Monday, June 18, 2012

An amusing example of Leftist self-importance

I won't reproduce the whole of the piece below because it is rather repetitive. Its basic assumption is that Americans listen to, view, and read conservative media because Leftists draw their attention to it. That conservative media are closer to the American mainstream and that millions of Americans listen to conservative media for that reason alone seems to be an unthinkable thought to him. Amusing indeed

This, to be blunt, is the tragic flaw of the modern liberal. We choose to see ourselves as innocent victims of an escalating right-wing fanaticism. But too often we serve as willing accomplices to this escalation and to the resulting degradation of our civic discourse. We do this, without even meaning to, by consuming conservative folly as mass entertainment.

If this sounds like a harsh assessment, trust me, I’m among the worst offenders. Yes, I’m one of those enlightened masochists who tune in to conservative talk radio when driving alone. I recognize this as pathological behavior, and I always make sure to switch the station back to NPR before returning the car to my wife. But I can’t help myself. I take a perverse and complicated pleasure in listening to all the mean, manipulative things those people say.

Of course, not all right-wing pundits spew hate. But the ones who do are the ones we liberals dependably aggrandize. Consider the recent debate over whether employers must cover contraception in their health plans. The underlying question — should American women receive help in protecting themselves from unwanted pregnancies? — is part of a serious and necessary national conversation.

Any hope of that conversation happening was dashed the moment Rush Limbaugh began his attacks on Sandra Fluke, the young contraceptive advocate. The left took enormous pleasure in seeing Limbaugh pilloried. To what end, though? Industry experts noted that his ratings actually went up during the flap. In effect, the firestorm helped Limbaugh do his job, at least in the short term.

But the real problem isn’t Limbaugh. He’s just a businessman who is paid to reduce complex cultural issues to ad hominem assaults. The real problem is that liberals, both on an institutional and a personal level, have chosen to treat for-profit propaganda as news. In so doing, we have helped redefine liberalism as an essentially reactionary movement. Rather than initiating discussion, or advocating for more humane policy, we react to the most vile and nihilistic voices on the right.

Media outlets like MSNBC and The Huffington Post often justify their coverage of these voices by claiming to serve as watchdogs. It would be more accurate to think of them as de facto loudspeakers for conservative agitprop. The demagogues of the world, after all, derive power solely from their ability to provoke reaction. Those liberals (like me) who take the bait, are to blame for their outsize influence.

I’m not trying to soft-pedal the very real pathologies of the modern conservative movement. The rich and powerful have clearly found in the Republican Party a willing collaborator. They’ve spent billions peddling Americans a failed theology of deregulation and lower taxes that is designed to foster and protect obscene wealth, not to serve the vast majority of our citizens. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the coming election will mark an unprecedented infusion of corporate propaganda into the political bloodstream.

It’s for this exact reason that the left can no longer afford to squander time and energy engaging the childish arguments of paid provocateurs. We have to seek out those on the right willing to engage in genuine dialogue and ignore the rest.

Imagine, if you will, the domino effect that would ensue if liberals and moderates simply tuned out the demagogues. Yes, they would still be able to manipulate their legions into endorsing cruel and self-defeating policies. But their voices would be sealed within the echo chamber of extremism and sealed off from the majority of Americans who honestly just want our common problems solved. They would be marginalized in the same way as activists who rant about racial purity or anarchy.

Rush Limbaugh would be a radio host catering to a few million angry commuters, not the alpha male of conservatism. Fox News would be a popular fringe network, not the reliable conduit by which paranoid hogwash infects our mainstream media.

More HERE. The piece is by STEVE ALMOND and ran (predictably) in the NYT. It was called there: "Liberals Are Ruining America. I Know Because I Am One"


Special Operations Forces Organize Against Obama

My good friend Larry Bailey retired from the Navy in 1990 after a 27-year career as a SEAL, rising to Captain. Captain Bailey's most significant military assignment was as Commanding Officer of the Naval Special Warfare Center, where all Navy SEALS undergo basic and advanced training.

Bailey and others from across the spectrum of US special forces have banded together to form Special Operations Speaks. I'll let them speak for themselves:

Honorably discharged veterans of the Special Operations communities of all the Armed Services have organized an effort to elect Mitt Romney President of the United States. This group, “Special Operations Speaks,” or “SOS,” will be structured along quasi-military lines, with an umbrella organization coordinating the efforts of several subordinate Service-unique specialties. The Army will be represented by “Rangers Speak Out” and “Green Berets Speak Out;” the Navy by “SEALs Speak Out;” the Air Force by “Air Commandos Speak Out;” and the Marine Corps by “MARSOC Speaks out.”

SOS is configured as a “Super Political Action Committee” (Super PAC) that will enable it to exert maximum influence as an advocate for the election of Mitt Romney as President of the United States. Subsequent to the 2012 campaign, SOS will continue to exert pressure on behalf of the Special Operations community.

Of particular interest to SOS is the urgency of maintaining the level of secrecy that has heretofore been a hallmark of Special Operations. The recent leaking of highly classified information from the offices of the Commander-in-Chief himself clearly indicates the need to protect sensitive information from the public (and enemy’s) eye. SOS will educate the public and its representatives in the US Congress about this issue.

Until November 6, 2012, SOS will organize and execute operations designed to help elect Mitt Romney and to defeat Barack Hussein Obama.



Wal-Mart's Positive Effects

Devin G. Pope and Jaren C. Pope have recently had a Working Paper published by NBER. It's #18111 (May 2012) and it's cleverly titled, "When Walmart Comes to Town: Always Low Housing Prices? Always?" Here's an ungated version. In it, they examine empirically the effect of arrival of new Walmart stores on the prices of houses within a small radius. Their idea is that such a measure will give the net effect of the benefits of having nearby Walmart and the other stores it attracts and the costs of congestion, traffic, etc.

Why does this matter? They point out that opponents of Walmart sometimes use a decrease in surrounding property values as an argument against allowing a Walmart in their neighborhood. They cite, for instance, "Top 10 Reasons Why Wal-Mart Is Wrong for Northcross."

The Popes' bottom line is:
Using a difference-in-differences specification, our estimates suggest that a new Walmart store actually increases housing prices by between 2 and 3 percent for houses located within 0.5 miles of the store and by 1 to 2 percent for houses located between 0.5 and 1 mile.

One other thing I found useful about the study is their terse review of the literature on other effects of Walmart. Here are the guts of the two main paragraphs on those other effects:
Phone surveys suggest that 84% of households in the U.S. shop at Walmart in a given year with 42% of households reporting to be regular Walmart shoppers (Pew Research Center, 2005). These surveys also show that lower-income households are more likely to shop at Walmart than upper-income households. In fact, Basker, (2005b), Hausman and Leibtag (2007), and Basker and Noel (2009) have shown that Walmart "Supercenters" that sell groceries offer many identical food items as other grocers at an average price that is substantially lower than their competitors. Hausman and Leibtag (2007) also find that these lower prices translate into a significant increase in consumer surplus.

Despite the consumer benefits from the expansion of supercenters into new geographic markets, there is often significant opposition and controversy when Walmart tries to open a new store. One concern of opponents is the impact that a new Walmart will have on local employment opportunities and wages. There is a small literature that has analyzed this common concern including Basker (2005a), Hicks (2007a) and Neumark et al. (2008). The findings of these studies have been mixed with Basker (2005a) and Hicks (2007a) finding positive effects on employment and/or wages, while Neumark et al. (2008) found negative effects.

I found the reference to Hausman and Leibtag intriguing. Following it up, I found this in a link provided by Mark Thoma:
The indirect effect of Wal-Mart occurs "even if you never enter a Wal-Mart," Hausman said, since supermarkets tend to drop their prices in competitive response to Wal-Mart's. In addition, Wal-Mart does not raise its prices after it has driven out the competition, he said.
"The indirect price effect is 5 percent even if you never go into a Wal-Mart," he said.

Hausman presented graphs to show that Wal-Mart's impact on consumers varies by income category: For families with incomes less than $10,000 annually, a super center makes a 30 percent difference in what they can buy. "The marginal utility on the poor is greater," he noted.

The rate of overall improvement in consumer welfare thanks to a Wal-Mart super center's direct and indirect effects on the cost of food in a community averages 3.75 percent, Hausman said.

"Getting a 3.75 percent improvement in consumer welfare is greater than any tax reform or other policies. And while Wal-Mart pays its employees less -- which does affect local wages -- you still can't beat that 3.75 percent. If economists could improve consumer welfare by that much, we'd all be heroes," Hausman said.



Polarization is a good sign

Emmett Tyrrell

Frankly, I wish the Pew Research Center would occasionally keep its thoughts to itself. Sometimes those thoughts are merely insipid and beneath the attention of serious minds. Sometimes they are alarming and capable of stirring up an already excitable populace. There is talk of cannibalism being practiced by the criminal element. There is Lady Gaga. These are worrisome times. Yet the Pew Research Center has gone and done it again. The Center released a study Monday that employed exhaustive polling and ingenious charts to render my fellow Americans restive, or so it seems.

The Pew Research Center's overall finding is that political polarity in America is tremendously more intense than it has been in decades -- possibly since the Civil War, and 618,000 soldiers died in the Civil War! Of course, intense partisanship is the kind of thing that profoundly troubles Bien Pensants everywhere. It leads to legislative gridlock and stalemate.

The Bien Pensants agree with the memorable plaint of one of their own, Rodney King, who pled: "Why can't we all get along?" He uttered those imperishable words as Los Angles was going up in flames, and between several more of his epic run-ins with the law, with neighbors, and with the inevitable bill collector. Yet no matter, he was expressing the Bien Pensants' staunchly held view that if we would all get along, we could establish consensus, follow the Bien Pensants' diktats and pay more taxes, accept more government, and live happily ever after.

Of course, the Bien Pensants do not exactly put it this way. Instead, they say that political polarization is more intense today and troubling. Or as the Pew Research Center's Andrew Kohut, who directed the study, put it, "The only thing that's changed is the extent to which Republicans and Democrats go to opposite sides of the room on most issues." That leaves the center empty and a kind of no man's land.

Kohut's colleagues cited a massive amount of evidence, but let me just mention a few to give you the gravamen of their complaint. Twenty-five years ago on the question of the scope and performance of government, the Pew researchers found the spread between Republicans and Democrats was just 6 percent. Today it is 33 percent. On support for a social safety net, the spread was 21 percent. Now it is 41 percent. On environmental issues it is up from 5 percent to 39 percent. Time and again on public policy after public policy, the gap between Republicans and Democrats has widened. Consensus is dying. What to do?

The alarmists will say: Come back, Republicans and Democrats. Join together in happy comity at the center of Mr. Kohut's room. Mr. Kohut and his friends will tell us what policy to accept and at what cost to taxpayers. Yet in the last three and a half years, the federal government has increased its size to almost 25 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, up from under 20 percent. Traditionally, in peacetime it has been under 20 percent. Is it really wise to accept the Bien Pensants' 25 percent now and into eternity.

There is another matter. Has anyone paid any attention to how effective these policies have been over the past 25 years? Or how expensive they have become? Or what other matters have inched their way up the national agenda, such as the federal debt that today stands at $16 trillion? Possibly, it is time to review our experience with, say, the scope and performance of government or the social net and seek alternative solutions. Perhaps it is time to learn from experience.

To all the alarmed social scientists at the Pew Research Center, I would suggest that ever more Republicans and even many Independents have learned from experience with these public policies. They want to employ different approaches to them like entitlements, which are putting this country on the path to Greece. They also might want to privatize or follow Rep. Paul Ryan's policies of choice.

Some people learn from experience. Some people just keep plodding along, spending more money and heading for bankruptcy. And some seem to believe they can scare the electorate into doing the same old thing. The colleagues at the Pew Research Center are to be numbered among the latter, but they ought to review the content of the policies that Republicans are deserting. We tried them, and they failed.




Flakiness all over the place: "I've blogged about flakiness among libertarians before, when I did my Venn Diagram. And I hasten to assure you that I don't think libertarians are particularly flaky. You find flakiness everywhere, in all political and social groups. Among the left-liberals and neocons who are running things right now, it's almost a prerequisite for membership. It just particularly pains me to encounter it with libertarians, because I'm a sort of libertarian myself, and I've been fighting flakiness all my life everywhere I go. I'll define flakiness here as the ability to hold an opinion that is in clear, obvious contradiction to either common sense or logic or the evidence of your senses or all three." [I've been looking for a good definition of "flaky". Is this a good one? I was thinking more along the lines of being shallow or pretending to be what you are not]

Britain fights euro zone threat with £100 billion credit boost: "The government and central bank will flood Britain's banking system with more than 100 billion pounds ($155.43 billion), seeking to pump credit through an economy struggling to escape recession under the 'black cloud' of the euro zone crisis. In his annual Mansion House policy speech to London financiers on Thursday, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said Britain would launch a scheme to provide cheap long-term funding to banks to encourage them to lend to businesses and consumers"

It’s time to end Britain's exploitative minimum wage laws: "For those who are 21 years old or over, the national minimum wage is currently £6.08 -- do we really believe that the moment they earn £6.07 they are being exploited? Why should it be left to government bureaucrats to arbitrarily decide what constitutes exploitation? Payment should be between the employer and employee. If the employee doesn’t like the offer being made they are free to refuse it and if they are willing to accept it, then it’s not for anybody else to label it exploitation."



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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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