Saturday, August 27, 2011

A defeat for the obesity warriors: Heart disease risk inherited through genes, not due to diet

Amazing: They have just shown that lifestyle is irrelevant but still cannot help themseves from preaching the lifestyle gospel. There's a lot of religion in all the "sciences" as far as I can see. These guys are just as much men of faith as any Christian

Parents increase their child's risk of coronary heart disease through their genes and not through the family's diet or lifestyle, a new study shows.

Children born to parents with CHD are 40 to 60 per cent more likely to develop the condition themselves, but growing up in an unhealthy household is of little importance.

Although children of people who suffer from the condition were already known to be at increased risk, it was not previously clear whether this was due to genetics or because children of unhealthy parents adopt similar lifestyles.

But a study of more than 80,000 men and women who were adopted as children showed that susceptibility to the disease is transmitted in the womb and not in the home.

Smoking, eating unhealthy food and avoiding exercise still play a major role in an individual's chance of developing CHD, doctors said, but the risk that is passed down through families is based on DNA rather than behaviour.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, where nearly all residents are registered on a national health care database, compared the medical records of adoptees to both their biological and adoptive parents.

They found that adoptees who had at least one biological parent with CHD had up to 60 per cent more chance of suffering the disease themselves, compared with a control group.

In contrast, growing up in a home with adoptive parents who suffered from CHD resulted in no additional risk for the child, even if both parents had the disease.

Prof Kristina Sundquist, who led the study, said it showed that inherited risk of CHD is genetic and parents' lifestyles are not to blame for passing it on to their children.

She said: "Of course it is always important to think about your own lifestyle but this study shows you cannot blame families for passing on poor lifestyles to their children."

Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director of the BHF, said: "This study tells us that genes are very important but no matter what genes you have, you still need to pay attention to your lifestyle."



"Progressive" folly over gun control

I've always been curious how American progressives got on the wrong -- anti-civil liberties -- side of gun control. In my mind this has been a grave strategic error. I have written elsewhere about the extreme difficulty liberals and progressives face in engaging the working class. I have also been highly critical of their tendency to get sucked into "lifestyle" campaigns (anti-smoking, anti-obesity, vegetarianism, etc.) etc., owing to the deep seated class antagonism this engenders in blue collar voters. Contrary to the stereotypes portrayed in the corporate media, class differences -- and class hatred -- are very real in the US. From a working class perspective, the progressive movement is the middle class. They're the teachers, social workers, psychologists, doctors, lawyers and religious leaders who play a fundamental role in setting behavioral standards for the rest of us. Thus when they tell us not to smoke, eat big Macs, or buy guns, we don't see this as political reform. We see it as an extension of their (privileged) class role.

For a progressive to take a stand against gun control is a pretty lonely place. There's a 1979 book edited by Don Kates entitled Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out. There's also an organization called the Liberal Gun Club whose mission is to "provide a voice for gun-owing liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legalization, firearms safety, and shooting sports."

Then there's Sam Smith's excellent article in the Progressive Review: Why "Progressives Should Stop Pushing for More Gun Control Laws." Among Smith's numerous arguments, three leap out at me: the exacerbation of "cultural conflict" between rural and urban and wealthy and not so well off, the tendency for gun restrictions and prohibition to be interwoven with the drive to restrict other civil liberties, and the need for progressives to stop treating average Americans as though they were "alien creatures." Smith also makes the point that progressives lose elections as much because of their attitudes as their issues.

In January (following Representative Gifford's shooting and renewed calls for gun control), Dan Baum wrote in the Huffington Post that progressives have wasted a generation of progress on health care, women's rights, immigration reform, income fairness and climate change because "we keep messing with people's guns." He feels it's helpful to think of gun control as akin to marijuana prohibition -- all it does is turn otherwise law-abiding people into criminals and create divisiveness and resentment.

More here


Hate drives the Israeli Left too

The point where we reach the limits of civil debate about policy is, like Justice Potter Stewart’s famous description of pornography, hard to define but you generally know it when you see it. That’s the only possible reaction to a blog post by Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner who wrote on Sunday to say the actions of the terrorists who murdered eight Israelis near Eilat last week were justified. Yes, you read that right. Derfner, a veteran journalist who has enjoyed playing the enfant terrible house leftist at the centrist Post for years, wrote on his personal blog to say Palestinian terrorism against Israelis is “justified.”

In doing so, Derfner has exposed the fundamental flaw in the left’s position on terror. His obscene post will, as he predicted, lead some of his fellow countrymen to call him a traitor, and Israel’s enemies will cite it in defense of their policy of murder. But the significant aspect of this piece is it shows how pious liberals who believe the blame for the conflict falls upon the Jews are inevitably led to the justification of murder.

Derfner claims, despite all the evidence of the past 18 years of peace processing, the blame for the continuation of the conflict falls squarely on Israel and no one else. He says the Palestinian terrorists are merely fighting for their “independence” against an evil Israeli “occupation.” But, as even Shimon Peres has said, if the conflict were just about the Palestinian desire for an independent state, it would have been over more than a decade ago when Yasir Arafat chose to reject Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David in July 2000. Since then, that offer has been repeated and rejected. But that is meaningless to Derfner, because he and those who think like him have never been really been interested in the Palestinians or what they do or want. His focus is hatred of the Israeli right and the settlement movement, and to discuss anything else, even if that means ignoring the truth about Palestinian nationalism and its implacable desire to destroy Israel no matter where its borders are drawn, is a distraction.



Perry offends Leftist snobs

Jonah Goldberg

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination now, at least in the national polls. Undoubtedly that's the main reason so many East Coast pundits and Beltway wags are making fun of him. He likes guns! He's from Texas! He talks funny! He's a -- gird yourself now -- Christian!

New York magazine and others mock his harmless, Bush-like pronunciation of nuclear ("nuke-ular"). They're scandalized that he doesn't go to a golf course to relax, but a shooting range. It's already a cliche among liberals to describe him as the sort of cartoonish, ignorant cowboy they thought George W. Bush was (though to date, nobody feels the need to apologize to Bush for misinterpreting him).

And before we bust out the world's smallest violin -- or, I guess, the world's smallest fiddle -- to play the world's softest sob song for poor Rick Perry, keep in mind that he plays this game too. When asked to explain the difference between himself and Bush, Perry responded that Bush went to Yale, while he went to Texas A&M.

"In other words," joked Conan O'Brien, "Rick Perry's idea of instilling confidence is to say, 'Don't worry, I'm not as smart as George W. Bush.'"

Rick Perry's overt Christianity horrifies many of his liberal critics. Bill Keller, the outgoing editor of the New York Times, agonized recently that "Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are all affiliated with fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity." Actually, Santorum is a fairly famous Catholic, but that's tomaytoh, tomahto for Keller, apparently.

"Every faith," Keller writes, "has its baggage, and every faith holds beliefs that will seem bizarre to outsiders. I grew up believing that a priest could turn a bread wafer into the actual flesh of Christ."

I hope his current priest doesn't mind when he calls Holy Communion "baggage."

Perry's twang offends liberals who think everyone should talk like Barack Obama, a man of cosmopolitan and learned diction. Of course, Obama pronounces "corpsman," "corpse-man" -- as if our Navy were staffed with heroic zombies. One would think he'd have picked up the right punctuation during his travels to all 57 U.S. states.

Obama's gaffes earn no traction the way, say, the last president's "Bushisms" did. Nor do they cause bowel-stewing panic at MSNBC the way Sarah Palin's flavorful patois does.

And don't even get me started on Joe Biden. He could show up at a Russian state funeral in a Speedo and pith helmet, singing the Alvin and the Chipmunks B-sides, and NBC's Andrea Mitchell would lead with the disturbing reports that Sarah Palin quoted Biden inaccurately on her Twitter account.

Let's cut through the clutter: A lot of people on the East and West coasts are bigots and snobs about "flyover types." They equate funny accents with stupidity, and they automatically assume someone who went to Texas A&M must be dumber than someone who went to Yale. Overt displays of religion trigger their fight-or-flight instincts, causing them to lash out irrationally.

My favorite example? When John McCain picked Palin as his running mate, University of Chicago professor Wendy Doniger wrote that Palin's "greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman."

When I read such idiocy, it's impossible for me not to love Bush, Perry, Palin, et al. for their enemies.



What if Obama isn't so smart?

Eek! Another Republican moron is running for president, and the blogs on the Left are aghast. Another village in Texas is missing its idiot! Another s--t-kicking cowboy has messed with their heads.

The question this time is not just whether Texas Gov. Rick Perry is dumb -- the Left claims the obvious answer is yes -- but also whether he is as dumb as George W. Bush, or even much dumber, moronic where Bush was simply "incurious," and also much less gently bred.

Either way, few on the Left doubt that neither is, as Steve Benen says, "an intellectually curious, creative thinker, capable to examining [sic] complex issues in a sophisticated way."

Fortunately we have such a thinker, "capable to examining" things to perfection, and that is the problem: President Obama is their ideal of a thinker. He is president, and he has been -- how to put it? -- a bomb.

Based on results, Perry has been more successful as governor of Texas than Obama has been as president, or as anything else he has ever tried being, in the entire whole course of his life.

In 2008, Obama was hailed as a genius, a "first rate intellect," the smartest man to ever be president, and we know now the first part is true. He is the political genius who shed 30 points in his first years in office.

He's the political genius who blew up his coalition in his first months in office, who led his party to annihilation in the 2010 midterms (while showing utter indifference to the fate of congressional Democrats), and gave the Republicans -- who were on the floor, in a coma -- more than they needed to come roaring back from the dead.

He is the policy genius who "leads from behind," whose engagement ideas have gone nowhere, whose stimulus stimulated only the deficit, whose health care "success" helped kill off his recovery, and whose efforts to create jobs all fell flat.

Almost 40 percent of the new jobs that were created happened under Perry in Texas. Liberals who fault that state for its low levels of taxes and spending might ask themselves why, if it is a hellhole, so many people go there and stay there.

Many of them are fleeing states ruled by Democrats, which have high taxes, a strong union presence and a rich array of the programs that Democrats love.

If this is idiocy, we may want some more idiots, as Lincoln once asked for more drunks in his army, rather like Gen. Grant.

The bloggers fear that he may win a second term anyhow, as there may be a difference between being "too dumb to govern," (look at Bush, for example), and being "too dumb to win."

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones thinks Perry may be too dim for even the doltish American public, while Paul Waldman thinks otherwise. "The doltish candidates seem mostly on the Republican side," he writes in the American Prospect, while only Democrats have and/or treasure intelligence.

"So while there are many things to dislike about Perry, his tiny brain" might do him no harm. But the real examples of those who campaigned well and bombed afterward are Democrats, such as Obama and Carter, whose careers peaked on the day they took office and went steadily downhill from then on.

And if Obama is brilliant, and Bush is an imbecile, how come the genius kept most of the things the dolt set in motion: the protocols for fighting the war against terror, the surge strategy, the timetables, and even, in Robert Gates and David Petraeus, some of his main appointees? Why couldn't the genius improve on the idiot's handiwork? Maybe he isn't that bright.



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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)

What caused the Industrial Revolution?

I am reproducing the whole of an article by Prof. Boudreaux below as it is itself a very condensed treament of a big topic. I follow the article, however, with what I believe is a better argument
Few questions in economic history are discussed and debated as much as this one. Even if you happen to be among the small number of people who regret what historian (and Freeman columnist) Steve Davies calls “the wealth explosion” of the past couple of centuries, you must nevertheless find this question intriguing, for it asks about the causes of what is surely the single greatest change in human history.

For at least 70 millennia the standard of living of the vast majority of us humans was at, or very near, subsistence. Then all of a sudden (in the great sweep of history)—boom! Starting in the eighteenth century living standards shot upward not only for royalty and the landed nobility but for everyone. And to this very day our standard of living—including our life expectancy and measures of healthfulness—continues to rise.

Why? A question so momentous elicits plenty of answers. Among the well-known answers that have been offered over the years are capitalist exploitation of workers; capitalist exploitation of colonies; religious beliefs that promoted savings and risk-taking; and England’s 1688 Glorious Revolution, which is said to have made property rights more secure. And new answers continue to be offered, such as economist Gregory Clark’s thesis, explained in his book A Farewell to Alms, that genes equipping human beings especially well for carrying out enterprise and commerce were passed down from the English nobility into the English middle classes—thus equipping the bourgeoisie finally to do its thing.

Some of these answers are more plausible than others (with Clark’s being among the least plausible). But not a single one is satisfactory. None explains why the Industrial Revolution began where it began (northwestern Europe) or why it began when it began (the eighteenth century). Another explanation is needed.

And another explanation has indeed just been offered: a change in rhetoric. This rhetoric-based thesis comes from the great economist and historian Deirdre McCloskey in her 2010 book Bourgeois Dignity. It’s a book that, like only three or four others I’ve read, caused a major change in my thinking.

McCloskey reviews with awesome thoroughness all the major (and many not-so-major) explanations for the Industrial Revolution. She finds them all wanting.

Some of these explanations are more obviously flawed than others. Capitalist exploitation of workers, for instance, fails spectacularly as an explanation on a variety of fronts, not the least of which is that the very people from whom the newly created wealth is supposedly extracted (the masses) are the same people who have benefitted most from this wealth explosion.

If capitalist wealth was wrenched from the bent backs and sweaty brows of the working class, then surely workers as a group would today be much poorer rather than (depending on how you count) 10 to 100 times wealthier than were their pre-industrial peasant ancestors. As McCloskey emphasizes, “[M]odern economic growth did not and does not and cannot depend on the scraps to be gained by stealing from poor people. It is not a good business plan.”

A more plausible explanation is one associated most familiarly with the Nobel economist Douglass North and his frequent coauthor Barry Weingast. It’s an explanation I once accepted. According to North and Weingast, the replacement of the Stuart monarchs by William and Mary in the late seventeenth century resulted in more secure property rights in England, which in turn sparked the Industrial Revolution.

While everyone with a modicum of sense understands that the Industrial Revolution would not have happened if private property rights in England weren’t secure, McCloskey argues persuasively that the Glorious Revolution—for all of its undoubted benefits—did not bring about much of a change in England’s property laws or in the security of private property rights. Here’s what McCloskey writes on page 318:

England when at peace, which was the usual case throughout its history, was a nation of ordinary property laws, no more or less corrupt than Chicago in 1925 or the American South under segregation, places in which innovation flourished. It was so, for example, even when the Stuart kings were undermining the independence of the judiciary in order to extract the odd pound with which to have a foreign policy in a new age of standing armies and floating navies. And the amounts extracted, contrary to the Northian suggestion that the king owned everything, were by modern standards pathetically small. The figures offered by North and Weingast themselves imply that total government expenditure under James I and Charles I was at most a mere 1.2 to 2.4 percent of national income. . . .

"[T]he Stuart kings, grasping though they were, and emboldened (as were many monarchs at the time) by the newly asserted divine right of kings, were nothing like as efficient in predation as modern governments—or indeed as were the Georgian kings of Great Britain and Ireland who eventually succeeded the Stuarts."

Indeed so. This explanation fails.

The mainstream economist’s long-preferred explanation is capital accumulation. It fares no better than does the capitalist-exploitation thesis and the North-Weingast thesis.

According to the capital-accumulation thesis, people (for any of a variety of different reasons) began to save more. These savings were transformed into capital goods whose use increased the productivity of labor. And so the Industrial Revolution happened.

But as McCloskey points out, history is full of instances in which people saved just as much as in northwestern Europe at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, but without unleashing any revolutionary industrial forces. Moreover—and contrary to a thesis still fondly held by many people from Marxists to Reagan Republicans—economic growth does not require substantial capital accumulation. It can be, and has been, funded largely out of retained earnings.

What does best explain why the Industrial Revolution began in northwestern Europe in the eighteenth century is that for the first time in history people then and in that part of the world began to talk about the bourgeoisie with respect. This new “habit of the lip” (as McCloskey calls it) replaced the older habit of talking about entrepreneurs and merchants as being, at best, contemptible functionaries whose services society might need in some measure but whose importance to society fell far below the services supplied by warriors, royalty, noblemen, and priests.

With merchants and entrepreneurs in eighteenth-century Holland and England finally accorded widespread dignity, society’s best and brightest no longer avoided the world of private business to pursue careers at court or on the battlefield. The power of the bourgeoisie in these countries with tolerably secure private property rights was thus finally unleashed to revolutionize the economy—first in northwestern Europe and, continuing to today, the rest of the world.


The question discussed above is of immense interest to those of us who are interested in history. But I think the explanation in terms of rhetoric favored above by Prof. Boudreaux is at best a very partial explanation. One immediately asks WHY the rhetoric about the bourgeoisie changed. No answer is given.

Prof. Boudreaux seems to be a pretty thoroughgoing libertarian and, as is common in such circles, sees genetics as of only minor importance. That is presumably why he so airily dismisses Gregory Clark’s thesis in terms of genetics and natural selection (i.e. in pre-modern times the rich and powerful had greater reproductive success).

But why he so airily dismissed the Weberian explanation in terms of Calvinism ("religious beliefs that promoted savings and risk-taking") is mysterious. I can however provide my own reasons for dismissing Weber's thesis (at least in its narrowest sense of applying to Calvinists only) so I will not dwell on that.

I, on the other hand can see no reason to doubt the process that Clark describes (briefly outlined here) except in one important respect: The same thing must have happened in Tokugawa Japan but the same result was certainly not observed.

I take it as given that no one factor is alone sufficient to account for the industrial revolution. Prof. Boudreaux mentions above a number of factors that could have had a facilitatory effect (security of property rights, capital accumulation, a long period of peace etc.) and it seems obvious to me that when you have a lot of those factors present at the one time and in the one place you then reach what we know from nuclear physics as a "critical mass": There is a long buildup with nothing obviously changing and then suddenly it all does change in a big way. A "tipping point" is a similar concept, one much relied upon by Warmists but which anybody who has ever seen an oldfashioned set of counterweighted scales in use will readily understand. You keep adding weights to one side of the scale and nothing happens. But add that last weight and the scale suddenly tips up.

And it seems to me that the genetic process described by Clark is an important one of those crucial factors which together gave rise to the industrial revolution.

But surely the favourable factors came together somewhere else at some time? And Tokugawa Japan would seem to be such an instance. It had the longest period of peace of any country in history, the genetic process described by Clark should have occurred and it was a very orderly law-bound society.

So we have to look at factors beyond the Clark thesis. And I think that the responsible factors are easy to see. Mercants were NOT respected, no religious innovation akin to Calvinism was allowed and the laws were very unequally applied. A Samurai had far greater rights than a farmer, for instance.

So Clark's process cannot stand alone but, seen as a tributary joining with others to form a mighty river of change, it surely has an important place.

And those tributaries started flowing much sooner than is popularly believed. The birth of scientific thinking was surely important in sparking things like the invention of the steam engine and scientific thinking goes back a very long way. It started of course with the ancient Greeks but was lost for a time. The Renaissance is often seen as the revival of Greek learning which in turn sparked the beginning of modern science with Galileo and his telescope etc.

On closer examination, however, the Renaissance was not such a sudden change. There was a continuing quiet evolution of thinking even in the "dark" ages and much that is attributed to the Renaissance came in fact from Medieval times. See here.

Which leads me to my final point: That the whole of history led up to the Industrial revolution. Human capabilities continually expanded in fits and starts and even occasionally gave rise to real civilizations such as ancient Athens and Rome. But, to re-use again the "critical mass" concept, none of the advances in capability and understanding were quite enough to ignite a great change. When enough capability and understanding had built up, however, the scales tipped (to change the metaphor). The industrial revolution seemed sudden but it was in fact the accumulation of thousands of years of social evolution. Everything finally came together at last.


The Sage of Omaha speaks, but his actions speak louder

Jeff Jacoby notes below that Buffett's deeds contradict his words but he does not really delve into why the wise Mr. Buffett said what he did about tax. Buffett's words are of course just one more demonstration of how wise he is. As he is a very rich man he risks getting condemned as part of Obama's constant abuse of the rich. So he has at least verbally thrown in his hat as being on the side of the "saints". He has neutered criticism of himself at no cost to himself. Wise indeed. And his BofA deal shows that he is as sharp as ever

WARREN BUFFETT is the billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, a friend and political supporter of Barack Obama, and a well-known advocate of higher taxes on the rich. He is also a hypocrite, whose actions belie his words.

For several years now, Buffett has been calling for significant tax hikes on extremely wealthy Americans like himself. Last week, in a New York Times column headlined "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich," Buffett lamented that the $6,938,744 he forked over in federal income and payroll taxes in 2010 amounted to just 17.4 percent of his taxable income. "What I paid," the world's most famous investor observed, "was . . . actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent, and averaged 36 percent."

Buffett has not made his employees' tax returns public, but the federal tax burdens he ascribes to them appear to be highly atypical. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the overall federal tax load shouldered by Americans -- comprising income, payroll, corporate, and excise taxes -- is quite progressive. CBO reported last summer that "households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution paid 4.0 percent of their income in federal taxes, the middle quintile paid 14.3 percent, and the highest quintile paid 25.1 percent. Average rates continued to rise within the top quintile: The top 1 percent faced an average rate of 29.5 percent." If Buffett's numbers are right, his employees must be among the highest-taxed workers in America.

Yet Buffett doesn't argue that his workers' federal taxes should be cut. He demands that his own be raised.

As many critics have noted, Buffett can voluntarily send Washington more money than he owes in taxes. Anyone can. Since 1843, the Treasury Department notes on its website, the government has maintained an account "to accept gifts, such as bequests, from individuals wishing to express their patriotism to the United States." Deposits to that account are added to the government's general fund, but the feds also accept contributions -- by credit card, electronic payment, or check -- specifically earmarked for paying down federal debt.

It would be nice to think that those who insist so vehemently that Washington's debt crisis cannot be resolved without higher revenues are taking the lead and freely reaching into their own pockets. Alas, no. Donations to the Bureau of the Public Debt, The New York Times reported last year, only trickle in at an annual rate of about $2 million to $3 million.

What makes Buffett a hypocrite isn't that he champions an immediate tax increase on the wealthy, yet donates nothing extra to Washington himself. Merely favoring a change in the law doesn't oblige anyone to act as if the change has been enacted.

But Buffett doesn't just propose higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires as a matter of abstract policy. He argues that he personally (along with what he calls "my mega-rich friends") has been "spared" any shared sacrifice, that he personally has "been coddled long enough," that he personally shouldn't get "extraordinary tax breaks" when so many Americans are struggling. He frames his call for higher taxes as an avowal of his own moral obligations. Were he to put his money where his mouth is and voluntarily send the Treasury a big check, his call for higher taxes would carry greater moral authority. His failure to do so is not just intellectually inconsistent, but hypocritical.

Buffett isn't greedy. He is an extraordinary philanthropist who has undertaken to give 99 percent of his immense fortune to charity, and who, with Bill Gates, actively encourages other billionaires to spend down half or more of their wealth in charitable donations.

And why is he giving all that money to charity instead of to Uncle Sam? Because, as he has said in interviews, he knows it will do more good that way and be used more effectively. Who would disagree? For all Buffett's talk of being undertaxed, he believes what nearly everyone believes -- that he can allocate his money more wisely than the government. And not just that he can, but that he should.

When the Sage of Omaha calls for higher taxes, his words get plenty of attention. But his actions speak louder, and convey a markedly different message.



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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why Government Doesn't Create Jobs

If you want to know why $800 billion in government stimulus spending has created 9 percent unemployment, all you have to do is look at the windmill in Milwaukee.

The project involves a single wind turbine 154 feet tall (small by today's standard) that is supposed to supply some electricity to the Milwaukee Port Authority. The $500,000 project is being built with $400,000 in federal stimulus money and another $100,000 from the Wisconsin Focus on Energy Program. It's been several years in the making but things finally seemed ready to go last month when the city finally put the project out to bid. The winner, Kettle Renewable Enterprises, had small subcontracts of $2,000 for women-and-minority-owned firms in its $500,000 offer. However, city alderman Robert Bauman decided this wasn't enough. He vetoed the project, saying more woman-and-minority firms should have been included. "If that means losing $500,000, then we'll lose $500,000," Bauman told the press.

In a nutshell, that's why government never gets anything done. It's not the women-and-minorities part. The problem is that with government everybody has to have a say in what gets done. In the Milwaukee case, federal stimulus rules didn't require the minority subcontracting. In fact, Mayor Tom Barrett is arguing that federal rules prohibit such a mandate in this case. But what does it matter? The important thing in government is that everybody gets to have a say. The Milwaukee Board of Harbor Commissioners has to sign off on the project and their stake may involve pushing some ideology or making constituents happy.

Anyone who has ever worked in a large, bureaucratic organization knows the pattern. Getting anything approved requires going through layer upon layer of bureaucracy. Pretty soon you're in a territory where people signing off know nothing about the project but only have their own oblique interests. Days and weeks are spent in meeting after meeting, trying to get everybody on board and reach an agreement. It's a wonder anything ever gets done.

Government is just the same thing only worse because there are now more stakeholders. Now everybody gets a say. Projects collect interest groups like barnacles, most of them with no interest in the main task but hanging on to push some irrelevant agenda. That's why we have K Street and why everybody there is pushing to have more decision-making moved to Washington in order to increase their leverage.

A few years ago, New York City was trying to decide what to do with Governors Island, a beautiful mile-square piece of real estate off the southern tip of Manhattan that was dropped in the city's lap when the Coast Guard abandoned it after 200 years of federal ownership. A ten-minute ferry ride from Wall Street and dotted with century-old buildings, it would make a fantastic research park along the lines of Stanford Research Park or North Carolina's Research Triangle. When the relevant City Council committee held hearings on the master plan, however, all 12 members began by making a statement of what the project meant for their district. The first speaker, from Harlem, used his five minutes to opine that he didn't like the term "master plan" because it made him think of "masters and slaves," which had a negative association for African Americans. Things went downhill from there. Every representative reiterated that theirs was the most important district in New York City and that whatever happened on Governors Island, it better do something for their constituents. Trying to please everyone, the city has done nothing with Governors Island except hold sculpture exhibitions and outdoor composting lessons and encourage people to go out for bike rides.

It's the same at any hearing in Congress. No matter what the subject, each member gets to make a five-minute introductory speech. This is for the benefit of the television cameras back home. (The members jokingly refer to these as "talkings" rather than "hearings.") By the time the real testimony begins -- usually about an hour later -- members are taking off for other appointments. All this may work when you're investigating corruption in the food stamp program or trying to cast blame for the subprime meltdown, but for building things and getting something done -- forget about it.

Every time the federal government undertakes some simple task, it becomes an effort to reinvent the world. Last week it was revealed that a $20 million stimulus program in Seattle to weatherize homes had managed to weatherize three homes and create 14 jobs in its first year. Nothing is ever straightforward. Every city has lots of companies in the business of weatherizing homes. But the government can't just go out and hire them. It has to throw in provisions for taking people off the street for job training with special outreach for Spanish language speakers and so by the time all this is thrown into the pot, nothing gets done.

There is only way out of this bureaucratic trap -- entrepreneurship. People working in established companies say to themselves, "The hell with all this bureaucracy. I'm going to go out and do this on my own." Last month the New York Times ran a story about Gautam Adani​, an Indian entrepreneur who is providing the country with significant portions of its electricity simply by working around the government and its restrictions. "He is able to do so well partly because he is very entrepreneurial and has found the right opportunity," lamented an official in the government finance ministry. "[I]t's a symptom of a dysfunctional state. He is able to deliver something more effectively than the state."

It's the same everywhere. In The Spirit of Enterprise, his memorable history of Silicon Valley, George Gilder showed that every major company was created by employees of another company who got tired of dealing with upper management and decided to strike out on their own. The process is on-going today -- although Silicon Valley has become been dangerously enmeshed in the government's pursuit of "alternative energy." Businesses start when individuals decide to go outside the bureaucracy -- and it's those small business that still create half the new jobs in the country every year.

But the bigger the government becomes, the harder it is to go around it. With so much investment being directed out of Washington and the government controlling so much money, things eventually come to a standstill. Just as Francis Parkinson noted that large institutions usually build their monumental headquarters just as they are passing the peak of their development, so President Obama's new "Department of Jobs" will be probably mark the end of job creation in America. It will be the one last, fatal layer of bureaucracy.



The media likes scaring us, and we like it

by John Stossel

I’m embarrassed by my profession. We consumer reporters should warn you about life’s important risks, but instead, we mislead you about dubious risks.

I first started thinking about this when interviewing Ralph Nader years ago, before he stopped speaking to me. Nader worried about almost everything: Food? “It can spoil in your own refrigerator,” Chicken? “[It's] contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides.” Flying? “Inadequate maintenance.” Carpets? “Rugs are dirt collectors. And dirt collectors mean internal, indoor air pollution.” Coffee? “Caffeine is not very good for you.”

He went on and on. Just interviewing him was exhausting. Nader and interest groups like his fuel the Fear Industrial Complex: the network of activists, government bureaucrats, and trial lawyers who profit by scaring people.

The media should be skeptical of their prophesies of doom, but we rarely are.

My TV program, “20/20,” has done frightening reports on the dangers of paper shredders, soccer goals, lawn chemicals, cell phones, garage-door openers, and more. There’s always some truth behind the scares — someone got hurt, or some study somewhere found a risk. But we rarely put the danger in perspective. We give you a breathless rush of alarm over every possibility, often delivered with a throbbing rock beat.

Sometimes we don’t even get the numbers right. Remember the summer of the shark? It was nonsense. That summer the number of shark attacks was hardly different from two previous years. But in those other years we had an election to cover, or OJ was on trial. Mid-summer 2001 didn’t bring many sexy stories, so Time did a cover story on “the Summer of the Shark.”

It should have embarrassed the media into putting risks in perspective. But it didn’t.

Listening to us, you’d think our growing exposure to pesticides, food additives, and other mysterious chemicals has created America’s “cancer epidemic.” But in truth there is no cancer epidemic — cancer incidence is flat, and death rates have been falling for years. But such good news doesn’t get much play. No interest groups benefit from it.

Remember the breast-implant scare? Some lawyers and activists said silicone from breast implants caused lupus, breast cancer, and more. Connie Chung did a scare story on CBS, the FDA banned silicone implants, and soon many women were certain that their medical problems were caused by their implants.

How could they not think that? The Fear Industrial Complex told them they were being slowly poisoned. Lawyer John O’Quinn helped spread the fear and reaped the reward. He sued implant makers again and again until they paid his clients over $1 billion. Fortune called O’Quinn and his partner “lawyers from hell.” O’Quinn won’t say how much money he made off those lawsuits, but he’s now rich to have a warehouse that holds 900 valuable cars.

After the suits from O’Quinn and others bankrupted implant maker Dow Corning, and after many women were terrorized — some so much they cut their own breasts open to get the implants out — scientists started saying there’s no evidence that silicone causes autoimmune disease and cancer. Study after study failed to find a link. Sherine Gabriel, chair of the department of health sciences research at the Mayo Clinic, announced that there was “no significant difference in the occurrence of connective tissue diseases between the women who had the implants and the women who did not.”

The FDA has now re-approved silicone implants, and thousands of women are having implants inserted, implants that contain the very same silicone that was used before.

So has O’Quinn apologized for scaring women and bankrupting Dow Corning? No. Did he give the money back? Of course not. The lawyers never do. Instead, O’Quinn impugns the authors of the medical studies. “Who bought and paid for that science?” he said to me, indignantly. He told me he’s proud to sue rich businessmen.

Reporters rely on lawyers like O’Quinn, bureaucracies like the FDA, and interest groups like Nader’s to give us safety warnings and “dirt” on evil companies. We should be more skeptical. The Fear Industrial Complex has motives of its own.




Politicization of Justice Department worsens: "If you are a moderate or conservative, don’t expect to get a job with the Justice Department during the Obama administration. All 15 of the attorneys hired by the Justice Department’s Employment Litigation Section were ardent leftists -- no moderate or conservative, let alone libertarian, hires at all. Some of the hires were fresh out of law school with no real world legal experience."

Indiana lawmakers to review police-entering-home ruling: "Indiana lawmakers will take on a recent controversial ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday when a study committee debates whether Hoosiers have the right to physically block police from entering their homes. Richard L. Barnes was convicted of misdemeanor resisting law enforcement for shoving an officer who tried to enter his home without a warrant. The police were responding to a 911 call about a domestic disturbance. He shoved a police officer, who entered anyway, and was shocked with a stun gun and arrested. The court said Barnes had no right to resist police entry. That outraged a number of Hoosiers and lawmakers, who said the state's castle doctrine — which allows people to defend their homes — makes no exception for police."

US government balloons; private sector shrinks: "Government regulatory agencies now employ more agents and workers than McDonald's, Ford, Disney and Boeing combined, and public sector employment is booming; up by 13% since 2008, while private sector jobs are down by well over 5%, and the unemployment rate remains steady at over 9%. Regulatory agency budgets have grown by 16%, or $54 billion, during Obama’s presidency, while the private economy remains stagnant"

Snail mail to get even slower: "The U.S. Postal Service could save about $1.5 billion a year if it relaxed its two-to-three-day delivery schedules for first-class and Priority Mail deliveries by a day, according to a new study. Postal executives are seriously considering the idea and are expected to announce plans regarding delivery schedules after Labor Day, according to USPS officials. Currently the Postal Service advises customers that first-class and Priority Mail deliveries will arrive, on average, in two or three days. But relaxing the schedule by a day would cut about $336 million in premium pay for employees working overnight and Sundays to meet current delivery schedules, according to the study."

Decriminalizing drugs will save lives and money: "Like most Americans, I believe the War on Drugs is a failure and should end. Do I want children to use drugs? Of course not; not my children, not anyone’s children. Nor do I want anyone, especially children, to eat foods that are not good for them, to drive too fast, or to stand out in the cold until they come down with pneumonia. But I am not willing to use force to stop them, or throw them in jail if they persist in such behavior."

Medicare bidding process will hurt doctors, patients: "A poorly designed set of changes to Medicare announced earlier this month could have serious negative consequences as it hits home here in the Washington, D.C., area. The venture, known by the only-a-bureaucrat-could-love-it name of Competitive Bidding Program for Certain Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies, has some decent ideas at its core, but serious design flaws could cause it to waste money, override doctors’ decisions and harm patients here and everywhere else in the country."

Obama’s wars on humanity: "America's a poster child failed state, defined in a recent article as follows: (1) An inability or unwillingness to protect its citizens from violence and other forms of harm. (2) Its abrogation of rule of law standards. (3) Its lawless belligerent pursuits. (4) If nominal democracies, its policy deficiencies, exposing a serious democratic deficit."


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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It was not the war that cured the Great Depression

As evidenced by the fact that the big rise in output for private consumption occurred AFTER the war

World War II increased GDP, but more than 100% of the increase was devoted to munitions, building the Pentagon, employing teams of bureaucrats to control prices and government activity generally, much of it misguided. Gross Private Product decreased from $921 billion in 2005 dollars in 1940 to $427 billion in 1944, well below 1932’s level, showing that the private economy was badly squeezed. Then in 1946, while GDP decreased by 11%, GPP more than doubled to $1,309 billion. Readjustment was inflationary and disruptive, but it saw an astonishing increase in output and living standards.

The Keynesian thesis can be further demolished by looking at 1946 compared to 1938-40. At the tail end of the Great Depression, in November 1938, there was a massive turnover in the U.S. Congress, similar to the Tea Party revolt of 2010, in which the Republicans gained six Senate seats and an astonishing 72 House seats (9 more than in 2010). Although this did not give them a majority, it stopped dead the New Deal policies of heavy state spending and economic experimentation. GDP increased by 8% per annum between 1938 and 1940 and GPP increased even more rapidly, by 9.2% per annum.

This pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression, with 1940 GPP 10% above that of 1929, but left the economy far below capacity. If you apply the average 1929-2000 growth rate of 3.43% per annum to 1929’s GPP, you get a 1940 full employment GPP estimate of $1,203 billion in 2005 dollars, 31% above the actual figure. That suggests that without the war the 1938-40 boom would naturally have continued, perhaps slowing somewhat, until it ran up against resource constraints. Apply 1938-40’s actual growth rate to the next six years and you get a 1946 GPP of $1,558 billion, 19% above actual 1946 GPP. Applying the 1929-2000 growth rate to 1929 GPP gives you $1,473 billion in 1946, 13% above the actual level. 1947 and 1948 showed further GPP increases, but reduced actual GPP’s gap below full employment GPP only to 11%.

Bottom line: without the war, GPP would have continued recovering at a rapid rate after 1940, probably giving a higher GPP by 1946. Second bottom line: a combination of the Great Depression and the war, probably mostly the latter, depressed 1946’s GPP by around 10%-12% below the level it would naturally have reached in a free peaceful market.

Intuitively this makes sense. As policy was stabilized after 1938, the U.S. economy began recovering rapidly to its natural full-employment level. World War II depressed the private economy to a low level, but its effect was mostly temporary, with an astonishing bounce-back as peace returned. However, a combination of the Great Depression and the damage caused by the war caused the United States to lose about 10%-12% of its full-employment output by 1946-48 (catching up which long-term may have resulted in the exceptionally good economic performance of 1948-66.) The Keynesian story of World War II’s economic boost makes no sense; this one does.



Perry supports Israel

Over at Commentary, Alana Goodman profiles the lawyers responsible for stopping the second Gaza flotilla by cleverly threatening lawsuits against any entities involved in helping the flotilla. "Led by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and her husband Avi Leitner, the legal center is pioneering a new strategy of Israeli-self defense: Pro-Israel Lawfare."

One of the means at their disposal was threatening lawsuits against the Americans participating in the flotilla. "[The] lawyers discovered American flotilla activists were potentially in violation of the Neutrality Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from taking part in a hostile act against an allied country. “So we approached the Attorney General of the United States to fix it. And we also got Gov. Rick Perry to write a letter to Eric Holder,” said Darshan-Leitner."

Why did the Israeli lawyer approach Perry, Goodman asks. Because as Darshan-Leitner explains, she met Perry on one of his trips to Israel and he told her he'd do anything to help her fight. Perry told Darshan-Leitner: "I love what you do. It’s amazing what you do. If you ever need help combating Israel’s enemies, I’m here to assist."

Perry was genuinely enthusiastic about combating Israel's enemies and certainly put his reputation where his mouth is by writing a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder about the matter. Fellow supporters of Israel may just have found the best presidential contender in Gov. Perry.



A far-reaching decision in favor of freedom

The federal appeals court ruling that struck down the centerpiece of Obamacare has dealt a massive, possibly fatal, blow to the government-imposed health care system passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress over bitter public opposition.

The decision earlier this month by a divided, three-member panel in the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, with the support of a judge named by President Clinton, condemned a central provision that will force uninsured Americans to buy health insurance or else face financial punishment.

The court said the mandate was an unconstitutional extension of government's excessive regulation of interstate commerce -- in this case, requiring people to purchase a private commercial product they may not need, want, or be able to afford.

The judges called the legislation President Obama proposed and signed into law March 22, 2010, "breathtaking in its expansive scope." And they didn't mean that as a compliment.

The national news media routinely, perhaps grudgingly, reported the court's decision, but in the days that followed seemed to dismiss the ruling as a one-day story with few lasting repercussions.

But the law, after all, was the authoritarian core of the president's social and economic agenda, one that he spent more than a year battling on Capitol Hill against a furious groundswell of grass-roots opposition that gave birth to the tea party revolution and sharply eroded his support among independents and senior citizens who feared the costly reforms would come at the expense of Medicare benefits.

The court didn't mince words, characterizing the new law's sweeping mandate as an unprecedented and dangerous assault on the fundamental rights and liberties of American citizens. That's why its criticisms deserve more attention than they have been given thus far. Like this one:

"This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives," the court ruled in its 2-1 decision.

The court said that if Congress can force Americans to buy, under penalty of law, health insurance plans under the guise of the Constitution's Commerce Clause, then they can compel us to purchase almost anything.

The appellate court said that if we let Congress to get away with this, then "there is no reason why Congress could not similarly compel Americans to insure against any number of unforeseeable but serious risks."

"Individuals subjected to this economic mandate have not made a voluntary choice to enter the stream of commerce, but instead are having that choice imposed upon them by the federal government," the judges said, adding that "we are unable to conceive of any product whose purchase Congress could not mandate under this line of argument."

Further strengthening their argument against the unrestricted reach of the Commerce Clause to sanction any and all regulation of our personal economic decision-making, the court set forth this self-evident constitutional barrier that it said Congress cannot violate:

"... what Congress cannot do under the overused Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die."

A key complaint by the court concerns the government's false claim that the financial charge it would levy on those who refuse to buy health insurance is actually just another tax, not a penalty.

"Not one of the courts which so far has ruled, no matter what the decisions, has agreed with the Obama administration that the penalty for not buying insurance is really a 'tax," said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a Washington public-policy think tank that has spearheaded opposition to Obamacare.

"The government thinks calling it a tax is its home-free ticket. It's unlikely to work," she said in a recent analysis of the appeals court ruling.

The case that the appeals court decided against the government was filed in Florida by 26 states, along with the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation's small-business association whose members will be hit hard by $52 billion in new taxes under the health care law.

Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, testified before the House Budget Committee in February that Obamacare will result in 800,000 fewer jobs at a time when good-paying jobs are in short supply.

But something else is at stake here in a legal battle that will end up being decided by the highest court in the land. "As with so many other issues in this historic debate, it ultimately all comes down to freedom -- and whether it will be lost or preserved pending decisions by the Supreme Court and the voters next year," Turner writes.

The 11th Circuit Court's unflinchingly courageous ruling lays out the deeply disturbing reasons why Obamacare poses the single greatest threat to freedom by an all-powerful federal government.



Obama Is a Robot That Needs Reprogramming

President Obama's legacy is shaping up to be a recurring cycle of rhetorical failures chasing policy failures, an endless, stupefying effort to convince us of the wisdom of pursuing -- again and again -- policies that have already failed.

This point is reinforced as we read reports about Obama's umpteenth luxurious golf outing while our economy and financial condition approach DEFCON 2 and Middle East turmoil continues apace.

From the superficial snippets we get from the liberal media, Obama doesn't seem to be too concerned with either domestic or foreign policy while on the links, but to the extent he allocates thought to either, he's contemplating his next speech more than deliberating over any substantive decisions.

From all appearances, he's not fretting over the grim jobs reports and hints of creeping inflation; he's not meditating or seeking advice about a new direction he could propose to navigate us out of this malaise.

He's thinking about his abysmal approval ratings, wondering how he can fob those off on President Bush, too. And he's thinking about how he can con the nation into permitting him to give us more doses of the same poisonous elixirs he crammed down our throats the first time.

If he really cared what the people think, he might try listening to them instead of just pretending to be on a listening tour. When an Iowan farmer tried to gently school him on the depressing effects of stifling governmental regulations, Obama cavalierly blew him off and launched into one of his canned monologues deriding income disparities and partisanship. He's got to be the closest thing to a robot ever to inhabit the Oval Office.

As an incorrigible and stunningly narrow-minded ideologue, Obama can't process information or ideas that don't conform to his presuppositions and predispositions. When his policies don't work, it must be because conditions were worse than he'd realized or he didn't go far enough. There is utterly no room for consideration of the possibility that his policies don't work.

So it was that last year when Obama returned from Martha's Vineyard, he didn't emerge revealing any hint of humility about the ongoing failure of his economic prescriptions. He didn't announce that economic realities had finally forced him to take a second look at the wisdom of his agenda.

Instead, he strode into Wisconsin and Ohio to unveil a "bold economic program," as if his $800 billion stimulus package hadn't been brassy enough. He called for "quickly" investing some $50 billion in roads, bridges and other public works projects and, of course, for his obligatory tax hikes for the evil "rich," who could always "afford to give back a little more."

I don't know why more people didn't outright ridicule this juvenile idea at the time. If not already, at what point will he have forfeited the privilege of being taken seriously about the economy? At a time when almost every thinking American was becoming increasingly horrified at the national debt, Obama was proposing that we increase it substantially more in pursuit of policies that had already failed. He never provided any glimpse into the bizarre thought process that had led him to believe that $50 billion could jump-start an economy when 16 times that amount had not.

In the past year, since Obama attempted that preposterous Stimulus II, the people have made it even clearer how opposed they are to his reckless Keynesian schemes, but he refuses to hear them. Just as with Obamacare, he has no intention of deviating from his programmed course. His only challenge is to repackage it -- and fool us into buying it in fewer than 54 speeches this time.

That's right. Believe it or not, in between holes, he's crafting a grand September speech, "mapping out a jobs package that he hopes can boost a sluggish economy and win over voters who are coming to doubt his leadership," according to the Los Angeles Times.

He's not about to propose that the government, to stimulate growth, relax its stranglehold on the private sector by loosening onerous regulations, easing the tax burden, and drastically reducing spending. Those do not compute.

He's going to propose -- in a different, perhaps more deceptive, form -- the same blueprint: government spending of borrowed money to "stimulate" growth. And he'll ratchet up his attack on Republicans, blaming them, along with his predecessor, for obstructing his ingenious reforms. To make his case, he will have to revise history to distort the fact that he had supermajorities in Congress long enough to get his way on the omnibus bill, the stimulus package and Obamacare and that they've all greatly exacerbated our financial crisis.

Obama's puerile predictability is pathetic, but even more so, it's tragic. If only there were a way to reprogram this robot.



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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Huge rate of criminality among illegal immigrants

A generally unnoticed aspect of Obama's new deportation plan for illegals is the assertion by the Obama admin. that the immigration service has the capacity to deport serious criminals only. That's a heck of a lot of serious criminals! Around 400,000 in fact. It is graphic testimony to the high rate of criminality among illegals -- and it's not "racists" who are saying so. This could well be a foot-shot for the Left in the medium term.


Winston Churchill and two famous sayings

"A man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart; A man who is still a socialist at age 30 has no head".

Who said that? Most people attribute it to Winston but as far as I can tell it was first said by Georges Clemenceau, French Premier in WWI -- whose own career approximated the transition concerned. And he in turn was simply updating an earlier saying about monarchy versus Republicanism by Guizot.

More obscurely, I wonder about a saying attributed to Bismarck, the towering 19th century statesman who unified Germany and gave Europe over 40 years of peace thereafter. Bismarck is often quoted as saying that the next European war would arise over "Some damn-fool thing in the Balkans" - which it did of course. But did Bismarck actually say that? I have been able to trace it back only to Churchill as having quoted it.

German sites (e.g. here) have MANY collections of Bismarck quotes and nothing like it appears there. Bismarck did say that the Balkans were not worth the life of of a single German soldier (Der ganze Balkan ist nicht die gesunden Knochen eines einzigen pommerschen Grenadiers wert) so did Churchill embroider on that? I would be interested to hear if anyone knows anything more


Hate on PBS

Gwen Ifill of PBS had a “panel of cultural and academic luminaries” at Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center last Wednesday. Their purpose was to have an “effective racial dialogue” with one another.

As is typically the case when there is a “racial dialogue,” the panel was filled with like-minded liberals endlessly agreeing with each other and solving nothing. The participants included, among others, Gwen Ifill, New York Times columnists Charles Blow, and Anita Hill–who is apparently a “legal commentator.” Absent was a single conservative. Maybe an insightful conversation could have occurred if there were actually diverse thoughts present.

Instead they had Tim Wise, a supposed “anti-racist” author and speaker. Wise is popular among college leftists for his style and bold remarks. Some of those remarks, however, are possibly the most angry, hateful remarks any public figure has recently uttered. For example, Wise recently attacked not only Andrew Breitbart, but his family as well:
“[Andrew Breitbart]…I want that bastard destroyed. Now. [...] when I say I want him destroyed I am not kidding. I want to see him penniless, homeless, begging on the street for money to buy food [...] he can die on the street so far as I’m concerned [...] let you and your rich ass Brentwood family suffer”

Wise also falsely and embarrassingly accused Breitbart of approving of a cross burning, which was in reality directed at Breitbart and his friend. Wise then reiterated:
“this Tulane grad [Tim Wise] is committed to [Andrew Breitbart's] utter destruction …I mean, the kind of destruction that involves the complete evisceration of his entire career. I want him destroyed. Penniless. Starving. I have never detested anyone this much…but for him, I will make an exception.”

Yes, penniless, starving, the evisceration of Breitbart’s career, we get it. Good luck with that, Tim. His recent racial slur of Herman Cain would, in a just world, disqualify him from being a prominent “anti-racist” and being invited to these events. But it doesn’t; instead, he has two new books coming out which will probably become required reading in college campuses across the country, like his previous books.

The question is, will Gwen Ifill, PBS, and CNN give this man a platform like they have in the past to spread his ideas on “effective racial dialogue” and “reconciliation?”

It is a discredit to anyone who invites Tim Wise into a dialogue which is supposed to be about uncovering hatred and bigotry. This is, after all, the same Tim Wise that has said the following:
“Glenn Beck is no better than the Nazis he praises…and deserves the same fate.”

“[I am] annoyed by this obnoxious applause which air travelers are expected to offer military personnel in uniform”

“…that pathetic little racist nation [Israel] couldn’t survive one month without U.S. support…and Israel is the anti-semitic state[...]”

“the evidence is clear by now: the right wing are terrorist enablers, and should be preventatively detained.”

“the conservative right and all of it’s members are, at some level or another, racists, without a single exception…I dare anyone to prove me wrong…find me one such person who doesn’t believe that blacks, for instance, are either inherently or culturally defective relative to whites (both racist beliefs)…”

“Anyone who would vote for this bigoted, ignorant, uneducated fool [Michele Bachmann], is, themselves, a bigoted, ignorant, uneducated fool…NO exceptions…”

“there’s just no nice way to say this: Sarah Palin is a goddamned historically illiterate idiot, and anyone who likes her is too…”

“birthers should be medicated…forcibly. I mean this. It is not hyperbole. I believe in shoving pills down their throats to bring them back to something resembling sanity. I want to start with Donald Trump.”

“the GOP and their Democratic enablers are straight up evil…enemies of women, all women, and a collection of misogynistic rape-empowering jack holes…no exceptions. And if you support them on this, the critique applies to you…”

“Tea Party…why you so stoopid? It makes my head hurt, and makes me support things like preventative detention for morons”

“any conservative who doesn’t openly condemn these tea-bag racists should be considered every bit as vile and racist themselves.”

“The right wing is insane, filled with conspiracy mongering whack-a-doodles, whose penchant for dishonesty and evil lie-mongering has no equivalent. Period.”

“I want white Arizona brought to its knees right about now. Destroyed economically. Wiped out. Completely, except for those allies who are prepared to step up and fight the fascists who are waging war on black and brown folks. Speak now, or you are the enemy and should be treated as such…”

The bottom line is that Tim Wise shouldn’t be taken seriously, let alone asked to appear on PBS or CNN. Gwen Ifill shouldn’t be asking him for his insights, and shouldn’t want to be associated with such a hateful person.



Honda creates new manufacturing jobs —in Mexico

Last week, Japanese automaker, Honda, announced a decision to spend $800 million to open another plant in North America to produce the exact kind of sub-compact vehicle that will help them meet the overly ambitious mileage guidelines laid out by the Obama Administration.

Honda has a long history of building plants in the United States with the first opening in 1979, and has even advertised their commitment to the American worker by featuring their Marysville, Ohio plant. In fact, Honda directly employs 25,000 Americans.

The new plant is scheduled to open in 2014, and would be a coup for any American state to get the jobs and tax revenues it will create.

Unfortunately, the plant is being built in Mexico, where Honda has two other production facilities. Yes, Mexico. The same Mexico where the very survival of the federal government is threatened by the drug cartels. The same Mexico that is notorious for a culture of graft both petty and large. The same Mexico where business executives need armed bodyguards for themselves and their families around the clock due to the threat of kidnapping.

That is where Honda decided to build a new automobile manufacturing plant over any of the 50 states in the United States.

While Honda is not saying why they chose a politically unstable, personally unsafe country over the United States, perhaps some clues can be found by looking at the two countries.

The Tax Foundation reports that Mexico ranks 9th in corporate taxes with an effective rate of 30 percent, and zero state taxes. When state taxes are taken into account, the United States on average is ranked as having the second highest taxes in the world just behind Japan. The U.S. federal corporate tax rate of 35 percent means that for every $1 million in profit generated at a Mexican production facility, Honda makes $50,000 more after taxes.

Honda has also had union troubles in the United States being targeted for organizing by the United Auto Workers in its Indiana facility. In 2007, Honda came under fire in a new manufacturing plant in Indiana, because they restricted hiring to residents from counties without heavy union presence.

Can there be any doubt that the UAW’s partnership with the federal government in both GM and Chrysler, played a role in their site selection.

Additionally, it could not have been lost on the Japanese corporation that the National Labor Relations Board has been bending over backward to direct not only traditional rules for union organizing, but have intervened against a U.S. corporation’s decision on where to locate a manufacturing facility.

Once again, it must be emphasized that I have not found a quote from Honda officials related to the cost basis of this decision, when you add up the significantly higher taxes, and the potentially dramatically higher labor costs due to the Obama Administration’s overt attempt to force unionization onto U.S. manufacturers, Honda’s choice is logical.

Take the risk of kidnappers, government collapse and petty corruption rather than the risk of spending $800 million on a plant that becomes immediately unprofitable due to higher taxes and federal government policies designed to disrupt your shining new shop floor with the thuggish UAW as a compulsory business partner.

When you look at the U.S. manufacturing environment through the mindset of a foreign manufacturer, and ask, why did they choose to not locate here, it becomes clear that if the President truly wants to make the U.S. competitive, he should be beating the drum for an across the board corporate tax rate deduction and put a leash on his organized labor pitbulls at the NLRB.

Ultimately, it is the American worker who is paying the price. Perhaps this explains why Mexico’s unemployment rate is at 4.9 percent, while the rate in the U.S. hovers at 9.1 percent.




Canada: Vancouver fruit stand too successful, forced to close: "City moves in to shut down popular vendor hawking local produce after he sells beyond volume allowed by licence. ... Smith shut his stand down on Sunday as instructed. 'We’re not going to fight with city hall,' he said."

DC: Three arrested on Capitol grounds for lemonade stand: "Selling lemonade is not a crime, but selling it on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol is, which is why, police say, three people were arrested Saturday for running a lemonade stand on Capitol grounds. ... 'Lemonade Freedom Day' earned support from thousands of people across the country, including dozens who wrote in on the Facebook page that they created stands for their kids to sell lemonade. The effort to 'liberate lemons' was intended as a challenge to a recent string of police actions that have shut down the hallmark childhood entrepreneurism."

CA: Data spill shows risk of online health records: "Until recently, medical files belonging to nearly 300,000 Californians sat unsecured on the Internet for the entire world to see. There were insurance forms, Social Security numbers and doctors' notes. Among the files were summaries that spelled out, in painstaking detail, a trucker's crushed fingers, a maintenance worker's broken ribs and one man's bout with sexual dysfunction. At a time of mounting computer hacking threats, the incident offers an alarming glimpse at privacy risks as the nation moves steadily into an era in which every American's sensitive medical information will be digitized."

How to win friends and influence people: "Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is planning to nearly quadruple the size of his $12 million California beachfront mansion. The former Massachusetts governor is planning to bulldoze his 3,009-square-foot home facing the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, Calif., and replace it with an 11,062-square-foot home, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune"

The persistence of fiscal fantasy: "The good news is that the idea of serious spending restraint has more support than ever before. The bad news is that getting people to support the concept is easy. The hard part is getting beyond the concept, and there is no sign so far of doing that."

Blatant media lies: "Most media bias is certainly subtle. However, this article by The Associated Press is seething in liberal bias and intentionally tries to tar tax-cutting Republicans by accusing them of wanting to raise taxes while at the same time praising President Barack Obama for wanting to cut taxes. Reporter Charles Babington is either a liberal partisan hack who can’t seem to see his own bias or someone who truly doesn’t understand what the heck he is writing about"

Deregulate the practice of law to promote justice and create jobs: "Legislatures also need to simplify court procedures that make it impossible for ordinary people to seek redress in cases that aren’t big enough to afford hiring a lawyer, leaving cheated people with little redress when they are ripped off to the tune of $5,000 to $15,000. People can represent themselves in small-claims courts, which have simplified procedures, but in many states, such courts can hear only the tiniest legal claims, like those seeking less than $5,000."

Far-Left Amnesty again: "The Jerusalem-based human rights watchdog organization NGO Monitor sharply criticized Amnesty International’s response to last week’s Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers, which resulted in the killing of eight Israelis and scores of wounded. Prof. Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor president, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that “instead of issuing a strong condemnation of the August 18 Palestinian terror attacks, Amnesty International’s statement draws a false equivalence between cold-blooded murder and self defense that targeted those responsible.” He added that “from Amnesty’s statement, one has no idea that terrorists walked up to a car and brutally murdered the four passengers."


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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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


Monday, August 22, 2011

When 'inconsequential' means 'better'

by Jeff Jacoby

TO MANY LIBERALS, Rick Perry's audacious pledge to make Washington, DC, as "inconsequential in your life as I can" is tantamount to a pledge to bring back the Dark Ages.

Commenting on Twitter as the Texas governor announced his presidential candidacy last weekend, longtime Washington journalist Howard Kurtz wondered: "Perry wants to make DC 'inconsequential in your life.' Does that include Medicare, Soc Sec, vets' programs, air safety, FDA?" Former Bobby Kennedy aide Jeff Greenfield, calling Perry's words "nothing short of astonishing," ran through a litany of Washington's contributions to American life -- from railroads, interstate highways, and the Hoover dam to land-grant colleges, civil rights, and subsidized mortgages -- and marveled at the depth of the right's "disdain for all things Washington."

Libertarians and conservatives believe what the Founders believed: that that government is best which governs least. "Society in every state is a blessing," wrote Thomas Paine, "but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil."

But it isn't highways or veterans' programs or minority voting rights that conservatives find so objectionable about Washington. When Perry speaks of making the nation's capital "inconsequential," he isn't proposing to dismantle the Hoover Dam. Hard as it may be for liberals to accept, the Republican base isn't motivated by blind loathing of the federal government, or by a nihilistic urge to wipe out the good that Washington has accomplished.

What conservatives believe, rather, is what America's Founders believed: that that government is best which governs least, and that human freedom and dignity are likeliest to thrive not when power is centralized and remote, but when it is diffuse, local, and modest.

"It is not by the consolidation or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1821. In part that is because central planners and regulators rarely know enough to be sure of the impact their decisions will have on the innumerable individuals, communities, and enterprises affected by them "Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap," Jefferson dryly remarked, "we should soon want bread." The Beltway blunders of our own era -- from the subprime mortgage meltdown to Cash-for-Clunkers to minimum-wage laws that drive up unemployment -- would not have surprised him.

But that isn't the only reason that shrinking Washington and decentralizing power promotes better government. While curbing the federal behemoth is important in its own right, it is indispensable to the moral health of a nation rooted in the conviction that men and women can govern themselves. Our social arrangements tend to work best when they are organized at the lowest possible level, closest to concrete, day-to-day experience. Only as a last resort should we seek to transfer power upward, from individuals and families to city hall, or from city hall to the statehouse, or from the statehouse to Washington, DC. This is the principle of subsidiarity that historically underpinned American federalism.

Once it was commonly understood by Americans that the best way to get things done was usually to do them privately. In his classic study of democracy in the young United States, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the American propensity to form voluntary organizations for nearly every purpose.

"Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations," an impressed Alexis do Tocqueville wrote in 1835. "They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies . . . but associations of a thousand other kinds -- religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. . . . Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association."

But as government grows larger and more powerful, it crowds out private action. It replaces local, familiar, and organic institutions with remote bureaucratic ones. As state and federal governments swell, taking over functions that used to be left to individuals and voluntary organizations, communities are weakened. Increasingly citizens are taught to rely on government, rather than on themselves or their neighbors. They develop a sense of entitlement, and entitlement in turn fuels selfishness. Other people's needs come to be seen as the government's responsibility. Government gets bigger and bigger -- and citizens get smaller and smaller.

Of course some functions can only be performed at the national level. But Washington does far more than it should, in so many ways treating Americans like children who cannot be trusted to run their own lives. The effect of that infantilization has been an erosion in the virtues without which no free society can thrive: Work, honesty, discipline, gratitude, moderation, thrift, initiative.

The way to undo that erosion? We can start by making Washington more inconsequential.



Progressive Intolerance

Talking to themselves

Television pundits increasingly express an attitude that is at once arrogant and ignorant: The people who oppose Keynesian economics – specifically a massive increase in government deficit spending to create jobs and jumpstart the economy – are the same kind of people who also believe that the earth is only several thousand years old (rather than 4.5 billion), that evolution is bunk, and that science is something to be feared on principle. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews takes the strongest version of this position. To him even skepticism about catastrophic climate change is a sign of hostility to science, although a good number of scientists are skeptical.

It may not seem worth the time to expose the fallacies of cable television’s talking heads, but since they are the source of what so many people “know” about public policy, the time is well spent.

TV hosts like Matthews of course are not authorities on economics (though he did some graduate work in the subject), so when they judge Keynesianism as the only truly scientific economics, they mean two things: That is what a Keynesian taught them in school and that is what all their Keynesian friend-guests assure them is the case. Since they never invite a non-Keynesian economist on their shows (Republican consultants don’t count), they insulate themselves against all informed dissent from their faith. Considering this policy against head-to-head discussion, who’s got the antiscientific attitude?

Simply Ignored

If someone doesn’t fit their mold, he or she is ignored or vilified. I know many people who (like me) reject Keynesian economics (and are skeptical about catastrophic climate change) while embracing science. (Yet we realize that scientists have the same the foibles and temptations we all are prone to, such as confirmation bias and career ambitions.) But Matthews & Co. say there are no such people. The pundits can’t even acknowledge good faith in their opponents.

This explains the intolerance shown those who refuse to agree that in a recession government spending is indispensable to raising aggregate demand and restoring economic growth. (Conservatives are not necessarily better. See my article on conservative Keynesians.)

If you point out that every dollar government spends, whether obtained through taxation or borrowing, is dollar removed from the private sector, the Keynesian pundit might agree but point out that business is not investing and consumers are not spending – so what’s lost? The other night Matthews suggested that business may be sitting on its $2 trillion in cash in order to damage Obama’s presidency. So to Keynes’s animal spirits Matthews adds animosity to Obama in explaining why the economy is at a virtual standstill.

The pundits’ blinders keep them from a broader perspective. Since all they know is the most vulgar rendition of Keynesian economics (Keynes wasn’t quite as bad as the Keynesians, writes Mario Rizzo), they have no idea that two distinct factors now prevent economic growth. First, the boom (without which there’s no bust) was created by monetary, housing, and financial policies that to a great extent still exist. Government officials are trying to resurrect the housing industry, indicating that the ruling elite still does not realize that the industry’s pre-bust condition was the artificial result of misguided interventions. Fed-depressed interest rates and easy-housing programs induced widespread malinvestment – investments unjustified by real underlying conditions – which have to be liquidated before economic growth can resume. Liquidation requires the costly but necessary adaption and transfer of resources and labor to purposes for which there is genuine demand. This correction cannot take place if political responses to the recession get in the way.

“Regime Uncertainty”

Second (as if that weren’t enough), the government has created significant new uncertainties that chill the investment climate. (This is what Robert Higgs calls “regime uncertainty.”) Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank law mandate the writing of hundreds of new rules governing employer-based health insurance and financial transactions. Why would anyone risk money in a new venture with so many yet-to-be-filled gaps in the regulatory environment? A government regulatory regime is bad enough; one that can change at any moment is far worse.

Finally, the pundits are blind to the fact that government can’t create real jobs. Let’s be clear what this means. It’s not that government can’t pay people to do things. It does that all the time! But in economic terms, a job is not merely exertion in return for a pay check. It’s much more: activity that transforms resources from a less-valued form to a more-valued form in the eyes of consumers. For the sake of irony, I’ll quote Karl Marx: “A thing cannot have value, if it is not a useful article. If it is not useful, then the labor it contains is also useless, does not count as labor and hence does not create value” (Capital, volume 1, emphasis added).

Keynesian pundits insist that a stimulus program to pay workers billions of dollars to repair schools, roads, and bridges would qualify as productive because people value those things. What’s missed is that we live in a world of scarcity and tradeoffs, and that we always make choices at the margin. Repairing a school may sound good in a vacuum (Which school? How elaborate a repair?), but not so good when something more valuable must be given up in exchange.

Market Prices

We all make similar tradeoffs in the marketplace all the time, and we can do so intelligently because goods and services have prices. Prices enable each of us to engage in economic calculation, that is, to make rational tradeoffs aimed at obtaining higher values (subjectively appraised) in exchange for lower values.

But government-produced goods and services are not priced and sold in the market. Instead, government collects its revenues by threat of force, and politicians and bureaucrats dispose of them ostensibly in the interest of the people but more likely in the career interest of those same politicians and bureaucrats. (The New Deal is a perfect example.) Without prices and free exchange — without entrepreneurship – we cannot know if what government produces is worth the alternative goods and services never produced. (We can say that the freedom lost is not worth the cost.) Putting the infrastructure into a marketplace void of privilege and subsidy would thus make economic sense. Politicians only notice the deterioration during recessions anyway.

The Keynesian pundits, then, are wrong on all counts. The government need not be the spender of last resort because 1) producers and consumers would spend just fine if it would get out of their way, and 2) the government can’t be relied on to create, rather than destroy, value in its use of scarce resources.




Wall Street aristocracy got $1.2 trillion in bailout loans: "Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented effort to keep the economy from plunging into depression included lending banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages. The largest borrower, Morgan Stanley (MS), got as much as $107.3 billion, while Citigroup took $99.5 billion and Bank of America $91.4 billion, according to a Bloomberg News compilation of data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, months of litigation and an act of Congress."

Coast Guard waste: "Nearly a decade into a 25-year, $24.2 billion overhaul intended to add or upgrade more than 250 vessels to its aging fleet, the Coast Guard has two new ships to show after spending $7 billion-plus. Now it's facing an uphill battle persuading a budget-conscious Congress to keep pouring money into a project plagued by management problems and cost overruns"

SSI disability insurance on brink of insolvency: "Laid-off workers and aging baby boomers are flooding Social Security's disability program with benefit claims, pushing the financially strapped system toward the brink of insolvency. Applications are up nearly 50 percent over a decade ago as people with disabilities lose their jobs and can't find new ones in an economy that has shed nearly 7 million jobs."

Forget corporate jets. Government limousines show they’re stealing you blind: "President Obama has made a big deal out of corporate jets. Apparently they are a symbol not of success but of greed. Yet even as the private jet marked has lagged with the ongoing recession, President Obama’s own employees in his administration have significantly increased the number of limousines available for their travel."

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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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