Friday, December 07, 2012

More on Obamacare vs. the Constitution

It was just a few months ago that conservatives came to the defense of the Christian-owned Chick-fil-A restaurant chain after its president, Dan Cathy, said the company was “guilty as charged” in its opposition to same-sex marriage. Now it is the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby Stores and its fight against Obamacare.

Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., from its humble beginnings in founder David Green’s garage in 1970, has grown from one 300-square-foot store in 1972 to 525 stores in 42 states in 2012. The company, which employs about 13,000 people, has become one of the nation’s leading arts-and-crafts retailers.

“It is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,” says founder and CEO David Green. “Therefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

But according to Green, included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) is something that will force his company to dishonor God by operating the company in a manner inconsistent with Biblical principles.

Obamacare includes not only the well-known “individual mandate” that requires most Americans to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax, but also the lesser-known mandate that all group-health insurance plans must provide certain “preventive services” at no cost to those they insure. After announcing a general list of those services in September 2010, the government asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to recommend a list of “preventive services for women.” Although religious groups urged the IOM to not include sterilization and contraceptive services in their recommendation, the IOM did it anyway. The Department of Health and Human Services then decreed in the summer of 2011 that the “preventive services” mandate included “all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”

Because approved FDA contraceptive methods include drugs and devices that may prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb, Hobby Lobby and other religious organizations that oppose the use abortion-inducing drugs and devices have sued the Department of Health and Human Services over the “preventive services” mandate.

There is a religious exemption from the mandate, but it is so narrow that neither Mother Teresa’s charity nor Jesus’ ministry would be exempt because they didn’t “primarily employ and serve those who share their faith.”

On September 12 of this year, because it could not get an exemption Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in opposition to the “preventive services” mandate that will cost the company up to $1.3 million per day in fines if it refuses to comply. The lawsuit alleged that the mandate “illegally and unconstitutionally coerces the Green family to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties, and lawsuits” and “forces the Green family to facilitate government-dictated speech incompatible with their own speech and religious beliefs.”

There are now 40 cases and more than 110 plaintiffs challenging the Health and Human Services mandate, which takes effect on January 1, 2013.

In a 28-page ruling issued just before Thanksgiving, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton denied Hobby Lobby’s request for “declaratory and injunctive relief” against the mandate. Hobby Lobby has now filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Since the appeal was filed, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has, in the case of O’Brien v. HHS, issued an injunction that temporarily blocks the Department of Health and Human Services from implementing Obamacare’s contraception mandate until the court issues a substantive ruling on the matter. A federal district court judge in October had previously dismissed O’Brien’s claim at the request of the Obama administration.



Why Progressives Support Welfare for the Rich

Democrats' counterintuitive resistance to means-testing Medicare and Social Security

Since Republicans are pushing entitlement reform and Democrats like taking money from rich people, you might think they could agree on means-testing Medicare and Social Security as part of a deficit reduction deal. Yet many Democrats are surprisingly hostile to the idea of tailoring these programs to help people who actually need them.

There are two main reasons for this resistance—one strategic, the other ideological. Neither is persuasive, even from a progressive point of view, at a time when trillion-dollar deficits are the norm and publicly held federal debt is projected to reach 150 percent of GDP within two decades.

"I don't see want to see Medicare turn into a welfare program, which is what it would be if wealthier people didn't benefit from it or had a significantly reduced benefit," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. "It needs to be something shared that Americans are all in, that we all participate in and we all contribute to." Ellison is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which opposes any cuts to Medicare or Social Security benefits.

The strategic rationale for this position is that reducing or eliminating retirement subsidies for people who can easily get by without them would spoil the illusion that all of us are "entitled" to those benefits because we have "earned" them through our "contributions." In reality, Medicare and Social Security are funded through intergenerational transfers from relatively poor workers to relatively affluent retirees.

That does not sound terribly progressive, but left-leaning opponents of means testing worry that narrower versions of these programs would be politically vulnerable. "If Medicare turns from an earned benefit into a welfare program," warns Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, "you will see support dissipate."

There is not much evidence to support that prediction. In a 2010 Heritage Foundation report, Katherine Bradley and Robert Rector counted "over 70 different means-tested anti-poverty programs" and noted that spending on such programs "has grown faster than every other component of government over the past two decades."

Furthermore, Medicare and Social Security already are transfer programs; they are just poorly targeted. If the aim is to prevent the elderly from sinking into poverty or to ensure that they can obtain the medical care they need, it hardly makes sense to use payroll taxes extracted from middle- and working-class employees to cut monthly checks to Michael Bloomberg or subsidize prescription drugs for Ross Perot.

Both programs do include some modest means tests. The monthly premiums that help fund Medicare are higher for wealthier beneficiaries, for example, and the share of Social Security benefits subject to tax is larger for retirees with higher incomes—functionally equivalent to reduced benefits.

But with Medicare and Social Security facing unfunded long-term liabilities of $42.8 trillion and $20.5 trillion, respectively, they need to move much further in the direction feared by Ellison and Richtman. As Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute observed last year in National Affairs, "It is inevitable that Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs will become less generous toward the rich than they are today."

If progressives are having trouble adjusting to this reality, it is not only because they (mistakenly) believe means testing will jeopardize these programs. As William Voegeli observes in his 2005 book Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State, progressives' counterintuitive resistance to means testing also stems from a communitarian vision that sees universal participation in tax-funded social services as inherently good.

Voegeli quotes Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, who in his 1987 book The Life of the Party argued that "there is immense civic value to treating middle-class and poor people alike." According to Kuttner, "a common social security program, or medical care program, or public school program" fosters "social solidarity."

You may or may not find this vision appealing. Either way, we can no longer afford it.



Fiscal Cliff Notes: Part II

Thomas Sowell

One of the big advantages that President Obama has, as he plays "chicken" with the Congressional Republicans along the "fiscal cliff," is that Obama is a master of the plausible lie, which will never be exposed by the mainstream media-- nor, apparently, by the Republicans.

A key lie that has been repeated over and over, largely unanswered, is that President Bush's "tax cuts for the rich" cost the government so much lost tax revenue that this added to the budget deficit-- so that the government cannot afford to allow the cost of letting the Bush tax rates continue for "the rich."

It sounds very plausible, and constant repetition without a challenge may well be enough to convince the voting public that, if the Republican-controlled House of Representatives does not go along with Barack Obama's demands for more spending and higher tax rates on the top 2 percent, it just shows that they care more for "the rich" than for the other 98 percent.

What is remarkable is how easy it is to show how completely false Obama's argument is. That also makes it completely inexplicable why the Republicans have not done so.

The official statistics which show plainly how wrong Barack Obama is can be found in his own "Economic Report of the President" for 2012, on page 411. You can look it up.

You may be able to find a copy of the "Economic Report of the President" for 2012 at your local public library. Or you can buy a hard copy from the Government Printing Office or download an electronic version from the Internet.

For those who find that "a picture is worth a thousand words," they need only see the graphs published in the November 30th issue of Investor's Business Daily.

What both the statistical tables in the "Economic Report of the President" and the graphs in Investor's Business Daily show is that (1) tax revenues went up-- not down-- after tax rates were cut during the Bush administration, and (2) the budget deficit declined, year after year, after the cut in tax rates that have been blamed by Obama for increasing the deficit.

Indeed, the New York Times reported in 2006: "An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year."

While the New York Times may not have expected this, there is nothing unprecedented about lower tax rates leading to higher tax revenues, despite automatic assumptions by many in the media and elsewhere that tax rates and tax revenues automatically move in the same direction. They do not.

The Congressional Budget Office has been embarrassed repeatedly by making projections based on the assumption that tax revenues and tax rates move in the same direction.

This has happened as recently as the George W. Bush administration and as far back as the Reagan administration. Moreover, tax revenues went up when tax rates went down, as far back as the Coolidge administration, before there was a Congressional Budget Office to make false predictions.

The bottom line is that Barack Obama's blaming increased budget deficits on the Bush tax cuts is demonstrably false. What caused the decreasing budget deficits after the Bush tax cuts to suddenly reverse and start increasing was the mortgage crisis. The deficit increased in 2008, followed by a huge increase in 2009.

So it is sheer hogwash that "tax cuts for the rich" caused the government to lose tax revenues. The government gained tax revenues, not lost them. Moreover, "the rich" paid a larger amount of taxes, and a larger share of all taxes, after the tax rates were cut.

That is because people change their economic behavior when tax rates are changed, contrary to what the Congressional Budget Office and others seem to assume, and this can stimulate the economy more than a government "stimulus" has done under either Bush or Obama.



Promoting ‘Functional Values’


I have written previous about why I see the supposed dichotomy between the  fiscal and social concerns of conservatives as a false one.  Both the free market and the family unit form an interrelated foundation of a free and prosperous society.  As I mentioned in that article:
It wasn't until recently that the concern of economics was treated in a more narrow fashion. An intellectually honest approach to promoting a free society, which is at the heart of the American conservative agenda, cannot separate the concerns of economics from social and moral concerns. We all remember Adam Smith for his work 'The Wealth of Nations" and his notion of "the invisible hand",what we forget is that Adam Smith was not strictly an economist, but a moral philosopher who applied his moral philosophy to the discipline of economics. Smith's major work was a piece entitled "The Theory of Moral Sentiments", where he theorized that man has a natural sentiment towards benevolence. This was the basis of his notion of an invisible hand. Society does not need a top down order imposed on it to ensure that the less fortunate get taken care of because man has a natural sentiment toward benevolence. This sentiment was to be cultivated through a social order that began with the family, but included Churches and the other institutions of what is often referred to as "civil society". This order was the essential foundation needed to maintain a free society.

I think that political meddling into the affairs of the family and civil society is a cause for a lot of social ills and would like to see the government reframe from usurping the role of the institutions of civil society.  In that sense, most of the goals of social conservatives can be met by insisting that the government "mind its own business."  In a strict political sense there is little that can be done to strengthen these fundamental institutions by passing policy.  These institutions have been atrophying for some time now as their roles have been assumed by the government.  As these institutions weaken, so to do the "moral sentiments" that Adam Smith believed made a free society possible.  The result is a society increasingly held together by the force of regulations and bureaucratic decree rather than freely held "functional values".

Again, I see little in the way of policy proposals that will make this situation better.  On the other hand, there are plenty of policy proposals that are making this situation worse.  It might be a good idea for conservatives to make this case when faced with some utopian scheme coming from progressives.  There needs to be a more sophisticated critique of such proposals than merely pointing out the "the numbers do not work", or "we cannot afford it".  Many of these proposals are inherently bad ideas that should be opposed even if the number did work and we could afford it.  Society is far too complicated to buy into the notion that there is a political solution for everything.  It consists of a moral/cultural sector made up of the institutions of civil society and held together by "moral sentiments".  There is an economic sector made up of businesses, workers, consumers, etc., that is fueled by creative entrepreneurship.  Finally, there is a political sector made up of the various levels of government.  To assume that all the various sectors of society can be centrally managed in a top down fashion by supposedly all knowing government bureaucrats is as foolish as assuming that a complicated circuit board can be tuned with a hammer.  Government is a blunt instrument much like a hammer and our society is far more complicated that even the most intricate circuit board.

Since the family is the cornerstone of any society, and the values passed on from the family are the key to the smooth functioning of a free society, conservatives simply cannot escape the need to discuss family values.  Because these values are essential to the functioning of a healthy and free society, we might want to refer to them as "functional values".  Discussing such matters does not mean we intend to impose these values on the public any more than discussing the value of entrepreneurship means we intend to impose it on the public.  Both ideals are vital to a free society and in both cases it is a matter of reigning in government so that it does not tread on those areas of society best equipped to deal with those ideals.

In discussing the notion of family values as functional values, it would be useful to use research from the social sciences.  One good source is a booklet entitled "Why Marriage Matters: An Argument for the Goods of Marriage" by the Institute for American Values.  Here is how they summarize their work:
For most of the latter-half of the twentieth century, divorce posed the greatest threat to child well-being and the institution of marriage. Today, that is not the case. New research-made available for the first time in Why Marriage Matters-suggests that the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children's lives in today's families.

On their website is a section with scholars discussing these concerns in an apolitical manner.  The website includes videos of the discussion...  It is long past the time for conservatives to make use of such material in their critique of government directed social engineering.




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


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, December 06, 2012

Another interesting case of identical twins reared apart

Such cases are rare in the West these days but the similarities between such people are often eerie  -- as we see below.  It just shows the enormous reach of genetics into our lives  -- far greater than anyone would normally imagine

For three years Bao Lulin found herself continually mistaken for someone else.  Lulin, a waitress from Jiuyang in Guizho, southern China, was puzzled by the number of people who approached and spoke to her as if they knew her.

They would ask her about her work in Fujian Province, mistake her for the daughter-in-law of a complete stranger or ask why she did not recognise them. However, Lulin had never before seen any of them in her life.

The 24-year-old vowed to tracked down her mysterious doppelganger and was stunned to find she had an identical twin sister who was separated from her at birth.

Lulin's incredible journey of discovery began in June 2009, when she was helping a relative run his fruit stand when four grannies approached her.  'You have come back from Fujian Province? Why didn't you inform us?,' one commented

When a confused Lulin asked who they were, another scoffed: 'You must earn big money, and don't want to know us.'

Just a few months later a middle-aged man approached Lulin, who worked as a cashier in a restaurant in Jiuyang and told her: 'You look absolutely identical to one of my relatives.'

Not long after a confused teenager dining at the restaurant approached Lulin and said, 'Yanfei, you work here now?'

Lulin decided to search for this mysterious Yanfei but soon after fell pregnant and had to put the plan on hold.  The married mother-of-one said: 'The idea to look for her was always in my mind. I wanted to look for her after my son got a bit bigger.'

In the end it was three years before Lulin was able to start her search for her ringer.

In October Lulin was once again mistaken for Yanfei at work but she saw her opportunity and managed to get the woman's address from the diner.

Last month Yang Yanfei, also of Jiuyang, was playing with her son at home when she suddenly heard her mother-in-law shout, 'Yanfei, come here now!'  Yanfei was alarmed by her mother-in-law's urgent tone and when she ran out a woman was standing with her back to her and suddenly turned around.  Yanfei was shocked - Lulin was almost identical to her.

The married mother-of-one, said: 'I felt I was looking into the mirror.'

It emerged both Yanfei and Lulin were adopted as babies and have realised that they must have been twins who were separated at birth.

There are many uncanny similarities between the sisters beyond their physical likeness.  They both got married in 2007, both of their husbands have the same given name, Bin, and their sons also look identical.

They have the same voice, same friendly, out-going personality, share a number of hobbies, a similar style of dressing, and enjoy the same foods.

They even have the same scar on their finger after having similar accidents when they were six.

Baby girls are often given up for adoption in China because of the One Child policy.  Boys are more valued in Chinese society because they carry on the ancestral name and inheritance laws pass property on to sons.

Because of this hundreds of thousands of baby girls are abandoned every year in China. Twins, however, are exempt from the policy.



Fiscal Cliff Notes

Thomas Sowell

Amid all the political and media hoopla about the "fiscal cliff" crisis, there are a few facts that are worth noting.

First of all, despite all the melodrama about raising taxes on "the rich," even if that is done it will scarcely make a dent in the government's financial problems. Raising the tax rates on everybody in the top two percent will not get enough additional tax revenue to run the government for ten days.

And what will the government do to pay for the other 355 days in the year?

All the political angst and moral melodrama about getting "the rich" to pay "their fair share" is part of a big charade. This is not about economics, it is about politics. Taxing "the rich" will produce a drop in the bucket when compared to the staggering and unprecedented deficits of the Obama administration.

No previous administration in the entire history of the nation ever finished the year with a trillion dollar deficit. The Obama administration has done so every single year. Yet political and media discussions of the financial crisis have been focused overwhelmingly on how to get more tax revenue to pay for past and future spending.

The very catchwords and phrases used by the Obama administration betray how phony this all is. For example, "We are just asking the rich to pay a little more."

This is an insult to our intelligence. The government doesn't "ask" anybody to pay anything. It orders you to pay the taxes they impose and you can go to prison if you don't.

Then there are all the fancy substitute words for plain old spending-- words like "stimulus" or "investing in the industries of the future."

The theory about "stimulus" is that government spending will stimulate private businesses and financial institutions to put more of their money into the economy, speeding up the recovery. But the fact that you call something a "stimulus" does not make it a stimulus.

Stimulus spending began during the Bush administration and has continued full blast during the Obama administration. But the end result is that both businesses and financial institutions have had record amounts of their own money sitting idle. The rate of circulation of money slowed down. All this is the opposite of stimulus.

What about "investing in the industries of the future"? Does the White House come equipped with a crystal ball? Calling government spending "investment" does not make it investment any more than calling spending "stimulus" makes it stimulate anything.

What in the world would lead anyone to think that politicians have some magic way of knowing what the industries of the future are? Thus far the Obama administration has repeatedly "invested" in the bankruptcies of the present, such as Solyndra.

Using lofty words to obscure tawdry realities extends beyond the White House. Referring to the Federal Reserve System's creation of hundreds of billions of new dollars out of thin air as "quantitative easing" makes it seem as if this is some soothing and esoteric process, rather than amounting essentially to nothing more than printing more money.

Debasing the value of money by creating more of it is nothing new or esoteric. Irresponsible governments have done this, not just for centuries, but for thousands of years.

It is a way to take people's wealth from them without having to openly raise taxes. Inflation is the most universal tax of all.

All the pretty talk about how tax rates will be raised only on "the rich" hides the ugly fact that the poorest people in the country will see the value of their money decline, just like everybody else, and at the same rate as everybody else, when the government creates more money and spends it.

If you have $100 and, after inflation follows from "quantitative easing," that $100 dollars will only buy what $80 bought before, then that is the same economically as if the government had taxed away one-fifth of your money and spent it.

But it is not the same politically, so long as gullible people don't look beyond words to the reality that inflation taxes everybody, the poorest as well as the richest.



Obama Bets He Can Survive Fiscal Cliff, Even If Economy Doesn't

In a column telling the congressional GOP to buck up, Charles Krauthammer argues that President Obama's weakness in the fiscal-cliff negotiations is his concern for his legacy:

"But what about Obama? If we all cliff-dive, he gets to preside over yet another recession. It will wreck his second term. Sure, Republicans will get blamed. But Obama is never running again. He cares about his legacy. You think he wants a second term with a double-dip recession, 9% unemployment and a totally gridlocked Congress? Republicans have to stop playing as if they have no cards."

Maybe. The question is whether that characterizes Obama's thinking.

More likely, Obama believes his "political skills" would enable him to weather a recession and put all of the blame on the GOP.

Exhibit 1 for that is Obama's recent trip to Philadelphia to turn the fiscal cliff into a campaign event where, of course, he could give a speech. Clearly, he thinks rhetoric like this will win the day: "It's not acceptable to me, and I don't think it's acceptable to you, for just a handful of Republicans in Congress to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they don't want tax rates on upper-income folks to go up."

That's not just rhetoric aimed at getting Republicans to accept a deal. It's also aimed squarely at putting the blame on them if negotiations fail.

Exhibit 2 is the nonserious proposal Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner proposed last week. That suggests an Obama who is confident he will escape blame for going over the fiscal cliff (and, right now, some polling seems to back him up).

Exhibit 3 is the ample regard that Obama has long had for his political skills. Google the term "Obama" with terms like "I won," "You've got me," and "I'm a better speechwriter." Having just won a tough election only fed his ego. Nor does it hurt his confidence to have sympathetic pundits comparing his push for tax hikes to President Lincoln's push for ending slavery. Indeed, the amount of confidence Obama has in his political skills now may be second only to just after his first win in 2008.

Thus, don't expect Obama to come back with a serious offer to the GOP's new proposal. He's confident that his political skills will either get him a deal that does immense damage to the GOP as the party of lower taxes, or put all blame on the GOP and enable him to protect his legacy if we go over the fiscal cliff.



Men Find Careers in Collecting Disability

Michael Barone

Americans are very generous to people with disabilities. Since passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990, millions of public and private dollars have been spent on curb cuts, bus lifts and special elevators.

The idea has been to enable people with disabilities to live and work with the same ease as others, as they make their way forward in life. I feel sure the large majority of Americans are pleased that we are doing this.

But there is another federal program for people with disabilities that has had an unhappier effect. This is the disability insurance (DI) program, which is part of Social Security.

The idea is to provide income for those whose health makes them unable to work. For many years, it was a small and inexpensive program that few people or politicians paid much attention to.

In his recent book, "A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic," my American Enterprise Institute colleague Nicholas Eberstadt has shown how DI has grown in recent years.

In 1960, some 455,000 workers were receiving disability payments. In 2011, the number was 8,600,000. In 1960, the percentage of the economically active 18-to-64 population receiving disability benefits was 0.65 percent. In 2010, it was 5.6 percent.

Some four decades ago, when I was a law clerk to a federal judge, I had occasion to read briefs in cases appealing denial of disability benefits. The Social Security Administration then seemed pretty strict in denying benefits in dubious cases. The courts were not much more openhanded.

Things have changed. Americans have grown healthier, and significantly lower numbers die before 65 than was the case a half-century ago. Nevertheless, the disability rolls have ballooned.

One reason is that the government seems to have gotten more openhanded with those claiming vague ailments. Eberstadt points out that in 1960, only one-fifth of disability benefits went to those with "mood disorders" and "muscoskeletal" problems. In 2011, nearly half of those on disability voiced such complaints.

"It is exceptionally difficult -- for all practical purposes, impossible," writes Eberstadt, "for a medical professional to disprove a patient's claim that he or she is suffering from sad feelings or back pain."

In other words, many people are gaming or defrauding the system. This includes not only disability recipients but health care professionals, lawyers and others who run ads promising to get you disability benefits.

Between 1996 and 2011, the private sector generated 8.8 million new jobs, and 4.1 million people entered the disability rolls.

The ratio of disability cases to new jobs has been even worse during the sluggish recovery from the 2007-09 recession. Between January 2010 and December 2011, there were 1,730,000 new jobs and 790,000 new people collecting disability.

This is not just a matter of laid-off workers in their 50s or early 60s qualifying for disability in the years before they become eligible for Social Security old age benefits.

In 2011, 15 percent of disability recipients were in their 30s or early 40s. Concludes Eberstadt, "Collecting disability is an increasingly important profession in America these says."

Disability insurance is no longer a small program. The government transfers some $130 billion obtained from taxpayers or borrowed from purchasers of Treasury bonds to disability beneficiaries every year.

But there is also a human cost. Consider the plight of someone who at some level knows he can work but decides to collect disability payments instead.

That person is not likely to ever seek work again, especially if the sluggish recovery turns out to be the new normal.

He may be gleeful that he was able to game the system or just grimly determined to get what he can in a tough situation. But he will not be able to get the satisfaction of earned success from honest work that contributes something to society and the economy.

I use the masculine pronoun intentionally, because an increasing number of American men have dropped out of the workforce altogether. In 1948, 89 percent of men age 20 and over were in the workforce.

In 2011, 73 percent were. Only a small amount of that change results from an aging population. Jobs have become physically less grueling and economically more rewarding than they were in 1948.

The Americans With Disabilities Act helped many people move forward and contribute to society. The explosive growth of disability insurance has had an opposite effect.




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


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, December 05, 2012

UN Legitimizes Palestinian Terror Regimes

The United Nations General Assembly has voted to make ‘Palestine’ a ‘non-member state’ of the UN. This has done no less than legitimize the two Palestinian regimes that promote terrorism, murdering Jews and Israel’s destruction. How can the world claim to be fighting terrorism when it has just declared that two terrorist regimes should enjoy sovereignty?

For years, the UN, controlled by a majority composed of dictatorships and tyrannies, has frequently supported odious and evil causes. This is the organization which gave us the infamous ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution among scores of other anti-Israel, anti-American, anti-democratic resolutions. It is the body that appointed Libya to its Human Rights Council and Iran to its Committee on the Status of Women.

True, UNGA resolutions are non-binding and have no legal force; only Security Council resolutions have legal force. Nonetheless, the Palestinian movement enjoyed a victory. Why? Because this resolution gives aid and comfort to its cause – its actual cause of eliminating Israel as a sovereign Jewish state, not its fictitious cause of creating a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Consider Fatah/Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas’ choice of language. He falsely called the state he professes to wish to live peacefully alongside “racist” and guilty of creating “apartheid” and a “colonial occupation.” No-one makes peace with racism or apartheid or colonial entities – they dismantle them. Can any other meaning be read into Abbas’ words  in 2010 to Arab journalists – “If [Arab states] want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor”?

Abbas insisted, citing UNGA’s 1949 resolution 194 (rejected by all Arab states at the time), on the legally baseless so-called ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees of the 1948-9 war and their millions of descendants to Israel, which would end Israel as a Jewish state.

The horrid irony is that Abbas’ cause fits the lurid description he applied to Israel. His Fatah party still calls in its Constitution for the destruction of Israel (Article 13) and the use of terrorism as an essential element in the struggle to achieve that goal (Article 19). Indeed, Fatah’s emblem depicts the whole of Israel re-labelled ‘Palestine,’ flanked by images of a Kalashnikov rifle and arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat. Hamas, which controls Gaza, a portion of the territory Abbas is claiming or statehood, calls in its Charter for the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the murder of Jews (Article 7).

Senior PA officials, including Abbas, Saeb Erekat, Ahmed Qurei and others have clearly insisted that a Palestinian state be Jew-free . The PA also does not accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas has said   this several times; so have other PA officials. Nor has the PA fulfilled its Oslo obligations to dismantle terrorist groups and to end incitement to hatred and murder against Israel in its schools, media and speeches. To the contrary, the PA calls  terrorists shahids (‘martyrs’) and officially honors and glorifies dead terrorists, like Dalal Mughrabi, naming schools, streets and sorts teams after them. The PA refuses to arrest terrorists and pressures Israel to free Jew-killers it has imprisoned – scarcely the action of a regime interested in making peace and ending violence.

The Palestinian goal has never been statehood; it has been preventing or destroying Jewish statehood. The proof is that, whenever offered statehood alongside a Jewish state – in 1937 (Peel Commission), 1947 (UN partition plan), 2000 (Barak/ Clinton plan) or 2008 (Olmert plan) – they turned it down.


The above comments are from the Zionist Organization of America, which will make some people foam at the mouth (which is why I mentioned it) but every statement in it seems completely accurate to me.  If anybody can show me otherwise I would be most interested.

But I imagine that most antisemites will fall back on some tired old complaint that "The Jews stole the Palestinian's land" or some such.  That is not conceded, of course.  Orthodox Jews reply that it is the Arabs who stole the land of the Jews.

Theology aside however, the same argument can be made that Europeans stole America from the Red Indians and all white Americans should therefore hike back to Europe.  And I take that to be seen as absurd by all but a tiny and warped minority of haters.

So for policy to be useful, present-day reality has to be coped  with.  And Israel is a reality that can't be wished or assumed away.  And attacking it has proved singularly fruitless

Zbigniew Brzezinski  wants the USA to attack Israel but it is common (but of course not universal) for people of Polish origin to have a sort of hole in their brain where rational thought about Jews should be  -- JR


Moronic regulators

The car fascists are at it again.  Several technologies have been invented over the last decade that can help prevent vehicle collisions. A story in the Boston Globe reports that among these are “lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic breaking, and electronic stability control.”

Great news, right? The wonders of the market never cease. And, according to the Globe story, the features listed above “are available on many vehicles already.”

Already! Ah, the free market.  But here’s the rub: they’re found “primarily on higher-end models.”  That’s right. If you want these nice new gadgets, you’re going to have to pay for them.

The incredible prosperity brought about by competition and supply-and-demand has transformed our society into one made up of “haves and have laters.” That means wealthier people get really nice things right away, while the rest of us get those things a little later, when supply increases or production costs come down. Once upon a time that seemed quite reasonable.

In this day and age, however, spoiled brats rule the roost. The Globe reports that “The National Transportation Safety Board said [the new technologies] should be required on all vehicles, despite the auto industry’s concern that doing so could add thousands of dollars to the cost of a car” (emphasis added). The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers estimates that these features could add anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to a car’s price tag.

“We don’t want safety to be only for the people who can afford it,” the NTSB’s chairman, Deborah Hersman, told the Globe.” In the bizarro world of federal regulations, class-warfare rhetoric trumps the laws of economics. The people hurt most by this will be the poorest — they will be priced out of all new cars instead of just some of them. The likes of Hersman can then denounce the “greed” of automobile makers instead of rethinking their own needless meddling.

Consumers can already choose from a variety of safety features, depending on their budget and their preferences. By mandating all of these options, the government prevents people from choosing what they want. As author Thomas Woods so eloquently says, it’s “a case of scanning the options … and eliminating the choice [consumers] actually selected.”

Over the last few decades a number of safety devices have gone from market features to federal requirements. Seat belts, for example, were consumer options before 1966. Air bags were consumer options before 1998 (because of a law passed in 1991).

Also in 1998, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard was amended to require second-generation airbags. Why? Because of the many injuries caused by first-generation airbags.

Consumers who likely didn’t want any airbags to begin with were deemed too stupid by federal regulators, and so had first-generation airbags forced on them. From 1991 on, manufacturers scrambled to meet the airbag standard set to go into effect in 1998.

This blew up (no pun intended) in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s face when stories of children being decapitated by airbags started making the headlines. One hundred and seventy-five people were killed by airbags between 1990 and 2000.

But no one could ever accuse government regulators of humility. Rather than back off and leave safety-feature purchases to consumers, the bad press just resulted in the NHTSA countering with figures of its own: according to the agency, over 6,000 lives have been saved by airbags.

Regulators will point with pride to this alleged victory for federal safety mandates, but the record of such successes is really dubious. In his excellent book Rollback, Woods reports that “between 1925 and 1960 automobile fatalities decreased by 3.5 percent per mile driven per year, at a time when safety regulations were essentially nil.” During this period, automobile manufacturers offered more and more safety features on their cars. Consumers voluntarily purchased these options, and lives were saved. Lots of lives.

That wasn’t good enough for our federal betters. In stepped bureaucrats from the NHTSA and NTSB, and so began a history of regulations and mandates that have not made us, overall, any safer than people would be if allowed to make their own choices: Woods writes that “the rate of decrease in fatalities per mile in the post-regulation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration era” is still 3.5 percent per year.



Do-gooder illogic

Returning home this evening from an outstanding Liberty Fund conference in San Diego, I noticed above the baggage carousel at Reagan National airport a very artistically well-done billboard ad from Oxfam.  (I took a picture of this billboard ad with my cell phone, but, alas, the photo didn’t come out well enough for me to post it here.)

This ad, featuring a picture of the face of a lovely 30-something woman from somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, blared (among some less-prominent text) “Don’t Cut Foreign Aid!”  Foreign aid, you see, allegedly helps this woman, and many others like her, lead better lives.  So cutting foreign aid would – Oxfam wants us to feel – condemn this woman, and many others like her, to greater depths of grinding poverty and misery.

I’m too tired now to say more about the alleged merits of so-called “foreign aid.”  Read the great William Easterly (here, and here).  And read Peter Bauer.  (Heck, read also Adam Smith.  Inquiring into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations, that great Scot identified an expanding division of labor fostered by secure property rights, free trade, and “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty” as the source of widespread prosperity.  England, believe it or not, did not receive foreign aid as a prelude to its industrial revolution.)

What’s fascinating about Oxfam’s billboard is the fine print at the very bottom of it.  In that fine print, Oxfam boasts that it receives no funds from the U.S. government – a fact that, notes Oxfam proudly, allows it to maintain its independence.

Reading this proclamation-in-fine-billboard-print immediately prompted me to wonder what leads Oxfam to believe that receipt of “foreign aid” from Uncle Sam will not unduly compromise the independence of recipient governments – or of recipient individuals.

If Oxfam is too likely to be enervated, or corrupted or otherwise regrettably bent to the will of Uncle Sam by accepting funds from Uncle Sam, why will not a similar curse befall the governments of, say, Ghana or Mozambique if they accept funds from Uncle Sam?  And why will not each individual on the ground – such as the woman pictured on the Oxfam billboard – not be enervated, or corrupted or otherwise regrettably bent to the will of whoever dispenses “foreign aid” to him or her?



Thoughts on the Trolley Problem

A familiar philosophical conundrum goes roughly as follows: You are standing by a trolley track which goes down a hill, next to a fork in the track controlled by a switch. You observe, uphill from you, a trolley that has come loose and is rolling down the track. Currently the switch will send the trolley down the right branch of the fork. Four people are sitting on the right branch, unaware of the approaching trolley, too far for you to get a warning to them.

One person is sitting on the left branch. Should you pull the switch to divert the trolley to the left branch?

The obvious consequentialist answer is that, assuming you know nothing about the people and value human life, you should, since it means one random person killed instead of four. Yet to many people that seems the wrong answer, possibly because they feel responsible for the result of changing things but not for the result of failing to do so.

In another version of the problem, you are standing on a balcony overlooking the trolley track, which this time has no fork but has four people whom the trolley, if not stopped, will kill. Standing next to you is a very overweight stranger. A quick mental calculation leads you to the conclusion that if you push him off the balcony onto the track below, his mass will be sufficient to stop the trolley. Again you can save four lives at the cost of one. I suspect fewer people would approve of doing so than in the previous case.

One possible explanation of the refusal to take the action that minimizes the number killed starts with the problem of decentralized coordination in a complicated world. No individual can hope to know all of the consequences of every choice he makes. So a reasonable strategy is to separate out some subset of consequences that you do understand and can choose among and base decisions on that. A possible subset is "consequences of my actions." You adopt a policy of rejecting actions that cause bad consequences. You have pushed out of your calculation what will happen if you do not act, since in most cases you don't, perhaps cannot, know it—the trolley problem is in that respect artificial, atypical, and so (arguably) leads your decision mechanism to reach the wrong answer. A different way of putting it is that your decision mechanism, like conventional legal rules, has a drastically simplified concept of causation in which action is responsible as a cause, inaction is not.

I do not know if this answer is in the philosophical literature, but it seems like one natural response from the standpoint of an economist.

Let me now add a third version. This is just like the second, except that you do not think you can stop the trolley by throwing the stranger onto the track—he does not have enough mass. Your calculation implies, however, that the two of you together would be sufficient. You grab him and jump.

The question is now not whether you should do it—most of us are reluctant to claim that we are obliged to sacrifice our lives for strangers. The question is, if you do do it, how will third parties regard your action. I suspect that many more people will approve of it this time than in the previous case, even though you are now sacrificing more, including someone else's life, for the same benefit. If so, why?

I think the answer may be that, when judging other people's actions, we do not entirely trust them. We suspect that, in the previous case, the overweight person next to you may  be someone you dislike or whose existence is inconvenient to you. When you take an act that injures someone for purportedly benevolent motives, we suspect the motives may be self-interested and the claim dishonest. By being willing to sacrifice your own life as well as his, you provide a convincing rebuttal to such suspicions.




The streetcar fantasy:  "Plans to build streetcar lines in San Antonio are based on several critical fallacies, including claims that streetcars are superior to buses in their ability to attract riders and that streetcars promote economic development. In fact, streetcars are slower, less flexible, less capable of moving large numbers of people, and far more expensive than buses."

The “flee California now” proposition:  "On November 6th, California declared war on prosperity. Any productive person who can leave California should, and they should do so immediately. It is already so difficult to escape state taxes that even working and living abroad is not an automatic exemption. Now, with a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature, tax hikes and policy can be rubber stamped. Imagine how difficult escape may be in a few years."



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


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, December 04, 2012

Lest Darkness Triumph

by L. Neil Smith

Twenty-three years ago, I wrote a novel that would eventually come to be called Forge of the Elders, in which I predicted that, in the aftermath of the collapse of the once-powerful Soviet Empire, and a general, worldwide rejection of communism, the United States would embrace Marxism and drag the rest of the world with it, back into the abysss.

I don't pull things like this out of my hat or anyplace else. They're based on sixty-six years' experience with history and human nature. Over thirty-three years writing novels, I have made a number of successful predictions: the laptop computer and i-Pad, wall-sized TV and computer monitor screens, the Internet, the rise of .40 caliber weapons, a steep decline in crime due to ordinary people carrying guns. Not all of my predictions have been happy ones. The unhappiest, in Forge of the Elders, was one I least wanted to see come true. I would have been ecstatic to be wrong about the future I saw ahead of us.

But here we are.

The reason we are in this mess is that—assuming the recent election was legitimate (admittedly a huge assumption)—it appears that a majority of Americans today are willing to wreck the greatest civilization in the history of mankind because they're incompetent, lazy, and personally resent the fact that they have to work for a living.

In 1964, when I was a freshman Philosophy major in one of those wee-hours college bull sessions, struggling to explain what I would later rename the "Zero Aggression Principle", a classmate of mine defined that fact—that people have to work for a living—as coercion. I should have paid more attention, but I couldn't know, even as Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater in a three-to-one landslide, that his outlook, as repulsive as it seemed, would ultimately win the day.

You understand and I understand that nature doesn't coerce anything or anybody. Gravity, for example, doesn't exist just to inconvenience human beings, it's simply the way the universe operates. Similarly, the need to work arises from the laws of thermodynamics, which mandate that we all must replace the energy we consume merely by existing.

You understand and I understand that spending your life waiting for handouts from the government, or standing in line demanding them, is not a viable means of existence. It leads inevitably to economic ruin, and along the way, it diminishes those who attempt to live in that manner, as well as those who are forced at gunpoint to support them. Eventually it fails, although most of its victims never know why. Socialism, which pretends to have the answers, is nothing but the political expression of an ignorant, visceral, inarticulate hatred and envy of everything that has raised humanity above the level of the animals.

All that fills the hearts and minds of socialists is a white-hot rage that can never be satisfied, and can't be penetrated by rational thought processes. The fact that socialism has a proven track record, a long history of failing miserably every time, everywhere it has been imposed on those too weak or stupid to resist it, usually collapsing afterward in raw bloodshed and fiery destruction, is not a fatal criticism to those who adore it and tend to idolize its demagogic champions. Instead, for the disappointed inner nihilist that lurks deep within each of them, that horrible failure constitutes a kind of testimony.

Barack Obama has come to them, not—as some half-witted comedian recently suggested—as Jesus Christ the Savior, but as Shiva the Destroyer. And because revenge is sweeter to this kind of broken soul than personal advancement, because there are people who would rather squat in their own excrement and throw rocks than rise up and knap those rocks into something useful, they vote for the Destroyer every time.

Meanwhile, Freedom sits like an old man on a wooden bench in the filthy corridor of some communist hospital ward, quietly waiting to die.

The socialist movement knows what it wants, and seldom deviates from the pursuit of its objectives. Unfortunately, those who only wish to be left alone, to one degree or another, by society and government, are not united in what they want from life, nor should they be—but it makes it very hard to defend freedom from those who hate and fear it.

The problem we face in our struggle to be free has many origins, but the chiefmost, I believe, is an educational system owned and operated by the only natural enemy higher on the food chain than H. sapiens:  Government.

The public school system doesn't so much serve the state, as it serves statism. It doesn't so much see individualism as the enemy, as any manifestation of individuality. It was designed that way from the start, by collectivists like John Dewey and Horace Mann, who copied it from that bastion of individual liberty and human rights, Prussia.

Anyone who complains that the public schools don't work, doesn't really understand the reason they were established in the first place. To the beneficiaries of John Dewey and Horace Mann, they work just fine. The zeal with which the public employees' unions have fought to maintain control over the school system—which, more than anything, reminds me of the zeal with which Abraham Lincoln prosecuted his war against 25 percent of the people who had tired of paying 80 percent of the nation's taxes—reveals what freedom's enemies believe is at stake.

Can they be stopped? Can America's slide into the totalitarian abyss be halted and reversed? The one good sign in all of this is that, back in 1964, when you tried to speak against collectivism and in favor of freedom, you couldn't get anybody to listen.  Today, at least half the country is listening, while the statists scramble hysterically to stop us communicating with one another, and take away our means of physically defending our lives, liberties, and property.

It is time for us to stand our ground.

It is time to speak as long and loudly as we can about abolishing the public schools, which were created to poison our children against us.

It is time to tell the inbred imbeciles who mistakenly believe they own us that Americans have obeyed their last victim disarmament law.

It is time to tell them that their precious United Nations, nothing more than an international criminal organization that openly advocates genocide, must leave this continent, immediately and for good.

It is time to warn them that the Internet is the nervous system of a new kind of civilization and must be left utterly untaxed and uncontrolled.



America is not paying its way

Sequestration sounds like castration, only more so: it would chop off everything in sight. It would be so savage in its dismemberment of poor helpless America that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that, over the course of a decade, the sequestration cuts would reduce the federal debt by $153 billion. Sorry, I meant to put on my Dr. Evil voice for that: ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE BILLION DOLLARS!!! Which is about what the United States government currently borrows every month. No sane person could willingly countenance brutally saving a month's worth of debt over the course of a decade.

So now we have the latest cliffhanger: the Fiscal Cliff, below which lies a bottomless abyss of sequestration, tax-cut extension expiries, Alternative Minimum Tax adjustments, new Obamacare taxes, the expiry of the deferment of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, as well as the expiry of the deferment of the implementation of the adjustment of the correction of the extension of the reduction to the proposed increase of the Alternative Minimum Growth Sustainability Reduction Rate. They don't call it a yawning chasm for nothing.

As America hangs by its fingernails, wiggling its toesies over the vertiginous plummet to oblivion, what can save her now? An Even More Super Committee? A bipartisan agreement in which Republicans agree to cave, and Democrats agree not to laugh at them too much? That could be just the kind of farsighted reach-across-the-aisle compromise that rescues the nation until next week's thrill-packed episode when America's strapped into the driver's seat of a runaway Chevy Volt careering round the hairpin bends on full charge, or trapped in an abandoned subdivision overrun by foreclosure zombies.

I suppose it's possible to take this recurring melodrama seriously, but there's no reason to. The problem facing the United States government is that it spends over a trillion dollars a year that it doesn't have. If you want to make that number go away, you need either to reduce spending or increase revenue. With the best will in the world, you can't interpret the election result as a spectacular victory for less spending. Indeed, if nothing else, the unfortunate events of Nov. 6 should have performed the useful task of disabusing us poor conservatives that America is any kind of "center-right nation." A few months ago, I dined with a (pardon my English) French intellectual who, apropos Mitt Romney's stump-speech warnings that we were on a one-way ticket to Continental-sized dependency, chortled to me, "Americans love Big Government as much as Europeans. The only difference is that Americans refuse to admit it."

My Gallic charmer is on to something. According to the most recent (2009) OECD statistics: Government expenditures per person in France, $18,866.00; in the United States, $19,266.00. That's adjusted for purchasing-power parity, and, yes, no comparison is perfect, but did you ever think the difference between America and the cheese-eating surrender monkeys would come down to quibbling over the fine print? In that sense, the federal debt might be better understood as an American Self-Delusion Index, measuring the ever-widening gap between the national mythology (a republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens) and the reality (a 21st century cradle-to-grave nanny state in which, as the Democrats' Convention boasted, "government is the only thing we do together.").

Generally speaking, functioning societies make good-faith efforts to raise what they spend, subject to fluctuations in economic fortune: Government spending in Australia is 33.1 percent of GDP, and tax revenues are 27.1 percent. Likewise, government spending in Norway is 46.4 percent, and revenues are 41 percent – a shortfall but in the ballpark. Government spending in the United States is 42.2 percent, but revenues are 24 percent – the widest spending/taxing gulf in any major economy.

So all the agonizing over our annual trillion-plus deficits overlooks the obvious solution: Given that we're spending like Norwegians, why don't we just pay Norwegian tax rates?

No danger of that. If (in Milton Himmelfarb's famous formulation) Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans, Americans are taxed like Puerto Ricans but vote like Scandinavians.

We already have a more severely redistributive taxation system than Europe, in which the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans pay 70 percent of income tax while the poorest 20 percent shoulder just three-fifths of 1 percent. By comparison, the Norwegian tax burden is relatively equitably distributed. Yet Obama now wishes "the rich" to pay their "fair share" – presumably 80 percent or 90 percent. After all, as Warren Buffett pointed out in The New York Times this week, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion. That sounds like a lot, and once upon a time it was. But today, if you confiscated every penny the Forbes 400 have, it would be enough to cover just over one year's federal deficit. And after that you're back to square one. It's not that "the rich" aren't paying their "fair share," it's that America isn't. A majority of the electorate has voted itself a size of government it's not willing to pay for.

A couple of years back, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calculated that, if Washington were to increase every single tax by 30 percent, it would be enough to balance the books – in 25 years. If you were to raise taxes by 50 percent, it would be enough to fund our entitlement liabilities – just our current ones, not our future liabilities, which would require further increases. This is the scale of course correction needed.

If you don't want that, you need to cut spending – like Harry Reid's been doing. "Now remember, we've already done more than a billion dollars' worth of cuts," he bragged the other day. "So we need to get some credit for that."

Wow! A billion dollars' worth of cuts! Washington borrows $188 million every hour. So, if Reid took over five hours to negotiate those "cuts," it was a complete waste of time. So are most of the "plans." In fact, any "debt reduction plan" that doesn't address at least $1.3 trillion a year is, in fact, a debt-increase plan.

So, given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I'd say: "Clearly there's no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it's time to pony up."

OK, he might want to focus-group it first. But that fundamental dishonesty is the heart of the crisis. You cannot simultaneously enjoy American-sized taxes and European-sized government. One or the other has to go.




US birthrate hits record low:  "The rate of babies born in the United States hit a record low in 2011, a new analysis shows. Researchers say the drastic drop in the birth rate among immigrants has greatly contributed to the overall decrease. ... The overall number of births declined 7 percent from 2007 to 2010. During this period, U.S.-born women saw a 5 percent birth-rate decline, while there was a 13 percent drop in births to immigrants."

In defence of loan sharking:  "The loan companies that advertise on Channel Five all charge about 2,000 per cent. Others are said to charge as much as 4,000 per cent. The last time I borrowed money, I paid five per cent. I avoid going into debt on my credit cards, because of the 22 per cent charged on them. It may seem heartless to defend the right to charge very high interest rates -- especially as these are charged to the very poor, who then have trouble getting out of debt. However, limiting the rate of interest they can be charged is not the way to help the poor."

CA: Prop 39 will fund corporate welfare:  "Sold as a painless proposal to close a 'corporate tax loophole' and 'bring dollars and jobs back to California,' Proposition 39 -- which passed Nov. 6 with 60 percent support -- will do nothing of the sort. The new law won't close a loophole; instead, it will create a new slush fund for 'green' corporate welfare, hurt our economy and increase the cost of products and services across the state. Supporters of Prop. 39 have claimed that a sneaky deal in 2009 created a loophole for corporate taxation, penalizing in-state corporations and benefiting those outside of California. That's not the case."

Anti-business US government puts a stop to Intrade making US customers happy:  "Reports have been swirling around about the death of another business at the hands of a US government agency. While those reports weren't totally true, as usual, the US Government has squashed any attempt by unfree US citizens to do what they want. Intrade is still alive and kicking (although it probably wouldn't be if it was based in the US), minus its US customers ... for now anyway. As of December 23, 2012, all US accounts with Intrade will be suspended thanks to the meddling of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)."

CA: Suit calls San Francisco housing head bully, racist:  "The San Francisco Housing Authority, which runs more than 6,000 units of public housing for the city's poor, is headed by an executive director who discriminates against white employees in favor of African Americans and regularly employs offensive, outlandish language and behavior in the workplace, according to a lawsuit filed by the agency's own lawyer. The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court by the agency's assistant general counsel, Tim Larsen, paints executive director Henry Alvarez as a mercurial bully -- a description echoed in interviews with The Chronicle by several others who have had close contact with Alvarez since his arrival at the Housing Authority in 2008."

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



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


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)


Monday, December 03, 2012

There is a REAL Jewish plot -- but it's a very strange one

It's a plot AGAINST Israel

by Lawrence Solomon

“Why is Jewish-owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?” tweeted News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, in reaction to the overwhelmingly negative coverage Israel was receiving during its war with Gaza. Many in the left-wing press immediately pounced on Murdoch’s comment, claiming, as a Guardian writer did, that Murdoch had “slipped into an anti-Semitic usage.” A CNN commentator called Murdoch’s tweet “beyond outrageous to offensive, truly offensive … reviving the old canard about Jews controlling the media.”

Anti-Semites do commonly claim that Jews dominate the media out of all proportion to their numbers. But Murdoch, a Christian who heads the world’s largest media company, is no anti-Semite — he is as unabashedly pro-Zionist as they come. Neither are the anti-Semites wrong — Jews do exercise vast influence in the media, as they do in many industries, whether cultural such as fashion and entertainment, financial such as banking and insurance, whether the industries involve computer software or hardware, or retail or real estate. In all these areas and more, Jews often hold commanding positions as owners and managers.

Among newspapers, The New York Times has long been the world’s best-known newspaper and the decider of what constitutes news — the rest of the media often takes its cue from the Times. It has been owned by the Ochs-Sulzberger family since 1896, when the son of a Jewish Bavarian immigrant, Adolph Ochs, took it over.

The Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, also prestigious papers, are owned along with many other papers by Tribune Co., one of America’s largest newspaper groups. It is chaired by Sam Zell, son of Polish Jews who fled to America prior to Hitler’s invasion in 1939.

National Broadcasting Corp., America’s first national broadcast company, had its origins in RCA, and both owed their success to David Sarnoff, a Belarussian Jew who also pioneered the AM radio business. NBC today is owned by Comcast, America’s largest cable company, which was co-founded and then run for 46 years by Ralph Roberts, a Jew, and is now run by his son, Brian Roberts.

NBC’s long-standing rival, Columbia Broadcasting System, was built by William S. Paley, the son of an Ukrainian Jew. CBS is now majority owned by the family of Sumner Murray Redstone (born Sumner Murray Rothstein), also a Jew, who is also CBS’s executive chairman. (Redstone also owns Viacom, MTV and BET.) CBS’s president and CEO is Leslie Moonves, also a Jew.

American Broadcasting Corp., the third major U.S. network, was hived off from the NBC network in the 1940s and is now run by Bob Iger, a Jew, who succeeded Michael Eisner, another Jew.

Anti-Semites who believe Jewish ownership leads the press to show favouritism toward Jews haven’t been paying attention. The New York Times during the 1930s and 1940s played down the Nazi atrocities, burying stories of concentration camps and Jewish mass murders in small stories in the paper’s interior. In recent decades, the Times has been consistently anti-Israel.In these and many other media companies, Jews play a dominant role, often an entrepreneurial founding role in creating media empires. It will give anti-Semites no comfort to realize, though, that the Jewish media does not work in concert in a conspiracy to control the world. Jewish-owned firms compete with each other as well as with non-Jewish media companies such as Murdoch’s. Jew or non-Jew, they all play against each other to win, giving no quarter on the basis of religion or ethnicity.

A current controversy that demonstrates its biased coverage involves New York Timesreporter David Carr, who on Sunday lambasted Israel for bombing a vehicle of journalists working for Al-Aqsa, a Hamas-owned TV station. The article, provocatively titled “Using War as Cover to Target Journalists,” took issue with Israel’s explanation, that the targets, whose vehicle was marked “TV,” were relevant to terror activity. As Carr summed it up for Times readers: “So it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”

Carr could have explained to Times readers that Al-Aqsa TV is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, that one of the “journalists” was in fact a Hamas commander who headed its military training programs and that another person he refers to as a “journalist” wore a military uniform and was referred to by Hamas as a “mujahid,” i.e., a jihadist. Had Carr been keen to understand ­Israel’s justification, he might further have realized that a journalist for a terrorist organization was more akin to a propagandist following orders; that under international law, Israel was permitted to target “the installations of broadcasting and television stations of fundamental military importance,” as NATO had when it bombed the Serb Radio and Television headquarters in 1999 during the Kosovo War, killing 16 civilians.

The extent to which the media has distorted the war between Gaza and Israel is mind-boggling. During the eight-day conflict, casual consumers of news could have easily missed that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza only occurred after it had warned Hamas to stop attacking Israeli civilians over a period of months — some 800 Hamas rockets had rained on Israel this year prior to the war. Much of the press rarely if ever mentioned that Hamas, the terrorist group running Gaza, was violating the Geneva Convention by targeting Israeli civilians; that it was also violating the Geneva Convention by using its own civilians as shields; that Israel was going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza and that Israel’s only reason to invade Gaza — rather than safely from on high bombing the rocket launchers that Hamas had placed in schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings — would have been to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.

Anti-Semites looking for media coverage sympathetic to Israel would be hard-pressed to find it in the Jewish-led press (Mort Zuckerman’s New York Daily News and U.S. News and World Report being notable exceptions). The narrative the anti-Semites are most comfortable with, ironically, comes from Jews.



Brains on tramtracks:  Leftist emotional needs trump the facts every time

I’d like to introduce a new term: Rekab Street. That’s Baker Street spelled backwards, and it represents the opposite of Sherlock Holmes’ approach: rather than notice the anomalies and detect evidence of criminal or shameful activity that people have deliberately tried to conceal, residents of Rekab Street systematically ignore any clues that violate the expectations/demands of their preconceived narrative, sweeping aside the anomalies and highlighting precisely what has been created to mislead. It is, in a sense, a process of stupefaction.

Rekab Street exists in many fields.

In a sense, Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, focuses on the problem, in particular, on the resistance to anomalies that contradict the paradigm. He cites a study by Bruner and Postman about how the resistance to anomalies that violate expectations can be so strong that people can literally not see that a deck has some playing cards with red spades and black hearts. The authors note the psychological discomfort felt by people confronting these anomalies (which their minds literally do not want to see).

In my own chosen field of medieval history, I have found precisely this kind of resistance. My early (and now current) work focused on a substantial trail of evidence indicating that for over half a millennium, Latin Christians had been tracking the advent of the year 6000 from the Creation (at which point the millennial kingdom would begin), but that as the date approached, the clergy (our unique source for documentation) dropped the dating system and adopted another that pushed off the apocalyptic date. Among the many events of note that coincided with the advent of these disappeared dates was the coronation of Charlemagne, held on the first day of the year 6000 according to the most widely accepted count, but dated by observers as AD 801.

I argued this “silence,” on something so critical reflected not indifference, but deep anxiety. Like Conan Doyle’s “Silver Blaze,” the main clue was the dog who did not bark. In response, I found that medievalists clung to their view of Charlemagne as someone with his feet firmly planted on the ground, who would never be moved by such silliness. As a result they handled the evidence in ways that resembled the work of clean-up and construction crews rather than that of detectives and archeologists.

Since 2000, the reigning approach for understanding the Middle East conflict between Israel and her neighbors has focused narrowly on the what’s called the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The resulting (or founding) paradigm for such an approach is what I’ve called either PCP 1 (politically-correct paradigm) or PCP 2 (post-colonial paradigm). In both cases, the framing conceit is the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian David. And so powerful is the underdogma that governs this view that all evidence to the contrary gets swept aside. So insistent are the demands to support the underdog, that the cost of ignoring empirical reality seem a small price to pay.

What results, is a process of determined, deliberate stupefaction, in which we must inhabit Rekab Street, wemust ignore critical evidence, bow down to ghoulish idols, literally render ourselves stupid. We must not talk abouthonor-shame culture much less adopt a paradigmatic view that privileges such concerns in understanding the Arab/Muslim hatred of an independent Jewish state in Dar al Islam. We should not discuss Islam’s triumphalist obsession with dominating and humiliating non-believers. We cannot discuss anti-Semitism or the Holocaust without equating it with Islamophobia, lest we offend people we might identify as agents of a new blood-dimmed tide. We cannot discuss the repeated evidence that our humanity is being systematically abused to benefit people who literally embody everything that we progressive, democratically-minded people abhor.

And as a result, we are fully misinformed by our media and our academics, who think that “attacking the most powerful” is a sign of courage regardless of who’s right, who prefer to preen about their moral superiority even at the direct cost of empowering those who hold their morality in contempt, who attack their critics savagely even as they embrace their enemies; who can’t tell parody from reality because the procrustean beds they impose on the evidence have led them to invert empirical reality.

Thus babies killed by Hamas become the occasion of cries for sympathy for Gazans assaulted by Israel. And terrorists who disguise themselves as journalists become the occasion for accusing Israel of deliberately killing journalists.  An army which undergoes a disastrous defeat, gets handed laurels of victory for their performance. The world’s army with (by far) the best record when it comes to reducing civilian casualties on the other side in urban warfare get’s painted at the world’s most brutal army.

The inhabitants of Rekab Street cannot break step with the parade of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Of course were this merely a children’s tale for adults, the tailors merely financial tricksters, the emperor merely vain, and the court merely foolish and frightened of losing face, it might be alright (don’t want to impose too high standards here).

But when the tailors are malevolent agents of a ruthless cognitive war of aggression, the new clothes are icons of hatred designed to arouse genocidal fury against the very people witnessing the parade, and the court is aggressively dishonest, it’s another story. Something like the opposite of harmless.

If we survive this challenge, there will be an entire field of scholarly research into the tendencies of intellectuals to commit civilizational suicide.



The Fallacies That Guide Us

Republicans find themselves in the unenviable position of being forced to agree to raise taxes on those earning more than $200,000 (the actual cut off for those Mr. Obama refers to as "millionaires and billionaires"), or risk being blamed for a tax increase on all taxpaying Americans. They will probably agree, which means it's a politically unavoidable policy, not a good policy.

Why does Obama insist upon raising taxes? Not because he believes it will improve the economy, and not because he believes it will increase receipts to the Treasury. The proposed taxes would bring in about $80 billion a year, a trivial number compared with our 1.3 trillion deficits. Making the books balance is (obviously) not Obama's goal. In 2008, when it was pointed out to him that President Clinton's cut in the capital gains rate increased the revenue from the tax (because lower rates encouraged more transactions), Obama was unmoved. He'd still favor an increase in the capital gains rate, he explained, for the sake of "fairness." In another famous and revealing moment, he told Joe the Plumber that he prefers to "spread the wealth around."

That's his lodestar. The Washington Post waited until the election was safely behind us to run a story by Zachary Goldfarb examining the president's governing philosophy. "[B]eneath his tactical maneuvering lies a consistent and unifying principle: to use the powers of his office to shrink the growing gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else." The president, the article tells us (not that we didn't surmise this already), is determined to reduce income inequality.

The president has "an acute awareness of recent research" the Post continues, showing that the changing economy has increased the value of a college education and made it harder for those without a degree to succeed. Obama's solution? Despite budget pressures, he made a goal of having every student receive at least one year of college."

Is inequality a problem if prosperity is broadly shared? As John F. Kennedy observed, "A rising tide lifts all boats." Improving the life chances of those at the bottom should be a priority. But the way to do that is to focus on education, family structure, and expanding private sector employment, not on redistribution of income.

True to Obama's philosophy, we are pumping cash into the hands of students wishing to attend college. As the Wall Street Journal reports, "Nearly all student loans -- 93 percent of them last year -- are made directly by the government, which asks little or nothing about borrowers' ability to repay or about what sort of education they intend to pursue."

Sound familiar? It's exactly the sort of backwards thinking that, to coin a phrase, "got us into this mess." Politicians (most, but not all, Democrats) noticed that homeownership was associated with a number of social goods -- steady employment, social engagement, high test scores for children -- and decided that the homes were causing the other benefits. Make home ownership more broadly available by making mortgages easier to get, ran the logic, and everyone would benefit.

We know how that turned out. But the Democrats learned all the wrong lessons from that debacle -- fairy tales that they may actually believe about greedy Wall Street and rich Republicans. So now we are busy repeating our folly, inflating what Glenn Harlan Reynolds calls the "higher education bubble." "College is getting more expensive, a lot more expensive," Reynolds said. "At an annual growth rate of 7.4 percent a year, tuition has vastly outstripped the consumer price index of 3.8 percent. It's skyrocketed past spiraling health care increases of 5.8 percent. Even the housing bubble at its runaway peak pales in comparison."

Colleges are happy to pocket the windfall while students are being sabotaged. Half of all college graduates cannot find jobs. While homeowners could walk away from an underwater mortgage, there is no escape from student loan debt. Student loans, now in excess of $1 trillion, outstrip car loans and credit card debt, and, unlike those obligations, which are declining, continue to increase because the government is offering what seems to the unwary like a gift.

Just as the housing bubble collapse wound up increasing, rather than reducing inequality, the foolish expansion of student loan debt may hobble an entire generation with a crippling burden. Perhaps the new debtors can console themselves, as they postpone marriage and move in with their parents, that Mr. Obama "cared about the problems of people like me."




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


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)


Sunday, December 02, 2012

GOP must not lie down and die

With its House majority, the GOP has a "mandate" too

Hugh Hewitt

The only thing worse than losing in politics is quitting after a loss since the vast and great American sport of politics never stops, and increasingly doesn't even pause for the holidays.

Which is why I am grateful for Kelly Ayotte, Ted Cruz, Jon Kyl and Shelley Moore Capito.

In the weeks since the election, New Hampshire Senator Ayotte could have gone to ground as most of her colleagues have done, adopting a wait-and-see attitude that minimized political risk and profile. Instead she teamed with Senate veterans John McCain and Lindsey Graham to insist that Ambassador Susan Rice, presumptive nominee for the position of Secretary of State, be held accountable for statements the ambassador made during the presidential campaign about the September 11 slaughter of American diplomats and security personnel in Benghazi.

Ayotte was on my radio show Wednesday (transcript here) and it is clear that she will do everything she can to set a precedent about the politicization of American foreign policy during campaigns. If political appointees to key foreign policy positions distort issues of American national security in order to gain political advantage, as Rice appear to have done, Ayotte and her like-minded colleagues will not allow those deceptions to lead to promotion.

Ted Cruz, the senator-elect from Texas, is another rising star of the GOP who could, quite easily, blend into the scenery for a few months and adopt a wait-and-see attitude about what the political future holds.

Instead of the safe course, Cruz accepted a key role at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and has reappeared on the airwaves to make a case for finding certain kinds of candidates committed to an articulate, fighting conservatism. Like Ayotte, he was on my program this week to make these points. (That transcript is here.) We need Cruz and Ayotte, as well as the other rising stars of the Senate GOP caucus --Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, John Thune and Pat Toomey-- to be constantly out in front of cameras and crowds making the case for slowing down and stopping the president's ruinous agenda for which no mandate was asked for much less received. These half dozen senators also have to model for would-be candidates in the incredibly important cycle ahead what it takes to succeed in a political environment where the left dominates MSM.

Retiring Senator Jon Kyl continues to display the sort of gifts that have made him among the most admired men in Washington, D.C. as he tries to help his GOP colleagues move towards a compromise with the president that is truly a compromise and one that protects the nation's defenses. I am skeptical of the GOP's ability to do anything except strap on a parachute and go over the cliff because the president is demanding a set of measures worse than the fall ahead and the GOP has managed to blow its initial negotiating posture again via ill-timed concession speeches by the likes of Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole. Perhaps Speaker Boehner can recover the position, but the president's talking points, bolstered by voices like Cole's, have been amplified by the Obama-loving media into a formidable media message that the GOP is responsible for a looming economic collapse. Not true, of course, but the Republicans resolute unwillingness to try and communicate the real situation leaves it a victim of the president's relentless messaging.

Senator Kyl demonstrated in an interview with me yesterday how to combat this White House maneuvering, but that example needs replication by Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor and of course Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. You can't win arguments with the American people that you never make.

Which is why the last elected I want to praise for taking action this week is West Virginia Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito. Capito declared her candidacy for the senate seat currently held by Jay Rockefeller. She did so, she told me on air yesterday, only after considerable discussion about whether it was "too early" to start a 2014 race and after deciding that since she knew she was going to run it was only fair to tell her constituents, Senator Rockefeller and anyone who might want to consider running for her House seat. Candid and transparent, that, and exactly the way to approach politics in the new media age.

I am extremely happy Capito announced for it allows the GOP to focus not just on her candidacy --she's a terrific campaigner, a veteran, popular legislator who is smart and articulate and a leader on the energy issues so crucial to the future of the GOP-- but also on the need to recruit similar candidates for the other nine Democratic senate seats that are up for grabs in 22 short months. (Dems are defending 20 of 33 senate seats and recall that voting begins in October 2014, so we are already two months into the next cycle.)

Capito came out of the box with a great website and a commitment to social media --@capitoforWV on Twitter-- that allows for frustrated GOP grassroots to see that the party isn't going to blow a third chance at taking the gavel out of Harry Reid's hands and thus passing a budget in 2015 that will be a blueprint for voters in 2016, who will by then understand that Obamanomics has never been about growth but always about power, just as Obamacare hasn't been about health care but about power.

The future of the House GOP majority depends on the moves made by Speaker Boehner over the next six months, but recapturing the Senate depends upon Capito and nine other individuals not yet known. Perhaps another one or two, like former South Dakota Governor Mile Rounds, will make their candidacies formal before Christmas, but certainly by the time the new session begins in D.C. the would-be senators should have laid their cards on the table and asked for the help of the party and the SuperPacs. "There isn't a moment to be lost," Jack Aubrey has a habit of saying throughout the masterful novels of Patrick O'Brian, and he was never wrong. That's a good message for a Beltway GOP that still seems stunned, and thanks to Ayotte, Cruz, Kyl and Capito, it is a message that may be getting through.



Is the decline of American manufacturing jobs a bad thing?

Lately, I’ve encountered with unusual frequency claims that the 1950s were a glorious economic time for America’s middle-class – a time so glorious, what with strong labor unions and high (above 90%!) marginal income-tax rates and all, that we middle-class Americans of today should look back with longing and envy on those marvelous years of six decades ago.

So on Saturday I bought on eBay this Fall/Winter 1956 Sears catalog.  I spent an extra $8-and-change to have it shipped to me overnight – a service that I could not have purchased in 1956.  My catalog arrived on my doorstep today.  I’m eager to explore it and to report my findings with some thoroughness.

But to give you a taste now, below is a sample of what I plan to do.

Having on hand information on the nominal average hourly earnings of nonsupervisory nonfarm private production workers in the U.S. in 2012 - that figure being $19.79 (as of October 2012) - I searched for the same earnings figure for 1956.  Thus far I’ve had no luck finding that number.  (Please feel free, I bleg of you, to help me find this figure, if you so desire.)  So, for 1956 I instead use average hourly manufacturing earnings of production workers, as reported in Table 1 here.  That figure is $1.89.

This nominal wage figure for 1956 isn’t exactly comparable to the nominal wage figure that I use for 2012, but it’s close enough, at least for this first-pass analysis. If the claim of many “Progressives” is true that manufacturing is the most princely sort of work that middle-class Americans can do, then presumably this figure of $1.89 is higher than the hourly earnings of all private, nonfarm nonsupervisory workers in 1956.  Anyway….

So let’s ask: how long did a typical American worker have to toil in 1956 to buy a particular sort of good compared to how long a similarly typical American worker today must toil to buy that same (or similar) sort of good?  Here are four familiar items: refrigerator-freezers; kitchen ranges; televisions; and automatic washers.


Sears’s lowest-priced no-frost refrigerator-freezer in 1956 had 9.6 cubic feet, in total, of space.  It sold for $219.95 (in 1956-dollar prices).  (You can find a lovely black-and-white photograph of this mid-’50s fridge on page 1036 of the 1956 Sears catalog.)  Home Depot today sells a 10 cubic-foot no-frost refrigerator-freezer for $298.00 (in 2012-dollar prices).  (You can find it in color on line here.)

Therefore, the typical American worker in 1956 had to work a total of 219.95/1.89 hours to buy that 9.6 cubic-foot fridge – or a total of 116 hours.  (I round to the nearest whole number.)  Today, to buy a similar no-frost refrigerator-freezer, the typical American worker must work a total of 298.00/19.79 hours – or 15 hours.  That is, to buy basic household refrigeration and freezing, today’s worker must spend only 13 percent of the time that his counterpart in 1956 had to spend.

Kitchen ranges

Sears’s lowest-priced 30″ four-burner electric range, with bottom oven, was priced, in 1956, at $129.95.  (You can find this range on page 1049 of the 1956 Sears catalog.)  Home Depot sells a 30″ four-burner electric range, with bottom oven, today for $348.00.

The typical American manufacturing worker in 1956, therefore, had to work 129.95/1.89 – or 69 hours – to buy an ordinary kitchen range.  His or her counterpart today must work 348.00/19.79 – or 18 – hours to buy the same sized ordinary range.

Television sets

Sears’s lowest-priced television in 1956 was a black-and-white (of course) 17″ model.  (You can find it on page 1018 of the 1956 catalog.)  That t.v. set was priced at $114.95.  Sears today sells no 17″ t.v. sets.  The closest set I could find at Sears was this 19″ color (of course) model, which is priced at $194.00.

The typical American manufacturing worker in 1956, therefore, had to work 114.95/1.89 – or 61 hours – to buy this tiny black-and-white (with no remote!) television set.  His or her counterpart today must work 194.00/19.79 – or 10 – hours to buy a slightly larger, high-def, color (with remote!) television set.

Automatic Washing Machines

Sears’s lowest-priced automatic washer – it could handle loads up to a maximum of 8 lbs. – sold in 1956 for $149.95.  (You can find it on page 1029 of Sears’s 1956 catalog.)  Today, Sears’s lowest-priced washer sells for $299.99.  (It’s got 3.4 cubic feet of wash-bin space; I can’t find a maximum “pound-load” for it.  Presumably, this 2012 washer isn’t significantly smaller than – and might well be significantly larger than – the low-priced 1956 model.)

The typical American manufacturing worker in 1956, therefore, had to work 149.95/1.89 – or 79 hours – to buy an ‘inexpensive’ new washing machine.  His or her counterpart today must work 299.99/19.79 – or 15 – hours to buy an inexpensive new washing machine.

(Bonus point: Because the lowest marginal personal-income-tax rate imposed by Uncle Sam in the 1950s was significantly higher than it is today, hourly middle-class earnings today go even farther, for individual earners, than they did six decades ago.)

In the above I don’t adjust for quality – yet it is certainly true what they say: “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.”  They make ‘em better.  So the real-price reductions for these above four items are even larger than indicated above.

In follow-up posts I’ll go into more detail, using my lovely Fall/Winter 1956 Sears catalog, to gain further insight to how middle-class Americans’ economic fortunes today compare to what those fortunes were in 1956.  I am well-aware that no such ‘catalog’ analysis covers all fronts or can possibly tell a complete picture.  Yet I also firmly believe that such analysis does convey very useful information.



LA Times Anti-Israel Bias is Malicious

Rule #1 of the anti-Israel media, fanatically followed by the LA Times: Israel is always the aggressor no matter what and even if it means changing the facts.

In the LA Times from Thursday, November 22, Edmund Sanders reported: "…even after the cease-fire went into effect about half a dozen rockets were fired into Israel."

See also the Jerusalem Post.

But in the LA Times from Saturday, November 24, the same Edmund Sanders reported the following after suspected PLO infiltrators were shot at on the Gaza border:  "The [Israeli] shootings marked the first episode of violence since the cease-fire took effect…"

When the same reporter lies about facts he reported 2 days earlier, to falsely make Israel look bad as the aggressor and first breaker of the cease-fire, the bias is malicious.

The antisemites at the LA Times are just a step away from denying the Holocaust.



3 Reasons to Kill the Dept. of Homeland Security

It's unnecessary, ineffective, and expensive. And that's just for starters

 Sunday, November 25, 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which pulled together nearly two dozen federal agencies and departments under the control of new, single entity. Its responsibilities include running the US Border Patrol, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, and FEMA.

DHS is the third biggest cabinet agency, but are we better off because of its existence?

Here are three reasons to get rid of DHS.

1. It’s unnecessary. In the months immediately following September 11 attacks in 2001, President George W. Bush initially resisted calls to create a new high-level bureaucracy that would be laid on top of current activities. He was right to recognize that coordinating existing agencies would have been smarter and better. Unfortunately, he caved in to pressure to create a massive new department.

2. It’s ineffective. To read the titles of Government Accountability Office (GAO) analyses of Homeland Security is to be reminded constantly that DHS is never quite on top of its game. Recent reports include “DHS Requires More Disciplined Investment Management to Help Meet Mission Needs,” “DHS Needs Better Project Information and Coordination Among Four Overlapping Grant Programs,” and “Agriculture Inspection Program Has Made Some Improvements, But Management Challenges Persist.”

3. It’s expensive. Last year, Homeland Security spent a whopping $60 billion, a figure that will doubtlessly increase in coming years. The construction of its new headquarters – the single-largest projectever undertaken by The General Services Administration – will cost at least $4 billion and is already years behind on schedule since breaking ground in 2009.

Since it’s the holiday season, here’s a bonus reason to get rid of the Department of Homeland Security: It also runs the Transportation Security Administration, whose nasty reputation for manhandling innocent travelers is only slightly more annoying than its massive and undeserved growth in personnel and cost over the past decade.




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


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)