomprehensible. The latter are much more common.

Today, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was asked if - considering the team's 0-4 start - he might consider changing quarterbacks. According to the Star-Tribune, Frazier said:

"We're not in a situation where I don't think we're going to make a quarterback change."

I'm thinking the English faculty at Alcorn State might not be top-shelf material.