Does The President Not Understand Economics Or Does He Hope The People Don’t?

The President has spoken:

And even if you have a job, chances are you’re having a tougher time paying the rising costs of everything from groceries to gas. In some places, gas is now more than $4 a gallon, meaning that you could be paying upwards of $50 or $60 to fill up your tank.

Of course, while rising gas prices mean real pain for our families at the pump, they also mean bigger profits for oil companies. This week, the largest oil companies announced that they’d made more than $25 billion in the first few months of 2011 – up about 30 percent from last year.

Now, I don’t have a problem with any company or industry being rewarded for their success. The incentive of healthy profits is what fuels entrepreneurialism and helps drives our economy forward. But I do have a problem with the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies we’ve been handing out to oil and gas companies – to the tune of $4 billion a year. When oil companies are making huge profits and you’re struggling at the pump, and we’re scouring the federal budget for spending we can afford to do without, these tax giveaways aren’t right. They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.

The President would seem to argue that raising the cost of doing business for the oil companies will lead to a lowering of gas prices. He cannot believe that, can he?

Those subsidies are not payouts from the government. Apparently, they’re money the government doesn’t take from the oil companies:

Amid rising gasoline prices at the pump, President Barack Obama urged congressional leaders Tuesday to take steps to repeal oil industry tax breaks, reiterating a call he made in his 2012 budget proposal earlier this year. The White House conceded his plan would do nothing in the short term to lower gas prices. [Emphasis added.]

Apparently, he or someone at the White House does not believe this will lower gas prices. He must then think that some people will react to the attack on the cartoon character Big Bad Oil.

Sadly, I know some people who do hear that bell and drool appropriately.

Here’s a hint: If the cost of doing business goes up, price goes up. And money the government does not take from you is not a subsidy. If you firmly believe that, one could make a case the government could trim the deficit by ending your graphic novel subsidy, that is, the money it does not take from you that you spend on graphic novels.

Sadly, one has difficulty arguing with people who feel Big Oil is the bad guy and the President is the good guy.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge that this president is, in fact, effective at achieving his goals.

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Don’t Overlook The Phrase I Coined

Charles Krauthammer, today: The Obama doctrine: Leading from behind:

Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the president’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.”

— Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker, May 2 issue

To be precise, leading from behind is a style, not a doctrine. Doctrines involve ideas, but since there are no discernible ones that make sense of Obama foreign policy — Lizza’s painstaking two-year chronicle shows it to be as ad hoc, erratic and confused as it appears — this will have to do.

Remember, way back in February, I offhandedly called him “Hindmost Obama.”

This is more relevant if you’ve read the Ringworld novels, I suppose.

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On the Whole, It Balances To Some People

Someone on my twitter feed retweeted this:

The next time someone says something bad about Pakistan compared to the US, I’m going to point them to this:

Pakistan has taken the landmark decision to allow transsexuals to have their own gender category on some official documents.

You know, in the United States, we don’t have climate of fear over blasphemy laws:

This is where Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead in March. Bunches of flowers, many now dry and brown, are piled on the kerb. Large colour posters showing his picture are displayed alongside.

On seeing the media, guards from his mother’s home nearby rush out to explain what happened.

Mr Bhatti had just left her home, they say as they walk me through the short distance, when another car blocked his path at the junction and the gunmen inside it opened fire.

Mr Bhatti’s murder shocked Pakistan.

It came just weeks after the shooting of another prominent politician, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.

Both men had dared to speak out about the need for debate and possible reform of the controversial blasphemy laws.

And both men paid with their lives.

So, a checkbox on a government form for transsexuals and maybe transvestites. On the other hand, you have killing members of minority religions and people who think you shouldn’t probably kill members of minority religions.

And it’s a wash to some people. One merit, one demerit. Maybe two merits since it’s Christians and their defenders who are dying.

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Book Report: Selected Poems by John Donne (1958)

I began to read this book a long time ago. I remember reading this book to my son when he got a rare excursion into the basement in our home in Old Trees. That’s before he was our eldest son, and our non-eldest son is turning three next month. So it’s been a long time since I first put a bookmark in this book.

As you might recollect, my main methodology of reading poetry these last few years has been to read it aloud while my son(s) played. Sometimes he (they) actually ask(s) for more poems. But I read this aloud to my boy before he got to that point. And then I hit the poem letters, which sometimes run for several pages. That’s too much to try to jam into a session where one is reading aloud to a child and interjecting to keep the child from flossing with the poorly insulated electrical cord.

So I thought I’d read the epistles to myself. Then I hit the poem “Of the Progress of the Soul”. Which is 16 pages. Which is a long slog. Especially if you’re trying to pay attention and read the poem out loud, which is what I do: I cannot read poetry without reading it aloud to see how it sounds and how the rhythm of the words, line breaks, and punctuations make it sound. You know what 500+ lines of a single poem take? An hour or so scattered in places where I waited to pick children up from school over the course of several days. What will they think of the Noggle boys’ Daddy, who has to move his lips when he reads? I don’t know, but suffice to say the number of birthday party invitations has declined.

Oh, wait, a comment on the poetry? It’s “Meh.” I mean, Donne’s poems are about love, sometimes, and spirtual all of the time. If you’re going to read him, read him in an anthology. There are few poets I can take in large doses–I mean, it took me four years to read this volume and coming on twenty to read the complete works of Emily Dickinson (as of 20 years ago; I think they’ve been revised upwards since). He has a couple of quotable lines here and there, but if the poems are going to stretch into more than a dozen pages–there’d better be bloodshed in them, not just the flattery of a perfect soul who died two years prior.

So get it if your class requires it, I suppose–I think that’s the purpose of this cheap volume. Or if you have patience. But be prepared.

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No Doubt, This Could Win The Contest Somewhere

If only there were contests for making up inspirational conspiracies blaming Bush instead of whole jobs doing that as columnists and television personalities, I would submit the following explanation of how Bush is responsible for the current high gas prices:

Oil companies kept oil prices artificially low during the Bush presidency to prop up Bush’s poll numbers, and now the oil companies have to redouble their gouging to make up for the lost revenue.

That’s weapons-grade punditry right there, folks.

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A Meterological Prediction

A couple dry springs and a couple wet springs like this one will produce an average rainfall that no year actually meets, which will be further proof that Washington, New York, or the Hague needs to control more of your life to support a statistical abstraction.

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I’m The Kind Of Guy Who Invites Flash Gordon Allusions

How many Flash Gordon allusions do you get or make in a single day?

Today, I’ve had two.

First, while discussing teaching toddlers to laugh diabolically, a friend on Facebook said that Ming the Merciless had the most diabolical laugh. I had to agree.

Secondly, I am prone to singing to my second son, who has a monosyllabic name, “<monosyllabic name>, ah-ahhhhh!” Tonight, my wife asked me what that was from.

From the Queen theme song to the thirty-one-year-old film, old man:

Maybe it’s because my father and I caught one of the old serials starring Buster Crabbe on a Milwaukee television station in the late 1970s.

Maybe it’s because I own a DVD of episodes from the 1950s television series starring Steve Holland.

Maybe it’s because I watched that 1980 film over and over while my mother, brother, and I lived with friends who had HBO ca 1983 and Flash Gordon played a bunch amid the Fraggle Rock.

Or maybe I’m just the sort of fellow who is open to the universe and its possible Flash Gordon allusions.

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The Harpies In Washington Pluck The Strings

When the government holds out the dollar, you dance like the government likes or you don’t get the dollar:

Now, the federal Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to oust Solomon from his job. According to the company, the agency’s Office of Inspector General advised Solomon, a Yale Law School alum, last week that it planned to exclude him from doing any business with federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The move — similar to the government’s exclusion of KV Pharmaceutical’s former chairman, Marc Hermelin — is part of a new effort by regulators to use this enforcement tactic to root out “untrustworthy individuals” who knew or should have known that health care fraud was being committed on their watch.

But some experts, who point out that Solomon was never charged with a crime, question whether regulators have overreached, bypassing the court system in favor of banishing drug company executives without having to prove a case against them.

This seems an unethical and unconstitutional device circumventing the court system tht requires a burden of proof. Instead, we have regulators as judge, juries, and banishers. This is a nation of bureaucrats, not of laws.

Imagine the government saying that your employer should fire you or else it won’t be able to do business. “But, Brian J., I am not a fat cat wealthy evil drug company executive!” But if the government can do this to a wealthy fat cat evil capitalist, why can’t the government do it to you? Because you’re obscure or because you’re a right-thinking Democrat voter?

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Book Report: Traces of Silver by Artie Ayres (1982)

This book is an Ozarks History of the Yoachum family that was responsible for the Yocum Dollars, which were briefly used in currency in the Ozarks in the early part of the ninteenth century. Of course, as it’s an Ozarks history, only the first part of the history talks about the three brothers who purportedly traded some horses, soaps, and blankets to some departing Delaware for the location of an old silver mine and then mined the silver, minted coins, and exchanged them among their neighbors. Given the bank failures and the dearth of other currency, the money caught on amongst Ozarkers and went on until a homesteader tried to pay the government for his land with these unofficial dollars. Government officials called the proferred dollars and sent it to Washington for analysis, where they determined the silver was purer than that in actual US coins. One of the Yocum brothers died in a cabin fire, perhaps sealing the mine forever, and the bulk of the Yoachum family moved out of the area.

It might be a myth, or it might have happened. Records are sparse, and I don’t think any of these dollars actually has come to the present day.

As an Ozarks History, though, this book then goes into general stories of days gone by in the Ozarks. Read how the author’s mother’s experience as a mail carrier. Learn about the Wilderness Road hangin’ tree. And so on. So the book is more a collection of stories than a true investigation of the Yocum Dollar. The Yocum/Yoachum/Yoakum family and the searches for the silver mine do crop back up, though.

Unfortunately, some of the stories are untold. The author mentions his father found a cache of these in the 1920s and searched for the mine all his life, but that story is underrepresented. Then, in a chronology in the back, a simple line reads 1975 – Two hundred thirty-six Yocum Dollars found buried in a metal box South of Branson, Mo. No account of this discovery is given.

Still, an interesting read if you’re into regional history.

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One Ring To Rule Them All

Hey, where have I heard this before?

Imagine–one secure credential that you can use to shop online, bank, even get quick information about what to do during natural disasters or other emergencies.

Good idea? The Obama administration thinks so and announced a plan on Friday to achieve it.

It’s a little thin on details, but the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace envisions a day when people conducting online activity no longer have to rely on passwords, which can be hard to remember or can be hacked.

Instead, people will be able to get a secure credential in the form of a smart card or a USB thumb drive, which will carry their personal information and can be used to authenticate their identity online.

Instead of your papers, please, it will be your plastic, please. Make no mistake, this is a national ID sneaking in the back door.

I know, there are reasonable arguments for a national ID card, but I don’t think they trump the risk of abuse by government officials who would have a great deal of ability to track the citizens. Whether as a matter of policy or simply because bad apples could, they would dip into that data with less innocent intent than proponents would argue.

Thanks, but I’ll stick with using my children’s names as passwords and writing them on Post-It notes so I don’t forget.

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Brian J. Noggle, Treasure Hunter

As you might have gleaned from my recent purchase of Lost Treasure magazine, I’m a little interested in metal detecting. As you might know, Nogglestead abuts the old Wire Road that ran between Springfield and Fayetteville, Arkansas (actually, the whole thing ran from Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis to Fort Smith, Arkansas), which means Cherokee marched on it during the Trail of Tears and Civil War armies on both sides walked up and down it.

So I hope to find something neat on the edge of my property.

And last year, a pin fell out of my rototiller, so I went to Bass Pro Shops and picked up a metal detector to find it after panning and sifting my partially tilled vegetable garden for an hour (and found the pin in seconds where the tiller kicked it under some untilled sod).

I noodled with the metal detector a bit in the yard after finishing the tilling. When I found a signal that produced a long, straight line, I decided to have the utility companies mark my yard, since I assumed I was finding buried utility lines of some sort. They did not, but that still could have meant it was a buried propane line or a buried electrical line from my house or something else. But I know think differently.

I bought a book on metal detecting (which I’m still reading) and a magazine (more recently, which I finished reading). And today, I took my metal detector out and found my first treasure: Continue reading “Brian J. Noggle, Treasure Hunter”

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Good Book Hunting: April 16, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these, but down here in Southwest Missouri, we only get to four or five book fairs a year, which is a good thing, as my bookshelves are collapsing under the weight of the books I own and will never actually read.

Instead of the twice-a-year Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book fair or the Friends of the Christian County book fair, this weekend we traveled 41.7 miles to the Friends of the Polk County Library book fair in Bolivar (pronounced as a rhyme to Tolliver, not like the Liberator).

Here’s what I got:

Takings from the Friends of the Polk County Library book fair
Click for full size

It includes:

  • A Matt Helm book, The Ambushers.
  • A Shell Scott novel, Kill Me Tomorrow by Richard Prather.
  • Four books from a fellow named Ross Thomas, who I hope I like since I suddenly have four of them.
  • Two later Mack Bolan titles, Point Position and Vengeance.
  • A Robert Heinlein book, The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.
  • The Three Legions, a historical novel of Roman times.
  • An honest-to-goodness Horatio Alger story published in 1909.
  • An omnibus of three of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels.
  • An Ellery Queen paperback.
  • Silent Prey by John Sandford, an early Lucas Davenport title.
  • A book on how to play Mah Jongg, a book on how to build and fly kites, and a book on upholstering.
  • A book on the Seinfeld television program, of which I might not have ever watched a complete episode.

And so on.

That’s 30 books for me, a couple cookbooks and religious themed books for my beautiful wife (one of which is a duplicate, but I did not mention this because her books are her books and my books are mine), and a couple of books for the children. I gave the Friends of the Polk County Library a double sawbuck to help them out, overpaying according to their pricing guides, but I could help out some, so I did.

Additionally, I have an application to join, so I’ll send some money along with that to add to my collection of Friends of the Library memberships.

I look forward, sort of, to the Christian County and Springfield-Greene County book fairs in the next couple of weeks, but I am really running out of space for books, again. I need to cut this out.

Hey, wait a minute, I still own that house up in Old Trees, Missouri, that has a lot of rooms for bookshelves….

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Cathartic, But Unconvincing

Larry Correia goes off on government spending:

Government can’t balance a checkbook. They’re idiots. I know finance math. I do it for a living. And when I look at the numbers involved here, (and the interest!) it makes my head swim. Okay, for you non-accountants, when they start bandying numbers about on the news of 4 trillion such and such, and a hundred billion this and that, I know that your eyes glaze over. You think to yourself, “Oh, it is just the same old same old, bunch of politicians spending too much money, blah blah blah.”


Saying that this is the same old same old, is like saying that gophers digging up your lawn is the same level of disaster as Krakatoa. Over the last couple of years we’ve reached a whole new level of crazy. Our spending has gone insane. We’re spending more money, faster, than all of mankind, throughout all of recorded human history. Economists aren’t sure what’s going to happen, because this has never happened before. Ever. On Earth. We’ve strayed into strange new territory here and there are many possible outcomes if we don’t stray the hell back out. And don’t for a second think that any of those possible outcomes are remotely good. No. They range somewhere between the Great Depression and Mad Max.

He’s right, of course, but the only way to convince somewhere between 51 and 80 percent of the country is for the end to occur, suddenly and unexpectedly!

And it will be the fault of the doomsayers even then. Cassandra will be the first to the guillotine.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

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More Amazing Than The Internet

So I had a couple minutes to kill in my car, so I stepped into the local grocery store and looked at the magazine rack. It’s a small grocery store in southwest Springfield, right at the town line, and it has a 20 feet by 6 foot high magazine rack, with magazine selection from bridal to local interest to computers/video games to entertainment to… Lost Treasure, a metal detecting magazine that not only includes metal detecting equipment reviews and techniques but also short historical vignettes that describe the sources of potential treasure troves that metal detectorists can think about visiting. That’s the sort of thing I like to read, and it’s the sort of thing I like to write.

The magazine rack held a number of issues, and I bought one and read much of it while killing that time in the car. And I thought: This is more amazing than the Internet.

I mean, really: The modern paradigm is anyone can spend a couple bucks on a domain name and Web hosting and can put up any sort of thing he or she likes to write. But this particular periodical took a little more effort.

I mean, someone put it all together, had it printed, had a distributor take it to various locations, and that distributor put four copies of this magazine in a grocery store for me to buy. It takes a lot of hope, risk, and infrastructure that blogging and other Web-based endeavors do not.

That is more amazing than anything I’ve seen on the Internet.

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