You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Probability Epsilon’ category.

Our President threatens to cut off Social Security payments if Republicans don’t agree to tax, tax, TAX!

It happens every time at every level, and it astonishes me that they continue to get away with it. The Government starts running short of money, and their immediate response is to cut services. Their own inflated salaries, their even more inflated expense accounts, their Government-supplied cars and other perks, the legions of bootlickers and butt-kissers that inflate their egos, the kickbacks to their buddies, the “social programs” that primarily serve to add to their legions of admirers and reduce the need for “campaign contributions”, all these are sacrosanct. What must be eliminated post-haste to Save Money if the taxpayers won’t cough up is pothole filling, street cleaning, fire and police protection, and staffing of the multitude of offices mere citizens must salaam to in order to get permission to do anything more public than cross the street. And the citizens cave, but do the potholes get filled? Hell, no. The Mayor gets a new Escalade.

This is just more of the same on a more-advanced level. Of course Obama can’t use the pothole trick; they’ve already cut off any funding for anything resembling road and highway improvement, in favor of a new electric train set for Little Joe and other Progressive pie in the sky. That’s OK if they can scare my contemporaries into insisting on More Taxes To Protect Social Security!

I don’t want a “Balanced Budget Amendment”. I want an amendment requiring that if, at any level of Government, the finances go into negatives, the head of that particular level of Government be executed by firing squad. At dawn. Against an east-facing wall, so the sun’s in their eyes. Pour encourager les autres, don’t’cha know?

Our belovéd Lege is thinking about raising the speed limit on certain roads here in Texas to 85 MPH. The proposal has passed the House, and now goes to the Senate for approval. It’s attracted a little attention nationally, but no huge splash — which makes sense; we already have Interstates out West with 80 MPH as the posted limit.

In a perfect world, posted speed limits would be a stupid regulation from a safety standpoint. The only thing that actually makes sense is maintain a safe and reasonable speed, which takes in all the factors — weather, vehicle and road conditions, and the capabilities of the driver. Posted speed limits encourage idiocies like people driving 60 MPH on an icy road in traffic; when the inevitable crunch occurs, they point at the sign and protest, “Hey, it’s 65 here! I was well under the limit!”

Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. “Safe and reasonable” runs up against the fact that most people have truly lousy judgement of things like momentum, and don’t think much about vehicle maintenance beyond whether or not it starts in the morning; and it leaves the whole mess up to the discretion of individual police officers, which is a great way to get arbitrary oppression institutionalized. Posted speed limits are about the only suitable compromise, but they ought to be set according to reality, which as a rule they are not. I could easily show you several places where Texas “Farm to Market” tertiary roads cross the Interstate; the speed limit on the wide, flat, open, divided, limited-access four-lane is 65, and the sign on the narrow, near-shoulderless, two-lane road infested with farmers pulling hay balers at 10 MPH says 70 in the daytime. That sort of thing encourages people to ignore the limits, because they’re obviously set by people who don’t know what the f* they are doing.

Increasing the speed limit always draws the ire of well-meaning nannystaters, subtly or blatantly encouraged by people with skin in the game, predominately local Justices of the Peace (who see their speeding-fine revenue vanishing) and insurance companies. The insurance companies point out, quite reasonably and truthfully, that higher speeds result in more accidents, and that even if that weren’t true the accidents that do happen will be more severe. Momentum goes by the square of the speed, so a change from 80 to 85 MPH is a 6% increase in speed, but a 13% increase in accident severity — for which they have to pay. The rational answer to that would be to let them price it out; people like me, who drive old cars with minimum insurance coverage, should have to sign in blood that they’d keep the speed down, and people with proper equipment and plenty of money should be able to pay for the privilege of going as fast as they like.

What I propose is an extension of that principle. There’s no particularly good reason to put a speed limit below 65 or 70 MPH on the open Interstate, especially out West where “open” is ironic understatement, but allowing speeds higher than that tends to increase accidents and accident severity because of the “icy road” phenomenon — people who don’t have good cars and/or aren’t good drivers will go that fast anyway, because they don’t have the knowledge and judgement to determine a “safe and reasonable” speed and trust Big Brother to put reasonable numbers on the sign. So set the posted limit relatively low, and introduce a new class of licensing.

Call it the “unlimited permit”, and model it on the concealed carry laws. The vehicle has to pass a real, stringent inspection for things like brakes, tires, steering accuracy, and the like, instead of the present “inspection” system, which amounts to “yup, all four wheels are there, that’ll be $14.50, please.” Cars that make the grade get a special license plate, perhaps with a different-colored background to make it easy for the police to distinguish them from the general ruck, or a distinctive medallion to attach to a standard tag. Drivers have to pass a serious course in how to go fast safely, including skidpad action and familiarity (perhaps using simulators) with how things go at high speeds on the highway. People who pass that course then pay a moderately exorbitant license fee, and get special placards to be displayed fore and aft for the edification of law enforcement, and which they’re required to remove when lesser drivers operate the vehicle. An “unlimited” driver in an “unlimited” vehicle then is subject to the safe and reasonable rule; how fast he or she can go is between him or her and the insurance company. Crucially, drivers with “U” permits would be held to a much higher standard than everybody else. Lapses in judgement like whipping around school buses at eighty or going 60 on an icy road would incur penalties much more severe than for drivers with lower grades of license, ranging from loss of unlimited privileges to jail time, because they’re supposed to know better than that.

People would go for it like coyotes after a deer carcass, especially those whose jobs keep them on the road a lot. From San Antonio to El Paso is over 550 miles of damned near nothing but flat straight road, and takes seven and a half hours under the present limits; cranking it up to 100+ cuts two full hours off that time, and that would be worth a lot to some. It could easily become a modest but significant source of revenue, especially if you extended it to people with out-of-state driver’s licenses. They’d still have to pass the inspection and the course, but could stop in at the Welcome Station, show the paperwork, and pick up their license medallions and placards, thereafter driving fast if they cared to. How much would the testing staff at Car & Driver pay for the privilege of driving Ferraris at full bore without having to deal with annoyed Department of Public Safety troopers? You tell me, but I’ll bet it’s a lot. It would, after all, be deductible as a business expense…

The best effect of that, though, would be better driver education for more people. An unlimited permit would be like catnip to young drivers — at age 20 I would have jumped through some pretty tight and fiery hoops for one — but to get it, they have to pass the course in how to do it safely, including how to decide whether the car they propose to crank up to warp factor 9.2 is suitable for that application. That would be an enormous advance over the present system, in which a 16-year-old demonstrates the ability to keep it between the ditches and is handed a permit to do 80 (or, now, 85) in whatever car they can buy or borrow. It doesn’t take much road experience to realize that literally anything which would encourage people to learn more about driving, cars, and speed would be an improvement over the way we do it now.

Ain’t gonna happen, of course. But a fellow can dream.

Addendum: It occurs to me that requiring a vehicle inspection means the permit isn’t truly unlimited. Call the inspection-required form “S”, for “Speed”; the course for Unlimited includes how to inspect the vehicle for suitability, including accepting the liability incurred thereby. You wouldn’t get many of those, but the ones you did get would be really good drivers.

The New York City Health Department must obey fairly stringent rules in their new building. It’s healthy for them. (via memeorandum) “[H]ow not to have any fun, not even one bit, in the office”, The Village Voice snarks. The Weasel Zippers congratulate Ms. Obama. Doug Powers at Michelle’s observes that what goes around, comes around. Ed Driscoll at Pajamas notes that the Mayor’s staff is, umm, less restricted, and the Jawa Report proposes a blood test for illicit use of frying oil.

I’m with Doug, and think it should be a general principle: employees, including senior officials, at regulatory agencies should be subjected to the most extreme form possible of the edicts and ukases they enforce so enthusiastically. For instance, no EPA building, employee, or official should be permitted the use of solvents or heavy metals in any form, or engage in or benefit from any activity that emits carbon dioxide (we can except breathing, if they can fill out the application forms before they pass out).

The rule could be extended to “environmental protesters” and the like, not to mention advocates of higher taxation. You first, motherf*ers.





Donkeys, like sheep and goats, will eat the grass down and pull the roots out so it can’t grow back. Cows and horses don’t do that; they graze all the way down to ground level, but leave the roots (and, usually, a bit of green), and when Spring rains come there is more grass. Goats don’t really like grass, and will eat the weeds down, which is a good thing. It’s really only sheep and donkeys that destroy their later food supply while satisfying their immediate hunger.

Bad tax policy very often ends up like a donkey grazing. It fills the immediate need but uproots the precursors to further growth, producing revenue in the short term while damaging the economy it feeds from in the long.

Economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch say one key to a jobs recovery is an improvement in housing — because so much job creation is driven by new businesses that have in recent years been financed in part by home equity borrowing. (Via Instapundit)

An accountant in a piece I read not long ago was amazed and aghast that the United States “double taxes dividends”, that is, charges taxes on corporate profits before they are distributed to stockholders. What’s amazing is that the accountant quoted is from New Zealand (sorry, I lost the link), where the ideal of governance is European-style Social Democracy, though they don’t call it that.

The way it’s supposed to work is this: People who have assets surplus to their immediate need can turn them over to businesses, who use those resources to amass capital in large enough amounts to produce the means of production. Production satisfies the needs of the populace, who purchase the goods. Profits from those sales flow to the business owners, who use them to augment the means of production. This virtuous cycle contains both positive and negative feedback loops — negative, in that goods and services that do not satisfy the needs of the populace do not return a profit and are thereby discouraged; positive, in that goods and services that do satisfy the needs return profits that go to increase the production of them.

A “corporation” is simply a legal and social structure that facilitates the operation of the cycle. The owners of a corporation are the stockholders — “shareholders” in BritSpeak, and that’s really a better term. Each shareholder owns a share, a portion, of the corporation, and receives a proportional share of the profits. Shareholders acquired their shares by sacrificing their surplus, or “investing”; the returned profits replace that, augmenting the surplus, which can then be used for further investment, which results in more goods and services. Returned profits can also be used for consumption, but that simply widens the distribution of the benefits — consumption, that is, purchasing goods and services, results in profits to businesses other than the specific one represented by the investment, propelling the cycle elsewhere.

Taxes damp the cycle. Taxing profits makes them smaller (well, d’oh) and thus reduces the surplus available for investment. Government needs revenue, and therefore must tax. Shareholders in a corporation are, almost by definition, “rich” — that is, they have assets surplus to their immediate needs. Taxing the rich for revenue makes sense, because they have lots of assets (making the collection efficient), but care must be taken to extract revenue without totally breaking the virtuous cycle of investment — production — profit — investment. Taxing the rich to total destruction breaks the cycle, resulting in reduction or elimination of production and consequent failure to meet the needs of the populace.

Taxing the corporation makes no sense whatever. Profits taxed away are not available to shareholders for further investment, which damps the cycle — and has the further pernicious effect of making shares less attractive to those with surplus, which damps the virtuous cycle even more. Taxing both the corporation and the shareholders is eating the grass to the roots, so the rains produce only mud. The ass has an excuse: it isn’t sapient and cannot be expected to be forethoughtful.

Double taxation and “soaking the rich” have been U. S. tax policy for a long time, and the results are catching up to us. Genuine capital formation — amassing the wherewithal to build the means of production — hasn’t taken place for a long time; business have, instead, gotten their capital by borrowing. The profits of the enterprises have thus flowed not to genuine investors, members of the populace, but to banks who insist, quite properly, that they be repaid. “Shares” are no longer valuable because of the profits they will return from production of goods and services; they have become in reality “stock”, items that have some existential value depending on the ability to sell them later to someone else, making the “stock market” into a frenzied exchange of tulip-bulb futures. Less investment means fewer means of production, which means less production, which means more and more of the needs of the populace are not met — and also means fewer and fewer “rich” to tax, which means less tax revenue.

This, ultimately, is the cause of unemployment. Workers are needed to operate the means of production. If there are no means of production, there is no need for workers. Worker complaints about “offshoring” are correct in essence but mistaken in emphasis — if production is to occur at all it must happen where the means of production are available, so workers are only needed where capital formation (by whatever means) can occur. If tax policy in the United States breaks the investment — production — profit — investment cycle, production and employment will move to where the cycle is permitted. The ass et its fill, and wonders where the green grass went.

…says we should never, never turn management of our affairs over to ideologues with agendas.

Sorry, Mr. Boehner, but we just don’t care about a lot of things that are important to you.

Jim deMint interviewed by Hugh Hewitt (thanks, Bob!) about Committee chairmanships for the next session, inter alia:

HEWITT: Now I know you’re loathe to talk about the other house, but you were a member of the House in the past, and I’ve just got to ask you. What do you think the reaction of the Tea Party is going to be to the elevation of Hal Rogers, a known big appropriator and earmarker, and Spencer Bachus, a critic of Sarah Palin to the chairmanship of appropriations and financial services, respectively?

DEMINT: Well, I don’t think the response is going to be good. And I think we’ve got to be real careful here. I mean, there’s some good things happening, such as Paul Ryan being chairman of Budget, Dave Camp in Ways And Means, and these are real important committees. And so we’ve got some good minds on it. But frankly, the thing that killed the ’94 revolution was that you got a lot of new people came in, but the guys who’d been there forever took over the chairmanships of committees, and we went downhill from there. And so I don’t want to second-guess Boehner, and he’s not the one who makes all of these decisions. I like the fact they put Jeff Flake on appropriations. Hal Rogers may be sorry for the day he became chairman with Jeff on that committee. But I think we needed to show a little bit more light than what’s been shown so far, but I’ll let the Tea Party speak for themselves.

And of course we can add Fred Upton (R-curlybulbs) to that.

We all know what’s happening. It’s the system. It’s business as usual. The guys with the seniority get the nice offices and the Committee chairmanships. It’s their turn, right? Yah.

…the guys who’d been there forever took over the chairmanships of committees, and we went downhill from there.

Got news from the Heartland, Congresscritters — you know, all those folks you have to go back and make nice to every two years.

We don’t give a shit.

Heartless and cruel as it may sound, as much of a violation of collegiality and The Way Things Work as it may be, we don’t give a flying damn whether you have a corner office with Karastan carpet and hot-and-cold running aides or a tent on the Mall with folding furniture and a GoPhone. Yes, yes, you’ve conned the rubes into sending you back for the tenth or twelfth time. It fails to matter.

One of the things you often see around the world is autocrats claiming that it’s all for the People’s benefit — that the big house with gold-plated toilet taps and the fancy cars with blacked-out windows make the Common People feel good about their country. Yes, they’re eating weeds and rump of skunk, but they can afford to finance  a better show for their Big Guy than the Turds of Turdistan across the border can! It’s bullshit, and in America it’s pernicious bullshit. We don’t particularly want you to be uncomfortable, and an ostentatious show of austerity is just as much bullshit as the Air Force jet, but you’re a Representative, not the Hereditary Pasha of Puyallup, and if you’re too busy one-upping the other Congresscritters over who gets the most space and the receptionist with the biggest tits to pay attention to the People’s business, we can find somebody else who’s more, shall we say, focussed.

We also don’t give a damn how long you’ve been around. If you feel entitled to that Committee chairmanship because you’ve “paid your dues” since Eisenhower was a shavetail, you need to wake up and smell the tea brewing. If anything, we’re damned suspicious of long tenure — it means you’ve had plenty of time to get comfortable, to establish cozy relations with the guys on J and K, and generally to get In with the System. We don’t like the System. We’re doing our best to smash the System.

So if you’re expecting respect for your gray hairs and deference to your experience, if you imagine that your long-suffering has finally paid off with a chance to swank around and bring home the pork, it would do you good to look around a bit. We aren’t going to compliment you for losing slower, and we don’t agree that “Us too, but we’re cheaper!” is worth a shit as a political slogan. We don’t agree that decorum and collegiality are even goals, much less paramount ones. If you aren’t going to confront the nannystate, resist regulatory encroachment, cut spending, and generally do your best to move the “Overton window” ‘way the hell off to the right — well, in that case you’re part of the problem, and problems exist to be solved.

Prof. Reynolds notes the controversy surrounding the “Repeal Amendment” proposed by Randy Barnett and William J. Howell.

The idea is superficially attractive: If two-thirds of the State Legislatures vote to repeal a Federal Law, the Law is repealed. This would in some degree restore the balance of power between the States and the Federal Government.

Much of the criticism of the idea is uninformed to the point of stupidity. The Constitution was designed to be amended at need, and criticizing a proposed amendment on the ground that major changes can only be made by Supreme Court decision(s) tosses the original concepts of the Framers in the toilet. However, the fact that stupid people make stupid remarks about an idea doesn’t enshrine it as wonderful.

The Amendment, as proposed, is unlikely to do much damage — the very idea of getting 67 or 68 State Legislatures (depending on whether or not Nebraska is involved) to agree on anything makes herding cats look simple, so the likelihood of its being actually implemented is vanishingly small. It might be useful as symbolism, but symbolism, while important, is not enough.  If disenfranchisement of the States vis-a-vis the Federal Government were the real problem, restoring the Senate to its original status via repeal of Amendment XVII would achieve the same end with greater actual effect.

Since the basic problem is not State vs. Federal, the Repeal Amendment would do no real good. The problem that must be addressed is the Congress’s abandonment of its own responsibilities, and until we face that directly nothing positive will be accomplished. The Congress is, or should be, obliged to make hard choices. It has, by and large, punted on most of them, especially in the last century. Soldiers faced with difficult choices suggest sarcastically, “Kill ’em all, God will know His own.” The Congressional equivalent is “The Hell with it, the Supreme Court will sort it out.” The Court, unwilling in its own turn to accept such responsibilty, has responded with deference — the doctrine that unless some egregious violation has occurred, the will of the Legislature, being responsive to the People, controls. It is the resulting Alphonse-and-Gaston act that has done the damage.

One of the worst and most egregious examples is Wickard vs. Filburn and successors, including the fairly recent Gonzales vs. Raich. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states, in part,

The Congress shall have Power … To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

The so-called “Interstate Commerce Clause”, only four words, was apparently intended by the Framers to prevent trade and import-export duty wars among the “several States”, a major feature of the breakdown of the preceding Articles of Confederation. Together with Article I, Section 10 (which prohibits, among other things, duties and excises imposed by the States without consent of Congress) the result is that the United States is, among other things, the very exemplar of a “Free Trade Zone”.

It could be argued that no use of the Interstate Commerce Clause has been responsible — the so-called “Coastwise Tariffs” of the early 19th Century contributed greatly to the tensions that led to the Civil War, and the Jones Act had the somewhat delayed effect of essentially eliminating American shipping from world trade — but the effect of Wickard and consequent decisions based on the Clause has been remarkably perverse. Their net effect is to declare, first, that all commerce affects interstate commerce, and can thus be regulated by Congress; and second, that few (if any) acts of any person are not “commerce”. Until and unless the noxious effects of Wickard and subsequent decisions are reversed or mitigated, Article I can be truncated to “The Congress shall have Power” with no qualifications, a total inversion of the intent of the Founders.

A second, but closely related, problem is delegation. As the Congress took more and more power onto itself as permitted by the Court, it needed more and more detailed knowledge of and insight into the “commerce” it was regulating — and detailed knowledge and insight were sadly lacking among the Members. It “solved” the problem by once again abandoning its responsibilities, in this case, by assigning the task of writing “implementing regulations” to the Executive and subordinates. Under this system, the Congress writes Laws giving broad authority to the Executive without specifying any of the details of how the authority is to be exerted; the responsible Agency of the Executive then fills in the details of “implementation”, while the Congress preserves a fig-leaf of responsibility by allowing itself to review such regulations and countermand them — a power which has never been used.

As a result, most of the “Laws” of the United States today are not Laws at all — they are mere “regulations”, written by unelected bureaucrats lacking any shred of accountability to the People. That doesn’t stop them from using the Sword of the State to impose condign penalties upon any person presuming to violate them! The Congress has not (yet) so abrogated its responsibilities as to hand down the death penalty to some faceless GS-14, but the century is yet young. Worse, custom and usage has placed “enabling regulations” beneath the notice of the Courts, who address only the Constitutionality of the original Statute — which, under Wickard, et. seq., is virtually unlimited.

The Congress then whiles away its time, meeting three days a week to hand out goodies to those who meet its approval, while the Executive Agencies place an ever-tightening noose around the civil, political, and economic affairs of Americans, sustained by the perverse positive feedback of more regulation resulting in need for more detailed knowledge requiring more bureaucrats writing more regulation. Until that cycle is broken, any attempt to return to saner (and more limited) Government is at best a Band-Aid® on a gaping wound.

At minimum, two Amendments are required: One to reverse or mitigate Wickard, and one to prevent Congress from delegating its authority. The “repeal Amendment” does neither, and thus is a useless waste of time and effort designed to avoid the duties of Government while providing a stage-set of “doing something”. My own proposals along that line can be found here as they evolved, under the categories “Modest Proposals” and “Probability Epsilon”, but my current thinking is as follows:

XXVIII: The power of the Congress to regulate commerce among the several States is hereby revoked, and neither the States nor the Congress shall regulate, tax, or otherwise burden commerce among or within the States.

XXIX: Every Rule, Regulation, Order, Decree, or other Ukase of Government, however named or styled, for violation of which any Person, if convicted, may suffer loss of Life, Liberty or Property in any degree whatever, is a Law; and every Law of the United States shall be placed before, and passed by, the Congress, and approved by the President, in the form and detail in which it applies to the People.

In both cases a second section is needed, specifying that existing Laws invalidated under that Article continue in force for a strictly limited period of time; I would suggest five years, or until repealed or replaced by the Congress, whichever comes first.

Suggestions and criticisms, especially of the specific wording(s), are welcome.

Same song, another verse —

National Journal:

The administration is quietly and aggressively defending airport security policies against what they see as a media frenzy of distorted information.

This, of course, has become a continual refrain. Health care to losing the midterms, and now TSA, the response from the Administration and the Democratic Party is the same: We’re doing everything perfectly! We just can’t get our message out!

That being the case, I suggest that a replacement for Hail to the Chief is needed as an anthem for the President, and for the Democratic Administration as a whole.

It is now vital that C. O’Donnell be elected Senator from Delaware.

If it can be done, it is the end of the Beltway Republicans. No loss, IMO.

If Paladino can be brought across the line as well, it will nail the coffin shut. Either will be difficult, and doing both may be impossible, but the game’s worth the candle.

Proposal: a cheap, generic political ad for Republican candidates, based on keeping Democrats from distancing themselves from The Wave.

Cheap, because it can be done entirely on a computer using original material that’s either public domain or fair use. Generic, because with minor variations it’s suitable for many, many different races. What’s needed is image morphing software, which is available cheaply (by political campaign standards) or free from all over.

Start with an image of the Democratic candidate, and with one of either Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid (as appropriate for House or Senate races) in full musth. As the image slowly morphs from that of the local candidate to that of the national “leader”, the voice-over intones:

[Candidate] voted for [strike any not appropriate] the stimulus that failed and left us in debt, for the takeover of health care by Government bureaucrats, for higher energy prices and limited access to energy, and… [fill in blanks]. When you vote for [Candidate] you aren’t voting for a representative of your interests, you’ve voting for the Democratic Party’s agenda. A vote for [Candidate] is a vote for [Nancy Pelosi | Harry Reid], and for higher taxes, bigger debts, and less freedom.

[morph completes at this point]

[change to picture of Republican candidate]

[Candidate] will represent you, not the Democratic Party’s agenda. Vote [Candidate] for relief from ever-growing taxes, debt, and Government interference in your life.

Modifications are of course necessary and desirable; I’m not a scriptwriter. The point is, one basic ad layout will do for most races. Several people have noticed that Obamacare, “stimulus”, and Barack Obama are almost embarrassingly missing from Democratic candidates’ advertising message. They’re trying hard to run away from their own sorry records. Don’t let them succeed.

Tip Jar

Donations (via PayPal)

Hit it, folks.
:fx:Calvin eyes:Puuleeeez?
You don't know many people who need it more.

When I Posted

January 2021