Friday, May 28, 2010
Of course they will take no blame and use capitalism as a punching bag
Source: Carpe Diem
. . . Why the preference for the handmade, anyway? Yes, there are still goods where skilled craftsmanship makes all the difference: No machine can match the judgment of an experienced luthier, who has to adapt to the acoustic quirks of each piece of wood he carves for a violin. But does it matter whether a product is crafted by hand or stamped out by machine, if the consumer can't tell the difference?
The aura of the handmade has been around ever since machines displaced tools as the main means of manufacture. Nineteenth-century moralists lamented the loss of honest craftsmanship and built a movement embracing goods that were objectively less well made than their factory-made counterparts.
Thorstein Veblen derided this as "exaltation of the defective," which he disdained as just another manifestation of the leisure class's taste for waste. He sneered at the "propaganda of crudity and wasted effort," that led such advocates of the artisanal as John Ruskin to champion products of "painstaking crudeness and elaborate ineptitude" over the "visibly more perfect goods" made cheaper by machines. He hated the smug vanity of people flaunting Ruskin's rough-hewn books.
There is a robust Ruskinite movement afoot again today, celebrating the rustic and exalting in, if not the defective, the artless (where art is understood as artifice). It is in foodstuffs where the modern taste for the artisanal flourishes most fully. Many are the farmers markets now offering bruised peaches and splotchy tomatoes as a rebuke to the plastic gloss of supermarket produce. . .
Once upon a time the craftsman's touch could be displayed through personalization—the adding of monograms and various options for customization. Machine-made goods came off the assembly line with a perfect sameness that was a liability: making the ability to choose and specify details a great luxury. But in the last 20 or 30 years, computer-controlled production has democratized customization. When you can order a computer-cut shirt from Land's End for $50, customization loses its upper-crustiness. . .
If imperfection becomes a desirable luxury- good quality, savvy factory manufacturers will simply start programming their computers to insert certain random and human-seeming flubs into the products. Advertising police will never stop luxury goods from delivering more mystique than reality. That may make such pricey purchases a conspicuous waste of one's money—but wasn't that always the point?
Stephen Moore writing in the Journal's Political Diary e-newsletter:
It's on almost no one's radar screen, but Oklahoma is hosting a Senate race this year—a race, but not a contest. In a year when many incumbents are supposedly in deep trouble, Republican Tom Coburn faces not a single challenger from either party. "He's easily the most popular politician in Oklahoma," says Stuart Jolly, director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity. "No one will run against him, because no one can come anywhere close to him."
One obvious reason is Mr. Coburn's unrelenting battle against the same status quo (e.g., earmarks) that voters this year have decided they are sick of. It began when he first arrived in the Senate and Democrats immediately slapped him with an ethics complaint for continuing to practice medicine, which Dr. Coburn said he would do partly to avoid becoming too attached to his Senate salary and perks.
This week, Dr. Coburn, from the town of Muskogee, made a startling revelation that should silence his critics. He lost $11,000 in his practice last year because, while he has kept seeing patients, he doesn't charge them. "I want to keep practicing medicine even if I don't make money at it. I'm prouder of being a doctor than a Senator," he recently told me in all seriousness.
Mr. Coburn is already being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, and his stock will certainly rise after what looks like a runaway re-election victory in 2010, especially because he's been freed up to put his time into raising money for other candidates. "He's one of the godfathers of the tea party movement," says Matt Kibbe, director of Freedom Works. That gives Mr. Coburn a growing national base that few other Republicans have shown any knack for tapping into.
. . . The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen. This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another.
The American people have spent at least two years worrying that high government spending would, in the end, undo the republic. They saw the dollars gushing night and day, and worried that while everything looked the same on the surface, our position was eroding. They have worried about a border that is in some places functionally and of course illegally open, that it too is gushing night and day with problems that states, cities and towns there cannot solve.
And now we have a videotape metaphor for all the public's fears: that clip we see every day, on every news show, of the well gushing black oil into the Gulf of Mexico and toward our shore. You actually don't get deadlier as a metaphor for the moment than that, the monster that lives deep beneath the sea.
One of the many beliefs -- i.e., non-empirically based doctrines -- of the post-Christian West has been that moral progress is the human norm, especially so with the demise of religion. In a secular world, the self-described enlightened thinking goes, superstition is replaced by reason, and reason leads to the moral good.
Of course, it turned out that the post-Christian West produced considerably more evil than the Christian world had. No mass cruelty in the name of Christianity approximated the vastness of the cruelty unleashed by secular doctrines and regimes in the post-Christian world. The argument against religion that more people have been killed in the name of religion than by any other doctrine is false propaganda on behalf of secularism and Leftism.
The amount of evil done by Christians -- against, for example, "heretics" and Jews -- in both the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity -- was extensive, as was the failure of most European Christians to see Nazism for the evil that it was. The good news is that Christian evils have been acknowledged and addressed by most Christian leaders and thinkers.
But there were never any Christian Auschwitzes -- i.e., systematic genocides of every man, woman and child of a particular race or religion. Nor were there Christian Gulags -- the shipping of millions of innocents to conditions so horrific that prolonged suffering leading to death was the almost -inevitable end.
The anti-religious Left offers two responses to these facts: The first is that modern technology made the Nazi and Communist murders of scores of millions possible; had the church been technologically able to do so, it would have made its own Auschwitz and Gulag. The second is that Nazism and Communism were religions and not secular doctrines.
The response to the first is that technology was not necessary for the Communist murders of over a hundred million innocent people in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia and elsewhere. In Cambodia, millions were murdered with hammers, in Rwanda with machetes.
The response to the second is that Communism and Nazism were secular movements and to deny that is to tell a gargantuan lie. Even if one argues that Nazism and Communism were religions, they were nevertheless secular religions. That too many Christians morally failed when confronted with Nazism is true, but irrelevant to the fact that Nazism was in no way a Christian movement.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
"The problem is very simple," Bryce said. "It's not political will. It's simple physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries. There's no conspiracy here of big oil or big auto. It's a conspiracy of physics.Robert Bryce, author of "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy" says: "Nine out of 10 units of power that we consume are produced by hydrocarbons -- coal, oil and natural gas. Any transition away from those sources is going to be a decades-long, maybe even a century-long process. ... The world consumes 200 million barrels of oil equivalent in hydrocarbons per day. We would have to find the energy equivalent of 23 Saudi Arabias." Bryce used to be a left-liberal, but then: "I educated myself about math and physics.
Some other facts of physics:
The problem is that windmills cannot provide a constant source of electricity. Wind turbines only achieve 10 percent to 20 percent of their maximum capacity because sometimes the wind doesn't blow.
"That means you have to keep conventional power plants up and running. You have to ramp them up to replace the power that disappears from wind turbines and ramp them down when power reappears."
Yet the media rave about Denmark, which gets some power from wind. Bryce's book shows that Denmark uses eight times more coal and 25 times more oil than wind.
Bryce points out that energy production from every solar panel and windmill in America is less than the production from one coal mine and much less than natural gas production from Oklahoma alone.
"One nuclear power plant in Texas covers about 19 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Manhattan. To produce the same amount of power from wind turbines would require an area the size of Rhode Island. This is energy sprawl." To produce the same amount of energy with ethanol, another "green" fuel, it would take 24 Rhode Islands to grow enough corn.
There have been impressive headlines about electric cars from my brilliant colleagues in the media. The Washington Post said, "Prices on electric cars will continue to drop until they're within reach of the average family."
That was in 1915. In 1959, The New York Times said, "Electric is the car of the tomorrow." In 1979, The Washington Post said, "GM has an electric car breakthrough in batteries, now makes them commercially practical."
Selections:The Obama Administration Chews the Fat, By Matt Purple
In 120 pages of Michelle's report, there's almost no mention of personal responsibility.
When the president announced that Michelle Obama would be heading up an anti-obesity task force last summer, most of us shrugged. Most presidents like to send their wives off on a health-related mission of some sort. . .
In retrospect, we probably should have been a little more concerned. In October, Mrs. Obama confessed that, as recently as two years ago, Sasha's and Malia's meals had been chock full of fast food and pizza. When the Obama family pediatrician told Michelle that this wasn't doing her daughters' health any favors, the First Lady's jaw hit the table. "I was shocked," she said.
The same woman who was floored by the news that Wendy's Baconators are unhealthy was assigned to spearhead the government's anti-obesity policies. That probably should have set off a few alarm bells.
Now we have the fruits of Michelle Obama's labor, so to speak. On May 11 the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity released its official report, and it's a treasure trove of technocratic, finger-wagging nanny statism. The report purports to "solve" the child obesity crisis within a generation, and it's not kidding around. If the government acts on the task force's advice, we're about to be force-fed a five-course meal of do-gooder collectivism.
The anti-obesity plan would begin to federalize the entire food division of the nanny state. The task force recommends that the government look into slapping national taxes on junk food and subsidizing fruits and vegetables. The states' initiatives, in the First Lady's view, haven't succeeded in socially engineering the people enough . . .
Then there's the problem of food deserts -- not "desserts" but "deserts" -- and perhaps the crowning jewel of the ridiculousness of the whole anti-obesity initiative. Food deserts are defined as areas of the country that don't have access to a grocery store. The feds consider you stranded in a food desert if you live -- quoting from the report -- "more than a mile from a supermarket." . . .
I live about three-quarters of a mile from a grocery store, according to a quick odometer test. But my apartment complex is literally surrounded by the forces of darkness -- 7-Eleven, Chili's, Legal Seafoods, McDonald's, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Potbelly's, Hamburger Hamlet, Sbarro's, Cosi's, Chipotle, a liquor store, and several bars. Forget deserts,
Lost in the Gulf: Perspective, By Ron Ross
Every drop of sea water all over the world contains decomposed oil, along with trace amounts of almost all other elements.
An inevitable casualty of an event such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is perspective. There are at least three prime examples of this -- emphasizing costs of something while ignoring the benefits, focusing on the short-run and ignoring the long-run, and forgetting that everything is relative. . .
The reaction and reporting of the Gulf oil spill is a sad example of perhaps the simplest but most common error of economic thinking. Politicians and media are focusing almost exclusively on only one side of the ledger -- the costs, while ignoring the equally important consideration of benefits.
Drilling in the Gulf has been going on for over 70 years. There are currently over 700 rigs in operation. This is only the second significant spill during that entire period. The oil rigs have even weathered numerous hurricanes. The Gulf of Mexico provides over one fourth of U.S. domestic oil production. Gulf oil production is currently over 1.3 million barrels a day and natural gas production is over 6 billion cubic feet a day. Gulf oil and gas production contributes over $100 million of benefit to the U.S. economy daily.
Everyone wishes the spill had not happened. Nevertheless, what will be the extent of the long-term, irreversible damage done by the spill? The largest oil spill in history occurred in the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf war, compliments of Saddam Hussein. The spill dumped approximately 8 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. Nevertheless, a UNESCO-sponsored study found only one year later that fisheries showed "few unequivocal oil pollution effects attributable solely to the 1991 oil spills." . .
It is no accident that accidents have been so rare. A spill is the last thing any oil company wants to see occur. The companies involved have strong incentives to prevent such disasters. They don't want to see their considerable investments lost or have to pay for the cleanup, and they definitely do not want to see lives lost. . . The rarity of blowouts demonstrates that the incentives work extremely effectively. The economic incentives are far more powerful and ever-present than regulations can ever be.
In the real world it is impossible to have a perfect track record. Real life necessitates choosing among imperfect alternatives. What if the probability is one major spill every fifty years? Should we cancel all future offshore exploration and recovery? We've had 70 years of highly beneficial production and only two significant spills. Much will be learned from the current spill which will reduce the probability of future spills.
The media has focused on the damage the spill has imposed on the fishing industry. They have not pointed out that the economic value of the oil and gas are over 50 times greater than the value of fish taken from the Gulf. How much of your own income is spent on gasoline and natural gas compared to what you spend on seafood? . .
For virtually the entire 70 year period of drilling in the Gulf, oil rigs and fishermen have coexisted with very few problems. The periods of time during which there have been problems are a tiny fraction of that time span. Should we make choices based on the long-run or the short-run?
Farm jobs are going unfilled to such a degree that now a huge fruit orchard in Okanogan County, desperate for someone to pick cherries and apples this summer, has turned to flying in hundreds of workers from ... Jamaica. That's right. From a Caribbean island more than 3,000 miles away. In all, this one farm has applied to bring in more than a thousand temporary foreign workers."
So why is this happening?
Washington has the second most generous unemployment benefits in the country of $586 per week as of May 3 (behind Massachusetts, which pays $628 per week or more than $31,000 per year) or more than $28,000 per year working 0 hours per week. Farm workers would "only" make about $24,380 per year picking apples, so it wouldn't make sense to work, and that could explain the "worker shortage" and why the orchard needs to hire 1,000 workers from Jamaica.
Mark Perry asks: How much lower than the current 9.9% would the jobless rate in the U.S. be today without the 99-weeks of unemployment benefits that can be as generous as $31,000 per year in some states?
Thanks to Carpe Diem
- The granting of new loans to companies from the capital goods stages to them from going through a crisis, suspending payments and having to reorganize. The granting of new loans simply postpones the eruption of the crisis, while making the necessary subsequent readjustment much more severe and difficult.
- Any policy of artificially preserving jobs which is financed with inflation or credit expansion is self-destructive, insofar as consumers spend the new money created, once it reaches their pockets, in a way that makes it impossible for those very jobs to be profitable. Hence the only labor policy is to facilitate the dismissal and rehiring or workers by making labor markets highly flexible.
- Monetary policies intended to maintain at all costs the economic boom in the face of the early symptoms of an impending crisis (generally, a down-turn in the stock market and real estate market), will not prevent the recession, even when they are sufficient to postpone its arrival.
- Any manipulation of the market rate of interest is counter-productive and exerts a negative effect on the liquidation process or generates new entrepreneurial errors. In fact we can conclude with Hayek that any policy which tends to maintain interest rates at a fixed level will be highly detrimental to the stability of the economy, since interest rates must evolve spontaneously according to the real preferences of economic agents with respect to saving and consumption.
- Any policy involving the creation of artificial jobs through public works or other investment projects financed by the government should be avoided. It is evident that if such projects are financed by taxes via the issuance of public debt, they will simply draw resources away from those areas of the economy where consumers desire them and toward public works financed by the government, thus creating a new layer of widespread malinvestment.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
-Joshua Bolton, chief of staff for George W. Bush, was a Goldman man
-Current New York Fed President William Dudley is a Goldman man
-Current Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Genslerhas been a responsible regulator under Obama, but he was a deregulatory hawk during the Clinton years, and worked at Goldman for nearly two decades before that.
-A top aide to Timothy Geithner, Gene Sperling, is a Goldman man
-Current Treasury Undersecretary Robert Hormats is a Goldman man
-Current Treasury Chief of Staff Mark Patterson is a former Goldman lobbyist
-Former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt is now a Goldman adviser
-Neel Kashkari, Henry Paulson’s deputy on TARP, was a Goldman man
-COO of the SEC Enforcement Division Adam Storch is a Goldman man
-Former Sen. John Corzine, D-N.J., was Goldman’s CEO before Henry Paulson
-Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., was a Goldman Vice President before he ran for Congress
-Former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., now lobbies for Goldman
NY Times -- "Roughly 3,700 retired public workers in New York are getting pensions of more than $100,000 a year. The New York Times collected this public information from the state’s two pension funds and four of the five city funds. The pension plan for the city's firefighters has yet to provide information, as required under public information laws. Some pension funds said they could not provide figures like job title or final salary; the N.Y.P.D. Pension Fund wouldn't not disclose names."
See list here and related article here.
source: Carpe Diem
Teachers Paid by Taxpayers for Union Work
Union work stipulations commonplace across the state
by DARWYYN DEYO
Pennsylvania Bucks County teachers are allowed up to 35 days a year off from actual teaching to instead work for their union . . . These types of contracts are commonplace across the state . . . There seems to be a mindset among those who like the status quo that it is acceptable to pay teachers for time when they are working for the union when they should be teaching our students.”
In the Download file Pennsbury contract it states “A total of thirty-five (35) teacher days upon request with advance notice will be granted for Association business,” . . . separate from vacation days or other paid-time off. The contract was originally for 2005-2009 but was renewed through June 2010. . .
When a teacher take this time off, the school pays for a substitute in addition to paying the teacher’s normal salary, even while they are not in the classroom.
Almost nine-in-10 pupils now have a mobile compared with fewer than three-quarters who have their own books in the home, it was disclosed.
According to figures, some 80 per cent of children with better than expected reading skills had their own books, compared with just 58 per cent who were below the level expected for their age group.
As part of the latest study, the trust surveyed more than 17,000 schoolchildren aged seven to 16.
It found that 85.5 per cent of pupils had their own mobile phone, compared with 72.6 per cent who had their own books. Among children in Key Stage 2 – aged seven to 11 – 79.1 per cent had a mobile compared with 72.7 per cent who had access to books.
The best jobs program the government can support right now is to give unemployed Americans the task of building the rest of the border fence. I have no problem having my tax dollars going to any American patriot who wants to work to secure our borders. Simple, effective, smart
The pro "comprehensive immigration" advocates/left will say that you can’t send back 13 million illegal’s, that it is impossible. Well I say, 13 million came here one at a time and 13 million can be deported, one at a time.
We are either a nation of laws or a lawless nation
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
May 24, 2010 11:05 AM
By Avik Roy
. . . If the gold standard is merely a crankish obsession, then the ranks of obsessive cranks include not only Ron Paul but also Friedrich Hayek, Robert Mundell, Jude Wanniski, Robert Bartley, Jack Kemp, and Steve Forbes. That is to say, most of the leading exponents of supply-side economics. (Note that this roll call includes two Nobel laureates.) Indeed, sound-money policies have been at the core of conservative monetary policy from the beginning. It wasn’t too long ago that opponents of the gold standard, like William Jennings Bryan, were thought of as the cranky ones.
It is true that the gold standard is an unfashionable idea in Washington, but it is a mainstream one within the financial community. This is unsurprising on both fronts. The financial community is the consumer of government debt, and is therefore intensely attuned to the relationship of monetary policy to the value (i.e., default risk) of that debt. Investors see over and over again the pattern by which governments depart from hard-money policies (such as the gold standard) in order to engage in deficit spending, and then devalue their currencies in order to reduce the value of the debts they then incur. It is a story that all too frequently ends in credit default and economic collapse. The financial community sees no reason why the United States should be immune from the laws of economics.
On the other hand, the political class is attuned to the value of increasing government debt; that is, of building and rewarding political constituencies with high state spending and low taxation. So it is natural that a return to the gold standard is considered eccentric in Washington.
This is not to say that there aren’t thoughtful, disinterested critiques of the gold standard; there are (Milton Friedman comes to mind). But if we continue on our present fiscal course, it is only a matter of time before the bond vigilantes now ravaging Greece make their way across the Atlantic. When that happens (if not before), countries like China and Russia will take concrete steps to dissociate themselves from the U.S. dollar. Given that few other currencies are ready to take the dollar’s place, don’t be surprised if their next move is a transition back to a metals-based monetary system.
A heartbreaking social statistic is that children on welfare have only about half as many words per day directed at them as the children of working-class families — and less than one-third as many words as children whose parents are professionals. This is especially painful in view of the fact that scientists have found that the actual physical development of the brain is affected by how much interaction young children receive.
Even if every child entered the world with equal innate ability, by the time they were grown they would nevertheless have very different mental capabilities. Innate ability is the ability that exists at the moment of conception, but nobody applies for a job or for college admission at the moment of conception. Even between conception and birth, other influences affect the development of the brain, as well as the rest of the body.
The mother’s diet and her intake of alcohol or drugs affect the unborn child. Differences in the amount of nutrition received in the womb create differences even between identical twins. Where one of these identical twins is born significantly heavier than the other, and the lighter one falls below some critical weight, the heavier one tends to have a higher IQ in later years. They may be the same weight when they become adults, but they didn’t get the same nutrition back when their brains were first developing.
Inequalities have so many sources that this fact undermines the simple dichotomy between believing that some people are innately inferior and believing that discrimination or other social injustices account for economic and social differences. Yet people who are afraid of being considered racists, or believers that the lower classes are born inferior, often buy the notion that only the sins of “society” can explain why some people end up so much better off than others. . .
A majority of the men in prison came from fatherless families. In some cosmic sense, it may not be entirely their fault that they took the wrong road. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was the wrong road — or make it any less dangerous to turn them loose.
No doubt such concerns are behind efforts to “rehabilitate” prisoners or substitute “crime prevention” programs for incarceration. But magic words do not create magic realities. Innocent people have been killed by “rehabilitated” criminals who had been set free. And “prevention” programs do not prevent anything other than putting dangerous people behind bars.
The pretense of having solutions can be more dangerous than the problem. Yet there are whole armies of shrinks and social workers whose jobs depend on pretending that they have answers, even when no one has answers.
In terms of broader social policy, we need to make a sharp distinction between saying that some people are victims of a tragic fate and saying that they are victims of discrimination by employers, bias in the courts, or the sins of other individuals they encounter. Scapegoating other people is not likely to help — and it can distract attention from the real problems, which are too serious to misdiagnose.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan is asking lawmakers to put aside “politics and ideology” as they consider a request for $23 billion in “emergency” funding for public schools – a measure Republicans reject as a massive federal bailout for the teachers’ unions.
The Obama administration is supporting the bill, formally titled the Keep Our Educators Working Act and sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) dated May 13, Duncan warned that if the bill is not enacted, “millions” of school children will be adversely affected and the ensuing damage will “undermine the groundbreaking reform efforts underway in states and districts all across the country.”
Monday, May 24, 2010
Source: Carpe Diem, Mark Perry
Those on the Alinskyite left understood the campaign to be merely a charade necessary to grab the reins of power
Selections: Andrew C. McCarthy, The House Divided
Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn don’t mince words on NRO:
“Allowing the running down of a part of the United States by the head of a foreign government, at the White House, standing next to the president — who not only didn’t challenge him, but encouraged him — is a foreign- and domestic-policy catastrophe.”[F]or the first time in our history, we have a president who would be much more comfortable sitting in a room with Bill Ayers than sitting in a room with me. We have a governing class that is too often comfortable with anti-American radicals, with rogue and dysfunctional governments that blame America for their problems, and with Muslim Brotherhood ideologues who abhor individual liberty, capitalism, freedom of conscience, and, in general, Western enlightenment. To this president and his government, I am the problem. Americans who champion life, liberty, and limited government are not just the loyal opposition; they are deemed potential terrorists, and are derided with considerably more intensity than the actual terrorists. Arizona — for criminalizing criminal activity, for defending its sovereignty and protecting its citizens’ lives and property — is slandered as a human-rights violator. . .
To be elected, candidate Obama had to run as a post-partisan moderate, a pragmatic centrist who would not be constrained by ideology. Two camps well knew that this was nonsense: those few of us on the right who bothered to study Obama’s record, and those on the Alinskyite left who understood the campaign to be merely a charade necessary to grab the reins of power. It was the second camp we saw standing and cheering for Calderón in Congress on Thursday. They used him as a vehicle to condemn Arizona. . .
Whatever that country may be, it is not America as we know it. Quite the opposite: Its purpose is to remake America, to render it unrecognizable to those who love America as she is, or has been. To that frightening new country, the rest of us are Arizona. We are here to be jeered and loathed. We are necessary only to pay for the unsustainable Change.
That, however, is not supposed to be the social contract, not for most of us. We don’t aspire to be citizens of the world. America suits us just fine. Arizona suits us just fine. And while the Alinskyites know they need us to underwrite their utopia, we will eventually figure out that we don’t need them to govern — and bankrupt — us.
A nation is a big, bumptious thing. It needn’t agree on everything. It can even bitterly disagree on major things. But to be a nation, a People, it has to agree that it has a shared destiny: that its unique culture, core principles, and independence are worth preserving, protecting, and defending.
I didn’t see a shared destiny during those moments in the People’s House Thursday.
Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year — still an enormous number, but a vast improvement over the 1990 figure of 11.9 million. On average, death rates have dropped by about 2 percent a year from 1990 to 2010, and in many regions, even some of the poorest in Africa, the declines have started to accelerate, according to the report, which is being published online Sunday by The Lancet, a medical journal.
Some parts of Latin America, north Africa and the Middle East have had declines as steep as 6 percent a year. Other reports in recent years have found similar trends, but the new article, based on more detailed information and what its authors say are improved statistical methods, paints the most optimistic picture yet. Health experts say the figures mean that global efforts to save children’s lives have started working, better and faster than expected. Vaccines, AIDS medicines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria and more education for women are among the factors that have helped lower death rates, said Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, an author of the report and the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, in Seattle.
Friday, May 21, 2010
But it will also draw out the worst of the worst. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the economic promise of an expected half a million largely male incoming consumers is attracting a massive influx of prostitutes from across the border in Zimbabwe. Hotel managers are guessing that as many as 40,000 ladies of the evening are assembling from as far away as Hong Kong, Pakistan and Venezuela.
This is not the first time this unholy amalgam of sports and the sex trade has materialized. Evidence shows this to be the norm.
Millions of American workers could discover that they no longer have employer-provided health insurance as ObamaCare is phased in. That's because employers are quickly discovering that it may be cheaper to pay fines to the government than to insure workers.
AT&T, Caterpillar, John Deere and Verizon have all made internal calculations, according the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to determine how much could be saved by a) dropping their employer-provided insurance, b) paying a fine of $2,000 per employee, and c) leaving their employees with the option of buying highly-subsidized insurance in the newly created health-insurance exchange.
AT&T, for example, paid $2.4 billion last year to cover medical costs for its 283,000 active employees. If the company dropped its health plan and paid an annual penalty for each uninsured worker, the fines would total almost $600 million. But that would leave AT&T with a tidy profit of $1.8 billion.
Economists say employee benefits ultimately substitute for cash wages, which means that AT&T employees would get higher take-home pay. But considering that they will be required by federal law to buy their own insurance in an exchange, will they be net winners or losers? That depends on their incomes.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
From the SF Monitor via Carpe Diem Blog
That's the percentage of the world's population with a college degree. Since 1950, the average number of years of schooling for people 15 and older has more than doubled to 7.76, though the gap between richer and poorer countries has held relatively steady, according to a new study by economists at Harvard and the Asian Development Bank. Economic output climbs by about 2 percent for each year the length of schooling grows, the report found.
Lets get back to what works
Selections: Victor Davis Hanson, Marinestan
Periodically, the Marines’ way of doing things so bothers our military planners that some higher-ups try to curb their independence. . . But no one can question the Marine Corps’s record of defeating the most savage infantrymen of the age, thereby shattering the myth of Japanese military invincibility.
Over the last two centuries, two truths have emerged about the Marine Corps. One, they defeat the toughest of America’s adversaries under the worst of conditions. And two, periodically their way of doing things — and their eccentric culture of self-regard — so bothers our military planners that some higher-ups try either to curb their independence or to end the Corps altogether. . .
The Marines are now starting to redeploy to Afghanistan from Iraq . . . once again, the Marines are convinced that their ingenuity and audacity can succeed where others have failed. And, once again, not everyone agrees. . .
. . . it would be wise not to tamper with the independence of the Marine Corps, given that its methods of training, deployment, fighting, counterinsurgency, and conventional warfare usually pay off in the end.
The technological and political face of war is always changing. But its essence — organized violence to achieve political ends — has not changed since antiquity. Conflict will remain the same as long as human nature does.
The Marines have always understood that. And from the Marines’ initial mission against the Barbary pirates to the battles in Fallujah, Americans have wanted a maverick Marine Corps — a sort of insurance policy that will keep them safe, just in case.
Selections: Thomas Sowell, The Court’s Power Grab
Appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, are not institutions equipped to make policy judgments . . . Legislatures exist to make policy judgments — and to be voted out of office if these policy judgments turn out to produce results that the electorate does not want. But there are no such corrective mechanisms in place if Supreme Court justices misjudge.
. . . the old, moth-eaten argument cited by Justice John Paul Stevens, that the society is evolving and therefore the interpretation of the Constitution must evolve with it. Nobody — from the moment the Constitution was adopted in the 18th century to the present — has ever denied that societies evolve, and that their laws must evolve to meet changing circumstances. But, unless Justice Stevens is either stupid or dishonest, he cannot leap from a need for laws to change to the conclusion that it is judges who must be the ones to make those changes.
Just saying the magic word “change” does not justify judges’ grabbing the power to make whatever changes they please in the law. There are, after all, two other branches of the federal government, specifically charged with legislative and executive responsibilities and powers, not to mention the constitutional-amendment process.
Regarding the war on terror, international threats,
nuclear proliferation,and illegal immigration,
America is transforming into a nation that has
forgotten how to defend itself.
We need to be reminded of a few important lessons
from "A Few Good Men," so that our
nation will not be conquered.
You want answers?
I think I'm entitled to them.
You want answers?!
I want the truth.
You can't handle the truth!
Son, we live in a world that has walls.
And those walls have to be guarded by men
with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You,
Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater
responsibility than you can possibly
fathom. You weep for Santiago and you
curse the marines. You have that luxury.
You have the luxury of not knowing what I
know: That Santiago's death, while tragic,
probably saved lives. And my existence,
while grotesque and incomprehensible to
you, saves lives.
You don't want the truth. Because deep
down, in places you don't talk about at
parties, you want me on that wall. You me
We use words like honor, code,
loyalty...we use these words as the
backbone to a life spent defending
something. You use 'em as a punchline.
I have neither the time nor the
inclination to explain myself to a man who
rises and sleeps under the blanket of the
very freedom I provide, then questions the
manner in which I provide it. I'd prefer
you just said thank you and went on your
way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a
weapon and stand a post. Either way, I
don't give a damn what you think you're
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
WITH 3.2 MILLION MEMBERS . . . the NEA is also the single-biggest donor in American politics, with $52 million in campaign donations made to local, state and congressional campaigns during the 2007-2008 election cycle. This heft, along with its longstanding role in Democratic Party politics, is one reason why President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats are chatting up a proposed $23 billion "stimulus" plan to help school districts stave off layoffs.
Selections: David Harsanyi: Enlightened tyrants
In a recent interview with a Spanish newspaper, famed director Woody Allen reportedly declared himself "pleased" with President Barack Obama's presidency. . . "It would be good ... if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly."
Allen, who one hopes was joking, doesn't speak for anyone but himself yet makes a good point.
Aside from the occasional genocide, oppression, evil and torture, etc., it is inarguable that public policy could be implemented more rapidly in an autocracy. Think of how many uninsured Americans we could have helped. Think of the environmental benefits. Democratic institutions are imperfect and chaotic, and man's selfish behavior is constantly gumming up progress.
Just ask widely read liberal New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who pointed out that despotism can be advantageous if "enlightened" tyrants would run the show.
"One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks," according to Friedman. "But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages."
Of course, some form or another of Friedman's rationale has been used in nearly every embryonic dictatorship. Now, if only Venezuela and Sudan funded more solar farms, Friedman could embrace their progressive forms of governance, as well. . .
And since Americans wrestle with an array of intricate societal systems — from energy, education, technology, food, farming, communications, financial and so forth — we're going to need strong leadership in a number of areas, apparently.
It seems that the negative externalities of our freewheeeling ways have become too much for some of the enlightened to bear. Progressivism is the belief that we have too much freedom with which to make too many stupid choices.
But rarely do we see it this bluntly articulated.
Selections, Jonah Goldberg, Sticking to the Script
We are taught to believe that ideology is the enemy of free thought. But that’s not right. Ideology is a mere checklist of principles and priorities. The real enemy of clear thinking is the script. We think the world is supposed to go by a familiar plot. And when the facts conflict with the script, we edit the facts.
. . .[David] Horowitz recently spoke at the University of California, San Diego. . . In it, a young Muslim student from UCSD, Jumanah Imad Albahri, asks Horowitz to back up his attacks on the Muslim Students Association. Horowitz turns the tables on her. In less than two minutes, she reveals herself as a supporter of the terrorist group Hamas. Horowitz then notes that Hezbollah, another terrorist organization, wants all Jews to return to Israel so they can be more conveniently liquidated in one place. Horowitz asks Albahri whether she’s for or against that proposition. She is “for it.”
I asked UCSD, via e-mail, whether the woman in question was censured in any way for endorsing bigotry and genocide, or if the video [I saw] was somehow misleading. In response, I received boilerplate about how, in the tradition of Aristotle, UCSD treasures “discourse and debate” and how “the very foundations of every great university are set upon the rock-solid principles of freedom of thought and freedom of speech.”
I wrote back, in part: “Thank you for your response. I must say I find it fairly non-responsive. Out of curiosity, if a UCSD student publicly called for the extermination of gays and blacks, would this be your only response as well?” . . .
Now, I could write at length about UCSD’s hypocrisy. After all, the school recently launched a “Battle Hate” campaign in response to some idiotic stunt called the “Compton Cookout” at which a fraternity held a racially offensive event off campus during Black History Month. Administrators went into overdrive, the Black Student Union issued 32 demands, the vice chancellor righteously explained to students that although the event may have been beyond the school’s “legal jurisdiction,” it was not beyond UCSD’s “moral jurisdiction.”
“We have the moral high ground!” the vice chancellor shouted before trying to start a chant of “Not in our community!”
Well, Albahri’s statements were not only within the UCSD community, they were well inside the school’s legal and moral jurisdiction. And yet in response, we don’t get the familiar kabuki of official outrage. Instead we get: This endorsement of genocide is brought to you by Aristotle.
The important point here isn’t the school’s double standard. It’s that on campuses and in the wider intellectual culture, people can’t let go of their dog-eared script. It’s not that conventional racism is no longer a problem, nor is it that the civil-rights era no longer resonates. But freaking out over the vestiges of familiar racism is firmly within the comfort zone of contemporary liberalism. Indeed, it’s an industry. Yet when it comes to students like Albahri — and there are many like her — administrators become brainless and lost. Lacking an adequate script, they resort to bromides about Aristotle.
Selections: Victor Davis Hanson, The Technocrats’ New Clothes
In the last year, many of the dreams of an emerging international elite have imploded — and this, in a new century that was to usher in a regime of global liberal ecumenism.
The lies and academic fraud of Climategate reminded us that it is almost impossible for even disinterested scientists to fathom the complex history of global climate change. But it also — and more importantly — reminded us how Western universities have turned into rigid medieval centers of intolerant orthodoxy. Our new academic monks, in their isolated sanctuaries — cut off by grants, subsidies, tenure, and cadres of obsequious graduate students from the grubby efforts of others to stay alive — have for years breezily issued all sorts of near-religious exegeses and edicts about the public’s ruination of the planet. We lesser folk were supposed to find salvation through installing windmills and junking our incandescent light bulbs under the tutelage of wiser overseers.
Meanwhile, in the last few weeks, nature did what no human industry had ever quite done — shut down much of European airspace with a huge toxic cloud. But the mess was not a DuPont emission, or soot from Eastern Europe’s network of coal plants, or any such man-caused disaster, but the work of a prosaic volcano. The ensuing economic chaos and toxic air pollution were accepted with a shrug in that they were natural and had nothing to do with Halliburton. . .
In 2009, the vision of the new Obama administration was European: foreign-policy triangulation, government takeovers of private enterprises, higher taxes, more entitlements and public workers, and always more “them/us” class-warfare rhetoric from members of a technocratic guardian class who had played the very system they were now to oversee. . .
. . . we are also seeing the unraveling of Obama’s reset-button foreign policy . . .predicated on the assumption that much of the tension in the world . . . could be ameliorated through apology, retrenchment, dialogue, public self-critique, and criticism of prior presidents.
So add it all up: the Al-Arabiya interview, the Cairo speech, the distancing from Israel, the euphemisms like “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters,” the politically correct banishment of any anti-terrorism phraseology associated with Islam, the repeated announcements of the closing of Guantanamo and the trying of KSM in New York, the strange case of Attorney General Eric Holder, who can call his own fellow citizens “cowards” but not associate radical Islam with recent attempts by Muslims to kill those fellow citizens en masse . . .
Indeed, a trait of this administration is to speak far more harshly of fellow Americans than it does of our enemies: Arizonans vote to enforce federal immigration laws, so the administration offers them up to the Chinese as an example of American civil-liberties violations. In our morally equivalent world, a government that would enforce laws against those who entered the country illegally is not all that different from a government that not long ago killed more than 40 million of its own.
If Europe is our model of soft power; if Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other autocracies are the moral equivalents of democratic Israel; if it is not radical Islam that empowered a Hasan, an Abdulmutallab, or a Shahzad; if Iran can be reasoned with to abandon its nuclear agenda; and if Russia can be flattered into acting responsibly — then the world suddenly does not work in the way it has in the past 2,500 years of civilization.
What is common to all these disillusionments . . . They all can be traced to a global Western elite that in its intellectual arrogance confused late-20th-century technological progress with a supposed evolution in human nature itself. Heaven on earth was to be ushered in by those who deemed themselves so wise and so moral that they could remake civilization in their own image — even if that sometimes meant the end of disinterested research, basic arithmetic, and simple common sense.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
From Lisa Schiffren in National Review.
The ultimate winner, Miss Michigan, was asked if contraception should be paid for by health insurance. She thought that it should be. She explained, "I believe that birth control is just like every other medication, even though it's a controlled substance."
SELECTIONS: Thomas Sowell, ‘Enough Money’
The idea that politicians should decide when a citizen has made enough money is morally bankrupt and economically illiterate. One of the many shallow statements that sound good — if you don’t stop and think about them — is that “at some point, you have made enough money.” . . .
Politicians with the power to determine each citizen’s income are no longer public servants. They are public masters.
Are we really so eaten up with envy, or so mesmerized by rhetoric, that we are willing to sacrifice our own freedom by giving politicians the power to decide how much money anybody can make or keep? Of course, that will start only with “the rich,” but surely history tells us that it will not end there.
The French Revolution began its arbitrary executions among the hereditary aristocracy but ended up arbitrarily executing all sorts of other people, including eventually even leaders of the Revolution itself, such as Robespierre.
Very similar patterns appeared in the Bolshevik Revolution, in the rise of the Nazis, and in numerous other times and places, where expanded and arbitrary powers were put into the hands of politicians — and were used against the population as a whole.
Once you buy the argument that some segment of the citizenry should lose their rights, just because they are envied or resented, you are putting your own rights in jeopardy — quite aside from undermining any moral basis for respecting anybody’s rights. You are opening the floodgates to arbitrary power. And once you open the floodgates, you can’t tell the water where to go.
First of all, yes the Gulf oil spill is a terrible natural disaster and will divert resources inefficiently as a result of having to clean up the mess. With that said, anyone who believes any behaviors of man come without risk is blind to human nature and man's fallibility.
When Pete DuPont in the Wall Street Journal said:
"[On] April 20 an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico caused a leak of about 210,000 gallons a day--nearly five million gallons by now--into the ocean, and it may be several weeks or longer before it is capped and the leakage controlled. The current Gulf spillage is already almost half of the spillage from the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska which amounted to about 11 million gallons, so it is a serious pollution problem."I wondered what the ratio of oil to water was in the Gulf of Mexico. In order to get a more rational understanding of the impact of the oil spill I did some math (with the help of my most nerdy students). The numbers might put some perspective on the situation.
The general consensus is that 5 million total gallons of oil have spilled so far.
The concise Brittanica Encyclopedia estimates the Gulf of Mexico to be 5.3 X 10 E 17 US Gallons or
This equals 106,000,000,000 or 106 billion gallons of water in the Gulf for every gallon of oil spilled.
or to think in opposite terms:
.000,000,000,009 % or 943 trillionths of a gallon of oil for every gallon of water in the Gulf of Mexico
Even if we take the very expansive U.C. Berkley/Columbia University estimates of the amount of oil being spilled, the numbers are: 1.89 billionths of a gallon of oil for every gallon of water in the Gulf.
I wonder what would happen to my soup on the stove if I added 943 trillionths of any substance to my gallon of water?
Would the "soup/environment" be destroyed?
Maybe it is time to take a deep breath, and move forward with some common sense rationality in dealing and reporting about the oil spill in the Gulf.
Monday, May 17, 2010
For better or worse I have been identified by the British establishment as the person who can be relied upon to defend the indefensible, and who might be allowed to defend the indefensible even on state television (that is, the BBC) provided the defense is sufficiently diluted by others defending the obvious. In official code, "indefensible" means "conservative," while "obvious" means "left-liberal.- Roger Scruton in the American Spectator
[F]or the first time in the United States, the amount of data in text, e-mail messages, streaming video, music and other services on mobile devices in 2009 surpassed the amount of voice data in cellphone calls, industry executives and analysts say.
“Originally, talking was the only cellphone application,” said Dan Hesse, chief executive of Sprint Nextel. “But now it’s less than half of the traffic on mobile networks.”
Mark Perry from Carpe Diem Blog reacts:
Isn't it interesting that historically the telephone replaced the telegraph, and talking on the phone replaced sending telegrams as the preferred method of communication. Now with the popularity of using phones for text messages and emails, it's almost like going back to sending telegrams by phone instead of talking on the phone.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Selections: Crony Capitalism: From GM to Greece, the Lies Keep Growing, By George Will
Now American taxpayers also own a little bit of a small nation. They provide the U.S. contribution of 17 percent of the assets of the International Monetary Fund, which is giving Greece $39 billion (the IMF also is contributing $321 billion to a "stabilization"fund for other eurozone nations with debt problems). So the U.S. government, which would borrow 42 cents of every dollar it spends under the president's 2011 budget, is borrowing to rescue Greece and others from the consequences of their borrowing.
That nation, whose GDP is below that of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, is "too big to fail," meaning too inconveniently connected to too many big banks. Bailing out Greece really rescues European banks that improvidently bought Greek bonds. . .
Time was, the European left said it spoke for horny-handed sons of toil oppressed in dark Satanic mills. But Athens' so-called "anti-government mobs" have been composed mostly of government employees going berserk about threats to their entitlements. Even Greek air force pilots went on strike. The government, unable to say how many employees it has, promises to count them. It cannot fire many of them because article 103, paragraph 4 of the Greek constitution says: "Civil servants holding posts provided by law shall be permanent so long as these posts exist."
America's projected $9.7 trillion in budget deficits in this decade will drive the nation's debt to 90 percent of GDP (Greece's is 124 percent). So some people say that to avoid a Greek-style crisis, America should adopt a value-added tax (VAT). But Europe's most troubled nations -- the PIIGS: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain -- have VATs of 20 percent, 21 percent, 20 percent, 21 percent and 16 percent, respectively. As part of its austerity penance, the Greek government is going to give itself more money by raising its VAT to 23 percent.
5 myths about green energy, by Robert Bryce
Here is a selection:
Unfortunately, solar and wind technologies require huge amounts of land to deliver relatively small amounts of energy, disrupting natural habitats. Even an aging natural gas well producing 60,000 cubic feet per day generates more than 20 times the watts per square meter of a wind turbine. A nuclear power plant cranks out about 56 watts per square meter, eight times as much as is derived from solar photovoltaic installations. The real estate that wind and solar energy demand led the Nature Conservancy to issue a report last year critical of "energy sprawl," including tens of thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines needed to carry electricity from wind and solar installations to distant cities.
Denmark, the poster child for wind energy boosters, more than doubled its production of wind energy between 1999 and 2007. Yet data from Energinet.dk, the operator of Denmark's natural gas and electricity grids, show that carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation in 2007 were at about the same level as they were back in 1990, before the country began its frenzied construction of turbines. Denmark has done a good job of keeping its overall carbon dioxide emissions flat, but that is in large part because of near-zero population growth and exorbitant energy taxes, not wind energy. And through 2017, the Danes foresee no decrease in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation.
In the new green economy, batteries are not included. Neither are many of the "rare earth" elements that are essential ingredients in most alternative energy technologies. Instead of relying on the diversity of the global oil market -- about 20 countries each produce at least 1 million barrels of crude per day -- the United States will be increasingly reliant on just one supplier, China, for elements known as lanthanides. Lanthanum, neodymium, dysprosium and other rare earth elements are used in products from high-capacity batteries and hybrid-electric vehicles to wind turbines and oil refinery catalysts.
China controls between 95 and 100 percent of the global market in these elements. And the Chinese government is reducing its exports of lanthanides to ensure an adequate supply for its domestic manufacturers. Politicians love to demonize oil-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, but adopting the technologies needed to drastically cut U.S. oil consumption will dramatically increase America's dependence on China.
Excerpts: Victor Davis Hanson, The Other European Volcano
Five years ago, the European Union’s account of itself resonated with end-of history triumphalism. In organic fashion, democratic socialism would spread eastward and southward, recivilizing the old Warsaw Pact and the Balkans through cradle-to-grave entitlements, state unionism, radical environmentalism, and utopian pacifism. No wonder that Turkey begged — and often humiliated itself in the process — to get inside this more perfect union.
Over here, we were often lectured by “progressives” that almost everything Europe did was better — subsidized mass transit, free college tuition, extended maternity leave, early retirement, and “soft-power” diplomacy. Indeed, Obama’s presidential campaign was in some senses a stealthy referendum on Europeanization. And once he was elected, his moves to raise taxes, expand government, expropriate some private industries, run up exponentially increasing deficits, subsidize environmentalism, and triangulate with enemies and allies abroad were European Union to the core.
Few wanted to listen when it was pointed out — well before the Greek meltdown — that on key questions of demography and immigration, the future of the European Union was bleak. The very idea that, in historical terms, socialism, agnosticism, pacifism, and hedonism were not only interrelated and synergistic, but also suicidal for civilization, was considered crackpot. .
The wonder of the Greek implosion was not that it came so soon, but rather — given the pan-European phenomena of early retirement, declining populations, bloated public sectors, and militant unionism — that it took so long. In some sense, the dream of the European Union — a continental democratic socialism that offered a Western liberal antithesis to the United States — is now finished. Let us count the reasons why.
Once the bureaucratic scab comes off, we are going to see many of the European Union’s raw wounds as never before. The Greek riots are instructive, as the world watches in shock as the prospective recipients of world largesse rage at their benefactors. Draping the Acropolis with the hammer-and-sickle seems an odd way to convince capitalists to bail out socialists at the beginning of the life-saving tourist season. But, then, when does any dependent either voluntarily cut back, or feel gratitude toward its patron? We may well see far more violence as the crisis spreads throughout southern Europe. An entire generation nursed on socialism as a birthright — with no direct memory of the hardship of the Depression, World War II, the postwar rebuilding, or the fault lines from left-right violence in Spain, Italy, and Greece — will very soon be “asked” to give much of it up. As the statist economy goes, so too will go much of the European posturing about state-subsidized radical environmentalism, pooh-poohing of Islamic radicalism, and holding up of the bogeyman of American imperialism. Those were always pipe-dream ideologies of an affluent and subsidized populace. They are certainly luxuries beyond the means of a far poorer, far angrier citizenry that now must live in the unkind world.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
A wonderful answer to the question: What should we really do?
From Cato@liberty by Jim Harper
There’s a certain blindness that comes from worst-case thinking. An extension of the precautionary principle, it involves imagining the worst possible outcome and then acting as if it were a certainty. It substitutes imagination for thinking, speculation for risk analysis and fear for reason. It fosters powerlessness and vulnerability and magnifies social paralysis. And it makes us more vulnerable to the effects of terrorism.
When someone is proposing a change, the onus should be on them to justify it over the status quo. But worst case thinking is a way of looking at the world that exaggerates the rare and unusual and gives the rare much more credence than it deserves. It isn’t really a principle; it’s a cheap trick to justify what you already believe. It lets lazy or biased people make what seem to be cogent arguments without understanding the whole issue.- Bruce Snyder
Selections: The bill comes due for a life of fairness at the expense of growth, By DANIEL HENNINGER, Wall Street Journal
A We're-Not-Europe Party would promise the American people to avoid and oppose any policy that makes us more like them and less like us.
For Americans, this has been a two-week cram course in what not to be if you hope to have a vibrant future. What was once an unfocused criticism of Mr. Obama and the Democrats, that they are nudging America toward a European-style social-market economy, came to awful life in the panicked, stricken faces of Europe's leadership: Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown, Papandreou. They look like that because Europe has just seen the bond-market devil. . .
The bond market is a good bargain—if you live more or less within your means. The Europeans, however, pushed a good bargain into a Faustian bargain, which the world calls a sovereign debt crisis.
In the German legend, Faust was a scholar who sold his soul to the devil many years hence in return for a life now of intellectual brilliance and physical comfort. In our version of the legend, Europe's governments told the devil that, more than anything, they wanted a life of social protection and income fairness no matter the cost. Life was good. A fortnight ago, the bond devil arrived and asked for his money.
In the U.S., the Obama White House and the Democrats have decided to wage politics into November by positioning the Republicans as the party of obstruction, which won't vote for things the nation "needs," such as ObamaCare. Some Republicans voting against these proposals seem to understand, as do their most ardent supporters, that they are opposing such ideas and policies because the Democrats have pushed far beyond the traditional centrist comfort zone of most Americans. A Democratic Party whose current budget takes U.S. spending from a recent average of about 21% of GDP up to 25% is outside that comfort zone. It's headed toward the euro zone.
After Europe's abject humiliation, the chance is at hand for the Republicans to do some useful self-definition. They should make clear to the American people that the GOP is "The We're Not Europe Party." Their Democratic opposition could not attempt such a claim because they do not wish to.
Economic stagnation is a kind of purgatory. Once there, it's not clear how you get out. . .
The antidote to stagnation is economic growth. Not just growth, but strong growth. A 4% growth rate, which Europe will never see again, pays social dividends innumerably greater than 2.5% growth. Which path are we on?
Barack Obama would never say it is his intention to make the U.S. go stagnant by suppressing wealth creation in return for a Faustian deal on social equity. But his health system required an astonishing array of new taxes on growth industries. He is raising taxes on incomes, dividends, capital gains and interest. His energy reform requires massive taxes. His government revels in "keeping a boot on the neck" of a struggling private firm. Wall Street's business is being criminalized.
Economic stagnation arrives like a slow poison. Look at the floundering United Kingdom, whose failed prime minister, Gordon Brown, said on leaving, "I tried to make the country fairer." Maybe there's a more important goal.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
(Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa's) residence is near Wilshire Boulevard, which is named for a socialist who made and lost several fortunes before dying destitute. The life of Henry Wilshire is a cautionary tale for this city where the climate is usually Mediterranean and the fiscal climate is now Greek.
To get from downtown to the residence of the man (His Honor Antonio Villaraigosa) who, in 2005, became the first Hispanic elected mayor since 1870, you drive through a sliver of Korea. With 125,000 people packed into 2.7 of the city's 469 square miles, Koreatown is typical of this polyglot city where more than 100 languages are spoken and nothing is typical except recentness: 46 percent of the residents are foreign-born. . .
For 15 years Villaraigosa was an organizer for the Service Employees International Union and the city's teachers' union. Now he is trying to cope with, and partially undo, largesse for unionized public employees . . .
L.A. has conveniently but unrealistically assumed 8 percent annual growth of the assets of the city's pension funds. The two main funds' actual growth over the last decade have been 3.5 percent and 2.8 percent. And Villaraigosa added 5,000 people to the city's payroll in his first term.
Nationwide, government employees are most of what remains of "defined benefit" America. More than 80 percent of government workers have defined benefits—as opposed to defined-contribution—pension plans. Only about 20 percent of private-sector workers have defined-benefit plans. California's parlous condition owes much to burdensome health-care and pension promises negotiated with public employees' unions, promises that are suffocating the state's economic growth.
(Some) suggest replacing defined-benefit pensions with 401(k) accounts for new public employees. But when another product of America's immigrant culture, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, tried to do that, public employees' unions squashed the idea. (Some) say the retirement age for public employees should be raised from 55 to 65, employees should pay more than the maximum of 9 percent of their salaries for pensions, and the city should end subsidies of up to $1,200 a month for health insurance for those who retire before becoming eligible for Medicare. But even his ideas for nibbling at the edges of the fiscal problem by privatizing the zoo, the convention center, and city parking lots are opposed by the unions.
They (the public unions) are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself for ever-larger portions of wealth extracted by the taxing power from the private sector. Increasingly, government workers are the electoral base of the party of government. So Villaraigosa must live with the arithmetic of interest-group liberalism. The federal government, he says, can run deficits and print money; the state government (supposedly) must balance the budget but can push burdens down onto cities. . .
The nightmare numbers include the state's unemployment rate (12.6 percent)—it is higher than the nation's (9.9)—and the city's rate (13.5), which is higher than the state's. The city's long-term success depends on its schools, in many of which most of the children come from homes without fathers, and in some of which, Villaraigosa says, 40 percent of the children are in foster homes. He has little control over the school system and, anyway, unions oppose radical reforms. He would like to emulate the education reforms of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a recent visitor to the mayor's residence, but, holding his fingers three inches apart to suggest the thickness of the standard contract with the teachers' union, Villaraigosa calls the union "the most powerful defender of the status quo."