Friday, August 27, 2010
The NYT stands truth on its head
See below. Dr Goebbels call home. The NYT has a propaganda job for you.
Republican insurgents from the far right did well in Tuesday’s primaries. What their campaigns lack in logic, compassion and sensible policy seems to be counterbalanced by a fiercely committed voter base that is nowhere to be seen on the Democratic side. …….
Much of the G.O.P’s fervid populist energy has been churned up by playing on some people’s fears of Hispanics and Muslims, by painting the president as a dangerous radical, by distorting the truth about the causes of the recession. Far too many Republican leaders have eagerly fed that destructive anger.
And where are the Democrats in all of this? Last time we checked, they were fleeing solid accomplishments on health care, financial reform and the economy. President Obama and his party have little time left to gin up enthusiasm and a lot more committed voters.
Reclaiming Rights: The never-ending struggle to go about your business without fear of government sanction
From "Reason" magazine:
Our cover story this month describes the historic and stunningly rapid restoration of the Second Amendment as a guarantee of an individual right that must be respected throughout the United States. As you luxuriate in that momentous victory of individuals over their governments, allow me to direct your attention to a tale that is microscopic by comparison: On page 43, in the midst of a long and remarkable exchange between reason’s finest and the Cleveland City Council, two different city councilors attempt to explain to TV funnyman and Reason Foundation trustee Drew Carey why the owner of a local car wash faced a four-month approval process to install a commercial sign on his own property.
Council President Martin J. Sweeney’s explanation was, alas, good enough for government work: “If you apply for a sign that’s within our regulation, it would take somewhere between three and five days. If it’s outside the regulations, it needs to be [no bigger than] four foot by eight foot, no more than two or three colors. If you want to go 10 by 10, and put it up a little bit higher, and have 10 colors on it, you have to get approval to go outside the variance,” Sweeney said. “The three to five days is if you stay within the regulations, if you agree with them. If you want to go outside, it’s six weeks to put it on the calendar and have it heard. And then all the other steps…because there has to be some type of structure.”
There has to be some type of structure. From this one default setting springs all manner of tyrannies, from the trivial to the profound.
Carey had the best comeback to this Office Space-meets-Kafka gibberish: “You should be able to put up whatever sign you want, man.” But it’s elected officials like Sweeney, from Bakersfield to Bangor, from the statehouses to Capitol Hill, who too often have the last laugh. Every day brings fresh reminders that we are not technically free to go about our business.
In August, Multnomah County health inspectors in Portland, Oregon, shut down a lemonade stand at an art fair because its 7-year-old proprietor failed to obtain the necessary food distribution license. Days earlier, a Quincy, Illinois, man was arrested via a sting operation (for a second time) for the crime of offering free rides home to inebriated bar patrons; the service conflicted with some new taxi cartel–influenced language in the relevant city ordinance. And all summer long, councilmen in recession-ravaged Los Angeles, who earn higher salaries than any municipal lawmakers in the country, threatened to crack down on one of the few interesting and growing business models left in L.A.—food trucks—despite the fact that the only people complaining about them are nonmobile restaurant owners who don’t like the competition.
On the federal level things get even worse. In July the Department of Labor unveiled new child labor regulations that make it a crime for 17-year-olds to clear brush (a classic summer job in timber-heavy states such as Oregon) or for 15-year-olds to wave signs on the roadside, which the last time I looked was about the only job teenagers could still get in Southern California. ObamaCare requires every single vending machine and restaurant chain with 20 or more outlets in the country to list calorie counts for its products, under threat of federal sanction.
The financial regulation bill enacted in July, like the health care law that preceded it, asserted vast new governmental powers over an industry’s operations while delegating to future rule makers the task of telling the industry exactly what is and is not now legal. As Associate Editor Peter Suderman wrote when the law was being passed, “For regulators in Washington, this is a He-Man moment: They get to lift thousands of pages of legislation above their heads and declare, ‘I have the power!’ The trouble seems to be figuring out what to do with that power once they have it.”
There are any number of unhappy consequences from this relentless public push into private activity, not least of which is, as Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explains on page 11 (“Bono vs. Buttman”), the inevitably arbitrary enforcement of vaguely written laws. People who don’t know if their day-to-day behavior will trigger criminal prosecution are not truly free. As the great civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate observed in a 2009 book of the same name, Americans on average now commit “three felonies a day.” That means our basic liberty exists at the discretion of law enforcement. If cops or motivated government attorneys decide they don’t like you, life can soon become hell.
What’s perhaps more frightening than the existence of such an all-powerful enforcement apparatus is the argumentation supporting it even in the face of public outrage and ridicule. Car wash signs need four months of approval because there has to be some type of structure. Lemonade stands need to be forcibly shut down because, in the words of Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, “The county has the responsibility to fairly enforce the rules on permits.” U.S. News & World Report columnist Mary Kate Cary, while pointing out that ObamaCare is “not fiscally responsible” and “creates a nearly trillion-dollar new entitlement program that doesn’t pay for itself,” nonetheless gushes that the new calorie count requirement “may change American diets.” Once you take it as a given that the government has an important say in what you do with your property or put in your body, a whole universe of appalling actions and apologia becomes possible.
It’s time to change the default setting. Every victory of a citizen over the government in the never-ending struggle to do as we please is worthy of a 21-gun salute, whether on the individual level, as in pornographer John Stagliano’s successful fight against federal obscenity charges, or on a group level, in the case of those who want to own handguns. The battles are usually uphill, as with the 21 states suing the federal government over ObamaCare’s abuse of the Commerce Clause (see “Rogue States,” page 44), but the liberation is exhilarating. We can all learn from the examples of those who fought back and won, such as the 7-year-old lemonade entrepreneur Julie Murphy, who was helped and encouraged at the art fair by a group of Portland anarchists and eventually won an official apology from Multnomah County.
But sometimes it feels like we’re losing a game of whack-a-mole. For every outrage reversed through bad publicity or expensive lawyering, there are untold dozens of quiet capitulations to a rampaging state. Think of all the government restrictions on what you can and can’t do with your own house, to say nothing of the taxes the government collects on it. At some point the burden of proof should shift to the government, which should have to persuasively explain why an industry needs to be managed from Washington or why an individual needs a license to act like a human being.
The U.S. is in an economic, fiscal, and public policy crisis with no end in sight. Indeed, it looks almost certain to get far worse. We can and will talk about what rights need to be reasserted, what programs need to be cut, what sectors of this American life need to be left the hell alone. But until we make a dent in the widespread notion that there always has to be some type of government structure or some taxpayer-financed watchdog to police every imaginable peaceable transaction, any contemplated fix to the mess we’re in will be temporary at best.
"Moral Hazard" in Politics
One of the things that makes it tough to figure out how much has to be charged for insurance is that people behave differently when they are insured from the way they behave when they are not insured.
In other words, if one person out of 10,000 has his car set on fire, and it costs an average of $10,000 to restore the car to its previous condition, then it might seem as if charging one dollar to all 10,000 people would be enough to cover the cost of paying $10,000 to the one person whose car that will need to be repaired. But the joker in this deal is that people whose cars are insured may not be as cautious as other people are about what kinds of neighborhoods they park their car in.
The same principle applies to government policies. When taxpayer-subsidized government insurance policies protect people against flood damage, more people are willing to live in places where there are greater dangers of flooding. Often these are luxury beach front homes with great views of the ocean. So what if they suffer flood damage once every decade or so, if Uncle Sam is picking up the tab for restoring everything?
Television reporter John Stossel has told how he got government insurance "dirt cheap" to insure a home only a hundred feet from the ocean. Eventually, the ocean moved in and did a lot of damage, but the taxpayer-subsidized insurance covered the costs of fixing it. Four years later, the ocean came in again, and this time it took out the whole house. But the taxpayer-subsidized government insurance paid to replace the whole house.
This was not a unique experience. More than 25,000 properties have received government flood insurance payments more than four times. Over a period of 28 years, more than 4,000 properties received government insurance payments exceeding the total value of the property. If you are located in a dangerous place, repeated damage can easily add up to more than the property is worth, especially if the property is damaged and then later wiped out completely, as John Stossel's ocean-front home was.
Although "moral hazard" is an insurance term, it applies to other government policies besides insurance. International studies show that people in countries with more generous and long-lasting unemployment compensation spend less time looking for jobs. In the United States, where unemployment compensation is less generous than in Western Europe, unemployed Americans spend more hours looking for work than do unemployed Europeans in countries with more generous unemployment compensation.
People change their behavior in other ways when the government pays with the taxpayers' money. After welfare became more readily available in the 1960s, unwed motherhood skyrocketed. The country is still paying the price for that-- of which the money is the least of it. Children raised by single mothers on welfare have far higher rates of crime, welfare and other social pathology.
San Francisco has been one of the most generous cities in the country when it comes to subsidizing the homeless. Should we be surprised that homelessness is a big problem in San Francisco?
Most people are not born homeless. They usually become homeless because of their own behavior, and the friends and family they alienate to the point that those who know them will not help them. People with mental problems may not be able to help their behavior, but the rest of them can.
We hear a lot of talk about "safety nets" from big-government liberals, who act as if there is a certain pre-destined amount of harm that people will suffer, so that it is just a question of the government helping those who are harmed. But we hear very little about "moral hazard" from big-government liberals. We all need safety nets. That is why we "save for a rainy day," instead of living it up to the limit of our income and beyond.
We also hear a lot of talk about "the uninsured," for whose benefit we are to drastically change the whole medical-care system. But income data show that many of those uninsured people have incomes from which they could easily afford insurance. But they can live it up instead, because the government has mandated that hospital emergency rooms treat everyone.
All of this is a large hazard to taxpayers. And it is not very moral.
Obama lost and at sea
At the beginning of the year, retiring seven-term Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., recounted a conversation he had with the president. Obama's unrelenting push for health-care reform in the face of public opposition reminded Berry of the Clinton-era missteps that led to the Republican rout of the Democrats in 1994. "I began to preach last January that we had already seen this movie and we didn't want to see it again because we know how it comes out," Berry told a newspaper.
Convinced that his popularity was eternal, Obama responded by saying, yes, but there's a "big difference" between 1994 and 2010, and that big difference is "you've got me."
The funny thing is, Obama might have been right. Because things might be much worse for Democrats in 2010 than they were in 1994 -- and the big difference might well be Barack Obama.
In fairness, the biggest difference is probably the economy, which in political terms should be fitted for a pine box. Of course, Mr. Credibility, Joe Biden, says it's doing great, sounding a bit like the shopkeeper in the Monty Python "Dead Parrot sketch" who insists the bird's "just resting."
In 1994, when the Contract with America Congress took control, the jobless rate was 5.6 percent. Today it's 9.5 and may well climb higher. More than 18 percent of people who want full-time work can only find part-time jobs. Consumer confidence is falling again, housing sales recently hit a 15-year low, the stock market is off 11 percent since its April highs for the year.
The congressional generic ballot -- asking which party voters prefer -- is as bad for Democrats today as it was in 1994. Stu Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Report -- not exactly an RNC direct-mail operation -- says Obama's approval rating (already below 50 percent) will likely rival Clinton's in November of 1994. Already, Democrats in tight races, including the Senate majority leader, are distancing themselves from the White House, and pretty much everyone has stopped trying to make lemonade out of the ObamaCare lemon.
Moreover, Obama has lost his connection with the American people. He's aloof without inspiring confidence. On issue after issue -- terrorism, immigration, the oil spill, the environment and the ground zero mosque -- he seems determined to craft his responses in a way that will annoy the most people possible.
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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)
Posted by JR at 11:40 PM