Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A small thought on automobiles

It's slightly mad but people generally seem to be saying something about themselves when they buy a partcular car. I drive a very humble 2004 Toyota Echo and I believe that says something about me -- or my Presbyterian upbringing: "Waste not, want not". I actually feel proud of my good sense in making my journeys at minimal cost in quite acceptable comfort. And the Echo is very zippy and I like zipping.

So why do people buy cars more expensive than mine that certainly get them there no faster than mine? I think ONE motive is to seek praise and admiration. An expensive car shows how rich the person is and he thinks that should be admired.

Problem. That doesn't seem to work:
Car envy is causing bad behaviour on Queensland roads, researchers have found. A University of Queensland study revealed that nothing gets drivers' blood boiling more than the sight of someone in a fancy car trying to push into the queue.

PhD student Redzo Mujcic and economics professor Paul Frijters analysed the behaviour of 1000 Brisbane commuters at selected intersections and roundabouts. Commuters had the option to let someone from a side road enter the main road.

"People compare themselves to others and the perception of status has an impact on how commuters behave," Mr Mujcic said. "The study showed that drivers in cheaper cars were quite unlikely to stop for drivers of luxury cars."

The study found drivers of the cheapest cars were least likely to let another driver merge ahead of them, with the drivers of prestige cars only slightly more courteous. The most thoughtful drivers were those who owned vehicles of average value.


So what should an admiration-seeker do? I discovered the answer to that quite by accident. As a conservative I rather like old things so some years ago I bought myself a 1963 Humber Super Snipe -- a grand old English car. It is a bit unreliable so I take it out only once a week for a longish drive but whenever I do I get heaps of praise and admiration! I get what the Ferrari driver wants! And the Humber cost way less than a Ferrari does. It just goes to show what all conservatives know: Life is complicated.


Dependency and Votes

Thomas Sowell

Those who regard government "entitlement" programs as sacrosanct, and regard those who want to cut them back as calloused or cruel, picture a world very different from the world of reality.

To listen to some of the defenders of entitlement programs, which are at the heart of the present financial crisis, you might think that anything the government fails to provide is something that people will be deprived of. In other words, if you cut spending on school lunches, children will go hungry. If you fail to subsidize housing, people will be homeless. If you fail to subsidize prescription drugs, old people will have to eat dog food in order to be able to afford their meds.

This is the vision promoted by many politicians and much of the media. But, in the world of reality, it is not even true for most people who are living below the official poverty line.

Most Americans living below the official poverty line own a car or truck-- and government entitlement programs seldom provide cars and trucks. Most people living below the official poverty line also have air conditioning, color television and a microwave oven--and these too are not usually handed out by government entitlement programs.

Cell phones and other electronic devices are by no means unheard of in low-income neighborhoods, where children would supposedly go hungry if there were no school lunch programs. In reality, low-income people are overweight even more often than other Americans.

As for housing and homelessness, housing prices are higher and homelessness a bigger problem in places where there has been massive government intervention, such as liberal bastions like New York City and San Francisco. As for the elderly, 80 percent are homeowners whose monthly housing costs are less than $400, including property taxes, utilities, and maintenance.

The desperately poor elderly conjured up in political and media rhetoric are-- in the world of reality-- the wealthiest segment of the American population. The average wealth of older households is nearly three times the wealth of households headed by people in the 35 to 44-year-old bracket, and more than 15 times the wealth of households headed by someone under 35 years of age.

If the wealthiest segment of the population cannot pay their own medical bills, who can? The country as a whole is not any richer because the government pays our medical bills-- with money that it takes from us.

What about the truly poor, in whatever age brackets? First of all, even in low-income and high-crime neighborhoods, people are not stealing bread to feed their children. The fraction of the people in such neighborhoods who commit most of the crimes are far more likely to steal luxury products that they can either use or sell to get money to support their parasitic lifestyle.

As for the rest of the poor, Professor Walter Williams of George Mason University long ago showed that you could give the poor enough money to lift them all above the official poverty line for a fraction of what it costs to support a massive welfare state bureaucracy.

We don't need to send the country into bankruptcy, in the name of the poor, by spending trillions of dollars on people who are not poor, and who could take care of themselves. The poor have been used as human shields behind which the expanding welfare state can advance.

The goal is not to keep the poor from starving but to create dependency, because dependency translates into votes for politicians who play Santa Claus.

We have all heard the old saying about how giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, while teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime. Independence makes for a healthier society, but dependency is what gets votes for politicians.

For politicians, giving a man a fish every day of his life is the way to keep getting his vote. "Entitlement" is just a fancy word for dependency. As for the scary stories politicians tell, in order to keep the entitlement programs going, as long as we keep buying it, they will keep selling it.



When It Comes to Doomsdays, the Left Shouldn't Laugh at the Religious

Dennis Prager

It appears that the Rapture leading to the end of the world predicted by a Christian radio broadcaster for this past Saturday, May 21, 2011 did not take place. And the failure was covered worldwide. A Google search on Saturday evening, Pacific Time, yielded more than 32,000 articles -- in English alone -- in the world media.

The secular, especially the anti-religious, left, enjoy these spectacles of religious foolishness. They seem to confirm for them not only how absurd these end-of-days predictions are, but how absurd religion is in general.

But the left should not laugh too loudly. The religious world has far fewer doomsday predictions than the left does. At least every few years, the secular-left frightens itself -- and tries to frighten everyone else -- about another doomsday scenario.

The most obvious current example is, of course, global warming. For years now, we have been told by the world's left-wing media that scientists are united in predicting that there will be worldwide catastrophe as a result of global warming caused by manmade carbon dioxide emissions. Oceans will rise so high that they will drown many of the world's great coastal cities; entire island-countries will disappear; vast areas of the world will dry up; and countries will fight one another for the little remaining fresh water.

Compared to the global warming scenario, I'll face the Rapture -- and I'm not even Christian.

Of course, none of these global warming predictions has materialized. For example, in April of this year, Der Spiegel reported:

"Six years ago, the United Nations issued a dramatic warning that the world would have to cope with 50 million climate refugees by 2010. But now that those migration flows have failed to materialize, the UN has distanced itself from the forecasts. On the contrary, populations are growing in the regions that had been identified as environmental danger zones."

As a result of so many such false alarms, and because so many places have experienced record cold temperatures, global warming has been renamed "climate change."

But global warming is only the most recent doomsday scenario offered by the left. Here is a small sample of some others:

Recall the Time and Newsweek cover stories about how heterosexual AIDS would become a national plague -- since "AIDS doesn't discriminate." Skeptics who said at the time that heterosexual AIDS in America was largely a scare were called "anti-science." But Michael Fumento, the science writer who wrote "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS," first in Commentary Magazine and then as a book, turned out to be right. In America, it was a myth.

At the Democrat National Convention in 2000, the Democrats featured five children ages about 5 to 11 who recited lyrics about the doomsdays they could look forward to growing up in America. The first child, for example, said this:

"When I grow up ... Will I be able to see a rainbow in a smog-filled sky? Will there be any trees alive?"

In his 1968 book, "The Population Bomb," Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich wrote: "In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

Another doomsday prophecy from the left: Two prominent feminist writers, Gloria Steinem and Naomi Wolf wrote in their bestselling books, "Revolution from Within" and "The Beauty Myth" -- and the news media reported -- that 150,000 girls and women per year die of anorexia nervosa. The number is actually fewer than 100.

There is one major difference between leftist and religious doomsday scenarios. The religious readily acknowledge that their doomsday scenario is built entirely on faith. The left, on the other hand, claims that its doomsday scenarios are entirely built on science.

That there is little truth to the left-wing claim is not as important as the fact that these doomsday scenarios have undermined the status of science. How many scientists have been compromised by their joining the research-money and fame bandwagons of left-wing apocalyptic predictions? And how has this affected the public's perceptions of science and scientists when it comes to contentious issues?



Israel has much more in common with Christian civilization than with the Muslim horror or with the impossible dreams of the Left

Israel was always one of us: a constituent member, that is to say, of the community of civilized nations. Losing Israel as a member of that community would be like losing Nebraska or Pennsylvania or Georgia. It would be far worse, indeed, than losing "people's paradises" like San Francisco or Cambridge, Mass.

This isn't at all the way that President Obama sees things. To the president, Israel is a trouble spot -- a running sore on the international carcass. Heal the sore and you've got peace. The idea is, have Israel offer to retreat, by and large, behind its pre-Six Day War lines, making room thereby for a Palestinian state.

The improbability of that vision -- or delusion -- is to be glimpsed by looking around the neighborhood. Who is rioting or repressing? The Egyptians. The Syrians. The Libyans. This is to speak only of the currently noisier nations.

When was the last time we saw throngs of Israelis filling public squares to call for their leaders' ouster or demise? When was the last time we saw Israeli security forces shooting down unarmed demonstrators? The answer to both questions is the same: We haven't ever seen it. It hasn't happened. Massacres in the Middle East are a phenomenon we see outside Israel, not within.

"Why" isn't a question that needs to be asked or answered right now. The fact of Israel's unique standing in the Middle East is the matter in need of underscoring. Israel's and the United States' long-standing cordiality -- a condition the president is not precisely promoting by leaning on Benjamin Netanyahu instead of the terrorist gang Hamas -- is based only partly on the solidarity of American Jew with Israeli Jew. It is based only partly on the perception of particular evangelical Christians that the convergence of the Jews in Judea and Samaria somehow betokens fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

A bigger reason for the cordiality of which I speak concerns basic values. Israel's civic values are recognizable as Western values -- love of freedom, dislike of tyranny; willingness to lay lives on the line in defense of both values.

Americans who favor the Palestinian side in Middle Eastern controversies over Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the like generally belong to the political left. They don't themselves particularly like the traditional America. They less prefer the American "exceptionalism" that so much resembles Israeli "exceptionalism."

It's Israel's enemies and critics on whom we ought to keep our gaze as we evaluate the president's proposals. Not many of these critics are of the old, irrational anti-Semitic right.

More noticeable are the kind -- you see them in left-wing religious circles and in hard-core secular environments -- who rarely have a good word to say for Western history or Western values; who tend to view the United States as a sinister presence abroad, doing more harm than good.




McDonald's Chief Exec Comes To Ronald's Defense: "During last week's annual shareholders' meeting, McDonald's chief exec Jim Skinner dismissed a letter from a group of 550 healthcare workers asking the fast food chain to stop marketing to children using methods such as toys and the clown. "Ronald McDonald is going nowhere," Skinner told the assembly. Shareholders also rejected a proposal for the company to issue a report outlining its role in childhood obesity. The board of directors opposed the motion, saying it offered a variety of food to its customers, provided nutrition information about the food, and communicated with children "in a responsible manner through age appropriate marketing and promotional activities" Skinner said, "This is about choice and we believe in the democratic process." Regarding demands that the company's clown icon be retired, Skinner added: "As the face of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Ronald is an ambassador for good and delivers important messages to kids on safety, literacy and balanced, active lifestyles"

A bigger cutter: "Republican 2012 presidential hopeful Gary Johnson believes the GOP's unpopular blueprint to replace Medicare with a subsidies system should cut even deeper, and he isn’t shy about saying so. 'As president I would sign the plan into law, because it does move forward on the issue,' the former governor of New Mexico told Raw Story in a wide-ranging interview. 'But I think it doesn’t go far enough.' So, what would Johnson do? He would do to Medicare what the House-passed plan by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) does to Medicaid: turn the program into block grants for states"

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


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