Sunday, November 01, 2009

More on Obama at Columbia

An email from a regular correspondent below:

I worked at the Columbia University bookstore in the early 1980s. For part of the time I worked there, I was a student there, and for part of the time I worked there I wasn't. I have distinct memories of Obama regularly coming into the bookstore in the late afternoons to browse. I have the vaguest recollections of him browsing sections that were political, perhaps also the "Marxism" section, but it was totally normal and unexceptional for students to browse those sections.

Why do I remember Obama? To be very frank, most African-American young men didn't come in to the bookstore to browse but only to get books that were specifically assigned for their coursework. So it was unusual to see him browsing. Also, I kept an eye on African-Americans as they more frequently tried to shoplift. I never saw Obama try to shoplift. He was quiet and appeared to be a loner. I only remember him from the bookstore.


Interaction between genes and culture

The explanation offered below for the correlation between genes and culture is highly speculative and need not detain us. What is interesting is the demonstration that there is a genetic influence on behavioural traits that have clear political importance. There is plenty of existing research to show that genetic inheritance has a large influence on political orientation but the research below goes one step further by identifying specific genes that appear to be involved.

The findings fit well with what we already know: People with genes that promote negative emotions tend to live in authoritarian societies such as China and it is Leftists who build such societies. Leftists everywhere promote big government. And Leftists are also full of the premier negative emotion: Hate. They hate a great range of what is in the world about them. And people with the opposite genetic pattern are happier and therefore more likely to be spontaneous individualists -- as in the USA. Many surveys have shown conservatives to be much happier than Leftists overall

Culture, not just genes, can drive evolutionary outcomes, according to a study released Wednesday that compares individualist and group-oriented societies across the globe. Bridging a rarely-crossed border between natural and social sciences, the study looks at the interplay across 29 countries of two sets of data, one genetic and the other cultural.

The researchers found that most people in countries widely described as collectivist have a specific mutation within a gene regulating the transport of serotonin, a neurochemical known to profoundly affect mood. In China and other east Asian nations, for example, up to 80 percent of the population carry this so-called "short" allele, or variant, of a stretch of DNA known as 5-HTTLPR.

Earlier research has shown the S allele to be strongly linked with a range of negative emotions, including anxiety and depression. Critically, it is also associated with the impulse to stay out of harm's way.

By contrast, in countries of European origin that prize self-expression and the pursuit of individual over group goals, the long or "L" allele dominates, with only 40 percent of people carrying the "S" variant.

The study, published in Britain's Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, offers a novel explanation as to how this divergence might have come about. Setting aside discredited ideas linking genetics and race, the researchers suggest that culture and genes may have interacted over time to shape the process of natural selection, helping individuals -- and the societies in which they lived -- to survive and thrive.

Ancient cultures in Asia, Africa and Latin America highly exposed to deadly pathogens, they conjecture, may have tended toward collectivist norms in order to better combat disease. That social transformation, in turn, could have favoured the gradual dominance of the risk-avoidance S allele. "We demonstrate that evolution is operating at least two levels," said Joan Chiao, a professor at Northwestern University in Chicago and lead author of the study. "One is biological, which is well understood. But there is also a level where cultural traits may have been selected for themselves, emerging in congruence with the selection of different types of genes," she explained by phone.



Things look gloomy for long term


It has been a long time since the economic data have been flashing positive signals, and an equally long time since consumers, businessmen and occupants of the White House have been so gloomy. It's worth considering why this disjunction of fact and perception is dominating the economic news.

Start with the data. The economy grew at a quite satisfactory annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter. The Federal Reserve's survey of business conditions around the United States reports "either stabilization or modest improvements in many sectors. ... Reports of gains in economic activity generally outnumber declines." There follow the usual warnings that improvements are from low levels, and that setbacks remain possible, but the news is better than it has been for some time.

Retail sales are showing a bit of strength, and the news from the housing market is no longer one of unrelieved gloom. Although sales of new homes fell slightly last month, inventories of unsold homes are well below their peak, and sales of existing homes are up, as are prices.

And some corporate news is actually good: IBM is so confident that business is picking up that it is increasing the purchase of its own shares, Verizon Wireless reports the highest increase in its customer base since 2005 and -- most important -- Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of construction equipment, is signaling a revival of the manufacturing and construction sectors by rehiring some of the 34,000 workers it has laid off in the past two years.

None of this seems to matter to the psyches of the businessmen with whom I speak, the consumers about whom I read or the White House. Businessmen tend to look further ahead than most participants in the economy -- consumers worry about paying the rent or the mortgage next month, and politicians worry about tomorrow's polling numbers and the November congressional elections.

Corporate executives fear that a new banking crisis will emerge when commercial property loans come due and consumer credit card defaults mount. They see an administration and Congress that are spending the U.S. into such a deep debt hole that the dollar will continue to decline, perhaps at an accelerating rate, forcing the Fed to raise interest rates to depression-inducing levels to prevent a collapse of the currency. They think taxes will have to soar to bring the deficit under control. They also see in the White House a man whom they believe has no use for a market economy, preferring instead to turn the management of the country over to a series of czars who set bankers' compensation, run the domestic automobile industry, take over the health care sector and issue some 85 percent of the nation's mortgages.

Small-business men are more concerned about the Obama administration's emerging $1 trillion health care plan, which will drive up their costs, and with the new taxes that are aimed squarely at the income groups into which small-businessmen generally fall. So they won't expand or hire. Which is why the White House is so unhappy. The president's priorities are jobs, jobs, jobs, another way of saying votes, votes, votes. Which is why he is considering a program that would give tax credits to employers who added to their work forces.

Consumers are the other unhappy member of the business-political-consumer troika. Consumer confidence fell in October for the second consecutive month, no surprise given the weakness of the job market.

What is one to make of all of this? In my view, the recent 3.5 percent growth rate is sustainable in the near term. Inventory building, the increased exports resulting from the declining dollar, stimulus money that is only starting to hit the economy and other spending created by Congress in anticipation of the November elections will combine to provide a boost.

In the longer run, however, the pessimism of the business community seems justified. The White House and the Congress are dominated by politicians with little understanding of what makes an economy grow sustainably, and a devotion to spend-and-tax that bodes ill for the future of the dollar as a reserve currency, and for future generations whose living standards will be reduced by the need to pay the bills Obama will leave in his wake.

However -- there is always a however. What politicians have created, other politicians can put asunder. The problems that have so many so gloomy are reversible. As Lawrence of Arabia tried to persuade his fatalistic Arab allies, "Nothing is written."



BrookesNews Update

Will Obama's economic policies destroy the US dollar? : One is left wondering whether Obama and his leftwing crew are just incredibly ignorant or incredibly malevolent. Whichever one it is, don't be fooled by accusations that evil Republicans, greedy banks and incompetent capitalists are responsible for the diving dollar and the consequences of his ideologically-driven spending program. Look no further than the Obama White House
Cap and trade would sink the US economy and permanently change the political landscape : Once Americans realise that Obama's energy program will savage their living standards there will be a very nasty electoral backlash that could permanently change America's political landscape to the detriment of the Democrats, assuming they survived the political repercussions of their collective stupidity. At the moment it all depends on how many Congressional Democrats are prepared to support his green lunacy
Why profits and markets are good for you :What has to be stressed is that nearly everyone benefits market exchanges but not always immediately. Obviously, for example, candlestick makers were not happy with the advent of gas and kerosene lighting. But even they and their descendants eventually benefited in the long term
Why compromising on the carbon tax equals defeat: What happens in Australia and USA in the next few weeks is crucial. If the warmist wing of the Liberal Party, in an attempt to postpone their own dismissal, allows Rudd to arrive in Copenhagen waving the Ration-N-Tax Scheme bill like peace-in-our-time Chamberlain returning from his compromise with Hitler, Australians will give great comfort to the green mafia pushing the US senate to do the same
Is Obama turning us into the next Evil Empire? :Obama's support for the Honduran ex-president who would be king, Manuel Zelaya, is without American precedent. Zelaya is Hugo Chavez' mini-me, as he, like the vitriolic Venezuelan, sought to subvert his nation's constitution and extend and expand his power. And of this there is no doubt. The Honduran constitution prohibits a president from serving more than one term, and Zelaya, aided and abetted by Chavez and a mob of thugs, was using illegal methods to circumvent the prohibition. So what do Obama's actions tell us about what he really believes?
Burying the Paul Robeson myth : Robeson's admirers claim he was 'destroyed by the anti-communist hysteria' of Joe McCarthy. Rubbish. Robeson's relentless support for one of history's most vicious tyrants is what undid him, not Senator McCarthy. This article gives the details
Don't punish those who protect us : In an effort to satisfy his country America-hating left and with the full support of Obama Attorney General Eric Holder has targeted several CIA agents for personal destruction. However, it is the corrupt Holder who needs to be investigated. For example, there is the corrupt deal done to obtain Marc Rich a pardon. Then there was the Black Panther intimidation case that he killed. Perhaps his firm should also be asked why it is so keen to defend terrorists. A genuine investigation would find more skeletons in this mountebank's closets than in a cemetery



US politicians face inquiry into arms deals: "More than 30 US politicians, among them seven members of a defence procurement committee, are being investigated in congressional ethics inquiries into influence-peddling, according to a document leaked accidentally on to the internet. The disclosure sheds light on a process by which billions of dollars a year are spent on defence projects that the Pentagon does not want and which limits funds available for US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. House Representatives named in the document include John Murtha, the chairman of the House Defence Appropriations Sub-committee, who added so-called “earmarks” worth more than $100 million (£61 million) to last year’s defence budget and received $743,000 in campaign contributions from defence contractors. The contributions were funnelled through the PMA Group, a lobbying company set up by a former aide to Mr Murtha which closed after being raided by the FBI this year. Five of the seven members named in the leaked document are Democrats, which is an embarrassment for Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, who pledged to “drain the swamp” of corruption and excessive corporate influence on Capitol Hill. This week President Obama signed a Defence Authorisation Bill providing $680 billion in military spending for the coming year, including $2.5 billion for ten transport aircraft even though the Pentagon said that it has enough of them. The Bill authorises funding for an alternative engine for the F35 joint strike fighter that the Air Force says it does not need and a destroyer that the Navy says is obsolete."

Edward Chen: Son Of Sotomayor: "The nominee for a California federal district court is an ACLU activist and another advocate for the empathy standard of jurisprudence. He also has a problem with "America the Beautiful." The nomination of Edward Chen is the latest in a series of nominations of people who have no particular fondness for the traditions of law and justice. These nominees see racism everywhere, and believe the courts should be used as instruments of social justice and not to discern the intent of the Founding Fathers who wrote the U.S. Constitution. They believe their "life experience" should be the final arbiter of justice. Chen's nomination was forwarded by the Senate Judiciary Committee to the full Senate last Friday. He currently serves as a federal magistrate in San Francisco and is a lawyer with a long history working with the American Civil Liberties Union."

Stimulus jobs overstated by thousands: "An early progress report on President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan overstates by thousands the number of jobs created or saved through the stimulus program, a mistake that White House officials promise will be corrected in future reports. The government's first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts. The AP review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two and sometimes more than four times; and other jobs were credited to stimulus spending when none was produced."

Shortage of Vaccine a Test for Obama: "The moment a novel strain of swine flu emerged in Mexico last spring, President Obama instructed his top advisers that his administration would not be caught flat-footed in the event of a deadly pandemic. Now, despite months of planning and preparation, a vaccine shortage is threatening to undermine public confidence in government, creating a very public test of Mr. Obama’s competence."

DEA crackdown hurts nursing home residents who need pain drugs: "Heightened efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration to crack down on narcotics abuse are producing a troubling side effect by denying some hospice and elderly patients needed pain medication, according to two Senate Democrats and a coalition of pharmacists and geriatric experts. Tougher enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act, which tightly restricts the distribution of pain medicines such as morphine and Percocet, is causing pharmacies to balk and is leading to delays in pain relief for those patients and seniors in long-term-care facilities, wrote Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). The lawmakers wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. this month, urging that the Obama administration issue new directives to the DEA"

AMTRAK’s Per-Passenger Subsidy Higher Than Cost of Airline Ticket from New Orleans to LA: "This morning, I went online and found I could purchase a one-way adult-fare airline ticket on Southwest Airlines that would allow me to fly from New Orleans to Los Angeles today for $405. Similarly, I found I could purchase a ticket on Amtrak for $439 (morning departure) or $133 (afternoon departure). The difference between these travel options: According to analysis by Pew’s Subsidyscope, the federal government subsidizes each passenger fare on Amtrak to the tune of $462.11."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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