May 212010

Rand Paul (photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Recently the Republican nominee for one of Kentucky’s senate seat, Rand Paul, dared to question the 1964 passing of the Civil Rights Act (or did he?). This instantly made him a Very Bad Person™ in the eyes of progressives (not that having Ron Paul for a father is winning many popularity contests). Paul seemed to be defending the austro-libertarian contention that government intervention against prejudicial discrimination in the private sector is antithetical to the natural rights to freely associate and freely use private property.

Frederic Bastiat (public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Frederic Bastiat wisely said in Economic Harmonies, “Government acts only by the intervention of force; hence, its action is legitimate only where the intervention of force is itself legitimate.” The question at hand is whether or not governmental force is justified in forbidding discrimination.

Continue reading »

Mar 222010

As the final vote for the Democrats’ health care reform bill got closer, the frantic attempts by Republicans to stop it reminded me of a rather apt G.K. Chesterton quote.

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.”

Despite having written that 86 years ago, Mr. Chesterton hit the nail very much on the head. I didn’t know if I should laugh or scream as I watched Republicans motivate their base in opposition to socialistic/corporatist expansion of government involvement in the health care market, as they perversely and hypocritically decried the Big Government nature of the bill in one breath, and panicked old folks with the specter of losing their Medicare coverage in the next.

Republicans fought hard against Medicare in 1965. Why are they now defending it? How long before they’re defending Obamacare? Truly, “Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob.”

Will the GOP ever have new ideas (e.g, those of Cato Institute, Mises Institute, or Acton Institute)? Or will they always be the party of welfare state stasis and warfare state expansion?

Feb 092010

Updates follow the post body

snowbound in Greenfield

a typical Pittsburgh neighborhood street after the storm

Snowmageddon. Snowpocalypse. SnOMG. Whatever you call it, we knew it was coming, and we knew it would be bad.

If you ask Mayor Ravenstahl, though, he and the rest of Pittsburgh’s government aren’t to blame for the painfully slow plowing process.

“Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who left town Friday to celebrate his 30th birthday in the Laurel Highlands and got stranded there, told reporters that forecasts that morning called for 4 to 8 inches of snow. Soon after he got back in town Sunday he was at the city’s Emergency Operations Center talking — he noted pointedly — to the same people he had been talking to all weekend by computer and phone while at the Laurel Highlands.”

Technically, he’s right that the morning prediction wasn’t for a blizzard. My memory is that the prediction in the morning was 3-6″. By midday it was upped to 4-8″ (6-10″?). By the time I left work around 4PM, we were to expect 8-14″. The point isn’t what the morning prediction was, though. The crux of the matter is what city officials did and didn’t do as the expected snowfall rose.

Continue reading »

Dec 162009

This is so stupid it’s infuriating.

Subsidized science

“Baltimore-based company Champions Biotechnology has a business tale to tell, one reminiscent of Robin Hood. But there’s no robbing of the rich in this story. Rather, Champions uses revenue from premium services offered to wealthy clients to subsidize risky—and hard-to-fund—research.”


“Champions spent $1.7 million on R&D in fiscal year 2009, and it gathers those funds through a unique business approach: Research is funded with revenue from premium oncology services, offered to a select clientele. The company creates ‘personalized tumorgrafts’ for cancer-stricken individuals, each to the tune of $100,000…”


“By R&D, Sidransky is referring to Champions’ separate bank of anonymous tumorgrafts, or mice carrying tumors—grafted from spare tissue acquired through collaborations with academic institutions.”


“Peter Houghton, director of the Children’s Cancer Center in Columbus, Ohio, considers tumorgraft models ‘very good for identifying active drugs.’ Houghton is openly skeptical, however, about applying this technology to individuals…”


“In the meantime, the company is getting kudos for its unique business model. ‘I don’t think [using premium services to fund R&D] is done in practice today, though I like the idea,’ says Stuart Barich, Oppenheimer’s managing director.”

Are we living on Bizarro World?! Where do I begin to show how completely ass-backwards the author’s understanding of economics is? Continue reading »