Saturday, October 1, 2022

Economics

 

economics
ĕk″ə-nŏm′ĭks, ē″kə-
noun
The social science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services and with the theory and management of economies or economic systems.

The above is a poor definition of 'economics' because it includes the misleading phrase "... and management ...".  No one can manage an economy.  Economists study the principles of economics in order that they may predict the result of this policy or that one, but their predictions are always guesses, and are often wrong to a greater or lesser degree.

Because economists (try to) predict economic outcomes, non-economists surmise that the process can be run in reverse: that we can start at the effect we wish and back into the policy that will deliver that effect.  It is an attractive fallacy, and we need no more proof than the hot messes and dumpster fires of failed economies that got where they are because some politician had sufficient hubris to believe that economies can be managed.  No one can manage an economy.  There is no person or group of persons, no matter their educational credentials, who can force an economy to behave as they wish.

The only way to 'manage' an economy is to get out of its way.  Any politician who tells you s/he can fix the economy's shortcomings is either lying or stupid.  If they don't themselves believe what they're saying, they think you're stupid.  If you believe them, you are.

Beyond that, economics is a 'social science'.  Social sciences are not sciences no matter the name assigned to them.  The 'scientific method' involves four major activities: observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and analysis.  Implicit in this is that the results are shared among other scientists who replicate the experiment(s) to ascertain that the published results are, indeed, replicable and not one-off flukes.  For most (if not all) social sciences, experimentation is difficult-to-impossible, and replication of results likewise difficult-to-impossible.  Social sciences thus fail the test of being actual science and so reside in the realm of theoretical pursuits.  Few, if any, economic nostrums can be guaranteed to work as predicted, and often fail spectacularly.

No one can manage an economy.

 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Mar-A-Lago

 

We're about 6 weeks out from the FBI raid on the Presidential dwelling on Florida's Atlantic coast, and it may be that all the dust that's going to settle — or most of it, anyway — has already done so.  Time to opine.

What we have here, net, are employees of the Executive Branch claiming the power to overrule their boss, the Chief Executive of the United States, the President.  Yes, we're dealing here with a former President who no longer has the authority to classify or declassify, but who once did.  Those employees of the Executive Branch now hold that any declassifications that happened on the former President's watch reverted to the status quo ante as of January 20th, 2020.  That's nonsense.

The Supreme Court has already come down on this issue in Navy v. Egan, and they were quite clear that the Constitution vests an elected President with far-ranging power over the classification status of both documents and persons.

"But," you object, "aren't there rules and procedures surrounding that topic?"  Yes, there are, and employees of the Executive Branch are required, as a condition of employment, to adhere to them.

The President, however, is not 'an employee of the Executive Branch'.  The President is the Executive.  The voters did that.  The Executive Branch exists to carry out the policies of the Chief Executive.  The Constitution did that.

The net effect, the 'takeaway' from all this, is that the President sets the rules, and everyone else follows the rules.  Because of that (in SCOTUS' words) 'Constitutional investment' of the President, it is a legal impossibility for any President, current or former, to be in possession of classified documents that existed at the end of that President's term of office.  The simple act of removing such from the White House ipso facto declassifies them.

It's also worth noting that the originals remain in the place where they were created, and only copies are distributed.  If a document required a Presidential signature, it is returned to its origin point after signing.  Therefore, Trump did not have any originals at Mar-A-Lago.  They were all copies, with the originals still residing in their permanent home.  The FBI wasn't there to reacquire irreplaceable fragments of American History.  They were there to deprive Trump of declassified documents that, absent some bizarre legal contortions, he was entitled to possess.  This seems intuitively obvious despite certain judges deciding that "separation of powers" doesn't really apply here.

In any case, Obama still has a warehouse full (really!) of documents he took with him on January 20th 2016, and there hasn't been any effort at all to reacquire those.  If the FBI were to apply whatever rules they're using here evenly across the board, there wouldn't be any such thing as 'a Presidential library'.  Why are the documents in Trump's possession so important that they can't be allowed into the Trump Presidential Library?  There are very few categories that plausibly fit the behavior we watched last August 8th.  Even voicing any of them risks being branded as a 'conspiracy theorist'.

The difference between 'conspiracy theory' and 'breaking news' is now about three weeks.  Pundits have already started suggesting that what the FBI wanted from Mar-A-Lago were documents related to the FBI's (active) involvement in the Russian Collusion accusations, documents that would prove the FBI to be irreparably corrupt.

Hell, who needs documents for that?

 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Strike Two

 

For six years now, the Democrats, the mainstream media, and the federal legal mechanisms (DOJ/FBI/others) have been hounding Donald Trump.  The obvious goal is to render Trump legally incapable of mounting another Presidential campaign.

Yet, we're assured that Trump was soundly defeated in 2020.  Literally every talking head, even those one might expect to be opposed to that cabal (DNC, media, and Deep State) use terms like "disgraced former President" or "debunked claims about the election".  We non-talking heads are faced with a most unhappy dichotomy:  either that last election was stolen or 81 million American voters thought it was a great idea to put an Alzheimer's sufferer in the White House.  One of those must be true, and I flinch from coming down on one side or the other.  They're both horrible options.  Whichever one chooses to believe, it's a losing move.

With each passing day, it becomes harder to deny that Trump is setting himself up for another run at the White House, and with each passing day, the Democrats' unbroken streak of unforced errors make it look more and more likely that Trump, if he runs, will win. The man still has enough juice to pack stadiums to overflowing.  As with the last election, the Dems are happy when the crowd amounts to 400.

Of course, the GOPe isn't too happy about that prospect, but they could find themselves holding a losing hand if a substantial number of Trump-backed newcomers win their elections this November.  Certainly, there aren't enough of those committed Trumpists to take over either the House or the Senate against the entrenched Never Trumpers, even combined with those already seated, but a big enough 'red wave' would send a very uncomfortable message to the rest:  get on board the train or be left at the station.

I've never been a Trump supporter.  I didn't vote for him in either 2016 0r 2020, and it's unlikely I will in 2024.  I absolutely reject the notion of voting for Republicans so that Democrats don't win.  In contests past, it has been hard to press the argument that the parties are sufficiently different that voting for one or the other is a sensible choice.  Last Thursday, Joe Biden put that notion to the torch.  True, both parties are corrupt as the natural end-game of such things must go, but the corruption of the Democrats is of a starkly different nature.  They seem to have gone full-totalitarian.  The only plausible counter-move is Sherman's March To The Sea.

The myriad federal agencies, nearly all of them Constitutionally insupportible, are the headquarters of what is commonly known as 'the deep state':  hordes of Civil Service hangers-on impossible to fire, yet most of them must be mothballed if the deep state is to be defanged.  The only way to do that is to defund them.  Luckily, this is not an impossible task as long as at least one house of Congress is held by a committed majority.

Deny the 'continuing resolution' that has been used for the last 15 years to avoid the (Constitutional) necessity for passing a budget.  No more Mr. Nice Guy.  Cut the budget.  Cut the budget so deep that Harry Browne would have gasped and reached for his nitroglycerine.  Pentagon -85%.  Any TLA not mentioned in Article 1 § 8 -100%. — I here mean FBI, CIA, and NSA.  Any TLA sanctioned by I§8 cut by enough that the top 4 management levels have to work for free in order to actually fulfill the agency's Constitutional mission — there are precious few of those.

Will this happen?  I sincerely doubt it.  Nobody either in office or contending for one has that much courage.

If it doesn't happen, of course, we're probably doomed to a very, very dirty hot civil war for which I'm certain I don't have enough ammunition.

 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Projection

 

I subscribe to a daily digest of politically and economically newsworthy articles compiled by Thomas Knapp and billed as the 'Rational Review News Digest' which readers here may or may not find enlightening.  A recent entry pointed at an article by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic predicting what a Trump second term might portend.  I have my own views on the topic, but I wanted to see what a decidedly rabid anti-Trump outlet might have to say.

Specifically, Rauch is worried that

...a second Trump term could bring about the extinction of American democracy.  Essential features of the system, including the rule of law, honest vote tallies, and orderly succession, would be at risk.
How could this happen (according to Rauch)? 
  • First, install toadies in key positions.

    Isn't that what every new administration does?  Traditionally, every department head offers their resignation to the new President.  A smart President accepts those offers and replaces every one of them.

  • Second, intimidate the career bureaucracy.

    Given that 'the career bureaucracy' is what we typically refer to as 'The Deep State', it seems as though intimidating it would be exactly what the doctor ordered.  Presently, it is nearly impossible to fire most of these 'career bureaucrats'.  They don't care what orders their boss, the Chief Executive, gives them.  They can do as they please, fuck you very much.

  • Third, co-opt the armed forces.

    ...as by purging from the ranks all who are insufficiently obedient to dangerous and probably unconstitutional orders to vax-or-else or who reject the tenets of CRT?  Welcome into the ranks a diverse mix of ethnicities, sexual orientations, and political persuasions regardless of their ability to function as a fighting force?  That sort of co-option?

  • Fourth, bring law enforcement to heel.

    He's talking about the FBI that has already been thoroughly politicized and weaponized against the very person he fears might have a second term.  This shouldn't be fourth; it should be first.

  • Fifth, weaponize the pardon.

    (Translation: free all existing political prisoners who have been waiting almost 600 days, many in solitary confinement, for daring to enter the U.S.Capitol building on January 6th, 2021, 'speedy trial' be damned, and clear the records of all who have been coerced into guilty pleas.  That kind of weaponization of the pardon.)

  • Sixth, the final blow: defy court orders.

    Rauch here invests the Judiciary with the God-like power to overrule 'separation of powers'.  What the judiciary says goes, no ifs, ands, or buts as far as he's concerned.  Sorry, Jonathan, that's not how this works. 

The title of this post is 'Projection' because almost everything Rauch worries about in his article is already being done by the current administration.  He's worried about the status quo.

Rauch apparently thinks that 'the rule of law' is presently at work in these united states.  That's funny.  That could be the basis of a great stand-up comedy routine.  What is he smoking?  As to 'honest vote tallies', we Americans are all in the position of having to consider that either (a) the last election was stolen, or (b) 81 million Americans thought it was a good idea to send an Alzheimer's patient and a giggling bimbo to the White House.  Here in Florida, the Democratic contender for the Governorship says "Thank God for Joe Biden!"  I have to believe he adds under his breath "He makes the rest of us look like geniuses."

In fact, should Trump actually squeak through the gauntlet provided by The Deep State and get himself a second (lame duck) term, he should Schedule F the top four management layers at FBI, DOJ, CIA, NSA, and several dozen other federal departments and agencies, and then downsize them all.  It was Reagan's machete-like deregulation and tax reforms that goosed the economy into overdrive, a rocket-propelled boost that Bush and Clinton rode to the end of the century.  It was Trump doing much the same that pushed us into the enviable position of being a net exporter of petroleum (here deliberately overlooking his idiotic tariffs, the absence of which would have made his economy so much better).

The baseline problem, of course, is that both Republicans and Democrats hold the laughably inane notion that governments can manage economies.  They can't.  They never could.  The only way to 'manage' an economy is to get out of its way.  The career bureaucrats won't allow that, and that's why they have to be purged, something only Democrats and RINOs think would be a bad thing.

 

Monday, July 11, 2022

A Perfect Storm

 

Airlines are cancelling flights in record numbers, and delaying those that can't be cancelled.  The reasons given are almost entirely laid at the feet of ATC, Air Traffic Control.  That's not entirely a lie, but it certainly isn't "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" either.

Yes, ATC is having trouble with the typical raft of regularly scheduled flights — because there are very many regularly scheduled flights... and there is a shortage of Air Traffic Controllers, and when there isn't a controller available... cancellations and delays.  The other side of that coin is that we have a severe shortage of pilots to fly those regularly scheduled flights, and when there isn't a pilot available... cancellations and delays.

"Wait just a damn second!" I hear someone object.  "Just two years ago, there were cancellations and delays, but not on this scale!  What's going on?" 

Good question.  In the interim, we had a Covid-19 pandemic and a chaotic and poorly-thought-out response by many government agencies.  (I'm granting the government 'the benefit of the doubt' here because I don't want to verge into that argument.)  The result of that response was that many government employees (e.g.: Air Traffic Controllers) were told "take the vaccine (sic) or get fired".  Some took the shot and kept their jobs; others moved into other occupations or retired.  At the same time, government agencies leaned heavily on airlines to implement the same or similar policies.  Many pilots took the shot and retained their jobs; others moved into other occupations or retired.  The result, after all the dust settled, was that there were fewer trained, qualified ATCs and fewer trained, qualified pilots, but the number of regularly scheduled flights remained almost the same.

There is another aspect to the problem I haven't mentioned.  A side-effect of the vaccines (sic) is cardiomyopathy, a condition that negatively affects the heart.  ATC is a high-stress occupation, and a heart in good operating order is a virtual necessity.  Piloting is, likewise, a high-stress occupation, and a heart in good operating order is a necessity, no 'virtual' about it.  Unfortunately, many of those who took the shot are now finding themselves with cardiac problems.  For a pilot, that is a career-ending condition.  This further reduces the already-depleted ranks of pilots and ATCs, and the solution is easy enough to predict: the number of 'regularly scheduled flights' is going to be severely reduced.

Because much of an airline's costs are 'fixed' as opposed to 'variable', the airlines lose their 'economies of scale' when their schedule is shortened.  As a result, expect prices for flights to rise — and that's exclusive of any inflationary pressure — and there's plenty of that.  Then there's fuel.  Jet fuel is fossil fuel — kerosene, and we've seen what's happening to pump prices for refined fluids, haven't we?  Put it all together, and the flying public should expect a situation not much different than that pre-WW-II, where flying was almost exclusively for business purposes, and flying to the family vacation was reserved for the very, very wealthy.

Pfizer, however, is making out like a bandit.  Moderna and J&J, too.  I suppose it's an ill wind that blows nobody good.

 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Hallelujah!

 

Today, June 23rd, 2022, Justice Clarence Thomas, born on this day in 1948, delivered the majority opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, striking at the beating heart of New York's flagrantly unconstitutional Sullivan Act.

The Sullivan Act, passed in 1911, establishes strict gun control within New York State with particular application within New York City.  It guarantees that obtaining a personal firearm is going to be a long and costly bureaucratic nightmare.  Beyond that, obtaining permission to actually carry that firearm on your person is nearly impossible.  A few years back, I posed the question "How many concealed-carry permits are there in New York City?"  The answer I derived was '2,291'.  In a city of 8.8 million people, that is statistically zero.

Two New York residents who had 'possession' permits for their pistols (valid only at their home or business) wanted to carry those firearms concealed on their persons and were denied because, in keeping with the Sullivan Act, they were unable to demonstrate to the examiner that they had a need to be armed beyond simple self-defense.  Five other states (you can almost guess who they are, can't you?) impose similar or identical restrictions.  The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association funded the several lawsuits resulting from that denial, culminating at the Supreme Court as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

Justice Thomas has several times in the past castigated his fellow justices for turning away 2nd amendment cases that were similar to Bruen, and it appears his complaining has finally borne fruit.  The 6-3 decision gave Thomas the pen since the 2nd amendment seemed to have been his pet project.  Finally, he has the ability to author a strong defense of the 2nd's original meaning.  The 135 page decision will take some effort, no doubt, but given Thomas' erudition, it will be worth every minute.

Thank you, Justice Thomas.  We have been waiting so long for this.  Happy birthday.

 

Update:  I have managed to actually read the official opinion (footnotes omitted) and there is something else in there that I didn't realize originally: NYSRPA v Bruen also explicitly instructs lower courts that when dealing with 2A issues strict scrutiny is the applicable level of judicial review.  That means that any new or existing law, when it appears before a lower court, the state must now make a compelling case that the law at issue is both compliant with the Constitution and necessary for the public safety.  When challenged, NYS will have to defend its $445 fee for doing a background check beyond that done (for free) by the federal government.  Good luck with that.  They will have to defend the overly intrusive 32 page questionnaire each applicant is required to complete.  Good luck with that, too.  Basically, the entire Sullivan Act is now at risk of being gutted like a perch.

 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Undoing The Gordian Knot

 

The current economic maladies gifted to us by the Biden administration have left the American people, by turns, angry, confused, and benumbed.  The largesse bestowed upon favored institutions — trillions of dollars backed by nothing — has triggered an inflation that seems not to have an end in sight.

The price of gasoline is up sharply, and inflation is only one cause.  The other cause(s) are centered around declining refining capacity due, largely if not entirely, to obsolete plants going offline and not being replaced with modern equipment.  They aren't being replaced because the government has to approve new refineries, and that isn't happening.  Old equipment is expensive to operate, and that has to be recouped at the pump.  We're told that the embargo on trade with Russia is (partly) at fault, although just a few years ago we were energy independent, a net exporter of petroleum products.

Food prices are also up sharply coupled with actual shortages, notably of baby formula, driven, we are told, by a shortage of truck drivers, higher prices for diesel fuel, and some owner-operators simply parking their rigs because it's too expensive to operate them given the existing rates available from shippers.  Supply-and-demand has not yet kicked in to establish a new equilibrium point.  California, the entry point for most Asian exports, is choking on container ships.  There aren't enough trucks to get the containers off the docks.  There aren't enough trucks because California won't allow a truck to enter the port facilities unless it meets California's overly-strict environmental requirements.  There are enough trucks.  There aren't enough conforming trucks.  Congress, with the power to regulate interstate commerce, doesn't see that this concerns interstate commerce, but regulating guns obviously does.

The pain felt by the man in the street is predicted to spell bad news for the Democrats come November.  Even those who voted for Biden (the live ones, anyway) are having second thoughts about the wisdom of installing an enfeebled septuagenarian in The Oval Office.  Unfortunately, that will probably translate to a Republican takeover of one or both houses of Congress in the next cycle, and that will translate to... no noticeable change, because the GOPe isn't going to upset the apple cart.  When they fail, once again, to correct the problems they were sent to Congress to correct, the Democrats will be able to make a plausible case for remaining in office in 2024, and the destruction of the American economy will proceed apace.

There are, to be sure, a bunch of fresh faces among the Republicans running for office this year, and some of them may actually have spines, unlike the stereotypical GOPe incumbent.  If there are enough of them, we may see some push-back against the current destructive policies.  Having control of even one house of Congress means that bad bills can be killed, and budgets can be butchered.  That's what it will take to regain control of our current death spiral.  Failing that, get ready for another Great Depression.

Let's hope that the new crop of GOP office-holders are bold enough to draw their swords.  That's the only way this knot will get undone.