Oh the humanity of it all if debt ceiling collapses on us!

There is a wit at Iowahawk today offering up some of the unthinkable things that might befall this poor, benighted nation if the debt ceiling is not raised so we can foist more onto the credit cards of the unborn. Go to the site for the full list, but here are a couple to whet your appetite:

Beltway policy experts begin living by own wits; after 45 minutes there are no survivors.

Roving bands of outlaws stalk our streets, selling incandescent bulbs to vulnerable children.

NPR news segments no longer buffered by soothing zither interludes.

Breadlines teeming with jobless Outreach Coordinators, Diversity Liaisons, and Sustainability Facilitators.

Cowboy poetry utterly lacking in metre.

Mankind’s dream of high speed government rail service between Chicago and Iowa City tragically dies.

Sesame Street descends into Mad Maxian anarchy; Oscar the Grouch fashions shivs out the letter J and the number 4

No longer protected by government warning labels, massive wave of amputations from people sticking limbs into lawn mowers

Chevy Volt rebate checks bounce, stranded owners more than 50 miles from outlet.

Without college loan program, America loses an entire generation of Marxist Dance Theorists.

With the Dept of Ed shuttered, national school quality plummets to 1960s levels.

 

It’s all a game of politics for Barry and Harry

The email missive begins:

“Imagine you got to be a fly on the wall in a closed meeting of the House Republicans yesterday.

“Would you hear sober talk of the solemn responsibility our representatives have? Or empathy for those having a tough time in this economy?

“No. You’d hear one freshman Republican tell his colleagues to “put on your helmet, buckle your chinstrap, and knock the sh** out of ‘em.”

“This group thinks holding our economy captive is a game.”

The email was from “Obama for America,” one of the re-election organizations for Obama. So, who is playing a game of politics?

The message went on to say their records show my senator is Dean Heller and listed a Washington phone number I should call. Apparently Harry Reid is not my senator, which suits me just fine.

They also repeated Harry’s and Barry’s scaremonger tactic of saying, “If Congress fails to act, millions of seniors may have to go without the Social Security checks they rely on. Veterans may not be able to get their benefits. We could lose our AAA credit rating.”

Investor’s Business Daily called that a “complete fabrication.” Today’s editorial explains:

“In June, for example, the government took in more than $250 billion, according to Treasury’s monthly report. That was enough to pay that month’s worth of interest, plus all Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans benefits, and all Defense and Homeland Security costs, with billions of dollars left over.”

As for that drop-dead deadline, IBD noted that The New York Times has reported there is enough cash to pay all bills until Aug. 10, a  Wells Fargo Securities economist said the debt ceiling won’t collapse till sometime in September.

And why do Barry and Harry insist that the debt ceiling must be raised enough to last till 2013? It is all a game of politics and political blame. That’s why Harry is beating on that drum every day:

Americans for Prosperity took the words right out of Barry’s mouth to show where his real priority lies:

Are global warming arguments coming apart at the seams?

Faced with data that in any way challenges their dearly held dogma, the global warming acolytes go into Tourette-like apoplexy, accompanied by flaming ad hominem attacks and pitchforks.

Such was the case when Roy Spencer, a well known apostate, wrote an article for Remote Sensing saying NASA satellite data for the past decade does not comport with the computer models being used by those claiming proof of anthropogenic-caused global warming.

“The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” Spencer said in a University of Alabama press release. “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”

Spencer also said, “At the peak, satellites show energy being lost while climate models show energy still being gained.”

A Forbes magazine writer summed up the study results thusly:

“In short, the central premise of alarmist global warming theory is that carbon dioxide emissions should be directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth’s atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. Real-world measurements, however, show far less heat is being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere than the alarmist computer models predict, and far more heat is escaping into space than the alarmist computer models predict.”

One global warming true believer was so flummoxed that he immediately swallowed his gum and spat out, “A blogger from a conservative, global-warming-denial, fossil-fuel-funded think tank gets Forbes (owned by the now quite infamous Rupert Murdoch) to publish his interpretation of this study and its implications (as if Forbes hasn’t published enough climate nonsense over the years).”

Those are his parentheticals, not mine. Mine would have noted that Murdoch ownership must come as a big surprise to Steve Forbes.

Then there was the report that astrophysicists are observing fewer sunspots. The Washington Examiner said of this not-all-that-new information:

“Rather than spiraling into a global warming meltdown, we may be heading into the next ice age.

“The U.S. National Solar Observatory, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and astrophysicists across the planet report that the nearly all-time low sunspot activity may result in a sustained cooling period on Earth.”

Speaking of ice either melting or expanding, The Associated Press is reporting Charles Monnett, the wildlife biologist who gained a bit of notoriety in 2006 by claiming polar bears were drowning because of global warming, is on administrative leave while being investigated for accusations of “scientific misconduct.”

Monnett works for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which has basically gagged him while the investigation is underway.

Investor’s Business Daily said of these various reports: “The global warming fraud is coming apart faster than the alarmists can repackage and rebrand their fairy tale.”

Government funding of news media is anathema to American principles

Lee Bollinger, the president of that august pinnacle of journalism, Columbia University, is at it again, bemoaning the state of journalism and advocating for a free handout from the government to correct the wayward course of the First Amendment at the hands of greedy capitalists.

In a lengthy piece in the Columbia Journalism Review he dismisses the clumsy and unpredictable whims of the free market to keep quality journalism afloat — the unwashed masses don’t know what’s good for them — and fawns over the thoughtful day-to-day insight provided by the likes of NPR, PBS and BBC. (Maybe because he agrees with them and not Fox News?)

Bollinger informs:

“As it happens, we already have NPR and PBS partially government-funded, along with their affiliate stations across the nation, at around $400 million annually. Like the BBC, these are highly regarded journalistic enterprises. But while NPR engages in worldwide reporting, that reporting is not anything close to the scale of either what is needed and possible, or to what peer systems have to work with in other countries. NPR programming reaches 26.8 million listeners ‘across the nation and territories’ per week. The BBC’s World Service alone reaches about 180 million listeners weekly. In any case, we have been well served during much of our history by having a mixed system of both commercial and publicly supported media in the US. They often have different strengths and weaknesses, provide healthy competition for one another and, taken together, result in a robust diversity of news sources. Thus, America would be well advised to plan for a stronger publicly funded system of international news broadcasting of its own.”

Bollinger proposed creating an American World Service “with sufficient funding to bring the highest-quality American journalism to the global public forum.”

The service would absolutely need editorial autonomy, he adds, while claiming “both NPR and PBS have achieved a status of highly respected journalism (as has the BBC) while using state funding. Experience demonstrates that it is possible to maintain such autonomy and independence with state funding.”

Then Bollinger appears to completely contradict himself in the very next sentence with a sort of caveat about how inappropriate influences can befoul free market media, too, so there. “It is also worth noting that every system of funding for the press, including the free market, carries risks of funders — whether the state, or foundations, or advertisers — trying to exert undue and inappropriate influence.”

The problem with Bollinger’s government funded media, as I said when he floated this absurd idea a year ago in The Wall Street Journal, is no private media can hope to compete against a tax exempt medium with bottomless resources borrowed from the Chinese. The very idea of total independence is patently and observably ridiculous.

My take then and now is:

“Can you imagine any bureaucracy, academic or journalistic, that would bite the hand that feeds it — more than once, that is?

“As for Bollinger’s citing of BBC and NPR and PBS as glowing examples of journalistic pulchritude, one cannot find three more staunch bastions of liberalism. Could any of them survive in a competitive marketplace without subsidies and charity?

“Before selling out for a government handout, those in the journalism business must explore all the market-based models for the sake of truly free speech, liberty and an open, self-determining society.”

The marketplace of ideas is a fundamental part of the free market. Ideas can be embraced or rejected, bought and sold so long as there are options. We need an invisible hand, not a guiding hand.

Right now the world is flooded with voices and ideas from splintering media — small print outlets are springing up, cable and satellite and Internet streaming make video ever-present, online text is proliferating. Bollinger’s dream of a single authoritative and trust-worthy voice funded by the unwilling is elitist and contrary to the Founders rational for the First Amendment in the first place.

The Wall Street Journal accompanied that Bollinger piece with this cartoon:

Wall Street Journal cartoon

Nevada university lobbyist — nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if …

No one has ever accused Ron Knecht of being shy, retiring or reticent to speak his mind — even if you have to sometimes wade through a ream of rhetoric and hyperbole to get to what’s on his mind. He gets to the point eventually, I think.

Regent Ron Knecht

Earlier this month Knecht, one of our Nevada System of Higher Education regents, sent a letter to university Chancellor Dan Klaich taking umbrage, disagreement, offense and a bit of high dudgeon over the chancellor’s advertising for a person to be the university’s lobbyist — official title: executive director of government relations.

With all the needs and financial shortcomings of the university system in these troubled times, should it really be spending precious resources on someone whose job it would be to cajole other branches of government?

Now, I’ve always considered the practice of having one branch of elected government spend money to sway another branch of elected government to be akin to self-bribery. Both represent the same constituency and having tax-funded agencies compete for more tax money seems inefficient and just feather-bedding the public payroll.

Here is how Regent Knecht puts it in his own inimitable style in his 1,800-word letter:

“In a 40-year working career, half in public service and half in entrepreneurial small business, I have observed in government the continuing proliferation of such non-essential positions and of administrators in general, relative to the number of people who actually do the primary work of their agencies.  These folks spend a lot of time talking to each other and crafting regulations, hoops and make-work that burden the folks doing the real work and especially burden taxpayers, our society and economy.

“Particularly at the margin, given the long-term accretion of such governmental affairs and administrative folks, their costs to society are high and the social benefits from their work are low and, in some cases, even negative.  The main function of many of them is to get paid by taxpayer dollars to schmooze and devise new ways to raise taxes, spending and regulation and to increase their own numbers. This despite the fact that their numbers have increased relative to the numbers of worker bees and taxpayers, and their economic take has risen relative to the overall economy.  That is, they consume an ever larger share of the pie, as well as causing, via taxes, an ever-increasing dead-weight loss on society — major reasons that economic growth in U.S. and Nevada is slowing and thus that human well-being is lower than it would be if this social cancer were arrested.  That’s why this proposal would be a bad idea any time.”

He calls on Klaich to immediately suspend the search process.

Knecht noted that with a starting salary of $165,000 a year, as advertised, plus perks, travel and support — got to have a secretary — the job could easily cost $300,000 a year. Our tax and tuition hikes in action — you rub my back with tax money, and I’ll rub yours with tax money. Rather incestuous.

Here’s what the ad says the job entails:

“The Executive Director of Government Relations will serve as the chief advisor to the Chancellor and Board of Regents on governmental affairs, policies, and strategies and will oversee both state and federal relations for NSHE. The Executive Director of Government Relations will monitor and report on legislation and public policy issues and advise the Chancellor and other NSHE and institutional administrators of potential opportunities to make use of federal or state funds and policies to support NSHE activities. The Executive Director of Government Relations will mediate and/or advocate for NSHE interests and build relations with elected officials and government administrators for the benefit of NSHE interests. This position will coordinate and direct institutional activities related to government relations during state legislative sessions. The Executive Director will also provide oversight and supervision of NSHE public relations and community outreach efforts.”

Chancellor Dan Klaich

The ad also states:

“Preference may be given to candidates who have had success in working with the Nevada legislature or local governments in Nevada on public policy and budgetary issues.”

Wait a gosh-darned minute there, Ron. I applied for that job! It was in the Sunday newspaper a couple of weeks ago. What are you trying to do? Shut off an unemployed former editor’s shot at a place to slop at the public trough?

My “letter of interest” attached to the application read in part:

“As editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal … I have discussed with elected and appointed officials most of the major issues facing our community.

“This would allow me to act as liaison with these various government entities and advise the university system executives and regents accordingly.”

What I did not say was that in all that time I’d royally pissed off two-thirds of those government entities — including sitting regents, legislators, members of Congress, county commissioners, city council members and school board trustees. Not exactly a resume builder that, but SOP for the job.

Hey, Ron, can you put in a good word for me with the chancellor? I’m sure he liked my column on letting the free market fix higher education, instead of central planners. And who could not have loved my blog on students rallying to demand more tax money to pay for their educations. Of course, the university regents and higher ups appreciated the blog in which I pointed out the number of college graduates who are working in jobs that require nothing more than a high school education or less has tripled since 1992.

I can use the work — and the salary and the benefits and the pleasant chats with ol’ friends over past contretemps in the form of columns and editorials chastising them for being spendthrifts and lousy custodians of the public fisc. I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about it.

How dare Republicans act like mature adults when there’s a party going on

“House Republicans have lost sight of the country’s welfare. It’s hard to conclude anything else from their latest actions, including the House speaker’s dismissal of President Obama’s plea for compromise Monday night. They have largely succeeded in their campaign to ransom America’s economy for the biggest spending cuts in a generation. They have warped an exercise in paying off current debt into an argument about future spending.”

— New York Times editorial today

Yes, it is the fault of the Republicans, because they let the teenage Democrats swipe the credit card and run off on a drunken spending binge and now that the bill has arrived in the mail, how dare they try to take away the car keys and send the children to their room for a time out.

Tom Sowell, writing in Investor’s Business Daily, suggests, not facetiously I suspect, that we should get rid of the high ceiling law altogether:

“When all its skyrocketing spending bills were being rushed through Congress without even being read, the Democrats had such overwhelming majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives that Republicans had all they could do to get a word in edgewise — even though their words had no chance of stopping, or even slowing down, the spending of trillions of dollars.

“Now that the bill is coming due for all that spending and borrowing, Republicans are suddenly being invited in to share the blame for either raising the national debt ceiling or for whatever other unpopular measures will be legislated.”

The Times editorial insisted Americans should be “offended” by the Republican insistence on fiscal sanity. “It’s hard not to conclude now that dysfunction is the Republicans’ goal — even if the cost is unthinkable.”

Was it unthinkable and dysfunctional when Sens. Obama and Reid voted against raising the debt limit in 2006?

Do they understand what they are doing to our country? as someone once asked.

Firefighter pay is generous no matter how you calculate it

Did you ever read something that stuck in your craw so much you just had to do something about it?

More than a year ago, Ryan Beaman, president of Clark County Fire Fighters Local 1908, wrote a piece for the Review-Journal in which he stated the average county firefighter is paid only $22.87 an hour.

Well, yes, that sounds reasonable, like the pay of the average newspaper reporter with a bit of experience. But firefighters work 24-hour shifts and get paid whether they are fighting a fire, responding to a car wreck, washing the truck, eating, exercising or sleeping.

So I set out to set the record straight. I thought I might be able to publish a free-lance article somewhere if I could spell out the facts. I started small, asking the city of Las Vegas and Clark County to provide records of calls from just two fire stations in each jurisdiction — No. 9 in the city and No. 26 in the county.

No. 9 in on Lone Mountain Road across from the Santa Fe Station and next to accident-prone U.S. 95. No. 26 is in a residential area on El Capitan Way just north of West Flamingo Road.

It took a couple of weeks but both provided spreadsheets with a month’s worth of data — May for the city and June for the county.

I calculated from the data that personnel at station No. 26 spent less than 22 percent of the month on actual calls — traffic accident, building fire, welfare check, alarm, upset stomach, etc. Using Beaman’s own figure would mean a pay rate of $105 an hour for actual work.

I did the same for the busier city station and found personnel there out on calls more than 32 percent of the time for a rate of $70 an hour, if you use Beamon’s county pay figure.

But this precise math goes out the window when you realize that at both stations about half the calls were responded to by four personnel and the rest by only two. That means any individual firefighter might’ve been idle during half the calls, but not necessarily.

Oh well, this puts the taxpayer expenditure in some perspective, if not precisely.

It would be interesting to see a study estimating how much money would be saved if the fire departments worked eight- or 12-hour shifts. There’d be less overtime.

Democracy may not be up to the task of running a complex economy

The New York Times is reporting this afternoon that there is a plan that would cut federal spending more than a trillion dollars over 10 years and create a special 12-member committee with extraordinary powers and privileges. The panel could put legislation before the House and the Senate that could not be amended or filibustered. Under the plan the president could seek an additional $1.6 trillion increase in the debt limit.

The proposals unveiled this afternoon from both Harry Reid and John Boehner have “supercommittees.”

When it comes to such massive legislative undertakings, some argue democratic bodies simply aren’t up to the task and special panels with special expertise are necessary to get things done.

In fact, one economist recently observed:

“The inability of democratic assemblies to carry out what seems to be a clear mandate of the people will inevitably cause dissatisfaction with democratic institutions. Congress will come to be regarded as an ineffective ‘talking shop,’ unable or incompetent to carry out the tasks for which they have been chosen. The conviction grows that if efficient planning is to be done, the direction must be ‘taken out of politics’ and placed in the hands of experts — permanent officials or independent autonomous bodies. …

“An economic plan, to deserve the name, must have a unitary conception. Even if Congress could, proceeding step by step, agree on some scheme, it would certainly in the end satisfy nobody. A complex whole in which all the parts must be most carefully adjusted to each other cannot be achieved through a compromise between conflicting views. To draw up an economic plan in this fashion is even less possible than, for example, successfully to plan a military campaign by democratic procedure. As in strategy it would become inevitable to delegate the task to the experts.”

But this economist also points out, while this is natural course of things, we may be trying to solve the wrong problem:

“It should be recognized, however, that it is not the delegation of law-making power as such which is so objectionable. To oppose delegation as such is to oppose a symptom instead of the cause and, as it may be necessary result of other causes, to weaken the case. …

“The delegation of particular tasks to separate bodies, while a regular feature, is yet only the first step in the process whereby a democracy which embarks on planning progressively relinquishes its powers.”

The attempt by Congress to massively control the entire economy is the problem, not the solution, and the outcome is necessarily fewer freedoms. Congress should not be in control at all. It needs to get out of the business of manipulating the economy with targeted tax breaks and subsidies, bailouts, buyouts, quantitative easing, toxic asset purchases, mortgage and lending rules, credit and interest controls.

By the way, I cheated on the above passages. I changed Parliament to Congress, because the “recent” remarks are from economist F.A. Hayek in his 1940s book “The Road to Serfdom.”

A couple of pages later, Hayek observed, “Hitler did not have to destroy democracy; he merely took advantage of the decay of democracy and at the critical moment obtained the support of many to whom, though they detested Hitler, he yet seemed the only man strong enough to get things done.”

History should teach us something, but it seems it seldom does. You can pooh, pooh the Hitler reference if you like, but the distinction is merely in a matter of degrees.

The Road to Serfdom

Someone finally questions the need for and the cost of ‘green’ energy

The state Legislature may have dictated that a certain percentage of the electricity we use must come from renewable sources, but the state Public Utilities Commission has suddenly realized that does not mean: at any cost.

The commissioners refused to approve 10 renewable energy contracts NV Energy had proposed. The draft order says NV Energy “has failed to meet its burden of proof by failing to identify the extent to which the new contracts are necessary to meet demand and comply” with the renewable portfolio standard — which requires 15 percent of power come from “green” energy now, climbing to 25 percent in 2025.

The order went on to say NV Energy “also does not effectively analyze the cost risk associated” with the contracts, as required by law.

Is the “green” energy needed — when the head of the company has already testified it has enough power resources to serve its customers for the next decade — and does it cost ratepayers too much? Many renewable producers charge the power company four times what it would cost to get the power from a fossil-fuel facility. The commissioners gave NV Energy 90 days to answer these two questions.

Searsburg, Vermont, wind turbines

But proponents of  “green” energy whined about the delay and suggested there is some urgency.

The urgency is that some of that free money from Uncle Sugar might be snatched back and make their projects impossible to finance, since the projects don’t pencil out without the subsidies.

Jennifer Robison’s story in Saturday’s Review-Journal quoted Tim Carlson, managing partner of Reno wind-farm developer Nevada Wind. He said delaying deals for three months could cost him tax incentives that fund 30 percent of his wind farm, because they may expire before construction can begin. Without that, he admitted, if would be hard to borrow funds.

Robison quoted Commissioner Rebecca Wagner saying, “It’s not rocket science. We just need something to hang our hat on to approve these. Give us a reason to approve the contracts. It shouldn’t take 90 days to get it back in here, get people back to work and get these projects up and running. Not meeting a burden of proof is not something I can get beyond.”

Going weak in the knees already?