Friday, January 30, 2009

All I Want For Christmas is...........

Dear Mrs. Fundman

Your shopping search for my next Christmas gift has ended.

Sincerely,

Me

PS - Don't you think I'll look great holding Fundbaby while I'm using it?

Health Care Bable Meets "Universal Coverage"

Rocky Top Boy wanted me to blog about healthcare the other day, but I wasn't moved to do so until I saw this column in the WSJ arguing that Barack and the Democrats are "stealthily" nationalizing health care. Just a couple of quick thoughts.

First off, if the Democrats have been the ones pushing for nationalizing health care, would at least one person at the WSJ explain to me why President W pushed through a new prescription drug benefit that represented a 1.3 trillion dollar increase in the cost of Medicare, which is GOVERNMENT PROVIDED, TAX PAYER FUNDED health insurance for the elderly, who are, by the way, the richest age-group in America. I guess that means that the biggest complaint that Republicans have (other than flat out hypocrisy) is that they expanded socialized medicine in the bold light of day, and threw the benefit at an electorally appealing group - old folks like Grandpa Simpson walking into the Social Security Office.

Secondly, would someone, SOMEONE on the right explain to me in less than 45,000 words what exactly your plan is for health care? I mean, the left at least has a catchy phrase "universal care," but you guys have about 46 different parts to a plan that is going to be "consumer directed", deregulatory, de-SCHIPified, or something or other. Take my word for it, y'all are getting killed by the Dems on this issue because no one on your side has figured out how to sell your ideas cleanly.

Hell even McCain got murdered for proposing the government "raise taxes" on people's health care benefits during the election, which was supposed to help be more "free market." Republicans claimed that was untrue, but folks who have jobs, lives, families, and such do not have time to work through all of the details of the 34 different market based solutions to health care the right is suggesting.

In 1993 the Republicans killed off health care reform by saying "OMG, spending hundreds of billion of dollars on health care will bankrupt us!" And "do you really want to give up the right to see your doctor?" That stuff just doesn't work anymore because we are going to spend like 2 trillion on banks, stimulation, and other questionable activities. At the same time more people are losing health care coverage and no longer can see their "family doctor." Proposing to spend a measly 200 billion and "give" people "free" health care sounds pretty good to many folks right now.

So while the right can't get its act together, the left continues to quietly trumpet a simple plan that won't be linked to your job. To middle class folks without health insurance it sure looks good. To the left-wing elites who went to Middlebury, Wellesley, Swathmore, or Bowdoin, did a year in France of foreign study, broke an arm while drunk one night in Paris, and spent a week in a French hospital "for free" with attractive young nurses, the idea of spreading this blessing of European style health care sounds great as well. Of course the fact that Europe will be broke in about eleven years paying for its universal health care, retirement at 50, and the other perks of living in Europe is beside the point.

Before you know it we'll be wearing berets, burning cars, and complaining about Americans right here, in America.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Exactly is Bi-Partisanship

In the classic baseball movie "Bull Durham," one of the key tasks that Kevin Costner's "Crash Davis" was supposed to accomplish with Tim Robbins' "Nuke" LaLoosh during their stay with the Durham Bulls was to teach him a series of inane quotes to tell sports reporters in order to sound committed to team values and hard work and other boring stuff
Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clich├ęs. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.
Whenever I hear some athlete or coach talk about playing one game at a time, or just doing whatever the team needs to win it reminds of when politicians talk about bi-partisanship. It's inane, meaningless, supposed to sound appealing, and basically designed to tell the audience nothing. Yet every four years (and increasingly I can remember more and more of these new administrations) politicians talk about "reaching across the aisle" and "getting past partisan rancor" and "holding hands and singing Kumbya" with the other side. They point to the public's alleged "exhaustion with partisan fighting and bickering" and accuse their rivals of "simply being partisan."

Well if the public is so tired of partisanship, why do they keep electing only members of the Duopoly to the Congress? Last time I checked, all but two members of Congress, both of whom caucus with the Democrats, belong to one of the two parts of the Duopoly, so the notion that either Republicans or Democrats are being "partisan" is sort of like accusing a living person of breathing. I mean, what the hell are they supposed to do except be members of parties? And it's interesting that whenever the majority accuses the minority party of being partisan what they are usually saying is "stop being principled and asking for concessions on stuff to which you are vehemently opposed ideologically."

And then the minority, and it's public advocates like this pill popper, believe that bi-partisan means "give me nearly equal power over writing legislation and respect my opposition to anything I don't like even though I badly lost an election and have very little power to stop you from implementing your plans." And then Republicans whine and complain about how Democrats aren't respecting the wishes of the minority after the GOP ran rough-shod over Democrats for eight years.

For a fictional, and much more entertaining version of this silly game, check out a deeply mature, intellectual show like Gossip Girl to understand the depth of sincerity of the Democrats and Republicans when it comes to bi-partisanship, finger-pointing, and back-stabbing.

Most people elect members of parties because they believe, wrongly in my view, that the two brands represent something different. Republicans supposedly stand for limited government and a strong defense even if Bush presided over the biggest domestic spending increase since LBJ and people tend to vote for them because they suupport those general views. Democrats supposedly believe in helping out the little guys (and women) and getting out of people's personal lives even though they have supported giving gobs of money to banks and Wall Street firms and forced social conservatives to violate their personal principles and publicly accept things like gay marriage. Yet folks continue to believe these two brands are different.

So the problem with bi-partisanship, in my view, is that people either are just using the phrase as window-dressing, or they mean totally different things when they claim to want it. When voters vote for people they expect them to be ideological. Americans don't expect Barack Obama to cut taxes, decrease spending, and nationalize Christianity. Americans didn't expect John McCain to raise taxes, ban guns, or understand free-market economics (sorry, cheap shot). Obama should act like people expected him to act, and in four years the electorate can "judge" his actions, and we can hear lots more about "bi-partisanship" all over again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nancy Pelosi, the Jose Canseco of the Pro-Choice Movement

The Speaker of the House, the right honorable Nancy Pelosi went to Catholic schools, was married in a Catholic church, and has five kids, and seven grandchildren. So you might think that she'd at least be somewhat sensitive to the idea that life has value, real value regardless of the wealth or status of any one individual. Isn't that what the Democrats say they do - value each person? She's from California, and she's also a favorite of the NARAL folks, so she's also pro-choice.

But this quote from her arguing that government spending that provides free contraception lowers other governmental spending by basically preventing poor people from getting pregnant is not merely the "party line" from pro-choice activists. This was blunt honesty, and I was pretty shocked that she actually said what I've always suspected a lot of elitists seem to be thinking on this issue.

Nancy Pelosi, the Jose Canseco of the pro-choice movement. Canseco's admission about steroids, which ruined a lot of people's careers, did help to clean up baseball (and expose him to some unpleasant cheap shots from his wife about his ball game). Of course Nancy won't get the money from a book deal that Jose got.

Nancy "Canseco" is admitting what a lot of other people are afraid to say, which is "Look, I'm smart enough, rich enough, and responsible enough to have a big family. Welfare mothers aren't, and rather than put them through the pain and suffering of trying to raise too many kids, I, an elite, will encourage you to stay `kid free.'" I've always thought that's what most rich, white women who are pro-choice have really thought, because whenever I talk to a upper-middle class pro-choice woman, the explanation I've always gotten for their position on abortion has been something like "well, I WOULD NEVER have an abortion, but I don't want to take that right away from someone else." Now I've always suspected that "someone else" was "poor stupid people," but now thanks to Nancy, I know it is that.

All of this is part of the new elite trend towards what Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler are calling "nudging" in which elites influence the "choice architecture" that people face to help them make "better decisions." Except they are now using the friendly power of the state to do the nudging. So if you give dumb poor people the proper incentives (birth control) to make better choices (not have so many kids that cost the government money) we'll all be better off. Sunstein, by the way, is head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which I believe was either headed by Harry Tuttle or Winston Smith during the Bush years.

Empirically, Nancy may be correct in the short-term that lower birth rates may indeed lower government expenditures for social services. And let's be honest, being an unwed mother remains a key indicator of poverty in the United States. However the Journal is also right that lower birth rates mean long-term losses in human capital. For example, Africa is suffering horribly from losses in human capital resulting from the AIDS epidemic. More specifically it strikes me that encouraging ever smaller populations in poorer states, like Michigan or Ohio, which are already losing population, may not be the best path to pursue, but that's the point of Obama's nudging strategy - trust the smart people to know what's best for society.

I guess for me, the admission by someone that the reason birth control is in the "state's interest" is to limit its costs is both revealing and more than a little creepy. "Nudging" people to think about the consequences of their actions seems laudable, but doing so while continuing to promote risky behavior (birth control pills don't prevent AIDS after all and neither do abortions) seems odd at best. Admitting the reason you want to prevent the process of reproduction because you don't think some people are responsible enough, nay good enough, to reproduce is a whole other matter. And it's one that I think we ought to leave to the Big Guy, not rich, Ivy League educated elites who want to run or nudge anyone's life. I thought being able to run your own life, and be responsible for it, was the whole point of this country anyway.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Apparently This is Serious

I swear I thought this was from the Onion.............I anxiously await useful updates on how not one cent of two trillion dollars is going to go to waste.

For two trillion you think they could have hired a better web designer.......or maybe used a cooler font?

UPDATE

Ok, I'm probably not using my work time in a way my bosses would appreciate, but did you know that when you click on the U.S. Government web page that the most requested information on the Federal Employees page, I kid you not, is Federal Holidays. Check it out on the right hand side of the page, red box about 2/3's of the way down. Ah Club Fed......

Can You Vote on Your Raise?

In Indianapolis, if you are a city employee and also serve on the city council apparently you can! Sweeeeeet work if you can get it!

This little piece in the Indy Star documents about five separate instances in which state and local employees, serving on town or city councils, voted themselves raises.

The single best example of this problem is the curious case of an Indianapolis Fire Fighter who cast the deciding vote on whether or not a friggin ETHICS PROBE OF HIMSELF would continue. I will let you guess how he voted in that particular instance.

But the best part of all this is the indignation that these "public servants" have been expressing recently in response to concerns that there might be a weeeee conflict of interest in this whole messy process. Well, don't be silly say the good members of the East Chicago city council, ALL of whom are government employees. Or the cop who pushed through new police cars and a raise for all police officers.

All of this is symptomatic of a much larger problem - government employees not only lobbying, but backing certain candidates who support more government spending. Take a look at this page from the American Federation of Government Employees, a step-child of the AFL-CIO. Is it right/ethical that a bunch of government workers can organize and contribute campaign contributions to their future bosses? Doesn't that cause, oh, I don't know, conflict of interest? I mean, ok, Sarah Palin is sort of flaky, and I'm not sure how much I wanted her in the White House either, but the president decides how many more government employees are going to be hired. How much government employees get paid. Stuff that seems, I don't know, unseemly.

I mean check out this anti-McCain ad from the same group. First off, they have to put this disclaimer in red letters about not viewing or downloading this page on any government computer. Does anyone seriously think that doesn't happen? And doesn't it seem a little weird that the union that represents every Federal government employee is actively campaigning against one candidate? Doesn't that seem weird for morale if that candidate were to win?

So I ask y'all - is it worse to be in bed with corporations, like Halliburton, or unions of government workers? Pick your poison, but prepare to pay through the nose when you live in Indiana.

Friday, January 23, 2009

And A Smarmy Cougar Victim Shall Lead Them

The title pretty much says it all about my view of this vacuous piece of self-promotion that Ashton Kutcher has placed on the Huffington Post a few days ago trying, I think, to encourage some groundswell of volunteerism during this political transition.

Ok, you know what? I DO NOT CARE ONE IOTA WHAT A HOLLYWOOD STAR THINKS THAT I SHOULD DO TO AFFIRM MY VIEWS OF COMMUNITY, SACRIFICE, VOLUNTARISM, AND HOPE (in case you were wondering, that was me, after too many beers, and the bartender is looking at me thinking he may need to call my wife or throw me out, or both frankly. But I've been tipping him pretty well over the years, and the bar is fairly empty..........and it's not a hip bar either, so he let's it slide once I lower my voice).

But really, catch the stuff that "moved" Ashton to set-up a friggin MySpace page (yes, that is the extent of his "sacrifice") to encourage self-absorbed people to feel better about themselves:
Barack Obama stood in front of a room of Los Angeles liberals and told us that everyone could have the American dream... but we were going to have to work for it. He said that every kid will get assistance for college but they were going to have to work for it. He explained that our nation could become independent of foreign oil but that we were going to have to give up a bit of our current comfortable existence. Now, from the mouth of an average straight-shooting American that may not sound audacious at all, but for a politician seeking endorsements to tell people that they are going to have to make sacrifices for the greater good, that he is not going to wave his magic legislative wand and fix it, that's audacity. That audacity is what gave me hope.
Ashton, dude, I hate to break it to you, but politicians TALK about sacrifice all the time. What we hear is "ask someone else to sacrifice" not "I'm going to have to sacrifice." What you heard, my friend was "hey, I'm loaded, I'll buy a Prius to go with my Lambo and drive it like once a month to premires and such and send the right signal to the little people about saving gas." When a person has no idea what they spend in a given month on gasoline or shoes or sushi, how can they even begin to understand what the word sacrifice really means?

The magical message Obama gave the Hollywood folks of sacrifice, trade-offs, and working to get somewhere in life is pretty much what I hear at church every Sunday. It's what a lot of normal people here in the Midwest think every day when they face friends who've lost jobs, or sons and daughters who can't afford college, or family members who can't get healthcare. It's not sugarcoated with the protection of millions of dollars in wealth and a self-inflated sense of self-worth.

So what public expression of solidarity did Ashton and Le Cougar produce after this moving, life changing experience listening to Obama? Ashton and his Highlander of a wife/girlfriend went and produced one of the creepiest videos I have ever seen in my life in which a collection of hip, Hollywood types pledge allegiance NOT to the United States, NOT to the government, NOT to the "the President" but instead personally to Barack Obama. Skip to 3:54 of the video and gaze upon the creation of the latest American personality cult......oh great.

Ashton, if you think that after never finishing college and then going onto fame and fortune doing underwear ads and following a cult (which is Madonna's faith of choice) gives you some special insights or deep responsibility to be a role model and tell people to worship our new president, stop sniffing the glue. While we are all impressed with those four Kids Choice Awards you have won for your "artistry" we are doing fine without your help.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finally, An End to a Very Dark Story

If he doesn't do much else of note during his presidency, Barack Obama's decision to close the Gestapo camps today should be hailed by everyone but Charles Kratthammer and his like.

If we are going to blast Cuba, North Korea, and Iran for forcing people to live in illiberal regimes that put people in jail for no reason, than those camps and Gitmo HAD TO GO. No one, but the densest right-wing nut could take the U.S. seriously on humans rights while those camps remained open. Those camps violated every principle of freedom and liberty this country is purported to stand for.

But there is one, huge caveat to all of this. Four lousy days before the Canada Geese Freedom Fighters tried to engage in terrorism against U.S. Airways, several news organizations had reported on a two year long streak without any fatalities that U.S. had enjoyed. Anyone who watches basketball has seen announcers "jinx" someone at the free throw line by noting that they've made like 45 in a row.

I hate to break it to everyone, but as a recovering stats enforcer, I can tell you that much as Brent Musburger would like to think he controls the universe, nobody jinxes anybody. Consecutive free throws and crash free days aren't simple random events. They are complicated processes in which people who are more skilled can influence the outcomes based on their abilities. Some god of free throws doesn't flip a coin indicating whether or not Shaq clanks one everytime he toes the free throw strip. Skill plays a role and influences the outcome. So does context. Practices that lower risk, well lower risk and improve outcomes.

Still, when I read stuff like this about the current "streak" the U.S. is enjoying concerning terrorist attacks I cringe - not merely as a statistician and an opponent of secret prisons. Rather I cringe as a fan of freedom.

As I've noted earlier, breaking the law to promote some vague "national interest" is not an uncommon occurrence in U.S. history. Americans can live with a few rights violations to maintain stability. Part of the reason Obama can get away with closing Gitmo is that terrorists have thus far not been able to mount an attack against the U.S.

How much Gitmo played a role in that is open to debate, but if, this suspiciously timed Pentagon report is correct, the probability that an attack could occur by releasing all of these people will probably go up. Obama and the left had better be prepared to live with the consequences of this increased probability of an attack or be really confident that any increase is not significant.

A lot is riding on Obama being able to keep our "streak" alive. We know that he hasn't been jinxed by these recent reports about Gitmo alumns fighting again. But let's all hope that that it turns out free societies don't need illiberal institutions to maintain freedom - or else we are all in trouble.

UPDATE

Friday morning at the top of the NYT web page was this story on a Gitmo alum who is now supposedly the head of some Al Qaeda cell in Yemen. Granted folks in New York have way more reason than most to worry about terrorism, but if Obama's "support" on closing Gitmo is this thin he should be concerned.

The Audacity of Market Indicators

This chart from CNNFN shows how the stock market has, as of 11 am this morning dumped about 300 points since inauguration day.

Can someone please tell reporters like Margaret Carlson, who should know better, that no one on Wall Street is really that excited about the prospect of the "grown-ups" in power since "grown-ups" really means "watch your wallet."

Look, no one wanted Bush out more than me, but let's be honest. Obama is left of center, and that means higher taxes and more interference in markets at some point. Abstract ideas like hope, promise, change, blah, blah, blah are easy to sell during elections. Again, we'll find out how all of that translates in the coming months, but right now the markets aren't happy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From the Department of Thinly Veiled Self-Interest

CNN has titled this story about a bunch of black civil rights leaders:
Civil rights vets: Fight not over because Obama reaches top
I'd like to propose the following edit:
Civil Rights Vets Declare: Obama Victory Doesn't Make Me Redundant or Irrelevant
Seriously, remember when Jerry Lewis used to say that he wanted to go out of business during those MDA Telethons in the 70's and 80's? I believed him.

After we have elected an African-American to the highest office in the land and 56% of black Americans say they think racism is not a big deal, isn't it time that some of these people who have made studying race their job to admit that maybe they too would LIKE TO GO OUT OF BUSINESS?

Or at the very least would any of them like to join the legions of scholars who studied the Soviet Union and have now miraculously become "Post-Soviet Scholars" which roughly translated means "tenured and unfireable." Some of the folks who study "race" need to admit to themselves that as much as they appreciated the office at University X, the media attention, and the book tours, that at the end of the day we are all better off when they shut their doors.

One of the big problems with government bureaucracies is that they almost never get shut down. I'm afraid we are heading in that same direction when it comes to centers and institutes that focus on race, racial identity, mixed race.....you get the idea. I think we can agree that the role that race has played in the world has not been good, so shouldn't our goal be the elimination, not perpetuation, of social interest in the topic?

And when I see places like this with the reaction to the election on their front page I really worry that the people who start institutions designed to study a bad social trend are starting to confuse their careers and fame with what should be the goal of their work - namely to eliminate racism.

I mean consider this excerpt from their mission statement:
Briefly put, in the post-civil rights, post-apartheid, and postcolonial era the vast issues of race and racism sometimes seems to have been incorporated, controlled, tamed. Race has acquired a quotidian and "normalized" status. In part because of this, and in part because previous racial conditions of inequality, exclusion, etc. still obtain, new racial conflicts are emerging both nationally and globally. The racial "problem of the 21st century" is also shaping numerous local polities, cultures, and identities. A notable lag has emerged between the experiences of the post-WWII period, when long-established patterns of white supremacism and eurocentrism both came under attack and underwent reform; and the current sociopolitical configurations of race. The latter are characterized by more (if hardly adequate) mobility, both geographic and socioeconomic; by more inclusive models of citizenship and political recognition; and by more acknowledgement of global racial networks (diaspora, media-driven globalism,etc.).

Under these conditions racially-based movements of the civil rights and nationalist type have lost some of their previous momentum. The past accomplishments of these enormous mobilizations were hardly negligible, but they were also insufficient to the enormous objectives they had themselves nurtured. Achievement of national independence and decolonization, for example, did not generally lead to democracy and development. The dismantling of segregation and apartheid did not achieve substantive racial equality. Indeed in many respects the racial reforms accomplished by these movements have ironically consolidated the basic patterns of inequality that they sought to overcome.
Now maybe I'm just a slow Midwesterner, but none of that is "briefly put" and I read all of that as "we've made a lot of progress, but we can NEVER make enough progress to cut funding or publication outlets for this topic, or God-forbid solve this highly destructive social problem upon which I have built my academic career."

Are these folks starting to help perpetuate our obsession with race even though the public at-large is losing interest? And if so what was the point of setting up all of these centers and institutions in the first place? At the end of Obama's term in office if the people at these centers are still arguing for more funding, more research, and more attention placed on race, they should be very ashamed or prepared to make more logical and theoretically sound arguments about why continuing to focus on race is worth the time and money. Otherwise they can join these guys in serious academic obscurity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What Communitarianism Apparently Means in California

This story in today's NYT is one of the best examples I have seen recently of why I started this blog. Somebody went through the public records of donors to the campaign to ban gay marriage in California, known as Proposition 8, and put them on a Google map. Unsurprisingly these folks have been receiving harassing mail and other annoyances. Two organizations, a Mormon temple and the headquarters of the K of C, were sent white powder by some very inventive person. I should note that the site I linked to for the Mormon story thoughtfully refers to gay people as "homosexualists" which is a new one for me.

It's great to see hypocrisy in full bloom here. For years the left has been going on and on about building communities. Well I for one would like it explained to me, very slowly because I guess I'm sort of dense, how faux terrorist activities achieve that goal? Folks on the right want to honor families, but they do things like ban people from adopting orphaned kids simply because they don't like the civil and personal arrangements people have selected. If you are going to preach morality to people you had better be prepared to get some angry responses.

Because the answer to Rodney King's question is apparently no, folks on both side of this battle have decided to settle it the old fashioned way - using the judiciary. Conservatives are being represented by this guy, who's been involved in conservative legal activities for a while. On the other side the legal director of a National Lesbian Rights organization is asking if conservatives "have something to hide" by not wanting to be harassed. I mean maybe I'm missing something but I don't think that gay people who don't live in San Francisco want big signs posted in all of their front yards pronouncing "Lesbians Within."

The reason I find all of this interesting is that the Times is also reporting that we are all going to come together in peace and harmony tomorrow with some musically themed schmaltz of "We Are One." I guess Washington types believe that if Bruce Springsteen and Beyonce and Bono (who's not even American) tell us we are all one we are supposed to believe it.

Inaugurations are supposed to be times of unity (although it certainly wouldn't kill the NYT to come clean and remember this little piece during the build-up to Bush's second inauguration) and I guess it's fine that we try to set aside our differences during the most historic inauguration of my lifetime. But let's not delude ourselves. Prop 8 is a really powerful example that while we all say we are communitarians there are some awfully big differences of opinion about how those communities are supposed to look and who can get married in them.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Get Me a Goose Gun

I will occasionally go and shoot skeet with one of my colleagues at the office. We really like going to a range out in the country about an hour or so north of the office in the middle of a transitional area that still has farms and a few sub-divisions. The guys who run it are salt of the earth Midwesterners who mostly shoot for sport, but some hunt. On Saturdays they fire up a grill and cook brats or burgers and everyone throws in 5 bucks and helps clean up.

You have to pick up your shell casings at each station. You have to wear ear protection. There is absolutely no booze because unlike some morons these guys understand the basics of gun safety. And the members have to volunteer at least two weekends a year to clean up as well as pay dues.

Why the Norman Rockwell review of this club? Because several years ago I met a guy there who told me he was something I had never heard of before - a dedicated goose hunter. I had met people who specialized in all sorts of shooting, but never before geese. Geese hunters use larger gauge shotguns (10 gauge, which is pretty big shot) because their main targets, the rodent of the American subdivision, the Canadian Goose is pretty big and well insulated from shot.

I wish we had more goose hunters after today's miraculous story about the US Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River because it looks like a couple of geese brought the plane down.

Why are there so many Canadian Geese in New York? Well for one thing, to kill one you first have to read this four page explanation of how you JUST BEGIN TO APPLY TO HUNT THEM OR "DISTURB" THEIR NESTS.

In the spirit of full disclosure I, like I suspect almost everyone who lives outside of a major city, hate Canadian Geese. When I was a kid we'd see them actually migrating, and it symbolized the end of summer when you'd see these massive flocks of them heading south. Now when I see one shitting on my car or chasing a jogger or howling at 6 am it symbolizes what I view as misplaced priorities.

Suburbanization has created habitat that the geese love, and there's food in these areas all year long. So we are indirectly responsible for creating this mess. The response? Well when you Google Canadian Geese the first ad that pops up is for Goose Repellents.

I'm not suggesting we all go out and begin blasting away at any goose we see. Rather, I'm just pointing out that maybe, just maybe, the pendulum has swung a weeeeeee bit too far in favor of the geese. Setting aside for a moment that geese are nasty, aggressive, loud creatures that produce prodigious amounts of bird poop, no one wants people shooting guns randomly in heavily populated areas.

Still 155 people could have died............155 is a lot, and allowing some more limited hunting in some urban states might at least make these birds more concerned about shacking up next to humans. And the views of the folks at PETA about how geese should never be hunted and can be "managed" strikes me as pretty unreasonable after the events of yesterday. I mean airports are supposed to specialize in that type of management and those birds almost killed a lot of innocent people

If folks in Blue States like New York are, understandably, reluctant to take up hunting I have some guys who can help solve this problem. You provide the brats, they'll bring their own ammo.

Grammar School Crushes Go Presidential

My old neighbor Tim never used the 12 year old Nordic Trak he gave me when he left town six years ago. He got it from a friend who also never used it. Despite the extremely pessimistic bloodlines of the thing, I took it, and probably do use it 30 or so times a year when the weather is ridiculous, as it is this week, or I'm just too lazy to actually run.

In front of it is an old hand-me-down-television I got from my folks that is 13 inches, and is not digital which means it will stop working in February when the Feds, who can't even bailout old televisions properly, mandate the switch to digital television signals. I'm sure they will however spend the 850 billion dollar stimulus package the House voted for today and the additional 350 billion in TARP money released by the Congress with efficiency and thoughtfulness.

I used the Nordic Trak on Tuesday and was stuck watching Oprah because Judge Judy, who I prefer immensely because those scrapped off the heel people she yells at really make me feel remarkably better about my life, wasn't on. Anyway, Oprah had on Ron Howard via webcam (which was really weird) and they, of course, started talking about Barack Obama. And Oprah squealed like a 12 year old at an InSynch concert at the thought of the inauguration.

Now as I hope I have expressed so far in my time here, I have no particular predisposition towards or against either party because I dislike them both. But I have noticed that people who like Obama REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like Obama. Like kids who have crushes in the 6th grade. Like my neighbors' dog who jumps on everyone he meets. Like the folks at All Things Considered who ran a piece, a serious piece, on Obama's official photographer.

Much as I believe the mainstream media's contention that it was objective and balanced throughout the campaign, I strongly suspect that perhaps all of this has gotten a little out of hand. And Sandy Grady's piece in McPaper this morning captured what I'd been trying to articulate for a while. It's one thing to vote for someone. It's another thing to be a fan of Obama like you are of Leonardo or George Clooney.

Celebrities do drugs, cheat on their spouses, have drunken auto accidents, and make really bad movies while we watch from afar. Politicians screw-up in big, messy, and expensive, often catastrophic ways that touch us directly. They start wars, wire tap their enemies, raise taxes, and do lot of other things that directly affect people negatively. They also do some good stuff, but this is not the Hills, or Ocean's Eleven, or OMG Brangelina are having TWINS!!!! This is serious business with incredibly important consequences and real life costs.

If we fall in love with them like we do Britney and Angelina we had better be prepared for an ugly let-down. The guy seems like a perfectly decent, smart, articulate person, who is now being asked to get us out of a nasty recession, resolve 67 tons of frustration by folks on the Hard Left, eliminate bigotry, negotiate world peace, and then star in a hit movie. Frankly, I'll be happy if he can just get me a converter box coupon for my old TV.

So That's What They Call Nannies in NYC.......

Apparently the new phrase is "household employee," or at least that is what the NYT is calling the person who worked for Treasury Secretary Nominee Tim Geithner. My question, coming from the middle of the country where my wife and I cook, do dishes, clean, run errands, and feed our increasingly ravenous spawn is who cares if he didn't get all the taxes right? The friggin tax code is more than 67,000 pages thick. Hell it sounds like we all have broken the tax code.

No, my question is this - wouldn't it disqualify someone for a Cabinet position if they did NOT have any "household employees" because they were, I don't know, normal like the rest of us?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

While Rome Burns Again

Good news, the Congress has addressed this incredibly pressing matter and made "scalping" of tickets to Obama's inauguration a FEDERAL CRIME punishable by a year in prison. On a scale of 1-10 in importance with 1 being "unimportant" and 10 being like "Fundbaby screaming his head off to get a diaper change, and I mean a really bad diaper, while I have a hangover on Sunday morning at 6:27 a.m. important" this Congressional action ranks as a -36.

But I swear this is the best part of this thing:
The bill contains an exemption for the official presidential inauguration committee, which is selling ticket packages for fundraising.
Awesome people - truly awesome. So the real title of this bill is "The No Scalping by Anyone We Isn't Giving Us a Big Fat Cut of the Action Act of 2009."

Table Scraps for the Hard Left

I almost spit my beer out this evening laughing at the prospect of a criminal probe of the Bush Administration's actions by Democrats. I should begin by saying I suspect, nay, KNOW that laws were broken during Bush's term in office. Hell he was the most powerful guy in the world - of course he broke laws.

Without making a normative case about presidential law breakers, I give you a group of highly respected people who broke laws:

Abe Lincoln - who suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War which is a legal right we all have under the Constitution.

John Adams - who signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which basically allowed the government to throw anyone in jail who opposed the government.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt - who threw a bunch of U.S. citizens into detention camps during World War II because of their ethnicity (by the way, check out this excellent collection of Ansel Adam's photos of Americans, held captive by their own government).

Ronald Reagan - who of course had the Iran Contra mess, which helped launch the annoying career as a media pundit and friggin paid motivational speaker of Oliver North............Good Lord, talk about hitting the lottery, the guy actually has a full time job talking when his diction makes Bush look like Cicero.

William Jefferson Clinton - Hey, not matter how you slice it, the guy lied to a grand jury about a blowjob. You can dispute the political motivations of the investigation (and the looks of the provider of said head), but you cannot dispute the stupidity and ILLEGALITY of lying to a grand jury.

What's my point here? Well as a bonus I have 2 points. The first is simple. Anyone who exercises the power of the American Presidency, especially the modern Presidency, is going to break some laws. That's why these people need to be limited. They have too much power. Imagine Bill Murray walking the Statue of Liberty through New York in Ghostbusters 2. It's too much power to not have a few cars crushed.

The danger in too much power is that it blinds us when one of "our own" is in office. We excuse the excesses. We should instead trim the power of the office and not invite the risk of human frailty. That is, after all, one of the main arguments behind having our Constitution isn't it?

Second, the last thing Obama wants is a political trial of Bush. He's got more than enough problems to deal with. And I can tell you right now that the precedent it would set would be beyond bad. Sure laws matter, but people don't want political trials in this country. We have Court TV here - that's enough judicial action for anybody.

The Hard Left in San Francisco and Manhattan can have fantasies about Bush spending time in jail with Cheney as his cellmate, but it's just not going to happen. In this country no one outside of Liberal Land is going to get worked up about the violation of the rights of Arabs. It just doesn't sell in Red States. And I suspect that everyone sort of suspects that the government is listening to our conversations once in a while since 9-11.

No, I honestly believe that the political cons really, really outweigh the pluses. Which is not to say that I wouldn't like throwing him in the slammer, but no politician likes throwing one of his own kind in jail.......I suspect it hits a little too close to home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If You Saw the Movie Ed Wood..........

Then you know how George Bush's last press conference went. It was just as painful as the scene when Johnny Depp's Wood was sitting with Orsen Wells exchanging war stories about film making that re-energized Wood to continue to follow his pathetic failure of a career. It was as horribly awkward as the scene at the end of the film when Depp's Wood told his girlfriend during the introduction of the atrocious film Plan 9 from Outspace that "this is the one they are going to remember."

Last year there was a wide consensus that Bush's presidency was a failure based on Iraq alone. Remember Iraq? Remember one of the worst wars we've ever fought? Things are so amazingly bad now that Iraq hardly ever registers on the national consciousness.

Good riddance. Please don't let the door hit you on the way out. Jimmy Carter? Herbert Hoover? U.S. Grant? He's down there, maybe the worst of all of them.

Mr. Bush, go back to Texas and watch things get worse. While you are at it, take that smug, self-righteous smirk with you. Both sides, left and right, have plenty to complain about. You can't and should not be blamed for all that has gone wrong recently, but you sure didn't help matters.

One more thing, since you've got time on your hands, would you please, PLEASE learn how to pronounce the word nuclear?

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Best Political News in a Long Time - Senator Roland Burris

Folks, I hate Rod Blagojevich. I hate his personality, his allegedly criminal activity, the fact that he is a Cubs fan - the whole package. Oh, and my family is half Crotian, so I pretty much despise the guy on all levels.

And I think Roland Burris is as good at losing elections in Illinois as the French are at losing wars.

But I have to say, I am totally, utterly psyched that the rules are still the rules. Despite BS posturing from Harry Reid, self-righteous indignation from Illinois Democrats, and open ridicule from just about every columnist/public intellectual in Washington, New York, and Chicago, the rules in this country still are, apparently the rules. The law still matters. Thank God.

By Request for the Czarina

My favorite hedge fund has done its typically powerful analysis of Congress' investigations into how, amazingly, a guy who served on SEC advisory boards and bragged about how he had regulators in his coat pocket could possibly have avoided SEC investigation while overseeing the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

The chairman of the panel, Barney Frank, thinks that the staff of the SEC were not to blame for this. However he also doesn't want the government to be blamed for anything that went wrong with Fannie and Freddie. I do think that Brother Barney is onto something. I mean, it's time we moved beyond the question of who killed who. Investigations that pry into the motivations of the human soul are particularly awkward to the Congressman. Let's just start spending other people's money - shall we?

I Don't THINK This is a Joke...........

Thomas Friedman is not a stupid guy, and he writes lots of books and is published in the NYT, and is often mistaken for this other Friedman because they both don't completely hate capitalism. Guys like Thomas Friedman don't seem to have just one job, they've got lots of them, and they get lumped into a wonderful group known to Coastal people as "Public Intellectuals." Since most of them have no connection at all to public life, and no specific intellectual training, it's sort of a weird title.

I honestly do not know how to become one of these people, but the career track of all of them seems to go something like this:

Go to an Ivy League School like this guy (which means, be born rich and attend East Coast prep schools). Then attend Oxford for a Master's, or perhaps get two Masters degrees at Oxford, I mean, the town is lovely, or just stay at the Ivy League school you attended in the first place.

Then with all those nice connections you get from attending Harvard and the great stories you get from drinking in pubs in Oxford, start writing books about yourself, Bobos, or something as vague as women.

Make sure you get on television, maybe start a couple of talking heads shows. Network shows are good but so is CNN.

But don't let your training or education get in the way. You can have absolutely no professional or intellectually relevant training at all and still spout opinions if you went to Harvard.

Well Thomas Friedman never went to Harvard, but he did make up for it by doing the Oxford thing. Despite this tremendous handicap, he's managed to enter the Public Intellectual Club, probably as an affirmative action Midwesterner from Minnesota. However speaking as a fellow Midwesterner, this column is an embarrassment to all things from our lonely and desolate part of the nation. Senor Friedman wants us to take the Obama bailout and give teachers tax credits to buy homes, double their salaries, and eliminate their income tax bills. And not all teachers, no, just those who work in public schools, because well, his wife is a public school teacher.........that's right, Thomas Friedman is advocating that we give his wife all of these things.

Now setting aside for a moment the fact that Tommy and his wife don't really need these perks because they are swimming in family money because his father-in-law started this little family business, I had to ask myself, what evidence do we have that such measures would improve education? The answer seems to be that we can double per pupil spending and still get no progress.

This kind of broad, JFK like crap we continue to get from really rich baby-boomers is annoying to me, not because I don't like teachers, but because they are platitudes coming from people who have no connection to the rest of us and no idea what our lives are like. They toss around silly ideas without the formal training necessary to be considered experts and then wonder why the rest of us aren't bothering to read newspapers or watch mainstream media.

All the Public Intellectuals would need to do would be to Google the phrase teacher's salaries in Catholic and public schools to discover that Catholic schools that pay their teachers far less get better educational results. Then the Public Intellectual could wonder about how relevant teacher salaries are related to student performance. And while we're on the subject, why give the teachers who get BIGGER SALARIES all the benefits he proposes.

I have a quick suggestion to the NYT - if you have a constant compulsion to allow only Harvard and Oxford grads on your editorial pages, try to let experts in say education write about education. And let the Thomas Friedman's of the world write about the struggles of trying to raise a family on two incomes, one a public school teacher's, while living in an 11,000 square foot home in Bethesda with a net worth of 25 million bucks.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Life Imitates Porn

There is a very small part of me that has found Larry Flynt kind of funny mostly because he took this case to the Supreme Court and then made money from a movie about the case. And of course he got Hollywood's craziest actor (who once owned an oxygen bar in LA and climbed the Golden Gate Bridge) to play himself.

Now I can add this to the list - Larry Flynt is seeking a Federal bailout for the porn industry.

Arnold Kling, who I'm sure is not a shill for the porn industry, has already dealt with this question, hypothetically...........at least I think he's not a shill.......I'm also sort of wigged out that at least a couple of "humorous" sites have already proposed such a federal bailout for smut.

Apparently, the porn business is estimated to be a 13 billion dollar a year industry. Last quarter GM and Ford together lose more than 14 billion dollars in cash. Still if you were going to ask me who provides more customer satisfaction..........ok. Next topic.

Make Up Your Mind Already or Why I Fear the Conventional Wisdom

Remember the conventional wisdom from like 2005 - we weren't saving enough. We were a nation of sinful debtors who needed to save more like our soon to be new Overlords, the Chinese. There was a country of wonderful savers. We were addicted to credit cards like smack addicts to heroin. We had used our homes like ATM machines mortgaging ourselves into oblivion.

Now, if you read any news analysis of this recession, all you hear from pundits and economists is that Americans are a worthless bunch of misers who won't mortgage our futures for a new flatscreen. Declining consumer spending is a PROBLEM, and as the front page of the WSJ documented this morning (I won't even bother to link to the article because you have to pay for it), the fact that people are choosing to save in this widely reported time of crisis is now hurting the economy. To quote the article:
But in a recession, increased saving - or its flip side, decreased spending - can exacerbate the economy's woes. It's what economists call the "paradox of thrift."
The Journal then goes on to document "What a Penny Saved Costs."

This whole episode reminds me of when the experts were telling us in the 1990's that fat was the ultimate health enemy. The government got on the bandwagon, and it led, perhaps directly, to an explosion in Type II diabetes. So now the economics experts are telling us that all that savings stuff is really making this recession worse. So we are supposed to listen to all of the experts now that we are finally saving?

To be fair, part of this is what economists would call a prisoner's dilemma. We would be better off as a whole if we were spending more, and it would lead to better economic performance. But since we're all scared we're going to lose our jobs, we act "selfishly," as economists would call it, and put our interests first and save rather than spend. It does hurt the economy. I'm not normatively judging this behavior, but it does lead to a "sub-optimal" outcome.

But it seems to me that public behavior is not the problem during this recession, it's been mistakes by the experts who help to build the conventional wisdom. Remember when Alan Greenspan was a demi-god who was so respected he could be Fed Chairman even if he was dead? Well Greenspan had the spigot wide open, we spent, and that seems to be a big reason we got into this mess. When unemployment hits nearly 7%, the housing market stinks, and we feel insecure we pull back. It strikes me that neither action is irrational, and both are fairly wise responses to what is in our individual self-interest. But both actions are motivated by institutions that are led, imperfectly, by experts.

One branch of economics, experimental economics, understands that people can often solve social problems naturally without the direct interference of consciously constructed institutions, led by really smart people like the Fed..........sometimes institutions led by smart people get the incentives wrong - badly.

We may not do exactly what the experts would like us to do, but the public isn't nearly as stupid or misguided as the Inside the Beltway types and Ivy League elites think we are. Instead the experts need to respect the ability of individuals to solve problems unconsciously based on natural cooperation and not try to manipulate things (i.e. easy money and the crusades against excessive spending or fat consumption). The conventional wisdom needs to trust the ability and right of the public to simply seek what it wants instead of deciding what they should want and how they should get it. It strikes me that the risks of trying to manipulate or "correct" public preferences are far greater than the risks of doing nothing, but I'm open to correction on this point.

How Can You Tell a Politician is Lying?

The old saw says, when his/her mouth is moving. President Obama seems a bit more complicated. Hey kids, can you spot the lie below?

Quote #1 from our soon to be Fearless Leader:
"At the current course and speed, a trillion-dollar deficit will be here before we even start the next budget," Obama said Tuesday. "And potentially we've got trillion-dollar deficits for years to come, even with the economic recovery that we are working on at this point."
Quote #2:
But Obama promises that his administration will also embrace budget reform and put a choke collar on the country's record annual shortfall, if not in the immediate term, then soon after.

On Tuesday, he vowed to "bring a long-overdue sense of responsibility and accountability to Washington."
Prizes will be awarded in U.S. Savings Bonds which you will probably have to pay above face value to redeem.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Sort of Bad Recession?

Last week on CNNFN there was an article about two guys who were making more than 100k a year ago and are now learning how to live on half of that. This, in typical CNN fashion, was their way of saying how bad things are. And look, I feel sorry for people who've had their salary cut in half, although to be honest, one guy worked for WaMu, and is probably lucky he's got a friggin job right now. The other guy was a mortgage broker, which again, is not exactly the type of job you'd expect to survive a real estate meltdown.

By the way, making more than 100k made those two guys rich according to the Census Bureau. Taking 50% pay cuts makes them middle class. This my friends is unfortunate for those folks, but is it historically horrible?

Then yesterday, Paul Krugman, who admittedly has one one more Nobel Prize than I do, tells us we are on the edge of the Great Depression. Now he, and a lot of other really smart people have been saying things are close to the Great Depression, for a while now. My concern is that speaking statistically THINGS ARE NOTHING LIKE THE GREAT DEPRESSION - AT ALL.

I mean things are bad - really bad from the baseline we came down from. Unemployment is higher than it's been in almost thirty years. Household wealth has been slashed; people don't feel secure; we are still in the middle of an expensive war. Here in the Midwest manufacturing is getting hurt and farming is not rocking the house.

But really the Great Depression? Does anyone in the developed world have 30% plus unemployment? And near as I can tell there are no bread lines, Hoovervilles, or anything approximating the Great Depression in the US right now.

So as a public service I'd like to sponsor a contest to name this economic downturn. Should we call it the Not So Great Recession? Should we call it the Really Well Reported Real Estate Blow-up? Should we just call it, the Wooden Stake in the Reagan Revolution? I'll be tallying the entries and arbitrarily choosing a winner, which I'll forward to all mainstream media outlets, or at least the ones that are still publishing on a daily basis.

Why Isn't S&P Political Roadkill Yet?

As much as we should be blaming the greed and stupidity of investment banking for a lot of our financial problems, we also should be blaming the hell out of Standard and Poor's who rated a lot of these atrocious investments incorrectly. So far I've only seen a couple of good analysis of this problem, the first by Robert Rosenkranz at the WSJ in which he notes that regulators have used the bond ratings by S&P to measure how much capital insurers needed to cover their policies. The problem, obviously, was that none of the agencies got the sub-prime stuff rated properly, no one had the proper capital needed, and now we're staring at tons of defaults that are not adequately insured.

Arnold Kling over at EconLog argues that no matter how you set up the rules of capital requirements, someone will figure out a way to game the system. Instead he argues for punitive punishment for CEO's who cheat - serious prison time.

From my perspective a lot of individual investors and state and local governments used the bond ratings as a way of judging risk. Prices are part of the information we use to judge the quality and risk in something, but ratings also matter. So why hasn't more of the spotlight turned to S&P? I can't find any serious links between S&P and politicians, but some smart ambitious politician (Andrew Cuomo?) will eventually see this, hold hearings, and heads will roll. It's just too easy and obvious.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ed Glaeser's View on Stimulus

He's one of the smartest economists around, in my not so humble view, and he thinks tax cuts to lower income individuals and direct aid to state and local governments is the way to go.............Hey, it's not the first time I disagreed with someone smarter than myself.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Richardson's Bigger Picture

So it looks like one prominent Fletcher School alum will not be serving in the Obama White House. As just about every media outlet in the world is headlining today, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has bowed out (a phrase I find bizarre - he was bowing with a gun to his head. Obama's people made him quit, but no one wants to say that) from being Commerce Secretary. Which is a shame, because when it comes to commerce in state politics, the guy knows how to sell things, for better prices than Blago. A 1.4 million dollar contract to help do business with the state of New Mexico apparently cost a financial consulting firm about $100,000 in campaign contributions. That's a better deal than 500,000 for a Senate seat, and waaaay subtler.

However the big picture here is interesting. Note the quote below from a Washington Post piece on this investigation from mid December:
The inquiry is part of a long-running nationwide investigation into "pay-to-play" practices in local government bond markets. In other cities, federal investigators are questioning whether financial firms have lavished politicians with money and gifts in exchange for fee-paying work advising municipal and local governments on investments. Authorities indicted the mayor of Birmingham, Ala., this month on charges of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from a firm that led the city into toxic investments and massive bankruptcy.
In other words, the Justice Department under Bush was focusing on sweetheart deals between financial services firms and state governments when it came to managing the very lucrative business of investing public money. Now you would think that with all the crap involving bond sales and the sub-prime mortgages that Obama would continue to push Justice to look into this stuff. A LOT of local governments (i.e. a lot of state governments as well) are up to their eyeballs in debt, and turning attention towards losses that can be blamed on fraud would divert attention away from the debt. Demonizing financial services firms would make for good political theatre.

But it could be the case that in Obama's world where government is categorically a good thing, exploring the seedy side of how financing for local debt gets done would be too damaging. This could also be very embarrassing if it looks like prominent Democrats are involved in this, and Richardson certainly fits that category. So my question is this - will this focus continue? It's important to remember that every President staffs Justice with some people in management and has some say on what gets more attention. For example this piece from NPR notes that liberals in the Department are hoping Obama pushes more civil rights stuff which Bush ignored. Wonder if going after local government officials will remain on Obama's radar?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Blago/Rangel Does Not Equal 1 - Why?

I ask this as a serious question - and not an inflammatory one. In today's NYT, they report that Rangel basically tried to shake down AIG. And very much like Gov. Blago, it appears no money changed hands and no deals were made. But one was caught on tape by the FBI, is under indictment, and widely viewed in the media as the symbol for what's wrong with American politics.

Rangel, on the other hand, has been caught doing all sorts of sketchy things this year like pursuing creative real estate deals, getting awesome parking spaces, and not paying taxes. So while the Chicago Tribune as asked for the Governor to quit, the NYT has merely asked Rangel to step down as Chairman of his Committee despite being accused of doing a wider range of bad stuff.

More generally, I wonder where we draw the line between Rangel's "negotiations" with AIG and Blago's not-so-subtle bargain pricing (apparently he should have asked for 6.2 million) of a Senate seat. How different are they? I'm honestly wondering y'alls views on this point.

A Trillion Here, A Trillion There

In case you are keeping score at home (and I am, by the way) U.S. government debt, not this year's deficit, stands at 10.7 trillion U.S. Pesos. This piece in today's Post has two tidbits that the incoming Obama administration will have to keep in mind when they want to put another 2 trillion or so on top of our existing "country equity line" of credit.

First, is that the only reason it can probably pull this off is the amazing demand for Treasuries because of scary uncertainty in the markets. Whether or not continued government borrowing contributes to this uncertainty is a matter I've not seen discussed widely (I would be grateful to anyone who can point me to blogs/web pages that discuss this possibility).

Second is the point that more than 4 trillion of the debt is owed to other U.S. government institutions - most notably these guys. Speaking as a 40 something, and like most people in this non-scientific poll I don't expect to see a nickel of my Social Security.

Friday, January 2, 2009

About Six Years Late

Would someone please tell CNN to get a little more up-to-date considering this headline that law in Zimbabwe has just now broken down.

I mean seriously - NOW it's broken down? In a related update, democracy in North Korea is imperiled.

Google This

This morning Mrs. Fundman was feeding Fundbaby and watching her favorite television "news" Fox, which I equate to more like watching E! than news, but whatever. Anyway, they were discussing a ban on unmarried couples adopting in Arkansas that was approved by voters in that state last month.

I should say in the spirit of full disclosure that I'm adopted. While my parents undoubtedly regret having raised an over-educated sarcastic pain in the rear, I feel now, and have always felt, tremendously blessed and honored that my parents wanted me so much that they dealt with the frustration and pain of not having been able to have children naturally and still adopted. No doubt they were moved by a combination of their own desires to be parents and some sense of responsibility to help out children who lacked parents.

Of course the process was different in the 1960's when I was adopted. You didn't have to go to Russia or Guatemala, fill out dozens of forms, see countless social workers, bribe dozens of people and then finally after months get your child. I've had several friends who've gone through the process and I always said to myself something like "Wow, how callous of corrupt Third World countries to needlessly politicize infants."

I'm sad to report that when I bothered to Google the circumstances surrounding this ban on unmarried individuals adopting in Arkansas I discovered the U.S. was full of asses, on both sides, willing to politicize infants without homes. Gay activists, like these folks, want to make it an anti gay issue. These folks from an organization named the "Family Council" of all things want to deny kids without families the chance to live with two people who want to serve as full-time parents. Unsurprisingly, no one seems particularly concerned about the kids here.

To say that my heart and head lie with the opponents of this ban goes without saying. The choice between a permanent home with two vetted individuals who are committed to making a lifetime commitment to a child and a foster family, even if both are committed to doing the job well is as different as night and day. And I quote:
Responsibilities

Foster Parents:

* provide daily care and nurturing of children in foster care;
* advocate for children in their schools and communities.
* inform the children's caseworkers about adjustments to the home, school, and community, as well as any problems that may arise, including any serious illnesses, accidents, or serious occurrences involving the foster children or their own families.
* make efforts as team members with children's caseworkers towards reunifying children with their birth families.
* provide a positive role model to birth families, and
* help children learn life skills.


Adoptive Parents:

* provide permanent homes and a lifelong commitment to children into adulthood.
* provide for the short-term and long-term needs of children.
* provide for children's emotional, mental, physical, social, educational, and cultural needs, according to each child's developmental age and growth.
* may become certified as a foster family and accept children who are not legally free for adoption, but whose permanency plan is adoption.

Now let's assume that every right wing hypocrite who voted for this bill really believes that homosexuality is a sin (an issue I have no interest in ever discussing here in a political forum) and correspondingly believes that placing a child in a situation with an unmarried couple is morally wrong. As a Christian, how do you reconcile closing off one potential avenue of giving kids without legal parents a permanent "lifelong" home? Well, you agree to serve as a foster parent.

So basically, if I might speak as an economist here, the good voters of Arkansas who voted for this ban were externalizing the cost of their preferences onto the kids in the foster system who are denied a right to a permanent family.

To wit, I suggest we force those voters to bear the cost of their preferences by proposing the following amendment to the Arkansas ban:

Every person who votes in favor of this measure must serve as either an adoptive or foster family for a child without a family in the state in an order to be chosen by lot.

Before I finish I'm not letting the Gay Politics side of this off so easily. Gay people, it seems to me, have chosen a sort of "Civil Rights" model to achieve what was first, protection from overt discrimination, and what now seems to be equal recognition of their lifestyles. I would recommend this approach of simply abolishing civil marriage as an alternative for one simple reason. When you lie down with dogs, you get up with flees. Play politics with things, and the other side will retaliate. Remove politics from the equation, and you get better results. If this is about giving kids decent homes and not forcing other people to accept a lifestyle they may find repugnant and sinful, then try to take politics and the state out of the equation. Just a suggestion.