Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ever-present Leftist propaganda does make an impression -- and is weakening America

Comment received by email from Sam Wells of Toward the Laissez-Faire Republic []

Americans are flooded with propaganda, both subtle and not so subtle -- mostly from the Democrat, left-wing perspective, especially on TV. Because the propaganda is so ubiquitous few people even realize they are immersed in it. I believe that many libertarians and conservatives and definitely most populists have unwittingly bought into some aspects of the Left's disinformation efforts. I have heard "libertarians" admit to believing in some of the most absurd left-wing conspiracy theories -- usually about the Bush Administration -- from 9/11 attacks being an "inside job" to Bush weakened the levies in New Orleans so as to flood certain mostly black areas because he hates black folks so much. (I can just see Bush and Cheney in SCUBA gear swimming down to the base of the levies and cleverly planting all that C4 so the levy would break just in the right way to flood blacks and not white people. Right.)

Most of the anti-Bush hatred has been instilled by propaganda over the past eight years -- stored in peoples' minds through repeated barrages of propaganda messages. An election comes around and it is time to trigger that stored hate. Bush did not run for re-election (could not under the Constriction)? Not to worry; just associate whoever is running under the GOP banner with Bush and all that programmed hate has not gone to waste. A lot of us in the libertarian subculture have absorbed the hate-Bush stuff and some even buy into the DNC/Move On anti-Bush conspiracy tales. But not all those who oppose the war against jihadist terrorism are that naive, of course.

I consider myself to be a constitutionalist. I believe the constitutional approach to limiting the scope of government to its proper functions has been the most successful one so far, (given the Greco-Roman heritage underlying our Anglo-American traditions). But we must not lose sight that the Constitution is a means, not an end in itself and that the purpose of the Constitution is to protect liberty -- not to serve as an excuse not to defend our way of life.

The enemies of freedom are past masters at manipulating the virtues of good, well-intentioned folks in the service of their ultrastatist agendas. There are those who sincerely question Congress's war powers declaration as being strong enough to fulfill the Constitution's requirement for lawfully going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those who genuinely believe they are "constitutionalists" by opposing wars on such arguably technical grounds should search their consciences and ask themselves if they are just being led by the nose and used by the Left's "anti-war" front offensive for political partisan ends. Does their nitpicking constitute genuine constitutionalism or is it just an excuse to look the other way and pretend not to see what is really happening? I cannot say what is in their hearts. But leftists often pretend to be supporters of the Constitution when they think they can distort its meaning and purpose so as to serve their ultimate goal of imposing more taxes, more regulations, bigger government, and more socialism on us all.

The 21st century Lord Haw-Haws and wishful-thinking Neville Chamberlains who refuse to recognize that the reactionary jihadists are a real threat to America and the world are aiding America's enemies and supporting the ostrich-like position of the surrendercrats. That pacifist approach does not really lead to peace but only postpones the conflict temporarily until a much more devastating war is unavoidable. Would they wait until the enemy has nuclear weapons and biotoxins to throw against us? Prudence dictates getting a conflict over as soon as possible, if it be inevitable, before the enemies are more powerful and can kill far more innocent people.


Upside Down Economics

by Thomas Sowell

From television specials to newspaper editorials, the media are pushing the idea that current economic problems were caused by the market and that only the government can rescue us. What was lacking in the housing market, they say, was government regulation of the market's "greed." That makes great moral melodrama, but it turns the facts upside down. It was precisely government intervention which turned a thriving industry into a basket case.

An economist specializing in financial markets gave a glimpse of the history of housing markets when he said: "Lending money to American homebuyers had been one of the least risky and most profitable businesses a bank could engage in for nearly a century." That was what the market was like before the government intervened. Like many government interventions, it began small and later grew.

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 directed federal regulatory agencies to "encourage" banks and other lending institutions "to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institutions." That sounds pretty innocent and, in fact, it had little effect for more than a decade. However, its premise was that bureaucrats and politicians know where loans should go, better than people who are in the business of making loans. The real potential of that premise became apparent in the 1990s, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) imposed a requirement that mortgage lenders demonstrate with hard data that they were meeting their responsibilities under the Community Reinvestment Act.

What HUD wanted were numbers showing that mortgage loans were being made to low-income and moderate-income people on a scale that HUD expected, even if this required "innovative or flexible" mortgage eligibility standards. In other words, quotas were imposed-- and if some people didn't meet the standards, then the standards need to be changed. Both HUD and the Department of Justice began bringing lawsuits against mortgage bakers when a higher percentage of minority applicants than white applicants were turned down for mortgage loans. A substantial majority of both black and white mortgage loan applicants had their loans approved but a statistical difference was enough to get a bank sued.

It should also be noted that the same statistical sources from which data on blacks and whites were obtained usually contained data on Asian Americans as well. But those data on Asian Americans were almost never mentioned. Whites were turned down for mortgage loans more often than Asian Americans. But saying that would undermine the reasoning on which the whole moral melodrama and political crusades were based.

Lawsuits were only part of the pressures put on lenders by government officials. Banks and other lenders are overseen by regulatory agencies and must go to those agencies for approval of many business decisions that other businesses make without needing anyone else's approval. Government regulators refused to approve such decisions when a lender was under investigation for not producing satisfactory statistics on loans to low-income people or minorities. Under growing pressures from both the Clinton administration and later the George W. Bush administration, banks began to lower their lending standards.

Mortgage loans with no down payment, no income verification and other "creative" financial arrangements abounded. Although this was done under pressures begun in the name of the poor and minorities, people who were neither could also get these mortgage loans. With mortgage loans widely available to people with questionable prospects of being able to keep up the payments, it was an open invitation to financial disaster. Those who warned of the dangers had their warnings dismissed. Now, apparently, we need more politicians intervening in more industries, if you believe the politicians and the media.



Toothless Blue Dogs Roll Over on Stimulus Bill

The House's Blue Dog Democrats like to pretend they are the deficit tigers of Congress, determined to stop runaway spending and stamp out waste, fraud and abuse. But when push came to shove, as it did in the pork-crammed $800 billion economic-stimulus bill, most of these tigers mewed like pussycats, voting in lock step with Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank for a bill they had not read. One by one, they inserted their voting cards into the slot in front of their seats and charged the stimulus money to the taxpayers. The first payment will be due April 15. Brace your wallets.

"Toothless tigers is one way to describe them. They are more gums than teeth when it comes to putting a bite on deficits," said Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union. NTU's "bill tally" monitoring showed that Blue Dogs propose three-quarters less spending increases than the Democrats as a whole, but the majority of Blue Dogs still vote for most of the spending bills their party brings to the floor.

"The Blue Dogs can't say with a straight face that they have a moderate or conservative bone in their body. They're exposed as pawns of the most left-wing Democratic leadership in American history," says tax-cut crusader Grover Norquist.

There are about four-dozen Blue Dog Democrats who took their name about a dozen years ago from their Southern ancestry and who showed their party loyalty by saying they would vote for an old yellow dog before voting Republican. At the start of the new Congress, they vowed that a "top priority will be to refocus Congress on truly balancing the budget and ridding taxpayers of the burden the national debt places on them." In a Feb. 4 letter to Speaker Pelosi, Indiana Rep. Baron Hill and seven other Blue Dog leaders said they had "serious reservations" about the big stimulus bill then working its way through Congress.

But on final passage, only a half-dozen brave Blue Dogs voted against the bill that will, with interest, add $1 trillion-plus to the federal debt.

More here



Through his bias and bigotry, "Pinch" Sulzberger has done a great job of destroying his family inheritance: "New York Times Stock Now Costs Less Than Sunday Paper. Shares of NYT dropped 29 cents today to close at $3.77. The Sunday paper goes for $4 at the newsstand. Maybe they could save costs by printing the paper on their stock certificates". By coincidence, in Australia some time ago, another Jewish-born boy, Warwick Fairfax Jr. also destroyed a great family media inheritance, though his main problem was that he had a Harvard MBA and therefore thought he knew something (See today's EDUCATION WATCH for a comment on Harvard MBAs). I wonder how that all plays out with the conspiracy theorists who see Jews as controlling everything? Maybe Jews are NOT all-powerful and all-knowing, after all? Belief in Jewish control of the media must be rather hard to sustain in the face of the fact that the world's most powerful and successful media owner is of Presbyterian background. Perhaps they assume his real name must be Murdochstein.

Just In Case It Wasn't Obvious . . .: "Does anyone else grasp the irony of AG Holder's characterization of Americans as a "nation of cowards" for their reluctance to discuss race -- just as the story about the NY Post chimp cartoon is part of every blog and newscast? I guess the coverage of the cartoon controversy is just another sign of America's endemic reluctance to talk about race, right?"

This Should Scare You: "Carter voices confidence in Obama stimulus plan" That would be the Carter who left us with interest rates of 21%, inflation at 13.5% and unemployment at 7%. When he's got "confidence" in Obamanomics, be afraid. Be very afraid."

Was Ted Stevens railroaded?: "The headlines are gone, and MSNBC no longer cares. But that's all the more reason to take note of the strange and disturbing turn in the Ted Stevens legal saga. Prosecutors claimed this senior Senatorial scalp last year, winning an ethics conviction a fortnight before the octogenarian Republican narrowly lost his bid for a seventh term from Alaska. Though media interest stopped there, the story has since become one of ambitious prosecutors who at the very least botched the job and may have miscarried justice."


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


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)


Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama the magician

In case you have not seen it yet: A Japanese sendup of Obama:


BrookesNews Update

Monetary policy - not Obama's stimulus - is what needs watching : On the one hand the US faces a massive boondoggle that has greatly disturbed the markets and threatens to destabilise the economy. On the other hand the threat of inflation is looming up as the money supply expands. This is a truly terrible witches' brew and like it or not Obama and his crew of economic vandals need to be held accountable for it
Prime Minister Rudd's misbegotten assault on the market goes unchallenged : Rudd's essay is an opening salvo against free market thinking and deserves to be taken seriously. Ideas have consequences, particularly bad ideas. If these ideas are not thoroughly refuted in the public arena they are likely to take root in the public mind. The consequences for the economy could be disastrous. This article is an attempt to expose the shoddy thinking, economic illiteracy and the ignorance of economic history and the history of economic thought that underpin Rudd's essay
Rudd's "growth gap" myth : Politicians are talking about rising unemployment, falling production and output gaps. Being politicians their first response is more spending in order to raise aggregate demand. They are too ignorant to realise that what they propose is dose of the same fallacious economic medicine that caused the crisis in the first place
Mr. Obama, the barn is also "shovel ready" and is as useful to the economy as the stimulus bill :Obama's brilliant tax plant amounts to workers getting an additional $13 a week in their pay checks (at least those still with jobs) beginning in June 2009 and then $8 a week in 2010. Does anyone but the most ardent Obama acolyte really think these tax cuts will spur on the economy? With the increasing price of gasoline the 'Obama tax cuts' are not even likely to fill the gas tank of your car. The rest of his phony stimulus plan is just as shoddy
Honoring Cuba's Heroes:You'll often find people with red-rimmed eyes ambling amidst the long rows of white crosses at Miami's Tamiami Park. It's the Cuban Memorial and it stands in honor of the tens of thousands of murder victims of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. It is a tribute, too, to those who fell while trying to free Cuba from the barbarism that the two imposed with their Soviet overlords while America's 'best and brightest' dithered, bumbled and finally betrayed the Cuban people
The impact of Obama's pending program on the US economy : All real economic growth comes from an increase in the accumulation of capital per worker. There is no other source, Keynesianism notwithstanding. Capital is generic unconsumed wealth saved up and available for investment in productive enterprises. Obama's economic package will not create wealth. It will only create more economic problems
Murphy's Law, the Peter Principle and Barack Obama:In only three weeks Obama has signaled to every terrorist on the planet that we are a sorry, groveling, ashamed Nation ready to come to the diplomatic confessional. He is closing Gitmo within one year, has suspended trials there, and dismissed the charges against the U.S.S. Cole plotter. The perfect collision of Murphy's Law with the Peter Principle has arrived to explode in our faces
Will Obama start a trade war? :Access to the $996 billion global infrastructure market will disappear in a trade war, all in exchange for access to $43 billion in federal stimulus spending on infrastructure - not a good swap. Obama's 'Buy American' may turn into 'Bye, American'



Obama's "openness" in action: "In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor's system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D'Ivoire. Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps. The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site."

Another Obama corruptocrat: "News broke last week that Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, lived rent- free for years in the home of Rep. Rosa De Lauro (D-Conn.) - and failed to disclose the gift, as congressional ethics rules mandate. But this is only the tip of Emanuel's previously undislosed ethics problems. One issue is the work Emanuel tossed the way of De Lauro's husband. But the bigger one goes back to Emanuel's days on the board of now-bankrupt mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Emanuel is a multimillionaire, but lived for the last five years for free in the tony Capitol Hill townhouse owned by De Lauro and her husband, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. During that time, he also served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - which gave Greenberg huge polling contracts... Emanuel never declared the substantial gift of free rent on any of his financial-disclosure forms. He and De Lauro claim that it was just allowable "hospitality" between colleagues. Hospitality - for five years? Some experts suggest that it was also taxable income: Over five years, the free rent could easily add up to more than $100,000. "

Under fire, Burris refuses to resign Senate seat: "Despite calls for his resignation, Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) made clear Wednesday that he intends to fight. Burris, appointed to fill President Obama's Senate seat, is under investigation for repeatedly changing his story about contacts with associates of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). But he insisted that his hands are clean. . Burris has offered five varying explanations - three of them under oath - of his contacts with associates of Blagojevich, who was charged Dec. 9 with taking part in a bribery conspiracy that included trying to sell Obama's former seat."

Homeless families face strict new rules -- in Massachusetts!: "Less than two years after vowing to end homelessness in Massachusetts, the Patrick administration has proposed new regulations that it acknowledges could force hundreds of homeless families back on the street. The regulations, scheduled to take effect April 1, would deny shelter to families who in the last three years had been evicted from or had abandoned public or subsidized housing without good cause, and to those who fail to meet a new 30-hour per week work requirement and save 30 percent of their income."

"Truth to power" gap: "`Speak truth to power,' a phrase of Quaker origins adopted by campus radicals, Hollywood gadflies, and establishment journalists, has become shorthand for bravely criticizing government, big corporations, and other stereotypical villains. But where's the bravery? I don't know many journalists who are afraid of the government, and most make their living from big corporations. Sure, liberals - which most journalists are - are afraid of what conservatives will do in power and vice-versa. But they aren't very afraid of what government will do to them, specifically. In fact, being singled out for criticism by the president of the United States is nothing short of a gift."

Why gay rights activists need to straighten up: "My darling daughter. You want to disestablish marriage as a legally regulated institution entirely? As a libertarian, I'm with you. You want to amend the California constitution so that any two or more adults who want to get married - including groups of men and women in any number and mixture - may legally do so . I'll cross the border from my home state of Nevada to help you campaign for it. But don't tell me that `gays' have a greater right to marriage than Mormon-offshoot polygamists. That sort of special pleading that ignores the historical discrimination against others just revolts me."

In defense of the "filibuster" : "So Ezra Klein wonders whether it's better that a minority can block good policy or a majority can enact bad policy? Given the 'stickiness' of bad policy (Ezra, in another post, suggests that corn and beef subsidies aren't so wonderful but that there are structural incentives to retain them) one would think that inhibiting bad policy would be a good goal for either side of the aisle. So let's stipulate a few general principles: 1. Government, by definition, is coercive. 2. Most government `programs' (here defined as positive government acts rather than simple regulatory prohibitions or laws) expand the state and curtail personal liberty - at least to the extent that they must be paid for by non-voluntary means. 3. Therefore, government action is more likely to reduce individual liberty than increase it. 4. Finally, to a libertarian (one whose first principles are towards individual liberty), it is best to inhibit government action."

Who Gives, and Why It Matters: "Arthur Brooks, professor of public administration at Syracuse University, is a rare scholar. In "Who Really Cares," he surveys the data on American charitable giving, and he has much to report - much, he admits, that surprised him, going against his own cultural prejudices. The facts show that all the common myths about giving are exactly opposite to reality. Take the perception that Americans are generally indifferent to other people's suffering, a view that St. Jimmy Carter once trumpeted. The reality is that around 75% of American families give to charity annually, to the tune of an average of 3.5% of their household income. Only a third of this largess goes to churches; the rest goes to secular charities. Brooks urges that far and away the biggest predictors of charitableness are religious belief, skepticism about powerful government, strength of family, and personal entrepreneurism. Brooks' first chapter debunks the common myth that people who are politically "progressive" are more charitable than others, a myth endlessly promoted by the Left. The data show that at every income level, self-identified conservatives donate more than self-identified liberals, despite the fact that liberals average 6% more income. Next, Brooks considers differences in charitableness as it relates to ideology. Specifically, he raises the question of whether people who favor the forced redistribution of income by government ("redistributionists," estimated by one large 1996 survey at 33%) give more to charity than people who oppose government redistribution ("nonredistributionists," about 43% in the same survey). The answer is - drum roll, please! - Hell, no! Nonredistributionists give four times more money to charity than redistributionists.


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


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, February 19, 2009

Should scientists study race and IQ?

The usual Leftist strategy when faced with truths that contradict their simplistic theories: Shut down debate. Everything bad is due to "poverty", don't you know? Everything they do seems to lead to impoverishment so I guess there is some sort of weird consistency there. Report below from one of the "Science blogs"

Just in case anyone has missed it, the pair of duelling essays in the latest issue of Nature is well worth a read. The topic is whether there is any justification for scientific exploration of associations between gender or race and intelligence; Stephen Ceci and Wendy M. Williams from Cornell argue the affirmative, while Steven Rose takes up the opposing case.

The debate continues as a lively discussion on Nature Network, which contains many thoughtful comments from both sides.

I find it pretty hard to stomach the notion that any field of scientific enquiry should be completely off the table, even an area as contentious and politically charged as this one - in fact especially in such an area, since nowhere are solid facts needed as desperately as in a debate driven largely by ideals and emotions. Thus while Rose makes some fair points about the difficulties of defining both race and intelligence, I find his overall argument less than compelling.

In fact this sentence from Rose's final paragraph is downright worrying: "In a society in which racism and sexism were absent, the questions of whether whites or men are more or less intelligent than blacks or women would not merely be meaningless -- they would not even be asked."

This borders on defining anyone who even thinks about group differences in cognition as a bigot. Poisoning the well in this fashion is a highly effective strategy for shutting down debate on a particular topic - but this is a terrible strategy for a scientist to adopt.


I should perhaps mention that the first comment on the blog post reproduced above is a tease. Razib is a geneticist of Bangladeshi origin who is in fact confident that the specific genes for IQ will eventually be identified


Some marvellous news from Italy

Another defeat for media-enabled Leftist lies. Report below by Fiamma Nirenstein, a journalist and some-time resident of Jerusalem. She is a new Member of the Italian Parliament. I like her first name. It is Italian for "flame". I have long had great affection for Italians and the report below certainly reinforces that

We didn't expect what you see in this picture. This is the square of the Italian Parliament in Rome, Piazza Montecitorio: You can see the Palace on top of the square, and in front a lot of Israeli flags. That was last night from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. What you cannot see here, is the extraordinary number of members of Parliament, about 100 from all political sides, that took the stage during this time: for about three hours we were speaking about the role of Israel, its right to self defense, its moral height, its fight on behalf of us all, of our civilization and values, against the wild hate of the Islamic jihad represented by Hamas.

It seems to me that for the first time in the too long history of the Arab/Israeli conflict, apart from a minority of crazy leftists and fascists that took the street with anti-Semitic slogans, we have achieved a huge consensus on one critical point: this is not a local conflict, there is nothing in it that reminds us of a peace theme that has characterized the Palestinian issue. This is an attack against the western world, and Iran is behind it.

What happens today, at least in Italy, is the defeat and fall of the leftist ideologies: ideology that has allowed justification of all the most violent crimes and most disgusting verbal attacks. If Arafat launched the terrorist Intifada, if he promoted the martyrdom of children in public speeches, the ideologists were ready to justify him with the issues of occupation, the Palestinian misery and loss of any hope. Not so with Hamas.

History, in Italy, has brought to a profound crisis the ideology of revolution and the justification of any cruel attack against a so-called unjust imperialist order. That time is over, nobody will see Hamas as the resolution of the problem and not even as the problem itself. I think that the word "peace" has lost that healing meaning that it once had. The new non-ideological point of view sees that there is no peace when one of the contenders doesn't want it, and that even if the world in the short run asks for a truce, in the long run it hopes for the defeat of Hamas.

Last night, many people, Ministers and Members of Parliament, composed a very new, interesting mix of opinions. I think that when you are not overwhelmed by exotic thirdworldism, the images of children educated as hate machines, the speeches of jihad leaders, from Ahmadinejad to Nasrallah, to Haniyeh, that deny the holocaust and promise death to Jewish and Christians alike, you are left only with disgust. Westerners, thank God, can still be disgusted by uncivilized levels of political speech.

But most of all, in the Parliament square, many of the Parliament Members said: "I love Israel". You can't imagine how many.



The Decline of California

They still think they can tax their way out of this one.

If you thought Washington's stimulus debate was depressing, take a look at the long-running budget spectacle in California. The Golden State's deficit has reached $42 billion, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to furlough 20,000 state workers (go ahead, make our day), and as we went to press yesterday Democrats who control the legislature had blocked lawmakers from leaving until they finally get a deal.

It's sad to watch. The Golden State -- which a decade ago was the booming technology capital of the world -- has been done in by two decades of chronic overspending, overregulating and a hyperprogressive tax code that exaggerates the impact on state revenues of economic boom and bust. Total state expenditures have grown to $145 billion in 2008 from $104 billion in 2003 and California now has the worst credit rating in the nation -- worse even than Louisiana's. It also has the nation's fourth highest unemployment rate of 9.3% (after Michigan, Rhode Island and South Carolina) and the second highest home foreclosure rate (after Nevada).

Roughly 1.4 million more nonimmigrant Americans have left California than entered over the last decade, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. California is suffering more than most states from the housing bust, but its politicians also showed less spending restraint during the boom.

To close the current deficit, the pols in Sacramento are nearing a deal that cuts spending by $15 billion and raises $14.2 billion in higher taxes on income, sales, gasoline and cars. Six years ago Mr. Schwarzenegger helped depose Governor Gray Davis by calling him "Car-taxula." Now he's agreed to double the same tax.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has won at least some concessions from Democrats, who run the most liberal legislature this side of Trenton. The budget deal contains a handful of useful tax breaks for job creation and the first public union workplace reforms in a decade; it also creates a new rainy day fund. These taxpayer victories wouldn't have been possible if Republicans in the legislature hadn't held out for them. But the plan is still far short of the radical tax and spending surgery the state needs. It's loaded with short-term gimmicks -- such as $5 billion of borrowing from future lottery receipts and nearly $10 billion in one-time federal stimulus cash. Even proponents concede the plan doesn't balance spending and revenues 18 months from now.

The tax increases will continue to chase even more productive people out of the state. For at least two years, the sales tax would rise by one percentage point to 8.25% and the income tax by 0.3% to a top marginal rate of 10.56%. These will both be the highest statewide rates in the nation (see chart).

Do these taxes hurt business? Ask Hollywood. Film makers are threatening to flee to avoid the state's high costs, so to keep them in Southern California the deal offers $500 million in tax breaks for producers. Rich liberals like Rob Reiner, who love higher taxes on other people, get a sweetheart tax break and everyone else pays more.

Mr. Schwarzenegger is finally getting a constitutional state spending cap that will be on the ballot in the next election, but even that is flawed. This cap would limit spending hikes in any year to a rolling average of the percentage increase of the past 10 years. Nice idea, except that if Californians vote yes, the higher income and sales taxes automatically kick in for three more years. So to get a modicum of spending restraint, the voters have to agree to tax themselves by $25 billion more for three additional years. Californians can be forgiven if they say "no deal."

The tragedy of this gamesmanship is that the political class still won't address the root cause of its financial problems, which is that the state is becoming less economically competitive. California businesses and high-income families already pay a surtax for locating inside the state. The new budget deal raises that tax toll higher still.

It's no surprise that most CEOs we talk to, many of whom live in California, say they'd be foolish to build another plant in the state. California's budget crisis is the inevitable result of runaway liberal governance, and the state's voters will keep paying for it until they reduce their tax burden and adopt more radical spending controls.




Britain: Race of attackers mentioned for once. I wonder why? "An Australian woman has been subjected to a horrific seven-hour rape ordeal after being snatched from the streets of Edinburgh in broad daylight. Two men grabbed the 24-year old woman and sprayed her in the face with a "noxious substance'' before dragging her into nearby bushes, police say. The woman had been walking through an underpass near the city centre at 3pm on Monday. She was not released until 10pm, after a prolonged assault that has shocked local officers. A police spokeswoman said: "This young woman has been subjected to a terrifying ordeal at the hands of these two men - the trauma she has experienced cannot be underestimated. Police were last night unable to provide further details about the woman, such as which state she was from or whether she was a tourist or resident. The suspects are described as being white, Eastern European, and in their 20s."

What's America's backup plan? : "Barney Frank needs to go back to running a whore house and Chris Dodd needs an economic ejumacation to name a few. Nancy Peeelosi needs a math lesson at the very least with her oft repeated 500,000,000 job loss per month (it's on tape more than once). Hey, Nanc, the population of the entire US is only 300,000,000. Or were you using Democratic voter math? Ok, my bad. Oh, and get back on your meds. The whole bunch has a bad case of hubris and at that can't seem to find a direction or logical path. Oops I forgot, they are emotion based decision makers. The stock market is still waiting on what the government will do, not because they think it will help, but so that they know where to invest with the least likelihood of getting burnt. On the bright side, at least the House Republicans showed a little spine in voting against the Porkulus Bill."


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


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, February 18, 2009

France guilty of deporting Jews in WWII

France has had something of an undeserved reputation for tolerance since the butchers of the French revolution were the first to declare the emancipation of the Jews. That declaration did not affect basic French attitudes, however -- as the Dreyfus case of the 1890s showed. And we see below some final acceptance of the fact that the French of WWII fully "understood" the Nazi antipathy to Jews. And guess what? French Jews are being forced out of France right now -- with many going to Israel -- because of the failure of the French State to defend them from Muslim attacks. It seems that the French of today "understand" Muslim attitudes too

France's top administrative court ruled today that the state was responsible for the deportation of French Jews during World War Two, but appeared to close the door on major new compensation for victims' families. Some 76,000 Jews were arrested in France between 1942 and 1944 and transported in appalling conditions to Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz. Only 3000 returned.

Today's landmark ruling by the Conseil d'Etat court establishes a legal recognition of France's role in the deportations and was welcomed by Jewish organisations. "The Conseil d'Etat recognises the error and responsibility of the state," the court said. "This persecution, in a total break with the values and principles ... enshrined in the declaration of human rights and the traditions of the Republic, inflicted exceptional damage of extreme gravity," it said.

Former President Jacques Chirac was the first French leader to acknowledge state complicity in the deportations in an historic speech in 1995, breaking with past efforts to dissociate France from the collaborationist Vichy regime. His recognition of French involvement opened the way for victims' families to seek compensation and the authorities have since given hundreds of millions of euros to plaintiffs.

The Conseil d'Etat issued its ruling after a minor court sought guidance over the liability of the state in the case brought by daughter of a deportee. The top administrative court said the junior courts could decide on compensation, but added that the state had already met its obligations and respected European norms. "Taken together, these various measures ... have compensated as much as is possible ... the losses suffered as a result of the actions of the state, which collaborated with the deportation," the ruling said.

Serge Klarsfeld, a famous French Nazi hunter whose own father was deported from France, welcomed the ruling. "This ruling is satisfying," he was quoted as saying by Le Figaro newspaper website. "France is now showing itself to be a leader amongst countries facing up to their past." He added that reparations was no longer a major issue. "Those who are currently seeking more compensation have often already received something."



Some more interesting onomastics (Onomastics = the study of names)

The journal abstract is here. Interesting that the finding applied to whites as well as blacks

The authors of Freakonomics, Steven Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Dubner, a New York Times journalist, noted that data shows African Americans are far more likely than other racial groups to give their children uncommon names. White people tend to favour more familiar names that formerly were popular with other, more affluent white people (hence the journey of Madison from relative obscurity in 1988, when it was ranked 300th on the Social Security Administration's name database, to its high of No. 2 in 2001 and 2002).

New research out of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania also looks at what names signify. However, unlike Freakonomics - which maintained that although a name might tell you something about a person's background, it wouldn't predict the outcome of that person's life - the new study purports to show a link between name and outcome: The more unpopular your name, the more likely you are to land in the juvenile justice system.

The Shippensburg researchers first assigned a popularity score to boys' names, based on how often they showed up in birth records in an undisclosed state from 1987 to 1991. Michael, the No. 1 name, had a popular name index score of 100; names such as Malcolm and Preston had index scores of 1. The researchers then assessed names of young men born during that time who landed in the juvenile justice system. They found that only half had a rating higher than 11. By comparison, in the general population, half of the names scored higher than 20. The take-away? "A 10 per cent increase in the popularity of a name is associated with a 3.7 per cent decrease in the number of juvenile delinquents who have that name," they say in the study, to be published in Social Sciences Quarterly.

For the most part, this isn't new territory. That's because we know that boys with uncommon names are more likely to come from a socio-economically deprived background, which means they also are more likely to get involved with crime. The Shippensburg researchers readily admit that it's not a name alone that affects a child's outcome, but rather the circumstance underlying the name.

A lot of baby names in Hollywood these days would have to rate badly. I'm not just talking about marginally weird names given to Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter - Apple - or Sylvester Stallone's son - Sage Moonblood. I'm talking names like Pilot Inspektor (actor Jason Lee's son), Hud and Speck Wildhorse (singer John Mellencamp's sons), and Tu (actor Rob Morrow's daughter; get it? Tu Morrow?). Insofar as such names are often a symptom of a larger problem - parental narcissism and immaturity, anyone? - you can see why some people might want to get the US Congress involved.

And they illuminate the degree to which some parents view kids as accessories. Sure, some odd names may have family significance, but they mostly seem like ads for parents' cleverness and self-congratulatory "individualism". It's not fair saddling a kid with an ad for his folks rather than giving him a name of his own.



The New Patriotism
"It is worth considering the meaning of patriotism because the question of who is - or is not - a patriot all too often poisons our political debates, in ways that divide us rather than bring us together." -Barack Obama, June 30, 2008

Throughout the Bush years, particularly in the wake of Iraq's liberation, liberals from coast to coast grew increasingly paranoid about patriotism. Virtually anything conservatives said about anything could be twisted and perceived as a dig-subtle or overt-at any given liberal's love of country. Here are some illustrative examples of this phenomenon, circa 2004:

Conservative A: "I support the troops."

Liberal A: "Dissent is patriotic, chicken hawk."

Conservative B: "God Bless America."

Liberal B: "How dare you suggest that I don't want God to bless America! For your information, I hope that he or she blesses America, and every other country for that matter."

Conservative C: "I'm flying American Airlines today."

Liberal C: "Stop questioning my patriotism!"

Suffice it to say, they seemed a tad insecure about the whole thing. Left-leaning pundits and talking heads continually insisted that Republicans, particularly those within the administration, reflexively tarred anyone who dared to deviate from the party line as a traitor. In most cases, these accusations were figments of the Left's collective imagination. Still, to liberals, it was very real and totally outrageous, so America was introduced to a new Golden Rule of politics: Questioning someone else's patriotism is strictly verboten in all circumstances.

A Congressman from Pennsylvania maliciously slanders US Marines by falsely accusing them of murder? Don't bring up the P-word. A former haughty-looking presidential candidate encourages young people to educate themselves, lest they get "stuck" in the military? He won three purple hearts. Bite your tongue. A certain Democratic leader in the Senate prematurely declares an active US military mission "lost" for partisan gain? He loves the troops! He has many friends who are troops!

The lesson, time and again, was that ascribing patriotism (or the lack thereof) based on someone's statements, positions, or actions was out of bounds. To use patriotism as a political badge of honor was an unforgivable-even un-American!-tactic of the warmongering, bloodthirsty Bush/Cheney death machine. In fact, perhaps the purest form of true patriotism, we were told, was the act if dissenting from the creeping fascism promulgated by the neo-con cabal at the helm of Amerikkka's government.

To the astonishment of no one, these once-sacred rules are suddenly vanishing now that the Left has taken power. In fact, three of the most powerful Democrats in America have already gone to the patriotism well to help reinforce support for specific policy preferences.

While still a candidate, Vice President Joe Biden faced questions from an ABC News about his ticket's plan to hike taxes for "the rich." The term "rich," incidentally, was defined at the time as households making $250,000 or more-though that figure crept steadily downward as the campaign wore on. These rich Americans, Biden explained, could afford to fork over more of their earnings to Uncle Sam. In fact they should be proud to do so: "It's time to be patriotic," he explained, flashing his patented painted-on grin. (No movement from his forehead, of course). Got that, "rich" folks? You will surrender more of the money you work hard for, and you will do so merrily. Out of patriotism. Why, to even complain would be unacceptable-don't you love your country? Considering this new standard he constructed, one wonders what the Vice President thinks of, say, his administration's current Treasury Secretary. Never mind. One ought not get bogged down with such distractions.

This past week, the President of the United States abandoned his June 2008 position by eagerly expanding the politicization of patriotism. In his efforts to woo public support for his entirely pork-free, catastrophe-preventing, crucially-crucial stimulus package, Obama hoped to enlist some Republicans patsies to help create the mirage of bipartisanship. He succeeded, winning over three whole Republicans out of the 219 in Congress. For those keeping score at home, that's a .014 batting average for the post-partisan healer. According to the New York Times, after the northeastern trio knuckled under, the president called each of them to "applaud them for their patriotism." What a thrill it must have been. After all, it's not every day that one gets the opportunity to condemn future generations to mind-bending piles of debt, all in the name of promoting a non-stimulatory "stimulus" plan that rewards Lefty interest groups and furthers the sweeping policy goals of the party that-technically-represents your opposition.

When the final deal was struck a few days later, Harry Reid echoed the president's kudos, albeit with his renowned cloying charmlessness: "I'm really at a lack of words how to express my admiration and respect for the love of our country, the patriotism, and the courage of three brave senators," Reid said, "Specter from Pennsylvania, Snowe and Collins from Maine. I don't think I need to say more than that." No, he needn't. There's a new patriotism in town. This time around, 98 percent of Congressional Republicans failed to reach the patriotic plateau. Not to worry, though. They'll have three years and 42 more weeks, at least, to redeem themselves and display their genuine love for America by supporting the president and whatever emergency/apocalypse-averting policies he may have in store. God Bless Omerica.



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


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, February 17, 2009

Typical socialist lies

The self-described socialist senator from Vermont, Bernard Sanders, is prematurely declaring the teachings of Milton Friedman dead in the fringe publication, In These Times. Many dim bulbs on Capitol Hill think the same way as Sanders does, so if only for that reason it's worthwhile to see what he's thinking.

The senator's beliefs are not merely misguided but evil and profoundly un-American. He and his fellow travellers on the Hill and in the media routinely lie and distort the history and function of markets in this country. Never does it occur to them that government, because it set the rules of the road and provided incentives for perverse behavior, is a primary cause of the current temporary economic downturn. Instead they are adherents of an imported ideology that tolerates no dissent and crushes all freedom. Take this Sanders statement:
My colleagues in the Senate and I are now picking up the pieces of a banking system brought to the edge of collapse by this theory of deregulation and by the insatiable greed of a small number of wealthy financiers playing in the market and engaging in incredibly risky-if not illegal-behavior.

Which deregulation would he, as Congress enslaves future generations by running up debts in the trillions of dollars, be referring to? Sarbanes-Oxley? The Community Reinvestment Act? Ask these people for specifics and you consistently get stammering evasions. Sanders and those like him are just trotting out the same lies that one of America's worst presidents ever, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, used in the 1930s to vilify the market after government intervention helped to push it over the edge.



The Truth about taxes

Stimulus: President Obama, a smart man, says that tax cuts for the wealthy are the main reason we're now in such economic trouble. Someone needs to tell him how utterly - and dangerously - wrong that is.

"We have tried that strategy time and time again," the president said Monday of "tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans," and "it's only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now."

Well, he's half-right: We have tried it again and again. But rather than create crises, economic growth has been restored. The evidence is pretty much beyond dispute. Since World War I - the start of the modern financial era - we've suffered four major downturns. In three of them, the government cut tax rates. And each time an economic boom ensued. In only one did the government respond by raising taxes, erecting trade barriers and enacting massive new spending programs to get out of the slump. Today, we call that time the Great Depression.

As noted in a recent study by UCLA economists Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian, President Roosevelt's efforts at government direction of the economy likely extended the Depression by seven years. As history shows, lower taxes, not more government, work best:

The 1920s: When the income tax was established in 1913, the rate was 7%. But it quickly soared, especially for the rich, and by 1918 the top rate was 77%. Unfortunately, coming out of the war the economy was a mess, with prices falling, unemployment soaring and nominal GDP dropping by more than 15% in just one year. From 1921 to 1925, under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, tax rates were slashed to 25%, and GDP rose at an annual rate of 3.4% in the four years after the tax cuts vs. 2% before. All told, GDP swelled more than 50% during the 1920s.

All this was undone, however, on a bipartisan basis - first by President Hoover, a Republican, then by the Democrat FDR. Hoover boosted the top income tax rate to 63%. Then, FDR took it to 79%, while also doubling the corporate tax to 24%, imposing a Social Security tax of 2% and raising taxes on stocks and dividends, estates, and "excess" profits. Is it any wonder the economy went nowhere in the 1930s?

The 1960s: President Kennedy, a Democrat, believed strongly that lower taxes meant higher growth, and he was soon proven right. Before he was assassinated, JFK proposed cutting top tax rates from a punitive 91% to 70%. In 1965, his cuts were enacted under President Johnson by a Democratic Congress. Once again, growth took off, along with private investment. Real GNP, which averaged just 2.4% from 1952 to 1960, expanded at 4.5% during the '60s. The expansion that began in 1961 and ended in 1970 was, at the time, the longest ever.

The 1980s: President Reagan took over an economy with a 21% prime interest rate, double-digit unemployment and inflation, slowing productivity and flagging economic growth. But he too was a big tax cutter. His 25% across-the-board rate cuts snapped the economy out of its funk, creating the longest peacetime expansion ever at the time. During Reagan's two terms real GDP growth averaged 3.2% compared with 2.8% in the preceding eight years. After stagnating through most of the 1970s, real median family income grew $4,000 under Reagan. Investment boomed, as did the stock market, business creation and innovation. Some 20 million new jobs were created, due to the increased incentives to work, save and invest resulting from lower tax rates.

We all want our new president to succeed. But to do so, he needs to drop the class-warfare rhetoric on taxes and cut them instead. Like Coolidge. Like Kennedy. Like Reagan.




The Mysterious Disappearing Tax Cuts in Stimulus Bill : "We have all heard about the debate regarding the percentage of the Obama Stimulus Bill that is tax cuts as opposed to expenditures. Originally, there was discussion that it should be up to 40% of the total of the bill. There were arguments because it had slipped to 33%. In the final package, I don't see much at all in the way of real cuts -- certainly not tax cuts that will stimulate the economy in the near future... For individuals, a large portion of the tax savings is a one-year correction to the tax code to limit tax hitting about 70 million Americans with the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Allowing for the fact that only one person in a back office on the fifth floor of a very large building in Washington actually understands the AMT, how are these 70 million Americans going to know that they saved taxes from a tax they never knew existed? How are they going to quantify how much they are saving? Even if they could figure out what they are saving are they now going to go out and spend this mystery savings? Even if they knew about these savings, they would not happen until March or April 2010. So much for this "tax cut" being a stimulus.

The Left as a Mafia: "Members of the Mafia have to take a vow of silence, and if they break it, they face the very real possibility of winding up dead. Liberals have their own version of the vow. However, instead of having to keep quiet about murder, drug deals and extortion, they must promise not to ridicule their own kind. The price of breaking the code isn't death, it's something far more serious; namely, exile from their social circle. Dare to make fun of Joe Biden's statement that in 1929, President Roosevelt went on TV to reassure his fellow Americans about the Depression, and don't expect to be invited to write for the Huffington Post. Dare to laugh at Nancy Pelosi's contention that 500 million Americans are losing their jobs every month, and you can forget about being invited to brunch at Streisand's or to pitch a movie idea to Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg. Believe me, for some people, that's a far worse fate than swimming with the fishes. When you remember what a big deal the press and the late night jokesters made out of Dan Quayle's merely misspelling "potato," you get some idea of what partisan hypocrites these people are."

Helping people to see Muslims in a better light: "Orchard Park police are investigating a particularly gruesome killing, the beheading of a woman, after her husband - an influential member of the local Muslim community - reported her death to police Thursday. Police identified the victim as Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37. Detectives have charged her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder. "He came to the police station at 6:20 p.m. [Thursday] and told us that she was dead," Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz said late this morning. Muzzammil Hassan told police that his wife was at his business, Bridges TV, on Thorn Avenue in the village. Officers went to that location and discovered her body. Muzzammil Hassan is the founder and chief executive officer of Bridges TV, which he launched in 2004, amid hopes that it would help portray Muslims in a more positive light.

Israel: No truce unless soldier freed : "Israel said yesterday that it would not agree to a long-term truce with the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip unless an Israeli soldier held by the Islamists was freed. Full opening of the Gaza border crossings has been a Hamas condition for a truce. Israel linked that demand with the release of Gilad Shalit, held captive in Gaza since 2006, when he was kidnapped in a cross-border raid. `The prime minister's position is that Israel will not reach understandings on a truce before the release of Gilad Shalit,' Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement. Palestinian officials had reported significant headway in the indirect talks mediated by Egypt."


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


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, February 16, 2009

No excuses if Obama can't fix 'his' recession

So Obama has his stimulus bill, but he has paid a very high price. He now owns the recession

By economist Irwin Stelzer

If, like John Maynard Keynes, you believe that spending, any spending, will revive a flagging economy, the freshly minted, 1,000-page American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, calling for $504 billion in deficit-financed spending, is for you. Well, not quite. It seems that most of the money will not be spent very soon. About 30% won't hit the economy until 2011, and the balance is likely to be tied up in the procurement processes of the federal and state governments until well into 2010, and beyond. Besides, much of the spending will end up boosting other economies - subsidies for wind machines will benefit workers in the other countries in which such machines are manufactured, not our very own horny-handed toilers. And much of the spending will not create jobs for the unemployed: laid-off car workers do not have the skills to design the software to manage the "smart grid" that is the apple of the greens' eye.

If you have not jumped onto the new Keynesian spending bandwagon, but believe with Christina Romer, chairman of Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, that tax cuts are more certain than spending to turn the economy round, you should love this bill, with its $286 billion in tax cuts and credits. Well, not quite. True, individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and families earning less than $150,000 will receive credits of $400 and $800, the earned income-tax credit for working families with three or more children is increased, and there is something for pensioners, disabled veterans, families of college students and a host of others.

Reflection suggests, however, the tax-cut contingent is doomed to disappointment. Much of the money will be saved or used to pay down credit-card balances, not bad things, but not very stimulative. Much will be spent in Wal-Mart, earning Congress the applause of Chinese trainer and t-shirt manufacturers. And much will never be claimed: the specific subsidies for college education are simply too small to have much effect on college enrolments.

If you are a supply-side enthusiast, a reading of this bill will add your personal depression to the national recession. Reforms that might increase employment in the oil and gas industries by removing restrictions on drilling are nowhere to be found. Environmental restrictions on the sorts of cars that Americans want to buy remain in place, consistent with Congress's drive to have the begging-bowls-in-hand car companies produce Schumermobiles, named after the New York senator whose passion is electric vehicles and cars too tiny to need much petrol or to survive in a serious crash. A change in rules that would permit the construction of needed transmission lines without lengthy court reviews initiated by environmental groups remains off the Obama agenda and out of the bill. Most important is the absence of steps to encourage the flow of private capital into toll roads, an alternative to government-financed highways, and into schools free to compete for vouchers, rather than schools built by governments in towns that already have too many classrooms.

The explanation for these omissions was simply stated by the president, responding to those who want even more tax cuts and some supply-side stimulus, "We won." Not very satisfying intellectually, but who needs intellectually satisfying arguments when his party controls the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives?

Enough quibbles, though. If, like any sensible person, you're not sure spending will work, but not sure it won't; not sure that the bulk of tax cuts will be spent on US manufacturers, but not sure they won't; and not sure that doing nothing is a good, though tempting idea, this bill is about the best that can be extracted from a Democratic Congress.

So Obama has his stimulus bill, but he has paid a very high price. He now owns the recession. He has asked to be judged by whether this bill and other measures he will propose create or "save" 3.5m-4m jobs, the number lost so far since unemployment turned up. Forget "save" - if unemployment keeps rising, voters are not likely to rally round the slogan "It would be still worse if I hadn't spent your trillions". What the president has done is to promise what he certainly can't deliver in time for the congressional elections next year - a reversal of job destruction, and millions of new jobs. If the voters prove patient in 2010, they are unlikely to remain as forgiving when the presidential election rolls round in 2012. Since employment is what economists call a lagging indicator - employers are not confident enough to start hiring until economic recovery is well under way - Obama will have a lot of explaining to do. Unless, of course, the Republicans find a candidate so inept the president can once again rely on his very attractive persona to see off challengers.

Finally, there is what is now being called the Tim Geithner no-plan. The president used a nationally televised press conference to announce that his Treasury secretary would the very next day reveal to the nation, and indeed to the world, a plan to save the banks and provide relief for troubled homeowners. But Geithner's speech was so lacking in detail the stock market plunged by about 400 points. The administration's economists have not solved the problem of valuing the toxic assets on the banks' balance sheets - pay too much for those assets and the taxpayer gets the bill; pay too little and the banks have to take bankruptcy-producing writedowns.

By the time you read this, Geithner will have met with his G7 colleagues in Rome. Unless he has worked out some effective way of spending the $2 trillion that Washington rumour says new bailouts will cost, a gaggle of finance ministers will head home disappointed. For in between their public attacks on America, they privately say that only America can lead the world out of its current difficulties.



Obama's new deal is the same old blunder

By Dominic Lawson

Here's something new: instead of the customary attempts to put an optimistic gloss on the state of the economy, our governments are doing exactly the opposite. Over here Ed Balls tells us, more or less, that this is the worst recession since dinosaurs roamed the primordial swamps. Meanwhile President Barack Obama declared last week that "if we don't act immediately, our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse". As The Economist commented, with some alarm: "The notion that [America] might never recover was previously entertained only by bearded survivalists stockpiling beans and ammunition in remote log cabins."

Obama's dire assessment was on the surface the more surprising - wasn't he supposed to be the great uplifter of the national mood, in the spirit of Franklin D Roosevelt's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"? It seems all the odder because Obama has explicitly drawn on folk memories of FDR's New Deal, telling television viewers to "keep in mind that in 1932, 1933 the unemployment rate was 25%".

Obama is probably right to assume that those same memories have it that the massive state interventionism of the New Deal triumphantly restored America to full employment. That's why he felt comfortable in asserting, on the eve of the launch of a $2 trillion (or so) injection of taxpayers' money, "There is no disagreement that we need . . . a recovery plan that will help to jump-start the economy."

He might, therefore, have been surprised to see an advertisement in the national papers, signed by more than 200 eminent economists, which declared: "With all due respect, Mr President, that is not true. Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians . . . we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s." The sorry facts bear this out. The unemployment rate in the US was still 19% in 1939. Over the following four years the number of unemployed workers declined dramatically, by more than 7m. This had a very particular reason: the number of men in military service rose by 8.6m.

More here



A good man, once a clergyman, needs help to care for his seriously ill sister. See here

There is now online a complete transcription of a classic expose on John Maynard Keynes entitled Keynes At Harvard: Economic Deception as a Political Credo. It's been out of print for 40 years. It was originally published by a group of disaffected Harvard alumni led by Theodore Roosevelt's youngest son Archibald. The thesis is that Keynes was a Fabian Socialist whose economic "theories" were calculated to push countries into socialism behind a facade of "saving capitalism from itself." The book also looks at Keynes's perverted sexuality (sodomite and pedophile) as a Bloomsberry--not to be read on a full stomach."

Monkeys have a sense of morality, say scientists: "Monkeys and apes have a sense of morality and the rudimentary ability to tell right from wrong, according to new research. In a series of studies scientists have found that monkeys and apes can make judgments about fairness, offer altruistic help and empathise when a fellow animal is ill or in difficulties. They even appear to have consciences and the ability to remember obligations. The research implies that morality is not a uniquely human quality and suggests it arose through evolution. That could mean the strength of our consciences is partly determined by our genes. The scientists say, however, that the evidence is clear. "I am not arguing that non-human primates are moral beings but there is enough evidence for the following of social rules to agree that some of the stepping stones towards human morality can be found in other animals," said Frans de Waal, professor of psychology at Emory University in Georgia in the United States. In papers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this weekend de Waal described experiments on monkeys and apes to see if they understood the idea of fairness. [It sounds like monkeys are smarter than the Leftist philosophers who say that "There is no such thing as right and wrong"]

Primogeniture lives: "Wealthy parents are making their first-born the focus of family ambition, giving them a disproportionate share of time, care and attention, according to research. Younger siblings, by contrast, are being held back in their lives by a relative lack of attention. The findings show affluent modern couples are aping the upper-class tradition of primogeniture. Although poor families also show some extra favour to the oldest child, this practice is far more pronounced among those who are richer - despite there being more resources to share with younger offspring. "Traditionally, aristocratic families tended to give the first heir more wealth," said David Lawson, a behavioural ecologist with the human evolutionary ecology group at University College London, who led the research. "That impulse may be culturally ingrained. Richer families have more time and money to afford surplus benefits for their kids like a good diet, helping with homework and time to read to them at night. These benefits are diluted sharply as more children are born.... In the royal family and, since Norman times, the aristocracy, the system of primogeniture has formalised the practice of favouring the oldest child. This has enabled families to pass power and wealth down the generations by bequeathing estates intact to the oldest son rather than, as in much of Europe, breaking them up by distributing them evenly among siblings."

The latest British bungle: "A new billion-pound fleet of spy planes able to spot the roadside bombs that kill troops in Afghanistan will be out of action until at least the middle of next year because the RAF has failed to train enough crew. Two Sentinel R1 aircraft were deployed to a Gulf base at the end of last year to fly over Afghanistan, conducting trials with their stand-off radar (Astor). The aircraft had an immediate impact - commanders were delighted by its ability to provide high-definition video footage of an area 200 miles long and 200 miles wide, day or night. Astor can detect any movement and even record the speed of a car from more than 200 miles away in almost any weather. It flies seven miles up, far out of sight of guerrillas. It will allow commanders to spot Taliban planting the bombs that David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said last week had led to "strategic stalemate" in Afghanistan. A total of 37 troops have been killed by explosions caused by roadside bombs and mines since the Taliban started using them in the current attacks, which started in August 2007. A further 32 soldiers have died from other causes during the same period. The failure to train sufficient crew and imagery analysts means the RAF will not be able to deploy a Sentinel full-time until 2010. Two crews a plane, making a total of 50 personnel, are required to operate the five aircraft. Ten have been trained".

Failed radio host says Says GOPers Are A**holes: "Are you a conservative? Then you're a d***, and there's something wrong with your brain. At least that's what "24" actress and comedienne Janeane Garofalo believes. According to the former Air America radio host, a conservative starts out an “a**hole,” and the politics come later. She asserted, “The reason a person is a conservative republican (sic) is because something is wrong with them...It really is neuroscience.” In this February 12 interview with the environmentalist celebrity blog Ecorazzi, Garofalo also claimed the “irrational” emotion center of the brain, the limbic system, is what creates conservatives: "The reason a person is a conservative republican is because something is wrong with them. Again, that’s science – that’s neuroscience. You cannot be well adjusted, open-minded, pluralistic, enlightened and be a republican. It’s counter-intuitive. And they revel in their anti-intellectualism. They revel in their cruelty." ... Maybe a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who is fond of angry, vitriolic outbursts should take a look at the limbic system in her own brain for the excessive emotion and fright that she attributes to the right."


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


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, February 15, 2009

Will the stimulus actually stimulate? Economists say no

The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won't stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists. "I think (doing) nothing would have been better," said Ed Yardeni, an investment analyst who's usually an optimist, in an interview with McClatchy. He argued that the plan fails to provide the right incentives to spur spending. "It's unfocused. That is my problem. It is a lot of money for a lot of nickel-and- dime programs. I would have rather had a lot of money for (promoting purchase of) housing and autos . . . . Most of this plan is really, I think, aimed at stabilizing the situation and helping people get through the recession, rather than getting us out of the recession. They are actually providing less short-term stimulus by cutting back, from what I understand, some of the tax credits."

Another reason that some analysts frown on the stimulus is the social spending it includes on things such as the Head Start program for disadvantaged children and aid to NASA for climate-change research. Both may be worthy efforts, but they aren't aimed at delivering short-term boosts to economic activity. "All this is 25 years of government expansion jammed into one bill and sold as stimulus," said Brian Riedl, the director of budget analysis for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy research group.

The view wasn't much more supportive on the other side of the political spectrum. In a brief on the stimulus compromise, William Galston, a senior fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House adviser, warned Thursday that a bank-rescue plan being finalized will make the $789 billion look like "pocket change." "While the stimulus bill is a necessary condition for economic stabilization and recovery, it is hardly sufficient," Galston wrote. "As the lesson of Japan in the 1990s shows, fiscal stimulus without financial rescue yields stagnation - at best." " . . . Serious observers believe that recovery cannot begin until we acknowledge that losses in the financial system amount to some trillions of dollars, rendering many institutions insolvent. The temptation will be to muddle along, hoping that these institutions can gradually regain strength without putting massive amounts of taxpayers' money at risk. If we go down that road, we are likely to end up with zombie banks whose balance sheets are riddled with near-worthless investments - banks that cannot lend to credit-worthy customers and who cannot trust one another," Galston wrote.

Even some proponents of a stimulus are disappointed, however. Harvard University economist Martin Feldstein, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan, was an early supporter. He said that government is now the only engine left to spark economic activity, but he said that the compromise falls short of what's needed. "If the choice is between the current bill and an improved bill, I would say wait and improve the bill," Feldstein told CNBC on Wednesday after the compromise was announced. "I am disappointed with the structure of this bill." Like Yardeni and other analysts, Feldstein wanted more incentives for consumers to make big purchases that have ripple effects across the economy. When a car is purchased, it helps not only the carmaker, but its suppliers, the trucking companies and railroads that transport cars, the states that issue license plates and so on.

There's also the problem of time. Much of the stimulus is to be spread over a two-year period or longer - and 2009 looks increasingly bleak. A Wall Street Journal survey of 52 mainstream economic forecasters published Thursday found that while most forecasters still think there could be slow growth by the second half of the year, that won't offset steeper-than-projected declines in the first half of 2009. That means this is essentially a lost year for the economy. Most scenarios envision the economy picking back up again next year.

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The Mice that Roared

There's an old saying that, "If you give a mouse a cookie, it'll ask for a glass of milk." Well, it appears that the salt marsh harvest mouse may receive more than just a cookie. Thanks to house Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), up to $30 million has been allocated in the so-called economic "stimulus" bill, for wetlands restoration-surprise, surprise-Ms. Pelosi's home district in order to accommodate the creature comforts of the harvest mouse.

While the stated purpose of the $789 billion spending bill-$1.1 trillion after interest-is to promote job growth and thereby stimulate the economy, the bill has turned into special-interest funding heaven, with billions of non-existent taxpayer dollars going to fund legislators' pet projects. And yet the politicians have no qualms about promoting it as the best-laid plans of mice and men. As the bill, almost universally opposed by Republicans-as well as 69 percent of Americans who lack confidence that Congress knows what it is doing when it comes to addressing the country's current economic problems-entered the final stages of negotiation between House and Senate, Democratic leaders engaged in a game of cat and mouse with the American people, claiming that the bill has no earmarks. And they based that transparent obfuscation on the fact that that the billions in pork was added via a different method than the usual way earmarks are traditionally handled.

And yet, spending $30 million on wetlands in the district of the Speaker of the House can hardly be called anything but an earmark-especially given the fact that Ms. Pelosi has pushed for funding of the mouse's wetlands in past sessions. This cheesy earmark is, and represents, a tipping point in this trillion dollar total spending extravaganza that compels the American people to demand that the bill be recalled and redrawn.

The fact that the full amount will have to be paid by future taxpayers-with interest-means that future generations will be left as poor as, well, a church mouse. As Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) pointed out, the average American family will be saddled with an additional $10,800 as a result of this bill. But Democrats have been as careful as possible to avoid any discussion of the full cost of this measure. Despite the many times they loudly objected to "passing the bill to future generations" when the Republicans were in power, they have been strangely silent as to the costs of their own measures. And with good cause.

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Iraq's Quiet Transformation

by Charles Krauthammer

Preoccupied as it was poring through Tom Daschle's tax returns, Washington hardly noticed a near-miracle abroad. Iraq held provincial elections. There was no Election Day violence. Security was handled by Iraqi forces with little U.S. involvement. A fabulous bazaar of 14,400 candidates representing 400 parties participated, yielding results highly favorable to both Iraq and the United States. Iraq moved away from religious sectarianism toward more secular nationalism. "All the parties that had the words 'Islamic' or 'Arab' in their names lost," noted Middle East expert Amir Taheri. "By contrast, all those that had the words 'Iraq' or 'Iraqi' gained."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki went from leader of a small Islamic party to leader of the "State of the Law Party," campaigning on security and secular nationalism. He won a smashing victory. His chief rival, a more sectarian and pro-Iranian Shiite religious party, was devastated. Another major Islamic party, the pro-Iranian Sadr faction, went from 11 percent of the vote to 3 percent, losing badly in its stronghold of Baghdad. The Islamic Fadhila party that had dominated Basra was almost wiped out. The once-dominant Sunni party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the erstwhile insurgency was badly set back. New grass-roots tribal ("Awakening") and secular Sunni leaders emerged.

All this barely pierced the consciousness of official Washington. After all, it fundamentally contradicts the general establishment/media narrative of Iraq as "fiasco."

But in the intervening years, while the critics washed their hands of Iraq, it began developing the sinews of civil society: a vibrant free press, a plethora of parties, the habits of negotiation and coalition-building. Reflecting these new realities, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani this time purposely and publicly backed no party, strongly signaling a return -- contra Iran -- to the Iraqi tradition of secular governance.

The big strategic winner here is the United States. The big loser is Iran. The parties Tehran backed are in retreat. The prime minister who staked his career on a strategic cooperation agreement with the United States emerged victorious. Moreover, this realignment from enemy state to emerging democratic ally, unlike Egypt's flip from Soviet to U.S. ally in the 1970s, is not the work of a single autocrat (like Anwar Sadat), but a reflection of national opinion expressed in a democratic election.

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Time to scrap Britain's banking watchdog: "So ex-HBOS banker Sir James Crosby has quit his job at the UK's bank regulator, the Financial Services Authority. It happened just 30 minutes before Gordon Brown faced questions in Parliament, so I guess he was pushed. But the surprising thing is that Brown appointed him to the FSA in the first place. The Authority is now saying that it had been concerned about HBOS's risky investments since 2002. And then Brown makes it's head poacher into one of the gamekeepers! Absolutely bizarre. The Financial Services Authority is no good and should be closed down."

British PM vows to 'claw back' bonuses amid backlash against the bankers: "Gordon Brown promised moves to "claw back" bonuses from bank executives yesterday, as a poll showed a big public backlash against the banks. The Prime Minister foreshadowed changes to the bonus system that would ensure it was no longer a "one-way bet". Banks should be able to recover bonuses from staff who ended up losing them money, he said. The public will clearly back such moves. According to a Populus poll for The Times, executives responsible for the near-collapse of rescued banks should be forced to repay the bonuses they have received in previous years." [Hard to disagree with that]


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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)