Wednesday, June 08, 2011

More and more of the USA is being run by emptyheads

Thomas Sowell

Two unrelated news stories on the same day show the contrast between government decisions and private decisions.

Under the headline "Foreclosed Homes Sell at Big Discounts," USA Today reported that banks were selling the homes they foreclosed on, at discounts of 38 percent in Tennessee to 41 percent in Illinois and Ohio.

Banks in general try to get rid of the homes they acquire by foreclosure, by selling them quickly for whatever they can get. Why? Because banks are forced by economic realities to realize that they are not real estate companies.

No matter how much expertise bank officials may have in financial transactions, that is very different from knowing the best ways to maintain and market empty houses.

Meanwhile, there was a story on the Fox News Channel about schools that are using their time to indoctrinate kindergartners and fourth graders with politically correct attitudes about sex.

Anyone familiar with the low standards and mushy notions in the schools and departments of education that turn out our public school teachers might think that these teachers would have all they can do to make American children competent in reading, writing and math.

Anyone familiar with how our children stack up with children from other countries in basic education would be painfully aware that American children lag behind children in countries that spend far less per pupil than we do.

In other words, teachers and schools that are failing to provide the basics of education are branching out into all sorts of other areas, where they have even less competence.

Why are teachers so bold when banks are so cautious? The banks pay a price for being wrong. Teachers don't.

If banks try to act like they are real estate companies and hold on to a huge inventory of foreclosed homes, they are likely to lose money big time, as those homes deteriorate and cannot compete with homes marketed by real estate companies with far more experience and expertise in this field.

But if teachers fail to educate children, they don't lose one dime, no matter how much those children and the country lose by their failure. If the schools waste precious time indoctrinating children, instead of educating them, that's the children's problem and the country's problem, but not the teachers' problem.

Sex indoctrination is just one of innumerable "exciting" and "innovative" self-indulgences of the schools. There is no bottom line test of what these boondoggles cost the children or the country.

Incidentally, conservatives who think that schools should be teaching "abstinence" miss the point completely. The schools have no expertise to be teaching sex at all. We should be happy if they ever develop the competence to teach math and English, so that our children can hold their own in international tests given to children in other countries.

Schools are just one government institution that take on tasks for which they have no expertise or even competence.

Congress is the most egregious example. In the course of any given year, Congress votes on taxes, medical care, military spending, foreign aid, agriculture, labor, international trade, airlines, housing, insurance, courts, natural resources, and much more.

There are professionals who have spent their entire adult lives specializing in just one of these fields. They idea that Congress can be competent in all these areas simultaneously is staggering. Yet, far from pulling back-- as banks or other private enterprises must, if they don't want to be ruined financially by operating beyond the range of their competence-- Congress is constantly expanding further into more fields.

Having spent years ruining the housing markets with their interference, leading to a housing meltdown that has taken the whole economy down with it, politicians have now moved on into micro-managing automobile companies and medical care.

They are not going to stop unless they get stopped. And that is not going to happen until the voters recognize the fact that political rhetoric is no substitute for competence.



Think You Know Sarah Palin? Think Again

Sarah Palin is one of the most media-saturated figures today, as filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon of the new film “The Undefeated” points out. Yet, watching the film, the details about the ex-governor that have remained unknown to the ‘lower 48’ will stun the viewer.

The film itself has an interesting origin. The Palin team approached Bannon after the 2010 election about a film, but he wasn’t interested in the short video project they mentioned. Bannon decided to do a film that the Palin team had no editorial control over, although they did help him gain access to several key players from her time in Alaska. For those wondering whether Team Sarah wanted “The Undefeated” to come out in conjunction with some sort of presidential buzz, Bannon says that the team never expressed interest in or exerted any pressure on a movie release date.

Though the film production timeline was not, it appears, done with any kind of presidential 2012 campaign in mind, it is capable of giving people a second impression of Palin and one that could prove useful in a 2012 discussion, because it’s a documentary based on facts that show the governor as an astute leader and a smart woman, unlike how she has been portrayed for the better part of three years. Bannon himself is a Harvard grad and was impressed with how Palin governed the state. He also said even some liberals in the entertainment industry are garnering a great appreciation for her as a person of substance.

Maybe that’s because “The Undefeated” takes the better part of two hours to highlight something that many people have glossed over –Sarah Palin’s legislative accomplishments.

Americans hear the generic, cliché phrases about how Palin cleaned up the good old boys network in Alaska and improved the state’s energy infrastructure. But this movie gives you the facts and details behind those clichés – it draws heavily on interviews from those who know the state best, newspaper clippings and TV coverage of Palin's time as an elected Alaskan official, and it is sewn together by narration from Palin herself that the director borrowed from audio of her book, Going Rogue.

As governor, Palin actually did comb through the Alaskan budget line by line and powerfully wielded the veto pen. She implemented important reforms to Alaska’s oil industry and pressured Exxon to start drilling again in Point Thomson after holding leasing on the land for years. The film includes an old TV report about the businesses that came to Wasilla thanks to its new pro-business atmosphere, fostered by Palin. And, unlike the Democrats who talk a big game about taking on Big Oil, Palin actually took on Big Oil with a tenacity that should make her Nancy Pelosi’s hero, releasing the stranglehold that those companies had on the oil resources and industry in her state. She didn’t stand for corruption in the Alaskan government – her ethical stance, in fact, was a key factor in the popularity that allowed her to run for governor.

What did her critics do? They responded by calling her a Spice Girl or some variation of Nordstrom girl – and this was back during her Wasilla days, way before the national media ever began launching torpedoes her way. Palin’s response? She won re-election as mayor of Wasilla with about 75 percent of the vote. She had an over 80 percent approval rating as governor.

It’s the sentiment of Bannon’s movie: think again before you underestimate Sarah Palin.



You know how Sarah Palin said Paul Revere warned the British? Well, he did. Now, who looks stupid?

You may have heard recently something about that Sarah Palin telling a reporter that Paul Revere warned the British on his famous rousing revolutionary ride.

Now, that so many Americans have wallowed in their smug confirmation that Palin is an idiot unqualified for anything but repeating sixth-grade history, how far, wide and fast do you think the contradictory news will spread that the former governor of Alaska was indeed correct?

That the Republican non-candidate, in fact, knew more about the actual facts of Revere's midnight ride than all those idiots unknowingly revealing their own ignorance by laughing at her faux faux pas? How secretly embarrassing this must be, to be forced to face that you're dumber than the reputed dummy.

As it happens, though, such phenomena are regular occurrences in American politics, reminding consumers of news to be wary when some fresh story seems to fit contemporary assumptions so absolutely perfectly.

The well-known fable is Revere's late-night ride to warn fellow revolutionaries that.... the British were coming. Less known, obviously, is the rest of the evening's events in which Revere was captured by said redcoats and did indeed defiantly warn them of the awakened militia awaiting their arrival ahead and of the American Revolution's inevitable victory.

Palin knew this. The on-scene reporters did not and ran off like Revere to alert the world to Palin's latest mis-speak, which wasn't.



Why PBS is a public menace

PBS recently added 15- to 30-second "sponsorship" messages to online presentations of major programs — everything from Masterpiece to Frontline (but not children's programs). This fall, it intends to start interrupting its broadcasts with promotional spots, although in response to criticism it says it may test the idea first.

PBS calls these interruptions "program breaks" or "sponsorship announcements," but on other channels they're called commercials. So: What, in a world of hundreds of radio and TV channels, is so special about PBS and NPR that they should get $420 million a year of taxpayers' money?

When I was a boy growing up in western Kentucky, with three TV networks, it was understandable that people thought an "educational" network would add something important. But my brother's kids in that same little town later had access to hundreds of cable stations.

PBS used to ask, "If not PBS, then who?" The answer now is: HBO, Bravo, Discovery, History, History International, Science, Planet Green, Sundance, Military, C-SPAN 1/2/3 and many more.

Defenders of the tax-funded broadcast networks often point out that only about 15 percent of their funding comes from the federal government. Good — they can absorb the loss.

In 2003, NPR told potential advertisers that "compared with the general public, NPR listeners are 55 percent less likely to have a household income below $30,000 ... 152 percent more likely to have a home valued at $500,000 or more and 194 percent more likely to travel to France." And PBS viewers were 98 percent more likely to be a CEO and 315 percent more likely to have stocks valued at $75,000 or more.

Sponsors know this. The most prominent of the new online advertisers is Goldman Sachs, which knows where to find a wealthy and influential audience.

So why should working- and middle-class taxpayers be subsidizing the news and entertainment of the rich?

The main point here isn't the money, it's the separation of news and state. If anything should be kept separate from government and politics, it's the news and public-affairs programming that informs Americans about government and its policies. When government brings us the news — with all the inevitable bias and spin — it is putting its thumb on the scales of democracy.

A healthy democracy needs a free and diverse press — but Americans today have access to more sources of news and opinion than ever before: more broadcast networks than before, cable networks, satellite TV and radio, the Internet. Any diversity argument for NPR and PBS is now a sad joke.

We don't need a government news and opinion network. More important, we shouldn't require taxpayers to pay for broadcasting that will inevitably reflect a particular perspective on politics and culture. The marketplace of democracy should be a free market, in which the voices of citizens are heard, with no unfair advantage granted by government to one participant.




Obama lies with statistics about auto industry jobs: "The auto industry has added 113,000 jobs over the past two years.” So proclaimed President Obama in his speech Friday. But we need to look under the hood of those employment claims. Schoenberger reported the sobering fact that even after the Bush and Obama administrations spent $62 billion to bail out Chrysler and General Motors, “the two automakers employ 16,500 fewer people than they did in 2009.” How can these two statistics — 113,000 new jobs and 16,500 fewer auto workers — simultaneously be true? Foreign automakers with plants in the South have been picking up the slack in hiring. “Automotive employment is shifting away from its traditional base in the Midwest to the southeastern States,” says the BLS in its 2010–11 Career Guide to Industries. “A large number of these assembly plants are owned by foreign automobile makers, known as ‘domestic internationals.’”

Portugal: Center-Right wins election: "Portugal’s Social Democrats unseated the Socialist government in an emphatic election victory yesterday, giving the center-right party a strong mandate to enact a grinding austerity program amid a $114 billion bailout expected to pitch the country into deep recession. Jose Socrates, the Socialist leader and the country’s prime minister for the past six years, conceded before all the results were in. 'The Socialist Party lost these elections,' Socrates said in a speech, adding he would resign as party leader."

Free John Edwards and repeal campaign finance regulatory nonsense: "With the ridiculous criminal indictment of former presidential candidate John Edwards, this would be a good time to call for the repeal of all restrictions on the right of people to donate as much money as they want to political candidates for whatever reason they want. During his presidential campaign, Edwards learned that his mistress was pregnant and wished to keep it secret. He approached a couple of wealthy people, who gave him around million dollars to help hide the affair and the pregnancy."

A primer on the never-ending bust: "With Friday's dismal jobs report — showing a paltry 54,000 increase in nonfarm payroll employment in May — more and more analysts are realizing that the so-called economic 'recovery' is stalling. As Jeffrey Tucker recently pointed out in an important article, Austrians realize that the recession never left. This has all been smoke and mirrors for the last two years"


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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)


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