Sunday, March 27, 2011

Libya vs. Iraq - Some Thoughts

Did you know that Chimpanzees and Humans share overwhelming similarities in their genetic makeup? Though the percent varies depending on how deep the data goes, the similarities range from the high 70s to the high 90s. In other words, the similarities greatly outweigh the differences on the genetic level, yet the two are so completely different that no rational person taking a holistic view could mistake a Chimp for a Human. Yet, a top scientist locked in a room with only the two genetic codes in front of him could toil through a majority of the genetic code before finding any significant differences!

The point of this is simply to repeat the ancient observation that little can be understood about the true nature of things by examining their similarities; only by understanding their differences do we really get to know them.

The cartoon I recently posted comparing Libya vs. Iraq is a good example of the futility of focusing on similarities, or for that matter, the petty differences. As many commenters have pointed out, the cartoon, and those who liked it, cannot make a strong enough case that the two conflicts are comparable. Of course, the cartoon is limited to being a caricature of hypocrisy, ignorance and irrational devotion. It is not meant to argue a case that the two conflicts are equivalent. However, the nature of caricature is that it only works through exaggeration and that has resulted in quite the debate among viewers which has shed much heat but little light. (Also some funny stuff and some really nasty stuff too!)

So what do I think? Are these two wars comparable and if not what are the salient differences? For me, they are not comparable actions in their essence. Iraq was about trying to save American lives by enforcing something which came to be known as “The Bush Doctrine”, and Libya is about trying to save non-American lives on one side of a civil war by enforcing something known as UN 1973.

You may agree or disagree with “The Bush Doctrine” and the threats posed by the Iraqi regime, but your representatives in Washington voted for it overwhelmingly and that is what Democracy in a Republic looks like. Deal with it.

As for UN 1973, you may agree or disagree with it, but your representatives in Washington have no say in it whatsoever. That is what Global Totalitarianism looks like. Deal with it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Economists sometimes use the “dig hole / fill hole” scenario as a way to illuminate a point. John Maynard Keynes, the Guru of Demand Side Economics used the example himself in his writings, though not as a serious remedy for anything, but rather as a springboard for analyzing ways to stimulate employment and demand.

Fast forward to today. Have you been on a road-trip lately? Remarkably, the Obama economic policy appears to be one of digging holes, and then filling them in again. Here’s how it works: First they dig the existing pavement down about 2-3 inches, and then they fill it right back in with 2-3 inches of hot, smelly, new asphalt. The road ends-up almost exactly the way it started, only marginally smoother. Meanwhile, we are all stuck in grid-lock while this make-work proceeds at a union-mandated snail’s pace. No wonder many Americans have given up looking for work entirely and just settle for the 99 weeks of unemployment checks. They can’t possibly drive around and look for work, much less get to their first day on-time!

Tomorrow Obama will announce that he wants to double-down on this losing bet with a new stimulus plan of 50 billion borrowed dollars aimed at, surprise surprise: re-surfacing roads, runways, bridges and tunnels. Is this dude serious?

Now that the idiocy of his economic plan has been revealed by the numbers, Obama himself is dropping like asphalt in the polls. Apparently his support was much like the holes being dug on the roadways:  miles wide, but only 2-3 inches deep.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Modest Proposal

Now that President Obama has come out in favor of the mega-mosque at ground zero , it opens up an opportunity to combine some of the Prez's most important priorities into one neat solution.  Recall that the head of NASA, Charles Bolden,  revealed to Al Jazeera that Prez Obama has directed NASA to make it's "Primary Mission" outreach to Muslims.  Recall also that Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam (Obama is a supporter and ally) believe that there is a spaceship called the  "Mother Wheel" which orbits the planet and...well, nevermind.  So let's see, we need a giant place for Muslims to worship, check, we have the full resources of NASA, check, and there is already a Mother Wheel circling the planet, check mate.  Hmmm, I love it when a plan comes together!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Skim, Baby, Skim!

Hey, I'm no community organizer, but this oil slick is sure crying out for one.  Wouldn't it be great if someone figured out a way to organize the entire world so it would quickly mobilize and clean-up that oil for us?  Interestingly, there is an organizing technique called a "market" and when harnessed through incentives, it is the most powerful tool in any organizer's quiver.   If a decent community organizer was in charge today, he'd surely turn the market loose by paying a huge BOUNTY for any recovered oil. 

Imagine what a bounty of 10 times the going price for a barrel of oil would do:  Do you suppose an idle Saudi tanker or two, half-way across the world, might make a bee line to the Gulf of Mexico to skim millions of barrels of oil and make a huge profit?  Heck yeah!  Might you lease a monster boat and head for the Gulf if you were an unemployed sailor with some equally idle mates?  Would some Somali pirates turn their talents to skimming oil instead of ransom?  Might Turkish ships turn to skimming black gold instead of running Gaza blockades? You betcha! You betcha! And you betcha.  

But alas, community organizers who understand markets and incentives are in extremely short supply, so instead of a solution, we get threats of an "ass kicking".  Now who wouldn't want to sail around the globe and skim, baby, skim, for a good ole' ass kickin'?           

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque

By now you've probably heard about the 13 story mosque being proposed a stones-throw from ground zero in New York. The city has approved the plan and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has warmly embraced the mega-mosque as a symbol of American tolerance and freedom of religion. Yada yada yada.

This is not the last time we will be duped by “takia” (or "taqiyya"), the concept in Islam that amounts to a command to never speak truth to infidels. We hear the soothing words of the so-called “moderate Muslims” and repeat the unsupported mantra that most Muslims are vehemently opposed to terrorism and support tolerance and freedom of religion. That is absolute hogwash and The Mayor of New York should at least understand this and remain neutral. This mosque is an end-zone dance on the graves of the 9/11 victims and must be understood as such. As prominent New York Rabbi Joseph Potasnik stated, “Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.”

Yes, the Mosque should be allowed as a matter of law and so should my proposed project which will surround the 13 story mosque on all four sides:  First there will be the “Divine Church of the Naked Female” a 20 story building shaped like, well, a sexy naked female and built directly on the Mecca side of the mosque looking down on it. Next would be the new home of the “US Hog Farming Association”, a 15 story building shaped like a pig and just to the right of the mosque. On the other side would be a giant synagogue (no view of the USHFA bldg.) also towering over the mosque and shaped like either a Star of David or the State of Israel. To the rear and shaped like a large cocked working catapult complete with flaming catapult ball would be the new “Museum of Crusader Victories”, a 20 story monument to Christian victories during the Crusades.

Peace be upon you…

Stupidity Defined

If you’ll permit me another health analogy ( I just love ‘em!), what would you learn from the following scenario? After a lifetime of smoking, eating junk food, being sedentary, and feeling mostly ok, you then play a few minutes of basketball only to suffer horrible chest pains. If you were intelligent, you might heed the warning and quickly change your lifestyle, quit smoking, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and play basketball only within your fitness level. If you were downright stupid, and knew nothing about health, you might conclude the opposite and determine that exertion is just totally unhealthy. After all, you never had chest pain before! Obviously, exercise is way too dangerous and should be avoided at all costs while smoking, eating junk food, and sitting around is the way to never have chest pain again. Phew, glad we dodged that bullet!

The latter is exactly the policy equivalent of Barack Obama and the ruling Democrat party when it comes to the economy. According to their Re-Distributionist and Demand Side Economic Policies, free markets, hard work, risk, reward, and equality of opportunity are the bane of our economic system when in-fact, they are the healthy lifestyle and cardio-vascular excercises which have made us a vibrant healthy economy for much of our history. Re-distribution, Demand Side Economics, bailouts, government takeovers, and equality of outcomes are the cigarettes, junk food and sedentary lifestyles which are the official policies of our current government.

The next basketball game is going to be very interesting…

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Another Katrina?

If I told you there was a leak in a gold pipeline and gold coins were spewing out all over the bottom of the ocean, you would know some intrepid treasure hunters would be on the case recovering all that free gold. So why is precious oil washing up on the marshes of Louisiana and why has this become such an environmental disaster? Why doesn't BP offer a bounty for every barrel of recovered oil?  Is it possible that loose oil is just too difficult to recover? No, I don’t believe that’s the problem. This spill is a lot like Katrina in the sense that it shows how, for a number of reasons, we are incapable of taking care of ourselves in a crisis.

I used to be in the waste-water treatment business and I can tell you that, (this is going to surprise you), water and oil do not mix. Moreover, oil tends to float. Much of it is just sitting on the surface! The technology for separating oil and water is simple, cheap and plentiful. All we would need is a bunch of unemployed sailors, (like maybe fishermen who can’t fish), some barges with giant tanks, a bunch of huge pumps, floating skimmers, some hoses, and land and/or sea based oil water separators.

The problem with this is, the permits for all this would take some two years to get, the equipment would most likely have to be imported, the fishermen are getting unemployment checks so don’t need to work, there’s probably more money in a juicy lawsuit, the environmentalists want the issue around for political gain, and besides, the government will bail everyone out anyway, so why sweat! Meanwhile, the oil floats and spreads out.

Isn’t that just like Katrina? New Orleans didn’t have to worry about building their city below sea level in hurricane alley because the Government built them a nifty levee system and then threw hundreds of billions at them when it failed. Private donations are still flowing like water and they got to use the whole fiasco for political gain. It worked so well, they are rebuilding below sea level again.

Ben Franklin famously said; "Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither."  Ronald Reagan went further and said;  “You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down -- up to man's age-old dream -- the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order--or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course."

We always think of totalitarian regimes as those led by a strongman like Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, or Kim Jong il, but is it possible that all that's needed for totalitarianism to flourish is a culture of dependency and an illusion of security? 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Aspirin was Invented in Europe, Right?

There are about 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body. Yet if a pinpoint sized blockage occurs in exactly the right spot, it can quickly kill a person with 59,999.99 miles of otherwise healthy blood vessels. All it takes is one strategic blockage to bring the whole system down. Want an aspirin?

With that in mind, consider the line of argument you may have heard about the financial meltdown and how it could not possibly have been caused by subprime loans and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The argument goes something like this: “Yes, there were some subprime loans that went bad and some of them were even mandated by the CRA which Bill Clinton re-wrote along with help from Barack Obama and ACORN to force banks to make really bad loans and yes, the bad lending was massively encouraged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which again was championed by Clinton, Obama, ACORN, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the entire Democrat Party with an assist from some key Republicans including even George W Bush. But there were nowhere near enough of these government sponsored bad loans to explain the systemic meltdown we saw in 2007 and 2008. Nothing to see here. Move along.”

What is so fascinating about this argument is that I’ve heard it from some of the same economists and “experts” who argue that Greece may cause a chain reaction and bring down the Euro, then Europe, then the Northern Hemisphere, and finally the World! So we are being asked to believe that a country with about 2% of the entire GDP of Europe can bring down the whole world while Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the CRA couldn’t possibly have been the blockage that gave the financial system a coronary?

Can both of these views be right? Is most of Europe healthy to start with? Was the rest of the US mortgage market healthy too? What if there is both disease and a strategic blockage? I’m jus’ askin’.

PS You may want that aspirin just in case…

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Economics, Morals, and Linkage

Let's do a simple thought experiment:  imagine a world where you could ingest any substance you wanted, and some other anonymous sucker would suffer the consequences. Want a whole cheesecake? Fine! Eat away and some Mongolian or Kazakh would put on the weight. Want to get drunk on whiskey and beer? Go ahead. Some African or Israeli will get the hangover. Like fried foods? Not to worry. Live on fried chicken and french fries and some other sucker will suffer the coronary.

How long do you think we'd survive as a species in that world? I'd give us about a week. The only thing that's kept us alive all these centuries is the accountability of knowing that high risk behavior could kill us. End accountability, end the linkage, allow the amoral transfer of unlimited risk to anonymous others, and we are doomed.

Guess what? That is the economic world we live in and the death spiral is playing out in various places around the world including the US.

What do Greece, California, healthcare, runaway deficits, the mortgage meltdown, rising taxes, and high unemployment all have in common? Yeah, I know they are all in the news, but that's not the answer. No the correct answer is that in all cases, these things got to crisis levels because of Demand Side Economics (DSE) and its breakdown in Economic Linkage. Economic Linkage is the degree to which benefactors and beneficiaries are in a direct relationship. Once the link is broken, the amoral nature of DSE is obscured thus opening the door to the death spiral. That is the scenario we are seeing played out today.

In a previous post I defined Demand Side Economics (DSE) and this would be a good time to read it, or re-read it. Go ahead, follow the link. I can wait... The Irony of Keynes - Demand Side Economics

Ok, now that you have the background, you may be asking; Why would we fall for DSE time and time again after being burned whenever it is tried? And how do we get around the moral problems of DSE redistribution? The answer is Linkage. No linkage, no direct moral confrontation. We are allowed to act in morally ambiguous ways when the victims are anonymous. This is why Air Force pilots have an easier time dropping a bomb on a city than an infantryman does killing one person in hand to hand combat.

In Greece, the Greek beneficiaries of DSE who could retire at 53 with full pay and sail the Mediterranean knowing that some German would keep working and eventually bail out his bankrupt government was acting rationally, though not morally. The Californian legislator who kept himself in office by delivering DSE goodies to his constituents while bankrupting his country and state knows Washington will bail him out and stick the bill with some hard-working unborn innocent in Kansas. He is acting rationally, but not morally. American taxpayers and voters know they are passing debts onto their children and grandchildren, but hey, they like their social security, medicare, mortgage deductions, and new right-to-healthcare more than their obligations to someone else's kids. They are acting rationally but amorally too. The thing is, we are good at morals when faced with judgement face to face. But what if the poor sucker who has to pay for our greed is someone we will never have to face? This is how civilizations die.