Saturday, February 28, 2009

More on the instinctive nature of morality

The origins of morality lie in the disgust that makes us avoid rotting food and other health hazards, according to research that explains why injustice is said to leave a bad taste in the mouth. Scientists have discovered that the feeling of being cheated evokes the same revulsion response as foul-tasting food and drink. The involuntary emotional reaction that keeps us away from sources of infection also prompts us to uphold moral standards and to shun those who do not.

The findings, from a team of psychologists in Canada, suggest that disgust was important to the evolution of morality, and that our sense of what is ethical is based not only on reasoning but powerful gut reactions as well. "Morality is often pointed to as the pinnacle of human evolution and development," said Hanah Chapman, of the University of Toronto. "However, disgust is an ancient, rather primitive emotion which played a key evolutionary role in survival. Our research shows the involvement of disgust in morality, suggesting that moral judgment may depend as much on simple emotional processes as complex thought."

Her colleague Adam Anderson said: "These results shed new light on the origins of morality, suggesting that not only do complex thoughts guide our moral compass, but also more primitive instincts related to avoiding potential toxins. Surprisingly, our sophisticated moral sense of what is right and wrong may develop from a newborn's innate preference for what tastes good and bad."

Disgust is a universal emotion that is thought to have evolved to promote survival. The things that we find revolting, such as rotting food, faeces, corpses and open wounds, are potent sources of germs, and the sense of abhorrence that they invoke helps to ensure that we stay away from them. The emotion is caused by similar triggers across different human societies, pointing to deep evolutionary roots. There is also a universal facial expression attached to disgust, involving a curl of the lip, a wrinkled nose and lowered eyebrows, which is recognised around the world. The study shows that the same expression is activated when people are treated unfairly, indicating that both physical and moral disgust have the same root.

The results, published in the journal Science, suggest that the powerful emotion of disgust was co-opted to drive morality, as systems of ethical standards became advantageous to human societies. A disgust response is a powerful incentive to avoid behaviour that might induce it and people who make you feel revulsion. This would have promoted fair and co-operative behaviour by making people disgusted with themselves when they transgress and by imposing a social cost on those who break moral rules. "Unfair offers may be received like a plate of spoilt food," the researchers wrote. "This turning away or rejection of unfair actions may also extend to later avoidance of transgressors."

In the study, the scientists measured movement of the facial muscles in subjects playing a game in which they were asked to accept or reject when offered shares of a sum of money. Low offers elicited an expression of disgust similar to that caused by a bad taste. The results suggest that both types of disgust stem from the same neural systems and evolutionary roots, and that moral disgust grew out of the original health-related emotion.



Obama's incompetent arithmetic

President Obama has laid out the most ambitious and expensive domestic agenda since LBJ, and now all he has to do is figure out how to pay for it. On Tuesday, he left the impression that we need merely end "tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans," and he promised that households earning less than $250,000 won't see their taxes increased by "one single dime."

This is going to be some trick. Even the most basic inspection of the IRS income tax statistics shows that raising taxes on the salaries, dividends and capital gains of those making more than $250,000 can't possibly raise enough revenue to fund Mr. Obama's new spending ambitions.

Consider the IRS data for 2006, the most recent year that such tax data are available and a good year for the economy and "the wealthiest 2%." Roughly 3.8 million filers had adjusted gross incomes above $200,000 in 2006. (That's about 7% of all returns; the data aren't broken down at the $250,000 point.) These people paid about $522 billion in income taxes, or roughly 62% of all federal individual income receipts. The richest 1% -- about 1.65 million filers making above $388,806 -- paid some $408 billion, or 39.9% of all income tax revenues, while earning about 22% of all reported U.S. income.

Note that federal income taxes are already "progressive" with a 35% top marginal rate, and that Mr. Obama is (so far) proposing to raise it only to 39.6%, plus another two percentage points in hidden deduction phase-outs. He'd also raise capital gains and dividend rates, but those both yield far less revenue than the income tax. These combined increases won't come close to raising the hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue that Mr. Obama is going to need.

But let's not stop at a 42% top rate; as a thought experiment, let's go all the way. A tax policy that confiscated 100% of the taxable income of everyone in America earning over $500,000 in 2006 would only have given Congress an extra $1.3 trillion in revenue. That's less than half the 2006 federal budget of $2.7 trillion and looks tiny compared to the more than $4 trillion Congress will spend in fiscal 2010. Even taking every taxable "dime" of everyone earning more than $75,000 in 2006 would have barely yielded enough to cover that $4 trillion.

Fast forward to this year (and 2010) when the Wall Street meltdown and recession are going to mean far few taxpayers earning more than $500,000. Profits are plunging, businesses are cutting or eliminating dividends, hedge funds are rolling up, and, most of all, capital nationwide is on strike. Raising taxes now will thus yield far less revenue than it would have in 2006.

Mr. Obama is of course counting on an economic recovery. And he's also assuming along with the new liberal economic consensus that taxes don't matter to growth or job creation. The truth, though, is that they do. Small- and medium-sized businesses are the nation's primary employers, and lower individual tax rates have induced thousands of them to shift from filing under the corporate tax system to the individual system, often as limited liability companies or Subchapter S corporations. The Tax Foundation calculates that merely restoring the higher, Clinton-era tax rates on the top two brackets would hit 45% to 55% of small-business income, depending on how inclusively "small business" is defined. These owners will find a way to declare less taxable income.

The bottom line is that Mr. Obama is selling the country on a 2% illusion. Unwinding the U.S. commitment in Iraq and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire can't possibly pay for his agenda. Taxes on the not-so-rich will need to rise as well.

On that point, by the way, it's unclear why Mr. Obama thinks his climate-change scheme won't hit all Americans with higher taxes. Selling the right to emit greenhouse gases amounts to a steep new tax on most types of energy and, therefore, on all Americans who use energy. There's a reason that Charlie Rangel's Ways and Means panel, which writes tax law, is holding hearings this week on cap-and-trade regulation.

Mr. Obama is very good at portraying his agenda as nothing more than center-left pragmatism. But pragmatists don't ignore the data. And the reality is that the only way to pay for Mr. Obama's ambitions is to reach ever deeper into the pockets of the American middle class.




Why Obama's economic plan will fail : "The recent passage of the $787 billion malapropism known as the `American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009? on Friday the 13th was full of irony. Beyond the portentous date of passage, or its questionable moniker, was the ugly process leading to the confirming Senate vote. While promising `unprecedented responsibility, transparency, and accountability' in securing passage of the largest ad hoc spending bill in U.S. history, the Obama team instead permitted their Congressional allies to rush through a 1,000-page monstrosity with no effective deliberation, no promised prior posting, and no lawmaker coming close to fully reading the pork-laden bill. But the reaction of President Obama was, itself, the ultimate incongruity. For even as Mr. Obama hailed its passage as a `major milestone on the road to recovery' which would lead to `3.5 million new or saved jobs in two years,' the bill in fact guarantees the failure of his economic program, a prolonged downturn, and a golden opportunity for the revival of his political opponents."

Long overdue: President Barack Obama will phase out government payments to crop producers making more than $500,000 a year and eliminate subsidies for cotton storage to help trim the U.S. budget deficit, a senior administration official said. Obama, who lays out his budget proposals later on Thursday, targets agriculture, tax procedures, and defense procurement in his efforts to cut spending and rein in a deficit the White House projects will reach $1.75 trillion this year. "Roughly a third of farmers receive direct payments, which they receive regardless of whether they are producing anything or not," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said while explaining elements of the budget ahead of its release. "We would propose that for farms with revenue above $500,000 a year that we phase out those direct payments over time."

Look out, Washington, we're tea-ed off : "Only in America does the term `tea party' sound ominous. In much of the world, it's a high-falootin', civilized gathering. In the U.S., it has meant tax rebellion ever since a few Boston patriots decided they liked their tea mixed with salt water instead of sugar. Last week CNBC's Rick Santelli made national news when he called for a `Chicago tea party' in a populist rant so powerful that the White House had to scramble to respond. With more than 2 million views, his anger and frustration have poured across the Internet. On Friday, February 27, at least 15 `tea party' protests are planned from Atlanta to San Diego. . You might say Obama's media fans were `tea-ed off,' and they weren't alone."


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 27, 2009

Why do so many people hate Gail Trimble?

Britain has a TV quiz show called "University Challenge", in which teams from various universities compete against each other to answer some very obscure questions. The team from Oxford's Corpus Christi college has just won. They won because one member of their team, Gail Trimble, seemed to know just about everything. As a much-published academic, I think I have some claim to being bright and knowing a lot but I would not have been able to answer a single one of the questions that Miss Trimble answered even before the question was finished.

Knowledge and intelligence are not the same but her prodigious knowledge is a byproduct of stratospheric IQ. She was reading at age one. And early language mastery is one of the best indices of IQ. Confirming the disjunction between knowledge and IQ, however, Miss Trimble failed utterly at answering "Pub Quiz" questions about film stars, TV shows and the like. She knows as little about popular entertainment as she knows a lot about academic things.

Since it is high IQ people who are responsible for the many scientific and technical advancements that have made our lives so much easier than the "nasty, brutish and short" lives of our ancestors, one would think that high IQ people would always be celebrated and admired. And they do often get recognition of various sorts, the Swedish (as distinct from the Norwegian) Nobel prizes, for instance. But I guess it will be no surprise that high IQ people also attract dislike and hatred. Envy is a very common human trait and it is not only higher incomes that are envied but many other things as well. And Miss Trimble has certainly attracted lots of dislike and abuse as a result of her abilities. See the insert below.

And that ties in with politics. The nonsensical and incoherent claim that underlies so much Leftist discourse is "all men are equal". And that is the envier's gospel. It makes not a scrap of sense and shows no contact with reality but it is something that enviers resort to as a way of soothing their envious feelings. They deny the very differences that give them so much heartburn. "Denial" was long ago indentified by Freud as a maladaptive psychological defence mechanism and "All men are equal" is a prize example of that. Whatever one thinks of his theories, Freud was undoubtedly an acute observer of people and very few psychologists today would doubt the maladaptive nature of denial as described by Freud.

So Gail Trimble by her very existence offends Leftists. Her existence pushes down their throats the falsity of their central dogma. Reality is SUCH a problem for Leftists! And because their central dogma is not rational, they can only respond to inconvenient reality by hatred and abuse. Conservative bloggers know from their email and the comments that they get on their blogs how most Leftists respond to any presentation of facts that are inconvenient to them. A rational comment backed up by facts is very rare. It is almost all assertion and abuse. If you are very lucky you may get selective attention to the facts but that is all.

Envy has always been with us and the envier's gospel has therefore had many outings throughout history. One thinks of the "Levellers" of Cromwell's day, for instance. And it also appears in the American Declaration of Independence, of course. There were enviers among the American revolutionaries too. But the declaration was of course a compromise document and Jefferson inserted into the envier's creed the word "created" ("all men are created equal"), which removed it from everyday reality and made it clear that the dogma was a matter of faith, not fact.

I think it must be because of that one word "created" in the Declaration that some Christians claim that God suffers from poor sight. They say "all men are equal in the sight of God". As the Leftist FDR said in his January 6, 1942 State of the Union address: "We are fighting, as our fathers have fought, to uphold the doctrine that all men are equal in the sight of God."

That is, however, very poor theology. The Bible makes it clear that God treats saints and sinners very differently. Homosexuals are accursed and condemned to death, for instance (Romans chapter 1). All men are NOT equal in God's eyes. I have seen Galatians 3:28 quoted in support of the equality myth but that text quite clearly refers to committed Christians, not to all men.

More about the brilliant Miss Trimble here and here



Looming ahead of us-- and our children and their children-- are dangers that can utterly destroy American society. Worse yet, there are moral corrosions within ourselves that weaken our ability to face the challenges ahead. One of the many symptoms of this decay from within is that we are preoccupied with the pay of corporate executives while the leading terrorist-sponsoring nation on earth is moving steadily toward creating nuclear bombs. Does anyone imagine that we will care what anyone's paycheck is when we see an American city in radioactive ruins?

Yet the only serious obstacle to that happening is that the Israelis may disregard the lofty blather coming out of the White House and destroy Iran's nuclear facilities before the Iranian fanatics can destroy Israel. If by some miracle we manage to avoid the fatal dangers of a nuclear Iran, there will no doubt be others, including a nuclear North Korea.

Although, in some sense, the United States of America is still the militarily strongest nation on earth, that means absolutely nothing if our enemies are willing to die and we are not. It took only two nuclear bombs to get Japan to surrender-- and the Japanese of that era were far tougher than most Americans today. Just one bomb-- dropped on New York, Chicago or Los Angeles-- might be enough to get us to surrender. If we are still made of sterner stuff than it looks like, then it might take two or maybe even three or four nuclear bombs, but we will surrender.

It doesn't matter if we retaliate and kill millions of innocent Iranian civilians-- at least it will not matter to the fanatics in charge of Iran or the fanatics in charge of the international terrorist organizations that Iran supplies. Ultimately, it all comes down to who is willing to die and who is not.

How did we get to this point? It was no single thing. The dumbing down of our education, the undermining of moral values with the fad of "non-judgmental" affectations, the denigration of our nation through poisonous propaganda from the movies to the universities. The list goes on and on.

The trajectory of our course leads to a fate that would fully justify despair. The only saving grace is that even the trajectory of a bullet can be changed by the wind. We have been saved by miraculous good fortune before in our history. The overwhelming military and naval expedition that Britain sent to New York to annihilate George Washington's army was totally immobilized by a vast impenetrable fog that allowed the Americans to escape. That is how they ended up in Valley Forge.

In the World War II naval battle of Midway, if things had not happened just the way they did, at just the time they did, the American naval force would not only have lost, but could have been wiped out by the far larger Japanese fleet. Over the years, we have had our share of miraculous deliverances. But that our fate today depends on yet another miracle is what can turn pessimism to despair.



BrookesNews Update

Dark clouds gather as Obama spooks the markets: Business men are not going to invest if they believe they will be punished for their success. They are not going to invest if they believe some blustering thug like Pelosi, Schumer or Barney Frank is going to start telling them how to run their businesses. When this kind of situation emerges the wisest thing for business to do is batten down the hatches. And this is just what might be happening
Central banks, including the Fed, are cranking up the money supply like crazy : We live in an age of grave economic ignorance, if central-bank policy is an indication of prevailing economic theory. It is apparent that we've learned nothing from centuries of monetary destruction. The persistent demonstration that capital, not paper, is the basis for prosperity has fallen on deaf ears. Daily, we face the sad spectacle of government officials, pundits, and even Nobel laureates telling us that printing money is the answer to an economic downturn
The economy tanks and the government resorts to snake-oil policies : It very much looks like the Reserve is counting on monetary policy to boost the economy. If this is so then we can expect it to continue cutting the cash rate until it detects signs of recovery or in its opinion prudence demands a halt to the expansion. No bank can expand the money supply at these rates without generating inflation
The fallacies behind Keynesian dogma: The global economic crisis that the reckless monetary policies of the world's central banks visited upon us has led to many mislabelling the situation as on of 'classic Keynesianism'. That vulgar Keynesian thinking contributed mightily to the crisis never enters the heads of these economic commentators - but then very little ever does
The New York Times vs. accurate Cuban history : The ACLU and the New York Times are outraged. A book filled with lies that extolled the virtues of Castro's bloodstained regime and treated the sadistic Che Guevara as a hero was withdrawn, at the insistence of parents, from Miami's public school libraries. A federal appeals panel supported the action. In doing so noted the gross dishonesty of the book. That also outraged the ACLU and the New York Times. How dare anyone expose their heroes as the murderous thugs they are
The People's Democratic Republic of Victoria: Premier Bracks and his fellow leftwing extremists have been gradually imposing draconian regulations and laws on Victorians that are rapidly eroding their democratic rights. This is the same despicable crew whose green policies savaged capital accumulation and recently killed more than 200 Victorians. One move is to bar from hospitals doctors who refuse to submit to the government's abortion laws. The thuggish and cowarly Bracks believes that acting according to one's conscience is a privilege that only Australian-hating leftists should be allowed to enjoy
Venezuela's bright side : The referendum results confirm that Chavez's base in the major urban centers, where Venezuela's biggest slums are concentrated, has been seriously eroded: His power is increasingly reliant on the more rural or provincial parts of the country. The symbolism of Chavez's defeat in Petare, a major slum in Caracas, cannot be overstated. Chavez still does not command enough power to achieve his totalitarian dream
Israel: the Time of NO Alternative: The only winner in the Israely election is the current 'lame duck' Prime Minister of Israel, Olmert, who will be able to stay in power and avoid corruption charges for a bit longer while this charade of forming a new Israeli government progresses
What we are not told about oil prices: The media is not telling the truth about oil prices. Is this because they want people think the worst of business make it look like a racket? By painting business as corrupt the media hope to get Americans to look to government to solve their problems. This way the people will more readily accept the socialist paradigm
Obama's Presidency: Is it any wonder the market continues to sink?: Obama's economic policies and his administrations constant attacks and threats again business have created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that has helped drive down the markets. If he continues with reckless behaviour we can also expect to see investment drying up. This would create a very ugly picture for unemployment and growth
Obama's 700 billion dollars: Obama's 700 billion dollars, one on top of the other, will be 233,333,333 feet high. That equals about 44,000 miles. New York City and Los Angeles are about 3,000 miles apart. This means that Obama's 700 billion dollar stack, if laid on the ground, would go from New York to LA and back to New York over 7 times. Now that's a fur piece!


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 26, 2009

Financial Stability, or Fascist Decline?

Increased state control in response to economic turmoil is nothing new. After the First World War, the resultant economic depression in Europe was used as a springboard by both Germany and Italy to embrace a fascist form of government. While the word "fascist" has fallen into disuse today (except as a political insult invariably hurled by the Left at the Right) its corporatist methodologies are front-and-center stage in the nation's capital. And it's time to reexamine their origins-and impact.

While most Americans are no doubt familiar with the militaristic facet of fascism, the economic side tends to be neglected-likely in part because those principles are shared by many in government today. The primary economic principles behind fascism focus on state intervention in private industry. In fascist economies, private individuals continue to run private industry, but only under the firm control of the government. This differs from socialism, where the state actually owns the industry.

A quick glance at history may make the pattern clear: As the inter-war economy worsened, so too did statist policies that destroyed innovation and initiative. In the mid-1920s, Italy's monarchical government was confronted with the rise of fascism, partly spurred by a fear of the rise of communism and partly from festering discontent over the way Italians perceived they had been slighted after WWI. Benito Mussolini, the leader of the Italian fascists, began to introduce state-centric policies. Il Duce (sound familiar?) was particularly infatuated with large public works projects to cope with the worldwide depression that hit.

In the early 1930s, he founded the Institute for the Industrial Reconstruction, whose purpose was to bail out debt-laden corporations. By the end of the 1930s, the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction had become a tool for the state to push its policies amongst the industries. Columnist Michael Ledeen, in his chilling piece, "We are all Fascists Now," states that fascism's "most durable consequence was the expansion of the ability of the state to give orders to more and more citizens, in more and more corners of their lives."

Similarly, in the late 1980s, Congress created the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC), as a result of the savings and loan crisis. The RTC was a government agency intended to temporarily bail out bad assets. Its role, however, was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in the mid-1990s, which has had to continue doling out cash to failing banks, as seen over the past year. The FDIC's individual account coverage rose from $100,000 to $250,000 last year, thanks to the TARP, putting taxpayers on the hook that much more. As ALG News previously reported, in the aggregate FDIC assurances rose some $2 Trillion in 2008.

And this same state-centric philosophy is behind President Obama's recently announced $2.8 Trillion Financial "Stability" Plan-a plan that demonstrates a strong affinity towards state control of private industry. In the fine print, firms that take TARP dollars will be forced to prove that they will use it to lend money. Yet such a policy does not learn the lessons of history. Mandatory lending and excessive credit by the Fed, the exact problem that put America into the current economic mess, is now proposed as the solution-and the government's prying hand will reach farther than ever into the nation's economic engine.

Already, Citigroup and Bank of America are rumored to be considered for nationalization. Investors are not taking the rumors kindly, and have responded by selling off as much stock as possible. The banks have been given a combined $95 billion since September, according to, yet now they appear to be coming back for more. And the stock market is continuing to plunge with each new intervention.

So why is this government subsidy not working? The reason is that, as the government becomes more and more involved with the financial institutions, investors show less and less inclination to throw good money after bad. In short, they do not want to invest in companies that will be run by the federal government, for fear of failure. That in turn forces the federal government to purchase yet more shares to keep companies from going under. Ultimately, the government ends up owning the entire corporation. Corporatist fascism leads to socialism, in that sense.

History is not on the side of state-centric economic systems. Yet as long as those in Washington continue to insist on a government solution, so long will the market continue to flounder and corporations fail. And the blame will rest securely on a government which will have manipulated the economic crisis for its own benefit. After all, as President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stated so eloquently, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." Unfortunately, it has all been done before. And thereby hangs a tale of woe.



Taxpayer-fed fat cats

Last year, crippling pension and benefits costs caused the city of Vallejo, California to declare bankruptcy. In this year of compounded economic crisis, more towns and cities may follow Vallejo's lead, pushed over the edge by an accounting and financial-reporting provision known as GASB (pronounced "gaz-bee") 45. "It's a perfect storm of pension liabilities hitting us at a time when the economy is tanking and revenues are tanking," says David Edwards, the senior policy advisor to Atlanta's mayor. "It's unprecedented."

Localities that have already complied with GASB 45 have had to disclose the compromising long-term costs of lifetime health care and other retiree benefits. In New York City, which began compliance in 2007, the accounting measure has placed a new $63 billion liability on the books. Atlanta's pension- and benefit-related expenses exploded from $44.5 million in 2005 to $118 million today, even while the city cut its personnel headcount by 8.6 percent. In Vallejo's case, the city's declaration of bankruptcy last May was due to the fact that it was spending 74 percent of its $80 million general-fund budget on public-sector salaries and benefits. Police captains were entitled to receive $306,000 annually in pay and benefits, while 21 firefighters earned more than $200,000 a year, including overtime. After five years on the job, all were entitled to lifetime health benefits.

The culprit, of course, isn't GASB 45 itself but the ugly reality that it exposes. There are 22.5 million public-sector employees in the United States. The average state and local government employee now makes 46 percent more in combined salary and benefits than his private-sector counterpart does, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute-including 128 percent more on health care and 162 percent more on retirement benefits. Four out of five public-sector workers have lifetime pensions. Paying for such lavish treatment is difficult; in 2007, Credit Suisse estimated that state and local governments owed more than $1.5 trillion in unfunded health-care and non-pension benefits. Further, the market meltdown has erased $1 trillion from municipal pension funds, according to Boston College's Center for Retirement Research.

New York City now spends an average of $107,000 for each of its 281,000 current employees-a whopping 63 percent increase since 2000. At the same time, its direct pension expenses each year have increased from $615 million to $5.6 billion. And New York isn't alone. Forty states estimate that their liabilities for public-sector health-care and other benefits exceed $400 billion-more than their entire public debt, according to Standard and Poor's. New Jersey has dug a particularly deep hole for itself. Its state pension fund lost half its value in 2008 but pays out $5.2 billion each year in benefits. "The state of New Jersey is insolvent," writes bond analyst Mike Shedlock. "Bankrupt might be a better word."

More here



Private sector wisdom: Koch Industries is a legend in modern American enterprise. It is the the largest private company in America, based in the heartland at Wichita, Kansas (originally an agricultural business). Activities include refining and chemicals; process and pollution control equipment and technologies; minerals and fertilizers; polymers and fibers; commodity and financial trading and services; and forest and consumer products. The companies have branches in nearly 60 countries and employ about 70,000 people. Two of the things that make Koch different. First, they put many millions into the free enterprise movement at the level of teaching and research at universities, notably the George Mason Uni. Second, they have an explicit committment to the moral values of classical liberalism. "At Koch Industries, we are firmly focused on long-term success. We believe in creating real value, rather than just the illusion of value. To do so, we strive to live by core values and guiding principles that include integrity, humility, respect and Principled Entrepreneurship". Their current newsletter has two striking pieces, one on the steps that they took twelve months ago to prepare for the disaster that they could see was coming. The other is a statement on the dangers of government intervention."

Winners in Life's Lottery: "Dick Gephardt was famous for calling the rich the "winners in life's lottery". He was of course implying that all those that were rich were simply undeserving trust-fund leeches, and that of course is unfair to the other 95% of America. Never mind that most of these 'winners' worked hard to get where they were...that gets in the way of the meme... Interestingly though, we now have a new class of folks who are more deserving of the label "winners in life's lottery." I refer of course to those 9 million mortgage defaulters who will be the beneficiaries of President Obama's Mortgage plan. Lets see.....get a mortgage you can't afford, get nailed by a nasty financial downturn, and get bailed out and keep your home. Wow! I can't think of anyone else who might be worthy of being called "winners in life's lottery". Talk about something that is is unfair to the other 95% of America...."

Jindal calls stimulus `irresponsible' in GOP response : "Tapped by the Republican party to deliver the GOP's response to President Barack Obama's congressional address Tuesday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took on the massive stimulus package and big government - and pledged that his party would regain the nation's trust. `In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government,' Jindal said."

Brown vs. monkey: Where's the outrage?: "A political cartoon is misinterpreted and African-American organizations and their talking heads immediately see an opportunity to make noise. Meanwhile, a famous black woman is beaten down by her equally famous black boyfriend and commentary in the black community centers around, `What did she do to cause it?' Why are some African-Americans so cowardly when it comes to addressing black-on-black violence? . Rupert Murdoch may be public enemy number one for the progressive community, but he and his posse at The New York Post are not sanctioning the abuse and killing of black women. The beating Rihanna experienced at the hands of Chris Brown was tragic, but definitely not uncommon. . Where is the outrage? Where is the boycott? Where is the speech?"

ALG Hails Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Idaho Law Prohibiting Union Payroll Deductions from Being Used for Political Purposes: "Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government, hailed the Supreme Court's 7-2 decision in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association. "We at ALG are extremely gratified that the Supreme Court agreed with us," said Wilson. "This a victory for taxpayers who do not wish to be forced to fund union politics," he added. The decision determined that a state government may prohibit its counties, cities, and towns from subsidizing union political activities via its government payroll systems. "This is a great win. The First Amendment does not require government to devote taxpayer resources to facilitating the speech of its workers, their preferred political organizations, or anyone else," said Wilson. "This sets the table for states across the nation to set up similar prohibitions," Wilson added.

Democrats Halted Recovery, Derailed Economy Last Summer: "January's [1] Employment Situation Report from Uncle Sam's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was even worse than expected. Seasonally adjusted employment fell by 598,000 jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 7.6%. In [2] his Saturday address that followed this news, President Barack Obama was correct in pointing out that 3.6 million jobs have been lost since the recession, at least as "defined" [3] by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), began. The recession, [4] as normal people define it ("a decline in gross domestic product [GDP] for two or more consecutive quarters"), began in the third quarter of 2008 and became official late last month when [5] the fourth quarter came in negative. What Mr. Obama "somehow" forgot to tell us is that almost 1.8 million of those seasonally adjusted job losses have occurred since his election, when his non-stop economic [6] no-confidence game went into high gear, and that 2.8 million jobs have gone away during the seven months that began in July 2008, the first full month of [7] the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy. Beyond that, in comparing the raw month-to-month figures, i.e., before seasonal adjustment, it's clear that conditions on the ground in the real economy are in a worse state of decay than the seasonally adjusted data would indicate. The November 2008 to January 2009 economy underperformed the same months of the previous year by over 2.2 million jobs"


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 25, 2009

"Love me. I'm a liberal"

I have often remarked how the Left side of America's politics is run by hungry egos. They crave praise and power and will do anything to get it. Basically, they all have a Stalinist hunger for there to be statues of themselves all over the place. They generally hide their real motives under a veneer of do-gooder-ism, however. They seek praise by advocating things that sound good, even if such things are ignorant and harmful in the long run and are hence avoided by more responsible politicians. The "liberal" solutions to problems are generally little better than those of their fellow Leftist in Argentina, Juan Peron. Peron's solution to rising prices was to threaten to shoot any shopkeeper who put his prices up. Since the shopkeepers had to PAY more for their goods all the time, Peron's edict simply closed most shops. Eventually, of course people see the destructive consequences of Leftist populism and turn to policies that work. It even happened in Russia and China, eventually. But even then, the Leftist loses little because people believe that "he meant well".

So it is worth taking a moment to note a case when the Leftist acknowledges his real motivations openly. And an article in "The New Republic" does just that, under the heading: "Love Me I'm A Liberal". It is written by the rather aptly-named Leon Wieseltier. The surname is German/Yiddish for "weasel animal" so that may be a hint as to why his ego needs are so pressing. I don't think I would like to identify myself as a "weasel animal" all the time. It must have pained him to have his pretentiousness often satirized in "Spy Magazine". And the reaction to frustration from the large but fragile egos of the Left is hatred. The constant outpouring of hate towards conservatives that I document from time to time on my TONGUE-TIED blog is ample evidence of that. So it is no surprise to find that even weasel's fellow centre-Leftist, Andrew Sullivan has said that 'Wieseltier is a connoisseur and cultivator of personal hatred'. A falling out between two large egos!

The essence of weasel's article in TNR is that although Democrats now hold all the political cards and will use them ruthlessly, America still is, as has often been observed, a center-Right nation. Most people do not share the values of the Left and have little respect for "liberals". Weasel overlooks that it is pretty hard to share liberal values, since they don't have any! The Left constantly tell us that "There is no such thing as right and wrong" so how could they have any values? To have a value is to say that some particular thing or policy is right! All that the Left has are postures that can be changed according to how the winds of public opinion blow. The party that once portrayed itself as the party of the worker and the little guy now hates "rednecks", for instance.

This hollow core of Leftism is often evident in their rapid turn to abuse rather than rational debate and we see that in the weasel too. He has, however, literary pretensions so we see him express his lack of real interest in actual policy in a superficially clever way. He says "The Republicans propose to bail out the economy with doctrine. Unemployment is 7.6 percent and rising, and they say: let them eat Friedman". Maybe that gets a laugh from some Leftists but it is not a serious description of anything in the real world. The central proposal of conservatives about the economic crisis is to unleash the job creators -- business -- by reducing tax and regulatory burdens on them -- but you would never know that from weasel's article.

And also in good Leftist style, weasel is not averse to lying. He says "the cause of all this misery was the market abandon that they [Republicans] promoted so messianically". Absolutely no mention there of the fact that the financial meltdown was caused by worthless mortgages -- mortgages that were forced on banks by such Democrat-sponsored laws as the "Community reinvestment act" and harassment of bank officials by such hard-Left organizations as ACORN. The fact of the matter is that "the cause of all this misery was the market suppression that they [Democrats] promoted so messianically".

So weasel ends up with a demand that Obama promote liberal policies and postures instead of being the centrist which he claimed to be in his campaign. He feebly hopes that Obama can make liberal thinking respectable -- and even "loved"! -- among the population at large. Poor old weasel! As the NYT says, his enemies (created by his own obnoxious behaviour) are legion so his last claim to be loved is that he is a liberal. How pathetic!

There is a detailed fisking of weasel here.


It Any Wonder The Market Continues To Sink?

Last Oct. 13, in trying to explain why the market had sold off 30% in six weeks, we acknowledged that the freeze-up of the financial system was a big concern. But we cited three other factors as well:

* The imminent election of "the most anti-capitalist politician ever nominated by a major party."
* The possibility of "a filibuster-proof Congress led by politicians who are almost as liberal."
* A "media establishment dedicated to the implementation of a liberal agenda, and the smothering of dissent wherever it arises."

No wonder, we said then, that panic had set in. Today, as the market continues to sell off and we plumb 12-year lows, we wish we had a different explanation. But it still looks, as we said four months ago, "like the U.S., which built the mightiest, most prosperous economy the world has ever known, is about to turn its back on the free-enterprise system that made it all possible." How else would you explain all that's happened in a few short weeks? How else would you expect the stock market, where millions cast daily votes and which is still the best indicator of what the future holds, to act when:

* Newsweek, a prominent national newsweekly, blares from its cover "We Are All Socialists Now," without a hint of recognition that socialism in its various forms has been repudiated by history - as communism's collapse in the USSR, Eastern Europe and China attest. Even so, a $787 billion "stimulus," along with a $700 billion bank bailout, $75 billion to refinance bad mortgages, $50 billion for the automakers, and as much as $2 trillion in loans from the Fed and the Treasury are hardly confidence-builders for our free-enterprise system.

* Talk of "nationalizing" U.S.' troubled major banks comes not just from tarnished Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, but also from Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former Fed chief Alan Greenspan. To be sure, bank shares have plunged along with home prices, and many have inadequate capital. But is nationalization really the only solution for an industry whose main product - loans to consumers and businesses - has expanded by over 5% annually so far this year?

* A stimulus bill laden with huge amounts of spending on pork and special interests is the best our Congress can come up with to get the economy back on track. Economists broadly agree that the legislation has little stimulative power, and in fact will be a drag on economic growth for years to come. The failure to include any meaningful tax cuts for either individuals or small businesses, the true stimulators of job growth, while throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at profligate state governments and programs - such as $4.2 billion for "neighborhood stabilization activities" and $740 million to help viewers switch from analog to digital TV- has investors shaking their heads.

* A $75 billion bailout for 9 million Americans who face foreclosure, regardless of how they got into financial trouble, is the government's answer to the housing crunch. Many Americans who have scrupulously kept up with payments are steaming at the thought of subsidizing those who've been profligate or irresponsible. With recent data showing that as much as 55% of those who get foreclosure aid end up defaulting anyway, a signal has been sent that America has gone from being "Land of the Free" to "Bailout Nation."

* Energy solutions ranging from the expansion of offshore drilling and the development of Alaska's bountiful arctic oil reserves to developing shale oil in America's Big Sky country, tar-sands crude in Canada and coal that provides half the nation's electric power, are taken off the table. The market knows full well what drives the economy and that restraining energy supply will make us all poorer and investing less profitable. Taking domestic energy sources off the table makes us more reliant on sources from hostile and unstable regimes, breeding uncertainty in a capital system in which participants seek stability.

* Lawmakers who seem more interested in pleasing special interests than voters back home now control Congress. Some of the leading voices in crafting the massive bank bailout and stimulus packages - including Sen. Chris Dodd, Rep. Barney Frank and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - were the very ones who helped get us in this mess. They did so by loosening Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's lending rules and pushing commercial banks to make bad loans. Both Dodd and Frank were recipients of hefty donations from Fannie, Freddie and other financial firms they were charged with regulating.

* Trade protectionism passes as policy, even amid the administration's lip service to free trade. Congress' vast stimulus bill and its "Buy American" provisions limit spending to U.S.-made products and will drive up costs, limit choices and alienate key allies. Already, it has triggered rumblings of retaliation in a 1930s-style trade war from trading partners, just as the Smoot-Hawley tariffs prolonged the Great Depression. Several European partners have begun raising barriers. Meanwhile, three signed free-trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and Korea languish with no chance of passage. Free trade offers one way out of our problems, yet it's been sidetracked.

* A 1,000-plus page stimulus bill is bulled through Congress with no GOP input and not a single member of Congress reading it before passage. It borders on censorship. GOP protests of the bill's spending and the speed it was passed at were dismissed by Obama and other Democrats as seeking to "do nothing" or "breaking the spirit of bipartisanship." But voters are angry. Along with thousands of angry phone calls to Congress, new Facebook groups have emerged, and street protests have sprung up in Denver, Seattle and Mesa, Ariz., against the "porkulus." CNBC Chicago reporter Rick Santelli's on-air denunciation of federal bailouts for mortgage deadbeats attracted a record 1.5 million Internet hits.

* Business leaders are demonized. Yes, there are bad eggs out there like the Madoffs and Stanfords. But most CEOs are hugely talented, driven, highly intelligent people who make our corporations the most productive in the world and add trillions of dollars of value to our economy. They don't deserve to be dragged before Congress, as they have been dozens of times in the past two years, for a ritual heaping of verbal abuse from the very people most responsible for our ills - our tragically inept, Democrat-led Congress.

* Words like "catastrophe," "crisis" and "depression" are coming from the mouth of the newly elected president, rather than words of hope and optimism. Instead of talking up America's capabilities and prospects, he talks them down - the exact opposite of our most successful recent president, Ronald Reagan, who came in vowing to restore that "shining city on a hill." Even ex-President Clinton admonished Obama to return to his previous optimism, saying he would "just like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we're gonna come through this."

* The missile defense system that brought the Soviet Union to its knees, and which offers so much hope for future security, is being discussed as a "bargaining chip" with Russia. This, at the same time the regime in Iran is close to having a nuclear weapon and North Korea is readying an intermediate-range missile that can reach the U.S. This sends a message of weakness abroad and contributes to a feeling of vulnerability at home. A strong economy begins and ends with a strong defense.

All this in barely a month's time. And to think that more of the same is on the way seems to be sinking in. Investors are watching closely and not caring for what they see. Sooner or later, the market will rally - but not without good reason to do so.



More sabotage of jobs from the Democrats

Unions are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Unions spur unemployment, and "there is no question" about it. "High union wages that exceed the competitive market rate are likely to cause job losses in the unionized sector of the economy." That is the unvarnished conclusion of one of the country's most admired economists. From 1970 to 1985, a state with average unionization had a rate of unemployment 1.2 percentage points higher than a state with no unions. This represented "about 60 percent of the increase in normal unemployment" in that period.

Okay, a finding from several decades ago may be a bit dated. But the phenomenon of how unionization affects unemployment isn't. Nor is the economist--Lawrence Summers, formerly president of Harvard and now President Obama's chief economic adviser. In this week's Fortune, Nina Easton calls him "the mastermind" of Obama's economic policy. His influence has limits, however, for Obama is aggressively promoting unionization at the worst possible time, smack in the teeth of a deepening recession with soaring unemployment.

Media attention has focused on the hot button issue of "card check." It would jettison labor's biggest impediment to signing up workers, the secret ballot. Naturally, it's labor's top priority in 2009. And though Obama and the vast majority of Democrats in Congress favor card check, its fate is unclear.

But Obama has already taken significant steps to aid unions. Steps that underscore his support for a surge in unionization. "I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem," he told union leaders at a White House event last month. "To me, it's part of the solution." Summers must have winced when he heard that. Obama has issued four executive orders to benefit unions, nominated a union pawn as labor secretary, and picked a union lawyer to head the National Labor Relations Board. Aside from ramming card check through Congress, there's not much more he could have done in his first month in office to please labor leaders.

One executive order says private contractors on federal construction projects should hire union workers. This puts non-union contractors, especially small minority companies who compete by making lower bids than contractors with unionized workers, at a distinct disadvantage. Another order bars federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses incurred in trying to persuade employees not to form a union. A third would force contractors to retain workers when taking over a project from another contractor.

These orders will have an immediate impact. Most (if not all) of the infrastructure projects funded in Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan will have union workers. Given the higher labor costs, this means fewer of the estimated 1 million construction workers currently unemployed will find work. To make matters worse, the "prevailing wage" required on federal projects by the Davis-Bacon law will apply to all projects. This is supposed to be the average wage for construction workers in a region, but it usually turns out to be the higher union wage. So fewer workers will be employed even on non-union projects.

There's a double whammy here. Despite rising unemployment, a sharp limit is being imposed on hiring. And taxpayers will be required to pay considerably more for construction projects than necessary. This should be unacceptable in good times. In a recession, it's worse. This is flagrantly counterproductive. Take one example. A non-union employer with the low bid wins the contract on a partially completed construction project. If the prior contractor had union workers, the new boss would have to retain them, their union wages, and possibly even their union.

As a devotee of the New Deal, Obama ought to have learned the lesson of increased unionization. After the Wagner Act of 1935 empowered labor organizers, unionization flourished and wages rose for those who had jobs. At the same time, unemployment went up.

If card check passes, this trend--more unions, fewer jobs--will shift into high gear. But the measure suffered a slight setback last week. Blue dog Democrats got House speaker Nancy Pelosi to postpone a vote until the Senate acts. The queasy moderates fear voting for an unpopular bill that could fail in the Senate. Labor leaders had hoped House approval would give card check a big boost in the Senate, where a handful of Democrats have voiced misgivings.

At the White House, organized labor's clout is still palpable. The president is indebted to union leaders for their lavish support for his campaign with money (hundreds of millions) and personnel (tens of thousands). And labor trumps Larry Summers. Too bad. On unions and unemployment, Summers knows best.



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 24, 2009

A Nation of Cowards?

I excerpt below an article from the NYT by a black writer in response to the much criticized speech by Attorney General Holder. The article is generally reasonable but I nonetheless add some comments at the foot of the excerpt
"Then came Attorney General Eric Holder's scathing comments about America being "a nation of cowards" because we don't have "frank" conversations about race. That got a lot of attention. I take exception to Holder's language, but not his line of reasoning. Calling people cowards is counterproductive. It turns the conversation into a confrontation - moving it beyond the breach of true dialogue and the pale of real understanding. That said, frank conversations are always welcomed. But, before we start, it might be helpful to have a better understanding of the breadth and nature of racial bias.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released last month, twice as many blacks as whites thought racism was a big problem in this country, while twice as many whites as blacks thought that blacks had achieved racial equality...

What explains this wide discrepancy? One factor could be that most whites harbor a hidden racial bias that many are unaware of and don't consciously agree with. Project Implicit, a virtual laboratory maintained by Harvard, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia, has administered hundreds of thousands of online tests designed to detect hidden racial biases. In tests taken from 2000 to 2006, they found that three-quarters of whites have an implicit pro-white/anti-black bias. (Blacks showed racial biases, too, but unlike whites, they split about evenly between pro-black and pro-white. And, blacks were the most likely of all races to exhibit no bias at all.) In addition, a 2006 study by Harvard researchers published in the journal Psychological Science used these tests to show how this implicit bias is present in white children as young as 6 years old, and how it stays constant into adulthood.

So why do so many people have this anti-black bias? I called Brian Nosek, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Virginia and the director of Project Implicit, to find out. According to him, our brains automatically make associations based on our experiences and the information we receive, whether we consciously agree with those associations or not. He said that many egalitarian test-takers were shown to have an implicit anti-black bias, much to their chagrin. Professor Nosek took the test himself, and even he showed a pro-white/anti-black bias. Basically, our brains have a mind of their own.

Now that we know this, are we ready to talk? Maybe not yet. Talking frankly about race is still hard because it's confusing and uncomfortable. First, white people don't want to be labeled as prejudiced, so they work hard around blacks not to appear so. A study conducted by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard Business School and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that many whites - including those as young as 10 years old - are so worried about appearing prejudiced that they act colorblind around blacks, avoiding "talking about race, or even acknowledging racial difference," even when race is germane. Interestingly, blacks thought that whites who did this were more prejudiced than those who didn't. Second, that work is exhausting. A 2007 study by researchers at Northwestern and Princeton that was published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science found that interracial interactions leave whites both "cognitively and emotionally" drained because they are trying not to be perceived as prejudiced.

More here

The major omission above is an assumption that perceived racism is due to actual racism. He omits to consider that blacks perceive prejudice against them because the Left, for their own political ends, are constantly TELLING blacks that whites are prejudiced against them and discriminate against them. Given the way whites work hard to avoid the appearance of racism, I would be inclined to say that the prejudice that blacks perceive is almost entirely a product, not of real experience but of believing what they are told.

Nonetheless the writer is certainly correct to say that negative thoughts and feelings about race ("hidden racial bias") do exist among both blacks and whites and he is also correct to say that such thoughts and feelings are the fruits of experience ("associations based on our experiences"). They are postjudice rather than prejudice. Even Jesse Jackson famously recognized that when he said: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."




We're watching a very small nation
That's decided to take a stand
They're tired of their enemy's rockets
Daily blasting across their land
Though man are against them
God's the captain of their band.
And the truth is marching on.

The Jews don't realize why many hate them
Somehow their eyes are blind
But, they are the chosen nation
That brought a saviour to all mankind.
And though the world may turn against them
God in Heaven says "They're mine."
And the truth is marching on.

So pray for the peace of Jerusalem
God will bles s you when you do
For his eye is always on them
And his word is forever true.
He will never forsake his people
Remember, Jesus is a Jew
And the truth is marching on.




Collective rituals spur support for suicide attacks: researchers: "Religion plays a role in suicide bombings -- but it's collective worship, rather than level of devotion, that fosters support for such deeds, a new study concludes. The analysis found that among Muslims and Jews surveyed in the Middle East, how often people attended a house of worship better predicted their backing for suicide attacks than did prayer frequency. Suicide attacks -- today most often associated with acts against Americans or Israelis by Muslims -- seem to be one aspect of a wider phenomenon in which collective religious ritual fosters a mindset known as parochial altruism, according to psychologists. Parochial altruism is a combination of negative attitudes toward another social group and sacrifice for one's own. Suicide attacks would be an extreme form of parochial altruism, said the psychologists who conducted the study, from the New School for Social Research in New York and the University of British Columbia. And when forms of parochial altruism other than suicide attacks were considered, the researchers found many cultures and religions followed the pattern identified in the Middle East. The scientists proposed that collective religious rituals and services create a sense of community among participants and thus enhance admiration for parochially altruistic acts. But "only in particular geopolitical contexts" do suicide attacks arise from this, the scientists wrote in the study, which appears in the journal Psychological Science."

One Brit has the right idea: "Plans to axe new laws that would increase costs for businesses, including enhanced maternity leave and tougher equality legislation, are threatening to blow open a Cabinet rift over how Labour should respond to the economic downturn, The Times has learnt. The proposals, outlined in the Queen's Speech just two months ago, and championed by Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, are at risk after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and the Chancellor called for a moratorium on any measures that would add to the current financial pressure on businesses. Right-to-roam legislation and powers to allow councils to ban alcohol promotions are also under threat as the Government prepares to gut its legislative programme in the face of the recession. Lord Mandelson's attempt to purge antibusiness measures comes after a meeting of the Economic Development ministerial committee last week. In a confidential memo ministers have been asked to "advise on a moratorium on legislation and legislative announcements made but not yet implemented that will entail additional costs for businesses".

Obama promises magic: "President Obama will this week make an enormously ambitious and high-risk promise to the American people that he can not only spend the US out of recession but also push ahead with expensive campaign promises while simultaneously slashing the budget deficit. In a key prime-time address to Congress tomorrow, followed by the outline of his first budget on Thursday, Mr Obama will lay out an agenda to cut the ballooning national deficit in half within four years, while pressing ahead with plans to tackle healthcare, education and climate change. The pledges come amid a financial crisis that one of Mr Obama's top advisers said could be even worse than the Great Depression, and after his Administration has already outlined plans to line up an extraordinary $3trillion to stabilise the stricken banking sector and revive the economy. About $2 trillion of that will come from borrowing."

Europe says all markets must be regulated: "Europe said on Sunday it was time to get tough with tax havens and strictly oversee all financial markets as part of sweeping reforms to avoid future meltdowns. European Union leaders met in Berlin to forge a common approach to the global economic downturn that they can take to a meeting in April of the G20, a group of rich and big emerging economies charged with reforming the rules of world finance."

Housing secretary defends Obama foreclosure plan: "The Obama administration's efforts to help struggling homeowners will aid `responsible' borrowers, not deadbeats or speculators, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan said Sunday. President Barack Obama announced the plan Wednesday, saying it will help up to 9 million people keep their homes in a housing market ravaged by foreclosures. But critics, including several leading Republicans and some commentators, said the $75 billion proposal will unfairly help some people at the expense of others."


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 23, 2009

That dreaded IQ again

I am continually amazed at people's capacity to fool themselves. And the smarter you are, the better you are at fooling yourself, it seems. Perhaps the most persistent fallacious belief is that there is such a thing as "healthy" food. Many people, particularly well-educated people, desperately want to believe that they can extend their lifespan by controlling what goes into their mouths. And what is the usual definition of "healthy" food? Low-fat food. And you cannot pick up a newspaper or magazine without seeing some comment about healthy food. Yet there is, as far as I am aware, no such thing. As you can see in the sidebar of my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog, the biggest, best and most conclusive research study of the subject found that a low-fat diet had no effect on your health whatever! But that finding was like water off a duck's back. Although the U.S. government spent $400 million on making the study the very best piece of research that could be conducted on the subject, I have yet to see a single mention of it in the popular press and middle-class people still fuss about their food as if it will do them some long-term good. It is a form of religion I guess. People just NEED to feel that they have some control over their fate.

And people's understanding of IQ also seems to be needs-driven. Just about the worst thing you can be called in the USA today is a "racist", yet IQ tests clearly show that blacks are, on average, outstandingly dumb. And their high level of dysfunctional behaviour and low level of educational and economic success is exactly what you would expect of dumb people. It is clear that the tests do not lie. Prisons are full of dumb people and huge numbers of them are black.

But what I have just said is for most people very threatening. If they accept its obvious truth, they risk being seen both by themselves and others as "racist", and that will not do at all. So there are all sorts of mental wriggles that people use to avoid accepting what I have just said. And the truth of all those wriggles has of course been extensively tested and found to be lacking. But there are whole books written on that subject (start here if you want to look into it) so I will not go into details now about it.

What started me off on that little meditation was something very simple, the strapline (subheading) given for the article excerpted below. In answer to the question "Why men are more intelligent than women", the strapline gives an answer: "They aren't". Yet that strapline does not represent the findings reported in the article at all. The article is a generally accurate summary of our current knowledge about IQ and says that women DO on average have slightly lower IQs. It then makes a start on explaining why.

So why such an inaccurate strapline? Because the article was published in a semi-popular magazine and there would have been great cries of outrage from both feminists and real women otherwise. The fact that averages tell us nothing about any one individual within a given population would be no consolation. Many women would just not WANT to believe the conclusion so they had to be assuaged. So the conclusions were slanted to deflect attention from the actual averages to theoretical averages.
Why men are more intelligent than women

The answer is: They aren't.

By Satoshi Kanazawa

The orthodoxy in intelligence research for the second half of the 20th century had been that men and women had the same average intelligence, but men had greater variance in their distribution than women. Most geniuses were men, and most imbeciles were men, they said, while most women were in the normal range. This conclusion, however, was manufactured out of political expediency. Not wanting to discover, or a priori denying, any sex differences in intelligence, psychometricians simply deleted from the standardized IQ tests any item on which the performance of men and women differed.

More recently, however, especially since the turn of the millennium, there have been an increasing number of studies that cast doubt on this politically correct conclusion. Studies with large representative national samples from Spain, Denmark, and the United States, as well as meta-analyses of a large number of published studies throughout the world, all conclude that men on average are slightly but significantly more intelligent than women, by about 3-5 IQ points. So this has now become the new (albeit tentative) consensus in intelligence research.

However, these studies do not answer the ultimate evolutionary question of why men should be more intelligent than women. General intelligence likely evolved as a domain-specific psychological mechanism to deal with evolutionary novelty. However, unlike populations in different geographic parts of the world [translation: different races], men and women within a population have always faced the same level of evolutionary novelty throughout evolutionary history, because they have always migrated together. If general intelligence is a function of the evolutionary novelty of the environment, why then are men on average slightly more intelligent than women? My LSE colleague, Diane J. Reyniers, and I offer one possible explanation in our article, forthcoming in the American Journal of Psychology.

Psychometricians have known since the end of the 19th century that height is positively correlated with intelligence: Taller people on average are more intelligent than shorter people. And men in every human population are taller than women. So one possibility is that men are more intelligent than women, not because they are men, but because they are taller.....

More here

I am not sure why Kanazawa claims that items differentiating men and women have been excluded from IQ tests in the past. It is demonstrably and grossly untrue. He must have in mind some particular instance that is well outside normal practice. It is demonstrably untrue because many items in standard IQ tests DO discriminate men and women. For instance, women tend to do better on verbal puzzles and men do better on mathematical puzzles.

Normal psychometric practice is to select test items by the extent to which they hang together (correlate) with other items -- using such criteria as factor loadings or item-to-total correlations. Doing anything else would damage both the reliability and validity of the test.

It has been suggested -- correctly -- that one could construct an IQ test that did not discriminate men and women by adding in more verbal items and deleting some mathematical items but since the difference between men and women is small, it is hard to see what would be gained by that and, as mentioned, it would detract from at least the validity (construct validity, to be technical) of the test and probably the reliability also.

It would be nice to think that one could dictate the final composition of an IQ test or any other test by the initial item pool that one starts out with before test construction begins but that is not wholly true if one is really doing research rather than just making things up. I have found, for instance, that a subset of items that are not strongly represented in the initial item pool can be quite dominant in the test which emerges from the item analyses. See here for instance. So reality tends to defy intentions and expectations. In other words, there is every reason to believe that existing IQ tests give a correctly balanced picture of IQ. What is in them has emerged empirically.



The self-defeating stimulus: "[Nobel Prize-winning economist Edmund] Phelps is among the world's leading authorities on the way different economic systems enable or thwart the dynamic adjustment and entrepreneurial innovation that delivers long-run productivity and growth. By significantly increasing government involvement in so many sectors of the economy, Phelps worries the enacted stimulus plan could make the climate of investment more rather than less uncertain, and make growth-enhancing innovation less rather than more likely. Potential investors may become spooked by businesses increasingly dependent on government contracts, Phelps notes, since these firms may face additional regulations and bureaucratic requirements which may make them appear less able nimbly to adapt. Additionally, the anticipation of higher future taxes - the price of the current spending surge - could dampen consumer demand and `have a chilling effect upon the desire of entrepreneurs to innovate,' Phelps says."

Public "servants": "We are constantly urged to admire the 'sacrifice' of `public servants,' and to revile the `greed' and 'selfishness' of those who choose to make an honest living in the private sphere. Yet public 'service' is frequently a much more lucrative racket than honest private work. Witness the fact, reported in a Washington Post column by Chris Edwards in August 2006, that the average federal civilian employee is paid twice the amount that was earned by the average private sector worker - a little more than $106,000 per year, as compared to an annual salary of $56,000. Note as well that while real estate prices are plummeting throughout most of the country, the suburbs and exurbs of the Imperial Capital continue to boom, thanks in no small measure to the metastatic growth of government and the lucrative compensation enjoyed by the federal nomenklatura."

Yesterday's history is today's politics (Comment from Britain): "The Petrograd Strikes, which heralded the start of the 1917 Revolution in Russia commenced on 22 February; find a moment for reflection this Sunday. Even though the Soviet system of Communism lasted for 69 years, its ideology is evidently still very much alive and well: the British government now spends half the nation's income. Yesterday's history is today's politics, to adapt the adage. This Thursday our very own Nicholas II went to see the Pope. Perhaps he asked the Vicar of Christ to pray for a miracle - huge monetary expansion without hyperinflation - or perhaps he asked for the economy to receive the Last Rites. Ironically, one of the things the Prime Minister did discuss was freeing the world from poverty. He can contribute best to this desirable goal in Great Britain by the near abolishment of the State."

Taxpayers treated to an education recently : "Our education in government affairs, politicians and such continued over the past few weeks. We learned, for instance, that a fair number of politicians owe a fair amount of taxes that they hadn't given a thought to, until, of course, they were considered for a Cabinet post. But average taxpayers like you and I were expected to understand that these were busy people leading big, important lives, who had fingers in many pies, and that these were all `honest' and `unintentional' mistakes. We also learned that in a 300-million-plus country, there is sometimes just one person with the right knowledge, skills and experience for a particular job, and when such a person comes along, we were expected to cut him some slack and not fuss over things like his taxes. Several things have been bothering me lately. One of them is the arbitrariness of it all. . Just what are the rules, and who gets to make them?"

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


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for 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 22, 2009

Less rather than more government intervention is needed to cure the recession

The story is told that Ludwig von Mises was once asked, "Do you mean to say that the government should have done nothing during the Great Depression?" Mises responded, "I mean to say it should have started doing nothing long before that."

I hope the story is not apocryphal, because it perfectly sums up the government's proper role in managing the economy: none. The misnamed stimulus law is now on the books. While nearly everyone believes the government has to do something to get the economy out of the recession, those who understand markets insist that we'd be better off if the government did nothing at all. Of course, politicians are incapable of doing nothing when there is harm to be done, but the "stimulus" critics intrepidly insist that anything the government does will be worse than doing nothing at all.

This is certainly true. Unquestionably, doing nothing is better than borrowing nearly $800 billion from the credit markets (to be repaid through inflation and taxation) and spending it on pet political projects, from food stamps to bridge repairs to subsidies for favored energy forms. (Remember opportunity cost!) Doing nothing is indeed is an attractive option. For example, it would avoid re-stimulating parts of the economy shouldn't have been stimulated in the first place, such as housing and autos. As economist Mario Rizzo said recently, "Trying to prop up housing prices or injecting capital into areas of misallocation is a bad idea. It prevents the market's corrective mechanisms from working. Wealth should not continually be destroyed after the errors of the bubble have been revealed. This is the proverbial practice of throwing good money after bad." (Watch Rizzo's presentation here. The written remarks are downloadable here.)

But, frankly, doing nothing is only the second-best option. We can do better. We need the government to do less than nothing. It should undo many things.

Government-Inflated Bubble

Let's remember that government created the housing bubble through a constellation of policies that made borrowing for home mortgages - prime and subprime - artificially attractive. Because of the securitization of mortgages (in itself a good risk-spreading device), the consequences of government housing policies spread far beyond the housing and banking industries. When home prices seemed to be perpetually rising, people were encouraged to refinance their homes and withdraw equity so they could spend the money on cars, trips, and other big-ticket items. Government-stimulated demand touched everything. When the bubble popped - when interest rates rose and the housing glut became apparent - things turned around. People now had costly mortgages they couldn't refinance; homes bought on the expectation of early profitable resale were now money losers. The party was over.

It was a party that couldn't have been thrown without politicians eager to do things for us and, not coincidentally, to boost their reelection prospects as well. The upshot is that if the economy is to thrive again, the reigning philosophy of government as a social service center will have to change. Many things will have to be undone.

These things will strike most people as politically impossible, but if no one ever talks about them, that's what they will remain. We have to start somewhere. The first thing we need is a monetary system that is beyond the reach of manipulative politicians and political appointees. Whatever the Fed Reserve's role in the housing bubble - even if it was only the Alan Greenspan's promise to provide liquidity to overextended lenders - the central bank has again proven itself hazardous to our economic well-being. When will we cease to tolerate this continuing threat in our midst? When will we realize that the mortals who run it cannot know how much money the economy needs or what interest rates should be? Market-rooted money - most likely gold - and free banking are long overdue. How can we afford to wait any longer?

No More Housing Policy

Also on the list of things to go is every manifestation of housing policy. In a free society there would be no such thing. The alphabet soup of agencies - from HUD to FHA to FHLB, and the rest - should be abolished at once.

The same goes for those privileged cartoon characters Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, and any I may have overlooked. They exist to circumvent the market in order to carry out the agendas of politicians, who must dispense goodies to favored constituencies in order to keep their hold on power. Because the agencies are backed by captive taxpayers, they are can do things no free-market institution can do, such as obtain special low-interest loans and guarantees. These bureaucracies have no place in a free market. If we haven't learned that by now, what will it take? (We haven't learned it. The Obama administration wants to give them more billions.)

While we're at it, let's get rid of the income tax if for no other reason than because it would end the mortgage deduction. We must stop thinking of home-ownership as something worthy of government privilege. There's nothing magic about housing. It's one more thing we need. Yet it gets special treatment in the law, and economy-watchers give it special attention. Why do news agencies report housing starts faithfully each month as though the fate of the planet hangs in the balance? They never tell us how many computers, Coca-Colas, or boxes of Cheerios were produced.

Other taxes should be cut or abolished too, including the payroll tax, which is a tax on hiring. But - this is often overlooked - tax cuts without spending cuts require more borrowing and more inflation. It's a bad bargain in the tradition of Keynes. We must cut government spending along with taxes.

If government really wants to make it easier for people to own homes, let it give up control of money and banking, divest itself of the land it holds off the market, and generally relieve society of its endless burdens. The biggest favor the state can do for us is to stop doing us favors!




Keith Burgess Jackson has a new site for exposing the academic thuggishness of far-Left law professor Brian Leiter

I Finally Figured It Out...: "I admit it. I've had a hard time figuring out how zealously borrowing and spending and subsidizing the unsuccessful is supposed to get us out of an economic crisis caused in large part by overly zealous borrowing and spending and encouraging the unsuccessful to take on obligations they couldn't meet. But now I've figured it out. Obama and his party like poor people so much they're determined to make lots more of them".

Bill Clinton gets one thing right: "Bill Clinton called on President Obama yesterday to show more of what he promised America during his two years as a presidential candidate: hope. Mr Clinton reflected growing misgivings among some Democrats that the President's warnings about the economy are so dire that he risks smothering the confidence that will be needed to get America out of the crisis. He urged Mr Obama - who ran on a message of hope - to put on a more positive face when speaking to the country about the economy. "I just want the American people to know that he's confident that we are going to get out of this and that he feels good about the long run," the former President told the Good Morning America programme.

President Klaus compares EU to Soviet-era dictatorships: "The leader of the Czech Republic has long been one of the most strident critics of the European Union, missing no opportunity to let another withering attack fly. Now he has inherited the ideal pulpit to air his views: the EU presidency itself. In his latest diatribe, this time before the European Parliament on Thursday, President Klaus, whose country assumed the rotating EU helm in January from France, branded the organisation an undemocratic and elitist project comparable to Soviet-era dictatorships that forbade free thought. "Not so long ago," Mr Klaus thundered, "in our part of Europe we lived in a political system that permitted no alternatives and therefore also no parliamentary opposition. We learned the bitter lesson that with no opposition, there is no freedom." He may have felt gratified by the reaction: boos from many lawmakers and a walkout by the left-wing parties - but applause from a minority of nationalists and other anti-EU legislators. While deeply unpopular in EU circles, Mr Klaus strikes a deep chord in some member states where citizens fear European plans to share more powers come at the cost of national sovereignty. He has refused to fly the EU flag over his official seat in Prague during the Czech presidency, saying the country is not an EU province."

How to slim the bureaucracy, British style: "Ministers have blown almost 1billion pounds axing an army of bureaucrats - only to rehire the same huge number. Government departments have cut almost 15,000 civil servants in the last three years, according to figures released by Parliament. Because of the generous redundancy packages given to Whitehall officials, the average payout was 60,000 - a total cost to the public purse of 882million. But despite the cull of Government waste, it can be revealed that ministries are taking on almost as many staff as they have ditched. Figures from just five departments - including the Home Office and Department of Health - show that about 5,000 permanent, temporary and agency staff have been taken on. If this is extended across all Government departments, the number of new staff will be around 15,000. Hundreds of civil servants have walked away with pay-offs worth tens of thousands of pounds, with some taking 100,000. Most of those taking voluntary redundancy are high earners - sparking fears the most experienced staff are disappearing from Whitehall. Incredibly, top officials have failed to carry out studies to discover whether the policy would trim budgets."


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)