Tuesday, November 23, 2010
We hasten to add that this makes us sad. We like the notion of riding around America as if it were a giant Disneyland. Truth is not always fun. But it beats falsehood, which is vastly more expensive and can't deliver a ride to anywhere.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Next up: the "local food movement." So what if your food traveled far, if it can be grown more plentifully on fewer acres somewhere far from your home? The biggest impact of food on the environment is not transportation but the act of farming itself. Think, people!
If truth can penetrate the oily pate of the orotund former VPOTUS, perhaps there is hope for Our Republic after all.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It's e-reader Christmas this year, gentle readers. If you buy someone a print book, it'll be like buying a buggy whip in 1921.
What's significant is Herbert's Gray Lady column today, a powerful call for the African-American community to rise up to address the crisis of the black male and the crisis of the black family, which Herbert rightly sees as utterly knit together.
We urge reading of this excellent column, which echoes the historic summons of W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. Here's the conclusion as an appetizer:
Black children can’t wait for Washington to get its act together. They don’t have time to wait for the economy to improve. They need mom and dad and the larger community to act now, to do the right thing without delay.
This is not a fight only for blacks. All allies are welcome. But the cultural imperative lies overwhelmingly with the black community itself.
Mr. Herbert, count us as an ally.
Monday, November 15, 2010
The hoary bus company of legend and infamy will offer inexpensive express service between Chicago and various Midwestern cities, eschewing its own dismal terminals to meet passengers curbside, with tickets booked online and fares as low as a dollar. The buses will be new and clean, with WiFi, plug-ins and wider seats.
Where'd they ever get that idea?
Of course, their upstart competitors say that they welcome the competition, as should passengers. As Megabus fills up (as witnessed by the SWNIDs this weekend), Greyhound can pick up slack and drive down prices. Demand and supply in their never-ending dance of non-equilibrium, and we're mostly better off for it.
And that, gentle readers, is why we really, really don't need intercity rail boondoggles.
Meanwhile, lurking on the opinion pages is, once again, the estimable Robert Samuelson, who points out with due sobriety that Japan's long slide through the economic doldrums has not been ameliorated by extensive credit-based stimulus.
The very metaphor of economic "stimulus" is enough to explain the issue. Otherwise stimulating things can be utterly unstimulating when there's a deeper issue. Caffeine may keep one awake under normal circumstances, but one can be so sleep-deprived that no amount of caffeine will ward off sleep. The aroma of delicious food cooking may stimulate the appetite, but if one has a digestive malady, aromas nauseate when they normally stimulate.
So, says Samuelson, is the story of economic stimulus in Japan's sated economy. And so it appears to be in the United States:
So Japan's economy is trapped: a high yen penalizes exports; low births and sclerotic firms hurt domestic growth. The lesson for us is that massive budget deficits and cheap credit are at best necessary stopgaps. They're narcotics whose effects soon fade. They can't correct underlying economic deficiencies. It's time to move on from the debate over "stimulus."
Economic success ultimately depends on private firms. The American economy is more resilient and flexible than Japan's. But that's a low standard. Neither the White House nor Congress seems to understand that growing regulatory burdens and policy uncertainties undermine business confidence and the willingness to expand. Unless that changes, our mediocre recovery may mimic Japan's.
Attention, gentle readers and all others: borrowing to stimulate consumer demand only works when the economic problem is consumer demand. If it's something else, like a history of mal-investment and a business climate made fearful by the threat of taxes and regulations, then the cure needs to fit the disease.
Friday, November 12, 2010
1. The WSJ's immaculate editorial board affirms the potent wisdom of their recommendations, albeit with proper scorn for the static scoring of tax matters (for the uninitiated, the commission assumes the same economic growth regardless of tax rates and so doesn't factor economic growth as a way of adding tax revenue, even though historically it's the best [only?] way to get more real dough to DC).
2. Paul Krugman, who is currently engaged in a performance-art parody of an unhinged celebrity academic, hates the commission's recommendations, like most lefties, it seems.
The right people like. The wrong people hate. There it is: a cooly rational case for a political decision.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
There are things in there that I hate like the devil hates holy water!
Senator, you said it, not we.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
- Raising the retirement age, though not drastically.
- Reducing income tax rates rather substantially.
- Eliminating income tax deductions, including the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable donation deduction.
First, on raising the retirement age. People live longer, healthier lives than they did before. Why shouldn't they work longer? Work is good. Work is fulfilling. It can even be fun. It beats watching Judge Judy. Let's put America's seniors to work! And we say that as a junior senior.
Second, on reducing income tax rates, hallelujah! Let's stop punishing productivity. Call this "making work pay." Oh, that name was taken already. So let's try, "It's your money, actually."
Third, on eliminating deductions, we will surprise some gentle readers by saying, This is a great thing for housing, philanthropy, education and other areas of the economy presently subsidized by tax deductions. This means moving toward letting markets set values, not tax policy. And while this threatens on the edges some of what Americans hold, it's for the good of all those things.
So, over time I [not the SWNIDish we, for we speak of the hypothetical American taxpayer in the first person] no longer get a tax deduction for my mortgage. That means I buy a more modest house and aim to pay it off more quickly. I no longer fret over how I'll lower my taxes as I amortize my mortgage. It's strictly a matter of economic consideration unencumbered by tax implications.
And over time, I give donations to those doers of good who in my view merit support. Never again will I decide to donate a sum primarily to lower my taxes, and then conduct a forced search for someplace nonprofit to park my swag away from the tax man.
Same goes for education. Presently families get a tax break for college tuition. So what they can afford goes up, and institutions raise their rates to reflect that ability to pay. Phase that out and consumers of education will choose cheaper alternatives, forcing institutions to find economies and bringing efficiency to the educational marketplace.
Note well that this proposal runs counter to what one might expect from a mortgage-paying minister-cum-professor/dean. But we believe the following truths to be nearly self-evident:
- that the benefits of owning a house are independent of the tax deduction
- that most charitable donations are given not for the tax deduction but for the perceived value of the charity
- that the best students find a way to finance their education regardless of the tax system
And if no one ever again had an incentive to create a fake church as a tax dodge, the world will have taken a small step toward sanity.
But here's the political reality: both parties will have to knock it off if they want to do something like this. We actually think it'll be hardest for Ds, who even in their most conservative moments believe that tax policy must be targeted at social engineering.
Let's join in a big "phooey" on that. Democrats, let the people decide! It's their money, actually.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
On the substance of the book, we recommend the formidable Daniel Henninger of the WSJ editorial board.
On the man that the book reveals, Bush staffer Mark McKinnon offers a touching, humane portrait.
Much as his political opponents hate to admit it, the consistent testimony about Bush, his book and his career are that he is a singularly humble, loyal individual, much more willing to owe up to his mistakes than people realize.
All this makes the editors of the New Hampshire Union Leader wish that another living ex-president would learn something from Mr. Bush about the dignity of being an ex-president. And his name is not Bush or Clinton. Got that figured out?
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Mayor Mallory says that the project is already funded except for "a few dollars," and that state money is "already committed."
We hope that the few dollars are enough to scuttle the whole thing, that the commitment can be uncommitted, and that thereby the citizenry can save billions. Otherwise we will spend outrageous sums to run people to the same destinations that buses serve presently, thinking that such an "investment" in "infrastructure" will somehow spur development in an area that has been in steady decline for two generations. This is magical superstition.
The estimable Robert Samuelson reminds us why. Rail hasn't paid for itself anywhere (two exceptions: Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon, in the whole world) in the last half century. It's 19th century technology that's inordinately expensive and inflexible. It's as green as pork. It's irrational romanticism with lots of zeroes.
CAUTION: Per Samuelson, figuring this issue out requires the ability to do fourth grade math.
Will this kind of thing last? One can hope. We doubt.
They persecuted me because I'm effective, intones our stylish Great Godmother. (Also why the donks persecuted Dubya, we are forced to conclude.)
So don't give the Rs the satisfaction of removing me from party leadership! Let me join such political luminaries as William Jennings Bryan, Adlai Stevenson, and Harold Stassen, zombie candidates who came back from every kind of death imaginable to stand again and again for the same electoral hopelessness.
Which raises the question: how many electoral cycles does it take to convince a narcissist patroness that she's wrong? Answer: take the numeral 8 and rotate 90 degrees in either direction.
Guardian columnist Elizabeth Wurtzel entitles her contrib "America, Land of the Free to Be Stupid!" Among her amazing statements is this:
For the first time in American history, then, social mobility has been replaced with class struggle.
For the first time! It's never happened before that the poor, untalented, ugly people that super-talented-and-beautiful Wurtzel and her intellectual class stand up for have had nothing to do but press their noses against the windows of elitist prosperity and get angry about BHO's birth certificate because someone in China is working away in a factory doing what the hapless Epsilon minuses of Our Republic would've done in the past. Never before have the working classes had to struggle against the economic friction that makes it hard to move up the ladder. Nothing left to look forward to but Coors Light, country music, and hunting season. They voted against the Revolution! The "Internationale" has been replaced by Lee Greenwood's signature anthem of ignorant, ironic self-loathing. We told you that the Constitution means what we say it means, but you refused to listen.
Thanks, Ms. Wurtzel, as you proudly parade your CV in your column (Ivy League [sic] degree! have read Das Kapital!]), for self-referentially demonstrating so aptly column's thesis. While we disagree with your stupidity, we will defend to the death your right to be stupid.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
As I've said before, no person, no party, has a monopoly on wisdom. And that's why I'm eager to hear good ideas wherever they come from, whoever proposes them.
We've heard that before. It's follow later by, (a) If the Republicans have a better solution, let them bring it forward; and (b) The Republicans don't have any solutions; they just say no to everything.
And with so much at stake, what the American people don't want from us, especially here in Washington, is to spend the next two years refighting the political battles of the last two.
Um, Mr. President, more people want ObamaCare changed or repealed than kept in place. We're not litigating; we're legislating.
I do believe there is hope for civility.
Again with the notion that what people want is for politicians to make nice. Sure, it's aesthetically unpleasing to be subjected to negative political ads. But with negativity on both sides, we don't see how people voted for your opponents as a way of cooling the discourse.
Our nomination for most telling remark is this one:
You know, the toughest thing over the last couple of days is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve anymore, at least in the short term.
Now we get to the real difference in views. For BHO, a public servant is an elected official who does favors for the little guys who need favors done for them. For the GOP, anyone who does something useful is a ture "public servant": the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and all their useful kin. So incumbents who lose re-election are for the GOP not losses to public service but potential gains to the productive economy . . . assuming they don't all get patronage jobs in the government or K Street lobbyist positions. Which they will.
This sickening bit of sentimentality simply reflects BHO's notion that the world is a worse place without The One and others like him.
Here's our nomination for most distressing remark. Asked whether he had any proposals for improving business confidence, the President essentially said that he needs to study that question further. Inasmuch as we've got unprecedented money sloshing around the globe, the fact that it isn't stimulating anything is the clearest indication one can have that there's friction in the system. And given the utter uncertainty created by BHO's legislative agenda of higher income taxes, new energy taxes, value-added taxes, programs to keep defaulted loans in limbo indefinitely, and regulations on this that and the other, one doesn't have to puzzle over the source of the friction.
And finally, our nomination for the most narcissistic remark. Asked whether the election showed that he had lost touch with the people, BHO averred that living in the White House gave the appearance that one had lost touch. They liked me on the campaign trail, he insisted. They need to see me among them.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Will Dems return Harry Reid as Majority Leader or turn to Chuck Schumer in frustration?
In his 1 p.m. press conference Wednesday, will BHO owe up to failure as a communicator of the value of his policies or owe up to failure as a formulator of policies?
For each of the choices above, we think the first alternative will obtain. For the first question, this is clearly best for the Pelosi family and for the family of humanity. For the second question, those who would celebrate Reid's shameful defeat should consider that Schumer is demonstrably a bigger irritant than the present Majority Leader. For the third, there's really no doubt about what the President will do, given what he's done.
But we can also expect him to blame the dirty money that undermined the aura of his awesomeness, plus the refusal of Rs to say anything but no.
In other words, this dismal campaign season will continue indefinitely, but without Nana Nancy.
Democrats and their cheerleaders in the press will trot out alibis and rationalizations, blaming the result on ignorance, selfishness or racism. But voters this year were better informed about the intentions of the Obama Democrats than they were in 2008, and no more racist than the electorate that gave Obama 53 percent of the popular vote, more than any other Democratic nominee in history except Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
Thus saith Michael Barone. The odd thing is that donks seem actually to believe what they're about to say about their defeat. So convinced that they know what's best for everyone, they refuse to listen when everyone says they'd prefer to decide what's best for themselves.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
We grimly assume that this trope will be the main one to which The One retreats following today's recall election. We don't expect realistic compromise. We expect digging in on the self-righteous left.
This likely lessens the odds that BHO will face a primary challenge in 2012, which can only come from the left. It heightens the odds that BHO will go down as a quixotically principled one-termer.
Meanwhile, GOP leaders hint that tomorrow they're launching a two-year campaign of lecturing the body politic on the virtues of thrift. Because our recreational reading has of late been the biography of Winston Churchill, we see this rather like Churchill's famous-but-tragic back-bench warnings of the 1930s that the Germans were preparing to prevail in a cruel war of totalitarian imperialism. That's all a person can do when he's both well informed and out of power. The truth of their lectures is in no way negated by fact that on the subject at hand, the GOP leaders, like Churchill, have a less-than-perfect record.
Ambitious gentle readers may bookmark this post and in weeks to come provide comments alerting the SWNIDish community of such appointments as they happen.
Monday, November 01, 2010
By all accounts, the most theologically objectionable feature of the old NIV was its habitual translation of sarx ("flesh") in Paul's letters as "sinful nature" when the term is used in its nuanced, distinctively Pauline sense. Many, including SWNID, objected that this attempt to avoid the un-Pauline impression that evil resides in physicality instead suggested a very specific--and to the SWNIDish mind utterly unbiblical--dogma of innate human depravity.
Well, the 2010 NIV restores the complex Pauline metaphor to its rightful standing. It's "flesh" consistently. Three cheers for that!
On a lesser matter, we offer three cheers for the rendering of Romans 8:16: "The Spirit himself testifies with [emphasis inserted] our spirit that we are God’s children. " The old NIV, with most English versions, assumed the sense of synmartureo with the dative as indicating an indirect object; hence the prior translation "testifies to." Compelling evidence indicates, however, that the dative comes under the influence of the verb's prepositional prefix.* So now readers can make sense of this text. The Spirit doesn't tell us that we are God's children; rather, the Spirit agrees with us in telling God that we're his.
We hope that such improvements will ameliorate the rage of those who think that "brothers and sisters" as a rendering for adelphoi is somehow dangerous, which it isn't.
So, six cheers--three loud and three moderate--for the 2010 NIV. We'll offer more observations as we have opportunity.
*We'd like to think that the unpublished paper we wrote on this subject in 1983, using an early version of GRAMCORD, influenced this happy outcome. But we are realistic enough to realize that others simply arrived at our conclusion independently.
But to be specific, we here offer our citizen-centered advice for all races on the ballot at the SWNIDish precinct. Those not blessed to vote at Little Flower's Parish Hall will have to transfer the counsel to their own electoral situations.
Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Ohio: John Kasich and Mary Taylor
Donks have tried to play the class-warfare card on Kasich, accusing him of being a denizen of "Wall Street" as a former partner with Lehman Brothers. We say, better Wall Street than the public employees unions. Kasich earned a reputation in the House as a budget hawk with sensibilities toward business development. Both are needed presently.
Strickland, by contrast, has proved utterly overmatched by his job. Ostensibly committed to reforming Ohio, he lacks the courage to stand up to his party's entrenched special interests, most particularly the public employees labor unions. Thanks for trying, Ted, but we need someone with moxie.
Attorney General of Ohio: Mike Dewine
Many Tea Party types dislike Dewine, whom they label as a "big government" Republican. We say, no one is big government like a Democrat. Our experience of Dewine as Senator affirms that he has sound judgment and administrative skill of the kind that can start to restore confidence in the integrity of Ohio's hapless state administration.
Auditor of State of Ohio: David Yost
The argument has been made that Yost is the Weakest Link on the Ohio GOP ticket. If so, he still compares favorably to David Pepper. Pepper's rise in the Ohio Democratic Party is based on an unearned reputation as a fiscal conservative and a complete absence of accomplishments as a Cincinnati City Councilman and Hamilton County Commissioner. His distinguished father, retired as CEO of Procter & Gamble, doubtless lies awake at night wondering whether his son will find himself before he outlives his trust fund.
Secretary of State of Ohio: John Husted
Husted is an accomplished individual with potential for greater things. His opponent is part of the Strickland apparatus that has squandered four years of governance in maintaining the status quo.
Treasurer of Ohio: Josh Mandel
A Marine veteran on the rise, Mandel offers a fresh start to Ohio's dismal finances. His incumbent opponent has done nothing to suggest that another four years will be better than the previous four.
US Representative, District 1: Steve Chabot
On the left is Steve Driehaus, who owes his political life to the Democratic Party leadership. On the right is Steve Chabot, who in fourteen years in Congress earned the highest rating given by Citizens Against Government Waste. This is the easiest choice on the ballot, and arguably the most important. Driehaus is proof that the "Conservative Democrats" is a null set.
United States Senate: Rob Portman
Portman has been a principled star in every office he's held. If we're looking for responsible leadership with solid political philosophy, he's the exemplar. Lee Fisher, by contrast, has dutifully carried water for his party and is now owed a shot at something big. As a Senator, he would be a reliable vote for his party's leadership. Ohio has sent some miserable people to the Senate in the SWNIDish lifetime, but Portman is sure to be the exception.
State Representative, District 32: Eric Nebergall
Mallory may be a magic name in Cincinnati, one even capable of inducing SWNID to vote for Jackson's party. But Dale Mallory is an embarrassment, as illustrated by his recent nonappearance at a scheduled TV debate. Mallory is in politics because it's the family business and he has no marketable skills. Eric Nebergall, by contrast, is a decent, honest guy who believes in an ideal called "public service." He makes an honest living and now wants to help make Ohio an honest state. This one is important too, and hard. Mallory will get votes because of name recognition. Make it a point to turn the tide of turnout for Nebergall.
State Senator: Deborah McKinney
SWNID finds incumbent Eric Kearney a good guy. SWNID also finds him a reliable vote for the public employees unions who presently control the perspectives of the Democratic Party on state governance. McKinney is another decent citizen who wants to spend enough time in Columbus to reclaim the state budget for the state's citizens, not its employees. This one is probably hopeless, but it's certainly hopeless if we don't vote for change.
Chief Justice, Ohio Supreme Court: Maureen O'Connor
Ohio's Supreme Court has been embroiled in a misadventure on state tax policy in relation to education. Truth is, Ohio has a system that its voters want. Republican justices have in the main affirmed the responsibility of the legislature, not the judiciary, to set tax policy. Incumbent O'Connor will be pilloried as part of the Taft administration, but she had nothing to do with the nastiness then, and she's all about the solutions now.
Judge, Ohio Supreme Court: Judith Ann Lanzinger
Lanzinger stands with the GOP on limiting the power of the judiciary to ruling on the law. Now is not the time to indulge in romanticism about reforming the world through the courts.
Judge, Ohio Court of Appeals, District 1: Sylvia Sieve Hendon
Another advocate of judicial restraint, Hendon has a strong judicial record. Her opponent boasts a record of employment in dress for success.
Judge, Ohio Court of Appeals, District 1: Pat Fischer
Opposed by William Mallory, possessor of a magic name who isn't the family's embarrassment, Fischer is nevertheless the SWNIDish pick. A near miss for Cincinnati City Council three years ago, Fischer is a knowledgeable attorney with a solid record of professional accomplishment. If the Revolution is to start now, then it has to be thorough. Mallory is a decent judge, but Fischer will be at least his equal.
Judge, Court of Common Pleas: Megan E. Shanahan
Incumbent Nadine Allen is a fixture in Hamilton County politics. Megan Shanahan has a successful record as an assistant prosecutor under Joe Deters. Twenty-four years is enough for Judge Allen. Vote Shanahan.
Judge, Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division: John M. Williams
Another prosecutor, Williams promises to bring to the bench the seriousness that the work demands. Opponent Tracie Hunter seems a decent and qualified person who lacks Williams' experience.
Judge, Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division: John Sieve
Despite being the scion of a family involved in automobile retailing, SWNID finds Sieve the superior candidate. He's got a decent record on the bench, so let's let him have this thankless job.
Member, State Board of Education, District 4: John Spohn or Mary Welsh Schlueter
Spohn is pledged to protect school choice initiatives. Little can or should be done by the state school board, an abominable political entity that simply complicates the relationship of the state legislature to local school boards. But here's one issue worth protecting through this hapless entity. Schlueter is dedicated to the kind of reform that public education needs. A near-miss on Cincinnati's School Board, she deserves a place at the table. Take your pick.
Hamilton County Commissioner: Chris Monzel
Monzel prefers not to spend other people's money. Opponent Jim Tarbell is a local legend who made his name running a psychedelic-era rock venue and an historic bar. Tarbell has never displayed anything remotely resembling a philosophy of governance. Monzel simply refuses to spend money unnecessarily. Vote Monzel, and invite Tarbell to return to the entertainment industry, where he's a natural.
Hamilton County Auditor: Tom Brinkman
This is a tough choice. Legendary County Auditor Dusty Rhodes has governed like a Republican. But lately, that's been like a corrupt, Ohio Republican. Since the revelation that skinflint Rhodes had applied for a government pension so that he could "double dip" from the public coffers, he's been backpedaling, insisting that he intended to donate the additional money to charity. Thanks for the generosity, Dusty, but we taxpayers will make our own choices about what charities to support.
Tom Brinkman, on the other hand, is that all-too-familiar archetype this election cycle: the anti-tax conservative extremist. Brinkman heads an organization that is dedicated to opposing every tax levy ever, regardless of the merits. But in the auditor's office, he can at least attempt to offer citizens fair and accurate evaluation of their property values so that they pay their fair share of taxes that they levy on themselves. And this is the year to give Dusty Rhodes a real retirement, since he seems to want one.
Supplement: Clermont County Commissioner: Robert Scott Croswell
Normally we don't provide a guide to local elections outside our own little world, but this is a big deal. We are directing all gentle readers, by the mercies of God, to defeat Archie Wilson in his bid to unseat incumbent Robert Scott Croswell as Clermont County Commissioner. Wilson has infamously accused Croswell of being part of an elaborate plot to cover up the sexual molestation and murder of the infant child of Brenda Slaby, who in fact died tragically some three years ago when accidentally left in a minivan on a hot summer day. Because Wilson's statements are utterly outrageous and without foundation, the Slabys are suing Wilson for defamation, represented in their suit by Stan Chesley with the support of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Clermont County Prosecutor Don White. Somehow, our Republican neighbors to the east endorsed the genuine nut-job Wilson over the experienced, reliable Croswell. All Americans should be embarrassed if Wilson gets a number of votes greater than the number of his relatives who are registered to vote in Clermont County.