Archive for August 2011

Penn Jillette Awesomeness

Most of those who read the online libertarian rags have seen this, but its awesome enough to require repitition

What makes me libertarian is what makes me an atheist -- I don't know. If I don't know, I don't believe. I don't know exactly how we got here, and I don't think anyone else does, either. We have some of the pieces of the puzzle and we'll get more, but I'm not going to use faith to fill in the gaps. I'm not going to believe things that TV hosts state without proof. I'll wait for real evidence and then I'll believe.

And I don't think anyone really knows how to help everyone. I don't even know what's best for me. Take my uncertainty about what's best for me and multiply that by every combination of the over 300 million people in the United States and I have no idea what the government should do.

President Obama sure looks and acts way smarter than me, but no one is 2 to the 300 millionth power times smarter than me. No one is even 2 to the 300 millionth times smarter than a squirrel. I sure don't know what to do about an AA+ rating and if we should live beyond our means and about compromise and sacrifice. I have no idea. I'm scared to death of being in debt. I was a street juggler and carny trash -- I couldn't get my debt limit raised, I couldn't even get a debt limit -- my only choice was to live within my means. That's all I understand from my experience, and that's not much.

It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

Who is at the other end of the spectrum?  Well, how about Brad Delong arguing for a return to technocratic rule by our betters

America's best hope for sane technocratic governance required the elimination of the Republican Party from our political system as rapidly as possible.

Technocratic utopia is of course a mirage, a supreme act of hubris, that any group of people could have the incentives or information required to manage the world top-down for us.  If I told an environmentalists that I wanted ten of the smartest biologists in the world to manage the Amazon top-down and start changing the ratios of species and courses of rivers and such in order to better optimize the rain forest, they would say I was mad.   Any such attempt would lead to disaster (just see what smart management has done for our US forests).  But the same folks will blithely advocate for top-down control of human economic activity.  The same folks who reject top-down creationism in favor of the emergent order of evolution reject the emergent order of markets and human uncoerced interaction in favor of top-down command and control.

More on technocrats here and here

Hilarious New Study

I would like to think this new study was a joke like that one about the affect of different AC/DC lead singers on decision-making.

The study basically appears to be a transcribed version of some stoner late-night bull session imagining different contact scenarios with aliens.  But one of the conclusions is hilarious.  The Guardian describes the "logic"

It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.

Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.

This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by scientists at Nasa and Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future.

Every time you turn on an incandescent light bulb, ET nukes someone in China.  Or something.  Personally I think it is at least as likely that broadcast copies of Mariah Carey's "Glitter" radiating out from Earth at the speed of light will get us pounded by meteors from space.  More here.

Obama Administration Wants Jobs Without Employers

At least that is the only conclusion I can draw.   All the talk in this administration about job creation, yet they stand staunchly athwart the only only major industry that is really trying to grow, hire, and invest right now.  Just letting off the brakes the Administration has set on oil and gas drilling would lead to the creation of a ton of jobs, and better jobs than we will get with a new WPA paying workers to dig holes and fill them back in again.

New Favorite Album

It's been quiet here, and nothing seems to get commenters stirred up like definitive opinions on modern music.

It's been a long time since I listened to an album multiple times in just a few days.  I really have fallen for the second album from the Liquid Tension Experiment.  Includes John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater, another of my current favorites.  The album is all instrumental, lots of guitar, with a prog rock flavor.   If you like that, you might also check out the solo instrumental guitar effort of Alan Morse, of Spock's Beard.  More prog rock instrumental guitar, Morse on this album is almost the reincarnation of 70's Jeff Beck (e.g. There and Back).

Mind of the Prosecutor

All I can say is, Eek!

Back in 2007, the Grits for Breakfast blog noted that Williamson County, Texas, District Attorney John Bradley gave some curious advice on a discussion board to another prosecutor. The other prosecutor was asking about how to construct a plea agreement in a way that would forfeit any future right to DNA testing. Bradley responded, “Innocence, though, has proven to trump most anything.” How unfortunate! He then added:

A better approach might be to get a written agreement that all the evidence can be destroyed after the conviction and sentence. Then, there is nothing to test or retest. Harris County regularly seeks such agreements.

We give prosecutors strong incentives to take away people's freedom and put them in jail.  Guilt or innocence is not part of their incentives, only closing cases and locking people away.  Given these incentives, we should be particularly careful to circumscribe their behavior.  In reality, we give them a virtual free pass.  Prosecutors are almost never held accountable for even the most abusive and illegal behavior.

Totally Missing the Point

I have no particular opinion on Texas tort reform.  Certainly something in that state was very broken in terms of crazy, stupid unfair malpractice jury verdicts, but I am not a big fan of setting damage caps as a solution.

Anyway, as part of the great Leftish dogpile on all things Texas, Kevin Drum argues it failed because ... the total percentage of people in Texas with health insurance did not change.

Huh???  First, only the Left believes that the statistic on percentage of people with health insurance means anything when evaluating the health care system.  Percentage insured is more a proxy for the type of jobs in the state and the number of illegal aliens as it is a measure of anything meaningful about health care access or quality.

But second, the whole point of malpractice reform was to bring down insurance rates for doctors and try to keep doctors from leaving the state.  Further, it was a basic fairness issue of trying to deal with large settlements no reasonable person thought were really the fault of the doctor.  So how about stats on malpractice rates, or doctor retention, or doctor satisfaction, or queue times?  He's got nothing.

Cloudy with 100% Chance of Corporate State

It does not appear that Rick Perry is the guy to dismantle our growing corporate state.

The LA Times investigates the big-money culture of Texas politics, which has gotten even bigger and money-er since Rick Perry became governor:

Perry has received a total of $37 million over the last decade from just 150 individuals and couples, who are likely to form the backbone of his new effort to win the Republican presidential nomination....Nearly half of those mega-donors received hefty business contracts, tax breaks or appointments under Perry, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

Perry, campaigning Monday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, declined to comment when asked how he separated the interests of his donors from the needs of his state. His aides vigorously dispute that his contributors received any perks. "They get the same thing that all Texans get," said spokesman Mark Miner.

Nearly half! And this doesn't even include anything about David Nance and the largesse Perry distributes via his $200 million state-managed venture capital slush fund. Doling out political favors in industrial quantities is obviously something that isn't frowned upon by Texas political culture, and Perry has taken it to whole new levels.

Kudos to the LA Times and folks like Kevin Drum for digging this up, but everyone involved should be embarrassed by just how partisan outrage on this kind of thing can be.  The same folks who are rightly upset at Perry actively cheered on Obama as he took ownership of GM away from the secured creditors and handed it to his major campaign supporters in the UAW.  His stimulus program has been a trillion dollar slush fund to pay off nearly every liberal constituency, and while I find the idea of a state-run venture capital fund horrifying, I see no difference here with Obama's green job investments, many of which have gone triends, campaign supporters, and even spouses of prominent administration officials.

As I asked the other day, if the President is really supposed to be our VC in chief (an absurd thought) who in the hell would pick Obama for the job?  As one random example out of my feed reader:

Last year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced the city had won a coveted $20 million federal grant to invest in weatherization. The unglamorous work of insulating crawl spaces and attics had emerged as a silver bullet in a bleak economy – able to create jobs and shrink carbon footprint – and the announcement came with great fanfare.

McGinn had joined Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to make it. It came on the eve of Earth Day. It had heady goals: creating 2,000 living-wage jobs in Seattle and retrofitting 2,000 homes in poorer neighborhoods.

But more than a year later, Seattle's numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

"The jobs haven't surfaced yet," said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

"It's been a very slow and tedious process. It's almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There's been no real investment for the broader public."

At the same time, heavily subsidized Evergreen Solar is going bankrupt.

Bloomberg News reports that the firm Evergreen Solar will file for bankruptcy and close its operation in Midland, Mich. The maker of solar cells cites over-capacity in the industry, competition from China and fewer government subsidies as contributing factors. According to Bloomberg, the firm has 133 employees worldwide.

Given a Michigan location and participation in a politically faddish industry, readers won't be surprised that Evergreen was the beneficiary of special state subsidies and a local tax break. Specifically, three years ago Evergreen Solar was offered a $1.8 million "refundable" tax credit by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority. For firms with little or no tax liability, this amounts to an outright cash subsidy, contingent on attaining certain employment and investment milestones. Evergreen Solar's specific tax liability is not public information.

The deal was based on crystal-ball projections from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation using a software program known as REMI, which predicted that an Evergreen deal would create exactly 596 direct and "spin-off" jobs by 2018, producing $18.5 million in new state tax revenue.

The city of Midland also granted property tax abatements worth $3.9 million over 12 years, according to It's not known how much, if any, of these subsidies and tax breaks were ever collected by the company.

This actually understates the total subsidies, as it ignores subsidies to its customers, incoluding above market geed-in tariffs, to buy the solar panels.

Closer to home, a Tucson solar panel manufacturer that was opened to great fanfare with the help of Janet Napolitano and Gabby Giffords just closed after being open barely 2 years.  They scored some subsidies, got some large government and utility contracts on the promise of local employment, and then packed up shop for China.  Apparently they were attempting to compete in the commodity solar panel market on a strategy of having a higher fit and finish on their product, a product that sits on the roof and no one ever looks at.  Good plan.

PS-  Yes, private investments fail all the time, but they are 1) not using my money, unless I voluntarily offer it and 2) there are real consequences for those who make bad investments

Silly Economic Plans

Via Kevin Drum, from Dylan Matthews

Second, the president should do more to help the American worker. He should establish a jobs program. Do the simple math: We are spending more than $110 billion annually in Afghanistan. Stop it. Or scale it back to the sort of covert operations and drone war that is warranted. Savings? Perhaps about $100 billion—per year. Use that money to create up to 5 million jobs at $20,000 each....Just as FDR did during the Great Depression, put these Americans to work in states, counties, schools, parks.

Even Drum considers this unrealistic, though for the wrong reasons (i.e. the evil Republicans in the House would never let us do it).  I have a series of thoughts on this

  1. FDR had low paying jobs programs in part because this was the only form of relief -- there was not welfare or food stamps or medicaid or unemployment or EITC or social security.  A $20,000 dig-a-hole-and-then-fill-it-in government make-work job would likely just displace about the same amount of other government transfer payments.  I can't see this doing squat.
  2. We are really going to kick-start the consumer market with $20,000 jobs?
  3. The Left needs to get its story straight on the stimulative effects of wars.  Democrats blame Bush for the current economy in large part because of his wars, and the author here implies that moving spending out of wars would be a net plus.  But Keynesians believe WWII ended the Great Depression and Krugman wrote just the other day that what we really need is a war with space aliens (I kid you not) to end the Great Recession.  So which is it?

By the way, I think wars are a total economic waste and drag on the nation.  Dedicating scarce resources to blowing stuff up is the worst possible use of capital.  However, diverting this into politically correct, politician-selected make-work projects is not really a lot better.

Jobs and Texas

I barf when politicians take credit for private job creation.  At best, they stay out of the way.  At worst, they erect barriers to make growth and job formation more difficult.  So I am not ready to credit Rick Perry with Texas' economic performance over the last several years.

But despite enormous work on the left to try minimize the Texas performance, it does appear to be very impressive.  The author observes that merely comparing unemployment rates across states masks the huge job growth advantage in Texas.  Texas has higher relative unemployment compared to states like CA not because it is doing poorly, but because hundreds of thousands of people have given up on states like CA and moved to Texas looking for work.

What Thomas Friedman Wants for America

When it comes to high speed rail, the Left tends to have a Santa Clause mentality.   They want the rail, but refuse to even discuss its costs vs. benefits, as if it is going to be dropped in place by Santa Clause.

I have actually had pro-high-speed rail writers call me a dinosaur for taking a cost-benefit approach.  After a reasoned article on why our rail system, with its focus on freight, makes more sense than China and Europe's focus on high speed passenger rail, Joel Epstein wrote me that I should get out of the country more, as if I am some backwoods rube that would just swoon if I saw a nifty bullet train.  For the record, my actual experience on a high-speed rail train in Europe confirmed that it was a nice experience (I knew it would be) and that it was a financial mess, as my son and I were the only passengers in my car.  I would be all for HSR if Santa Clause dropped in down from the North Pole, but it costs a lot of real money.

How much money?  Well take the system in China that Friedman and Epstein and many others have begged the US to emulate:

The rail ministry that builds and operates the trains has an incredible 2.1 million employees, more than the number of civilians employed by the entire U.S. government. Moreover, the ministry is in debt to the tune of 2.1 trillion yuan ($326 billion), about 5 percent of the country’s GDP.

Why California is Screwed

A Window on Climate Peer Review

I have written before that peer review is not a guarantee of correctness.  Most academics would laugh at that portrayal, yet that is exactly how climate peer review is treated in the media.

A number of years ago, Charles Monnett, flying over the Arctic to do some sort of whale study, saw 3-4 polar bears floating dead in the water.  Without either a) retrieving the bear carcasses or b) even getting a picture of them, he wrote up a paper that discussed the siting and hypothesized the bears drowned in a storm and further that more bears would likely drown in the future if global warming melts more Arctic ice in the summer.  The findings were the basis for a lot of worry about polar bears, and played a key role in Al Gore's movie.   Panic over the dead bears and Monnett's wild hypotheses about them helped fuel calls for declaring the bears endangered, despite all evidence that their populations have actually been increasing over the last few years.  Monnett did quite well from the work, parlaying his fame into management of a $50 million study budget, the dream of all academics.

Monnett's study has come back into the news because there has been some kind of investigation of him and his work by the Feds.  There has been a lot of speculation among skeptics that the investigation focuses on academic fraud, but I thought that a stretch.  As I wrote here

  1. If you read between the lines in the news articles, we really have no idea what is going on.  The guy could have falsified his travel expense reports
  2. The likelihood that an Obama Administration agency would be trying to root out academic fraud at all, or that if they did so they would start here, seems absurd to me.
  3. There is no room for fraud because the study was, on its face, facile and useless.  The authors basically extrapolated from a single data point.  As I tell folks all the time, if you have only one data point, you can draw virtually any trend line you want through it.  They had no evidence of what caused the bear deaths or if they were in any way typical or part of a trend — it was all pure speculation and crazy extrapolation.  How could there be fraud when there was not any data here in the first place?  The fraud was in the media, Al Gore, and ultimately the EPA treating this with any sort of gravitas.

Seriously, you see four floating bear bodies from 1500 feet, once.  You don't have any facts about how they died.  You only have one data point in time.  Where is there room for fraud?  It's one freaking useless data point.    Here is just a taste of what a joke this study was:

The actual survey Monnett was conducting when he observed the dead bears in 2004 was the migration of bowhead whales.  Investigators questioned how he later obtained data for a table listing live and dead polar bear sightings from 1987 to 2004.

“So how could you make the statement that no dead polar bears were observed” during that time period? May asked.

“Because we talked to the people that had flown the flights, and they would remember whether they had seen any dead polar bears,” Monnett said.

They only mystery is how this unbelievably trivial piece of work was published.

Well, now we have a better idea.  The reviewers for the article were Lisa Rotterman and Andrew Derocher.   Incredibly, it turns out Ms. Rotterman is his wife - yes, some people are more peers than others - and Derocher was awarded a large research contract by Monnett just before he reviewed the article.  Wow.

By the way, I think I will be both right and wrong.  I was pretty sure any government investigation would be about misuse of funds, and that does seem to be the main thrust here, though I was wrong in that it does seem to touch on academic fraud as well, in particular the idea of giving out grant money as a quid pro quo for a positive review  (a practice that skeptics have long sustpected in the climate community).

By the way, both Monnett and his partner Gleason now are claiming that everyone blew their study out of proportion and it wasn't really about global warming.  If this is true, they were sure silent about this when they were basking in all kinds of attention and press and grant money.  Either of them could have stepped forward and stopped the momentum that built from this article and they did not.

By the way, for those who still want to believe that the EPA is drive by science,

Gleason concedes that the study had a major impact on the controversial listing of the bear as an endangered species because of global warming.

“As a side note, talking about my former supervisor, he actually sent me an e-mail at one point saying, ‘You’re the reason polar bears got listed,’” Gleason said.

One sighting in history of four floating dead polar bears and suddenly our whole fossil fuel economy has to be shut down.


Celebrating the Most Recent 5-Year Plan

This sort of thing drives me crazy:

Before 2009, the U.S. was supplying less than 2% of a tiny global market in advanced batteries. When the stimulus-funded factories are all complete, they’ll have the capacity to supply 40% of a rapidly growing global market, about 500,000 batteries a year. The stimulus will also boost our supply of electric-vehicle charging stations by more than 3,000%. And the Obama administration has provided loans to help Tesla, Fisker and Nissan build electric-car factories in the U.S., all part of Obama’s pledge to put 1 million plug-ins on the road by 2015. That is what change looks like, even if the President doesn’t beat his chest and call for mass beheadings on Wall Street while it happens

A few random thoughts

  1. Doesn't this sound like an old Soviet press release about the highlights of their last 5-year plan?
  2. This is a kind of weird economic nationalism that drove a lot of the bad behaviors in the 19th century.  Who cares what percentage of world battery output our country controls?  Don't we just care that there is an adequate supply at good cost from somewhere?  This sounds like chest-thumping for the American Raj.
  3. Left unquestioned is why we should care or be excited.  Consider it this way -- a guy with no business experience is making major investments of our money in companies that were not able to get private investment.  Did you really elect Obama to be venture-capitalist-in-chief?  And if that were truly the President's job descriptions, how many tens of millions of people would you consider more qualified for the job than Obama?  Would you let Obama manage your retirement portfolio for you?
  4. No government investment is at all interesting to me unless I am told what private use of the money was foregone.   All such public investments use money that is taken from private actors and would have been used for some private function.  How many jobs, and what market outcomes, would have occurred if the money had remained in private hands?
  5. Let's see how many Democrats are claiming these successes in a few years when these ventures start going bankrupt.  I expect a lot of this stuff to mysteriously disappear from poloitician's web sites in a few years.
  6. This is the corporate state in spades.  The government creates an industry, and in the future will create protectionist laws for it, and customer subsidies, and bail it out when necessary.  In return, all of its employees and managers know they owe their jobs to the party that sponsored the industry, rather than to any competitive prowess.

Things I Didn't Expect to Read, Part 2

Several years ago, I made a bet that California high speed rail would, if built, end up costing over $100 billion.  Incredibly, Kevin Drum is making the same bet.

The disappointing part is that he is quick to say that this project is an outlier, that certainly he still supports other HSR rail projects.  But they all look as bad as the CA project.  The CA project has just gotten more attention and scrutiny because of its size.  If memory serves, Drum was right there supporting the Tampa to Orlando line, which if possible is even dumber than the California line.  In my experience, the difference between a good high speed rail project and a bad one is basically how much one digs into the numbers and challenges the assumptions.  With enough leg work, they all look bad.

Riding the Tiger

The London riots, following on frequent Greek, French, and other European riots, would be immediately recognizable to even a Roman emperor.  For decades, politicians have ridden a populist wave to office, fueled by promises of more free government stuff to favored constituencies.  The mob serves whoever bids higher for its services, but always its expectations are that the each year's bid will be higher than the last.  But eventually the money runs out, and the bids can't be increased, or even maintained.  And the mob (or the army, or whatever group whose services are required to stay in power) then turns on those who thought they controlled it.  And politicians have no one to blame but themselves, for they were the ones who trained the populace in the first place that their power in a democratic government should be used to extract goodies from the minority.

Bring on the Financial Apocalypse, I Will Ride it Out Here

Often ranked among the best beaches of the world, this is the beach at the Mauna Kea Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii.  I don't usually take summer vacations given the nature of my business, but we are celebrating my wife's 50th.   Yes, that is the view from my room, thanks to our awesome cousin who is a manager at the resort.

Imitating Escher

This is an original work by my daughter, with a bit of help from me, with a bi-directional interlocking tile, ala Escher (in pen and ink, on poster board).  This is actually surprisingly hard to pull off.  Though Escher did birds, he did not do a swan in this style.  As usual, click to enlarge:

The trick is to take a square piece of paper, and rotate whatever you cut from two sides to the other two adjacent sides.  We destroyed a lot of post it notes until we got there.  You can still see the ghost of the original square, with corners at the tip of the swan's head, the top of its wing, under its wing, and at the bottom of the neck.

Awesome Bastiat Quote

Via Maggies Farm

"Poor people!" he lamented of the duped French populace in the same tumultuous year [1848]. "How much disillusionment is in store for them! It would have been so simple and so just to ease their burden by decreasing their taxes; they want to achieve this through the plentiful bounty of the state and they cannot see that the whole mechanism consists in taking away ten to give it back eight, not to mention the true freedom that will be destroyed in the operation!"

Written over a century ago, but still just as relevant today.

Things I Did Not Expect to Read Today

I agree with this assessment but did not expect to see it coming from Kevin Drum's keyboard

Contrary to his reputation, Bush mostly succeeded by pressing a moderate, and sometimes even liberal, agenda. Tax cuts aside, which he passed solely primarily with Republican support

He goes on to point out that a lot of Bush's domestic legislation was really liberal (NCLB, Medicare part D).  I agree.

But I think this is related to where Democrats go off track in understanding Tea Party and libertarian spending anger.  Their rejoinder tends to be "much of current spending is Bush's fault."  Leave aside the absurd implicit assumption in this that once a spending level is achieved, no president later has any ability to ratchet it back down.  No, what they really miss is that I think the Tea party would agree.    They are just as angry about Bush's spending and expansion of government, so the "Republicans started it" playground argument does not really get much traction.  The best analog would probably be expansion of Executive power.  Drum is not OK (I am pretty sure) with the notion that the President can have any American he chooses summarily executed in the war on terrorism, and isn't likely to change his mind if reminded that "his guy" Obama invented the power.

Man on Wire

This Reason cover spurred me to watch a movie I had wanted to see for a while called "Man on Wire" about Philippe Petit, who snuck up to the top of the World Trade Center, strung a line between the buildings, and tight-rope walked 110 stories up.  It is a great story, and you get to see a man who is a true eccentric, not to mention being either fearless or totally nuts.   He is exactly the kind of person with an eccentric but harmless passion who tends to be crushed by an ever-more intrusive state.

By the way, the movie is also a homage to the WTC, including a lot of construction footage and skyscraper porn.

You Libertarians Are Always Exaggerating the Effects of Laws.

I get it all the time on any number of issues - Coyote, you are just exaggerating the effect of that law.  No one would try to enforce it that way.

For example, who would ever expect that a good-intentioned law to halt cyber-stalking (its for the children!) would be used by government officials to prosecute citizens who criticized them?

Believe it or Not....

... there are actually folks who think that Obama's farcical and unreachable 54.5 mpg standards for cars are too low.

Since cars are redesigned every 5 years, the 2025 date is basically 3 car revisions from now.  It also is far enough in the future the auto makers can cynically sign on now fully expecting to ignore or change the regulation in the future.

This is the corporate state in 2011.  Every single executive signing on to this is thinking "this standard is total BS."  But they go along with it because they fear the government's power over them and crave the valuable taxpayer $ giveaways this Administration has demonstrated it is willing to give its bestest buddies in the auto industry.

Of course, once again, some greenie has convinced himself this will create all sorts of jobs.   Sure, investments in car mileage is an investment in productivity (cars will uses fewer resources for the same output, ie miles driven).  BUT - the money that will be forced into this investment would come from other spending and investments.  Right now, private actors think that these other investments are a better use of the money than investing in more MPG.  I will take the market's verdict over the gut feel of an innumerate green.  So this standard is about shifting investment and spending from more to less productive uses.  Which has to reduce growth and jobs.

What Could Our Economy Possibly Need More Than Subsidies for Failing Farmer's Markets

Via the Thin Green Line

The number of farmers markets in the United States has skyrocketed from a measly 340 at the outset of the 1970s to more than 7,000 today, and, according to the USDA, sales of agricultural products directly from farmer to consumer brought in a whopping $1.2 billion in 2007.  [ed- this is a trivial portion of the US agricultural market, and hardly "whopping."]

But even though many markets have started accepting food stamps, critics still charge that they are only affordable for the haves, who are much more likely to have access to other fresh foods.

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists puts some holes in that theory. It says that modest public funding for a couple hundred otherwise-unsuccessful farmers markets could generate to 13,500 jobs over a five-year period.

I really do not have much time, so we will have to leave aside how government-forced reallocation of capital from current productive uses to subsidizing small and failing farmers markets will be a net source of employment.

I have another point - as it turns out, we already have highly efficient farmers markets that source produce from the world's agricultural regions best suited to a particular crop and bring them in a very efficient and low-cost way to consumers, taking advantage of scale economies where they exist.  They are called "supermarkets."   If you want crops that don't take advantage of our best chemical and genetic technology, that are grown locally rather than in optimal soils and climates, and are retailed in inefficient, undersized and often unprofessionally managed part-time markets, they are going to cost more.

As is typical, this has nothing to do with helping the poor.  This is about government subsidy of a particular set of lifestyle choices of aging middle class hipsters.


Hoist on Its Own Petard

Does anyone else find it funny that after being the butt of Congressional and Administration demagoguery, trying to lay blame for the financial crisis on them for applying AAA ratings to risky debt, that S&P's first visible step to correct such overly-optimistic ratings is to downgrade US debt -- based mainly on the fiscal management failures of Congress and the Administration.

By the way, many observers seem to be declaring this a punishment for not raising taxes.  The lack of accountability inherent in the government's spending like a drunken sailor, and then using such reckless and profligate spending as an excuse to raise taxes, just makes me want to scream.

Baseball showcase

I am not sure if this really comes through, but this is the batting showcase discussed in my earlier post. 100 coaches, one lonely spot in the cage.

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