Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Obama lied when people died

From Captain's Journal:

Too much focus has been given to whether the administration called the attacks on the American consulate at Benghazi an act of terror.  Parsing the questions is important both to frame our objections to Obama’s behavior after this incident and to point out larger problems with his foreign policy.

It’s well known that the administration rejected requests for increased security at the consulate.  The administration’s assumptions regarding the nature of the world has caused them to be unprepared for the Islamists at every turn over the last four years.  But their refusal to protect Americans, as shameful and loathsome as that is, constitutes a different issue than the one I am addressing.

As I’ve pointed out before, I published an assessment within one day of the attacks in which, despite focusing on issues related mostly to how we move forward with increased security, my own military readers concluded that this was a well-planned, well-coordinated attack with ensconced fighters, involving a complex ambush with the use of combined arms.

Take careful note.  The use of combined arms is deadly to your own fighters if it isn’t a well-rehearsed engagement.  Firing mortars or light [or heavy] machine guns at your own fighters kills them, and you must know where they are and what they’re doing at all times.

My article was well-visited that day by the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, DoD network domains, and others that were in a position to make a difference with the administration.  Glenn Reynolds linked the post, and the traffic his site drives isn’t the only interesting feature of his attention.  The quality of his traffic is even more remarkable.

So within 24 hours everyone knew that this wasn’t the action of an angry mob.  The administration also knew that very quickly from information to which only they would have been aware, as Former Spook points out:
"In recent posts, we’ve asked the fundamental question about the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans: what did the  administration know, and when did they know it?

As we’ve noted, there was a steady stream of intelligence reporting on the attack, delivered at the FLASH/CRITIC level.  Messages assigned that priority must be delivered to the President within 10 minutes of receipt.  This traffic captured conversations between the Islamist factions responsible for the attack, before and during the assault on our compound.  That’s why administration claims that incident was some sort of “demonstration gone bad” are nothing more than a lie.

Ditto for Joe Biden’s claim that Benghazi was some sort of intelligence failure.  By all accounts, the spooks did their job, and it was apparent within minutes  that our consulate was under attack by terrorists, not ordinary Libyans incensed over that internet video.  If Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has any shred of integrity remaining, he should resign immediately in protest over how his community is being “used” to conceal leadership failures of the first magnitude.

But terrorist phone traffic wasn’t the only source of information on the night of September 11, 2012.  According to Fox News military analyst Colonel David Hunt (who spent most of his Army career in special forces), various U.S. command centers–in the U.S. and overseas–received a running account of the attack –while it unfolded–from a State Department official inside the consulate.  Hunt detailed who was listening in during a recent interview with Boston radio host Howie Carr."
See his article for a continuation of the discussion.  So as we’ve observed, the administration knew.  But then as I mentioned above, so did you.  It didn’t take weeks or months of review, investigation and field work to know how this transpired.  My military readers told you within 24 hours.

And yet … some two weeks after the attack on the consulate, Obama went before the United Nations and gave that silly, sophomoric speech.
That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them....  There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy.

He very clearly blamed the attack on a video and pointed to mob-like behavior and outrage.  This is his lie.

He knew better.  Everyone knew better.  Yes, he and his administration has four deaths for which to answer.  They are on his conscience.  His foreign policy is an abysmal  failure.  Furthermore, as my own readers pointed out within one day of the attack, we lacked an effective QRF (Quick Reaction Force).  We were unprepared.  This is yet another problem.

Those are problems indeed.  But they belong in a different category, and parsing them is necessary when moderators and main stream media types talk about ridiculous things like when the administration used the word “terror.”  The word means nothing.  The attack would have inflicted terror regardless of whether it was a pre-planned attack or the actions of a mob.  In pointing to a video, Obama lied. The lie demands an answer separate from the failures of Obama’s foreign policy.

UPDATE #1: Seeing the problems ahead, it appears that the administration is returning to the lie, as a dog to its own vomit.



Does Mitt Romney Want to Let People Die?

Have you noticed that The New York Times editorial page is becoming increasingly strident, increasingly emotional and increasingly irrational? Here is Paul Krugman in last Monday’s column:

Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan… want to expose many Americans to financial insecurity, and let some of them die, so that a handful of already wealthy people can have a higher after-tax income.
No, that’s not a misprint. The Republicans actually want to let some people die so that they can reward their rich friends. It’s not an isolated comment either. Under the heading “Death by Ideology,” Krugman actually lists all of the ways in which a President Romney would proceed to kill people. For example:

 *  Mr. Romney wants…to repeal ObamaCare and slash funding for Medicaid — actions that would take insurance away from some 45 million nonelderly Americans, causing thousands of people to suffer premature death.

 *  And their longer-term plans to convert Medicare into Vouchercare would deprive many seniors of adequate coverage, too, leading to still more unnecessary mortality.

 *  [M]any, and probably most, older Americans — would be left with inadequate insurance, insurance that exposed them to severe financial hardship if they got sick, sometimes left them unable to afford crucial care, and yes, sometimes led to their early death.
So what, you may ask, is the basis for all this vitriol? Krugman is writing about health care — a subject about which he has proved time and again he knows virtually nothing. On this occasion he lets loose with this bold assertion:

The overwhelming evidence, however, is that [health] insurance is indeed a lifesaver, and lack of insurance a killer…there’s no real question that lack of insurance is responsible for thousands, and probably tens of thousands, of excess deaths of Americans each year.
Krugman claims to have reviewed the economics literature. If he has, then he is an embarrassment to the economics profession, despite his Nobel Prize. Then again, if he claims to have done so but really hasn’t, I suppose that’s equally embarrassing. (And remember, while all this is going on he is invariably calling everyone who disagrees with him a liar.)

Let me briefly set the record straight. Some studies actually have claimed that tens of thousands of people have died prematurely because they lacked health insurance. But these studies were not done by economists and were never accepted in any credible, peer-reviewed social science journal. They are basically junk science and they have been thoroughly discredited on several occasions, most notably by Richard Kronick, an economist who served in the Obama administration and actually helped design HillaryCare. Kronick writes that “there is little evidence to suggest that extending insurance coverage to all adults would have a large effect on the number of deaths in the United States.” I’ll get to the children below.

In general, the economics literature has found no evidence that lack of health insurance has any substantial effect on mortality. Prof. June O’Neill, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, thoroughly investigated this issue and found that among Americans above 250% of poverty, lack of health insurance does not affect mortality. Below 250% of poverty, people without health insurance have an 11% higher probability of dying. But the probability drops to under 3% when you take into account demographic differences in the two populations. In fact, it is likely that the differential probability would disappear altogether with a complete inclusion of all the demographic differences between the two groups. (See her PowerPoint slides.)

The most recent evidence on children comes from a paper posted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It looks at the effects of Medicaid on mortality and finds:

 *  Medicaid insurance leads to a substantial decline in mortality in older black children.

 *  It has no effect on white children.

 *  It has no effect on children — black or white — in states with the most Medicaid expansion.

The last finding is the most important. Krugman claims that by expanding Medicaid, ObamaCare will save thousands of lives and that by repealing ObamaCare, Romney would cause thousands of people to die. The evidence says otherwise.



Is being less productive good for humanity?

It is not often that one comes across an article, especially one in arguably the most important newspaper in the country, that is so misguided across the board that one hardly knows where to begin in pointing out its errors. Unfortunately, such an article appears in the May 27 New York Times. Tim Jackson’s “Let’s Be Less Productive” argues that the quest for more and more productivity and efficiency has led us to make any number of mistakes with respect to priorities and policies. Furthermore, he suggests that whatever good that productivity gains have provided in the past, there may be “natural limits” to those gains that will eventually lead to the end of growth. He concludes that we should ease back on the quest for greater productivity as a way to ensure sustainable growth.

Would being less productive really be good for humanity?

Jackson’s problems begin with a profound misunderstanding of what economists mean by productivity and efficiency and the role that “output” plays in a market economy. His opening definition of productivity as “the amount of output delivered per hour of work” is perfectly serviceable. He also notes that it “is often viewed as the engine of progress in modern capitalist economies,” which is also accurate, although it is not the only or necessarily the primary engine. The trouble starts in the next sentence: “Output is everything.” Output for the sake of output is most certainly not what productivity is about. Producing what consumers want at the lowest cost possible is the goal.

Similar errors plague Jackson’s discussion of efficiency. Here too he seems to think the point is to just do things faster, regardless of what the thing is. He tries to show how silly that idea is by pointing to examples where doing things faster is strange, such as playing Beethoven’s Ninth faster and faster each year, or trying to do detailed craftwork faster and faster. These examples, however, knock over a straw man. In the very first weeks of Economics 101 teachers introduce the concept of efficiency by emphasizing that it cannot be understood outside of the end that is being pursued. It cannot be “more efficient” to play Beethoven faster because that is not what people want. The same is true of craft work: People want the care and detail that goes into such work, so it is not more “efficient” to get craft workers to work faster. It is inefficient given that what people want is a carefully produced, detailed piece of work (or to hear Beethoven’s Ninth more or less as he wrote it).

Jackson then points out how crafts, music, and other service industries are desirable because they are not about the “outpouring of material stuff” and therefore might promote sustainability. What Jackson fails to recognize here is one of the fundamental truths of economic history: The reason why cultural products and services are taking up such a large portion of economic activity is that we have become so very productive and efficient at making physical stuff.

Take agriculture. For most of human history, we have had to devote the overwhelming majority of human labor to just feeding ourselves. The incredible productivity growth of the agricultural sector has meant we can do that by employing, in the United States anyway, about 2 percent of the population. At first the labor no longer needed there went into manufacturing to produce the physical stuff we wanted. Of course we then got incredibly productive at making physical stuff. People claim that the U.S. manufacturing sector is stagnating because there has been little job growth, but when you look at what it actually produces, you see that it is stronger than ever—precisely because it is so productive that it doesn’t need more labor to make more stuff.

The combination of productivity gains, which produce higher wages, and declining costs of food and manufactured goods means that people have a great deal more disposable income. Some of it goes to buying more food and physical stuff, but much of it goes to buying services and enjoying culture, which people couldn’t afford before. The nonmaterial portion of “output” grew as we became increasingly productive. We consume more nonphysical stuff because we have continued to allow enough scope for the market that productivity gains are rewarded.

To commit, as Jackson would, to a low-productivity economy would cut this process short with two consequences he probably would not want. First, it would slow, if not stop, the very process that will enable us to have a smaller environmental footprint: more efficient ways of manufacturing things so we can increase the number of cultural and service jobs. Part of industrial efficiency is that producers learn how to turn what starts as “waste” products into productive inputs. The history of industry is full of such examples where efficiency considerations have reduced waste. (See Pierre Desrochers’s Freeman article “Saving the Environment for a Profit, Victorian-Style.”)

Second, restricting productivity growth would perpetuate poverty in the undeveloped world. The combination of markets and productivity growth has been a major engine of economic development across the globe. Jackson’s proposal to restrict productivity growth is but another example of Western eco-imperialism: We’ve got our wealth, but now you’ll have to stay poor longer to save the planet. I assume Jackson does not intend to consign billions to their current levels of poverty for longer than necessary, but that would be one major result of lower productivity; it would reduce exports and raise prices elsewhere in the world.

So why, in the end, does Jackson think productivity is a problem? Early in the essay he suggests there might be limits to our ability to grow. He presents no argument other than pointing to the financial crises, rising oil and other resource prices, and increasing ecological damage. He offers no explanation of why these are caused by, or reflections of, limits to growth. Apparently he assumes his readers will simply nod along.

Of course none of these problems results from growth or any supposed limits thereof. The financial crisis was the predictable result of excess money creation and of housing policies that fueled an artificial boom. Looked at over the long run, the real prices of natural resources are falling, not rising, and we have more proven oil reserves than ever before. Environmental damage has been reduced in the developed world through the very forces of productivity-generated wealth increases that Jackson rejects. None of these reflects “limits to growth.” In fact there are, as Julian Simon was quick to remind us, no limits to growth as long as we allow the human mind, what he called the “ultimate resource,” the necessary freedom to invent and create—and get more productive.

Jackson’s article is a sad reminder of how much work there is to do in communicating the larger story of economic history and the way in which market institutions have made possible a wealthier and cleaner world. Productivity gains are not the enemy of human progress but one of its central causes. To limit productivity is to limit our ability to continue the amazing story of better lives for more human beings.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.



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