Saturday, March 29, 2008

Health care in Canada

Here is another short film by Stuart Browning on Health Care in Canada. All of his clips are worth watching (YouTube) even if you don’t agree with his argument. I think that we really need to have a sober discussion on health care before we leap onto what seems like an easy solution.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

State Licensing in Louisiana for Florists

From Forbes

“Most people want to make sure their doctors and lawyers have the proper credentials to work, but should the same be expected of fortune tellers and florists?”

“Regulators in some states think so. If you want to read palms in Maryland or sell flower arrangements in Louisiana, you'll need a license to do it.”

Comment: So you want to go into business for yourself and you were thinking about opening up a small flower shop. You have always wanted to be a florist and you have a talent for it too. It’s your life long dream and you have finally saved up enough cash to make it happen. No more working for someone else. No more of having your work depend on the whims of someone else. No more of working hard for no recognition. You will be the master of your own destiny. It’s the American dream.

Well, if you live in the state of Louisiana, your dreams of being a florist will be dashed against the sharp rocks of state regulations. In the state of Louisiana, a person must be licensed to become a florist. Oh but the absurdity doesn’t just exist in Louisiana. There are all sorts of odd-ball occupations that require licenses in some states. In Maryland, you will need a license to become a “fortune teller.” In Michigan, a license is needed to be a “reptile catcher.” In Rhode Island, a Jai Alai player will need a license and in Arizona a license will be needed to be a “Rain maker.”

Since the talk of regulation and regulating has started to become ever so prominent in our country’s collective conversation as of late. We are reminded by the examples above of what state regulators can create: A bureaucracy that easily costs consumers more, and prevents entry into a given industry thereby insulating that industry from competition.

Is it really necessary to require florists to be licensed while those that have been in business before the regulation took affect are “grandfathered” into a license? Is that fair? And does the exam really need to be as difficult as the above article states it is? The trend in the U.S. over the last 25 years or so has been favorable to less regulatory red tape. Unfortunately, we may be seeing that change soon with the sort of regulatory licensing that states like Louisiana and others have enacted to “protect the public.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Venezuela is a socialist utopia?

From The Christian Science Monitor

“The "hot corner" stands in the center of Caracas, in Plaza Bolívar. It's a makeshift booth papered with fliers that marks itself as the "launching point to the revolution." There militants rail against imperialism and greedy Yankees all day.”

“Until recently, they didn't have anywhere to go. Socialism was in retreat, "revolutions" scarce. Then along came Mr. Chávez and his gambit to forge a "21st century socialism." Suddenly, Caracas is the new leftwing petri dish. "This is the most interesting social experiment in the world taking place today," says Fred Fuentes, an Australian who moved to Caracas last July, as he sips from a mug with the government motto "Rumbo al Socialismo" (On the way to Socialism). "Venezuela is the key place to be observing."’

Comment: In the spring of last year university students started to turn on the Chavez regime with protests against the government decision to deny a popular television station its license. The TV station never got its license back but it spurned the students to turn up the heat on the regime with six months of demonstrations. Of course, the demonstrations didn’t stop Chavez from trying to mangle the country’s constitution by introducing a referendum later in the year. The constitutional re-write would have given Chavez dictatorial powers.

And then there’s the latest escapade regarding Chavez and the Colombian terrorist group FARC. It turns out that Chavez has been funding the terrorist organization and giving it additional support by allowing the group a safe haven in Venezuela. Several weeks ago, when Colombian forces bombed a FARC camp a mile inside Ecuador, Chavez quickly reacted as if the incident had happened in his own territory: He reacted before the Ecuadorians did. Chavez sent troops to the border and rattled his saber. It was all obviously an attempt to distract the Venezuelan population from the mounting issues in their country.

Inflation in Venezuela (2007) is roughly at 22.5%, the highest in Latin America, and far higher than the 17% mark the year before, despite state-imposed price controls. And due to the price controls, there is now food shortage. Such items as milk, eggs, rice, and beef are scarce and are to be found, in some cases, only on the black market. Crime in Caracas is at an all time high and garbage collection goes unattended.

Yet, despite all of these issues, there are plenty of radical romantics from the far left that will overlook these stark problems. Even if the situation starts to become ripe for civil unrest and suffering, these leftist radicals will continue to believe that redistribution equals justice and equality. The sclerosis that socialism has started to inflict on Venezuelan society is palpable. One hopes that Venezuelans rise up against the repressiveness of Chavez socialism and create a free private enterprise exchange economy: A system that they have never, in their history, enjoyed. And on that day, the leftists and their terrible ideas will go home forever.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Climate Change Hypocrisy

From The Economist

“A year ago they were brimming with selfless idealism. They agreed to make deep cuts in carbon emissions (by a fifth from 1990 levels by 2020), even if other rich countries did not follow. The signal was clear: Europe will start saving the planet now, even if the selfish Americans (not to mention the Chinese and Indians) are not ready. Bigger cuts were promised if other countries joined in, prompting much self-congratulatory talk about the EU's “leading role”.’

“That was then. A year on, with the world economy looking wobblier, the March summit was a less uplifting affair. Leaders from countries with powerful heavy-industry lobbies called for explicit measures to “protect” European firms in case talks on a global climate-change deal failed (and left the Europeans pushing ahead with tough curbs on their own). In a move that would make an American divorce lawyer proud, Germany, France, Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic all asked the EU to plan for failure, insisting that defensive measures must be agreed before climate-change talks in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.”

Comments: Remember all the snarling in early December that was taking place in Bali, Indonesia concerning America’s role or lack thereof in the global warming/climate change dialectic? America has taken a global public relations beating by not participating in the Kyoto Protocol or cowing to climate change zealots. European politicians have had a field day taking cheap shots at U.S. policy in order to pander to their constituents. They are helped along by American environmental groups that have seen a rare opportunity to legitimize their views and consolidate their position on a global scale.

But it seems that the mechanism that the E.U. is using (Emissions Trading Scheme or ETS) to guide it along to a greener economy and a better world is not working as well as was hoped or intended. There are already squabbles and divisions appearing despite the fact that no one will admit it just yet. European industries have been doing a neat end-around the ETS by funding projects in the developing world and have threatened to continue to move some industries abroad.

So now European countries, and their respective industry lobbyists, are calling for a sort of environmental protectionism or eco-tariff on products produced in countries that do not have measures as tough as their own. All while the global economy is slowing. Talk about putting a stake in their own hearts.

But this gets better. In Bali, if you remember, environmentalists and some of the scientists that support their view called for bigger cuts than the Kyoto treaty while knowing all too well that global energy use is expected to rise considerably by 2030.

Europe’s ETS is a sort of pilot program for a global carbon trading scheme like Kyoto. What we see happening in Europe is what happens when the rubber hits the road; when all the political hot air gets let out and the reality of carbon-trading in a world that needs economic growth becomes impossible to avoid. And America, the favorite bad apple of environmentalists and European opportunists, will end up having the last laugh if it avoids bad ideas like ETS.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Smoking linked to poverty again.

From Gallup Poll

"Washington, D.C. -- The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is helping to crystallize the relationship between income and smoking in the United States.

Nationwide, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index reveals that 21% of Americans say they smoke. As the accompanying graph illustrates, the likelihood of smoking generally increases as annual incomes decrease.

Interestingly, smoking rates in the United States are similar to those around the world. Across 118 different countries Gallup surveyed in 2006 and 2007, a median percentage of 22% said they smoked the day before the survey. At the high end, 50% of people in Turkey said they smoked. At the low end, 6% in Nigeria said the same."

Comment: A loose association would be to say that the richer a population the less likelihood that they will smoke cigarettes. It’s no secret that as incomes increase people will tend to eat healthier food, exercise, and abstain from harmful habits, etc. My liberal friends will say it’s due to an educated public which may be true but you have to have achieved a certain level of prosperity to be able to effectively influence the general public through rigorous education and advertisement.

Welfare Economics.

From The Economist

"It is not every day that an American city takes lessons in bribery from Latin America. But New York City's Opportunity NYC programme, a privately funded scheme that rewards parents and children with cash for doing such things as getting proper health check ups and passing school exams, owes a debt of gratitude south of the border. Britain and other European countries are looking into similar reforms. In doing so, they raise a big question: should people be paid for doing what it is already in their interest?"

Comment: This program is proof positive that money walks and bullshit talks. But it also highlights Milton Friedman’s idea of a voucher system to some extent; Instead of taxpayer funds going to a institution and therefore building on a large bureaucracy to serve individual needs, it is best to grant those that are in need direct funds so that they may be able to choose or in this case give the needy an incentive to do what is ultimately best for them. Obviously, this is not a perfect solution and it has its limitations and it's a different form of voucher incentive that Friedman was fond of but the incentive is good enough to move people to do things that are good for them and ultimately good for society.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Americans In Debt

From CNN Money

"I was a mortgage banker for about 20 years and while it had always been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, it also had some added perks in that I set my own schedules. This gave me time for what I really love to do: Surf."

And then Mr. MacQuarrie, like many working in the mortgage industry, was out of a job and deep in debt until finally, at the age of 62, he had to declare bankruptcy.

How Schools Fail Our Children

If you live in the state of Washington you may want to see this video. When I first saw this video I was astonished and then I became quite angry at what children in the state of Washington are learning as “math” in some of their schools. This video vividly explains some of the setbacks that kids have had to endure at the hands of an educational bureaucracy that is no longer accountable to parents, pupils, or communities.

I have great respect for teachers and the teaching profession. But as a parent, when I find out that these sorts of things are going on in public schools, I wonder why there aren’t more teachers speaking out against these teaching methods. It seems to me that the only time I hear from teachers is when there is a threat to their jobs or salaries. And we usually hear from them through their union representative or when they muster their students to lobby for their needs.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Coming Depression?

From the The Los Angeles Times :

"Dysfunctional capital markets, frantic central banks, stressed-out consumers, fear and uncertainty -- all are alarming echoes of the global economic cataclysm of the 1930s."

"Which raises the inevitable question: Could another Great Depression be lurking over the horizon?"

"TV news programs show grainy footage of Depression-era bankers as reporters tick off grim economic statistics. The Federal Reserve invokes powers it hasn't used since the 1930s. Critics of President Bush's economic policies are emboldened to use the H-word: "Hoover." '

Comment: This article points out that the reason a depression is unlikely is due to a Fed that takes an active role when a crisis hits like the Bear Stearns incident. The article doesn’t really outline that when the Fed does bail out failing firms, the taxpayer is the one who is usually on the hook. And some of those taxpayers (some of them struggling to make ends meet) may never benefit from government bailing out a large investment bank. The fed holds a 30 billion dollar liability from Bear Stearns. That's me and YOU.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Universal Healthcare Pitfalls.

You better hope that you don't need brain surgery in Canada. It seems that universal health care in Canada isn't a panacea. Why do we want it here again?

Who is REALLY uninsured in America?

Some more stuff that Michael Moore's movie forgot to include. When liberal Democrats say 45-48 million uninsured they are not giving you the full story.

One More Problem With National Healthcare.

From The Christian Science Monitor

“Healthcare expenditures in the US rose 6.7 percent in 2006 to $2.1 trillion, or 16.1 percent of the nation's total output of goods and services, government economists reported last month. (Last week, the government predicted the nation's healthcare expenditures will reach $4 trillion by 2017.) Most other rich industrial nations, with universal care, spend only 11 to 12 percent of their gross domestic product on healthcare. Canada spends even less, a bit more than 9 percent of GDP, on a single-payer government insurance system for all its people.”

US health costs have doubled in the past decade. Yet nearly 48 million Americans have no health insurance.”

Comment: Those individuals that wax poetically about the myriad benefits of universal health care seem to be missing a key fiscal issue that looms large in our national future: As baby boomers start to retire en masse, the ratio of workers to beneficiaries will go from four to one to roughly two to one. The shock to future tax revenue should be cause for some alarm if not rapid action.

Currently, Medicare and Medicaid federal spending is larger that what we spend on national defense. And it is a sure bet that medical costs will continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation. The portion of the federal budget allocated as an entitlement for seniors and the poor as medical care will become a larger percentage of our GDP: According to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare spending will essentially double from 2007 levels in 10 years and Medicaid spending will nearly do the same. Both programs will consume 12 percent of GDP by 2030. (See CBO study here.)

Now, knowing that we have a looming fiscal storm looming on the horizon, does it make sense to call for a national health care plan right about now? If we provided health care for everybody in this country, we would expand the federal expenditure to health care far beyond our current and future revenues from tax receipts. We would have to raise taxes so high to cover future expenses that it would surely be a detriment to our economy. Any purported savings that is usually mentioned by universal healthcare advocates from having national health care would hardly matter in an economy that was hamstrung by extremely high taxes.

The true cost of a national health care plan has not really been brought to light this election year. We keep hearing populist rhetoric as presidential candidates try to garner votes from a public that wants easy and quick answers. Most people just want the surface details but none of the dirty underlying economic facts. Too complicated, too many graphs and besides government built the highways and sent a man to the moon. And as usual, we may end up with the government bureaucracy and all of the nasty cost we deserve.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Educational suicide

From the The Times Of India:

In 2006, 5,857 students — or 16 a day — committed suicide across India due to exam stress. And these are just the official figures.

Shimla superintendent of police (crime), Punita Bhardwaj, said incidents of children committing suicide because of examination stress often did not get reported as traumatized parents wanted to keep the issue under wraps.

Anita Naresh, a 16-year-old from Kanpur who swallowed dye last week as she felt she had not done well in her Class X exams, is one of them. Her condition is still critical. A teenager from Chandigarh attempted suicide inside the examination centre but was taken to hospital just in time. Bangalore has witnessed a series of attempted suicides by students denied a hall ticket for a board examination owing to poor attendance.

Comment: In the U.S. this sort of pressure simply does not exist. Our public schools are doing such a lousy job preparing our children for the real world outside of K-12 that just about any real reaction by a student failing a class or an exam would be cause for celebration. Considering that we are spending about $8,700 a year on average per student we do not seem to be getting much value for our money. Countries like Finland are spending less (about $7,500) and their students are considered high achievers on several world-wide measurements.

Tragic events such as are seen in India are not only foreign to our national culture but also completely unimaginable since we have long ago removed any sense of accountability and accomplishment from education. While I would never condone suicide and I believe that the great pressure that Indian children are forced to submit them selves to be extreme. Overall, there is something to admire about a culture that greatly values education and the promise of progress it instills in children. Would it be excellent if Indian society could find a happy balance for its school age children? Absolutely. And it would be quite a leap forward if American children and the educational system that serve them would have loftier goals.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bio-Fuels are bad for environment.

From:The Christian Science Monitor

Scientists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Wisconsin looked at the energy bill President Bush signed in December and its goal of producing 36 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2022. They analyzed the impact it could have on nutrients from farm runoff. Nutrients in the runoff flow down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers and feed algae in the Gulf. When the algae die, they decompose, which uses up oxygen in the water. Low-oxygen waters are fatal to organisms like shellfish.

Comment: Government subsidies encourage farmers to use every square inch of arable land, even if it comes right up to river banks. In order to grow corn, farmers use loads of pesticides. To cultivate the crop, CO2 spewing farm machinery is used. And as was noted in Part one of this series, ethanol production uses up an extraordinary amount of fresh water. The truth of the matter is that ethanol ends up being worse for the environment than fossil fuels. Of course, none of the above problems stopped our government from increasing the U.S. mandate to 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, a fivefold increase from a mere two years ago. Interestingly, the “greens” that spent years pushing the idea of bio-fuels, and in particular ethanol, have been rather silent on the damning effects of the fuel. It’s almost as if they wish to disassociate themselves from a bad idea.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fascists Hate Capitalism.

From the Ludwig Von Mises Institute on Youtube:

“Capitalism was seen as a bad episode…the future belonged to the state…all others were to be regulated in a way that would prevent businessmen from exploiting workers and consumers.”

“Fascists hated laissez-faire capitalism.”

This short program (about 37minutes) on Ludwig Von Mises highlights many of his economic ideas and how the free-market was just as suspect and distrusted by the German and Austrian society of the early 20th century as it seems to be today in our 21st century society.

There are plenty of manufacturing jobs.


While millions of jobs making everything from textiles to steel have moved to new power houses like China in recent years, precision manufacturing remains a crucial niche in the United States, one that is overworked and chronically understaffed.

And in a bad sign for the United States and its declining economic might, that shortage of skilled workers is likely to get worse as Baby Boomers retire, with no younger generation of manufacturing workers to take the baton.

Comment: With all the talk this election season about manufacturing jobs going abroad, the reality is that there is a shortage of highly skilled “blue collar” workers in many industries. And the shortage will be exacerbated as older “blue collar” workers start to retire. Our national obsession to send every kid to college has thinned the ranks of skilled manual labor to the detriment of American manufacturing. Bottom line: There are plenty of jobs in the manufacturing industry for skilled workers and the pay is very good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Population Control in China continues.

From The Wall Street Journal

China will keep its controversial family-planning policies for at least another decade, the country's top family-planning official said, damping any expectations of a change.

The policies limit most urban couples to having one child and to-date has prevented an estimated 400 million births.

Critics of the policies have pushed for change, saying a lower birthrate may actually lead to social difficulties because there will be fewer young working adults to pay taxes and look after the elderly. Coerced abortions and sterilizations have also been connected to the rules, and critics blame them for the current imbalanced sex ratio in China.

Comment: Those that continually espouse the dangers of population, environmentalists and Malthusians alike, may take some solace in China’s continued role as a nation that constrains its population growth: It does so by force which is an act of a totalitarian state. In truth, proponents of population control do not believe in freedom and that the free-market actually works efficiently to balance the supply and demand of population. Even though there is ample evidence to suggest that the free-market does just that.

Notice that most of the nations with the highest standards of living and with the largest economy’s also have some of the lowest birthrates (in some cases, below replacement level): For example, Italy and Japan. Poor nations tend to have the highest birthrates.

The best way to slow population or to encourage families to have fewer children is to let country’s become richer through the free-market. The higher the standard of living experienced by parents, the less they are inclined to have many children to act as social security in their dotage or as farm hands tilling the soil. Additionally, the more subsidization there is in an economy, the more likelihood it will be that couples will have more children than they could afford without subsidization (think welfare).

Lastly, capitalism has proven that “carrying capacity” does not exist for human beings as it does, for example, the Kaibab mule deer population that naturalist Aldo Leopold observed in the 1920’s. Leopold is famous for devising the concept of "carrying capacity" for his observations and study of the population explosion and subsequent crash of the Kaibab mule deer. Because human beings have the greatest resource at their disposal-their capacity to create and invent technologies coupled with the efficient incentives that capitalism helps provide-it has allowed farmers to feed more people with fewer farmhands and less land then population doomsayers and their socialist enablers could ever understand.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Rule of Law makes you rich!

FromThe Economist
Here's a study that will make Libertarians happy. The countries that affirm the rule of law also tend to increase prosperity. Somewhere Milton Friedman is smiling down.

Air Force needs new planes.

From The Economist

The Air Force, after years of maintaining older airplanes without buying new ones, says it must be allowed to modernize or America risks losing air dominance around the world.

This year, for example, the Air Force is asking for $18 billion in "unfunded requirements." That's money the service seeks for new airplanes like the stealthy F-22 Raptor, which lists for about $143 million each. These are replacing the stock of F-15 Eagles, one of which broke apart over Missouri last fall.

At the same time, peer competitors such as China – though Air Force officers never speak that word publicly – are designing top-of-the-line airplanes with new capabilities.

"We used to enjoy a pretty decided advantage over anybody else on the planet, but not so much anymore," Colonel Forester says.

Comment: The F-15 is now 30 years old and it should be on its way to being decommissioned. On November 2, 2007 a Missouri Air National Guardsman, Major Stephen Stilwell, found out how after years of hard stress, the F-15 he was flying over the Gulf of Mexico, suddenly came apart. The Air Force ordered 442 of these older F-15 models grounded until January of this year. Knowing that China or Russia may start to test American primacy around the world, would it not be prudent to replace America’s signature fighter with the F-22?

A recent Gallup poll showed that 47% of Americans felt that American national defense was not strong enough (41% felt it was just about right while 10% felt that is was stronger than it should be). Although our military intervention in Iraq is unpopular with most Americans, it seems that most Americans also understand that our military may need a much needed hardware and personnel overhaul after the strains of Iraq and Afghanistan. The big political question is, how do you pay for such an expensive overhaul?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What "Sicko" didn't show you.

The health-care debate has hit new highs this election year. Here's the side of the debate that doesn't get much airtime.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Rise of Bread.

(click to enlarge)

The above graph is from the BLS and it tracks bread prices. More bad economic news from The Boston Globe:

After nearly two decades of low food inflation, prices for staples such as bread, milk, eggs, and flour are rising sharply, surging in the past year at double-digit rates, according to the Labor Department. Milk prices, for example, increased 26 percent over the year. Egg prices jumped 40 percent.

Escalating food costs could present a greater problem than soaring oil prices for the national economy because the average household spends three times as much for food as for gasoline. Food accounts for about 13 percent of household spending compared with about 4 percent for gas.

This is proof that our economy is in trouble. Some of my favorite economic websites have tried to stay positive during the last several months. But I think that there are simply too many indicators that point to a likely recession (there, I said it). Even if we avoid two quarters of negative growth, there is a real possibility of flat growth, high inflation or stagflation. When gas and grocery prices are rising faster than your paycheck yet the economy is still able to employ you but is not strong enough to enable you to ask for a raise high enough to cover rising inflation costs, we may be in a state of stagflation. Unfortunately, our current government policies are not directed towards sound financial solutions. We may not see an end to our current economic weakness for some time.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gold as the new currency?

(Click to enlarge)

The price of gold has been surging faster as of late. It’s enough to make a connoisseur of Bling Bling worry his pretty little head over. As gold is used as a hedge against inflation, it is worrying that a slowing economy coupled with a depreciating dollar could lead to some very painful economic times. The price of gold has gone from $250 an ounce to over $950 during a ten year time span without any significant change in the gold supply; this means that too much money and too much credit is chasing supply and driving up prices. Hence, what we have is monetary inflation. The dollar is the world’s reserve currency and as it continues to slide downward, the cost of goods and services for Americans will get pricier. Additionally, any raises that you get at work will probably be eaten away by inflation and a depreciating dollar. My wish is that the Fed finally takes control of the situation and does not lower interest rates to appease Wall Street. The last thing we need is more printed money in this economy because it is causing inflation. In any case, get those gold rims before the price of gold hits 1,500 dollars an ounce. You’ll thank me later.
See a related article on this topic in today's Wall Street Journal

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Californians will love toilet water.

There are plans to recycle sewer water into drinking water in California. I'm not kidding. See this article at

Europe has lower corporate tax rates.

(Click to enlarge)

Is it time to get rid of the corporate tax? I was watching Larry Kudlow on his “Kudlow and Co.” show the other day when he mentioned this. After doing some snooping around, I was surprised to discover that more than a handful of nations in the European Union have cut their corporate income tax rates over the last several years or so. I was surprised by this since as Americans we tend to view European governments as being high tax and state-welfare havens. In the last six years, 16 E.U. nations have cut their corporate tax rates. Even France and Sweden have lowered their corporate rates to business friendly levels. The U.S. has kept its rate at roughly 40 percent (Federal and State combined). Now that our country is facing a severe slowdown in the economy, wouldn’t it be prudent to at least lower our corporate tax rate in order to create an incentive for companies to invest in our country? It seems that we may be at a disadvantage when compared to many European nations that have lower rates. We should not discourage job creation and capital investment at such a critical time. For a study on our corporate tax vs. E.U. corporate tax, see Tax Foundation

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Unions bankrupt a city!

The city of Vallejo in California has had to beg and plead with the police and firefighters unions to give up or delay some of their pay raises. The city has been facing red ink and the specter of bankruptcy because most of the city's outlay is to public safety personnel: Vallejo's base pay for firefighters is more than $80,000 a year. Last year, 21 of them topped $200,000 in salary and overtime, according to city payroll records. Vallejo city tax revenue has fallen off a cliff since the housing market took a dive. The firefighters union have agreed to take some cuts. The police union votes on the issue this weekend. See the full story at SFGate

Friday, March 7, 2008

And this little piggy went to market...

The pressure imposed by GOP lawmakers seems to have taken its toll on Democratic house speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has, surprisingly, promised to join the growing rank of brave lawmakers (30 at last count) committed to cutting earmarks for a period of one year: all of 2009. This would be quite a step in the right direction as far as taxpayers are concerned. The amount of pork dished out every fiscal year is lavish and wasteful: Remember the “bridge to nowhere?” Lawmakers from both sides of the fence could garner some iota of respect by saving us-the beleaguered taxpayer-from the pork fat.
Read all about it:San Jose Mercury News

Bending Light is cool.

"Einstein predicted that the gravity of a massive object such as a galaxy will bend light like a lens. In some cases, the lensing can image distant objects that lie behind the galaxy. Astronomers have studied such gravitational lenses for decades. Now they are ready to turn them into a powerful tool to test the latest theories of the structure and evolution of the universe."

From the Christian Science Monitor

No right to Home Schooling in CA

It seems as if the first amendment has very little weight and meaning in the state of California. An appeals court has ruled against home schooling and will effectively force parents that practice this type of free choice into having to hold state credentials to teach their own kids. Strangely, this case started out as a child welfare case and not as a test of the legality of home schooling. After reading the ruling, I came away with the impression that the judges in this case were largely biased against the parents because they were teaching their children Christian values: These judges clearly did not like the Christian education being taught to these children. While I am not a religious person, I do believe that parents have a right to teach their kids at home (if they wish and in any faith) and that state power should be constrained in order to avoid an abrogation of individual choice and rights.

Incidentally, there is one group that was overjoyed with the decision: The teachers union.

Read the ruling and the article inSFGate

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cartoon del Dia

From the Detroit News.

Chavez is on the move! Part 2

"’I used to believe in [Mr. Chávez], when I still believed he'd do what he promised,’ says Norelys Rangel, a lifelong resident here. Instead, she says, she often can't find milk or rice. In fact, she says, life has gotten harder.”

“Petare and other neighborhoods like it are still very much Chávez territory, but signs of his waning support in those areas highlights a broader trend. Despite the country's vast oil wealth and near record oil prices, Venezuelans are complaining about product shortages, crime, and high inflation.”

It seems that the escapades that Chavez is putting his nation through is starting to wear thin; Venezuelans are starting to figure out that Chavez and his “Bolivarian Revolution” is not what it’s cracked up to be. Read the full story at the The Christian Science Monitor

Monday, March 3, 2008

Who needs CAFE standards?

The Wall Street Journal reports that a weakening economy coupled with high gas prices has started to quench America's thirst for gasoline. High gas prices have even started to push consumers to smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles. It seems that high gas prices do have some positive effects. As long as prices stay high, investment in alternative technology may become attractive. Additionally, when shopping for a car, consumers will prioritize fuel efficiency far higher than they do when gasoline prices take up less of their discretionary income. There is already evidence that Americans are choosing cars with higher fuel standards. In real terms, the free-market is efficiently doing what CAFE standards are meant to accomplish through government mandates and regulation.

Hot Potato!!

Did you know that 2008 is the International year of the Potato? Yes, indeed it is. Read the article on this amazing crop that was brought to Europe from South America in the 16th century:The Economist

The danger of Bio-fuels! Part one.

The environmental movement has been pushing the use of Bio-fuels for years and they have succeeded in convincing enough politicians in Washington that it is in America's benefit to create incentives for it's production. Well, they got what they asked for with massive subsidies to produce ethanol going to large agricultural corporations all over the country. One of the unforeseen consequences (remember the Law of Unintended Consequences) of ethanol production is the massive amount of water that is used up during production. See article in The Economist

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Chavez is on the move!

It looks like Hugo Chavez has decided to rattle his saber. He has ordered troops to the Venezuelan/Colombian border threatening to support the FARC terrorists that have had a knack for kidnapping innocent Colombian and Venezuelan citizens for large ransoms. I suspect that Mr. Chavez is trying to distract his population from the dire issues that plague them on a day to day basis: Food shortages, high inflation, high crime and garbage that goes uncollected in Caracas. Read the MSNBC article HERE