Archive for November, 2011
25 Nov 2011

Mitt Romney’s First Campaign Ad Produces Big Kerfuffle

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Democrats pounced on Mitt Romney’s first campaign ad attacking Obama with glee. They had parsed the ad and discovered that one of the damaging Obama quotations (““If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we’re going to lose.”) had been repeated mockingly by Obama, coming originally from a McCain aide.

They had nailed Romney beautifully, the left-wing comentariat thought happily. Another ham-fisted Republican mistake was exposed, and ridiculed, and totaled up in their credit column. They’d won.

But, whoops! as the next couple of days passed, frustrated Obama staffers found that nobody really cared all that much about the fine details of that particular line’s original source and context. It applied very aptly to the incumbent president’s situation. The ad worked and did real damage.

And, in the end, Romney strategists got to sit back and smile contentedly, shaking their heads, and remarking with feigned astonishment to Politico about the Obama camp’s “overreaction to ‘a small buy on one station in New Hampshire.’ ”

25 Nov 2011

Cabinet Minister & Wife Competed in World’s Most Grueling Horse Race

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Owen and Rose Paterson riding in the Mongol Derby

Alright, we have to admit it: the Brits really do have some politicians superior to ours.

Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson was keen enough to compete, accompanied by his wife, in this year’s Mongol Derby, a thousand kilometer (621.37 miles) charity race over the Mongol steppes modeled on Genghis Khan’s postal system. Riders have to change semi-wild ponies three times a day in an attempt to cover roughly 40 miles per diem.

The Telegraph reports that the Patersons did successfully complete the race, and survived with quite a story to tell.

Owen and Rose Paterson are competing for words to describe their summer holiday. “It was absolutely awful,” says Rose. “The food was beyond terrible,” chips in Owen.

This year, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his wife did not play safe. On a whim – their children called it “midlife crisis” – they took part in a 1,000-kilometre race for charity, across the desolate steppes of Mongolia on semi-wild horses. “Anything to avoid security guards,” Owen semi-joked when I spoke to him in July for a Weekend article published just before they set off.

“Anything” turned out to be grimmer than their worst imaginings. Injury was likely and death a possibility, warned The Adventurists, organisers of the race. But, as the Patersons left for Ulan Bator to start the Mongol Derby in August, they had only the haziest notion of what lay ahead. “If we had had any idea we would have turned around and gone straight home,” says Rose. …

[T]hey arrived in the Mongolian capital in early August with too much equipment and no experience of using a satnav – which was all that stood between them and 10 sub-zero nights in the open air as they hurtled across the wilds, recreating the postal network that had held together Genghis Khan’s vast 13th-century empire.

The start close to Ulan Bator was deceptively luxurious, featuring showers and a relatively benign landscape. “We were all smiles as we set off,” remembers Rose. “The views were fantastic. On that first day we thought we might be among the winners.”

But the race, they discovered, was a deadly mixture of terrifying and dull. Some days they rode for 14 hours through freezing fog, unable to see anything. Guided by a handheld satnav, which Owen set to “direct route”, they found themselves travelling extra miles, on top of the allotted 40 a day, through swamps and over mountains in order to arrive at the pony-swapping stations three times a day.

“The worst leg of each day was the last one,” says Rose. “If we missed the ger (Mongolian for yurt) we would have spent the night outside, with no food or drink, taking turns to hold onto the ponies.”

So prone were the ponies to wander, that they could not even get off to pee between pony swap stops. If the animals had bolted, the couple would have lost everything, including their passports.

Bleached bones dotted the steppes, and the landscape was pitted with marmot holes in which the ponies could break their legs. “We were constantly attacked by packs of dogs. At one point the ponies bolted and we galloped flat out for miles, knowing that if we fell off the dogs would eat us,” says Rose.

The most surreal moment occurred during the August riots back home, when Owen received a message that Parliament had been recalled. “Standing on the steppes, shouting into the vet’s phone under the stars, I had to tell the whips I would not be able to make it because I was 15 hours from Ulan Bator.”

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24 Nov 2011

Occupy Plymouth Rock

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Hat tip to Michael Lawler.

24 Nov 2011

A Proclamation

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As published in the Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789

24 Nov 2011

Thanksgiving

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Mike Franc, at Human Events in 2005, identified the real reason for celebration at the first Thanksgiving.

Writing in his diary of the dire economic straits and self-destructive behavior that consumed his fellow Puritans shortly after their arrival, Governor William Bradford painted a picture of destitute settlers selling their clothes and bed coverings for food while others “became servants to the Indians,” cutting wood and fetching water in exchange for “a capful of corn.” The most desperate among them starved, with Bradford recounting how one settler, in gathering shellfish along the shore, “was so weak … he stuck fast in the mud and was found dead in the place.”

The colony’s leaders identified the source of their problem as a particularly vile form of what Bradford called “communism.” Property in Plymouth Colony, he observed, was communally owned and cultivated. This system (“taking away of property and bringing [it] into a commonwealth”) bred “confusion and discontent” and “retarded much employment that would have been to [the settlers’] benefit and comfort.”

Just how did the Pilgrims solve the problem of famine? In addition to receiving help from the local Indians in farming, they decided allow the private ownership of individual plots of land.

On the brink of extermination, the Colony’s leaders changed course and allotted a parcel of land to each settler, hoping the private ownership of farmland would encourage self-sufficiency and lead to the cultivation of more corn and other foodstuffs.

As Adam Smith would have predicted, this new system worked famously. “This had very good success,” Bradford reported, “for it made all hands very industrious.” In fact, “much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been” and productivity increased. “Women,” for example, “went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn.”

The famine that nearly wiped out the Pilgrims in 1623 gave way to a period of agricultural abundance that enabled the Massachusetts settlers to set down permanent roots in the New World, prosper, and play an indispensable role in the ultimate success of the American experiment.

A profoundly religious man, Bradford saw the hand of God in the Pilgrims’ economic recovery. Their success, he observed, “may well evince the vanity of that conceit…that the taking away of property… would make [men] happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.” Bradford surmised, “God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”

The real story of Thanksgiving is the triumph of capitalism and individualism over collectivism and socialism, which is the summation of the story of America.

23 Nov 2011

How the Political Class Thinks

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From Dan Mitchell.

22 Nov 2011

Hublot Building a Watch With Complications Based on the Antikythera Mechanism

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The Hodinkee blog recently reported that the Hublot watch company of Geneva is building a new ultra complication watch as a tribute to the Antikythera Mechanism.

The finished product, scheduled to be unveiled at a show in Basel next Spring, will combine a watch with the functions recently identified by archaeologists in the Antikythera device.

Past discussions of the Antikythera Mechanism.

Hat tip to Paul Ceruzzi.

22 Nov 2011

Fiat Abarth Commercial

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Too sexy for Puritanical Australia & USA predicts the Sydney Morning Herald. Nonsense.

22 Nov 2011

Mika Brzezinski Did Not Like Gingrich’s Suggestion for Occupy Wall Street Protestors

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The vehemence of Establishmentarian Mika’s reaction is interesting, illustrating once again just how wide the gap in world view and perception is between ordinary Americans and our urban community of fashion. Mika Brzezinski obviously actually takes the nonsensical ultra-left demonstrations seriously. 59% of Americans, on the other hand, a recent Gallup Poll indicated, were left cold by the protests and felt unable to identify the movement’s goals, which is hardly surprising since it has been obvious for some time that the Occupy Wall Street protests have failed to produce any coherent list of demands.

22 Nov 2011

57,000 Pages of Proof That the US Tax Code Needs Reform

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GE CEO Jeff Immelt

From Alex Tabarrok:

The NYTimes reported earlier this year that through an extraordinary use of tax breaks and clever accounting:

[General Electric] reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

The Times highlighted the skill of GE’s dream team:

G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

More recently from The Weekly Standard we find what kind of effort it takes to pay no taxes on $14 billion in profits:

General Electric, one of the largest corporations in America, filed a whopping 57,000-page federal tax return earlier this year but didn’t pay taxes on $14 billion in profits. The return, which was filed electronically, would have been 19 feet high if printed out and stacked.

(FYI, the length of GE’s tax return has doubled since 2006 when it (first?) filed electronically at an equivalent of 24,000 pages.)

GE’s tax bill illustrates both why our corporate tax rate is too high and too low. The nominal rate is too high which encourages a real rate which is too low.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

21 Nov 2011

Liberals Dissatisfied Again

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Jonathan Chait, in New York Magazine, discusses the history of liberal dissatisfaction with incumbent democrats at length.

Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president. an apologetic Chris Rock said earlier this month. “I believe wholeheartedly if he’s back in, he’s going to do some gangsta shit.”) Obama has already given up on any hope of running a positive reelection campaign and is girding up for a grim slog of lesser-of-two-evils-ism.

Why are liberals so desperately unhappy with the Obama presidency? …

Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president. …

For almost all of the past 60 years, liberals have been in a near-constant emotional state of despair, punctuated only by brief moments of euphoria and occasional rage. When they’re not in charge, things are so bleak they threaten to move to Canada; it’s almost more excruciating when they do win elections, and their presidents fail in essentially the same ways: He is too accommodating, too timid, too unwilling or unable to inspire the populace. (Except for Johnson, who was a bloodthirsty warmonger.)

Is it really likely that all these presidents have suffered from the same character flaws? Suppose you’re trying to find dates online, and everybody you meet turns out to be too ugly. Might it be possible that the problem isn’t the attractiveness of the single people in your town but rather your standards? …

Conservatives are an interesting counterexample. While they are certainly capable of expressing frustration with Republican presidents, conservative disappointment is neither as incessant nor as pervasively depressed as the liberal variety. Conservatives are at least as absolutist as liberals in the ideological demands they make upon their leaders… At the same time, they are far less likely to turn against their president altogether. They assail the compromise but continue to praise the man. Conservatives did turn against George H.W. Bush after he raised taxes. But they stuck loyally with his son well through his midterm election. They remained consistently loyal to Nixon and Reagan. They’ll circle the wagons around Romney, too—trust me.

Why? Because conservatives are not like liberals. They think differently.

Chait shouldn’t be surprised.

Liberalism really amounts to a fanatical enthusiasm for 19th century fantasies involving the achievement of a Utopian society with no form of unhappiness or inequality, brought into being by the calculative powers of human reason operating through the rule of the collectivist state by scientific experts.

If electing the democratic candidate the liberals rallied behind fails to bring about a completely successful socialist revolution, silencing conservative opposition forever and eliminating capitalism, the market economy, and the economy of scarcity; if the entire population is not promptly converted into accepting the editorial perspective of the New York Review of Books in its entirety; if their president cannot crush the kulaks; then he, too, is going to wind up, rather like Capitalism and American society, being compared to an impossible fantasy yardstick of imaginary perfection and condemned.

Chait is, in essence, perfectly correct, but if one removes doctrinaire Utopian fantasy from the politics of the American left, the philosopher is bound to wonder: what exactly would remain?

21 Nov 2011

Debt Supercommittee Braces For Failure

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Reports the Washington Post.

Paula Priesse:

You’re an average American family, facing tough times. Credit cards are maxed, bills are past due and the family home is about to be foreclosed upon. If it meant avoiding financial disaster, think you could cut 5, 10 or even 20% from the family budget? Of course you could, because you’re not a bunch of self-serving morons. Which brings us to the “Super Committee”. They’re about to fail in cutting a PATHETIC 2.7% (1.2 trillion out of a projected 44 trillion) in federal spending over the next TEN YEARS. Only in DC could such arrogance & foolishness be called “super”.

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