Ripples Through the Economy…

Economic Art
Economic Art
Dollar Art Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons, selbstfotografiert.

Check this out:

The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy is telling the public that “Shale Works for US.” It not only creates jobs directly, but the beneficial effects are felt far across the country.

And to think, this is all due to George Mitchell who invested ten years and $6 million of his own time and money to make the combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies work to get shale gas out of the earth. That innovation is all his; we’re fortunate enough to be sharing in the benefits.

Firstly, I wish I were sitting on a big ol’ pile of frac sand. It’s amazing the amount of money that goes into something that seems so common.

Secondly, it is interesting to consider the economic ripples of these little boomlets in specialized industry. The jobs and the sales are obvious, but this also has a significant effect on machinery manufacturers, local tax revenues, and local businesses. For me, the most important effect is in terms of the manufacturers.

See, for some of the companies that sell equipment in this arena, it’s been a tough few years. The demand for aggregates has been low (in large part a side effect of the housing market implosion and a general economic weakness that has gutted the industries that account for a good amount of aggregates demand). For some companies, weakness in one, typically reliable, product line is being offset by new demand to support these guys.

And for some, it’s meant introducing things like new frac sand manufacturing equipment.

See, this is how jobs and economic growth happen. It’s not a function of government; it’s a function of governments getting out of the way and allowing growth. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be regulation and oversight, but that innovation and growth often start in the private sector. It seems obvious to say, but if those regulations and oversight become so onerous that the private sector is stifled, then your economy suffers.

Read the rest.

Thought of the Day, The Nothing New Under the Sun Edition

“…Roman writers had been lamenting the decay of the national character for years. As early as the second century BC, Polybius blamed the politicians whose pandering had reduced the republic to mob rule. Sallust railed against the viciousness of political parties, and Livy– the most celebrated writer of Rome’s golden age– had written that ‘these days…we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies.'”

Lost to the West, Lars Brownworth

Steve Wargames the Upcoming Election

If you’ve followed Vodkapundit for a while, you know that Steve has a fine history of giving us thoughts and insights on how the states could break for upcoming elections. It’s all mixed, of course, with Steve’s twisted wit.

I consider this outcome about as likely as the Brooklyn Dodgers going all the way to the Stanley Cup, barring some kind of unimaginably big (and probably illegal) October Surprise. Honestly though, as ineffective as Team Obama has been thus far, I’d expect their attempt at a Surprise to result in somehow swinging Illinois to Romney.

This one is quite good and, since I’m in the prediction business, I’d be putting my money on something happening between “Romney Squeaker” and “Obama Collapse.” Obama won’t be winning anything new; the question is how many states Romney takes and how big those states happen to be. Ohio and Florida are going to play a very important role in this contest.

Anyway, well worth your time to read through (and it has pretty pictures). Check it out.

Why Condi Still Makes (Some) Sense

Condoleezza Rice

My darling wife, who is uncommitted in the upcoming election, asked me who I thought would be Veep. I gave her a series of possibilities and then said that, despite the recent talk, it wasn’t going to be Condi.

“Why not? I love her. I’d even vote for Romney if she was going to be vice president.”

I countered that Condi had made it clear that she wasn’t interested; she wasn’t going to be running for anything.

“Maybe she should run for president. I’d probably vote for her.”

Now, my darling wife isn’t hugely political, but she has her strong opinions. She loves the same things about Dr. Rice that I do: her intelligence, her temperate nature, her accomplishments. While the wannabe wonks and politically-obsessed class can debate the merits of Rice, are we missing something spectacularly obvious to those of us who have a healthier politics/real life balance in their worlds?

Just a thought.

We’re All Rare and Special Snowflakes, The President Obama Edition (Mildly Updated)

Success and Failure

Ladies and gentlemen, a word from the President:

I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.

There is nothing special about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Condoleeza Rice, Walt Disney, Ben Franklin, Ray Kroc, Fredrick Douglas, Thomas Edison, Clarence Thomas, Sean Combs, Henry Ford, Janet Rideout, Ronald Reagan, Andrew Carnegie, Oprah, Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Howard Hughes, or, well, President Obama. Because there are smart, hard working people everywhere who could have achieved all of their greatness, somehow, if only they had a chance to do so. Their achievements aren’t singular at all; in fact, they are almost common since none of them did it on their own.

I understand his bigger point: none of us exist in a vacuum and none of us achieve solely because of our own, native genius and ability. But he muddles his message by diminishing the role that the individual plays in this kind of success. Of course, when your tax strategy is built around the idea of punishing the most successful people in your society, you have to walk a pretty fine line between admiration and admonishment. I mean, he wouldn’t want to alienate them to the point that they stop giving him campaign cash, but he sure needs to use that heady mix of class envy and higher taxes to take baby steps toward solving budget problems and to convince poorer folks to come out and vote for him.

Maybe it’s even simpler than that. When you live in a world where folks go around handing you Nobel Peace Prizes even though you’ve done nothing to deserve it, perhaps it’s easy to feel the need to diminish the importance of individual effort. It’s a lot less embarrassing to pretend that they’re just handing the stuff out like candy on Halloween.

I still like the idea of teaching folks that it isn’t just a village that creates success (or happy, healthy kids); it’s individual effort, focus, discipline, visions, wisdom, and discretion. My grandpa was a chicken farmer and then a meter reader for the city. My father was a soldier, a preacher, and worked for the Government Employees Financial Corporation in some low-level desk-jockey position for a while. Before going to Vietnam, he was kicked out of a small college in southern Colorado; he finally earned a degree at the Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs some years later. Me, I’m a marketing guy who has worked for relatively small companies but has managed to do well for himself in spite of my lack of a degree.

My point is this: all of us were pretty easy to replace. When my dad left one job, they just plugged in another person to hold the position. When I left my last job, they carved it up and handed it to four people (not what I suggested they do, but that’s another story). When my grandpa retired from the city, they had a nice party and gave him a present but they didn’t miss a beat. The meters still got read.

If there is greatness in me, I haven’t quite found it yet.

That list that I made– a woefully inadequate list of folks who dug in hard to create the world we live in– is filled with people who achieved the extraordinary. Most of them came from low circumstance to build themselves in ways that no one might have predicted. Reagan was truly poor, his father was an alcoholic, and he went to a small college that wasn’t exactly in the Skull & Bones’  zip code.

Obama is right: there are a whole lot of hardworking, smart people in the world (and, yeah, I’m one of them) that never attain those heights. There are a lot of people born poor with alcoholic parents, too. How many of them find their way to the presidency? How many people go from being born to a poor, working class family in a small cottage in Scotland to building a business empire and becoming both one of the richest men in the world and one of the greatest philanthropists of his time? Andrew Carnegie did precisely that.

Now, that doesn’t make these folks any better than the rest of us in terms of human dignity. I bow and scrape to no one; their greatness doesn’t diminish my human value. It damned well does make them better than the most of us in another way, though: in building things that will outlast us. They have attained immortality because of their greatness.

Who knows what history will say about Barrack Obama– perhaps simply that he was the United States’ first black president– but it probably won’t spare even a sentence for most of us.

If you want to build something truly great, it takes more than a kind hearted teacher and an overly eager Nobel prize committee. We shouldn’t diminish that, we should celebrate and strive to emulate it, but that’s tough to do when the president is busy telling us that it was no big deal.


Read it for the comments. Fun.

Bring Me the Bigger Tent

Warning: Long, rambling post ahead. Best ignored by folks uninterested in my own personal inner monologue.

I’m a Christian, but I haven’t sat in a church where I feel comfortable worshiping in years.

I’m a Republican and a conservative but I don’t feel particularly comfortable sitting in those pews, either. When it comes to the movement libertarians, I’m sure as hell not one of that crew even when I’m feeling sympathetic to their goals (which happens fairly often). And I think that progressives tend to live on the wrong side of reality (and they would likely say the same about me).

When the Tea Party started up, I found myself drawn to them. There was an underpinning of something libertarian in the movement (or, at least, that’s what I thought), and I liked the initial focus on economic issues over social issues. It’s become something very different; the movement seems to have become very focused on a narrow view of what conservatism should be and who qualifies to be labeled as a Republican.

I’m really tired of the term RINO and really tired of having folks on Twitter and Facebook and myriad blogs telling me who I can and can’t vote for if I want to stay in the graces of the keepers of proper conservative ideology. It irritated me when Andrew Sullivan started playing that game and it doesn’t feel much better coming from self-important commenters on NRO and Spectator blog entries.

Talking Ron Paul would be unproductive and Gary Johnson is a mixed bag (and a useless way to spend my vote).

So, back to the beginning, and to my point: I know where my vote is going this year (barring some revelation that suddenly makes President Obama spectacularly more attractive, politically, than he is to me right now), but I really wish that some folks would remember that their narrow view of our country and our political possibilities not only won’t win elections but it won’t win change. It’s the Ron Paul trap in the sense that folks who believe that only their path and only their candidate can save us are pretty much guaranteed to consign themselves to smaller roles in greater things.

Bismark (or the writer who first attributed it to him) was right: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable, the next best.”

No, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your principles at the door, but it does mean that a wise man knows when to build coalitions, when to compromise, and when to refuse to bend. If you live in Boulder, CO, you shouldn’t expect to be hiring a stone-ribbed conservative to be your representative. So why not support a Scott Brown type figure? A man who may not be strictly conservative, but who will do a much better job of protecting your interests than the progressive left’s favored alternative.

What brought this up? I like Condi Rice. In fact, I find her fascinating and I hope that she continues to play a role American politics. I’m not blind to her faults and errors during the last administration, but I’m also not ready to minimize her strengths or dismiss her from our ranks. I don’t think that she is going to be Romney’s VP, though, and I don’t believe that she is the right person to give him the boost he needs to take the election– but he could do a hell of a lot worse than someone with her breadth of knowledge and experience.

So when I read this post on NRO, I started feeling cranky. Not so much because of John Fund’s analysis, which I think is reasonable, with the exception of the comparison to Sarah Palin and his concern for her ability to carry her message and handle the politics of a national campaign.

Seriously, can you imagine Rice being tripped up by a lightweight like Katie Couric asking about what’s on her reading list? Or being at a loss for smart analysis of any conceivable issue that she might face? That audio of her Park City speech should put those fears to rest. Her seriousness, her thoughtfulness, and her careful nature shine through at all times– even at those times where I find myself in disagreement with her. She is, in so many ways, the anti-Palin.

For as much as Sarah Palin was treated poorly by the press, she turned out to be a disappointment to me. I had revelled in the excitement she initially brought to McCain’s campaign and had high hopes that she would be a quick study on the national stage. Maybe many of her problems can be blamed on the staff’s mishandling of her, but in the end she simply wasn’t the person I thought she was. She wasn’t a Reagan in the making– a person rising from simple circumstances, with an undeniable charisma, to lift themselves up to bigger things.

She wasn’t a new Reagan because she simply didn’t have the vision or, seemingly, the willingness to put in the hours learning issues, defining messages, and preparing to bring leadership to the world. She seemed to shrink on the big stage, trusting on a mix of charisma and red meat to get her through.

As an agitator, that’s fine; as a national leader, it’s lacking. There should never, ever be any comparison between her and Dr. Rice.

But I digress. It was the comments that bugged me most. The comment suggesting that she is doing damage to the Romney campaign just by being rumored to be the VP choice, for instance. Or the comment that suggested that she was a “pathetic” option. Or the gentleman who suggested that she had issues with moral reasoning.

I am continually amazed at the arrogance of some folks who sit on the sidelines making their pronouncements about the imperfections of others. I am amazed at those same folks who consider their moral compasses so perfect and unfailing that they are willing to pass judgement with such finality.

The VP choice probably won’t fall in her lap, not least because she has very loudly said that she’s not interested. In pragmatic terms, the VP should help patch over the candidate’s biggest weaknesses (to help him build a winning coalition), and I’m not so sure that she is well-positioned to do that. She probably shouldn’t be the choice.

But why is it so angering to some folks that someone of her stature, accomplishment, and intellect might be considered? Personally, I’m happy as hell to see her on our side of the fight and I welcome her in our ranks.

I grew up believing in the big tent Republican dream.

Republicans  should be bound together for a desire to push back against governments’ creeping intrusion and excesses in citizens’ lives and businesses’ ability to operate with minimal interference and only the most necessary regulation. Republican’s should champion a wise conservatism that looks to maintain and conserve those important aspects of our American culture and political being that work well and have helped us to be a country of amazing wealth, creation, and success. But wise conservatism should also recognize that the things that are broken need to be changed, need to be fixed. Not the knee-jerk “hope and change” of the progressive left, but the well-considered change guided by necessity and adherence to bedrock principles.

Republicans should recall that our system was designed to let a culturally, religiously, ethnically, and geographically diverse nation as absolutely big as ours survive by protecting the localities from the whims of both our Federal government and from more populous states with wildly differing political priorities, but never at the expense of protected individual freedoms and rights. Which is why slavery could not stand and why women could not forever be denied the vote and why our electoral college is so vitally important as a safeguard to help protect smaller states’ important interests.

There is more, of course, but I trust you see my point: these aren’t sets of policy prescriptions (you must be pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and a big fan of the death penalty), these are sets of ideas to help guide us in wise decision-making. When the litmus test gets too specific, the tent starts shrinking to the point where the party will start ceding elections to the progressive left; we’ll be impotent and useless on the fringe while everything we had hoped to conserve crumbles around us.

I don’t want the Republican party to be guided by a checklist of policy positions. I want the Republican party to be guided by good principles, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and a deep respect for the dignity of the individual and a love for freedom.

Bring back the big tent. Bring back that sense that we can work together to build the shining city on the hill, because that’s the kind of hope I want to believe in, the kind of change I can give myself to support.

Civility Seems Lost to Us

I have no idea whether Jesse Jackson, Jr tried to kill himself or not and I wouldn’t vote for the man. Still, the comments on this article at Politico cheering for his suicide and diving straight into blatant racism (“Just another lyin’ nigher. The “fruit” doesn’t fall far from the tree.” from jgdp, for instance) is disgusting.

It isn’t funny. It isn’t right. I will cheerfully argue my side of the argument every day of the week and I will advocate strongly for my beliefs. But there is a bright line between right and wrong when it comes to attacking opponents, engaging in racist rhetoric, and cheering for their deaths that I will not cross.

Feel free to hold me to that.

And lest my lefty friends start feeling smug, don’t forget that your side has indulged in the same kind of behavior. This isn’t about sides, this is about how we as Americans need to embrace something a little better in ourselves– a little less cruel and short-sighted– and in our political debates. After all, the folks you are arguing with and even offending are probably friends, family, and co-workers.

As for Jesse Jackson, Jr, I hope that, if the reports of his attempted suicide are correct, he finds the help that he needs to work his way through what must be a very dark and difficult time.

Not Every Shooting is a Bad Shooting


Reason’s Mike Riggs brings a story about another tragic shooting involving cops. And it is tragic, but his story is also loaded up so that the cops come out looking bad and I’m not so sure they deserve the criticism this time through.

Shortly before 8 a.m. on June 28, police in Broomfield, Colorado, shot and killed Kyle Miller after he brandished a gun at them. Miller was mentally ill. The gun was fake. Miller’s younger brother told the police dispatcher both of these facts. For some unknown reason, reports the Denver Post, Broomfield police shot Miller anyway

That’s a mighty loaded ending there implying that the police are out and about shooting stuff for the most tenuous of reasons. Of course, sans the obvious tone (and that tone might not be so obvious if one weren’t familiar with Reason), Riggs can certainly say that he wasn’t implying anything or criticizing the officers involved, but the comments section certainly backs up my reading of his piece.

I’m happy to aim verbal fire at LEOs when I think they are in the wrong (and, more and more often, I think they are in the wrong), but this is one where the investigation needs to run its course before we can even begin to talk about fault. We have no idea what information was passed to the police and we all know that in moments of high stress, even official communications are garbled and confusing. That’s simple reality. An officer on the scene has to use his or her best judgement on how to deal with a schizophrenic man who was waving around what appeared to be a gun. This young man had apparently worried his family — either because they feared for his safety or for the safety of other — so much that they called the police. This young man then aimed that gun at the officers.

What those officers know, without a doubt, is that family members were so worried that they called the cops. They didn’t call a therapist; they called the guys with guns. If it wasn’t dangerous– if he weren’t dangerous– then calling the cops wasn’t warranted.

What resulted is sad as hell, but it is ludicrous to second-guess officers who thought they were about to be fired on, especially when we don’t have a strong idea of what information they had as they were rushing to respond. Even more ludicrous is the idea that some of the comments are putting forward: that the officers had some obligation to act as moving targets for the young man before they fired. Even if one somehow believes that the officers are well-paid enough that they should willingly submit to live fire from bad guys, then it ignores the reality that we want those officers to stop shooters before they have a chance to cause even more damage. If it had been a real weapon and the man had started gunning down cops, the potential loss of life starts spreading far beyond this one young man and the officers on the scene.

The officers used their best judgement in a difficult situation. We don’t know what information they had, we don’t have a clear view of the situation from behind out monitors and keyboards, and we don’t know what those officers were faced with when they pulled triggers.

Certainly there are questions that need to be answered. Airsoft guns and toy guns are now sold with brightly colored bits to make them easily distinguishable from the real things; was Miller’s fake gun modified or otherwise indistinguishable from the real thing? Should the officers have used “less than lethal” options like a TASER? Did they know that the young man’s brother had called to let them know that it wasn’t a real weapon?

Miller’s family must be facing a wild array of emotions. Guilt, sadness, and anger all mixed in, I would imagine, and I hope I never have to do anything more than imagine. The pain must be overwhelming. Without a good understanding of what happened that day, though, it’s irresponsible to be saying what those officers should or shouldn’t have done; first find the fact, then make judgements.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean

For the record, this was a much braver step than anything Anderson Cooper could have said or done in announcing his sexual orientation. With Cooper, the reaction was predictable: he’s a white guy working in television and the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. His sexual orientation had been a matter of speculation for years. Not only was no one surprised, but there was very little danger in his admission.

Frank Ocean, on the other hand, is a black man whose industry (black, urban music) has been dominated by misogyny and homophobia. It was a real risk to his career to admit to having had same sex relationships.

Hollywood makes “brave” movies about sexuality and race all the time. They pat themselves on the back for their “bravery,” they give themselves awards to celebrate their bold statements, and never seem to recognize that there was nothing particularly brave about, say, Brokeback Mountain. It was a good movie, amazingly well-acted, and well-directed, but it wasn’t a risky career move for anyone involved. It was a play for awards and critical praise from the audience that mattered: the filmmakers’ peers.

Frank Ocean’s peers haven’t, in the past, shown such an open mind to homosexuality in their ranks. From

I have to give Frank Ocean his props for coming out of the closet and announcing to the world that he’s a gay man. While he’s not a Hip-Hop artist as has been asserted in the mainstream, he’s an affiliate. With that said, he’s a representative of the ever-changing times in urban music and general music.

And, reading the comments in that posting, you’ll see the risk that Ocean has taken.

Me, I continue to not care at all about other peoples’ sex lives. As long as they aren’t abusing animals, abusing children, or abusing the unwilling, it doesn’t much matter to me who they sleep with. Generally, I think that these sort of pronouncements should be treated with apathy; if we all cared a little bit less about who other people slept with, the world would be a better place.

This time, though, I’ve got to give some credit to the gentleman for showing some real courage.

Read the rest.

A quick postscript: The same folks on my Twitter feed who were making a big deal out of Anderson Cooper’s announcement last week are strangely silent about this. I would confess to disappointment, but I would first have to have been surprised.

Anderson Cooper: Out and About

Anderson Cooper

I’m glad that Anderson Cooper finally feels comfortable talking about who he prefers to sleep with. What I can’t figure out is why so many people care.

The host of “AC360” and “Anderson” has never publicly confirmed that detail about his private life before, but he’s never denied it, either. Cooper’s sexual orientation has long been an open secret, but it took an Entertainment Weekly cover story about gay celebrities to prompt the newsman to finally come out.

Because, seriously, unless you think you have a shot, it really doesn’t matter, does it?