Thursday, February 4, 2010

No East Coast Bias Here

Blasted on the front page of both the New York Times and Washington Post today is a news story about brake problems with the Toyota Prius, which Toyota sold about 140,000 of in the US last year. You'd think everyone in the country drove one.

In fact the Prius is a tiny percentage of the U.S. market. The Ford F-150, which has seen its sales fall by 50% in recent years STILL sold more than 400,000 last year alone.

Granted, Toyota is news these days, especially Toyotas with problems. And of course if you went to an Ivy League school, live among guilt ridden left-coast intellectuals and believe in global warming, you need to either drive one of these things or act like you want to own one. So the people who make news decisions actually think most of us envy Prius drivers or secretly wish we could drive one.

News Flash - most Americans snicker at Prius drivers. Why, we ask, would anyone pay 5 grand more for a smaller version of a Camry unless they were a posturing, annoying person? In fact some guy has made money with this awesome bumper sticker reminding us that you can't spell pretentious without "prius." The Times and Post reporting on this "story" so prominently is like doing a front page story on decline wine production in Zimbabwe or a bowling tournament in North Korea. It's not relevant to real people. Of course that describes a lot of what passes for "news" in the MSM these days.

Does Thou Protest Too Much?

Keith Hennessey is one of my favorite bloggers because he actually uses data and political economy approaches to his posts. Still, he worked in the Bush White House, so you have to take his work with a grain of salt. This passage from today's post just struck me:
Yes, President Obama faced some enormous economic challenges early in his term. His predecessor did as well, even before the crisis of 2008: a bursting tech bubble leading to a recession in 2001, an economic seizure caused by 9/11, corporate governance scandals in 2002, a recession in 2002-2003, the economic uncertainty triggered by invading Iraq (this one was a policy choice), and eventually oil spiking above $100 per barrel.

I think it’s OK for a President to talk about the challenges he and the Nation face. It helps to set reasonable expectations. I think a President should propose solutions to those challenges and describe a brighter future that he hopes to deliver. I think it’s tacky and tiresome for a President to keep bashing his predecessor, especially more than a year after taking office. I acknowledge that my perspective on this point is biased by my professional past.

I also think this refrain weakens President Obama. He is portraying himself as a victim of forces that are beyond his control. A President should want people to focus on him and what he’s going to do, not on a comparison of him with someone else (anyone else). President Obama should want people talking about the Obama Agenda rather than about what happened ten years ago. Ten years ago.
He then goes onto argue that Obama needs to establish some new set of policies to differeniate himself from Bush or at least work to rollback the stuff he's attacking, like the Medicare drug benefit of that stupid pair of wars that Obama promised he'd end.

My question is this - where are the positive policies in government these days? The Democrats, scarred after the health care debacle, aren't getting anywhere near new ideas. The Republicans just sit back and attack the Democrats on wasteful spending, but as even Keith acknowledges, the GOP is partially responsible for this mess and have zero track record for limiting government growth. There's a real opportunity for a policy entrepreneur in this political environment. I wonder who will seize this chance? Any candidates? Mike Pence? Scott Brown?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Use History Part 2

Any Democrat who wonders why Joe Lieberman is holding the Obamacare bill hostage and maybe a little hacked off at Harry Reid might want to recall this statement that Reid and Chuck Schumer issued after Lieberman lost the Democratic primary in 2006 in Connecticut
The Democratic voters of Connecticut have spoken and chosen Ned Lamont as their nominee. Both we and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) fully support Mr. Lamont’s candidacy. Congratulations to Ned on his victory and on a race well run.

Joe Lieberman has been an effective Democratic Senator for Connecticut and for America. But the perception was that he was too close to George Bush and this election was, in many respects, a referendum on the President more than anything else. The results bode well for Democratic victories in November and our efforts to take the country in a new direction.
Well I'd say Joe is taking that health care bill in a new direction, yes siree...............

Quick prediction - a deal will be cut, but Lieberman won't be the last Democratic moderate to waver and maybe vote no. I'd still put the odds of passage of some kind of bill at 65%.

Someone is Hiring

And that would be the Federal Government, and they are giving out sweet pay and perks! I've been blogging about the onerous burden that state and local government employees' pension and health care obligations will place on Fundbaby, but this is just another reminder of how the feds don't understand what real people suffer through and become increasingly disconnected from reality and the correcting forces of markets.

Representative Government Update

This poll from CNN, not Fox, shows that around 60% of Americans now oppose the Senate health care bill. The key passage from the article:
According to the poll, a very large majority of Americans think that the health care bill that the U.S. Senate is considering would raise the federal deficit and raise their taxes, and while they think that the bill would help many families, only one in five think they would benefit personally if the bill becomes law.

"As a result, more than six in 10 say they oppose the Senate health care bill," Holland said. "Republicans obviously don't like the bill, but two-thirds of independents also say they are against it."
Hat tip to the Opinion Journal's Best of the Web.


Stumbled across this news bit from the Washington Post about the fourth Democratic House Member in a "swing district" who will retiring this year - coincidentally. Of course even if there's a seismic shift in the elections next year, we'll simply get more of the same from the other group of thieves.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Scary Lesson in Government Financial Planning

I handle the finances in Chateau Fundfamily, and Mrs. Fundman and I are in agreement that this is the best way to handle it. You see, I'm cheap, and Mrs. Fundman is not so much. I may not be as cheap as La Cheapa Chica, but I tend to view Dave Ramsey as a more appropriate role model than say, Nicholas Cage. So I turn down the thermostat in the winter, bring back little shampoo bottles from hotels, and buy meat when it's marked way, way down at the story. I don't dumpster dive, but hey, you never know.

In government, no one is Dave Ramsey, and everyone is Nick Cage, and lately, everyone has been like Nick Cage with a vengeance. Of course it's easy to be Nick Cage when you are spending other people's money, and that's what governments do. The only broad limits on insane government spending of OUR money has been a legal limit on the amount of debt the U.S. government can use to fund its activities - 12 trillion bucks.

You'd think that in addition to tax revenues, a 12 trillion dollar limit would be enough to run a country no? Well apparently it isn't because now they need more credit. And unlike normal people, the government doesn't need the approval of Visa or Amex to raise their credit card limit. Congress votes on it. So imagine if you could take out a credit card, and just keep raising the limit - awesome no? And the debt you put on the card was paid off with someone else's money in 30 years after you had retired and made a mint as a lobbyist and paid speaker.

Well yesterday the Democratic House leadership said they were going to have to raise the debt ceiling - by 1.8 TRILLION dollars (1,800,000,000,000). If that isn't nauseating enough, the Congress doesn't understand, at all, the ramifications of this. Take a look at this quote from David Obey, the Chairman of the House Appropriations committee:
“It is December. We don’t really have a choice,” Obey told POLITICO. “The bill’s already been run up; the credit card has already been used. When you get the bill in the mail you need to pay it.”
Now David Obey is head of the committee that appropriates all, ALL, of the expenditures for the House. This guy is the top shopper for all of the U.S. government along with his colleague in the Senate. Consider his quote about the credit card "has been used" and the bill needs to be paid.................

Dave, buddy, YOU ARE NOT PAYING FOR THE BILL BY RAISING THE DEBT CEILING. No, Dave you are ADDING TO THE BILL. Trust me; I handle the finances for my family, and I don't think a bill has been paid when I simply borrow money from someone to pay someone else. But this apparently is the way that the government thinks. You "pay" bills by borrowing money. And while most U.S. families are cutting their debt burden by not borrowing more money, the government is doing the opposite and apparently thinks that's fine.

If the government would like to actually "pay" it's bills I have some suggestions on that matter - spend less, and pay down the debt. In a regime that is supposed to have democratic tendencies, the Congress may want to look at the actions of their constituents and learn a thing or two. A novel idea in politics today.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shedding a Little Light on Another Global Warming "Expert"

Mrs. Fundman and I have become very disillusioned with former Governor "Hockey Mom" of Alaska. We don't dislike her nearly as much as the folks in the MSM or on the left, but she's just not that bright and really should just go away. Instead she writes stuff like this piece in the Washington Post on global warming that sort of takes a flimsy position on the science and politics surrounding it.

So now the next day in this response along comes Alan Leshner, who is the chief executive officer of the AAAS, which touts itself as the world's biggest general scientific community, that publishes the journal Science. So in a fight like this you'd assume that the Hockey Mom is wrong and Mr. Scientific Community guy is the expert.

But in many ways this exchange summarizes why I don't have any clue who to believe here. We know about Palin, and her intellectual "limits." But what you may not know about Mr. Science Guy is that he has no background AT ALL in climate change. He's a psychologist, a Ph.D. in it. Now that's more of a social science. And in fact, he's a former government bureaucrat who was head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is at the core of the Drug War, and later NIH. So first off, the guy's not a physician, but he's a brain psychology expert who focuses on addiction. He has no background in global warming other than having worked as a bureaucrat.

Secondly, it turns out that at least according to this guy who is a doctor, Mr. Science Guy may have influenced research that predisposed results to support his worldview. I'm not fucking kidding. ran this nice little piece suggesting that Mr. Science Guy
has supported research that bolsters the administration's point of view, failed to fund projects that could undermine it, opposed research into medical marijuana and used images drawn from advanced medical technology to create misleading anti-drug campaigns.
This is EXACTLY the problem that the Climategate emails have raised - that a political agenda is pushing the research not honest debate. So this guy is part of the problem posing as an objective, all-knowing scientist.

So we are left wondering who the hell to believe? A probably ditzy, self-interested politician or a guy who has a history of engaging in questionable scientific activities? That's at the core of what's wrong with all of this public dialogue AND why people are starting to doubt the validity of this stuff. If the science is not scientific, and the opponents still look like wing-nuts we're left confused and cynical.