Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado


I was listening to CNN's "State of the Union," today. The journalist was discussing the 2016 election and the challenge the Republicans will have given the inevitable march of demographics etc. (Often I think CNN just takes the Democratic party talking points and runs with it).

It was pointed out if you start with the electoral map of 2012 the Republicans only need to switch Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado to pick up enough votes to win the Presidency. The next five minutes was spent discussing why that is so hard to achieve.


Here's the results of the House elections in 2014, admittedly a low-turnout election compared to Presidential elections, in each of those states. Source is

Democratic 2,130,626
Republican 2,713,451
Other 154,478

Democratic 1,179,587
Republican 1,770,923
Other 49,651

Democratic 2,010,842
Republican 2,348,528
Other 201,747

Democratic 1,880,620
Republican 1,984,088
Other 176,875

And as far as the inevitability of demographics: In 2012 about 17% of the US population was classified by the Census department as Hispanic. Wikipedia has this helpful chart.
Florida 23% Hispanic
Colorado 21% Hispanic
Virginia 8.4% Hispanic
Ohio 3.3% Hispanic.

If that Hispanics = Democratic victory is true, how does it explain the 2014 election results in Colorado and Florida, with greater than average Hispanic populations?


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Trump Will not Win Even One Primary or Caucus


I don't think Trump will win even one primary or caucus. Which suits me just fine.

The NY Times had an interesting article on Trump's lack of organization in Iowa. After reading this I doubt he'll even show in Iowa.

Chris Wallace interviewed Trump on Fox News Sunday last week and was shown Trump's HQ. The lack of people and activity was striking. Trump attributes it to his skill as a campaigner. I'm a denier on this as well. Trump has been give a tremendous advantage by the TV networks, allowed to call in his interviews, and recognizing an industry anxious for ratings will give him non-stop airtime for all the ridiculous, insipid, contradictory statements he makes. (Bernie Sanders,  Hilary, John Kasich and others have expressed their jealously recognizing they too are just as ridiculous).

I hope this bloviating distraction is out of the race by South Carolina.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

It Has Electrolytes!


I am a former loyal customer of Chipotle; Too many instances of their food causing customers to get sick. You may be dreading my normal conclusion about the power of the markets. Rest easy, I'm not going there. As much as I liked Chipotle I was always put off by the organic label they put on their food and by their decision to not use GMOs. The organic food label is a mystery to me. Isn't all food organic. It's like that tag line in "Idiocracy," where the population declares Gatorade is good for plants because it has electrolytes. No one knows what that means but it sounds smart. It's organic! 

In a Forbes article, "Chipotle: The Long Defeat Of Doing Nothing Well," I was surprised to read this:

Although the crops, meats and other foods produced by modern conventional agricultural technologies may not bring to mind a sentimental Norman Rockwell painting, they are on average safer than food that reflects pandering to current fads.

And Chipotle knows it.

“We may be at a higher risk for food-borne illness outbreaks than some competitors,” the company admits in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, “due to our use of fresh produce and meats rather than frozen, and our reliance on employees cooking with traditional methods rather than automation.” (Think about that: Would you agree to open-heart surgery if the anesthesiologist planned to use “traditional methods” instead of state-of-the-art technology?)
Sure enough, that's exactly what the company says in its 10K, the annual financial report filed with the SEC. To some extent, the risk factors in these reports are kitchen sink items to avoid litigation, but it's still an eye-opening admission by a proponent of  organic foods that organic foods may be riskier than non? un? anti? organic food.

Oh, and the decline in sales and stock price will discipline Chipotle faster and more effectively than government.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Energize Connecticut!


It's actually called Energize Connecticut, without the exclamation point, but seems to me such a bold program demands an exclamation point.

Energize Connecticut is an initiative dedicated to empowering Connecticut to make smart energy choices, now and in the future. We provide Connecticut consumers, businesses and communities the resources and information they need to make it easy to save energy and build a clean energy future for everyone in the state. It is an initiative of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, the Connecticut Green Bank, the State, and your local electric and gas utilities. The initiative has funding support from a charge on customer energy bills...
The Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF) works to advance the efficient use of energy; reduce air pollution and negative environmental impacts; and promote economic development and energy security...

The Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund is supported by all Eversource and United Illuminating customers on their electricity bills through the Combined Public Benefits Charge; and by Connecticut Natural Gas, and Southern Connecticut Gas Company and Eversource customers through a conservation charge included in their rates.
We've been in our current house for about 10 years. 10 years ago, the Combined Public Benefits Charge on our electric bill was about 1.8% of the total bill; now it is about 6%. It went up around the same time Malloy was elected Governor. Coincidence I'm sure. On my gas bill the conservation charge was about 0.1% of the total bill in 2007 and is now about 4% of the total bill.

The program is a government mandated program and not a tool for the power company to avoid building new plants. I happened to open my electric bill today and the December 2015 customer update from Eversource, my electric and gas provider says,

As an energy delivery company, we purchase electricity from power plant owners, and pass the cost, with no profit added, directly to customers who are on our Standard Service supply option.
 It is true an organization wants to avoid building power plants, but it is the State of Connecticut, not Eversource or United Illuminating. The various programs imposed on gas and electric users by the government results in higher prices. The Combined Public Benefits Charge and Conservation Adjustment are visible manifestations of this but the hidden and insidious costs are in things like renewal fuel standards that mandate higher cost, less reliable wind and solar in place of cheap, abundant and clean natural gas.

Another hidden cost are government policies that reduce the supply of natural gas. From the same Eversource customer update:

New England still faces significant constraints on natural gas supplies, which are increasing winter electric prices.
For that we can partially thank Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, for ignoring the overwhelming evidence that hydraulic fracturing is safe and banning the practice in New York. Such a shame that the poor among us will pay higher prices for electricity so the wealthy in Manhattan can sleep soundly knowing they have saved the world. And, as I've pointed out in the past, energy costs are a much larger portion of a poor person's budget than they are for the wealthy.
My guess is, these energy savings programs are transfer programs from the poor to the wealthy, but I have nothing to prove that. I do have this:

"Do Energy Efficiency Investments Deliver? Evidence from the Weatherization Assistance Program," by Meredith Fowlie, Michael Greenstone, and Catherine Wolfram. Here is the abstract:

Conventional wisdom suggests that energy efficiency (EE) policies are beneficial because they induce investments that pay for themselves and lead to emissions reductions. However, this belief is primarily based on projections from engineering models. This paper reports on the results of an experimental evaluation of the nation’s largest residential EE program conducted on a sample of more than 30,000 households. The findings suggest that the upfront investment costs are about twice the actual energy savings. Further, the model-projected savings are roughly 2.5 times the actual savings. While this might be attributed to the “rebound” effect – when demand for energy end uses increases as a result of greater efficiency – the paper fails to find evidence of significantly higher indoor temperatures at weatherized homes. Even when accounting for the broader societal benefits of energy efficiency investments, the costs still substantially outweigh the benefits; the average rate of return is approximately -9.5% annually.
That is a negative return when the total cost of the program is accounted for. For the individual using the subsidized program, it can be a great deal, as you discovered. For society, less so. My guess is this program is used more by high energy users more than low energy users, suggesting the poor subsidize the rich. Just a guess.

 Thanks for the tip on how to lower my energy costs. I happen to be looking to do that very thing with a goal of lowering my energy costs by 10%. Accomplishing that with a two year no-interest loan courtesy of my neighbors seems like a great deal to me.


PS. I will answer your "what if" question. It is a very fair one.

Our Energy Audit


Mrs. Butcher arranged for for us to have a home energy audit, a program subsidized by all four Connecticut energy suppliers. For $99, an experienced team comes to your home and analyzes every possible source of energy loss/excess utilization, from leaky closets, to improperly drafting hot water heaters to old light bulbs. They make sure the furnace is drafting properly (ours wasn't) and tell you who to call. They weather strip every outside door and external closet. They check your insulation (ours was woefully inadequate) and provide you with a coupon worth 50% or $1300 for whatever extra insulation you need, and provide a referral to a company that will do the work. Your utility will loan you money you need at 0% interest over 24 months, with equal payments added to your bill. The rough estimate is that these improvements, in sum, will cut our annual energy bills by about a third. That means the total cost should pay for itself in about 3 years.

The whole program amazed me. When I asked Mrs B what was in it for the power companies and the state, she sagely replied, "They don't want to build another power plant."

We haven't seen the Paris climate agreement's final form yet. I'm sure you'll hate it. Some of will be onerous no doubt, and some of it will be controversial. But much of it, my guess is, will be as sensible and doable as the carbon reducing steps taken in our audit.

I think I have a healthy respect for just how difficult reducing carbon emissions will prove to be, and how challenging the trade-offs are. Given the nature of our species, the odds are not very good that we'll succeed. But I must ask you Bill, at the risk of sending you into an I-hate-Eli-funk. What if you, and the climate skeptics (no D-word from me) who dominate the Republican Party, are simply wrong about the threat that unmodified climate change presents to our way of life, and all those pointy-headed-grant seeking-anti-capitalist alarmist scientists are right?


Not All or None


Agreed, it's not all or none and yet you and I too often create a straw man all-or-none scenario. When you do it, I get angry and go silent for a few days, or respond with something particularly snotty.

If I understand your position, you view the risks of uncontrolled CO2 emissions as more dire than I do. In your view, if we do nothing, temperatures rise, weather is extreme and people's lives become intolerable at some point in the future, let's call it 2050. Doing something, however, will harm current generations with lower living standards. Not to the level of the Middle Ages, but lower than they would be. In essence you are making today's generation pay a subsidy to the next generation. Social Security in reverse.

But I think doing nothing is a perfectly viable option. China and India and Africa will industrialize lifting billions of people out of poverty. As they  become wealthier they will value air quality and shift from coal to natural gas or nuclear, as we did. This will lower SOx, NOx PM25 and carbon emissions faster and more permanently than any government dictated option. Maybe temperatures rise, maybe weather becomes more extreme, but if so we'll be richer and more capable of mitigating that harm.

A moderate carbon tax, which I assume you favor, or a do nothing approach seems reasonable to me. What I can't see is the far reaching policy of substituting wind, solar, and biomas for coal, oil and natural gas. I think that's delusional.


It's not All or None


With regard to the article behind Paul Ehrlich's quote, the cogency of your critique speaks for itself. So much so that its author, Eduardo Porter strongly supports your argument. He writes:

    "Whatever the ethical merits of the case, the proposition of no growth has absolutely no chance to succeed. For all the many hundreds of years humanity survived without growth, modern civilization could not. The trade-offs that are the daily stuff of market-based economies simply could not work in a zero-sum world... 

Let’s examine what our fossil-fueled growth has provided us. It has delivered gains in living standards in even the poorest regions of the world. But that’s only the beginning. Economic development was indispensable to end slavery. It was a critical precondition for the empowerment of women. Indeed, democracy would not have survived without it. ....the option for everybody to become better off — where one person’s gain needn’t require another’s loss — was critical for the development and spread of the consensual politics that underpin democratic rule... 

Zero growth gave us Genghis Khan and the Middle Ages, conquest and subjugation. It fostered an order in which the only mechanism to get ahead was to plunder one’s neighbor. Economic growth opened up a much better alternative: trade. The Oxford economist Max Roser has some revealing charts that show the deadliness of war across the ages. It was a real killer in the era of no growth. Up to half of all deaths among hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists and other ancient cultures were caused by conflict...

Naomi Klein, a champion of the leftward fringe newly converted to the environmental cause, gleefully proposes climate change as an opportunity to put an end to capitalism. Were she right, I doubt it would bring about the workers’ utopia she appears to yearn for. In a world economy that does not grow, the powerless and vulnerable are the most likely to lose. Imagine “Blade Runner,” “Mad Max” and “The Hunger Games” brought to real life."

So a trip back to the Stone Age may be what some of the no growth fanatics are advocating, but it's certainly not what Porter is arguing for, or me either. 


Are the Marshall Islands Disappearing?


I read with interest, then disappointment the NY Times, The Marshall Islands are Disappearing. I was expecting some statement about the sea level rise resulting in the disappearance of the Marshall Islands. There was a lot in the article about the US obligation towards the Islands and what might happen in 2050, but only this on the evidence to date.
Changing global trade winds have raised sea levels in the South Pacific about a foot over the past 30 years, faster than elsewhere. Scientists are studying whether those changing trade winds have anything to do with climate change.
Not a very definitive statement. Whenever I read a story, or hear someone talk about rising temperatures I try to check those statements against Wolfram Alpha, which has a nice feature showing temperature histories.  This is the temperature history of the Marshall Islands.

Now maybe the Marshall Islands will disappear. But there's nothing in the evidence to suggest, as the Times states, that the Marshall Islands are disappearing.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The New Luddites


The story behind your quote on growth, “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” was much more interesting to me than the quote.

I think some (many?) on the global warming/climate change/extreme weather side are really arguing for an anti-capitalist, anti-democratic, de-industrialized society. The New York Times article, "Imagining a World Without Growth," where your quote comes from, supports my assumption.

Staring at climactic upheaval approaching down the decades, environmental advocates, scientists and even some political leaders have put the proposal on the table: World consumption must stop growing...

The proposal that growth must stop appears frequently along the leftward edge of the environmental movement, in publications like Dissent and the writing of the environmental advocate Bill McKibben. It also shows up in academic literature.

For instance, Peter Victor of York University in Canada published a study titled “Growth, degrowth and climate change: A scenario analysis,” in which he compared Canadian carbon emissions under three economic paths to the year 2035.

Limiting growth to zero, he found, had a modest impact on carbon spewed into the air. Only the “de-growth” situation — in which Canadians’ income per person shrank to its level in 1976 and the average working hours of employed Canadians declined by 75 percent — managed to slash emissions in a big way.
Of course, this is totally unrealistic.

Proponents of  de-carbonization have failed to convince the public of their views because 1) the models are terrible predictors and 2) the solutions proposed to mitigate the harm projected by these terrible models are completely unacceptable.


Maybe they should try non-organic food and GMOs.

Chipotle Faces Another Foodborne Illness Outbreak, This Time In Boston

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving. We Are Doomed.


From The Hill

Trying to reassure the American public in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, President Obama said Wednesday there is no specific or credible threat against the United States.
Remember "bin Laden is dead and GM is alive" implying Al Qaeda was not a worry anymore?

Or ISIS is the JV team?

Or "ISIS is contained" the day of the Paris attack?

We are doomed.

Happy Thanksgiving


Hail the Frackers


This is going to be a statistical mess, but since I'm not a statistician, I have no obligation to be precise.

There are about 100 million households in the US. In 2014 about 137 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed, and 90% of that was for passenger, SUVs and light-duty trucks. That's about 1,370 gallons per family per year. The EIA just published a report showing the average price per gallon in the US is now about $2.10 versus about $3.00 in 2014.  So on average in 2014 the average family spent about $4,000 on gasoline and in 2015 about $2,900 per year.

Median household income is about $45,000 per year. The lower gas price, $1,100 per year, is equivalent to a 2.4% pay increase.

But this pay increase is actually skewed to the poor and middle class. If you use the numbers above, the average family in 2014 spent about 8.9% of its income on gasoline. I don't have precise data, but my pretty good guess is high income families spend more like 1% of their income on gasoline: lower gas consumption and higher income. So if gas prices go up or down, it's just not that large of an impact on the well off. But for the poor it is a very big deal.

It's even worse than that. The well-off, for instance, commute to NYC on subsidized rail lines. The subsidies come from general tax revenue and from gas taxes. That's right, they get paid to ride a train to work courtesy of those who drive, so when gas prices go up, they are even better off because they avoid the pain of the price hike AND people less off than them pay to keep them riding the rails.

It would be wrong to blame this regressive subsidy on one political party, it is bipartisan. However, it would be fair to say the Democrats are much less supportive of promoting policies that encourage lower oil prices and lower gas prices (Keystone Pipeline, hydraulic fracturing), and to that I can only say, not much skin off my nose, but it sure does hurt the constituency you claim is your primary concern.

I know the counter argument involves global warming/climate change/extreme weather. But if I'm that guy who pays 10% or more of my income on gasoline and I'm offered a choice of making that 5% of my income or paying the same  or more so the rich guy living on the shore can keep his house dry, I know which one I would choose. Other than the global warming/climate change/extreme weather models being hopelessly wrong, I think that's the reason why the average American doesn't give two hoots in hell about carbon.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Trump is a Pathological Buffoon. So is CNN.


I'm not a fan of Ben Carson, but I don't think he's as dangerous to our country as Trump is. Trump is dangerous. Like George Wallace. Like Joe McCarthy. Like Father Coughlin. Like all the other demagogues and charlatans throughout history.

That the media allows him to compare Carson to a child molester, and consistently misquote Carson and misuse the term pathological shows me they are just as dangerous to our country as Trump, George Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Father Coughlin and the rest.

Stop it Trump. Stop it CNN. Just stop.


The Bolivian View of Global Warming


Some of us deniers have an issue with models that are running too hot and also believe global warming of doom proponents are really aruging for the destruction of capitalism.

Thank you Bolivia:

Bolivia’s contribution bears into account that the new climate agreement must be developed over the basis of the vision of the peoples and social organizations, to be revealed in the conclusions of World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Defence of Life in October 2015, rejecting in turn the vision of empires and transnational corporations, paving the way for a solution to the climate crisis from another alternative to the current view.

The structural cause that has triggered the climate crisis is the failed capitalist system. The capitalist system promotes consumerism, warmongering and commercialism, causing the destruction of Mother Earth and humanity. The capitalist system is a system of death. Hence, capitalism is leading humanity towards a horizon of destruction that sentences nature and life itself to death. In this regard, for a lasting solution to the climate crisis we must destroy capitalism.
 Maybe the authors attended Mizzou, or Yale.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Axelrod Sponsors the Koch Brothers

Take a listen to Episode 10 of David Axelrod's new podcast, "The Axe Files."

Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel at Koch Industries, chats with David about working with the Koch brothers and their push for criminal justice reform.
It's an interesting discussion of criminal justice reform and other things. Also interesting how Axelrod demonstrates all of the caricatures of the Koch's believed (to their detriment) by the Left.


Those meddling kids

It is always the case that the current generation thinks the prior generation(s) were laudatory and the coming generation is the beginning of the end of mankind.

This time it might be true. What the heck?

Glenn Reynolds: After Yale, Mizzou, raise the voting age — to 25
How can students too spoiled to tolerate debate weigh opposing political arguments? They can't.

In 1971, the United States ratified the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake.

But now I’m starting to reconsider. To be a voter, one must be able to participate in adult political discussions. It’s necessary to be able to listen to opposing arguments and even — as I’m doing right here in this column — to change your mind in response to new evidence.

But now the evidence suggests that, whatever one might say about the 18-year-olds of 1971, the 18-year-olds of today aren’t up to that task. And even the 21-year-olds aren’t looking so good.

Consider Yale University, where a disagreement over what to do about — theoretically — offensive Halloween costumes devolved into a screaming fit by a Yale senior (old enough to vote, thanks to the 26th Amendment) who assaulted a professor with a profane tirade because the professor's failure to agree with her made her feel ... unsafe.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

2 Thoughts on the CNBC Debate


1) It irritates and vexes me the debate was only available to subscribers of CNBC. Why would the Republican National Committee not demand it be available streaming on the Internet for all those, like me, who don't have a cable package that includes CNBC.

2) From what I read the stars of the debate were Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. I've never believed the assertion the Democrats were destined to win the Presidency because of the Hispanic vote. I'm even less likely to believe that assertion now.


Monday, October 26, 2015

A Rolling Train Wreck

Bob Laszewski, in my opinion has been the most honest, consistent and accurate commenters on Obamacare. His latest piece on the failing Obamacare Co-ops is worth a read. Eight of the co-ops, government sponsored insurance companies, designed to bring more competition to the insurance market have failed. They were supposed to be budget neutral, that is, the profitable co-ops would subsidize the loss-making co-ops but that is not the case:

the health plans, including these co-ops that lost money in Obamacare, lost it at a rate eight times greater than the relatively few health plans that made money under Obamacare, a difference of $2.5 billion!...
Let me also suggest that these struggling Obamacare co-ops are tantamount to the canaries in the Obamacare coal mine.

These plans are exclusively in the business of the Obamacare insurance exchanges. If you want to segregate the Obamacare insurance business model from the overall insurance business to examine it, the co-ops are pure Obamacare.
There's more. Worth a read.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Minimum Wage Works!


I stand corrected. The minimum wage works.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The world’s largest retailer expects per-share profit would drop between 6% and 12% in fiscal 2017, which starts in February. The company also said Wednesday it now expects sales growth for the current fiscal year to be relatively flat. In February, the company had called for sales growth of 1% to 2%.

Shares of the retailer dropped more than 9% in midday trading—one of its biggest single-day declines—as executives revealed their targets during a meeting with financial analysts in New York. The stock has now declined nearly 30% this year and is on pace for its worst year since 1973.

The company’s chief financial officer, Charles Holley, who announced plans last week to retire at the end of December, said the company’s program to raise hourly wages accounted for 75% of the lowered earnings target. He said the company expected to spend an additional $1.2 billion on wages this fiscal year and another $1.5 billion in fiscal 2017.
I think one of the goals of the advocates of a government mandated wage is to re-allocate wealth. The 10% drop in Wal-Mart is worth about $18 billion. That is, an $18 billion loss by investors. That will pay for about 10-15 years of increased wages.

Of course, portfolios will shift, reducing their positions in Wal-mart, and other companies with similar exposure to minimum wage increases, and increasing positions to companies not so situated. And that will result in more growth capital for companies with fewer minimum wage workers and less growth capital for higher minimum wage workers. But we don't need to worry about that, none of that will make headlines. Instead we will just see fewer opportunities for low-skilled, low-experienced workers.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Calling George Santayana, Or Why Didn't Bernie Sanders Take an Econ Course from Milton Friedman?


Bernie Sanders and Mrs. Clinton's opposition to free trade is, I suppose, proof that George Santayana's maxim that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Who knows what Mrs. Clinton really thinks, but it is distressing that Bernie Sanders, a graduate of the University of Chicago, home of Milton Friedman, believes the poppycock that he, Bernie Sanders, does on free trade. Even a cursory study of trade barriers, like Smoot Hawley, shows how dangerous and expensive they are.

It seems like we are in a race to the bottom this election. The Republicans, led by Trump are outbidding themselves to build a wall, and the Democrats are outbidding themselves to commit economic suicide. 


Trumpism in a pantsuit


I loved this line from Ben Domenech's "Hillary’s Trade Flip-Flop Shows How Dumb She Thinks We Are," which discusses Mrs. Clinton's recent rejection of the TPP.

As an expression of throwback reflexes on trade and growth, it amounts to Trumpism in a pantsuit.
As you know I don't think Mrs. Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.


Obama on Oil Exports


I know expecting consistency in anyone, particularly politicians is unreasonable.

President Obama, December 9, 2010

Recognizing that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside the United States, President Obama has worked to create jobs at home by expanding exports of U.S. goods and services abroad. Under the National Export Initiative (NEI) that he launched in January 2010, the President set the ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports while supporting millions of new jobs over five years.

Statement of Administration Policy October 7, 2015

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 702, which would remove restrictions on the export of crude oil.

I think when energy is the topic of discussion normally rational people suddenly become irrational and inconsistent.


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Pope's Stone

I saw this in the Transom. He links to the Catholic Journal

One of the more vivid stories of the Washington Monument is the theft of the Pope’s Stone in 1854, apparently by members of the anti-Catholic, anti-Papist Know-Nothing Party.

It all began with the American nativist movement of the mid-19th century. The nativists sometimes called themselves, ironically enough, Native Americans. They were opposed to the new waves of immigrants, legal or illegal, from countries such as Ireland and Italy. Up until then, most European settlers had been Protestants from such places as Britain and Germany. The newcomers were often Catholic, and grindingly poor besides, such as the Irish fleeing the potato famine.

By the early 1850s these feelings had coalesced into the American party, usually called Know-Nothings. The party acquired the nickname from its “secret” meetings and “hidden” signs, more appropriate to a childrens’ clubhouse than to a political party, and from their habit of answering “I know nothing,” when asked about their activities. The Know-Nothings were very successful for a brief time, especially in the 1856 elections, winning many local and state offices, and even sending members to Congress.

The trouble with the Washington Monument began in 1852, when the February 7 Daily National Intelligencer of Washington, D.C. announced on page 4 the Pope’s intention to contribute a gift tablet, for installation inside the Monument, with the other such tablets on the Monument’s inner walls. The stone came from the Temple of Peace, also rendered as the Temple of Concord, in Rome. The stone was to bear the inscription, in English, of “Rome to America.”

Here's the rest


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Good News for Mrs. Clinton


My big question is whether Democrats (and the rest of the voting public) will vote for Mrs. Clinton even if it turns out she broke Federal law on sending classified communications. Or more broadly, will voters elect  a convicted criminal. At least in Bridgeport, CT, the answer is yes! Good news indeed for Mrs. Clinton.

BRIDGEPORT — Bridgeport Democrats narrowly voted Wednesday to give a fallen ex-mayor a second chance.

Joe Ganim’s uncanny popularity — despite seven years in federal prison on corruption charges — propelled him to victory over embattled Mayor Bill Finch in the party primary.


Friday, September 11, 2015

This Is Not a Board Exam Question


There's no manual for teaching young doctors. Although we do give them lectures there are no classes per se and certainly no homework. Despite our best efforts, grading is highly subjective. Mostly training is done the way it has always been done, one-on-one. The trainee presents the case to the attending (me), the attending asks a question or 2 about the details, and then says, "OK, what do you want to do." Depending upon stage of  training, overall competence, and level of courage, the trainee's opinion of what should happen next will vary from spot-on to near malpractice. As is always the case,  teaching the bright ones is  easy. Teaching the dullards bears some similarity to the carry-and-drag event in the World's Strongest Man Contest.

There are many different ways to categories to categorize patients, by disease type or severity, by age or demographics, by prevalence or prognosis. But the way I often chose is to ask; "If you asked 10 doctors how to treat this problem, would they all give you the same answer" That is what I like to call a Board Exam question. There is enough consensus about a particular diagnosis or treatment that all are in agreement what the answer should be. That doesn't mean, alas, that what we currently believe is true will always remain so; cardiology has more than its share of once-accepted  treatments now discredited. Yet there is a broad body knowledge that endures, the mastery of which is considered essential.

Often, however, the answer to my question will be not be so simple. There may in fact be no sure answer at all, just a best guess as to how to proceed. A good doctor in these situations is comfortable with uncertainty. He/she accepts the burden of making decision with incomplete information, and under sometimes rapidly changing circumstances. He/she understands that things may look quite different in a day, or even an hour, and, acknowledges that sometimes one needs to change course. Being willing to change one's mind is sign of wisdom, not weakness.

If only someone could get that message across to our leading Presidential candidates.


Identity Politics


The number of New York Times columnists I read continues to shrink. First off my list was Nick Kristoff, after his resurrection of  a 17 year old accusation of child abuse against Woody Allen (for which he was exonerated after an exhaustive investigation), recirculated as a favor to his personal friend Dylan Farrow. Next was Maureen Dowd, whose pathological hatred of all things Hillary (although there's plenty to dislike) grew too tiresome to tolerate. Now Charles Blow is approaching the danger zone with his myopic, strangulated vision of how the country might achieve equal justice for all its citizens.  In fact that's the problem; there is no vision, no concrete proposals or even philosophical notion of how to get to where we need to be. There's just enraged whining.

This from Mr Blow last Thursday, seeking to excuse the incendiary rhetoric  adopted by some acolytes of the Black Lives Matter Movement:

I actually believe that you have to peel back the vitriol to expose the fundamental, but unarticulated truth at the core of the opposition to this movement: It centers blackness in a country that “others” blackness. It elevates blackness in a country that devalues it. It prioritizes blackness in a country that marginalizes it.

....Discomfort with Black Lives Matter, is, on some level and to some degree, a discomfort with blackness itself. It’s not only about the merits of individual cases, it is also about the collective, ingrained sins of the system committed disproportionately, and by design, against people of color. The movement convicts this country of its crimes.

America has been engaged since its inception in a most gruesome enterprise: Like the mythological Cronus, it has been eating its children, the darker ones, and this movement demands — at least in one area, at least in one moment — that it atone for that abomination.

Here's a response from the Comments that's answers this accusation far better than I ever could.

Okay. Standard White liberal here. Voted for Obama twice. Support affirmative action. Think black people have gotten unfair deal in American and its our responsibility (all of us) to address racism past and present with aggressive prosecution of racists and their removal from public life. Have plenty of black co-workers, friends and family members. All that being said, it's hard for me not to see the BLM "movement" as being, in part, a movement blind to the complicated reality of race in America --- it's just not simple. It's a "movement" led by professional activists in urban centers who have no reason whatsoever to find common ground, productive solutions and peace between races; instead, the goal will be to exacerbate the situation to "prove" America's racism, again and again and again. The rhetoric --- like the talk in this article about hating blackness etc. --- pretends we're all in Mississippi in 1965, if only we were --- the answers would be easy and enemies obvious, but we're not. Urban 21st century whites by and large take it for granted that blackness is great and racism is evil. It's not up for debate. BLM is a 21st century "professionalized dissent fantasy structure" in which we pretend that no one has black family members, friends and co-workers and we all live surrounded by corrupt racist all-white police forces. Basically people who missed the sixties want to replay them now. 

Meanwhile the slaughter of young Black men by their counterparts continues to spike. Again from the Times, here's an account of one recent murder in Milwaukee, an epicenter of such violence.

In Milwaukee, most of the victims and the suspects in their killings are black men under 30, police data shows, who come from neighborhoods where foreclosures, joblessness and poverty are also high. Most involve guns and people — both victims and suspects — who have been arrested before. The most common motive in the slayings was not robbery or gang rivalry but an argument, according to the data.
On July 3, as an annual fireworks display along Lake Michigan ended, Tariq Akbar, 14, was shot in the back of the head while he was leaving the crowded celebration to meet his mother, who was parked not far away.
“The police were right there — not even 50 feet away,” his mother, Arifah Akbar, said. “This is when you know how bad Milwaukee has gotten.”
The police said the shooting had stemmed from a dispute on social media. A 15-year-old has been charged.

About such events we hear nothing from Mr Blow, or Mr Coats, or Mr. West. We hear the keening of grief from the loved ones of these dead children.

Demand equal justice, relentlessly. Accept nothing less. Demand effective, coherent, compassionate policing. A tremendous amount of mayhem is driven by handful of knuckleheads. Find them. Lock them up Condemn violence, everywhere, by anyone.



Monday, August 31, 2015

I'm not patronizing you I'm just mindlessly agreeing with everything that you say.


I saw this headline and couldn't believe it was true, but alas, it is:

"Walker would consider building wall on Canadian border,"

My fifteen year-old daughter commented, "It sounds like something a kindergartener would say." Alas, that is also true.

I started complaining about Republicans and immigration. My 15-year old was agreeing with everything I said. I asked her if she was patronizing me. Her response:

"I'm not patronizing you I'm just mindlessly agreeing with everything that you say."

I was so proud.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Worst of the Repblican Party.


Donald Trump, and his views on immigration, is bringing out the worst of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, it's a strain of hatred and bigotry that goes back to the Know-Nothing Party and its hatred of Catholics, particularly the Irish. Trump, as you know, among other things, wants to deport all illegal aliens, build a giant wall along the Mexican border (and get them to pay for it!) and end birthright citizenship. What is shocking to me is others running for the Republican nomination  actually support some or all of this plan.

My views on immigration are far from either the Left or the Right in that I'm in favor of something as close to open borders as possible. In my view, if someone wants to come to America, come on in. I see very little downside and mostly upside to this trade. People coming to America, desirous of work, desirous of making a better life for themselves and their children? Please come and be my neighbor. I reject the call of the Right and the Left to limit immigration to high-skilled workers or only allow in those under a guest-worker program. Let them all in: the tired, poor, hungry yearning to be free. Let them in.

Strangely enough, Americans have had a love/hate relationship with immigrants since our founding. The Irish, the Italians, Germans, Jews, Poles, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Central Americans and Mexicans were all dirty, poor, uneducated, parasites coming here only to spread their diseases, Popish religion, obedience to monarchy. They were unwilling to become "true" Americans; they stayed in their own communities; they spoke their own language; they practiced their own religion; they weren't one us. They were the other, the outsider. This hatred that Trump espouses is nothing new; neither is its vileness.

And in my mind, at least in in the sense that this is an immigrant nation, this hatred of immigrants is unhinged. I understand why this influx of strangers with different customs is upsetting to people and I know I am far removed from the discomfort can cause to established neighborhoods. But still. My paternal great grandparents come to America during the Irish potato famine. And my maternal ancestors came from French Canada. My wife's ancestors also came from Ireland and were Native Americans.  I know your ancestors were not indigenous to America. Of the 330 million Americans I would guess less than 1% are native.

What bothers me most about the Trump hatred is the attempt to blame Mexico for many of the troubles in America. Jobs are tough to find? Blame the Mexicans. Factories are moving out of your community? Blame the Mexicans. It's the other. The outsider. The one who isn't like you that is responsible for your woes. All demagogues use the other as a way to avoid responsibility. Hitler was the example par excellence, but Stalin, Castro, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and every other tyrant uses the other as an excuse to gain and consolidate power. And I am quite aware I just compared Trump to mass murderers.

I read this morning in Ben Domenech's "The Transom,"

Many Republicans support an end to birthright citizenship. Mitch McConnell held hearings on it in 2010, and Steve King and David Vitter have introduced the current versions of the legislation aimed at doing so. In the presidential field, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum and others have backed ending birthright citizenship. In the wake of Donald Trump’s immigration proposal, two more have added their support for the idea: Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, the latter of which is a birthright citizen himself. In scattered polling on the issue, a minority of Americans but a majority of Republicans support the idea.
Have they lost their minds? For God's sake Bobby Jindal was born in America of non-American citizens. Even setting aside the Constitution and the 14th Amendment, it's just common sense: If you were born in America, you are an American. Hard Stop!

While the Democrats haven't been as anti-immigration as Republicans, they too blame the other. It's just that the other for the Democrats are the Koch Brothers and Insurance Companies and Wall Street. Frankly, just as ignorant as Trump and the modern Know Nothing Party.

This is becoming a choice between dumb and dumber.

I'm so depressed.


Friday, August 14, 2015

The Problem We All Live With


My daughter has gently dragged me a little further into into the 21st century, introducing me to podcasts. I finished listening to her first recommendation,. "The Problem We Live With, from This American Life, the long running (left leaning to be sure) series produced by its acclaimed creator, Ira Glass. Without giving too much away, the podcast examines, in its signature narrative fashion, the story of a failing minority school district, the solution that was successfully employed to improve that district, and the (inevitable?) abandonment of that solution. I'll bet you can guess what the solution was.

The cast left me disturbed and more than a little ashamed. I find the idea that black or brown children are somehow innately deficient deeply pernicious. And yet, for years I asserted that switching the student bodies of the prosperous, integrated town where my children were raised with the desperately poor, overwhelming minority school district next door would make no difference; the (mostly) white, middle class kids would perform just as well in the crummy inner city schools, and the black and brown kids would continue to fail in the fancy schools. Where did I come up with that?

The podcast's praise of integration not withstanding, consistent data on its effects are not easy to find. It does not appear to affect white student's performance; assessments of its overall effects on minority students performance appear to be more uneven. What is clear is that we are largely back where we were 60 years ago.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Iran Deal


My letter to my congresswomen is posted below. This has been a tough call.


Dear Rep Esty,

Thanks for your invite to tomorrow's Town Hall. I can't make the event, but I write to urge you to support the deal. I'd be deceiving myself, and you, if I denied my misgivings; there's no question the deal has flaws, and that it carries risk, as the President has acknowledged. Could we have done better? Perhaps. There's no logic or reason to believe that the alternative, its rejection, will move us no closer to our goal of a non-nuclear Iran. Rejection, as argued by many observers, has a high likelihood of producing an escalation of Iran's effort to build a bomb, and the inevitable (and likely unsuccessful) military response to that effort that will follow.
We don't have to like Iranian regime, or even trust it, to reach this agreement. We have follow our own best self interest. For now, this is the best we are going to do.



Sunday, August 2, 2015



I’m almost in total agreement with you on your latest, “These Black Lives Also Matter.”

It seems to me we are like the blind men and the elephant each diagnosing one small aspect of a very large issue. I agree, teen pregnancy and violence are important; I tend to focus on the war on drugs and monopolization of  education by the state as key issues; others focus on family structure; others on lack of economic opportunity. All of these are important and it’s probably impossible to say which is THE key. We (as a society) shout past each other because we all know our pet answer is the answer.

I think this is another issue where the attitude that “the science is settled” is harming more than helping. If you think maybe doing nothing is better than something you are a racist (or denier).

But think about the model(s). The dependent variable is improving poverty. In your model the independent variables are teen pregnancy and violence. Reduce both and poverty is reduced. How is your model performing? A link to an HHS study on teen pregnancy from your link to the NY Times story on Colorado’s birth control program states, “The teen birth rate has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years. In 1991, the U.S. teen birth rate was 61.8 births for every 1,000 adolescent females, compared with 26.5 births for every 1,000 adolescent females in 2013.” According to your model there should have been a reduction in poverty. Was there? Your model says effective control of violence is a key element also. Yet you admit violence has declined, but what about poverty? Are you sure your model is valid? And calling me a racist if I don’t agree with your model doesn’t change the model’s results. (Just like calling me a denier doesn’t change the results of a tragically failed model on global warming).

I wonder if the issue might be exacerbated instead of mitigated by our solutions. For instance, those in poverty receive benefits from local, state and national governments. Families get more support. Families with a single parent even more support. That sounds fair and compassionate to everyone, including me. But is it? From an economic perspective it creates an incentive for single parent households. (And taking umbrage at pointing out the obvious doesn’t help). Another “solution” is raising the minimum wage. We’ll just legislate the way out of poverty. However, increasing the minimum wage can result in losing the benefits of the welfare state. A great exploration of this is Andrea Louise Campbell’s, “Trapped in America’s Safety Net: One Family’s Struggle.” But look at this, and this and this (trust me, I didn't need to look too hard to find these) as well. It supports my first point and begs the question if our first solution was flawed, what is flawed about our second solution?

I know comparing the experience of blacks in America to the experience of the Irish, Italians, Jews and Chinese is dangerous, and in many ways not apt. But in others ways it seems quite relevant. If government aid is good and lack of it bad how do we explain the rise of the Irish and Italians and those other groups out of poverty when government actively discriminated against them? I don’t think blacks are any different than the other ethnic groups in terms of ability. What is the difference then? I look at one big difference and that is the active role of government in crafting a solution and certainly it warrants asking if maybe the solution is the problem.


Friday, July 31, 2015

These Black Lives Also Matter


I just finished reading a book that has affected me greatly. Ghettoside, by Jill Leovy, a crime reporter at the LA Times, is the story of the murder of an 18 year old boy in Southeast Los Angeles, and the heroic and successful efforts of one detective to bring the killers to justice. The story, which reads like a thriller even though the end is known, serves as the backdrop for Leony's thesis that the ongoing violence in poor segregated neighborhoods is the direct result of the  State's failure to control that violence through effective policing. In between riveting vignettes of the crime and the subsequent investigation, she recounts the long and dismal history of black-on-black murder and the larger indifference of white society, a reality that extends as far back as the end of Reconstruction. It is that indifference, combined with policing tactics that focus on petty crimes and rely on harassment as a means of crime prevention, that have produced an "underground law" of that honors block-to-block tribalism and promotes reprisal in a society that that more closely resembles a medieval revenge culture than an post enlightenment society.

The statistics alone are appalling; African American men between the ages of 18-30 are murdered at a rate 15 times greater than whites; even now, with the marked decline in murder rates, more than half of the killings in LA occurred in just 2 precincts in South Los Angeles. At the height of the murder epidemic in the early 90s, less than 40% of killings were solved.

But what is far more affecting than statistics are the heart rending accounts of the effect upon the survivors; the loved ones whose lives decay in a waking death full of grief. Several passages left me heaving in agony. Violence is a scourge upon these communities, a soul breaking, life destroying plague no less destructive than cholera or a tidal wave.

Some elements of Leovy's thesis withstand scrutiny with difficulty. Her analysis most critically does not explain the marked drop in violent crime in the absence of any real improvement in the efficacy of crime solving. She also gives little examination or counter weight to the widely held belief that crime prevention tactics, such as gang units, are an effective deterrent. Still,her account convinced me that along with effective reductions in teen pregnancy, effective control of violence is a key element in improving the lives of the poor. These black lives also matter.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

Trump vs. Scrooge McDuck


The Federalist has a great piece on Trump. Well worth the view.


Winner And Losers


Your impressive catalog of analyses of the likely consequences of the raising the minimum wage deserves praise. There's no question that such a policy will produce winners and losers. The widely quoted CBO analysis  (next to last in your list) see the tradeoff in these terms

Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers. Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.

So, if  the CBO analysis is right, poverty for some (I believe the specific figure is about 900,000), would improve, and worsen for others.

The larger problem is the arbitrariness of how the latest effort (a 1$5 minimum for fast food workers) rewards those winners and losers. This may be gratifying politics for the left, but it is poor public policy. As our favorite newspaper points out today in the Upshot section:

A wage increase applying to such a narrow segment of the economy is bound to have unintended consequences...

Some of the problems with a narrow minimum wage are obvious. It doesn’t do much to raise incomes for workers who don’t work at fast-food chains. And it imposes higher costs on some businesses than others ...

The rule could cause business owners to change their business models to avoid the higher minimum wage....

Economists call these changes “distortions,” and they cause two kinds of problems. One, fewer workers get a raise as a result of the minimum wage. Two, it encourages businesses to do things that customers may not prefer...

I would prefer a universal increase in the minimum wage, as you know. I think it would do much more good than harm. I am skeptical of the current piecemeal approach


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Maybe Rick Perry Can do For America What He's Done For Texas


One can't fail to be impressed by the eloquence of Governor Perry's remarks. As the longest serving governor in Texas history he certainly has a record to run on.

Indicator                                                              Texas Rank Among the States (highest to lowest)

Employment Rate                                                       15

Education Achievement                                              39

Percentage of high school graduates                            50

High School Graduation Rate                                      44

Percent minimum wage earners                                      1

Percentage with health insurance                                   50

Percentage living in poverty                                            4

Home insurance Rates                                                  50

Infant Mortality                                                             30

Murder rate                                                                   23

Execution Rate                                                               2



Monday, July 27, 2015

At a Minimum. I Doubt this Will Convince You


I doubt this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this,  or this,  or this, or this, or this, or this, or this, will convince you, and I'm sure you could come up with your own set of this's, but it's worth glancing at anyway.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

One of Mrs. Clinton's More Obvious Attributes


I thought this statement from Mrs. Clinton hilarious:

"Clearly I'm not asking people to vote for me simply because I'm a woman," presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in West Columbia, South Carolina on Thursday. "I'm asking people to vote for me on the merits. And I think one of the merits is I am a woman and I can bring those views and perspectives to the White House."
Even better was Andrea Mitchell's comment after playing the video clip, "That's actually, one of her more obvious attributes." Seems, actually, an obviously sexist remark to me.


Friday, July 24, 2015

What Happened to Harry Reid?

The Washington Examiner has a story titled, "McConnell and Reid may have just set a 51-vote threshold for passing Obamacare repeal." 

The story is interesting enough, but I can't stop looking at this picture. It's like Harry Reid is channeling Ray Charles. Reid says he had an accident while exercising. The less charitable say he was beaten up by his organized crime associates. Others say he was involved in S&M that got out of hand. Crazy stuff.

Have you noticed the Senate is actually moving on legislation, as is the House? Noticed how the cries of "disfunctional Congress" have subsided? I never subscribed to the theory of a broken government. To me it was a function of divided government. Divided government headed by a lackluster leader results in stasis. Nothing broken about that. Elections have consequences. Personnel changes. Life goes on.

"Next week, Senate Republicans could pass Obamacare repeal with a simple 51-vote majority as part of the long-term highway bill, according to Sen. Mike Lee.

The Utah Republican laid out the argument in a press release after party leaders set the sequencing of votes:

"The first Obamacare vote on Sunday will have a 60 vote threshold, and Democrats will likely block it," Lee continued. "But thanks to the sequencing of the votes we just locked in, Republicans will have the opportunity resurrect that Obamacare amendment later on in the process, and put it back before the Senate in a manner that only requires a simple-majority vote."

After cloture is reached on the Export-Import Bank amendment, senators will still be allowed to offer germane amendments to the highway bill, each of which would only require a simple-majority to pass. If the Chair rules that the Obamacare amendment is non-germane, Senate Rule 22 also allows any senator to appeal that ruling to the full Senate. At that point, a simple-majority of Senators would have the power to add the Obamacare repeal amendment to the highway bill.

If Lee is correct, then Democrats, in order to save Obamacare, would need to kill the highway bill — and thus their effort to restart the expired Export-Import Bank. (Unless, of course, Republicans bail Democrats out and sink the repeal efforts.)"


Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith and Obamacare


This is from  Milton Friedman's, "From Galbraith to Economic Freedom"

The relationship between size and government control, in my opinion, is the reverse of that which Galbraith presents. He presents a picture in which the large enterprises grow and then take the government in to help them plan. Now there is no doubt that business enterprises will in fact try to use the government for their purposes and often are successful in doing so. Adam Smith wrote that two centuries ago. But the relationship in the United States has been that government measures have promoted the concentration of industry and the growth of large enterprises; and in the absence of the government measures that need not have happened at all. So I don’t think there is any necessity for the Galbraithian picture, either for the present or for the future.

Cause and effect are difficult to prove. I'll just say it's seems more than coincidental there is a merger spree in the insurance industry as well as the hospital industry since the passage of Obamacare. One of the smarter hedge funds bet on that very thing:

Glenview Capital Management LLC made a bold decision when President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul was rolling out: Bet on it.

The result has been one of the most successful hedge-fund wagers in recent years. New York-based Glenview has realized and paper gains of more than $3.2 billion since it started making investments in hospitals and insurers four years ago, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of securities filings.


Rick Perry


I guess I kind of like Rick Perry. Maybe more accurate to say I want to like him. He may get over the "Oops" moment from last time, or not. To me it's not a big deal. We are both lucky we're not held to account every time we forget something. Even the world's greatest orator at one time forgot how many states are in the Union. (Obama Claims He's Visited 57 States).

I do like what Perry has been saying about race, opportunity and Trump. (You do have to go outside of the NY Times however to find it).

There was this, from a July 2nd speech at the National Press Club

We are a country with Hispanic CEOs, with Asian billionaires, and a black president. So why is it that today so many black families feel left behind? Why is it that a quarter of African-Americans live below the poverty line? Even after the impact of federal programs like food stamps and housing subsidies, the supplemental poverty rate for African-Americans is nearly double the rate for other Americans.

Democrats have long had the opportunity to govern African-American communities. It is time for black families to hold them accountable for the results. I am here to tell you that it is Republicans, not Democrats, who are truly offering black Americans the hope of a better life for themselves and their children.

I am proud to live in a country that has an African-American president. But President Obama cannot be proud of the fact that the prevalence of black poverty has actually increased under his leadership. We cannot dismiss the historical legacy of slavery, nor its role in causing the problem of black poverty. And because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their lasting effects....
There has been—and will continue to be—an important and legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing civil rights. Too often, we Republicans—myself included—have emphasized our message on the 10th Amendment but not our message on the 14th—an amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.

For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found that we could win elections without it. But when we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln. As the party of equal opportunity for all. It is time for us to once again reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.
Here's Perry on Trump's views on Mexicans and the border:

I have a message for my fellow Republicans and the independents who will be voting in the primary process: what Mr. Trump is offering is not conservatism, it is Trump-ism – a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense.

I suspect you agree with those sentiments as well.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Why Do the Democrats Hate Uber?


What's not to love? Convenience, good service, lower prices. Here's the NY Times on Democratic Mayor of New York Bill DeBlasio:

And now, the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving to halt the runaway expansion, citing a classic urban scourge to make its case: The infusion of vehicles, the city says, appears to be clogging Manhattan traffic.With a City Council vote expected as early as next week on a proposal that would place a cap on Uber’s growth, pending a study of traffic patterns, the sides have become entangled in a protracted struggle, on camera and off, over the future of mobility in the city.
Most companies roll over and play dead when politicians start to play dirty. I like Uber because they don't. When they enter a market, they just do. Regualtions be damned.

Here's what you get when you pull up the Uber app in midtown Manhattan:

If you aren't familiar with Uber there are different service levels, which can be accessed on the bottom. 4 minutes to get an UberX, which is a car driven by someone looking to make a few bucks. 

Here's what you get for the DeBlasio option:

25 minutes is what Uber claims for a wait if DeBlasio gets his way to restrict competition, and protect the incumbent cab industry.

Linking to "See What Happens"  results in this screen.

Hilary Clinton  is (naturally) ambiguous about Uber and other "gig economy," or as most of us call it, "sharing economy," companies. 

As I've said to you a few times. When I hail a cab I expect a bad ride. But I've only had enjoyable rides with uber.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Let Them Burn Wood


I saw this graph recently, "Fossil fuels have made up at least 80% of U.S. fuel mix since 1900," from 

Before 1850 wood generated all of the energy consumed in the US. Since then 80% from coal, gas and oil. I don't think it's coincidence the greatest reduction in poverty, and the greatest increase in human prosperity also took place since 1850. 

The chart shows all energy consumption, not just for electricity, which is why the share of coal is so low and the share of oil so high. In any case it shows, in my mind, just how unrealistic it is to think of an economy powered by renewables any time soon.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

What's A Moderate to Do?


It's not as if I'm jumping up and down with joy over the current state of the Democratic party. With important exceptions (minimum wage, gun control, single payer health insurance, immigration reform), more and more I find myself to the right of center of my party, and well beyond those who shout the loudest within it. On trade, on economic growth, on an all-of the-above-energy policy, on comprehensive tax reform I barely qualify as a Dem at all. And as far doing anything about inequality, I think the liberal schemes for redistribution are as likely to be as ineffective as conservative fantasies for growth. Every time I read through the comments section of David Brooks' columns I'm filled with disgust for those so blinded by hate that they can't even listen to what the man is actually saying.

So why don't I cross over to the other side, you might ask,. Why not end all the confusion and hypocrisy and at least vote my self interest? Why go on throwing in my lot with folks who resent people like me (and you)?

It's all well and good to believe that government is too big, that self reliance is the truest virtue, that self interest serves the collective good, and that change should be considered with a healthy dose of skepticism. Those ideas we will continue to debate and and agree on with a frequency that perhaps surprises us both. It's quite another to consistently pander to the worst instincts of a body politic, and to do so with such relentlessness and cynicism. From the Southern Strategy to Philadelphia. Mississippi to welfare queens to Willie Horton, Republican candidates have been blowing the dog whistle of bigotry for as long as I can remember. The irony that the people who hear the dog whistle most clearly used to be Democrats is not lost on me. It doesn't excuse it. It's wrong, and the entire country (and maybe even the Republican Party) would be better off if it stopped.

The extremes on either side don't offer much of an answer, just a bunch of cheap polemics that may satisfy their fans but not much in the plausible way out of the thicket we're in.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

I Thank Almighty G-d I am an American


I had lunch with a dear friend yesterday. A distinguished physician, he's now in his mid 80s, debilitated by a chronic progressive disease, and frail. He's had a rich life full of joy and the dignity of work deeply honorable, but marked also by most terrible loss. I've never seen his innate gentleness desert  him. With limited mobility, he spends his time reading. "I can accept the loss of my body," he said to me. "As long as I have my mind I am OK." He doesn't feel sorry for himself or unsettled by his affliction. "I feel lucky for the life I've had. I feel lucky to have been born in this place and time."

To that I simply say "Amen." I remind myself of this regularly. I marvel at our nation's endless resilience, its enduring optimism (yes, I said that), it's refusal to remain complacent, its insistence, however uneven, however long it takes, on correcting its mistakes, of moving ever fitfully toward the betterment of all its citizens. As a member of a once scorned, now deeply privileged minority I have experienced this up close. If my immigrant ancestors had not fled the shtetl, I wouldn't have had the life I've had. I wouldn't have any life at all.  

So here's a hearty Happy Birthday to our exceptional nation.  Exceptional not so much for what we are as what we strive to be.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

University of Wisconsin Micro Agressions


I didn't believe this when I heard it, but at the University of Wisconsin in November of 2014 as part of the New Faculty & Staff Seminar Series, at the seminar titled, "Creating a Safe Zone in the Classroom: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity," a Racial Microagressions Table listed the following as microagressions:

“I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
“Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Better for Whom-A Response


You wrote:

Economic and political progress remains limited for most African Americans. By any measure they are poorer than whites, and the gap has increased in the wake of the Great Recession. They achieve less education. They live less healthy lives and they die sooner. The criminal justice system systematically punishes them disproportionately for the same crimes as compared to whites. The proportion of black men <35 yrs of age incarcerated any given time defies belief.  
I agree with your assessment that Republicans are mostly indifferent and the Democrats aren't much better.

I suspect you agree with me that the difference in educational opportunities and outcomes is a major issue. However I doubt you'll agree with me a solution is removing government from the education business. I was served well by public education but my children less so. I've become convinced it would be much better if we shopped for elementary schools like we shopped for groceries or iPhones, or higher education. That is, lots of choice and suppliers constantly seeking new, better more efficient, effective ways to satisfy consumer demand. Vouchers for all if you insist on a government role.

I doubt many would agree with this since it would be disruptive to the affluent communities, where schools mostly satisfy the demands of the consumer. But it would also be disruptive to the communities where schools are not serving the consumer. As you point out the Republicans are mostly indifferent, and the Democrats mostly ask to do more of what clearly isn't working. They haven't heard the first rule of holes: When you are in a hole, stop digging.

Even in affluent communities like mine, children can be better served. At a recent school board election I asked the candidates what they thought of new teaching methods like Khan Academy, Coursera and Udacity. Not a single person running for the board had heard of these. But why should they? Our schools are funded from property taxes, and house values are partly driven by the perception of school quality. The Board is really only elected to vote as much as possible for the schools so property values are maintained or increased. But what are we doing: finding the best way to educate children or reinforcing a system to keep our house prices elevated?

Vouchers for all and free entry into the education market would jeopardize too much for too many. Kids be damned. Vouchers in NY and DC have introduced some competition into the market but to the eternal shame of the Democrats, these reforms are being resisted. Only when the problem becomes exigent will change be possible. I don't see how communities with low educational achievement can improve unless we in essence blow up the current educational establishment. Or maybe the start will come from affluent communities, like Douglas County, CO, which has embraced vouchers.

I would also cease the Wars on America (War on Drugs, War on Crime, War on Terror), which I believe mostly hurts the poor and politically weak.  The Washington Post has been focusing more on civil asset forfeiture, a weapon used in the War on America. See "Drug cops took a college kid’s savings and now 13 police departments want a cut," for how out-of-control this has become.

As you point out, incarceration rates for blacks is significantly higher than for whites, and this is true for drug-related incarcerations as well, but I seriously doubt drug use among whites is significantly different than drug use among blacks.

So again we agree. What we are doing isn't working. But from the Republicans, except for Rand Paul, I hear little. And from the Democrats, I hear little different.