Thursday, January 29, 2009

No to stimulus pact

I am not a libertarian who reflexively opposes every spending bill. I think the economy could use an infusion of money. But this "stimulus pact" goes way too far. We simply can't afford the close to trillion dollars this will cost us. The original bill passed by the House was $820 billion, and news reports said it will be more expensive once passed by the Senate. The government has spent trillions of dollars on the wars and bailouts, Social Security is facing trouble down the road, and we still haven't addressed the health care issue. I see massive inflation down the road, and nothing good can come from that.

Two theories I have problems with

Supply-side economic theory is similiar to global warming--it has a little truth that is abused to explain everything. This isn't a comparison many people make, but that what makes this blog special (at least to me). Supply side economists think that tax rates explain everything about the economy, but American history shows they have a limited effect on the American economy. The economy grew fairly welin the 1950s and early 1960s despite a top rate of 91%. Jimmy Carter signed a capital gain tax cut in 1978; not too many people noticed an economic improvement.When Bill Clinton increased the top tax rate in 1993, supply-siders at the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere predicted a recession. That did not happen. George Bush signed several tax cuts.. well, I'm just beating a dead horse.

Man-made global warming is similiar because it takes one fact, that CO2 does affect temperature, to explain everything about the climate. There are many other factors, such as wator vapor, that are not adequately explained by the climate models. See physicist Freeman Dyson's short book, A Many-Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe. He concedes (as do I) that global warming is a problem, but that it has been overblown by politicians and the media.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Why bailout is an utter fraud

There's a telling quote by John Hope, chairman of Whitney National Bank, explaining how his bank is going to use its bailout money (around $300 million):

Make more loans? We're not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accomodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans.

Of course. This raises an obvious question: Why is taxpayer money going to these banks in the first place? Wasn't the purpose of the bailout to get the banks to start loaning money again? The article goes on to say that few bankers are citing lending as a priority. "An overwhelming majority saw the bailout program as a no-strings windfall (emphasis added) that could be used to pay down debt,etc.." Ah, yes, a windfall. Another example of taxpayer money well spent.

jackdavis - whereIstand.com

Friday, January 09, 2009

False dilemma on global warming

Everytime I read a book,article, or letter to the editor on global warming, it seems there are two points of view:
1. Global warming is the end of civilization. The seas will rise, the temperature will skyrocket, and we will all die within 100 years. The climate models are perfectly accurate, and anyone who denies the wisdom of Al Gore is either a moron or a bribed tool of the oil companies.

2. Man does not have anything to do with temperature change. Global warming is a hoax. It's all the sun. The scientists who say otherwise are just trying to keep their funding.

It shouldn't surprise anyone reading this blog that I think both these positions are untenable. My stance on global warming is similar to that of Bjorn Lomborg (author of the excellent book Cool It, Mike Hulme (climate scientist), Freeman Dyson (physicist), and some others who don't get a lot of media attention. As Lomborg put it in an interview, there are two misconceptions about global warming: 1. it's a catastrophe, 2. it's a hoax. As a logics professor would say the "debate" is basically a false dilemma.

Sound political philosophy from a sports guy?

The brilliant baseball writer Bill James put forth his political philosophy in a book called What Happened to the Hall of Fame. I'll quote from page 28:

It is my observation, listening to political partisans, that there is some truth in what everybody says, but that they will all distort the truth to defend their position. In my judgment, everyone on the political landscape,from Rush Limbaugh to Howard Metzenbaum (former liberal Senator from Ohio) is right about some things; I will listen to any of them and think that there is some truth in what he or she is saying. But at the same time, they all B.S. They all wear blinders. They say things they know or should know are not true, but which they feel they must say to defend the extreme positions they have taken.

Mr.James is right, though he would not make it on Hannity and Colmes or Crossfire--is there ever an independent moderate on those shows? "And now, from the center, Jack Davis!" Ann Coulter's recent book, Liberals are the Minions of Satan, is a great example of James' theory. (Disclaimer: that is not the actual title, but might as well be). She makes some valid points on media bias and the absurd glorification of single mothers. But she also makes a number of absurd, tendentious claims, such as Joe McCarthy only exposed actual Soviet spies and FOX News is completely fair and balanced(!). She hates liberal pundit Keith Olbermann, and vice versa, but to me they're more similiar than different. Neither cares about the truth; their main concern is making lots of money demonizing their opponents. Both of them grossly oversimplify the world: Bush is evil, John Edwards is evil, Sarah Palin is horrible, Sarah Palin is a virtous victim of the liberal media, etc...

Any good logic book will point out that black-or-white, absolute reasoning is invalid. True, but it often sells a lot of books or draws a lot of viewers to the TV.