Saturday, January 31, 2009

King Corn

I just finished watching a very interesting documentary on . . . corn. Yes, that most ubiquitous of grains has a rich and intriguing history--particularly so during the last 40 years. Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis have produced King Corn, a thoroughly enjoyable and educational film about how corn has come to dominate the American Farm.

Without being preachy or alarmist, these two college buddies track down where corn comes from and where it goes (mostly straight into us!), all the while raising an acre of corn themselves. They discover that corn from the Midwest is used mainly to 1) feed cows or 2) make high fructose corn syrup.

The section on feed lots is especially disturbing. I love beef, but beef has undergone some significant changes. In the old days cows ate grass. After a few years, they were, um, . . . converted into food. Today, cows eat corn and kept inactive. They are ready to be sold in a little over 100 days. Good thing, too, because all that corn just about shuts down the average bovine digestive system and causes severe illness (70% of antibiotics in the US are consumed by cows). The meat produced by modern cows is something like 9 times as fatty as the old grass-fed cows.

Then there's corn syrup. Check out a few labels the next time you visit the grocery store or convenience mart. Nearly every packaged product contains it. Americans consume less table sugar than in decades past but far more sweeteners, overwhelmingly corn syrup.

Why do we have so much corn? I'm glad you asked. Stay focused--this is important. Before 1972, the government paid farmers NOT to grow corn. Starting in 1973 the government began paying farmers to produce record crops--we probably just had another one last year. We have mountains of corn just waiting to be dumping into the food supply. If there is such a high supply, doesn't that lower the price of corn? You betcha. Don't the farmers lose money? Every time. Then why do they keep producing more and more corn? Answer: the government pays them to in the form of subsidies (think Farm Bill, the congressman's most sacred cow).

The documentary makes the case that all this cheap, abundant corn is directly related to the modern rise in obesity and diabetes. However, the filmmakers also reveal the flip side of the coin: we now spend only about 16% of our incomes on food. This percentage used to be MUCH higher only a few decades ago. Cheap corn has lead to way to a great diversity of food products at historically low prices. It drives both prosperity and malady.

The film does not dole out any solutions, if a "solution" is even needed. Mine is simple: Get government out of the food production industry. The free market would deliver healthier food (if we really wanted it) at fair prices. Many of the more unsightly byproducts and unintended consequences of government intervention would be eliminated. Individuals (on average) always act in their own self-interests. Right now, the government is dictating (albeit, indirectly) those interests. If government got out of the way, the free market would direct them (and in a much gentler way). Bottom line: Go watch this movie--it's much more fun than it sounds!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Republicans Opposing the (New) Stimulus Bill

Finally, a story about Republicans standing against runaway spending designed to "fix" the economy. Probably too little too late, but I'll take what I can get. Mitch McConnell even said that the Republicans are closer to Obama's plan (what he's been saying is his plan--tax cuts and no earmarks) than Pelosi and the Dems.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rush: "I Want Obama To Fail"

Well, we now have a new president. Obama has taken the oath of office . . . again, and now we expectantly look to the future. As a Christian, I believe we ought to pray for our president. As a voter, I believe we ought to hope for the best. I've been slowly increasing my tolerance of all things political (I imagine Karen will be doing the same in a few more years). It's been a rough few months, and I don't see it getting much easier any time soon.

So, what should a good conservative's attitude be concerning the new Commander-In-Chief? I humbly refer you to Rush Limbaugh's recent comments. His point is this: If Obama starts surprising everyone and doing good (or even "moderate") things for the country, let's cheer him on. However, if he begins to implement the New Socialist Raw Deal, as he has promised to do on many occasions, why should we want him to succeed? Socialist policy is simply not what America needs. It should be opposed at every turn. I wish him no personal harm; I will pray for him. But I will also pray that he will act with wisdom and humility. And if he does not, I will oppose his efforts so far as I am able.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is Intellectual Property Bad?

Jeffrey Tucker, editor of Mises.org, gives a rave review of a new book that suggests intellectual property laws should be abolished.

Is there something wrong with our intellectual property laws?

"The worldly-wise say no. This is just the way things are. It is for us not to question but to obey. So it is with all despotisms in human history. They become so woven into the fabric of daily life that absurdities are no longer questioned. Only a handful of daring people are capable of thinking along completely different lines. But when they do, the earth beneath our feet moves.

Such is the case with Against Intellectual Monopoly (Cambridge University Press, 2008) by Michele Boldrin and David Levine, two daring professors of economics at Washington University in St. Louis. They have written a book that is likely to rock your world, as it has mine. (It is also posted on their site with the permission of the publisher.) ...

Their main thesis is a seemingly simple one. Copyright and patents are not part of the natural competitive order. They are products of positive law and legislation, imposed at the behest of market winners as a means of excluding competition. They are government grants of monopolies, and, as neoclassical economists with a promarket disposition, the authors are against monopoly because it raises prices, generates economic stagnation, inhibits innovation, robs consumers, and rewards special interests.

What they have done is apply this conventional model of monopoly to one of the most long-lasting, old-world forms of mercantilist/monopolistic institutional privilege, a surviving form of mercantilist privilege of the 16th century. IP is like a dam in the river of development, or perhaps very large boulders that impede the flow.

They too favor its total repeal but their case goes far beyond the theoretical. They convince you that radical, far-reaching, uncompromising, revolutionary reform is essential to our social well-being now and in the future."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Opting Out

In case anybody's wondering why I haven't been posting very much lately, I'm simply opting out of the whole Obama coronation ceremony and related events. I find it too ridiculous to even comment on. Certainly there should be some amount of pomp and circumstance surrounding the swearing in of a new American president (four times the cost of the previous celebration seems a bit much, BTW), but what's happening in every newspaper, television network and political/news/fashion/style/celebrity website is far beyond any reasonable level of praise for any mortal man. Of course, that's part of the problem--many Obama supporters do not exactly see him as quite human, in the strictest sense.

I predict that this event will soon pass, like so many overdone red-carpet oscar nights have done before. In a week or two, we'll all be off to the next big thing. I'll catch you on the flip side. I do hope for the best as I look to the next four years, but my sense of reality tells me that I should not set my expectations too high. Obama is truly set to make history--in the category of broken promises and false hope.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You Don't Say . . .

The headline says it all: "Obama Says Recession Requires Scaling Back Promises." I wonder if all his gulible, fanatic, uneducated supporters will understand that when their gas isn't free and their mortgage goes unpaid . . . Maybe they would care but --oh, look! a squirrel!-- (simulating the average American attention span).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bank of England Cuts Rate to Lowest Since Bank’s Creation in 1694

"The Bank of England cut the benchmark interest rate to the lowest since the central bank was founded in 1694 as policy makers tried to prevent the credit squeeze from deepening Britain’s recession.

The bank rate was reduced a half-point to 1.5 percent, bringing policy makers closer to the point at which they will run out of options to fight the financial crisis with conventional tools ...

The benchmark rate has never been this low since King William III founded the central bank to fund a war against Louis XIV’s France. The rate began at 6 percent and fell no lower than 4 percent throughout the 18th century. It touched 2 percent several times in the second half of the 19th century. The central bank held it at that level throughout World War II until 1951."


Bloomberg

Prescient Calvin and Hobbes



(click to enlarge)

H/T: ZarkSeven

More Money For Washington


Forget tax-and-spend, that's for losers. Really hip liberal Democrats (and wannabe-hip Republicans) are going for the more subtle borrow-and-spend model. Our deficit is now even ridiculously higher than before. Wonder how we'll get all that money? Fire up the printing presses! Take a good look at the bills in your wallet--they just got a little smaller. Thanks, Washington!

BTW - you can get this as Facebook Flair, because I made it!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More About CPSIA

The DHM has lots, lots more about the terribly misguided effort to require testing and certification of all children's products. Guess how many bureaucrats it took to cook up this one: just two. Two people.

These are indeed crazy times.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pelosi Cancels the Contract With America

Human Events reports that Pelosi plans to roll back nearly every reform achieved by Republicans over the last two decades dealing with House rules of open and fair debate. Republicans will be completely shut out of the process. Pelosi's changes "would bar Republicans from offering alternative bills, amendments to Democrat bills or even the guarantee of open debate accessible by motions to recommit for any piece of legislation during the entire 111th Congress."

The reforms to be discarded include: "opening committee meetings to the public and media, making Congress actually subject to federal law, term limits for committee chairmen ending decades-long committee fiefdoms, truth in budgeting, elimination of the committee proxy vote, authorization of a House audit, specific requirements for blanket rules waivers, and guarantees to the . . . minority party to offer amendments to pieces of legislation."

The Democrats have now dropped all pretense of bipartisanship (so often hailed during the Bush years) and have but one goal in mind: the consolidation of Democrat power for a generation and beyond. I only hope that Americans will realize who to blame when it all starts to fall apart.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Saving us from...Fun

If you've ever been concerned about what might be in children's toys and clothes (and, really, who hasn't?) then this is the law for you. Big Daddy government is going to take care of you.

Oh wait, no it won't.

It will, however, make it more expensive to clothe your children, find toys not made with plastic or battery powered (as in anything sold on Etsy compared to the dreck in mainstream stores), and will also fill landfills with perfectly good toys. Call me cynical (you wouldn't be the first!), but this seems like a dream come true for the largest companies. Aren't the liberals supposed to be "for the little guy" and against landfills? The irony doth compound.

They can't keep us safe from our own stupidity but they'll take our toys away from us. How long before they go after private yard sales? Don't tell me it won't happen. Anyone who has the time to sit around and craft a law as massively stupid as this one, ought to have time to figure out how to free us from dependence on foreign oil...sorry, drifted into an ANWR day dream there for a minute.

Your government at work, ladies and gentlemen. You can try this site, if you are inclined to protest. I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Art of the Impossible

This is an insightful column by Thomas Sowell (but, then, what other kind does he write?). Only politicians that offer, and try to implement, the logically impossible can reliably get votes in today's political landscape. How cheerful to consider . . .