Why the Really Rich Love Socialists

This article [h/t Instapundit] shows that the U.S. has a more progressive tax code than the democratic-socialist states of Europe. 

Such a state of affairs should not come as a surprise. Our own history shows that the very wealthy benefit from leftist policies of high tax rates, “targeted” taxation and industrial policy.

Read more

Important Reading

Fouad Ajami on Obama and the politics of crowds. Excerpt:

My boyhood, and the Arab political culture I have been chronicling for well over three decades, are anchored in the Arab world. And the tragedy of Arab political culture has been the unending expectation of the crowd — the street, we call it — in the redeemer who will put an end to the decline, who will restore faded splendor and greatness.

Via Betsy, who has some interesting commentary:

I heard Mark Steyn say the other day that so many schools today have posters with abstract nouns in the halls like Achievement, Effort, and Character and that it’s no coincidence that a generation educated among such posters would fall hard for a candidate of Hope and Change.

Obama, the Democrats, and the Economy–continued

(This is a continuation of my post on the election and the economy from several days ago. At that time, I focused on energy and trade; in this update, I also talk about small business, the demonization of entire industries, the micromanagement of innovation, the proposed elimination of the secret ballot in union elections, and corporate tax policy.)

Read more

Fat Friends… and the Opposite

Recently I met up with Dan in Madison to watch the Illini vs. the Wisconsin Badgers (we lost). Dan and I talk a lot via the web but usually only see each other a few times a year (during Bears games) but we correspond a lot. Any reader of this blog knows that Dan is quite the fitness fanatic / zealot and has really done a lot to get in tremendous shape over the last few years.

Seeing Dan reminded me of some research that I saw on friends… from this BBC article

Fat Friends Can Boost Your Size

The work, by scientists at the University of Warwick, Dartmouth College, and the University of Leuven, is being presented to an economics conference in Cambridge Massachusetts. They suggest choices about appearance, on which decisions such as job offers or being deemed attractive are based, are determined by the choices others around you make. So, if people around you are fat, it is permissible for you to be fat too.”

Thus hanging out with Dan reminds me that while I am getting a bit smaller, I have a long way to go. One thing that isn’t helping is the AMAZINGLY large portions of food that are dispensed to me continuously. Above is a photo of food from a local Italian restaurant (a chain) called Maggianos – these is one HALF order of pasta and meatballs with a HALF order of stuffed mushrooms. We take the 1/2 order and cut it into essentially quarters and it is still too much food (we won’t get those mushrooms again… they expanded like balloons in my stomach). This is for two people. Who needs to eat that much food?

Maybe if I had different friends…

Cross posted at LITGM

Why Executives Cost So Much

In my previous post, I explained why business spend a great deal of money on executive pay and why the rest of us should be glad they do. 

However, this raises the question: Why do we have to spend so much money to hire a small number of decisions makers? Even if the decisions they make determine the success or failure of entire businesses why does it cost millions to hire them? After all an executive doesn’t need the money to actually make decisions. In theory, an executive will make the same decision if you pay him $100,000 a year as he will make if you pay him $1,000,000.

So why do greedy capitalists pay millions to hire executives when in theory they could get the same decisions for less money?

The answer is deceptively  simple:You have to pay an executive more than he could make running his own private company.

Read more

Navigators of the Economy

Life aboard ship in the age of sail was brutal, even by the standards of the day. Ordinary sailors worked in horrific conditions for months on end for little pay and often for nothing more than just a stake in the profits of the voyage. 

Easily, the cushiest  job on a ship was that of navigator. Navigators were quite often hired guns who had no other duties. A navigator often needed to work no more than four hours a day. He would come on deck two or three times a day to take sightings, then return to his cabin for an hour’s worth of calculations. Compared to the physically taxing, mindlessly repetitive and dangerous work of a sailor, navigators did nothing and risked nothing. 

Yet navigators often received as much as much as 25% share in the profits in a voyage. Even when they worked for pay, they received a wage many, many times that of sailors who did much more arduous and even critical work. Why did those who owned shares in a voyage, from the cabin boy to the landlubber investors tolerate paying the navigators so much?

The answer is obvious: if the navigator made a mistake, it didn’t matter how hard everyone else on the ship worked or how competently they did their jobs. The skill of the person doing the navigating determined the success of the voyage or even if anyone survived. People paid navigators a lot because if they didn’t, it didn’t really matter how much they paid anyone else.

Read more

Pirates and Insurance Blackmail

I have previously discussed how effective measures to combat modern day piracy on the high seas won’t come about until the insurance costs get too high. Piracy will continue until the the increase in insurance premiums for getting attacked by pirates exceeds the amount the underwriters will charge if armed guards are placed on board.

This recent post at StrategyPage.com pretty much says the same thing. NATO warships might be tasked with anti-pirate patrol, but they won’t actually shoot anyone for fear of bad press. The pirates know they have a good thing going, and there will be more attacks in the future. The shipping companies aren’t about to place armed guards on board their vessels since the higher premiums they have to pay for pirate insurance is less than what the underwriters will charge for having private troops on the vessels.

I figure one of two things will happen.

The gangs will continue to raid enough ships for them to have a big (in Somalian terms) payday through ransom money, but not enough for it to make sense to actually attack the outlaws. It will be the same-old, same-old for years to come.

More pirate gangs will form to grab a slice of the pie. Either the number of attacked ships passes an economic tipping point, or some undisciplined criminals start slaughtering innocent crew members that they have taken hostage. Eventually NATO starts to clean house, and the number of pirate attacks are reduced for decades afterwards.

It looks to me like more of the same-old, same-old is more likely in the foreseeable future.

Sarkozy on Obama

According to Haaretz:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama’s positions on Iran, according to reports that have reached Israel’s government.

Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate’s stance on Iran as “utterly immature” and comprised of “formulations empty of all content.”

Read more

Good Idea, Wrong Place to Advertise It

This morning on the radio I heard a promotional advertisement for Feed the Pig.  I have heard things about this site before and decided to check it out.  It is outstanding.  They have calendars so you can see ways to save money throughout the year, and there are many tips on how to pinch pennies.

Basically the concept is to teach people how to save, knock down their debt, and generally help them to not waste money (things that many modern day Americans are horrible at).  I can’t really see a downside to this.  The site is sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs.  I am not sure why they put up the site, but I wholeheartedly support it.

I give the site a big thumbs up, but think I will give their choice of advertising venues a small thumbs down.  I was reminded this morning of Feed the Pig while listening to Bloomberg Radio on XM on the way in to work, getting my business news for the day. 

**Quick aside:  I have three choices of business news to pick from on XM:  Fox Business, CNBC and Bloomberg.  I choose Bloomberg because it is just the facts, with interviews sprinkled in – and the interviews are with interesting and smart people.  In addition, the interviews are always respectful and low key even if people are disagreeing, unlike some of the other places where there are a bunch of idiots yelling and screaming at each other.  In other words, Bloomberg Radio seems more professional to me.**

I really don’t think that anyone who seeks out Bloomberg Radio doesn’t understand the simple concepts of saving and debt that Feed the Pig is trying to teach.  I just think that these are wasted advertising dollars.  A better target IMHO would be radio stations, magazines or TV networks that reach places where the people are perhaps not educated or are unaware of the concepts that Feed the Pig is educating people on.

It is almost like putting ads up for scrap booking during an NFL football game.  Not the right demographic.

Cross posted at LITGM.

Jack & Suzy Welch on the Economy

In their BusinessWeek column, Mr and Ms Welch respond to a reader’s question:

How does today’s financial crisis compare with the beginning of the Great Depression and the 1930s?

In response, the Welches say that while “real global pain” lies ahead, the situation is unlikely to wind up in a catastrophe on the Great Depression level. Their reasoning is interesting–basically, they offer 4 factors that differentiate the Depression era from our own:

1)”In 1930 the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act ushered in years of international retaliation and discord. Today’s crisis is marked by a high degree of free trade and global cooperation.”

2)”In 1933 the National Industrial Recovery Act encouraged labor and industry cartels. The result was a decline in U.S. competitiveness—again, hardly the current case: American companies have never been in better fighting form.”

(The NIRA was passed in 1933 and was in force until it was found unconstitutional in 1935. It involved cartelization and extreme micromanagement of the economy, and is generally considered to have been one of FDR’s more unwise innovations, delaying rather than assisting the recovery from the Depression. Interestingly, NIRA was strongly backed by Gerard Swope, one of Jack Welch’s illustrious predecessors as head of GE.)

3)”Finally, a second Great Depression is unlikely because of the institutions created to prevent one, foremost being the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., with its authority to insure deposits, critical to stabilizing the banking system.”

4)”Others say we’re marching into French-style socialism. Au contraire. The U.S. government has a century-long history of handling interventions with a fast-in, fast-out approach. In 1984, to take a recent example, it bought 80% of Continental Illinois National Bank but sold it just 10 years later to Bank of America. In 1989 it created the Resolution Trust Corp., which cleaned up the savings and loan crisis, then quickly packed up. TARP, the federal bailout plan, looks to be no exception, as its loan terms give banks flexibility and strong incentives to pay off the government within five years.”

I agree with Jack and Suzy Welch that we should not be panicking about the economy and that comparisons with 1929 are overdrawn. However, I also think that the economic future will be tremendously influenced by the election results–and that an Obama administration, combined with a strong Democratic congressional majority, would, very likely, dilute or negate three of the four factors that they list as separating us from the Depression era. While the result would probably not look as grim as 1929, it would still be pretty bad.

Read more

On German-language newspapers in pre-US* America

* Or at least before America officially became the United States of America

David writes here about Sgt. Mom’s intriguing trilogy of books on German settlers in Texas and their influence, cultural and otherwise, on the state of Texas.

I couldn’t possibly do the subject, much less the lovely and erudite Sgt. Mom, any justice on this short notice. So here are just two somewhat surprising facts about a (kind of) related subject, i.e, the German-language press in America:

– In 1732, Benjamin Franklin published the Philadelphische Zeitung, the first German-language newspaper in North America. Unfortunately it only lasted for two issues.

– On July 5 1776, The Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote was the first newspaper to report the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

PS: Some years ago, Sgt. Mom was kind of enough to mail me the recipe for some delicious caramel. I’ve made it several times since then (maybe a bit more often than my waistline can take, but it sure is worth it :)

Too Many Clicks, Too Much Typing

Compare and contrast:

Renew two software licenses

-Login at software company website. Both licenses are listed. A “renew license” link appears next to each license. There is no way to select both licenses for simultaneous renewal.

-Type name, address, etc. on online order form.

-Click link to “preferred” credit-card processor.

-Type name, address, credit card info on online form.

-Click “pay” link. Get rejected by credit card company.

-Repeat entire process starting at software company home page. Get rejected again by credit card company.

Read more

Forthcoming Books by Bloggers

A couple of interesting-looking books by bloggers are coming out in the near future:

From Roger Simon comes Blacklisting Myself, which is about his experiences living and working in Hollywood while challenging the prevailing orthodoxy.

From Sgt Mom, who writes books as Celia Hayes, comes a historical novel…well, actually, three historical novels, The Adelsverein Trilogy. It’s about a largely-unknown episode in Texas history:

The Adelsverein story begins early in the 1840s, when a group of high-born and socially conscious German noblemen conceived the notion of establishing a colony of German farmers and craftsmen in Texas. Under-funded, over-extended, scammed by scallywags and beset with bad advice, the association still dispatched more than thirty-six chartered ships carrying over 7,000 immigrants to the ports of Galveston and Indianola, in the short space of five years. The gently-rolling limestone and oak-forested hill country of south-central Texas was transformed utterly into a district of neat and prosperous farms and well-laid out towns. These settlers valued culture, and comfort, order and hard work. Schools, churches, singing-societies and businesses were established almost at once. The German hill country was a world almost apart, becoming even more so with the Civil War, when its residents held out against secession and for the Union.

(Adelsverein means the “company of noble men”)

Both books sound pretty interesting. Follow the links for more information.

Previous Books by Bloggers posts.

Flyover Humor

Iowahawk has a Midwestern perspective on Joe; he now speaks as that other beleagured Midwesterner, Hyde Park’s leading resident, in I am Bill.  Thanks, Iowahawk.

We’re going to need all the Zucker and Iowahawk they can create during the next few years.    Even great genius of this kind is uneven (Zucker’s new movie is).  But at the top of their game, they make my day – or week.  National treasures, they restore proportionality; the serious-minded transcendentalists thought that was a great poet’s task, but my vote is for comedy.

Another Place Heard From

Mrs. Davis thoughtfully comments on James’s post : 

In case you missed it, the housing market started to crash about a year ago. But unemployment never rose. Why? They all went back to Mexico. They may have a hard time getting a job there, but they’ve saved a lot of dollars and they’re still the richest guys in the village. They’ll hang out till we need them again and then they’ll be back. Even in those midwestern meat and poultry packing plants.

James, Ohio must be really different from other parts of flyover country. I don’t think anyone would mistake Lexington, Nebraska for Marin County.  But guys stand around there as they do all over Texas – waiting for a job on week-ends.  Put in a meat packing plant and suddenly the Somalis and Mexicans join the cowboys at Wal-Mart.    

Read more

In the Gold Bunker

One of the ways I cope with tough situations is to joke.  My whole family is that way.  Even in the most stressful situations we use dark humor to help us get by.  This may be an American thing, or a Midwest thing – I don’t know.  I do know that this video is pretty funny, even though I just opened up my account statement and my total net worth on paper is down about a third for the year.  Oh well, at least I have time on my side – I feel for those who need their money sooner.


From a comment for this post [h/t Instapundit]:

This is also fun and educational for your kids:

Play Monopoly. Wait until some of the kids start to amass a nice pile of money. As they collect rent, take 36% and distribute it to the kids that aren’t doing as well.

If you’re a parent, you know that screams of “That’s not fair!!” are guaranteed.

Use this opportunity to explain the Democratic (mis)definition of the word “fair.”

I think I’ve just found my next computer game to program. I wonder how such rules would affect how many hotels get built on Baltic Avenue?

Blinded By His Narrow Focus

Back in 1976, New Yorker magazine ran what is perhaps one of their most recognized covers. It shows how people from The Big Apple view the rest of the world, with an oversized Manhattan dominating. Every other feature of the world, from the rest of America to entire foreign countries, fade in importance and detail the further the distance from New York. Not, of course, that they were very important when compared to New York in the first place.

I was reminded of that image while reading this essay at American Digest, an op-ed that I really can’t take seriously. In the very first paragraph the author tries to set the scene, as many good wordsmiths do, by evoking commonly recognized themes and images. The only problem is that the themes and images he is using as a common touchstone between the reader and himself are not very common.

“Last June I was visiting an old friend in San Rafael, California. He lives the classic Marin county life high on a brindle California hillside. His house is reached by driving the blind curves of one of those thin hill roads. He’s got open land and long views next to his house. And a beautiful and extensive garden. A Sunset Magazine garden.”

“…the classic Marin county life…”? I had no idea what that is. “A Sunset Magazine garden.”? I didn’t know what that is, either. Probably because I had never heard of Sunset Magazine before now, let alone any gardens they may have cultivated. I can figure out what he means pretty easily through context, however. He might be referring to subjects that I have never experienced, nor want to, but it isn’t like he is incomprehensible.

Just so you know, I’m from the Midwest. Flyover country. It isn’t surprising that someone who reads Sunset Magazine and hangs out in Marin county would have a different view of the world than some guy from Columbus, Ohio. This is a pretty easy observation to make, actually.

But even though this Ohio boy can appreciate and understand the point of view of someone who lives in California, I really don’t think he can conceive of conditions that exist elsewhere in the country. Proof came a few paragraphs into his piece.

“Home Depots are, among other big-box construction hardware stores, the default shape-up spot of pick-up Mexican labor in the US. We all know that. When you need something done you just drive out to the nearest Home Depot, get your materials, and then pick up your emergency Mexicans as you exit. Everybody knows this. Everybody sees this. Everybody does this.”

Um, actually, no. At least it isn’t done that way in central Ohio.

The author mentions that there were about 300 illegals hanging around the parking lot of a Home Depot near Marin county, a greatly reduced number from the early morning when contractors culled the herd looking for day labor. He seems to think that this is something that occurs all over since it occurs outside of every big hardware store in California.

Not up here, buddy. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any illegal aliens in Ohio, just that they run the risk of getting arrested. The police might not actively pursue illegals, but they will turn them over to INS if they happen to become aware of them. A couple of hundred unemployed guys hanging around outside of a business, hanging around so they could be illegally employed, would be tough to miss. Better put the call out to see if any adjoining departments can spare their paddy wagons, it’s going to be a busy day!

Earlier I mentioned that I couldn’t take the op-ed under discussion very seriously. This isn’t because the author has no clue about conditions outside of California (at least not totally), but because of the alarm he is trying to raise through his article.

You see, he is worried about what will happen if the economy gets worse. What happens if this enormous illegal population is suddenly metaphorically starved of the tax free dollars they now earn because unemployed American citizens start to compete for the “jobs Americans won’t do”? There is nothing for them back home in their native country, and he doesn’t see them quietly and meekly allowing themselves to starve for real. He seems to think that the consequences will be dire.

“Perhaps we’ll discover that we’ll have to pay a very large bill for our indolence. And that the bill will not be paid with cash. It will be paid, not for the first time, with the last thing we want to see – the Army in our cities. I don’t think we are prepared for that. I don’t think we want to find out. I pray we never have to.”

Once again, it won’t happen up here. I also don’t see it happening in states that value rugged individualism, like New Mexico or Texas or Arizona. But I can definitely see martial law declared in California because their population of illegal immigrants decides to act up.

I mean, how else would those poor Sunset-Magazine-reading dears cope?

(Hat tip to Glenn.)

Israelis Support John McCain

…most of them do, anyhow. Polls show that 70% of Israelis would vote for McCain if they were eligible to vote in the U.S. election.

And some of them are. There are an estimated 40,000 Americans residing in Israel who are eligible to cast absentee ballots, and many of them will be voting in swing states. The chairman of Republicans Abroad in Israel predicts a 75% vote for McCain, although other reports show a large number of undecideds.

From a Weekly Standard article via Soccer Dad:

We respect war heroes in Israel, especially those like McCain who were POWs,” notes Mitchell Barak, managing director of the Jerusalem-based Keevoon Research, Strategy & Communications. “We see Obama fantasizing about how he wants to sit down and talk to the terrorists, and he loses a lot of Israelis right there. He comes off as unrealistic and insensitive to the existential challenges facing the Jewish state, and as naïve.”

Naïve, indeed. It’s a theme that popped up frequently when I mentioned Obama’s name. Obama lacks experience. Obama doesn’t understand how to deal with terrorists in general, and radical Islamic terrorists in particular. Obama thinks a court of law is the right forum for dealing with terrorists. Obama thinks the U.N. is a dandy place to solve difficult problems. Obama would have happily lost the Iraq war. Obama would cede regional hegemony to the Iranians. And so on.

Read more

Western Medicine and Number Gut Follow Up

The past few years my mother had been feeling fatigued.  The condition kept getting worse and she finally went to a doctor.  To make a long story short, the mitral valve on her heart was compromised, and the heart was not able to fully function.

Yesterday she had open heart surgery.  Everything went great.  The didn’t know until they opened her up if they were going to be able to repair the valve or replace it.   They prefer to repair it, but in this case it was damaged too much.  It was replaced with a valve made of tissue from a pig.  Really!  She will be walking through the hospital hallways TODAY (albeit very slowly), a mere 24 hours after the surgery.  I am simply amazed at this. 

As a joke my dad is going to purchase a small pig trough and place it in their bedroom for my mom to see when she gets home from the hospital.  That is how my family rolls – we always make jokes in tough or stressful situations.  I think the hard Midwest winters darken our sense of humor.

As an interesting aside, the valve was damaged not because of a genetic defect, but from disease (this was good news for me).  The doctor proposed that my mother had rheumatic fever as a child and that this was the cause of the valve being compromised. 

It has been a stressful week for me, as there was a 1%-2% (between one and two percent) chance that my mother could have died on the operating table.  We are very thankful that everything went well.

Over the last week I have been thinking of Shannon’s posts about parents that don’t give their children vaccines because of quack science, and people not having any sort of decent number gut.

Read more