Archive for April 2008

This Is Pretty Funny

Funny video about the 2009 job market.  Ht:  Maxed Out Mamma

Government-Think in Marion County, Florida

I just encountered an absolutely classic bit of government think.  Here is the background.

In Florida, on each night stay in the campgrounds we run in Marion County, we collect a 6% state sales tax, a 0.5% county sales tax, and a 2% tourist development tax, for a total of 8.5%.  Until this month, we reported and paid all three taxes to the state of Florida on one simple return.  The state then divvied the money up to the counties.  Apparently, this latter process could take up to 90 days before the County got their tourist development money.

The County commissioners of Marion County did not like waiting 90 days for their tourist development money.  Remember, this is not general revenue money, but supposedly trust fund money that must be spent on tourist advertising and the like.  Also, recognize that 90 days for a government body to disperse money is pretty normal - I find I often have to wait as long as 6 months to get a check out of the feds.

Anyway, the County wanted its money faster.  So it decided to collect the money itself.  First this involved more staff hours and designing a new online collection system, costs that are completely incremental because the state of Florida was performing these functions before (and still are performing them).  Today, it now requires two systems and clerical staffs to collect money that was once required by just one. 

Already, this seems like idiocy to any business person.  Is adding a whole new staff and systems really worth getting money 90 days faster?  I guess it is possible, but even if one could argue this point, we now get to the real government-think.  Because there is no way anyone in whatever cost-benefit trade-off they ran considered the time and effort that would be required of individual taxpayers.  Even in my small company, this will now require extra clerical labor each month as well as an initial system reprogramming to add the extra tax authority.  If one considers thousands of other businesses in the exact same position, the amount of investment is enormous.

But in my experience, when running cost-benefit trade-offs, the government never, ever considers investment and time required of the citizens who must comply.  I have seen governments make changes designed to save a few man-hours a month in their own clerical departments that cause thousands or millions of man-hours of extra work among taxpayers.   A year or two ago, Mono County, California forced us to go from one to twelve reports each month for our lodging tax payments just to save auditors a few hours work every three years.   And do you know why?  Because the government treats us all as serfs.  As far as they are concerned, our labor is free, because they have the power to compel us to do whatever they ask without compensation.

Postscript:  Here is my other Florida county tax collector pet peave.  All the tax collectors in Florida put their own personal name all over everything.  Their web site is not "marion county tax collector"  but "George Albright, Marion County Tax Collector." Their stationary has this man's name all over it.  When I right a check to them, I am supposed to include this man's name.  I hate this kind of public employee self-aggrandizement.  It is a blatant use of taxpayer money to try to aid one's next election chances, and it is a waste of money when a new person comes in office because every piece of printed material must be thrown out and reprinted.  This seems to be fairly unique to Florida.  Look at the Marion County links for other states in the same search and you don't see the same thing going on in those states.

Firefox Version?

Perhaps it is a glitch in the tracking software, but my logs show that 90% of the Firefox browsers that come to this site are version 1.x rather than 2.x.  Is there a reason for this?  I have been on 2.x for quite a while and have a beta running of 3.x.

If you are still on version 1, Firefox automatic updater will not take you to version 2 automatically.  You need to do it yourself here.

(Of course, the logs show 0.2% of you still using Windows ME.  God help you.)

And the Winner Is...

Mixed news on the contest front.  My outline and draft novel did not make the finals of the Mackinac Center's Freedom in Fiction Prize.

However, my 3-minute climate video did win second place in the Kids and Globaloney contest

The results surprise me a bit.  I really felt good about my story concept for the fiction prize, so much so I will likely finish it and at least release it as an e-book.  On the other hand, I found the 3-minute limit almost impossible to make work in the video contest, and thought my video, which I include below, was rushed.

A better version is the 9-minute version here which covers the same subjects but with a bit more leisure and explanation.  This video, however, is a bit dated.  As I write in the YouTube comments, I want to take a better shot at explaining the issues around positive feedback.  I think I can fix it with just a rewrite of the narration.  That longer video is here and below.

My really long video, 60-minutes in 6 parts, is here.

Big Flashing Red Bullsh*t Alarm Going Off

Huge alarm bells are going off as I read this headline in the Arizona Republic, whose motto should be "Happy to credulously print any crazy number your lobbying group puts in a press release."  In this case, the headline reads:

Ariz. economy reaped $500M from Super Bowl

Uh, sure.  Right.  Bet that is a quality number.  Lets first vet the source.  Who provided the paper with this number?

A study released today by the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee
estimates professional football's championship game at University of
Phoenix Stadium in Glendale generated an economic impact of $500.6
million for the state.

Oh, I see.  Certainly a disinterested party.  And how was this number arrived at?

Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business
completed the economic-impact report based on surveys of more than
1,500 visitors who came to the Valley to attend the game or take part
in festivities.

The survey revealed that visitors stayed in Arizona for an average of
3.9 nights and spent an average of $617 each day on hotels, food,
alcohol, transportation, recreation, shopping and other categories. The
report also calculated the amount that organizations dropped during
Super Bowl week.

Well, its good to see the business school at America's #1 party college on the case.  I would have thought this would be a very challenging study to conduct.  In my naiveté, I might have assumed that these Superbowl visitors might have displaced other potential visitors who would have been there anyway.  I would have fixated on the fact that Superbowl week is also Phoenix Open week and, given the beautiful winter weather here, one of the prime tourist weeks of the year even without the Superbowl.  I might have wondered how hotel stays during a week when most local resort hotels are full anyway could have been credited to the Superbowl, particularly when many locals left town to avoid the scene.   I might have been worried that I was not counting truly incremental revenues, but the folks in the business school at the university with Americas hottest coeds must be smarter than I am.

So apparently, these geniuses have found a way to assume that 100% of this $617 per day times 3.9 days is incremental and that there is no substitution effect.  However, they have also managed to somehow assume that University of Phoenix Stadium is even larger than I thought.  Because using these numbers, the only way to get to $500 million is if there were nearly 210,000 visitors.  Wow.  This does not even include the thousands of us from Phoenix who were also in the stadium. 

Look, the way to do this study is simple.  You look at sales tax receipts in Maricopa county over the period of January 2007-February 2008.  You calculate an underlying growth rate.  Then you compare the sales tax receipts for the Superbowl months (Jan-Feb 2008) with the same months a year previously, and see how much growth there is, if any, above the underlying growth rate.  I will tell you the answer right now:  It ain't anywhere close to $500 million.  I will eat my hat if its over $50 million.

Here is a reality check:  In 2004 the entire retail trade, from restaurants to stores to hotels, was $16.4 billion for all of Arizona.  This is $315 million per week.  Basically the study is saying that the entire retail trade for the whole state of Arizona was more than doubled in Superbowl week. 

Bullshit.

When is Curtailing Freedom the Mature and Wise Choice?

.... Uh, never.  Except of course at Colorado College, according to Amanda Udis-Kessler, Colorado College's Director of Institutional Research and Planning:

Social inequality is deeply grounded in a lack of respect-for women,
people of color, lesbian and gay people, and others. When we choose to
curtail our freedom to disrespect others in order to build a meaningful
society, we have made a mature and wise choice-and one that college
should help us learn.

The rest of the post is a roundup of the fallout over the punishment by the university of a parody of a campus feminist publication.  Basically, the argument boils down to the feminists feeling "dissed" and arguing that being dissed is a sufficient reason to curtail speech if one is in a protected group.   But remember this plea by the Colorado College feminists:

But please stop fabricating a story about humorless, offended feminists silencing men's free speech.

Oh, okay.

There are enough cases of this new theory of speech running around, that speech may be curtailed if someone in a protected group feels hurt or challenged by the speech, for real concern.  It is the same theory at the heart of the kerfuffle in Canada over the human rights commission's attack on conservative magazines and bloggers, and the same theory in the recent New Mexico decision that a photographer cannot choose not to photograph gay marriages.

Lost Art of the Business Letter

Way back around 1985, when I was an entry-level engineer at Exxon, the company had a training session with a writing instructor.  The course, if it had a name, could be called "the art of the business memo." 

Now, I know that you 20-somethings in the world of text messaging and soon-to-be-f*cked internet companies are probably cringing at the thought of learning to write business memos the Fortune 50 way.  But there was something about this course I found compelling.  Since then, I have taken a lot of communications courses, particularly presentation courses, of varying utility.  McKinsey & Company taught me the pyramid principal for organizing persuasive letters and presentations, something that has been so useful to me that I wonder why none of the expensive schools I attended ever bothered to teach it.

To this day, I am still compelled by the perfect business letter.  I know this may seem weird, but I still remember several of my best efforts from years ago.  I sometimes go back and read them lovingly.  I have three lifetimes of projects that I would like to put together, but one fun one would be to put together a book collection of great business letters.  I fell like its an art that should better recognized.

Anyway, I was reminded of all this by this letter that has been linked around the blogosphere a bit this morning.

100% of People With No Mortgage Payment Rate their Mortgage Payment as "Fair"

Apparently, according to one survey, a majority of people think their taxes are "fair"

Fairtax

The 60% is an interesting figure.  It also roughly corresponds to the percentage of people who get more government benefits back than they pay in taxes:

Taxfoundation

So 60% of the people vote themselves goodies from the other 40%, and coincidently, 60% of the people think the arrangement is fair.

Just Because We Elect Them Now...

Richard Conniff in the NYT:

But we need language to remind us that this is our government, and that
we thrive because of the schools and transit systems and 10,000 other
services that exist only because we have joined together. Instead of
denouncing taxes, politicians would do better to appeal to the
patriotic corners of our hearts that warm to phrases like "we the
people." "Taxation" is a throwback to the time when kings picked our
pockets. "Paying my dues," a phrase popularized in the jazz music
world, is language by which we can stand together as Americans.

I am confused as to what the substantial difference is between 1 king picking our pockets and 535 kings picking our pockets.   Just because I get the annual opportunity to cast a meaningless vote between the Coke and Pepsi party does not change my view of government. 

To my mind, this is the #1 incorrect perception people have about the American Revolution.  So many people, like this author, seem to think it was about voting and democracy.  Bleh.  The Revolution was about the relationship between human beings and government.  Voting was merely one tool among many the founders adopted to try to protect man from government.  Unfortunately, this intellectual battle is being lost. 

JFK was the president that first made it clear that those of us who love freedom have been losing this battle.  In his famous quote "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country,"  JFK defined the heads-statists-win-tails-freedom-loses choice that people like Mr. Conniff continue to try to present us with.   These collectivists define our relation to government as either the recipient of unearned loot or milch cow to the whims of the voters.  Neither part of JFK's challenge represents a relation between man and government a freedom-loving person should accept.

More on why voting is not what makes our country great here.

What We Learn About Climate and Public Policy from Y2K

Remember Y2K?  If you took the media and politicians seriously, this sure did seem like it was going to big a big apocalyptic deal (see survey in the postscript about economic depression and civil insurrection).  Until it wasn't.

Odd Citizen points to an interesting study on this topic.  The author links this
Australian study
looking retrospectively at the Y2K scare, trying to understand
why an irrational collective hysteria developed that allowed for no skepticism
(seem familiar).  The whole thing is interesting, but here is the money
quote
:

From the perspective of public administration, the two most
compelling observations relate to conformity and collective amnesia. The
response to Y2K shows how relatively subtle characteristics of a policy problem
may produce a conformist response in which no policy actors have any incentive
to oppose, or even to critically assess, the dominant view. Moreover, in a
situation where a policy has been adopted and implemented with unanimous
support, or at least without any opposition, there is likely to be little
interest in critical evaluation when it appears that the costs of the policy
have outweighed the benefits.

The article is written without any reference to current
climate issues, but wow, does this sound familiar?  It is a dead-on description of what is occurring with global warming. 

The author also goes on to discuss public choice theory and why it is not necessarily a good explanatory model for the Y2K scare.  He argues that a better explanation was the asymmetry of blame:

Individuals and groups who argued for a 'fix on failure' approach stood to benefit only modestly if this approach avoided unnecessary costs, but faced the risk of blame in the event of significant system failures attributable (accurately or otherwise) to Y2K related problems. Conversely, it was evident in advance that there was little risk of loss to individuals who advocated comprehensive remediation. The absence of any serious Y2K problems could always be attributed to the success of the remediation program.

The asymmetry of incentives was amplified by the possibility of litigation, particularly in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in other English-speaking countries. The reliance of the United States on tort litigation as a method of compensating those experiencing adverse outcomes of various kinds produces a strong bias in favour of 'defensive' expenditures. In particular, jurors have been highly unsympathetic to individuals and organisations that have chosen to disregard known low-probability risks.

The special characteristics of the Y2K problem were ideally suited to produce this kind of reaction. On the one hand, the problem was both widespread and comprehensible to non-experts, such as potential jurors. On the other hand, if 'embedded systems' are disregarded, the Y2K problem differed from most other computer 'bugs' in that a complete solution was feasible, though very expensive.

In these circumstances, litigation against organisations that had failed to undertake comprehensive Y2K remediation, and experienced any form of system breakdown in early 2000, was virtually guaranteed of success. By contrast, the risk of blame being allocated to organisations that overspent on Y2K remediation was perceived to be minimal. The absence of litigation or other processes for the allocation of blame in the aftermath of the Y2K non-event shows that this perception was accurate.

A rough parallel to this in the global warming world is the apparent ease of assigning blame for CO2 emissions to energy producers and car manufacturers (despite the fact that it is all of us who uses this energy and buys these cars) vs. the reluctance of media and others to quantify and assign blame for reductions in wealth and economic prosperity that might result from CO2 limitations.

Postscript:  One other thing that is interesting to me as a libertarian:  I often point out that the political parties are a joke, a mish-mash of shifting political positions that has little to do with deeply held theories of government and more to do with branding and populist electioneering.  The Y2K-Climate comparison caused me to find a good example.  In 1999, it was the Republicans using the Y2K issue as a club on the Democrats, arguing that the Clinton Administration, and Al Gore in particular, were ignoring this critical end-of-the-world crisis and that the government needed to be doing more.  Really.  Just check this out from Dec, 1999:

Last year, The National Journal devoted an entire issue to the subject, with headlines such as "The Big Glitch" and "Sorry, Al, This Bug's for You." In the special issue, Neil Munro cites a survey of industry and government executives and
programmers concerning potential fallout from the millennium bug, showing that 70 percent
anticipated a negative effect on the economy, with 10 percent of respondents not ruling
out the possibility of economic depression and civil insurrection.   

With a technology problem of this magnitude on the national horizon, where was the leadership of the nation's No. 1 techno-nerd and self-proclaimed creator of the "information superhighway," Vice President Al Gore?   

Gore's familiarity with and personal interest in technology, specifically computer technology, makes suspect his long silence on the Y2K issue.   

In his biography, "Gore: A Political Life," Bob Zelnick writes that Gore "had nothing to say during the first five-and-a-half years of his vice presidency
about the biggest problem in the history of high-tech America."

Let the record show that I was a Y2K skeptic before I was a climate skeptic.

I may be making common cause with some Republicans on the climate issue at the moment, but I don't trust them.  In fact, already we see McCain jumping on the climate bandwagon (as he does with every populist issue -- he believes in nothing) and I have a strong sense GWB may dive into the climate fray quite soon.

A Few Tax Day Thoughts

From Jane Galt:

All this useless activity is so that our politicians can look like They
Care by giving tiny tax breaks to all of their favorite people--that is
to say, the people who vote for them and give them money. All of these
tax breaks, almost without exception, do the most good for the people
who least need them. Meanwhile, they waste time for the rest of us,
distort the economy, and require us to pay extra people to process tax
returns. It's lose-lose-lose all around unless you owned a seal-fur
farm between 1987 and 1991.

She also outlines her alternative tax plan.

From the Beatles (yes, those guys)   (Beatles, Robin Hood, and of course they perform the song)

From yours truly, the five worst traits about taxes

Algae have extraordinarily diverse sex lives

OK, I buried the lede.  The post is actually not the sex lives of algae.  But I was fascinated that CNN chose to list this among the "story highlights" of this article.  The story supports my sense that if biofuels are ever going to make sense, they are not going to be made from corn.  The story also reinforces the notion that biofuels are just another type of solar energy, though they are in fact even more inefficient than our not-there-yet solar panels in converting sunlight to usable energy.  The only reason biofuels currently look more economic than solar are the enormous operating subsidies and the much lower capital costs  (though even the latter is open to argument since biofuels have huge capital costs in terms of land, but that generally is factored in as "zero" because the land is already being farmed.)

Before you get too excited about algae, note from the picture that the algae at this farm is grown in plastic packets that I would bet my life require more hydrocarbons to produce than the algae inside them provides.

Save XP

If you are happy with Vista, fine.  Polls show that the majority of us are not.  I continue to order all of our company PCs with XP and have downgraded all of my home PCs back to XP.  If you want to try to get Microsoft's attention to keep XP past the June 30 stop-sell date, check out this petition.

Save XP

If you are happy with Vista, fine.  Polls show that the majority of us are not.  I continue to order all of our company PCs with XP and have downgraded all of my home PCs back to XP.  If you want to try to get Microsoft's attention to keep XP past the June 30 stop-sell date, check out this petition.

Duh

A reader pointed me to this article about a really amazing piece of government science:

A strong and deadly
earthquake is virtually certain to strike on one of California's major
seismic faults within the next 30 years, scientists said Monday in the
first official forecast of statewide earthquake probabilities.

They calculated the probability at more than 99 percent that one or
more of the major faults in the state will rupture and trigger a quake
with a magnitude of at least 6.7.

Uh, okay.  Next up:  California demonstrates more than a 99% chance that I will be dead in 100 years.  I would also give them the false precision award:

An even more damaging quake with
a magnitude of 7.5 or larger, the earthquake scientists said, is at
least 46 percent likely to hit on one of California's active fault
systems within the next three decades.

Are they really sure that its not 46.1%?

"The report's details should
prove invaluable for city planners, building code designers, and home
and business owners who can use the information to improve public
safety and mitigate damage before the next destructive earthquake
occurs," said geophysicist Ned Field of the Geological Survey, who
headed the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities, which
developed the forecasts.

Really?  How?  They should have given me the money and I would have written a two sentence report:  "You are going to have an earthquake in the future -- duh, its California.  Plan for it."

Update: A reader notes that this was funded by some insurance companies or trade group, and the whole point is the unspoken message "insurance rates are going up."  You guys are so cynical.

Duh

A reader pointed me to this article about a really amazing piece of government science:

A strong and deadly
earthquake is virtually certain to strike on one of California's major
seismic faults within the next 30 years, scientists said Monday in the
first official forecast of statewide earthquake probabilities.

They calculated the probability at more than 99 percent that one or
more of the major faults in the state will rupture and trigger a quake
with a magnitude of at least 6.7.

Uh, okay.  Next up:  California demonstrates more than a 99% chance that I will be dead in 100 years.  I would also give them the false precision award:

An even more damaging quake with
a magnitude of 7.5 or larger, the earthquake scientists said, is at
least 46 percent likely to hit on one of California's active fault
systems within the next three decades.

Are they really sure that its not 46.1%?

"The report's details should
prove invaluable for city planners, building code designers, and home
and business owners who can use the information to improve public
safety and mitigate damage before the next destructive earthquake
occurs," said geophysicist Ned Field of the Geological Survey, who
headed the Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities, which
developed the forecasts.

Really?  How?  They should have given me the money and I would have written a two sentence report:  "You are going to have an earthquake in the future -- duh, its California.  Plan for it."

Update: A reader notes that this was funded by some insurance companies or trade group, and the whole point is the unspoken message "insurance rates are going up."  You guys are so cynical.

America's Worst Sheriff

I am working on a longer post on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's sweeps through Hispanic neighborhoods to round up the usual suspects (Mayor Phil Gordon has asked the feds to investigate these practices, which I hope they will do).

But this one is just weird.  Apparently Phoenix tax money is being used by Arpaio to train Honduran police, in a program that makes sense (from a Phoenix point of view) to no one.  Sheriff Joe watchers will enjoy his numerous nonsensical explanations, though the last one probably is the correct one.  For those outside of Phoenix, sit back and enjoy the weirdness -- its the only consolation we here in Arizona get for having the worst and most abusive sheriff in the country.

Explanation One:  Arpaio looks to small Latin American countries as models for his police force

Sheriff's officials told the county Board of Supervisors that the
Honduran National Police possess the "intelligence data, knowledge and
cultural experiences to benefit the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

Explanation Two:  We can't tell you, because it would endanger Sheriffs' lives (this is an Arpaio oldie but goodie):

discussing efforts in Honduras could endanger the lives of law-enforcement officers in both countries....revealing details could put lives at risk

Explanation Three:  Honduras supplied millions of photos for Arpaio's facial recognition software (yeah, I know non-Phoenicians, this is weird)

The sheriff's facial-recognition software program is supposed to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the Honduras engagement....When Arpaio was first confronted about the department's trips to
Honduras, he said the agency had received "millions" of photos from
Honduran officials.

Explanation Four:  Its a RICO thing, so we can't tell you (at least, it uses RICO funds)

The agency has spent more than $120,000 on Sheriff's Office employee
salaries in Honduras, and an additional $30,000 in RICO funds seized
from criminals. And some of the trips occurred during a time period
where the Sheriff's Office overspent its overtime budget by nearly $1
million.

Explanation Five:  We can't talk about it, because that would open up public officials to scrutiny for their actions:

The Sheriff's Office will not grant interviews to explain how and why
the program was started and what the benefits are to Maricopa County,
because officials say discussing the program fuels criticism

On Honest Engineering Discourse

TJIC links to this great story about the engineer for the Citicorp building who realized, after the building was erected and occupied, that he had made a mistake that could make the building unsafe in high wind loads.  He raised his hand, called a penalty stroke on himself, and got the thing fixed when many others might have rationalized away taking action.  Fortunately, he was respected for doing so:

Before the city officials left,
they commended LeMessurier for his courage and candor, and expressed a
desire to be kept informed as the repair work progressed. Given the urgency
of the situation, that was all they could reasonably do. "It wasn't a case
of 'We caught you, you skunk,'" Nusbaum says. "It started with a guy who
stood up and said, 'I got a problem, I made the problem, let's fix the
problem.' If you're gonna kill a guy like LeMessurier, why should anybody
ever talk?"

I continue to worry, though, that we are actively aligning incentives against having a quality, open engineering dialog.  In any engineering discussion, I don't think there has been a good safety dialog unless someone takes the position that the design (or drug, or whatever) is still unsafe.  Someone needs to advocate the position that the plan is unsafe even if that position is a straw man.  An open process encourages everyone to raise potential issues, even if these issues turn out not to be problems.

Unfortunately, in court, the very existance of such a discussion is used as evidence of liability.  Plaintiff's lawyers wave internal memos at juries showing them that concern existed about safety.  The very healthy definition of a good safety engineering process - a concern and discussion about safety - is turned into evidence of its lack.  More here.

You've done worse than let Haldeman slip away: you've got people feeling sorry for him. I didn't think that was possible.

I would never have thought it possible to position Hillary Clinton as the down-to-earth joe sixpack candidate, but somehow Obama managed it.

Post title from here.

The End is Near

For at least the last thousand years, western society has always had a hard core of doom-sayers who like to climb to the rooftops to shout that the end of the world is close at hand.  I am not a good enough student of history to know if this is a predictably human trait, or if it is uniquely tied to western religions like Christianity.  Certainly the Medieval millenarian streak was tied closely to the prophesies of Christianity.

Whether initially Christian or not, end-of-the-worldism is now the provenance of many fringe secular groups, not the least of which are the environmentalists.  In fact, the current global warming panic fits right into a long history of end-of-the-worldism, though I also think it has strong elements of socialism and youth culture guilt and lacks the optimism of Christian millenarianism.

Today's humorous does of doom comes right here from Arizona, via professor Guy McPherson of the University of Arizona.  Incredibly, our local media treats this interview straight up, without even the snark they would bring to, say, the article they wrote about me and other local climate skeptics.

First, let me explain Empire: We exploit humans and resources, often
with extreme violence, to provide Americans with indulgences beyond
belief to most people.

Had we started the project of powering down at least 30 years ago,
there might still be time. At this point, I cannot imagine any steps
that could allow us to avoid a meltdown of the economy or a relatively
rapid transition into the post-industrial Stone Age. We depend on
abundant, inexpensive oil for delivery of food, water, shelter, and
health care. The days of abundant, inexpensive oil are behind us. The
American Empire will soon run its course.

I am hopeful we can save a few tens of millions of Americans. But
we will need to make massive changes in our entire way of life,
starting immediately. We must abandon the project of globalization and
its attendant indulgences, for example, and focus on saving lives.

Yes, oil production will indeed peak at some point, and may even be peaking now (though I doubt it).  But the rest of this is just ignorant. 

Rewriting History

I was watching the History Channel last night and watching a show on the nuclear arms race.  Interestingly, they described the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba as happening before JFK took office, and then discussed the Cuban Missile Crisis as JFK's first interaction with Russia.  I find this to be really odd revisionism, and if it were not for Coyote's Law, I would ascribe this to the ongoing Kennedy family effort to polish JFK's historical legacy.  But, having written Coyote's Law, I will just assume the show's producers were ignorant.

Update: I take the point that the Bay of Pigs invasion was a CIA plan in the Eisenhower presidency.  However, JFK was deeply involved in the planning and decision to go ahead, and in fact he and his advisers actually modified the plan, including the invasion site, in ways that hurt the probability of success (if there ever was any).

Obama's Campaign Against Individualism

I am becoming convinced that the frequent discussion of "diversity" among the leftish elite is really a mask for the fact that true diversity is in fact what they want to avoid.  By defining diversity along the least meaningful lines - e.g. skin color and type of genitalia - they mask the fact that what leftish technocrats hate the most is variation in thought.  After all, why have we been spending all that money on government schools all these years if it wasn't to generate such conformity? 

Michael Young sees Obama's recent anti-flyover-country snobbery in the same light:

While Obama is indeed engaging in spin, there is a far more
disturbing aspect to his interpretation. He misses the essential nature
of modern culture. People don't end up focusing on issues like the
right to bear arms, gay marriage, faith-based and family-based issues,
and the like, because of bitterness against Washington or a sense that
they can't effect change there. People focus on these issues because
modern American political culture is, effectively, about subcultures,
variety, pursuing parochial aims, and shaping one's identity and
personal agendas independently of the state. 

What Obama
implicitly regards (in both his statements) as signs of disintegration,
as reflections of popular frustration, are in fact examples of a
thriving culture. Exceptions to this, of course, are anti-immigration
sentiment and bigoted protectionism, both of which Obama conveniently
dropped in his Indiana comments. Yet Obama's approach betrays a very
suffocating vision of the state as the be-all and end-all of
political-cultural behavior. Outside the confines of the state there is
no salvation, only resentment. This is nonsense, but it also partly
explains why Obama is so admired among educated liberals, who still
view the state as the main medium of American providence.

Progressives Support Markets?

It may really be a new era, when markets rather than command-and-control government allocations and restrictions are advocated by progressives to allocate scarce resources.  In this case, the argument is especially surprising, since it is arguing for more open water markets.  For some reason, water is the last place anyone seems to want to apply pricing signals, something I have written on many times.

There are clear gains from having an active market in water rights. It
would help solve the problems posed by current water shortages in the
West, and it would provide the flexibility necessary to confront the
impact of climate change on water supplies in the coming decades. It
would be, in a word, fluid.

Senior Government Official Using His Position to Presure Textbook Publishers

Anthony Watt has an interesting story of a senior NASA official using his government position to pressure textbook manufacturers to change their books to reflect his view of the world.

Dumbest Thing I Have Read Today

I agree with Kevin Drum, this is the dumbest thing I have read today:

There is a solution to the rising cost of oil, but it is a painful
one. Let's say there is a lot of $20-a-barrel oil in the world "”
deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands. But who would look for $20-a-barrel
oil if someone else (Saudi Arabia) has lots of $5-a-barrel oil? The
answer is: no one.

Basically, American taxpayers have to guarantee potential producers
that the price in the future will not fall below $20 a barrel and that
they will not lose their investments.

This is easy to do. The U.S. needs to guarantee that it will buy all
of its oil at $20 a barrel before buying anything from OPEC. This
forces the price of oil down to $20 a barrel, but it eliminates the
possibility that it will ever go back to $5 a barrel.

The implication that no one will add capacity if there is anyone at all to the left of them on the supply curve is just silly, and defies history in any number of industries, including oil.  By this argument, no one would be building super-deep water oil platforms today.  The reason there is not more oil exploration today in certain areas of North America is that there are formal and informal government restrictions that make it hard and/or impossible.  And to the extent that oil companies are treating current oil prices as a bubble that will inevitably fall, all I can say is, bring it on.