Friday, June 12, 2009

I'm Kickin in my Red Prius?

Our musical heritage is full of songs depicting the American love for the automobile. I have listed a few below in no particular order although I am really fond of Maybelinne, Pink Cadillac, Freeway of Love and especially Mustang Sally. So I am wondering will the truly awful looking teeny cars, plug-ins and greenie weenie hybrids inspire the next generation of songs? I'm gettin' a jolt from my Volt?

I’ve omitted songs that do not specifically mention a make like Drive my Car by the Beatles.

"Freeway of Love" (Pink Cadillac)- Aretha Franklin

"Little Red Corvette" - Prince

" Jaguar" - The Who

"Mustang Sally" - Wilson Picket Pickett)

“64 Chevolet Impala” – Dr Dre (explicit)

“Wild, Wild Mustang_ (The Del-Tones)

"Little Deuce Coupe" - Beach Boys "Mercedes Benz" - Janis Joplin

"My Hooptie" (about a 69 Buick) Sir Mix-A-Lot (taken from his 1989 album Seminar)

“Pink Cadillac” – Natalie Cole

"Jeepster" by T. Rex

“Go Mustang” – T-Rex

"I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler" - Tom Paxton

"Chevy Van" - Sammy Johns

“Long White Cadillac” - The Blasters

“Who's Cadillac is That?” - War

“Little GTO” – Ronnie and the Daytonas

“Maybelline” – Chuck Berry (Coupe de Ville)

“Shelby GT 356” – Chesterfield Kings

“Rollin in My 5.0” (Mustang) – Vanilla Ice

“Chevrolet” – ZZ Top

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is Justice Blind?

Supreme Court nominee's Sonia Sotomayor comments regarding a wise Latina judge based on her life experiences could make better decisions than a white male judge elicited cries of racism from her detractors. It also elicited comments about how "justice is blind" and should be practiced without regard to demographics of the parties in court and only to the law. Judge Sotomayor is wrong. A wise Latina judge would not make better decisions but could possibly make different decisions than a white male judge. While her first statement can be called "racist", the second statement clearly is not. Justice is not blind and there is nothing wrong with that. Consider this: the Supreme Court rarely has unanimous decisions. The reason is that the law is rarely precise and ironclad. This leads to interpretations which is true with any field of endeavor. Economics, for example, is a discipline with clear theories and hypotheses, yet economists are famous for disagreeing with each other. Climate scientists have clarity as well, yet disagree over virtually all important issues including climate change. Judges are no different. It would be naive to think that a judge's life experiences, tastes and preferences, values and principles would have no impact on the interpretation of the law. However, whether the interpretation of one type of judge (say a Latina) is superior to that of another (say a white male) is clearly debatable. Nevertheless, one would expect agreement on those cases that are basically free from interpretation. However, those are the cases that seldom come before the Supreme Court. The open and shut cases are ones that the Supreme Court do not hear except to overturn egregious earlier decision (Plessey v Ferguson). The very cases that are on its docket are there precisely because of nuance rather than crystal clarity. These are the cases that will garner split decisions which may result in truly "bad" law or "good" law - depending on your personal views. Consider that in the Robert's court one third of the decisions were by a 5-4 vote. Thirteen of those cases were decided by all the "conservative" judges plus Kennedy; six cases were decided by all the "liberal" judges plus Kennedy; the remaining five had a mixture of both conservative and liberal justices. Now since all the justices are constitutional experts, why aren't all their decisions unanimous if justice were indeed blind?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some More Random Thoughts

1. Part of the criticisms of Chrysler and GM is that they have "too many dealers" and bankruptcy allows them to shed those dealers without additional compensation (when GM dropped the Oldsmobile brand they paid the dealers over $1 billion). I simply do not understand this argument. Since the dealers are independent businesses, if they are not profitable then they will themselves go out of business. Why should the manufacturer care if there are 5,000 dealers or 1,000 dealers if the same amount of cars are sold?

2. I love basketball but am not a basketball fan. The game - especially the NBA - is unwatchable mainly because I hate all the tattoos. As a result, I pull for the team with the fewest tattoos. This year I was pulling for the Lakers to beat the Nuggets - who are unwatchable - and for the Magic to beat LaBron James' Cavaliers - who are equally unwatchable. If the results had been otherwise, I would not have watched the finals.

3. Of all the topics that I write about, the three that generate the most controversy are on global warming, the "fair" tax, and the Fed. With global warming and the fair tax, I tread on some people's gospel. Understand dear reader that I come to each issue only with the bias imposed by market economics. I do my research and reach a conclusion. When critics challenge me I gladly send them the sources that have shaped my opinion. The third area is the Fed where there appears to be vast believers in some conspiracy shaped by Griffin's "The Creature from Jeykll Island". I have serious doubts about anyone who believes in conspiracies and wonders whether they have thought through the consequences of their beliefs. Don't get me wrong. I am not defending the Fed - I am one of its harshest critics. Like Milton Friedman, I believe that the Fed should adopt the monetary rule. That is, it should set the rate of growth in the money supply equal to the long run rate of real economic growth. That way, monetary policy no longer becomes the main source of destabilization within the economy. The Greenspan Fed was responsible for the current economic crisis and the Bernanke Fed has done us all a disservice by not only prolonging the crisis but by sowing the seeds for more future economic destabilization. However, I do not believe that the Fed is a tool of manipulation by a few powerful figures for their own benefit. If that were true, then they would have put out a contract on Bernanke who has probably helped destroy much of their new worth.

On Cap and Trade

The following appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel on May 3, 2009

In December 2007, I wrote about the economic consequences of enacting the Kyoto Accords on carbon emissions. Briefly, there was a rise in unemployment, a fall in GDP, a rise in utility bills and gasoline costs. These results occurred in the countries that adopted Kyoto. It is also interesting that emissions in Europe increased from 2000 to 2006 by 3.5 percent while in the US, emissions only increased by 0.7 percent. I guess that is a confirmation of Harold Black's First Law: Any Law worth being circumvented will be."

Yet despite this evidence, we are now faced with cap and trade on steroids. President Obama's budget calls for a reduction in US carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Just recently, Henry Waxman introduced in the US House a bill calling for a reduction of 20 percent by 2020.

The economic impact will be staggering. Gasoline prices will increase by 50 percent. Energy prices will double. Economic growth will fall by 2 percent. Interest rates will rise. Inflation will increase. Unemployment will be permanently in the double digits. Construction, manufacturing and other industries will relocate to other countries.

Given the economic effects of cap and trade one wonders why any politician would vote for it. The reason why politicians want cap and trade is that it would constitute the largest tax increase in history and would be used to pay for the unprecedented increase in government spending. Politicians know that the trillion dollar deficits cannot be solely paid by taxing businesses or higher income households. That is why I have said before that the most likely alternative is to impose a consumption tax on top of the current income tax. Cap and trade taxes the production and use of fossil fuels and the Obama administration estimates that it would bring in $650 billion over the first 8 years. The second reason that politicians would favor cap and trade is dramatically increases their power. The $650 billion would be doled out by the government. The government could then pick winners and losers. It would tax carbon users and subsidize "greenies". As a sop to the public, the budget remits $400 to single worker families and $800 to two worker families - while costing them an estimated $4,000.

Since it would be political suicide to vote for a dramatic increase in taxes along with permanent decrease in the standard of living, Obama and Waxman will get cap and trade through the back door. The EPA has announced that carbon emissions are a pollutant and endanger health. As such it has the authority to impose carbon caps under the 1970 Clean Air Act.

To "cap" this all off, the EPA is following a political agenda and not a scientific one. Many environmental models show minimal if any effect on global temperatures. Indeed, last year 31,000 scientists signed a petition asserting that there is no convincing scientific evidence linking greenhouse gases to global temperature change. So dear reader, how are we going to extricate ourselves from this mess?