Saturday, December 19, 2009

Flu Shot Tragedy

Sharad Karkhanis just sent me this clip about a tragedy due to a flu shot.

2007 Video on Dollar Collapse

This is a video about the potential, long run crash of the dollar. It was made in 2007 and the makers could not have foretold the banking crisis of 2008. In the short run, the Wall Street dollar bulls have won the battle, and even in the past few days the dollar has been rising and gold has been falling. If gold falls to the $900 range there will be a significant buying opportunity. Given the management of the dollar by central banks around the world, the status quo has not changed and may not change for some time. On the other hand, a dollar collapse could come at any time. At the same time, banking collapses could mean a rising dollar in the short term.

Ron Paul on the Dollar

I noticed this on Youtube. I don't totally agree with Paul on everything, but I will not settle for less than him as to the most important issue, America's collapsing currency.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tea Party Movement Outpolls Democrat and Republican Parties

Larwyn just forwarded a link to Ace of Spades HQ blog which in turn links to AllahPundit:

>"The entire Republican Party...continues to maintain a net-negative favorable/unfavorable rating, 28 percent to 43 percent...But, for the first time in more than two years, the Democratic Party also now holds a net-negative rating, 35 percent to 45 percent...By comparison, the conservative libertarian-leaning Tea Party movement has a net-positive 41 percent to 23 percent score in the poll."

I had previously blogged
about a Wall Street Journal article about this poll. Ace of Spades and Allahpundit out that Americans' views on the tea party movement correlate strongly with whether they watch the more left leaning of the Democratic media, CNN and MSNBC, or the mainstream media, Fox, which is the largest cable channel (almost equaling the entire combined viewership of the other cable channels, and apparently larger than any of the Democratic network channels, NBC, ABC and CBS.)

Profit Margin on Slaves versus New York Tax Payers' Burden

I am not expert on economic history but I have a niggling feeling. The net profit margin on American slaves after deductions for their amortized cost and maintenance costs (food, rent, etc.) may have been less than New Yorkers' tax burden. The government gets a bigger percentage of your income than slave holders got as return from their investments in slaves. In New York, to be free from imprisonment and other forms of government violence you must ante up about half and for many more than half of your income in taxes to "the man." These include a large property tax burden that all homeowners regardless of income must pay and so falls hard on retirees; sales tax of about 8-9%; state income tax; city income tax if you live in Big Apple; and of course federal income tax. Did I leave out inflation, which is a wealth transfer device, premium taxes, capital gains taxes and death taxes? Of course, the New York Times owners, the Ochs Sulzbergers, have managed to dodge the last for five generations while advocating them for the middle class. And alas, dear reader, you can probably think of some additional ones, such as gasoline taxes.

Slavery existed from pre-historic times and many historians speculate that it was an economic and incidentally moral improvement over the earlier method of handling conquered tribes, namely, massacring them. Slavery is a horrific institution well beyond economic considerations. Nevertheless, it might be interesting to know whether federal, state and local government exploits its citizens economically to the same degree that slaves were exploited. Naturally, there are some government services that benefit citizens, such as defense, social security, roads and police. But a large share of government budgets is pure waste, pandering to special interests, support of inefficient and failed programs, make work jobs for powerful unions like the Service Employees International Union and pure corruption.

In conclusion, let us recall this 1966 Beatles' song from their Revolver album:

>Let me tell you how it will be;
There's one for you, nineteen for me.
'Cause I'm the taxman,
Yeah, I'm the taxman.

Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don't take it all.
'Cause I'm the taxman,
Yeah, I'm the taxman.
if you drive a car - I'll tax the street;
if you try to sit - I'll tax your seat;
if you get too cold - I'll tax the heat;
if you take a walk - I'll tax your feet.

'Cause I'm the taxman,
Yeah, I'm the taxman.

Republicans Roar While Deficits Soar

Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit (h/t Larwyn) notes that:

"The Democrats increased the national debt to $12 Trillion. And Democrats nearly doubled the unemployment rate since the Bush years with their failed Stimulus Plan. So now their going to give 'Son of Stimulus' a try...

"Not a single GOP Rep voted for the democrat’s historic trilion dollar Stimulus Package. Not a single GOP Rep voted for the democrat’s record budget.
And, once again, not one single Republican House members voted for “Son of Stimulus” the latest Democratic spending bill. Despite what some people say, there is a difference between the two parties."

Here's the picture Jim presents. It is ugly:

The Democrats are a joke. But the performance of the Republicans while out of office has repeatedly failed to match their performance while in office. George W. Bush also increased spending, and if you looked at the magnitudes in 2003-2008 they looked really bad. It is true the above picture is that much worse.

Jim is right that the Democrats are worse, but notice that on the graph the only positive years were during the Clinton administration. The Republicans can do much better. There needs to be a two-pronged strategy of taking responsibility for tax-and-loot white elephants as well as defeating the donkeys.

Exchange on Costs of Middle East Oil Importation

A reader posts below:

>Let me agree with everything that you say about climate change. But please answer this question: Do cars use oil and do they emit carbon dioxide? If they do use oil, is it not beneficial for us to reduce our consumption so that American wealth is not transferred to the Middle East?

My response:

>I am not opposed to limiting pollution or reducing oil consumption. These can be done with rather than against natural market processes and so limit the dumb mistakes that governments inevitably make.

Murray N. Rothbard had an argument that I found interesting. In the 19th century there were court cases where citizens claimed that pollution was a form of battery and tried to obtain damages from the polluters. The courts threw out this argument. At the time, there was likely a utilitarian argument in favor of pollution, but the judges' decisions (I have no citations) were not fully consistent with the fundamental approach to rights used in the Declaration of Independence. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness do not imply the right to harm others. Judge Richard Posner has written a textbook on law and economics in which he argues that judges have acted to optimize efficiency. This is a utilitarian argument. If true, the reason for the judges' mistaken belief that encouraging pollution will maximize social welfare is an antiquated view of social welfare. Also, Posner's utilitarian argument is flawed. It may have made sense in the 19th century when development was just beginning, but it needs to be tempered with rights-based concerns. There ought not be an absolutist right to harm others in order to produce social welfare nor should there be an absolutist claim to limit all harm to the environment while the economy declines.

We now know that pollution does harm to us, including causing diseases like cancer. Also, there is tremendous value in a clean environment. A trip to China in 2003 convinced me of that. Because a clean environment is an inseparable good, that is, there is no way to charge people for its use, and as well pollution is an external cost, which means that polluters do not pay, some correctives are needed. There is market failure. But the correctives can most effectively be accomplished through means that support the market system.

The way to balance the costs of pollution with the benefits (e.g., in increased industrial production) is either through a tort system devised by the courts (where the courts establish standards of care and wrong doing that are stricter than today's) or legislation accomplishing the same thing. A moderate cap and trade system where realistic limits on pollution are coupled with the ability to sell rights to pollute is also workable. Such steps will slow economic growth with respect to consumer goods, though, so they need to be done with care.

Similar standards are in place in areas like automobile safety standards. When there is a car accident, the lack of the ability of the car to withstand the crash to some degree contributes to injuries. The question is how far to go to establish standards. If the courts say that all cars should be crash proof the cost of cars will increase exponentially. Congress and the courts have not concluded that cars can be built without regard to safety, but the standards do not appear to be extreme. Industry fought safety belts, for instance, but ultimately rules supporting inclusion of belts were put into effect and they have not been overwhelmingly expensive. There are tens of thousands of deaths each year due to automobile accidents. But I do not hear anyone proposing to criminalize cars. Rather, the Democrats just subsidized the car industry. So why are they subsidizing industry while aiming to impose massize costs via cap and trade? The goal is not limiting pollution but control and power of the state.

With respect to pollution and cap and trade the Democrats do not aim to maximize social welfare or the balance the need for a clean environment with the need for other kinds of progress. For instance, the cap and trade bill as it was originally proposed included, I believe, retroactive standards on homeowners that would have cost each American homeowner thousands of dollars. The standard of raising energy efficiency by 50% over six years seems arbitrary and capricious.

Moreover, there is a willingness to hand decision making to national and international authority (a cap and trade administrator, for instance) which poses a threat to freedom. Instead of talking in terms of costs and benefits and balancing progress with limits on pollution and capricious state authority, the Democrats and environmentalists have an extremist agenda.

The claim of global warming, for instance, has become an obsession with the Democrats and the environmentalist movement. Rather than debate the question intelligently, they have chosen to falsify research. The Democratic media then report the falsified findings as though they are facts. This is evidence of the partisan nature of the Democratic media such as NPR and the Washington Post.

That said, I agree that it is beneficial to us to reduce consumption of anything, including oil. That is efficiency. But buying a resource from another country is not transferring wealth. The reason we buy oil is to produce wealth. In other words, the benefit of the oil exceeds the cost. If the price of oil rises sufficiently, alternatives will be found. But purchasing oil from the Middle East is not so maleficent a result that government is needed to alter market processes. Firms have been much better at innovation than governments. If that were not so, then Sweden, Cuba and North Korea would be innovation centers.

Certainly, there is little in common between the Middle-Easterners-are-demons argument and the claim that there is global warming. I suspect that there will be alternative fuels coming into being as the real price of oil rises. Meanwhile, if you feel that we should rely on alternative fuels, why not study chemical engineering and work on inventing a low-cost alternative? That is what Americans used to do before the advent of paper money and big universities.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Okyay Debunks Climate Change Report

It is rather astonishing that anyone takes Al Gore's tin foil hat theory of climate change seriously after the e-mails revealing that much if not all of the climate change research has been doctored. Raquel Okyay aims to further debunk the claims of the die-hard ideologues and extremists who dominate the United States government and the autistic left. Raquel, a distinguished voice in Ulster County, New York politics, has been researching the facts behind the report behind the meeting of environmentalists in Copenhagen. Raquel writes:

>I admit that I have been skeptical of man-made global warming from the get go. For one thing Al Gore does not impress me one bit with his “end of the world” predictions, knowing full well that an ulterior motive is at bay. But it wasn’t until I started reading “Climate Change Reconsidered — The Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change” (“Reconsidered”) that I realized that not only does it appear that Gore is dead wrong on his (and others) theory of man-made climate change, but the entire movement, that bases its findings on biased and inconclusive science, is really about perpetrating a global socialist society aimed at redistributing wealth on an international scale.

>Much of the language and direction of the meeting of Environmentalists at Copenhagen is based upon four Reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) originally published in 1990 with its fourth Assessment published in 2007. The panel, assembled by the United Nations (“UN”), sought to present legislative language so as to bind sovereign countries to reduce UN directed carbon emission, as well as force industrialized nations to fund carbon emission standards and applications on non-industrialized nations.

Read Raquels analysis here.

Obama Does a Daley

All America remembers the original Mayor Richard J. Daley. When I took a public sector labor relations course the instructor had a couple of anecdotes about the corruption in Chi-Town in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Of course, Chicago is not alone. In 1904 Lincoln Steffens published a collection of McClure's Magazine articles he had written in a book named Shame of the Cities. In it, Steffens outlines widespread corruption in city after city. Minneapolis, for instance, was run by a criminal organization. In the 1930s, New York's Mayor Fiorello Laguardia ended the city's corrupt political club, Tammany Hall, but institutionalized the corruption under a series of expanded government agencies and public authorities overseen by Robert Moses. The New Deal of that period overlay a pretense of government rationality on the underlying infrastructure of partisan corruption. It has never disappeared. The corruption in government today is on a much larger scale than ever before in history, but it is done in a bureaucratized manner. Witness the recent bailout of Wall Street. In the 19th century Wall Street gained benefits by bribing state legislatures, as Rockefeller and Gould did with respect to oil piplines and railroads. The amounts involved were in the tens of thousands. Today, Wall Street gets the Federal Reserve Bank and Congress to authorize subsidies in the trillions, and America's dim witted, Democratic Party media pundits applaud the corruption while the Republican media pundits on Fox watch while sucking their proverbial thumbs and saying how great George W. Bush was.

Jim Crum just sent me an article that appears in the Obamafile Blog (entry for 12/16/09). In violation of the most elementary standards of decency and clean government Obama threatened to remove Nebraska's Offutt military base unless Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) falls into line.

The Obamafile Blog cites a Washington Examiner article that states:

>According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn't fall into line.

>While the Democrats appease Senator Lieberman, they still have to worry about other recalcitrant Democrats including Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. Though Lieberman has been out front in the fight against the public option and the Medicare buy-in, Nelson was critical of both. Now that those provisions appear to have been stripped from the bill, Lieberman may get on board, but Nelson's demand that taxpayer money not be used to fund abortion has still not been met.

President Obama's clumsily corrupt use of quid pro quo results from his experiences as a politician in Chicago led by Richard J. Daley's son, Richard M. Daley.

Eric Hoffer on Israel, 1968

My father just sent me this quote from an Eric Hoffer article in the LA Times in 1968. Hoffer was a longshoreman who gained fame as a social philosopher in the 1960s. Notice the reference to Sweden.

ISRAEL'S PECULIAR Eric Hoffer - LA Times 5/26/68
The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.
Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it.
Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchman.
Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese and no one says a word about refugees.
But in the case of Israel , the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees.
Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single one.
Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis.
Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms.
But when Israel is victorious, it must sue for peace.
Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.
Other nations, when they are defeated, survive and recover but should Israel be defeated it would be destroyed.
Had Nasser triumphed last June [1967], he would have wiped Israel off the map, and no one would have lifted a finger to save the Jews.
No commitment to the Jews by any government, including our own, is worth the paper it is written on.
There is a cry of outrage all over the world when people die in Vietnam or when two Blacks are executed in Rhodesia .
But, when Hitler slaughtered Jews no one demonstrated against him.
The Swedes, who were ready to break off diplomatic relations with America because of what we did in Vietnam,
Did not let out a peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews.
They sent Hitler choice iron ore, and ball bearings, and serviced his troops in Norway.
The Jews are alone in the world.
If Israel survives, it will be solely because of Jewish efforts. And Jewish resources.
Yet at this moment, Israel is our only reliable and unconditional ally.
We can rely more on Israel than Israel can rely on us.
And one has only to imagine what would have happened last summer [1967] had the Arabs and their Russian backers won the war,
To realize how vital the survival of Israel is to America and the West in general.
I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us.
Should Israel perish, the Holocaust will be upon us all.

I Told You So--But Is Edward F. Cox Listening?

The Wall Street Journal reports the results of a poll done with NBC that finds that support for the Democrats and President Obama has dwindled to below 50%, a larger drop than for previous presidents. "In January despite the recession and financial crisis, voters expressed optimism about the future, the new president enjoyed soaring approval ratings, and congressional leaders promised to swiftly pass his ambitious agenda." But independents are displeased with the Democrats' bungled health reform effort.

Also consider this point:

"public displeasure with Democrats wasn't translating directly into warmth for Republicans. Twenty-eight percent of voters expressed positive feelings about the GOP -- a number that has remained constant through the Democrats' decline over the summer and fall. Only 5% said their feelings toward the Republicans were "very positive."

Slightly more voters, 35%, still feel positive about the Democrats, "a 14% slide from last January." These numbers are difficult to interpret. I'm a Republican, but I don't feel "very" positive about them.

The Republicans are divided between a few different groups: big business socialists (Progressives), social conservatives, and advocates of small government. I am of the last and am only moderately conservative on social issues. A candidate like Mike Huckabee has no appeal for me. He is a Democrat who believes in God. I do not think that God ought to be the chief political issue. Religion is too important for Caesar and America has become great by separating church and state. So Huckabee's religious credentials are unimportant. Nor do I have any interest in the socialist, pro-business wing of the party, represented by George W. Bush and the socialist pro-business press. The more people like Steve Forbes cry for capitalism, the more handouts and Federal Reserve credits they demand. In fact, I dislike the pro-business socialists in the Republican Party as much as I dislike the pro-union socialists in the Democratic Party. I do not care if the people who are stealing from you and me imagine themselves to be business men or workers. They are simply thieves in either case.

Wall Street and ACORN are two kinds of bums. The former has kept the State of New York afloat by sucking the rest of the country dry via the Fed's monetary expansion, while the latter have been sucking New York State dry and driving out our state's honest and hard working element.

In 2008 it was evident to me that Obama was a false messiah in part because he is linked to Wall Street's status quo and in part because he is a pro-SEIU socialist. This unholy alliance is nothing new. I recall a meeting I attended in 1988 with Felix Rohatyn of Lazard Freres and Victor Gottbaum of the City Clerks Union in New York City. They had their arms around each other like long lost lovers. The alliance of Wall Street and big labor goes back to the National Civic Federation and municipal reform movements of the early twentieth century. Think of Robert Moses, the destructive bureaucratic avatar of New York Times-style Progressivism. His strongest backers were on the one hand big labor and on the other big real estate and Wall Street (except when he tried to build a bridge from Brooklyn Heights to Wall Street and Wall Street was able to stop him, unlike the lower middle income citizens he uprooted in the South Bronx and elsewhere.)

Obama's recent meeting with Wall Street's leadership is one more example of his facile lying. He said to the public that he wanted to insist on a quid pro quo from Wall Street for the preposterous bailout and TARP money, and in private he engaged in a mutual admiration contest. Big labor and big banking unite, and the rest of the economy suffers. The affluent, who own stocks, real estate and other inflatable assets and who work for corporations and government benefit, and the blue collar majority who pay are marginalized as "tea party extremists."

The GOP can easily blow the 2010 election because they insist on the same old failed policies that ignore the interests of the majority, and depend on duping them. Let us not forget that the bailout was George W. Bush's idea, not Obama's. Obama just amplified it. Let us not forget that the latest round of monetary subsidies to Wall Street and the banking industry began with the 2002 economic cycle, certainly not with Bill Clinton, and that Bush was as bad an inflationist as Richard Nixon. The chief difference between the Democrats and the socialist Republicans is that the Republicans super-size the incompetent and corrupt practices of the Democrats.

The Republicans' entrenched support for the status quo is seen in the appointment of Edward F. Cox to the chair of the New York State Republican Party. In 1994 George Pataki was elected in reaction to 12 years of failed tax-and-spend Cuomo policies. He reversed his small government rhetoric within five or six years. He allowed Medicaid to mushroom into a honey pot of corruption. From his bully pulpit he became a cheer leader for Dennis Rivera's Local 1199 union, which has now grown into a one million member strong SEIU union that is like a cancer on New York State's economy, pressing for ever more wasteful and extensive programs.

Three years ago the Republicans lost, and instead of examining the failed strategy of corrupt pandering to special interests, the Republicans have appointed as their state chair a Wall Street wheeler dealer whose only political accomplishments were as an employee of Ralph Nader. The extremists at the New York Times applaud the appointment, but can moderate voters take the Republicans seriously?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Aging Workforce and Retiring Baby Boomer Population

I just received some reader feedback about my AICPA Career Insider article "The Aging Workforce and Retiring Baby Boomer Population". John writes:

>I would like to thank you for your recent article that I read on concerning hiring older workers...

>So again, thank you for your "public service announcement", and as a result perhaps some of us experienced workers can get back to being productive.

De-Coopting the Freedom Movement

Liberty Republicans need to think about strategies to counteract the cooptation of the newly revived liberty movement that Rockefeller or Progressive Republicans will attempt. The Tea Party movement's explosion shows that there is potential for success for liberty Republicans. As well, the failure of Rockefeller Republicanism under the Bush administration might well keep big government Republicans from success if we liberty Republicans refuse to cooperate with them.

Because the Tea Party movement is composed of many fine and well meaning but inexperienced activists, it is susceptible to the same tactics that coopted the libertarian movement in 1980. If a Progressive Republican calls himself a "libertarian" or a "capitalist" and offers symbolic gestures, he can sufficiently cloak his commitment to the status quo. It doesn't help that many mistakenly call the pro-freedom movement "conservative", which leads to a tacit assumption that it is the status quo to which we are committed. Nuh uh. We are moderate, but we are radical in the sense of getting to the root. The current system is extremist. The status quo is not normalcy. We represent a return to normalcy and moderation, which means a lot less government and a lot more freedom than currently.

Recently, Forbes Magazine, for instance, has been calling its pro-Wall Street, statist positions like support for the Bush-Obama bailout "libertarian". This reflects the ancient tactic of calling totalitarianism justice. Karl Popper argues that Plato was the first to do so 2,500 years ago. Some classicists dispute Popper's reading of Plato, but we can all agree that George Orwell was not the first to think of this idea, and Forbes will not be the last to apply it.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, reporters Dan Eggen and Perry Bacon, Jr. note that "the energized tea party preparing to shake up the 2010 elections". The Post article notes of the tea party movement:

"The strategy poses both an opportunity and a risk for the beleaguered Republican Party, which is seeking to take advantage of conservative discontent while still fielding candidates who appeal to independent voters." (bold added).

Websites such as Erick Erickson's and Dick Armey's and Matt Kibbe's are aiming to engage in direct political competition via primaries with the Republican machines in various states. The article makes a crucial point:

"...political experts in both parties say it is unclear if the movement can become the kind of unified force that can win, and not just disrupt, elections... The tea party movement is splintered into hundreds of local and state-level groups that have differing rules and goals and for the most part have not participated in big-money politics. Many of the groups have been torn apart by personal feuds in recent months; one major umbrella organization, the Tea Party Patriots, has filed a lawsuit against a founding board member who signed on with a rival, the Tea Party Express. "

The Republican Liberty Caucus ought to play an integrative role. We should be thinking about how to (a) win elections; (b) prevent the professional politicians from coopting liberty Republicanism in the interest of special interest pandering; and (c) cause them to defer to libertarians' aims.

The Post article quotes Senator John Cornyn of Texas, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, as to the importance of "tempering our conservative approach with pragmatism." In other words, the kind of pragmatism that causes 50% of the national income invested in failed government programs that, obsessively, must not be terminated when they fail. Rather, they should be expanded when they fail. That is "moderation" in the eyes of the Washington Post and Senator Cornyn.

Given the large amounts of money that government provides to its favored interests, such as Wall Street, government employees, and the military-industrial complex, there will be a slick, well executed thrust to neutralize and manipulate the liberty movement to make it palatable. We need to devise intelligent tactics to resist it.

Anne Marie Harpen

I had previously blogged about Anne Marie Harpen's moving song, "Walk the Streets in Anger" on the Youtube video above (h/t Contrairimairi).

Anne Marie just posted a response to the blog as follows:

>Thank you for featuring my video and the kind words. I have a songblog with other songs and link to my CD. You made my day!

Anne Marie Harpen

I will certainly check out Anne Marie's site. Someone else added the comment:

>Anne Harpen just sent me five of her new CD's called "Walk The Streets In Anger." The title song electrified me in August of '09 when I first heard it. You cry and then you become stronger and work to end this "soft tyranny" as Mark Levin calls it. The CD may be sent for at:

David Boaz in Camelot

I just returned from David Boaz's talk at the Foundation for Economic Education. Mr. Boaz is co-founder and Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute in Washington. I drove down to Irvington-on-Hudson, which is a two hour drive, and I thought it was very much worth it. Mr. Boaz is an excellent speaker, brilliant and wise. He is surprisingly optimistic. He noted that the long term trend has been toward greater freedom. He noted that there is more freedom for blacks and Jews today than there was in the era of laissez-faire. Also, the degree of government intervention is less now than it was in the past. For instance, he noted that while 75% of the nation favored nationalization of banking in the 1930s, only 35% favors it today.

I enjoyed the talk but experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance with respect to all the optimism. While we are better off than we might have been had it not been for people like David Boaz, today we pay 50% of our incomes in taxes, when you include property, sales, state income tax and social security tax. If we do not have the freedom to dispose of half of our earnings I don't see how we can consider ourselves to be free. In the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s Pennsylvanians were ready to overthrow Washington over a small tax on whiskey.

I suppose optimism is psychologically preferable to pessimism. Nevertheless, Mr. Boaz reminded me of the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur cuts off one of his arms, and the black knight says "'tis but a scratch." He cuts off the other arm and the black knight says "just a flesh wound". King Arthur proceeds to cut off both of the black knight's legs and he says "I'm invincible!" (see below).