12.16.2014

Madville Objects to Senator-Elect Rounds Having Convictions That Aren't for Sale

In a classic "damned if you do/damned if you don't" bit of reasoning, Cory Heidelberger over at Madville Times takes Mike Rounds to task for not selling out to the big-money, big-donor folks.  The whole of the campaign just concluded, Mr. Heidelberger was accusing Rounds of being a special-interest sell-out.  Now he's accusing Rounds of surrendering South Dakota priorities by tending to an issue important to a mere 345 South Dakota residents who donated a paltry $7,500 to his campaign.  Actually, I think he's mistaken on that point.  I really don't know how many Jews live in this state and I'm not inclined to look it up, but I can guarantee you there are more than 345 Evangelical Christians with quasi-apocalyptic notions about Israel embedded in their eschatology.  I could name four congregations larger than that just off the top of my head.  Be that as it may, let's take MT's numbers at face value - only 345 voters and $7,500 for his campaign because he supports Israel.

Wow.  It seems that Mike Rounds actually has convictions of his own and that, rather than his convictions following the money, the money is really following his convictions.  If he holds so vocally and powerfully to convictions even when they don't attract money, it seems that's at least highly likely.

The fact is, most of the money in politics tends to follow convictions rather than the other way around, except perhaps at the margins.  Rick Weiland had his convictions before he ever asked a soul for money to run his senate campaign, and the people who gave to him did so not because they expected him to change his mind, but because they generally supported his mind as it was.  So also for Mike Rounds, Gordon Howie, Larry Pressler, and everybody else who ran.  Hardly anyone gives to a politician thinking they can purchase a change in their thinking, most give because they like the politician's way of thinking already.

So, no, Mike Rounds was never a sell-out to big-money special interests, just like he's not a sell-out in his support of Israel.  He simply believes certain things, including support for Israel, to be right.

And I'm okay with that.

US Fracking Oil Production Hitting Russia Where It Hurts

Oil prices are low.  So are natural gas prices.  There are places where gas is less than $2.00/gallon in the U.S. right now.  Oil is trading at less than $60/barrel.

This has serious strategic, global consequences - consequences generally favorable to the United States, primarily because our enemies tend to be heavily tilted towards single-commodity exports.

What does Russia export other than oil and natural gas?  Nothing of significance.  Even their arms industry is not faring as well as it did in the old Soviet days.  If the price of oil and natural gas stays low, Putin's ability to finance his tsarist fantasies is severely diminished.  There may be Russians fighting in Ukraine out of loyalty and a serious belief that Ukraine should be part of Russia.  Very few of them will keep fighting if they don't get paid, or if what they are paid is suddenly worthless.

At the beginning of 2014, a U.S. dollar bought 32 Russian rubles.  As recently as Thanksgiving Day, the exchange rate was around 45 rubles to the dollar.  Since then, however, the ruble has collapsed and at one point yesterday it was trading at almost 80 to the dollar.

The Russian central bank has responded by jacking up interest rates from 10% to 17%, almost double, and that seems to have stalled the slide, even seeing a bit of a recovery to just under 70 rubles to the dollar by the end of trading yesterday.  What that means is, people don't trust Russia, don't trust Russian products and commodities, and don't want to invest or do business there.  It also means that the people who have been largely content with Putin because they're getting their bread and circuses along with the resurgent nationalism of conquering armies will soon be in for a bit of a shock when the bread runs out, the circus goes away, and all they have is the army.

Iran also has a single-commodity economy: oil.  That commodity is not as valuable today as it was a year ago because American fracking wells have turned out to be incredibly productive.

There has also been some improvement in the economy at home, almost exclusively driven by the low prices for energy we're seeing today.  It is Obama's good fortune that fracking really took off just as he was imposing massive strains on the economy with his "stimulus" and Obamacare.  One can only wonder how things would be going without the retarding weight of Obama's EPA, Obamacare, and other policies.

Naturally, leftists - especially left-wingers in colleges and universities - want to ban fracking.  It is, to them, unconscionable that oil be cheap, Russia hobbled, and Iran immobilized, the more so that US consumers benefit.  No, we must ban fracking, and support the Russian nationalists, jihadis, and other enemies we face.

The thing is, the price of oil is dropping to a point where initiating new fracking wells won't be profitable.  Analysts in this article suggest the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota hit the break-even point somewhere between $45 and $50/barrel - not much less than where we're at now ($56/barrel).

12.12.2014

CRCNA Office of Social Justice Issues Calumnies Against Cops, Promotes Racial Division

My denomination is going to great lengths to be an embarrassment, it seems.

Can they simply say, "We need to pray for peace"?  No.  Can they simply bemoan the barriers that lead to such misunderstandings and divisions between citizens and authorities?  No.  That would be too sedate.  Instead, a spokesperson for the Christian Reformed Church in North America in the Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action! - one Kate Kooyman - must go out in public and blithely imply that the police departments of this country are designed to kill Black people and flatly assert that the whole intention of the criminal justice system is to protect and serve a very limited, White, portion of the citizenry.  How in the name of all that's holy she can begin to believe this will help achieve racial reconciliation, much less that it's true, is beyond me.

If I were a cop - especially if I were a Black cop - I would be incensed.

Then there's the Rev. Esteban Lugo.  
Racism has deep roots, entangled in lack of adequate health care, education, and jobs, the pain of broken family relationships and the ongoing feeling that one can’t measure up to the ways of the dominant society, says Lugo.
What kind of nonsense is this?  Oh.  I get it.  Opposing government run health care a la Obamacare is fundamentally racist - kind of like shooting "gentle giants."  This is, frankly, grotesque in its absurdity.  Rev. Lugo is essentially saying that if you oppose government health care, education, and unemployment checks, you hate "people of color."  I understand when a Democrat partisan trying to shame people into supporting his positions says that, but for someone speaking on behalf of the church this is unconscionable.

Michael Brown was not shot because he was Black.  Neither was he gentle.  He robbed a convenience store and roughed up the proprietor.  He attacked a police officer, trying to get the cop's gun.  Later, when that cop had his gun pointed at him, he thought he could charge the cop before the cop would shoot.  He was wrong - fatally so.  If a White man did what Mr. Brown did, he would be just as dead.  Race was not the issue.  Robbing stores and attacking cops were the issues.

The widow of Mr. Garner in New York has flatly stated that racism was not a factor in the police officer's decision to take down her husband as he did or in the harassment they'd received on other occasions when they had been selling "loosies."  This rather embarrassed Mr. Sharpton, but she at least has some integrity.

And none of this has anything to do with whether or not Obamacare is a good idea.  Except in the twisted logic and addled imaginings of race-mongers and political partisans - a group which, apparently, includes people like Rev. Lugo and the CRCNA Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action!

12.11.2014

Minimum Wage Increase Yields Decline in Average Income for Low-Skill Workers

The federal government raised the minimum wage in 2007, but this did not impact all states equally as some had a minimum wage already higher than the increased federal minimum.  So a couple people thought this would be a good way to assess the impact of an increase in the minimum wage.  They would compare the trend line in states unaffected with that in states that were affected and see what they found.
Their results are striking: minimum-wage hikes hurt low-wage workers through a combination of disemployment (on average, there was a 6 percentage point decrease in the likelihood that a low-wage worker would have a job) and a higher probability of working without pay (internships), which of course not everyone can afford to do. One consequence of this disemployment effect is that the displaced workers in question never had the opportunity to gain experience that might have otherwise allowed them to increase their long-term wages. The net effect was that even taking into account the positive impact of minimum-wage legislation on the wages of those who remained employed; less-skilled workers overall saw average incomes decline through the recession years as a result of minimum-wage legislation.
They also found that job mobility declined - the ability to quit one job in favor of a better one.  Another factor discerned was that internships increased at the expense of entry-level positions for those with higher levels of education and training.  Internships are not subject to the minimum wage, but entry level jobs are.  The people doing this study also figure a significant percentage of the decline in employment-to-population ratio during the years 2006-12 can be pinned on this increase in the minimum wage.

In short, increases in the minimum wage make it harder for people to enter the work force.  Such increases most severely affect the low-skilled, less educated segment of the population and benefit those who are already skilled, experienced employees.  As I said before the people of this state foolishly voted to increase the minimum wage, it is a way of shafting the poor while feeling good about it.

12.10.2014

Defining One's Self as "Not That" Is Insufficient

My older son joined the Catholic church last Easter.  This has given us endless opportunities to tease each other about our respective heresies.  He'll go after me for disparaging the saints while I go after him for waiting an extra day before confession so he has time for sins to accumulate and make it worth the priest's time.  It's all in good fun, but it is also a way of seriously acknowledging and facing the very significant and real differences that underlie the continuing segmentation of the Church in the Christian West.

To be sure, there are differences among Christians that are horribly insignificant and congregations have split over incredibly trivial matters.  A group of churches split off from my own denomination in the 1920s over the question of "common grace."  Is God blessing the unbelievers when he sends rain on their fields as well as on the fields of believers?  No, said the dissenters.  The very prosperity unbelievers receive cements them in their unbelief and accelerates the road to Hell, so it is not a blessing.  Those who stayed said it sure seems like a blessing to us and so we're going to call it that.

The biggest problem facing those who leave one denomination or church - and this includes the Protestants who left the Catholic Church in the 16th century - is the tendency to think the protest is sufficient.  Instead of having a positive objective, those who leave think it sufficient to simply not be what they were.  But if we exist simply to be the "Not Catholic" Church then we soon cease to be anything that warrants the label "church" at all.  This does not mean there are no positive visions regarding our identity among Protestants.  But the Catholic Church does not wrestle with the temptation to simply be the "Not-Protestant" Church in the way Protestants wrestle with the temptation to be primarily the "Not-Catholic" Church.

Where one also sees this temptation is among militant atheists.  They do not exist to be something so much as they exist to not be something.  They call themselves "free thinkers" but their thinking is thoroughly enslaved to the religion they are determined to not be.  Instead of casting off the shackles (as they see it) of religion, they find themselves enslaved to that very same religion for the purposes of not being it.  Like an adolescent child determined to not be like the parent, and thus choosing to dislike whatever the parent likes and like whatever the parent dislikes, the child's identity is still wrapped around the parental identity and not independent at all.  These so-called free thinkers, then, are anything but free and rarely even thinkers.  It is an emotional rather than a rational response that governs them.

The irony, however, is rather lost on them.  But then, the Protestant churches have often missed the irony surrounding their own dance with Rome over the last 500 years.

12.05.2014

A More Properly Limited Government Would Have Saved Mr. Garner

Charles C. W. Cooke raises an interesting point over at National Review in that there are some ancillary factors involved in the death of Mr. Garner, late of New York City.  To be precise, there is the crime for which he was being arrested - selling loose cigarettes.

There is no doubt Mr. Garner was violating the law by selling loose cigarettes and, that being the case, the police charged with enforcing the law were duty bound to stop him.  The altercation however, could easily have been avoided all together - by a more rational approach to law and taxes by the city and state of New York.

When there are laws covering every aspect of our lives - whether we can buy cigarettes singly or must do so in packs of twenty, for instance, or whether we may smoke those cigarettes in somebody's restaurant or not, or whether a horsepond constitutes a protected "wetland" and if this particular species of gnat is "protected."  When laws and regulations cover every aspect, then it is very little different from a situation where there are no laws and regulations at all.

If there are no laws at all, then the individual or group holding the police power determines what the law is at the moment - and he may change his mind without warning, on a whim, and woe betide the poor man who is just going about his business.  But when everything is regulated, the same thing occurs.  The one holding the police power decides which law or regulation he wishes to enforce today and the poor schlub just going about his business suddenly finds himself facing the business end of a gun.

Or locked in a choke-hold outside a pub in New York City.

Government, if it is to be just and not tyrannically oppressive, must be limited.  This was the seminal fact that guided our founding fathers in drafting the Constitution (and the Articles of Confederation before that).  We must accept the fact that there are problems and difficulties which government cannot solve.  In fact, it can solve none of them.  At best, government can lessen the severity of these evils - it can restrain them - but it cannot eliminate them.  A government so persuaded of its own powers that it thinks it can eliminate them very quickly becomes one of those very evils governments were instituted to restrain.

In sum:

The officer should not have taken down Mr. Garner in the aggressive manner he chose to use.
Mr. Garner should not have been breaking the law by selling loose cigarettes and resisting arrest.
The city of New York should not have established a law making Mr. Garner's activities illegal in the first place.

UPDATE: Added link to Cooke's piece.

12.04.2014

War - Total War - Increasingly Likely

Victor Davis Hanson, looking over the world situation and aware of the kinds of political changes that launched the devastating wars of 1914 and 1939, is coming to the same conclusions I've come to.  The conditions created by the abject failure of President Obama's foreign policy are such that a war on the scale of those earlier conflicts is increasingly likely.

Unlike 1939, our potential enemies can reach us now.