Saturday, August 29, 2009

Seven lessons of Cash-for-Clunkers' failure

By: Irwin M. Stelzer

It's over, finished, done. And quiet returns to the auto showrooms of America. Cash-for-Clunkers has outlived its funding. But left us with a host of useful lessons.

First, government forecasters are really bad at their job. The program was originally funded with $1 billion of taxpayer money to cover rebates of $3,500-$4,500 on cars traded in for more fuel-efficient models, and the money was expected to last for about six months. It lasted for one week. The $2 billion added to keep the program alive lasted less than a month. No surprise, then, that the government just discovered that its forecast of the deficit in the coming decade is light by a mere $2 trillion, or almost 30%.

Second, the government's talents, whatever they might be, do not include efficient administration of its programs. The 135 pages of rules setting out what dealers had to do to recapture the refund money they laid out, were constantly changed, the web site they were to use to apply to get their money back frequently crashed, and some had to drop out of the program because they had run out of cash. The Department of Transportation assigned 2,000 workers to process dealer paperwork, but they seemed unable to get the money to dealers who, having laid it out in response to promises of prompt repayment, desperately needed the cash. So if you think the President's plan to "reform" health care will make it easier to cope with the paperwork surrounding hospital and doctor's bills, think again.

Third, Cash-for-Clunkers proved that if you give people $4,500 to buy a durable good, they will be more likely to buy it while the refund is available than later. But it does not show that the increase in spending meets one of White House economist Larry Summers' tests - sustainability. The buyers of the almost 700,000 cars - 41% from Japanese makers and 39% from the (once) Big Three - for which dealers have filed $2.88 billion in refund requests included many who merely accelerated their purchase. Estimates are that 60% of buyers would have bought cars this year without this incentive. So dealers are expecting a very quiet few months. And from the stimulus effect of the program must be deducted the appliances, clothes and other stuff that consumers will not buy in the future, now that they have the burden of lease or loan payments for their new vehicles.

Fourth, if you want to reduce dependence of foreign oil, don't look to Cash-for-Clunkers for help. On the best of assumptions about the fuel saved by replacing inefficient Clunkers with cars that get perhaps 10 mpg more than the Clunkers they replace, the reduction in gasoline consumption will cut our oil consumption by 0.2 percent per year, or less than a single day's gasoline use. Unless, of course, the new car is more frequently driven because lower fuel consumption lowers the cost of driving, and increases the pleasure of taking to the road, in which case the saving will be less, or none.

Fifth, fuel saving was only one goal of the program. The main stated goal was to cut carbon dioxide emissions and thereby postpone the day when the globe will be so warm that the ice caps melt, islands are inundated and we face a gory future. That, the program did, although only inconsequentially, given the pell-mell construction of coal plants in China and India, but at a horrendously uneconomic cost.

Christopher Knittel, associate professor of economics at the University of California, estimates that the cost of reducing emissions was somewhere between $237 per ton and $365 per ton. Since the market price for carbon has fluctuated between around $20 and $40 per ton, "the program is an expensive way to reduce greenhouse gases." But cost is not something this Congress and the administration systematically factor into their policy ruminations.

Sixth, unionization matters. Cash-for-Clunkers added $3 trillion to the billions of taxpayer money expended to save General Motors and Chrysler, i.e., members of the United Auto Workers. What a like sum might have done for furniture makers, or the hotel industry, or small businesses, was never even considered.

Seventh, programs such as Cash-for-Clunkers have no regard for lower-income consumers. By mandating the destruction of trade-ins, Congress removed 700,000 cars from the used-car market, inevitably driving up prices of the cars that lower-income consumers tend to buy. And by ordering that a trade-in's engine be destroyed by replacing its engine oil with a sodium silicate solution (which turns out to be in short supply!), Congress sharply reduced the salvageable used parts that are bought mostly by poorer consumers to keep their cars running.

There's more, but you get the idea. It takes a politician to declare Cash-fo-Clunkers a success.



Some media ridicule of Obama at last

July 15th, 2009 - a day that shall live in comedic infamy. The Obama administration’s first direct hit from reliably friendly allies. Former Saturday Night Live star, now stand up comic Dana Carvey was the guest on the new Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. When O’Brien asked Carvey his opinion of Obama, Carvey trotted out some fresh material. “I’m worried. The economy just had a heart attack, but Barack just wants to work on the knee,” Carvey riffed. ”Should we do CPR? No, we’re gonna fix this knee. We can do CPR when it’s efficient and cost effective, but right now we’re going to work on the meniscus. “Carvey concluded the bit suggesting George W. Bush would have used an economic “crash cart.” “Tax cuts for everybody - CLEAR!” The audience roared. Were they laughing at Carvey’s “dumb guy” Bush impression, or was it the excitement of more money in their pockets as an economic remedy? No matter the audience response. Carvey saw fit to address economic policy in his comedy. That’s telling.

At the same hour, on the same day - The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart opened fire. ”Last night, Obama threw out the first pitch at the All Star game. He even played short-stop for a time,” Stewart said. “There’s nothing he can’t do…except create jobs.” Ouch. The audience laughed tepidly. It was as though they couldn’t believe what they’d heard, and Stewart moved past the line quickly.

During the same show, Stewart went on to skewer the healthcare reform fight in Washington. Initially mocking Republicans for sounding the alarm on Obama’s ultimate desire for a “single payer” system, the joke took an unexpected turn. ”…that’s just a Republican scare tactic. The Democrats are not proposing a government takeover of health insurance. And they’re certainly not trying to “Trojan horse” us into some European or Canadian-style single payer system,” said Stewart. With that, Stewart played some grainy campaign video from 2008 in which Obama told a cheering crowd, “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer health care.” The next shot is a dumbfounded Stewart back at the desk as he coldly confessed, “Wow. That Communist sounded a lot like our President.”

Since this watershed event in comedy, the Daily Show has taken on a new tone. A day after President Obama declared Cambridge cops “acted stupidly” in the arrest of his friend “Skip” Gates, Stewart took it head on. “Now, I wasn’t at the press conference last night, and I don’t have all the facts. But I think it’s fair to say that Obama handled that question…oh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Stupidly?”

In another segment of the same show, Stewart playfully cheered as Nancy Pelosi and President Obama suggested increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for health care reform. He pretended to be surprised when he was “informed” in his earpiece that he, in fact was wealthy. ”Oh, so they’re coming for me…ok,” Stewart said sheepishly. Remember, Stewarts’s a New York-based millionaire. Theirs is the highest taxation in the country, and President Obama and New York want more from him. Is Stewart sensitive to that? Again, economics and federal budgets as punch lines? You’ve got your answer.

Last week’s Daily Show also featured a montage of the President refuting criticisms of his health care plan. After the string of presidential rebuttals Stewart concluded, “You know a sales pitch is in trouble when it starts with “Look, you’ve got to trust me. We’re not going to kill your grandparents.”

The impression shouldn’t be left that comedy’s liberal leanings are absent. The bias for this president is still deeply entrenched in comedy writers. But writers and performers are also wealthy, privately insured, and often well educated. They have lost much of their own wealth in the markets while beginning to realize the finest doctors and insurers who serve them are growing nervous. Comedians have families and friends in medicine, finance, and industry. Reality is setting in.

The truth of the nation’s growing pessimism and skepticism in Washington is at historic highs and on display every day. Comedians’ choice is clear. Continue to cheer and cover for a president in whom they emotionally invested so much. Or realize the investment just didn’t pay off as they’d hoped and get back to the honesty in their craft. Never have there been so few jokes directed at a President who deserves so many.

Jon Stewart was just voted “America’s most trusted” by the online readers at Time Magazine after Walter Cronkite passed away. He led the likes of Couric, Williams, and Gibson - all network news anchors who “play it straight.” Meanwhile, Gallup polling reports Obama’s job approval among likely voters age 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 has dropped 6 percent in the last month. Obama is losing Jon Stewart. The question is: Can Obama get him back?



A Lesson from Across the Pond

As states like California, Illinois and New Jersey struggle to make up for steep multi-billion dollar budget deficits while they totter on the brink of insolvency, there is one option for reducing those shortfalls that is making real headway across the Atlantic Ocean.

It all revolves around cutting the public sector. It's time to try it here.

Ireland is faced with a €20 billion deficit and borrowing €400 million a week just to keep afloat. Colm McCarthy, the chairman of An Bord Snip Nua—a cost-cutting bureau in Ireland—knows the stakes. And he sees no way around cutting public sector pay by some €5.3 billion. Government officials agree. So far, the left-of-center government refuses to rule anything out in the Bord Snip report.

Writes The Sunday Times on July 19th, "Ireland is like a household that has been living beyond its means and now finds itself deep in hock to the bank. Unless we show a willingness to reduce our spending, [international] lending may dry up, forcing us into the arms of the European Central Bank which will have to mount an IMF-style rescue to prevent a euro currency crisis."

Ireland is not alone. Poland just announced a cut of 12,000 government employees. No silly furloughs or dodgy accounting tricks. A straight reduction in the number of public sector workers. And the government warns that if revenues do not increase, further reductions will be forthcoming. Other nations in Europe are actively considering similar or even deeper cuts.

The basic problems Ireland faces are quite similar to those in California, New York and other states in the U.S.: Public sector workers make far more than their private sector counterpart.

An October 2007 survey from Ireland's Central Statistics Office showed that the average hourly earnings in the public sector were far greater than in the private sector. Average earnings per hour in the public sector were €26.67 compared with €18.07 per hour in the private sector. Public sector wages are 48% higher.

And how do California, Illinois and others match up? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' recently published study for 2007, in California, which is still trying to climb out of its oppressive $26 billion deficit, average annual income for state employees was $56,777 versus $49,935 for the private sector, a 14 percent gap. In Illinois, a similar story emerges: $53,925 for state workers, and $48,006 for the private sector, an 11 percent split. New Jersey: $57,845 average state salary, $53,590 for private sector workers, at an 8 percent difference. And these differences don't take into account the excessive fringe benefits enjoyed by public sector workers. The bottom-line is that we pay the public sector more, in some cases far more, than corresponding workers in private business.

Nationally, the story is even worse. Federal workers made on average $64,871 in 2007, with private sector workers making a meager $44,362, so public sector wages in the federal system are 46% higher.

If California, and other spendthrift state governments ever hope to emerge in the black, they must now implement what some may consider draconian fiscal measures. Cutting public sector pay makes the most sense. In California, for example, if workers received a 12.1 percent pay cut, leveling the playing field with the private sector, the state would save $3.1 billion.




Seniors benefit from zero inflation: "AARP and other self-styled senior lobbies are raising a ruckus over the news that in 2010, for the first time in 35 years, Social Security recipients won't be getting a cost of living increase in their monthly checks. Members of Congress are calling for an investigation into the way COLAs are calculated. But the only real scandal here is the opposite of what Congress, the press and AARP are moaning about. The recent fall in prices has served up a windfall for seniors and a real $600 average increase in their Social Security payments this year. There will be no COLA increase this year because consumer prices have been level or even falling. In the past nine months, the consumer price index—the official measure of the cost of living—has fallen by 2.3%, meaning the real purchasing power of a Social Security check has risen. How is this bad for seniors?"

Remembering the Hebron Massacre: "Yet another wrenching exile and return, now rarely remembered, occurred 80 years ago this week. On Aug. 23-24, 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was exiled following a horrific pogrom. The tragedy is known as Tarpat, an acronym for its date in the Hebrew calendar. Until 1929, Jews had lived in Hebron for three millennia. There, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land. Ever since, religious Jews revered Hebron as the burial site of their matriarchs and patriarchs. Conquered, massacred and expelled over the centuries, Jews always returned to this sacred place. In August 1929, that community was suddenly and brutally attacked. Incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—Arab rioters swept through Palestine. In Hebron, the carnage was horrendous. It began on Friday afternoon when Arabs attacked Jews with clubs and murdered a yeshiva student. The next morning, joined by local villagers, Arabs swarmed through Hebron screaming "Kill the Jews." When the slaughter finally subsided, 67 Jews had been murdered. Three days later, British soldiers evacuated 484 survivors, including 153 children, to Jerusalem."

What moves justice Kennedy? "He sits dead center in a court still polarized between four conservative justices and four liberal ones. In the 2006-07 term, for instance, Justice ­Kennedy joined the majority in all its 5-4 decisions. For all its importance, Justice Kennedy's outlook can appear puzzling at times, either maddeningly ­capricious or philosophically incoherent. In "Justice Kennedy's Jurisprudence," Frank J. Colucci manages to define it with admirable precision, debunking along the way the oversimple ways in which Justice Kennedy has been characterized by people who disagree with his ­decisions. Mr. Colucci shows that his ideas are not ­inconsistent or dismissible as mere caprice or opportunism. The key to Justice ­Kennedy's votes, Mr. Colucci says, is his moral ­reading of the Constitution: He sees the document as an unfolding story of ever greater individual liberty. Thus he ­opposes laws that abridge sexual ­freedom, including laws against homosexual conduct. If an originalist reading of the Constitution does not reveal such a liberty—relying on the received meaning of the ­Constitution's words at the time they were ­written—Justice Kennedy's moral ­reading does. But he is skeptical of race-conscious ­programs, too, because they treat applicants as members of a group rather than as individuals who possess the right to be free from group-based policies or rules."

Clunker cash taxable: "People who purchased cars recently under this cash for clunkers program may find out a little something they weren't expecting: that $4,500 rebate from the government taxpayers is taxable. Not only are you taxed once, but this blogger points out that depending on which state you live in, you could be taxed twice on clunker rebates. "Specifically, you pay sales tax on the full vehicle price (effectively paying sales tax on the $4,500!) and what's worse those states that tax income (that would be most of them!) might wind up counting this as income for state income tax purposes too, effectively taxing you twice." Even when the government tries to kiss you, it is just a prelude to a good screwing."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Friday, August 28, 2009

A U.S. President, Raised on KGB Propaganda

The former chief of Romania's espionage service sees an American president fully invested in the lies he helped disseminate along with the KGB

In the heyday of the Cold War, both knowingly and unknowingly, such radical intellectuals served as a reliable conduit for anti-U.S. propaganda generated in the think tanks of Moscow. The technical details were described by a number of defectors from the Eastern Bloc intelligence agencies, the highest-ranking of whom was Ion Mihai Pacepa, acting chief of Romania’s espionage service.
“The whole foreign policy of the Soviet-bloc states, indeed its whole economic and military might, revolved around the larger Soviet objective of destroying America from within through the use of lies,” Pacepa writes. “The Soviets saw disinformation as a vital tool in the dialectical advance of world Communism. … Many ‘Ban-the-Bomb’ and anti-nuclear movements were KGB-funded operations, too. I can no longer look at a petition for world peace or other supposedly noble cause, particularly of the anti-American variety, without thinking to myself, ‘KGB.’

“As far as I’m concerned, the KGB gave birth to the antiwar movement in America,” Pacepa continues. “KGB chairman Yuri Andropov managed our anti-Vietnam War operation. He often bragged about having damaged the U.S. foreign-policy consensus, poisoned domestic debate in the U.S., and built a credibility gap between America and European public opinion through our disinformation operations. Vietnam was, he once told me, ‘our most significant success.’”

The fraudulent image of America as the “violent imperialist aggressor” was picked up by the Western media, disseminated through activist groups, and found its way into policy making, exemplified by John Kerry’s 1971 “Genghis Khan” testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where Kerry almost verbatim repeated the KGB fabrications, later recognized by Pacepa as his own subversive product.

“KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility,” Pacepa recalls. “One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and ‘news reports’ about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. … All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.”

Our sensory organs may perceive the same reality, but our knowledge of the world depends on how our minds interpret our perceptions and connect the dots. A successful propaganda campaign modifies that process by inserting, in a manner of speaking, a prefabricated optical lens that redirects incoming information and rearranges the existing dots. It may remain unnoticed for a while because the distortion affects limited designated areas — in this case, political ideology. One still is the same person, except that when he thinks of political, economic, or social issues, lies suddenly become perceived as the truth, right as wrong, good as evil, enemies as friends, and so on.

Ultimately, the most successful, moral, and just country in the history of humanity becomes perceived as a violent monster feeding on the bodies of innocent victims.

Caught off guard by such a procedure and lacking intellectual tools to detect it, any decent red-blooded man will naturally be enraged by America’s “injustice,” wish for its defeat, and sometimes even join its enemies. Assuming that in 1971 John Kerry was a decent man and his testimony to the Senate Committee was delivered in good faith, he must have had that lens implanted in his brain for a long time. The Vietnam War was won by Moscow, not on the battlefield, but in the information warfare. And that was only the beginning.

This is how Pacepa remembers it:
During my last meeting with Andropov, he said, wisely, “now all we have to do is to keep the Vietnam-era anti-Americanism alive.” Andropov was a shrewd judge of human nature. He understood that in the end our original involvement would be forgotten, and our insinuations would take on a life of their own. He knew well that it was just the way human nature worked.

Andropov’s strategy must still be working if even today Barack Obama believes in these insinuations strongly enough to apologize before the world for the perceived history of “American arrogance.” During his recent visit to Moscow, President Obama stated:
America supports … the restoration of the democratically-elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies.

But didn’t Obama himself oppose American policies just as strongly and from the same ideological perspectives? His own history suggests that saying “because he has strongly opposed American policies” would have been a more honest use of conjunctions.

From his communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis to the unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, Barack Obama has always gravitated towards people holding radical leftist views akin to those of Zelaya. He eagerly promoted leftist ideology as an ACORN activist and later when he taught and developed theories that opposed the American system of individual liberties in favor of unsustainable group entitlements at the expense of producers — theories that advocated placing the people under the controlling “care” of the state.

And since such views are part of the ideological template that vilifies America and lionizes its enemies, Obama’s instinctive reaction was to back Zelaya and throw a lifeline to Ahmadinejad.

Like John Kerry at the Senate hearings, President Obama may be acting in good faith, but his processing of reality is just as impaired by the same “metaphorical deformation.” As a result, the leader of the free world strays across the frontlines and joins the Marxist leaders Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, Evo Morales, and Daniel Ortega, at least two of whom — Castro and Ortega — were committed Soviet clients.

The Soviet Union may have self-destructed in 1991, but the seeds of intellectual deception it had planted gave such a bountiful crop that seventeen years later America has elected a leader who is guided by received notions designed to subdue and destroy this country. Apparently, the rumors about America’s victory in the Cold War appear to have been greatly exaggerated.



Government's Negative Effect on the Labor Market

On the first Friday of every month, the Department of Labor through the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the current number of unemployed workers in America. Often times as with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, politicians expand federal employment to lower that number and create the false illusion of real job creation.

As, pundits and economists debated on whether government spending would bring us out of the current “Great Recession,” one thing was for sure: the number of federal employees would increase. And even though government jobs were created and some people were no longer unemployed, new studies show that the real result of all this Potemkin Village-building is a long-term negative economic impact.

Economists Matthew Higgins, Andrew Young, and Daniel Levy have found that, when looking at sample data in the United States from 1970 to 1998, there is a negative correlation between creating government jobs and real economic growth. And that includes all federal, state, local government offices.

A large part of the problem, of course, is that public spending crowds out private spending. Or in other words: every dollar the government spends is one more dollar being bid away from private industry. And this goes for employment too. Every employee the government hires is one less person for the private sector to employ in productive jobs. Now, of course, if the government was just as efficient and productive as the private sector then this would not be a problem.

But this study’s result show that productivity decreases, not increases, when more federal employees are put on the taxpayers tab. Due to lack of proper price and profit structure, government misallocates resources, produces an inferior product – and runs up the deficit all at the same time.

Yet, as bad as that is, it gets even worse. Within every single category of government employee (federal, state, and local), government wages grew much faster than non-government wages. For example, in the chart below, the difference is over 30 percent in every case. The worse example is local government employee’s wages. Throughout the U.S., they increased at a rate of 70 percent higher than non-governmental wages.

This type of wage gap makes it hard for the private sector to compete with the government for employees. Not to mention the other benefits that go along with a government job, including job security, more benefits, and the bureaucratic axiom that anything short of taking a nap is “close enough for government work.” In other words, every time a new future employee enters the labor market from college, high school, or anywhere else, there is more of an incentive for them to take a government job than a private sector job. And this, in turn, adds to the country’s burgeoning productivity loss – at astronomical prices.

So finally, the only solution that can be offered here is to eliminate many of the unnecessary government jobs that already create an overwhelming amount of red tape and higher taxes. But sadly it seems that this administration’s policy will do more to expand government jobs than eliminate them. And with that, the Obama White House will cause an enormous amount of productivity losses for generations to come – all the while touting its bogus record for “job creation.”

More here



Japanese and Korean makers gained most from cash for clunkers: "Japanese and South Korean automakers registered the biggest market share gains in the U.S. government's "cash for clunkers" program that ended this week with bankruptcy related inventory shortages hurting General Motors Co and Chrysler. Toyota Motor Corp Honda Motor Co Ltd, Nissan Motor Co Ltd, Hyundai Motor Co capitalized on the program's goal of pushing consumers away from gas guzzling sport utilities and pickups, to more efficient cars and trucks, preliminary sales figures showed on Wednesday. Overseas manufacturers dominate in car sales, while U.S. companies have been stronger in the light truck segment. Cars outsold trucks 2-1 under the "clunker" initiative. Ford Motor Co was the only domestic manufacturer to hold its own in market share compared with its performance so far this year, while GM slipped and Chrysler stumbled noticeably. GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company, which slowed production significantly during the spring and its early summer bankruptcy, recorded brisk sales of Malibu, Cobalt and other car models in the first weeks of the program.

Federal Pay Continues Rapid Ascent: "The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its annual data on compensation levels by industry. The data show that the pay advantage enjoyed by federal civilian workers over private-sector workers continues to expand. The George W. Bush years were very lucrative for federal workers. In 2000, the average compensation (wages and benefits) of federal workers was 66 percent higher than the average compensation in the U.S. private sector. The new data show that average federal compensation is now more than double the average in the private sector. In 2008, the average wage for 1.9 million federal civilian workers was $79,197, which compared to an average $49,935 for the nation’s 108 million private sector workers (measured in full-time equivalents). The figure shows that the federal pay advantage (the gap between the lines) is steadily increasing.

Budget forecast may doom Obama aims: "President Barack Obama's ambitious domestic policy agenda collided with spiraling deficit figures that project bulked-up federal spending will add more than $9 trillion to the national debt over the next decade -- doubling the nation's obligation to creditors. This year's record $1.6 trillion budget deficit will be the biggest since World War II, according to the White House and nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Last year's budget deficit was $459 billion.... The figures were included in an otherwise routine White House midsession budget review the administration delayed for a month and released after the president and Congress were out of Washington.... Predicting the economy has proven a tough bit of soothsaying for the administration. Obama ran in part on a promise to do away with the questionable accounting practices of prior presidencies, and to cut the deficit in half in four years. But the administration in less than a year has had to retreat from its own rosy forecasts about the economy."

Obama's 09 deficit exceeds all eight years of Bush red ink: "How much is President Obama boosting federal spending? The Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedl puts a little perspective on the numbers made public today: This year, Washington will spend $30,958 per household, tax $17,576 per household, and borrow $13,392 per household. This spending is not just temporary: President Obama would permanently keep annual spending between $5,000 and $8,000 per household higher than it had been under President Bush. The 22 percent spending increase projected for 2009 represents the largest government expansion since the 1952 height of the Korean War (adjusted for inflation). Federal spending is up 57 percent since 2001."

CDC mulls routine genital mutilation of infants to reduce spread of HIV: "In an effort to reduce the spread of the AIDS-causing HIV virus, the Centers for Disease Control are currently mulling routine circumcision for all baby boys born in the United States, the New York Times reports. The controversial recommendations, scheduled for a formal release by the end of the year, come on the heels of research that shows circumcised men in African countries hit hard by AIDS had half the risk of getting infected as those who were uncircumcised.”

90,000 flu deaths: Where did that number come from?: "The warning is dire: Up to 90,000 ‘possible’ deaths from a potential swine flu outbreak. But how did the president’s science advisers, who came up with the number, reach that estimate? It is based on complicated models of how such illnesses are transmitted, how they mutate, how prepared the healthcare system is, and what’s known from the patterns of past flu epidemics, such as the ones in 1918, 1957, and 1968. It even taps the so-called ‘virus detectives,’ a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that tracks, in the best Sherlock Holmes manner, the threats to America’s health — often traveling to remote parts of the world to study outbreaks. The problem with dire warnings, though, is that the complacency scientists are in part trying to break may be caused by the very studies they tout — the crying wolf syndrome. The avian bird flu predictions in 2005 included estimates of millions dead. Worldwide, 282 people died.”

Still “crazy” — and proud of it: “Us right-wing nuts sure is scary! That’s the message from the Washington Post. To put this in language a conservative would understand, the fourth estate has been alarmed once again by the Burkean proclivities of our nation’s citizens. The Post is in a panic about (to use its own descriptive terms) ‘birthers,’ ‘anti-tax tea-partiers,’ and ‘town hall hecklers.’ If, last Sunday, you spent a profitless hour reading the Washington Post (itself not too profitable), you noticed the loud yapping and desperate nipping at those who disagree with liberal orthodoxy. It was as if top management were a toy schnauzer accidentally mistaken for a duster and traumatized by being run back and forth through the venetian blinds. The wise and prestigious broadsheet institution was so barking mad that it sent three (Three! In these times of hardship for the print media! When reporters are being laid off right and left — well, mostly right — and stories are going uncovered from rapidly warming pole to pole! Three!) journalists to do battle with ‘The Return of Right-Wing Rage.’”

Mises, Human Action and economic calculation: "Six decades ago Ludwig von Mises published his masterpiece, Human Action, and it grows in importance. I was unaware of the book’s existence and its timeless truths through my formative years, but one of Mises’ students, William Peterson, introduced it to me in 1980, and I forever will be grateful. Because Human Action covers a vast amount of intellectual territory, I will deal only with economic calculation. If there is a Misesian term to which I return again and again, it is ‘economic calculation,’ for that term explains why socialism is fated to fail — always.”

Nanotechnology: Innovation vs. corporate welfare: "Nanotechnology — the art and science of manipulating matter at the scale of 1 to 100 nanometers — is a field with seemingly limitless potential. But if researchers and politicians are not careful, that potential will vanish. Nanotech firms have a choice between being entrepreneurs, or being corporate welfare recipients. They choices they make today could determine whether the future of nanotech is one of dynamism and innovation, or one of dull, bureaucratic stasis. A nanotech boom is already underway. Just this week, the number of products that scientists have invented or improved passed the 1,000 mark. In two years, there could be 1,600. MIT nanotech researchers announced this month that they have discovered a way to kill ovarian cancer cells in mice. Treatments for other types of cancer may soon follow.”

Remember “no controlling legal authority?”: "It was a dozen years ago when Eric Holder began his first tour of duty at the Justice Department, as deputy attorney general. At the time, DOJ had a major hot potato on its hands: Al Gore, the vice president of the United States, had engaged in a clear, black-and-white felony violation of campaign-finance laws. … But Gore was the heir apparent to Pres. Bill Clinton, and the deputy attorney general was very much hoping to become the attorney general in a Gore administration. So Holder found it within himself to oppose the appointment of a prosecutor. Gore was in the clear. The CIA did not make out so well. Holder, having finally become attorney general eight years later than planned, has just appointed a prosecutor to investigate the agency’s interrogators, which really means to investigate the Bush administration’s interrogation practices. Thus does Holder begin delivering on the ‘reckoning’ he promised the hard Left as an Obama political spokesman during the 2008 campaign. The attorney general has plunged into this crassly partisan adventure even though, this time around, the controlling legal authority says there is no case and, therefore, no ethical basis for conducting an investigation.”

Health care? The government can’t even run a railroad: "Nowhere in the debate regarding health care has anyone asked if the government is able and qualified to run such a system. Before we ask the government to manage universal health care, let’s check them out. How successful has the federal government been in managing agencies, programs and businesses?”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Thursday, August 27, 2009


I asked for comments about the larger font I have started using on my two new sites: Political Correctness Watch and Eye on Britain. Most people liked the larger font but those who did not seemed to dislike it mainly because it made a narrow column slow to scroll through. I have therefore changed the template on both blogs to the one with the widest main columns available for the site. I think that should go closer to suiting everybody. Sadly, though, in both cases, the wide column templates had no colour whatevever! I am hoping that someone who knows their way around templates a bit better than I do might eventually tell me how to change them into my usual green and yellow pattern.


Study Demonstrates How We Support Our False Beliefs

The study reported below is reasonable on the whole but what it overlooks is that most people take only the most cursory interest in politics and know very little about it. So their picture of politics will inevitably be oversimplified. Sad to say, it is the personality of the candidate that determines most votes that are not already "rusted on" to a particular party. Exit interviews with Obama voters after the 2008 Presidential election showed that most voters had quite mistaken ideas of what the Republican and Democrat policies were. They were just taken in by the con-man personality. So the "motivated cognition" explanation offered below is unparsimonious (needlessly complex). Sheer ignorance is sufficient to explain the results

In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions focus on one of the most curious aspects of the 2004 presidential election: the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda, but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.

The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.

The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.

Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe. "In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information. "The study demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information," he explains.

While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of information. "The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.

"We form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter. The problem is that this notion of 'motivated reasoning' has only been supported with experimental results in artificial settings. We decided it was time to see if it held up when you talk to actual voters in their homes, workplaces, restaurants, offices and other deliberative settings."

The survey and interview-based study was conducted by Hoffman, Monica Prasad, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern University; Northwestern graduate students Kieren Bezila and Kate Kindleberger; Andrew Perrin, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and UNC graduate students Kim Manturuk, Andrew R. Payton and Ashleigh Smith Powers (now an assistant professor of political science and psychology at Millsaps College).

The study addresses what it refers to as a "serious challenge to democratic theory and practice that results when citizens with incorrect information cannot form appropriate preferences or evaluate the preferences of others."

One of the most curious "false beliefs" of the 2004 presidential election, they say, was a strong and resilient belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Hoffman says that over the course of the 2004 presidential campaign, several polls showed that majorities of respondents believed that Saddam Hussein was either partly or largely responsible for the 9/11 attacks, a percentage that declined very slowly, dipping below 50 percent only in late 2003. "This misperception that Hussein was responsible for the Twin Tower terrorist attacks was very persistent, despite all the evidence suggesting that no link existed," Hoffman says.

The study team employed a technique called "challenge interviews" on a sample of voters who reported believing in a link between Saddam and 9/11. The researchers presented the available evidence of the link, along with the evidence that there was no link, and then pushed respondents to justify their opinion on the matter. For all but one respondent, the overwhelming evidence that there was no link left no impact on their arguments in support of the link.

One unexpected pattern that emerged from the different justifications that subjects offered for continuing to believe in the validity of the link was that it helped citizens make sense of the Bush Administration's decision to go to war against Iraq. "We refer to this as 'inferred justification,'" says Hoffman "because for these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war. "People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war," he says.

"One of the things that is really interesting about this, from both the perspective of voting patterns but also for democratic theory more generally, Hoffman says, "is that we did not find that people were being duped by a campaign of innuendo so much as they were actively constructing links and justifications that did not exist.

"They wanted to believe in the link," he says, "because it helped them make sense of a current reality. So voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information, whether we think that is good or bad for democratic practice, does at least demonstrate an impressive form of creativity."



A Clunker Q&A

by Jeff Jacoby

Q: CONGRESSMAN, was "Cash for Clunkers" a success?

A: Of course it was! I'm surprised you'd even ask. "It has been successful beyond anybody's imagination," President Obama said last week. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said he was thrilled "to be part of the best economic news story in America." GM executive Mike DiGiovanni raved that "it really is all thumbs up," a rare example of an undertaking "that it's hard to find anything negative about." If that's not success, I don't know what is.

Q: If it has been such a wonderful program, why did it end this week?

A: Well, nothing wonderful lasts forever. All the money available for rebates has been claimed, so the program has come to a close.

Q: But why close down "the best economic news story in America?" You extended it once; why not a second time? Why not keep it going forever?

A: You forget that Congress has other priorities too. Cash for Clunkers has been terrific for automobile dealers, but there is more to the economy than cars.

Q: Oh, you mean you're now going to offer rebates to consumers who buy other things, like new couches or paint jobs or airplane tickets?

A: No, that wasn't exactly what I --

Q: But aren't those purchases as deserving of subsidies as cars? Surely Congress wants to help furniture dealers and housepainters and airline employees too?

A: Yes, of course, but -- I mean -- well, let me think about that.

Q: By the way, if the "clunkers" program were really such a boon for the auto business, why did so many car dealers back out of it early?

A: "So many?" Don't exaggerate!

Q: It's no exaggeration, congressman. Associated Press reported that AutoNation, the largest dealership chain in America, pulled out of Cash for Clunkers last Thursday -- three full days before the deadline. Automotive News ran a story about other dealers who found the government so difficult to deal with that they got out even earlier. "It's just a mess, an absolute mess," one of them said. The News surveyed dealerships, and more than one-eighth of those responding said they had stopped doing "clunker" deals because it was such a bureaucratic nightmare. According to the New York Post, half of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association dropped out early. Does that sound like something the president should be calling "successful beyond anybody's imagination?"

A: OK, maybe there have been snafus with the government's computers and whatnot, but you're missing the forest for the trees: This has been an incredible shot in the arm for the economy. Thousands of jobs have been created or saved, and hundreds of thousands of cars were sold.

Q: Yes, but for every car sold, a car had to be destroyed. I understand why that might make GM happy. But how does the destruction of 750,000 used cars -- all of which had to be in drivable condition to qualify for a rebate -- help your constituents who can't afford a new car? All this program did for them was guarantee that used cars will become more expensive. Poorer drivers will be penalized to subsidize new cars for wealthier drivers. Isn't that immoral?

A: Look, there are tradeoffs to everything. You're overlooking all the benefits that those new car sales will generate.

Q: No, I'm refusing to ignore all the costs that inevitably accompany those benefits. Congress and the administration took $3 billion from taxpayers in order to boost car sales. That's $3 billion taxpayers will not be able to spend on groceries or tuition or a down payment on a new house. Before you can credit Cash for Clunkers with the "multiplier effect" of those new-car sales, you have to charge it with a negative multiplier effect at least as great: all the jobs and growth and stimulus that won't materialize because the government decided to spend $3 billion disabling, crushing, and shredding used cars. Don't you see that everything government does, it does at someone's expense?

A: You can say what you like, but this was a popular program.

Q: According to the polls, 54 percent of Americans opposed it. You call that popular?

A: Look, I have to go. But let me just say this: If Cash for Clunkers were as dubious as you suggest, it wouldn't have had so many takers.

Q: Oh, for heaven's sake, congressman: If you give away money, won't people always line up to take it?




Dead Ted: Good riddance to bad rubbish: "Mr. Kennedy, a one-time presidential hopeful, nine-term senator and last of the major public figures from the American version of Camelot, died at age 77 of brain cancer, his family said early Wednesday. He leaves a controversial personal history, a complicated legacy of defiance and compromise, and a gaping hole in American liberalism." [He wasn't as bad for America as he was for Mary Jo but he tried]

NY: Democrat fundraiser charged with fraud: "A wealthy investment banker and prominent fundraiser for President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top Democrats was arrested Tuesday on charges that he lied to get a $74 million business loan. Prosecutors accused Hassan Nemazee of giving Citibank ‘fraudulent and forged’ documents showing that he owned millions of dollars in collateral. A criminal complaint also accuses Nemazee of providing false verifying information for financial institutions, including a phone number that actually belonged to him.”

SCOTUS: Priest records should be unsealed: “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut, saying that thousands of documents generated by lawsuits against six priests for alleged sexual abuse cannot remain sealed. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday denied the Bridgeport diocese’s request to continue a stay on the release of the papers until the full court decides whether to review the case.”

“Stimulus” checks went to inmates: “The federal government mistakenly sent out stimulus checks to 1,700 inmates, the Social Security Administration said Tuesday — a $425,000 error. Social Security spokesman Dan Moraski told in a written statement that the money went out because official records ‘did not accurately reflect that they were in prison.’ The inspector general’s office for the Social Security Administration is now looking into the problem as part of its broader audit on stimulus spending. The Social Security Administration acknowledged the glitch following a report that nearly two-dozen inmates in Massachusetts had wrongly received the $250 stimulus checks.”

When the rich get poorer, look out below: “The positive effects of market capitalism have been felt around the world. Even in countries such India and Brazil, the number of poor people have declined markedly since 1980. Worldwide the number of extreme poor has fallen by 50%. Trickle-down economics appears to be have more a waterfall than a drizzle. As Andrew Carnegie once said, ‘Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities.’ But what about the future? The answer is simple: When times are good, the rich get richer and the poor get richer too. But when times are tough, the rich get poorer … and so do the poor and middle class.”

The high cost of liberalism: "“Which tax increases do the current administration and Congress intend to enact? There are more than a dozen, all of which would negatively affect our economy, says Pete du Pont, the former governor of Delaware and current Board Chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). One has already been signed into law by President Obama: an increase in the tax on tobacco, to $1.01 a pack of cigarettes from 39 cents, and to as much as 40 cents a cigar from a nickel — increases of 159 percent and 700 percent, respectively (this is expected to bring in $8 billion a year).”

Fascism and communism: Two sides of the same coin: “In an article in last week’s Guardian, Jonathan Steele objects to the joint condemnation of communism and fascism. The moral he draws is that ‘History is too complex and sensitive to be left to politicians.’ Quite right, but it is also too complex to be used to defend a failed political ideology by crudely trying to show that another is worse. Mr Steele was upset that the ‘23 August be proclaimed European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, in order to preserve the memory of the victims of mass deportations and exterminations.’”

Madison checks Obama: “Like most presidents, Obama took office intending to bend history to his liking. This impulse, while understandable, leads to overreach. In the case of Obama, it has been abetted by two significant misjudgments. The first was following the counsel of his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who famously declared, ‘You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.’ The assumption being that the American public in the midst of a deep and prolonged recession yearned for government action — not just on the economy but on the environment and, especially, on health care. The Obama administration views this as a once-in-a-generation moment, plastic and rich with possibilities. It is Obama’s chance to reshape the American political landscape through a series of bold initiatives. It turns out the president reacted in precisely the wrong way to the situation he confronted. Most Americans — whose instinctive conservatism has been reinforced by the fear and uncertainty created by the financial crisis — long for stability.”

Spending ourselves to death: "Government expenditures are running at 185 percent of revenue, which is like the lone family breadwinner earning $50,000 a year, while the family spends $92,500 a year. With families that do that, it is not too long before the credit cards are cut off, the mortgage is called in and the family Chevy is repossessed. According to those same White House figures, this year’s deficit will be closer to $1.6 trillion than the $1.8 trillion previously projected. Now, there are only three basic ways to finance that deficit. The first is by borrowing the savings of one’s own citizens, thus consuming the seed corn of the private economy. The second is by borrowing from abroad. The third is by having the Fed, ‘through a roundabout process,’ writes Buffett, ‘printing money.’”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Font size

I have moved to a larger font for my new Political Correctness Watch site and my new Eye on Britain site.

I would be interested if anyone has any strong feelings about it being now too large, just right etc.

The NYT has no shame -- or principles

Here's a blast from the past. The New York Times, July 9, 2001, reports on George W. Bush's first summer vacation as president:
On Friday, as new unemployment figures painted a newly troubling portrait of the American economy, Mr. Bush placed himself in the same scenes--golfing and fishing in a New England paradise--that once caused his father electoral grief.

Simply amazing. Here's the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, dated July 6, that "painted a newly troubling portrait of the American economy":
The unemployment rate was little changed at 4.5 percent, five-tenths of a percentage point higher than the average for 2000.

As Barack Obama embarked on his first summer vacation as president last week--also in a "New England paradise," Martha's Vineyard--the most recent unemployment rate was 9.4%, more than double the summer 2001 figure. Covering the Obama jaunt, the Times offers no hint that there's anything wrong with a president taking a vacation during a time of genuine crisis. Indeed, it offers this justification:
Mr. Obama, whom aides described as being amused by all of the gloom-and-doom prognosticating over his health care agenda, did not even consider skipping his vacation. Last year, he talked about the importance of taking a break to avoid "making mistakes."

That makes sense--and in any case, it's not as if the president actually escapes his responsibilities when he goes on "vacation." But the Times's coverage of Obama is a useful contrast to the paper's petty partisan sniping against Bush.

SOURCE (See the original for links)


Obama's Brick Wall: The American People

President Barack Obama has run into a brick wall: the American people, who cherish their liberty and revere their nation and do not want it remade in Obama's socialist image.

Obama's free-falling poll numbers are not the result of a misinformation campaign from a small sliver of unruly conservative opponents, as the administration wants you to believe. They are a reflection of the public's reaction to Obama's policies and his own comprehensive misinformation campaign to dupe the people into believing America is unsalvageable without fundamental change.

When Obama promised to bring fundamental change to America, most Americans, fortunately for him, did not take him literally. He offered them "hope" at a time when the economy was going south; political partisanship had reached new levels of acrimony, and people were weary of a protracted, albeit successful, war in Iraq. But most voters had no idea just how much change Obama had in mind.

But Obama was dead serious. If it wasn't obvious to trusting people then, it is abundantly so now. He doesn't share the majority's vision of America as the most wonderful experiment in constitutional governance in history. He sees it as a land of plenty, all right -- plenteous inequities, with maldistribution of resources, oppression and imperialism.

Surely people can now see that it is no accident that he sat at the feet of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for 20 years, that his mother was a leftist activist and cultural Marxist, that his main early mentor was radical Frank Marshall Davis, that he was a member of the far-left New Party in Chicago, that his main vocation in life has been street organizing and agitation and that he didn't think the revolutionarily, transformative Warren court was liberal enough.

Since assuming office, Obama has been on a mission to fundamentally alter the social compact between the government and a once powerfully sovereign people.

The litany of his shocks to the system is too voluminous to detail in full, but just consider his calculated takeover of GM, his fraudulently marketed trillion-dollar spending schemes, his cap-and-trade boondoggle, his unilateral declaration of an end to the war on terror, his policy to Mirandize terrorists on the battlefield, his cavorting with terrorist dictators, his soft betrayal of Israel, his ceaseless foreign-soil apologies for America, and his crusade to subsume the health care industry.

These are not tweaks to a glorious constitutional republic, but a frantic effort to undo this republic brick by brick. And the American people have finally gotten wise to what's going on and are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore.

But probably not used to running into much adversity in his adult life, Obama's doubtlessly been thrown for a major psychological loop as he's run into the fierce grass-roots resistance to his radical agenda.

Based on what we can glean from his background, we have to assume he remains in that policy cocoon in which he has been surrounded mostly by radicals who see America through different lenses than most Americans do. He truly believes that America has to change in dramatic ways and that he is the only guy who can make it happen, i.e., "The One."




Obama admin attacks the CIA: "The Obama administration Monday appointed a special prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against CIA employees who interrogated some of al Qaeda's hardest core members, while releasing documents showing individuals subjected to the tactics provided life-saving intelligence that disrupted numerous terror plots ranging from an anthrax attack on Westerners to a massive bombing of U.S. troops in Africa. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. ordered the reopening of criminal investigations against CIA interrogators that the Justice Department had previously declined to prosecute under President Bush. He made the decision over the opposition of CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and despite the often-stated wishes of President Obama to "look forward" and not become entangled in a debate over the past practices of the war on terror. Mr. Holder ordered his special prosecutor to focus on cases in which interrogators used "inhumane" tactics" [This is going to castrate the CIA, which is no doubt the aim. The Left have always hated the CIA]

Netanyahu brings balancing act to Europe: “Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Britain on Monday as a leader walking a tightrope. On one hand, the Israeli prime minister faces a firm international front demanding a full halt to his country’s four-decade-old settlement enterprise. Netanyahu has heard that demand and will almost certainly hear it again from all three of the key people he is slated to meet in Europe this week: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the representative of Israel’s closest ally, U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell.”

Vets wrongly told they have fatal disease: “Former Air Force reservist Gale Reid received a letter from the Veterans Affairs Department that told her she had Lou Gehrig’s disease, and she immediately put herself through a battery of painful, expensive tests. Five days later, the VA said its ‘diagnosis’ was a mistake. Letters were sent to 1,864 veterans about disability benefits for those with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and a ’small number’ have contacted the VA indicating they received the letters in error, VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said Monday night.”

It’s the big government, stupid: “It’s been a hilarious August, watching media supporters of President Obama’s health care package puzzle over the obscure motivations of the noncompliant Americans rallying against it. ‘Racial anxiety,’ guessed New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. ‘Nihilism,’ theorized Time’s Joe Klein. ‘The crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy,’ historian Rick Perlstein proclaimed in the Washington Post. While the commentariat’s condescension is almost comical, the whole evil-or-stupid explanation misses the elephant in Obama’s room: Americans of all stripes, it turns out, aren’t very keen about the government barging into their lives.”

Some reasons why U.S. infant mortality is high: "Infant mortality is a function of many factors. The more you look at the problem, the less it seems to be correctable by a big new federal role in medical insurance—and, in fact, the less it seems to be mainly a medical issue at all. No one denies the problem. Our infant mortality rate is double that of Japan or Sweden. But we live different lives, on average, than people in those places. We suffer more obesity (about 10 times as much as the Japanese), and we have more births to teenagers (seven times more than the Swedes). Nearly 40 percent of American babies are born to unwed mothers. Factors like these are linked to low birth weight in babies, which is a dangerous thing. In a 2007 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists June O'Neill and Dave O'Neill noted that "a multitude of behaviors unrelated to the health care system such as substance abuse, smoking and obesity" are connected "to the low birth weight and preterm births that underlie the infant death syndrome." Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, also attributes the gap largely to conduct. Comparing white Americans to Norwegians in his 1995 book, The Tyranny of Numbers, Eberstadt concluded that "white America's higher rates of infant mortality are explained not by poverty (as conventionally construed) or by medical care but rather by the habits, actions, and indeed lifestyles of a critical portion of its parents." But underweight babies don't fare worse here than in Canada—quite the contrary. The NBER paper points out that among the smallest infants, survival rates are better on this side of the border. What that suggests is that if we lived under the Canadian health care system, we would not have a lower rate of infant mortality. We would have a higher one."

Canadians confiscate prescription drugs: “A few years ago, stories of Americans going to Canada to buy cheaper drugs were all the rage. Here’s a twist on that: Canadians going to Mexico to get cheaper drugs. The Canadian government has been intercepting shipments and travelers at the border and confiscating the drugs. The drug in question is Thalidomide. You no doubt remember this drug for its horrific side-effects, in babies. But it is still used — by people who won’t get pregnant — to treat a rare form of cancer. It turns out that it’s one of the better drugs on the market, extending the lives of sufferers from myeloma. Trouble is, only one province pays for one version of the drug. Other versions are illegal.” [Thalidomide is also a powerful anti-leprosy drug and is legal in some countries for that reason]

Book review of Jonah: "I owe Jonah Goldberg an apology. When his book “Liberal Fascism” came out last year, I didn’t buy it because for some reason – maybe the smiley face with the Hitler moustache as the cover art, maybe the very provocative title – I assumed, despite knowing that Goldberg is a talented and intellectual writer, that the book was a conservative preaching – semi-hysterically ala Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity – to the converted. I could hardly have been more wrong. “Liberal Fascism” is a remarkable book. Far from rambling hyperbole, it is a highly researched work, suitable for anyone studying political science or 20th century political history. It makes you think. It makes you realize that your gut suspicion is correct: Much of the policy, philosophy, and political tactics and strategy which emanate from America’s “Progressive” movement have striking parallels in of some of the worst dictatorships of modern times."

Labeling won’t make bottled water safer: “The news is depressing these days as people fear losing their homes or jobs and worry about family members deployed in military operations overseas. So what are members of Congress worried about? They fear the ‘grave’ threats posed by — bottled water. Now that’s crazy. Supposedly consumers are at risk from, or are being duped about, bottled water quality. Lawmakers think the solution is more detailed labeling mandates that include listing the traces of chemicals that water might contain.”

A bureaucracy impervious to evidence : "The UK’s Daily Mail wanted to prove that the unforgeable National Identity Cards already being issued to foreign nationals were easily forgeable, so they brought in a pair of cyber-savants, master hacker Adam Laurie and Dutch computer security sage Jeroen van Beek. Within a few minutes, using little more than a cell phone and a laptop, the duo duped all the data from an official ID card’s microchip and created a clone. From there they could change any info they wanted; facial image, name, fingerprints, and even add data such as ‘entitled to benefits’ which gets the unqualified cardholder ‘free’ healthcare from the Brit National Health Service. And just for fun, they added an entry that can be read by any card scanner, ‘I am a terrorist — shoot on sight.’ When confronted with the evidence, a faceless functionary (of a Monty Pythonish Ministry of Priggish Denial?) proclaimed, ‘We are satisfied the personal data on the chip cannot be changed or modified and there is no evidence this has happened.’”

Reality begins to dawn in America: “For the first time since 1975, Social Security recipients will not get a cost of living allowance increase in their Social Security check. Another in a long line of ominous indicators that, to quote President Obama’s favorite disavowed preacher, the fiscal ‘chickens are coming home to roost.’ We seem to have been living in a dream world for the last few decades where the majority of Americans ignored the reality and believed we could continue to increase the size of the welfare state forever with no ill consequences. The small coterie of realists claiming that it was indeed a fantasy world we were living in were declared alarmists who were using scare tactics and dismissed by the politicians.”

Avoid Adobe: "Phantom customer support and selling corrupted software have swiftly turned into a comedy of errors for Adobe, and its customers are not laughing. The latest meltdown, which affects customers globally, comes after last month's call centre problems that resulted in clients being on hold for up to 40minutes. Now customers are claiming to have been in the phone queue for two hours. Adobe yesterday admitted that the mistakes and the poor customer service were unacceptable. "Adobe is currently transitioning to a new global service provider in order to scale up and improve the quality of our technical support and customer service. "While some temporary disruption is inevitable in a global transition of this scale, a cross-functional team is working to improve our services, while resolving specific problems that arise," he said. There is no end in sight, but the spokesman said the company appreciated customers' patience and understanding as it went through its transition." [The people who use pirated copies must be laughing]

Solving the bee death mystery: "A mysterious disease that has reduced honeybee populations in Europe and the United States could be caused in part by a virus, according to research. Scientists have discovered a characteristic pattern of cell damage in bees affected by colony collapse disorder (CCD), which suggests that a virus contributes to a condition that killed off more than a third of American honeybees in 2007-08. CCD, in which worker bees suddenly disappear from their hive, was first reported in the US in 2006, and has since affected at least 24 states and parts of Canada. There have also been cases in continental Europe, and a few cases have been suspected in Britain though not confirmed. The cause of the syndrome remains unknown. Potential triggers that have been advanced have included viruses, mites, fungal infections, pesticides, nutrient deficiencies and even mobile phone signals." [Don't forget global warming!]

Another Airbus systems failure: "The pilots of a holiday jet which suffered a potentially catastrophic electrical fault refused to divert to a nearer landing spot because they feared they would be shot down by military craft. The easyJet Airbus A319 lost all radio contact with the ground when its systems failed, an official report concluded yesterday. The captain was forced to fly manually after the instrument screens in the cockpit went blank. But the crew feared if they deviated from their flight plan without approval from Air Traffic Control the authorities might conclude the jet been hijacked by terrorists. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch stated the pilots thought it 'might be considered a hostile action' which could have led to 'offensive measures being taken against their aircraft'. The plane, which was heading from Alicante in Spain to Bristol in September 2006, also lost its transponder signal, which alerts the pilot if the jet is too close to other craft. However, the captain continued safely to Bristol, where he landed the craft, which was carrying 138 passengers.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bypassing Google

Since Google will not let me put up any new posts on my old POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH site, I now have a new Political Correctness Watch site. Please adjust your bookmarks accordingly. It might be advisable, though, to keep a note of the Political Correctness Watch mirror site in case the new blog hosts go strange on me.

And since Google will not let me put up any more posts on my old EYE ON BRITAIN site, I now have a new Eye on Britain site. Please adjust your bookmarks accordingly. A permalink to any day's postings there can be obtained by clicking on "Leave a comment". It might be advisable, though, to keep a note of the Eye on Britain mirror site in case the new blog hosts go strange on me. I have chosen two different blog hosts this time in order to spread my risks.


Google undermines the Internet

“Allowing broadband carriers to control what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success” – Vint Cerf, Google Chief Internet Evangelist and Co-Developer of the Internet Protocol

Attention leftists: hypocrisy is not a failure to live up to one’s own ideals. Hypocrisy is a willful professing of a belief, that one that does not truly believe. An outspoken Christian who commits adultery is not a hypocrite. An outspoken atheist who prays is a hypocrite. In today’s extended lesson Google must either accept that it is undermining the Internet, or be a hypocrite.

Exhibit A: Google supports ‘net neutrality’, a movement which began as an argument against ISPs selectively filtering traffic, which is a legitimate fear in the face of cable and phone companies trying for a “triple play” of television, phone, and Internet service. The idea is that if a Comcast or an AT&T degrade or prohibit the use of other firms’ phone and video services, then you will be forced to use their own. Google, the firm, professes to believe in opposing this tactic.

Exhibit B: Google is set to argue against Apple’s blocking of Google Voice from iPhones to the FCC. This is the Net Neutrality prediction in action. Apple conspires with AT&T to block the use of a third party’s phone service over AT&T’s Internet connection. Google, again, supports this belief in neutrality.

Exhibit C: Google blocks Skype from Android-based phones. This is anti-Net Neutrality in action. Google conspires with providers to block the use of a third party’s phone service over the provider’s data connection.

On the other hand, it gets worse for Google. In its defense, Google claims that T-Mobile didn’t request the block. That would work, except that it could only mean Google is attempting to fight the market advantage of Skype by blocking that competitor and bundling Google Voice with Android. In its attempt to avoid the Net Neutrality hypocrisy and FCC attention for its actions (which “do not stand up to scrutiny,” which is what Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf said of all justifications for anti-Net Neutrality), Google confesses to doing what Microsoft was accused by the FTC of doing with its Internet Explorer and Windows releases against Netscape Navigator.

Steve Ballmer is laughing. So am I, only I’m laughing at all the people who pretend Google is anything friendly to ordinary Americans.

Update: Google has issued a rebuttal of the piece I linked to above, but they do not rebut my key point, which is that Google stands ready and willing to collaborate fully with anti-Net Netural policies of their business partners, even as they run to the State like good little fascists if their competitors try the same policies. The key quote is that “individual operators can request that certain applications be filtered if they violate their terms of service,” and in fact the T-Mobile terms of service are not net neutral, banning any uses not ‘explicitly permitted by your Data Plan,’ instead requiring you to use T-Mobile provided media options. Additionally, T-Mobile Germany has already banned Skype on the iPhone. So, of course T-Mobile USA is going to make the same ban, and according to Google’s own words, they will be complicit in that ban.

SOURCE (See the original for links)


For the Children

Hey kids. I know you're not all that interested in politics, and you don't like to read too much. But, God bless you, you vote. That's understandable. It's hip to vote. P. Diddy urges you to do it. Most of the doors in your college dorm are adorned with Obama posters and news clippings. In 2008, the 18-29 age group voted 2-to-1 for Obama. And your college campus went wild the night he won.

But before you vote again, please consider reading the rest of this article. I'll try to make clear points and keep the paragraphs short. It's OK to listen to your iPod while you read.

Politics is actually kind of important. There are about 200 countries in the world; 200 different governments. In some countries, like North Korea, people have died by the millions due to starvation in just the last few years. In others, like the Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and others, people have died by the millions due to civil war or mass murder - again, in only the last few years, while you've been alive. Yet in other countries, like the US, obesity is considered one of our worst problems. Whether the worst problem you face is being overweight or hacked to death with machetes depends much on your country's politics.

No one has it figured out yet. Humans have been around for thousands of years, yet we still have hunger, poverty, disease, war, racism, hatred and all kinds of things that have made life miserable over thousands of years. So when some politician tells you he can get rid of all of these problems in the next 4 to 8 years, or they would go away if we could just get rid of his political opponents, he is being what is called "less than truthful."

But we're not totally stupid, either. We actually have made great progress in eliminating hunger, poverty, disease, etc. Do you know that from 1900 to 2000, for example, life expectancy went from 47 to 77 in the US? Yet in other countries, like Zimbabwe, the life expectancy today is just 46. You have to believe we did some things better in the US over our history, and we are doing some things better than Zimbabwe today.

Freedom is good. We actually have a good idea of what makes these kinds of differences among countries: freedom. Countries where people can own property and are free to buy and sell what they want, are the countries that are much better off. (Some people call this "capitalism", but it is really just freedom.) Countries where the government has more control over what you can have, buy and sell, do worse. For more reading on this, go here.

Communism is bad. Communism is not just another "ism." In the last 100 years, Communism killed about 100 million people. While I'm sure you heard of Nazism's Jewish Holocaust of 6 million, you probably haven't heard about this 17-times-bigger Communist holocaust. But it's documented in the Black Book of Communism, and the numbers are not really disputed, just ignored. Also, communist countries like North Korea and Cuba kill citizens who simply try to leave the country - today. Communism, along with Nazism and fascism, represent one end of the political spectrum -- the one where government makes most of the decisions, or the opposite of freedom. For more reading on this, go here.

What to fix? Many of us want to make the world a better place. Where would you start: in one of the richest countries on earth where people live fairly long, like the US, or in one of the poorest countries where people die fairly young, like Zimbabwe? It seems kind of dumb to me that the first place we would try to change the most would be the US. It seems to me we should try to change the places that are the most miserable, like North Korea, Zimbabwe and a bunch of other countries on earth. Also, in a place already doing pretty well, like the US, should we try changing everything at once, or try just a few things at a time and see if they work out before we try the next things?

The US is really pretty good. You can convince yourself of this by looking up data like wealth and income statistics, life expectancies, number of patents, etc., not to mention putting man on the moon. Or you could travel. Here are some tips for things to look for when you travel: can you drink the water without getting sick? Do they have toilets, and if so, where does the stuff go when you flush it? The biggest boosts to life expectancy are clean drinking water and a good sewage system. It ain't rocket science, but there are many places on earth where it would be a good idea to bring your own bottled water and TP.




Why the stimulus flopped: “I don’t know why one of the least fiscally debauched states in the Union needs funds from ‘the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’ to repair random stretches of highway, especially stretches that were perfectly fine until someone came along to dig them up in order to access ’stimulus’ funding. I would have asked one of those men with a shovel, as depicted on the sign, but there were none to be found. Usually in New Hampshire, they dig up the road, and re-grade or repave it, while the flagmen stand guard until it’s all done. But here a certain federal torpor seemed to hang in the eerie silence. Still, what do I know? Evidently, it’s stimulated the sign-making industry, putting America back to work by putting up ‘PUTTING AMERICA BACK TO WORK’ signs every 200 yards across the land. And at 300 bucks a pop, the signage alone should be enough to launch an era of unparalleled prosperity, assuming America’s gilded sign magnates don’t spend their newfound wealth on Bahamian vacations and European imports. Perhaps if the president were to have his All-Seeing O logo lovingly hand-painted onto each sign, it would stimulate the economy even more, if only when they were taken down and auctioned on eBay.”

Yahoo wins US court ruling over webcasting fees: “A federal appeals court in New York ruled that a Yahoo Inc Internet radio service is not required to pay fees to copyright holders of songs it plays, a defeat for Sony Corp’s BMG Music. … The three-judge panel said the service is required only to pay licensing fees set by SoundExchange, a nonprofit that collects royalties on sound recordings. It was the first federal appeals court to decide the issue. Friday’s ruling is a setback for record producers that have struggled with slumping sales as customers increasingly obtain music online or through other means.”

KY: Republican pol raises $436k in one day with “money bomb”: “Rand Paul, son of Republican Presidential Candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, has raised $435,000 in one day through a moneybomb The Kentucky Republican Senate Candidate, Rand Paul, raised a substantial amount of $436,450 over a 24-hour period on Thursday, according to Run Rand Run.”

Millions face shrinking Social Security payments: “Millions of older people face shrinking Social Security checks next year, the first time in a generation that payments would not rise. The trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting there won’t be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the next two years. That hasn’t happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975. By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.”

Gitmo detainee with bin Laden links to be freed: "A Yemeni man’s family ties to Osama bin Laden and admission that he met with the terrorist mastermind in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks are not enough to continue holding him at Guantanamo Bay, a judge wrote in an order released Friday. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that Muhammed al-Adahi, 47, must be released after seven years at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba.”

Obama faces hard choices on Afghanistan war plans: “As public support for the war in Afghanistan erodes, President Barack Obama soon may face two equally unattractive choices: increase U.S. troops levels to beat back a resilient enemy, or stick with the 68,000 already committed and risk the political fallout if that’s not enough. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is completing an assessment of what he needs to win the fight there. That review, however, won’t specifically address force levels, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Outed blogger who flamed model angry at Google: “A blogger who called a magazine cover model offensive names on a Web site says Google failed to protect her right to privacy. Rosemary Port tells the New York Daily News in Sunday editions that she’s angry that Google unmasked her after a Manhattan judge forced the company to reveal her identity. Google says users agree to a privacy policy that allows the company to share personal information if required by a legal action.”

Bastiat on the Bay: "Warren Buffet opposes lower taxes on dividends and supports collectivist politicians. George Soros espouses all kinds of statist nonsense. Alan Greenspan, until retirement touted as the most powerful libertarian in government, now seems to think that insufficient regulation was responsible for the current Great Recession. Hasn’t anyone noticed that the industries suffering spectacular collapses because of bad risk management are two of the most heavily regulated industries in the country — banking and insurance? Think that’s a coincidence Today the rich and powerful take communism with their caviar and liberalism (the modern, debased kind) with their limousines. This is depressing. Shouldn’t productive, successful people be natural libertarians, or at least small-government Republicans? I recently witnessed some encouraging evidence that many of them are.”

Why people blame the free market: “Our financial collapse, many claim, was the result of an ‘unregulated free market.’ Facts and common sense tell us it was neither unregulated nor a free market. We can also point to other causes — the malinvestment directly caused by the government-controlled Federal Reserve System, fraudulent fractional-reserve banking that a government which is actually interested in protecting rights would prohibit rather than protect, and runaway government debt. Likewise, many claim the ‘free market’ is to blame for America’s health care woes, even though government already pays for more than half of it and controls much more through regulation. Charity clinics are even outlawed in most states, and hospitals are disallowed from posting the prices of their procedures. Yeah, some ‘free market’ system this is! But I’m afraid such arguments explaining that we have no ‘free market’ at all will fall on many deaf ears.”

Clunker of a policy? Yup: “As I am not a contractor, banker, hedge fund manager, government insider, or political activist, I didn’t expect to benefit personally from the various bailouts and stimulus programs out there. Then came the ‘cash for clunkers’ program. Although not as outrageous as about half the projects in the stimulus package, it doesn’t do much to stimulate the economy or to improve overall gas mileage. Still, the program proved so popular that they’re having to pull the plug on the program on Monday when it runs out of money. Who wins? Middle-class folks like my wife and me who can afford a new car and happen to have an inefficient trade-in receive a $4,500 subsidy to do what we would eventually need to do anyway. This benefits car dealers, also, but the losers are charities that benefit from car donations and less well-off people who rely on a stock of solid older cars for their transportation. When these are crushed and melted, there will be fewer choices and the price of the remaining vehicles will rise.”

The end of privacy: “Privacy advocates who enjoy focusing on issues like browser cookies, behavioral advertising, database privacy and deep packet inspection can just throw in the towel if anything approaching HR 3200, the current draft of the health care bill in the House of Representatives, becomes law. Because HR 3200 contains the most egregious violations of Americans’ privacy imaginable. Indeed, one way to characterize HR 3200 is as ‘The End of Privacy.’ The bill creates a ‘Health Choices Commissioner’ (henceforth sarcastically referred to as the Health Choices Commissar), and, of course, the Commissar needs to be able to pry into your finances.”

A loyal opposition: “It’s not simply that key and noxious elements of Obama’s legislative agenda are in serious trouble. It’s not simply that his approval numbers are down. It’s not simply that the evidence is increasingly conclusive that 2008 didn’t mark a sharp break to the left on the part of public opinion, and that ‘conservative’ remains a term of approbation for much more of the electorate than ‘liberal.’ And it’s not simply that the term ‘Republican’ is less poisonous than many feared (or hoped): The GOP has recently improved its comparative position in most 2010 generic congressional polls. The most heartening development in the Age of Obama so far is this: the impressive behavior of conservatives and Republicans. They have been principled in their major domestic and foreign policy positions, have opposed Obama and advanced their own agenda in a savvy and sensible way, and have begun to find new and fresh spokesmen.”

Big government, big recession: “‘So it seems that we aren’t going to have a second Great Depression after all,’” wrote New York Times columnist Paul Krugman last week. ‘What saved us? The answer, basically, is Big Government … [W]e appear to have averted the worst: utter catastrophe no longer seems likely. And Big Government, run by people who understand its virtues, is the reason why.’ This is certainly a novel theory of the business cycle. To be taken seriously, however, any such explanation of recessions and recoveries must be tested against the facts. It is not enough to assert the U.S. economy would have experienced a ’second Great Depression’ were it not for the Obama stimulus plan. Even those who think government borrowing is a free lunch can’t possibly believe the government has already done enough ’stimulus spending’ to explain the difference between depression and recovery.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)