Saturday, July 21, 2012

Leftist stupidity about youth wages

Comment from Australia

Are lower youth wages a form of `age discrimination' in the workplace? Yes, according to three panellists at the NSW Young Labor conference on Sunday.

The ALP is considering abolishing youth wages so that workers between 18 and 21 years would receive the same minimum wage as adults. The argument that most resonated with the predominantly young audience was equal pay for equal work - the premise being that a young employee doing the same work as an adult should be paid the same wage as the adult. The fact that youth are paid less is age discrimination.

This argument does make sense at an intuitive level. Why should people doing the same work be paid different wages?

First, although young workers do the same work as adults, their productivity and competency levels differ. Adult employees are on average more productive and ought to command a higher wage. If young workers really were as productive as adults, then their wage would have risen to the adult wage. The fact that this hasn't happened is telling.

The second reason - risk - is far more important but most often overlooked. Although there are exceptions, young workers are on average less experienced, less mature, and less responsible than their adult counterparts. They are also less accustomed to the demands and responsibilities of working life. I was a young worker until not too long ago and know this from my own experience.

Young workers represent a higher risk to employers. If employers had to pay young and adult workers the same wage without receiving adequate compensation for taking the higher risk, they would have no incentive to hire a young worker.

Young workers should be careful what they wish for. Abolishing youth wages effectively denies young workers the most effective weapon they have - lower wages - to compete against adults. Denying themselves this weapon means denying themselves a job.



Obama didn't mean what he said? Really?

The latest spin is that when President Barack Obama put his foot in his mouth saying: "If you've got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen," he didn't really mean it.

Yeah, and if you believe that, you probably think he was talking about voluntary charitable donations when he said, "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

The spinsters attempting to contain the damage the president did to himself by being honest about what he thinks, say his most recent comments didn't refer to "a business," but something he said earlier in that speech. Here are his words in longer context:

"Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that."

From that we are to conclude "that" referred back to "roads and bridges," not "a business."

There are problems with this conclusion from these plain words. The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto explains the most glaring of the problems with that strained interpretation:
"That's bunk, and not only because `business' is more proximate to the pronoun `that' and therefore its more likely antecedent. The [Obama] Truth Team's interpretation is ungrammatical. `Roads and bridges' is plural; `that' is singular. If the Team is right about Obama's meaning, he should have said, `You didn't build those.'

"Barack Obama is supposed to be the World's Greatest Orator, the smartest man in the world. Yet his campaign asks us to believe he is not even competent to construct a sentence."

It's always fun to catch politicians actually saying what they believe. Then it's even greater fun watching them skin back to repair the damage. It's more fun yet when the excuse-making has to make the pol look dumb on top of it all.



In New Zealand, Farmers Don't Want Subsidies

Every five years or so, members of Congress from rural areas team up to push through a costly extension of farm programs. They are at it again this year. The Senate recently passed legislation to keep billions of dollars in subsidies flowing to farm businesses, and the House just passed a similarly bloated bill out of committee.

Farm bills are an inside game. Politicians never give the public a good reason why U.S. agriculture needs to be coddled by the government. Members of Congress focus on grabbing more subsidies for home-state farmers, and they rarely discuss or debate whether all this federal aid is really needed.

It isn't needed. New Zealand's farm reforms of the 1980s dramatically illustrate the point. Faced with a budget crisis, New Zealand's government decided to eliminate nearly all farm subsidies. That was a dramatic reform because New Zealand farmers had enjoyed high levels of aid and the country's economy is more dependent on agriculture than is the U.S. economy.

Despite initial protests, farm subsidies were repealed in 1984. Almost 30 different production subsidies and export incentives were ended. Did that cause a mass exodus from agriculture and an end to family farms? Not at all. It did create a tough transition period for some farmers, but large numbers of them did not walk off their land as had been predicted. Just one percent of the country's farmers could not adjust and were forced out.

The vast majority of New Zealand farmers proved to be skilled entrepreneurs - they restructured their operations, explored new markets, and returned to profitability. Today, New Zealand's farming sector is more dynamic than ever, and the nation's farmers are proud to be prospering without government hand-outs.

Prior to the 1984 reforms, subsidies stifled farm productivity by distorting market signals and blocking innovation. Many farmers were farming for the sake of the subsidies. For example, nearly 40 percent of the average New Zealand sheep and beef farmer's gross income came from government aid.

When the subsidies were removed, it turned out to be a catalyst for productivity gains. New Zealand farmers cut costs, diversified their land use, sought nonfarm income, and developed new products. Farmers became more focused on pursuing activities that made good business sense.

Official data supports on-the-ground evidence that New Zealand greatly improved its farming efficiency after the reforms. Measured agricultural productivity had been stagnant in the years prior to the reforms, but since the reforms productivity has grown substantially faster in agriculture than in the New Zealand economy as a whole.

Since the reforms, agriculture's contribution to New Zealand's economy has remained steady at about 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Adding activities outside the farm gate, such as processing of milk, meat and wool, agriculture is estimated to contribute over 15 percent of GDP. By contrast, agriculture's share of the economy has fallen in many other industrial countries.

With the removal of subsidies in New Zealand, agricultural practices are driven by the demands of consumers, not by efforts to maximize the receipt of subsidies. At the same time, the whole agricultural supply chain has improved its efficiency and food safety has become paramount. Businesses that deliver inputs to farming have had to reduce their costs because farmers have insisted on greater value for money.

More efficient agricultural production in New Zealand has also spurred better environmental management. Cutting farm subsidies, for example, has reduced the previous overuse of fertilizer. And cutting subsidies has broadened farm operations to encompass activities such as rural tourism that bring management of the rural environment to the fore.

The message to American farmers is that subsidy cuts should be embraced, not feared. After subsidy cuts, U.S. farmers would no doubt prove their entrepreneurial skills by innovating in a myriad of ways, as New Zealand farmers did. And we suspect that - like New Zealand farmers - American farmers would become proud of their new independence, and have little interest in going back on the taxpayer gravy train.

Now would be a great time for America to embrace Kiwi-style reforms because commodity prices are high and U.S. farm finances are generally in good shape. It's true that weather conditions and markets create ups and downs for agriculture, but over the long run, global population growth will likely sustain high demand for farm products. Some people claim that America needs to subsidize because other countries do. But unsubsidized New Zealand farming is globally competitive, with about 90 percent of the country's farm output exported.

The removal of farm subsidies in New Zealand gave birth to a vibrant, diversified, and growing rural economy, and it debunked the myth that farming cannot prosper without subsidies. Thus rather than passing another big government farm bill that taxpayers can't afford, the U.S. Congress should step back and explore the proven alternative of free market farming.



Why medical care costs so much

One reason medical care costs so much because patients pay so little for it directly. Most Americans' health coverage is not real insurance, which covers large unexpected expenses. It's really prepaid medicine that also covers small predictable expenses. The tax code is the main culprit. It punishes cash payment for medical care and rewards payment through insurance. Medicaid and Medicare are also prepaid medical plans.

Costs soar because patients are consumers, but not paying customers. Like business travelers dining on their employers' expense accounts, patients are largely insulated from medical costs, and hence pay scant attention to price. For example, if a doctor recommends a high-end treatment, a patient has little incentive to inquire about its necessity or the availability of lower cost alternatives. [An example: CT scans are sometimes used where an x-ray would do -- but CT-scans are 4 times more expensive -- JR]

Costs stay low when patients pay, rather than when insurers or government health plans pay. For example, The Guttmacher Institute reports that 57% of abortion patients pay out-of-pocket, while abortion prices have been fairly constant for decades.

Real health insurance can save money - for example - high-deductible insurance combined with Health Savings Accounts for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Such "plans can produce significant (even substantial) savings without adversely affecting member health status," reported the American Academy of Actuaries. The RAND Health Insurance Experiment reached similar conclusions.

But so-called "reform" does not address these problems. Rather, it entrenches them by mandating costly health plan benefits, limiting tax-exempt medical purchases, and threatening to ban high-deductible insurance policies.



The Speech Mitt Romney Should Give But Won't

My fellow Americans,

I have been the target of numerous charges by my opponent in recent weeks. Rather than repeat them, I will simply say this:

I will not apologize for my legitimately earned wealth. I will not apologize for finding legal ways to reduce the burden from the wealth-destroying, job-killing, innovation-reducing, and poverty-creating monstrosity called the US tax code.

I will not apologize for working for a company that made numerous other companies more efficient and, in doing so, freed capital and labor to more productive uses that have enriched this nation. Would my opponent prefer that we stagnate in the jobs and lower standard of living of a generation ago?

I will not apologize for working for a company that provided jobs in poorer parts of the world for people who desperately need better opportunities. Would my opponent prefer that they continue in poverty and starvation?

Whether or not you think my job history is relevant to my qualifications for president, know this: the events of the last few weeks have reinforced my determination to defend wealth earned legitimately through the mutually-beneficial exchanges of a genuinely free market and to condemn wealth made through cronyism, corporatism, and political connections.

When my opponent reveals so glaringly his inability to understand the source of the wealth that has, in only 200 years, raised humanity from the muck and mire of thousands of years of poverty, disease, and death, we all now know what the stakes are in the next few months. I therefore pledge that if I am elected my number one priority will be to reduce the size and scope of government and free the American people to provide for each other through the market and keep the wealth they have thereby legitimately earned. That is the path not just to recovering from the recession that decades of government intervention has produced, but to the long run prosperity of all Americans, especially the least well-off among us

My opponent is right in saying no one does it alone. He is wrong in thinking that is a condemnation of free markets and legitimately accumulated wealth. Markets are the most extensive and profound process of human cooperation we have ever discovered. The way to ensure that such cooperation continues peacefully and with mutual benefit is to allow people to try (and fail!) through the market to provide what others want and to keep the wealth they thereby earn, and to face the consequences of failure. Free markets are human cooperation; government redistribution is not cooperation, it is coercion. The justification for the wealth earned in the market is not that people do it alone. It is instead that allowing people to become wealthy by selling what others want to buy is the best way to ensure peaceful social cooperation and to improve the lives of the least well off.

You can vote for the reactionary forces of economic stagnation, and thereby continue to condemn millions to their current unemployment and poverty, by re-electing the man who has presided over the continued decline in the US economy, or you can vote for the progressive, liberating, and enriching forces of the freed market. You can vote for those who would condemn the wealth that enriches us all and who prefer the wealth that comes from political connections and cronyism, or you can vote for those who understand that in a real market, the wealthy become so by providing for others.

My opponent has staked out his position and I am now staking out mine. The choice has never been more clear, or more stark.




Report from an underwater wasteland: "Not only are there thousands of individuals not paying their mortgages, but, according to a local appraiser, plenty of commercial tenants have not steadily paid rent since the city's real estate crash. In some cases the landlord will let a tenant slide just to show activity in a center. In other cases, the landlord quit paying its lender, and in turn, quit collecting rent. Eventually the foreclosing lender appoints a receiver, who often just collects whatever a tenant can scrounge up at the moment."

Health care is still not a "right": "There is no right to health care. Period. There never has been. You have no inherent right to demand someone else use their skills, time and assets to service your health. You certainly have the right to negotiate and reach a voluntary agreement (see liberty) with health care providers based on a mutual exchange of value (see property). But 'right' -- no."

The costs of employment regulations: "Employers are just so beastly, aren't they? Attempting to get around their responsibilities to the workers. Why, some of them even decide to hire temporary workers instead of loading up on full time long term peeps that they have to pay extra costs to employ!"


My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my old Facebook page as I rarely accessed it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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)


Friday, July 20, 2012

Is the female of the species really more intelligent than the male?

New research into IQ levels could end the modern taboo on comparing cleverness, says Michael Hanlon

We accept that some people are taller than others, or darker- or lighter-skinned, or better at running. We also accept that these differences are due, at least in part, to genetics. Yet there is one area where we continue to insist that there cannot be any innate biological distinction between different people, or groups of people, and that is in our minds. The merest suggestion that there may be hard-wired disparities in intelligence causes the most terrible wailing and gnashing of teeth, even though such physical and mental variations – dictated by genes and environment – are exactly what you would expect in an abundant species that has adapted to just about every corner of the globe.

That taboo, however, may be breaking down. In his new book, the brilliant psychologist James Flynn, of Otago University in New Zealand, has revealed that, for the first time, women (in some developed countries) are systematically outperforming men in standardised tests of intelligence. This contradicts earlier findings which suggested that, historically, men have had IQs that were a couple of points higher – or rather, have performed marginally better on a whole slew of intelligence metrics, which measure subtly different things.

The reaction to this finding has been largely positive. Most reports have concentrated on women’s ability to “juggle” and to “multi-task”, with the conclusion: “Didn’t we know this all along?” Expect to hear the old clarion call of “men are redundant”, with the human male reduced to a shambling, knuckle-dragging brute lost in a sea of feminised modernity.

Imagine, however, that Flynn had found the opposite. Suppose that his trawl of standardised measures of intelligence in schoolchildren and young adults, in countries as disparate as Estonia, Argentina, Israel and New Zealand, had confirmed, once and for all, that men had slightly higher IQs. Would that finding be celebrated?

Of course not. Howling columnists would queue up to pour scorn on the very notion, stating that the idea of innate sex differences in IQ is utterly chauvinist. Others would take issue with the whole notion of measured intelligence: “What is IQ,” they would ask, “but a measure of the ability to do intelligence tests?”

Either way, it is important to stress that the differences we are talking about are very small, a percentage point or two at most – and whatever the truth, it’s not as though we can do much about it. The more interesting question is not whether women are cleverer than men, but why this should be so, and why this seems to be a recent trend.

First, we have to dismiss the pernicious but persistent fallacy that IQ is meaningless. The tests used today attempt to measure something called g, a measure of innate general intelligence that is divorced, as far as possible, from cultural and social bias. Thus questions tend to involve not word associations (which are influenced by your level of literacy and knowledge) but connections between patterns and shapes, order and structure.

Most psychologists now accept that while IQ (or g) may not be a measure of pure intelligence per se, it is certainly a measure of something that correlates very well with it. People with high IQs tend to end up with better qualifications, better jobs, higher earnings and longer lives. Crucially, they are also perceived as “cleverer”. Like it or not, being a successful human has a lot to do with being smart – and IQ, or g, does seem to be a fair measure of smartness.

This brings us to one of the most interesting – and scientifically counter-intuitive – findings to have emerged in the last 100 years: namely, that we are all, men and women alike, getting brighter.

The trend was discovered by, and named after, Flynn himself back in the 1980s. In industrialised countries, both adults and children are routinely subjected to various IQ measurements. And, since such testing began in the first half of the 20th century, the average IQ of both sexes has risen by between 10 and 20 per cent. Every few years, the tests had to be revised to make sure that the average score remained at 100 – and in every country, that revision meant making the tests harder.

This means that if a British child scores 100 on an IQ test set in 2012, he would score 110 or so on a test dating from the 1970s. In some countries, such as the Netherlands, where the Flynn Effect was first spotted, the increase has been even more spectacular – a full 30 IQ points between 1950 and 1980. Overall, IQ in both industrialised and developing nations is rising by about three points per decade.

For years, the cause of the Flynn Effect was a mystery. One thing it could not be was genetic: the effect is happening too fast for any form of evolution to be occurring. Better diet was a popular theory, but places like the US, Canada and Scandinavia have been well-fed for a century or more. Education may have been a factor – but again, the increases continued well into the era of compulsory universal schooling in most countries.

In the end, it was Flynn himself who solved the mystery. The effect, he argued, is not due to innate changes in our brains, but to how they react to the sort of problems that define the modern world. Flynn gives an example: “If I were to have asked my father, say, 'What do a dog and a rabbit have in common?’ and then ask the same question today of a bright schoolchild, I would get two answers.” His father, like most “old-fashioned” people (Flynn is in his eighties, so his father was a product of the 19th century) would look for associations. “Dogs hunt rabbits,” he might have said – which is not wrong, but nor is it the answer to the question.

Today, any schoolchild would give the “right” answer, namely: “they are both animals” or “they are both mammals”. Flynn’s point is that until recently, this categorising of the world, putting things into boxes – mammals or not-mammals, dollars or pounds, Apples or PCs – was not the way people thought. In this sense IQ, or rather differences in IQ, may not be so much a measure of intelligence as of modernity.

It is this that may give us a clue as to why women are not only catching up with men but, in some places, starting to overtake them. There may be something innate about the way women’s brains are put together (or the demands placed upon them) that allows them to cope with complexity and the need to systematise. As Prof Flynn said at the weekend: “In the last 100 years the IQ scores of both men and women have risen, but women’s have risen faster. This is a consequence of modernity. The complexity of the modern world is making our brains adapt and raising our IQ.”

Many mysteries remain about human intelligence. Will the Flynn Effect continue, so that our grandchildren look down upon us as barely sentient dullards? Or will it go into reverse, as dysgenic effects (the fact that people with lower IQs tend to have more children) take over? Will the developing world continue to catch up with the old industrialised world? Why do men continue to outperform women in intelligence tests in non-industrialised societies?

Some of this research may be controversial. After all, if talking about sex and IQ is tricky, talking about race and IQ is incendiary: as with high-IQ women, we are generally happy to talk about certain ethnic groups (such as some Jewish populations) having high IQs, but less happy with the corollary, namely that others are less well endowed.

Yet in an increasingly knowledge-driven world, where brains are more important than brawn to a degree never seen before, we need to understand these differences, if for no other reason than to help raise everyone to their potential. Being scared to talk about it is – well, just stupid.


The above article is informative and well-argued and it is pleasing to note that it appeared in a major British newspaper. On some matters of detail, however, I have to differ.

Flynn's argument that we have only recently started to categorize is absurd. Every noun in our language stands for a category of things. Categorization is a central human survival strategy. It enables us to make predictions and thus protect our futures to some extent. Even cavemen would have readily detected the difference between a dog and a rabbit, for instance (to use the example above). Their hunting trips would have had little success otherwise. Expecting a rabbit to help you bring down prey would be pretty futile.

So what alternative do I offer to Flynn's explanation? I agree with him that modernity generally is the explanation but I differ on which aspects of modernity are involved. One aspect is increasing test sophistication. As education has become more widespread and extended into the late teens, kids have developed strategies for passing tests (guessing when uncertain, for instance) and those strategies help with IQ tests too. A test of that explanation is that the rise in IQ should now be levelling off as just about everybody now is exposed to a lot of education. And that does indeed appear to be happening in some countries. The Flynn effect appears to be fading. IQ levels seem to be approaching an asymptote, in statisticians' terms.

But there are other aspects of modernity that are presumably important too -- improved peri-natal care, for instance and also childbirth itself. Babies can quite easily be brain-damaged to varying degrees during birth and the much increased use of episiotomies and Caesarians would obviate a lot of that. So more babies are born with their brains functioning to their maximum potential.

So what do I make of the current slightly higher scores of women in some countries? For a start, it is perfectly easy to design a test that will show either sex as brighter. Women have better verbal skills and men have better visuo/spatial skills so if you want to show women as brighter you put in more verbal questions and if you want to show men as brighter you put in fewer verbal questions. So it is possible that recent re-standardizations of tests have added more items in areas that women are good at.

Another possibility is the way the educational system has become anti-male, with female characteristics praised and male characteristics deplored. This has led to extensive alienation of young males and a much higher educational dropout rate among them. In such circumstances, then, males get on average less opportinity to acquire that test sophistication I referred to above. We live in a feminized environment generally, in fact, compared to (say) 100 years ago so there may be many ways in which females are subtly advantaged.

The important point, however, is to recognize that people do differ in many ways and that, like it or not, IQ is one difference that affects a lot of things that we value. High IQ, for instance, is associated with greater wealth and better health while low IQ is associated with higher levels of crime and greater poverty. -- JR


Fatal Misstep for Obama as he abolishes work requirement for welfare recipients

Until this week, the Obama campaign's strategy of interest group payoffs and demonization of Romney seemed, if tawdry, at least a possible route to re-election. The president's promises to deliver more and more "free" stuff for carefully selected grantees -- adorned in the language of sticking up for the "middle class" -- appeared to have a chance of success.

But the decision to embrace one of the least popular Democratic positions of the past 100 years -- opposition to the work requirement for welfare recipients -- is inexplicable politically. It's also illegal and imperious. Let's stick with politics, because it's old news that Obama has contempt for the rule of law. He's declined to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" on many subjects: immigration, the Defense of Marriage Act, labor laws and environmental rules, among others. Those were lawless but politically logical acts. Not this.

Welfare policies (along with weakness on defense and crime) had been a vulnerability for Democrats throughout the 1970s and 1980s -- an Achilles heel that Bill Clinton recognized in 1992. His promise to "end welfare as we know it" was the gravamen of his claim to "new Democrat" status. Once safely elected, Clinton downgraded welfare reform, and, in fact, increased funding for all of the traditional welfare programs in the federal budget. But when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in 1994, they took the initiative. By 1996, after vetoing two welfare reform bills, Clinton was advised by Dick Morris that if didn't sign the legislation, he wouldn't be re-elected; it was that important to voters. Immediately after signing the bill, Clinton's approval rating on welfare jumped by 19 points.

The law changed the old AFDC, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, to TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. In place of the open-ended entitlement to benefits for unmarried women and their children, the law imposed a five-year limit and the requirement that those able to work seek employment. In 2005, the work requirements were strengthened.

The prospect of asking welfare recipients to seek work struck most liberals in 1996 (including Obama) as degrading, cruel and doomed to failure. Three high-ranking Clinton administration officials resigned in protest. The New York Times called the reform "atrocious," objecting that "This is not reform, this is punishment." Tom Brokaw, interviewing the president, said "all the projections show that ... (the reform) will push, at least short term, more than a million youngsters ... below the poverty line." The Children's Defense Fund called the law "an outrage ... that will hurt and impoverish millions of American children ... and leave a moral blot on (Clinton's) presidency." Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan called the law "the most brutal act of social policy we have known since the Reconstruction. ... In five years' time, you'll find appearing on your streets abandoned children ... in numbers we have no idea." Sen. Edward Kennedy, with characteristic understatement, called the bill "legislative child abuse."

Well, what really happened? Welfare caseloads declined by 50 percent within four years of the law's passage and by 70 percent by the time Obama took office. The overwhelming majority of those who left welfare rolls did so because they found jobs -- and not just the worst jobs, either. By 2001, a Manhattan Institute study found, only 4 percent of former welfare mothers were earning minimum wage. The poverty rate declined from 13.8 percent in 1995 to 11.7 percent in 2003. Black child poverty dropped to its lowest levels in history. Childhood hunger was cut in half. It was the greatest social policy success of the past 50 years.

Yes, the late 1990s were boom years for the economy. So had the 1960s and 1980s been. Yet welfare rolls increased during those previous expansions.

Why did Obama do it? Why issue new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (in bold violation of the law) granting waivers to states to alter work requirements? Obama's election notwithstanding, there is little reason to think that the nation has moved left on the welfare issue. Most working Americans, including most poor Americans, believe that paying people for idleness is wrong.

Obama is trying to persuade Americans that while he has expanded food stamps to unprecedented levels, extended unemployment insurance to 99 weeks, vastly increased the already overwhelmed Medicaid program, created a new trillion dollar entitlement with Obamacare and expanded the size of the federal government to a percentage of gross domestic product not seen since World War II, that he is not the dependency president. By stepping back into history to embrace the Democrats' nemesis -- unrestricted welfare -- he has clinched the argument for the opposition.



83% Support Work Requirements for Welfare Beneficiaries

Good call, Mr. President

Most Americans think there are too many people on welfare who should not be getting it and believe overwhelmingly that those who do receive welfare benefits should be required to work.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 83% of American Adults favor a work requirement as a condition for receiving welfare aid. Just seven percent (7%) oppose such a requirement, while 10% are undecided. Support for a work requirement is slightly higher among those who personally know someone who is receiving welfare benefits.

In other words, only 7 percent of those polled in the Rasmussen survey would support the Obama administration’s directive to “gut” President Clinton’s welfare reform law. Wonderful. Incidentally, Guy wrote about this topic yesterday, speculating why the White House -- in the middle of an election year -- would single-handedly unravel a hugely successful (bipartisan) compromise that Americans overwhelming support. (Click through and draw your own conclusions, but his analysis certainly makes sense). More to the point, though, could the president be any more out of touch? He’s made an alarming amount of “gaffes” over the last few months, none of which were more galling than when he actually asserted – to an audience of entrepreneurs, mind you -- that “if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own.” Smart.

Unsurprisingly, his comments have sparked genuine outrage across the country to the point where even Mitt Romney seems fired up. Tim Pawlenty, a campaign surrogate rumored to be on the governor's VP shortlist, released this succinct statement earlier today.
Mitt Romney’s got a very different view that features the private sector and entrepreneurial activity. The President’s comments the other day were stunning, they were jarring, saying that businesses didn’t contribute or didn’t do it themselves or words to that effect. Let’s debate those two competing visions for the future of this great nation and quit messing around with these collateral issues.

And so it begins?



My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my old Facebook page as I rarely accessed it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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, July 19, 2012

Why Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals?

By Jaime L. Napier and John T. Jost

I commented briefly on the study bearing the title above yesterday (See here) but I thought a few more comments showing what rubbish it is might be in order. It is of course an attempt to show that conservatives are happy for discreditable reasons.

They started out in their study 1 conflating ideology and party preference. They found that rating yourself as conservative and as a Republican were "highly correlated". But that is nonsense. Lots of conservatives think that the GOP is comprised mainly of weak-kneed compromisers etc. And the study data actually showed that. The correlation between the two variables was .46, which meant that the two variables had only a quarter overlap (shared variance). But Napier & Co simply added scores on the two variables up, to create an artificial conservatism score, when the two variables should clearly have been treated separately

And it gets worse. They found that the correlation between conservatism and happiness could be accounted for by "rationalization of inequality". So how do they measure rationalization of inequality? By the mean of responses to six antiegalitarianism items, e.g. "It is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others," and "This country would be better off if we worried less about how equal people are").

But equality is the great mantra of the Left. Conservatives think it is unattainable and undesirable nonsense. So it is no wonder that a measure of it correlated (negatively) with conservatism. It is itself a (negative) measure of conservatism. So what Napier & Co did was remove the influence of one measure of conservatism from the influence of another measure of conservatism! What sense does that make? None that I can see. Doing so certainly explains nothing. So much for their Study 1.

There are other criticisms that I could make but while I have the energy, let me go on to their study 2. The big finding there was that conservatives "endorsed meritocracy". But how was that measured?
Endorsement of meritocracy was measured with a single item; participants rated their beliefs on a scale ranging from 1 (hard work doesn’t generally bring success—it’s more a matter of luck) to 10 (in the long run, hard work usually brings a better life)

I would have thought that the question endorsed hard work rather than "meritocracy"! What a simpleton I must be. I would have thought that to support meritocracy, you would be saying things like: "Only highly educated people should have the vote". So once again Napier & Co draw extravagant inferences from their very limited data. Far from being meritocratic, conservatives simply believe in the virtue of hard work. Is that any surprise or any disgrace? Not as far as I can see.

I will leave my criticisms there, not because there are no more to make but instead because it is rather boring to flog a dead horse.


A Letter to Young Voters

Why are older people more conservative?

According to conventional wisdom, the older the person, the less young people are inclined to listen to him or her. This is probably true for some of you. But I do not believe that it is true for most of you.

Most young people have tremendous respect for older people's views. I saw this firsthand in my own life. I began lecturing publicly at the age of 21, and I give you my word that young people (and certainly older people) are far more respectful of my views today than when I was their age. All things being equal, it is very rare for a 25 or 35-year-old to command the respect that a 50 or 60-year-old commands.

So, I am not afraid that that you will dismiss what I have to say here as the irrelevant thoughts of an older person.

But just in case you need an argument to take an older person's thoughts seriously, ask any adults you respect whether they have more wisdom and insight into life now than they did ten years ago, let alone when they were your age. The answer will always be yes. (And any adult who has not gained wisdom over the course of a lifetime is not worth listening to.)

Which directly leads to my point: Did you ever wonder why people are far more likely to become conservative in their views and values as they get older?

When this rather devastating question is posed to liberals, leftists, progressives, Democrats -- you choose the label or group -- they answer that people get more selfish as they get older.

Progressives have to give this answer. There is no other response that enables them to avoid confronting the quite embarrassing fact that just about every adult, at every age of life, thinks he/she is wiser than when younger -- and as they accumulate wisdom they become more conservative.

So the liberal explanation -- that people get more selfish as they get older -- is not only insulting but also nonsense.

People get worse as they get older?

If you were walking in a dark alley at midnight, which would you fear more -- a group of teenagers or twenty-somethings or a group of senior citizens?

Do older people or younger people give more of their time to charitable institutions?

Are our prisons filled with young people or old people?

The fact is that not only do people get more wise and more conservative as they get older, they get more kind and more generous, too.

But what about "idealism?" We are told that young people are more "idealistic" than old people.

Let me respond by asking: What does "idealistic" mean?

Presumably it means having ideals -- a kinder, more peaceful world, etc. Well, who told you that as people get older they lose these ideals? This is so untrue as to constitute a lie. If anything, we older people yearn for a peaceful world even more than young people do. We are the ones who lost friends or relatives in some war. We are the ones who have lived a lifetime of seeing and reading about human suffering. And, we, not you, have children and grandchildren whom we ache to see alive and healthy.

So, let's put to rest the self-serving myth that young people have greater ideals than old people.

What the term "more idealistic" really means when applied to young people is that young people are more naive, not more idealistic, than older people.

Examples are legion. Here's one: Young people believe that when the government gives more money and benefits to more people, it helps them. This is naive. As you get older and wiser, you realize that when people are given anything without having to earn it (unless they are physically or mentally incapable of earning anything), they become ungrateful and lazy. They also become less happy. Every study shows that people who earn money are far happier than people who win many millions of dollars in a lottery. Happiness is earned, not given.

Here's another: Young people are far more likely to believe that world peace is achieved when nations lay down their arms and talk through their differences. But this has never been the case. Of course, good nations stay peaceful when they talk to other good nations. Bad nations -- that is, nations ruled by evil men -- are never dissuaded from making war by talk. They are dissuaded only by good nations having more arms than they do. That is why the Marine Corps has done so much more for world peace than the Peace Corps.

If you want to vote Democrat, don't do so because that is the party that cares more for the poor and the hungry. We older conservatives (and young ones, too) care just as much for the poor. But after living a life of seeing the naive only make things worse for the poor, we are no longer seduced by caring rhetoric. We are seduced by policies based on the awesome American value of individual initiative combined with liberty to create and retain wealth. It's now called conservatism.

And, finally, you should know this: the "idealists" that many of you find appealing are the ones leaving you with a national debt that will render it very difficult for you to attain the material quality of life that these people have had.

The next time President Obama goes to a college to get your vote by promising you more and more benefits, ask him where the money will come from. And when he says "higher taxes on the wealthy," know that this is exactly what they tried in Europe, a continent ruined by such "idealism."



Congratulations, Mr Obama: Canada now Richer Than U.S.

On July 1, Canada Day, Canadians awoke to a startling, if pleasant, piece of news: For the first time in recent history, the average Canadian is richer than the average American.

According to data from Environics Analytics WealthScapes published in the Globe and Mail, the net worth of the average Canadian household in 2011 was $363,202, while the average American household’s net worth was $319,970.

A few days later, Canada and the U.S. both released the latest job figures. Canada’s unemployment rate fell, again, to 7.2 percent, and America’s was a stagnant 8.2 percent. Canada continues to thrive while the U.S. struggles to find its way out of an intractable economic crisis and a political sine curve of hope and despair.

The difference grows starker by the month: The Canadian system is working; the American system is not. And it’s not just Canadians who are noticing. As Iceland considers switching to a currency other than the krona, its leaders’ primary focus of interest is the loonie -- the Canadian dollar.

As a study recently published in the New York University Law Review pointed out, national constitutions based on the American model are quickly disappearing. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in an interview on Egyptian television, admitted, “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” The natural replacement? The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, achieving the status of legal superstar as it reaches its 30th birthday.

Canadian Luck

Good politics do not account entirely for recent economic triumphs. Luck has played a major part. The Alberta tar sands -- an environmental catastrophe in waiting -- are the third-largest oil reserves in the world, and if America is too squeamish to buy our filthy energy, there’s always China. We also have softwood lumber, potash and other natural resources in abundance.

Policy has played a significant part as well, though. Both liberals and conservatives in the U.S. have tried to use the Canadian example to promote their arguments: The left says Canada shows the rewards of financial regulation and socialism, while the right likes to vaunt the brutal cuts made to Canadian social programs in the 1990s, which set the stage for economic recovery.

The truth is that both sides are right. Since the 1990s, Canada has pursued a hardheaded (even ruthless), fiscally conservative form of socialism. Its originator was Paul Martin, who was finance minister for most of the ’90s, and served a stint as prime minister from 2003 to 2006. Alone among finance ministers in the Group of Eight nations, he “resisted the siren call of deregulation,” in his words, and insisted that the banks tighten their loan-loss and reserve requirements.

He also made a courageous decision not to allow Canadian banks to merge, even though their chief executives claimed they would never be globally competitive unless they did. The stability of Canadian banks and the concomitant stability in the housing market provide the clearest explanation for why Canadians are richer than Americans today.

Martin also slashed funding to social programs. He foresaw that crippling deficits imperiled Canada’s education and health- care systems, which even his Conservative predecessor, Brian Mulroney, described as a “sacred trust.” He cut corporate taxes, too. Growth is required to pay for social programs, and social programs that increase opportunity and social integration are the best way to ensure growth over the long term. Social programs and robust capitalism are not, as so many would have you believe, inherently opposed propositions. Both are required for meaningful national prosperity.

Orderly Fairness

Martin’s balanced policies emerged organically out of Canadian culture, which is fair-minded and rule-following to a fault. The Canadian obsession with order can make for strange politics, at least in an American context. For example, of all the world’s societies, Canada’s is one of the most open to immigrants, as anyone who has been to Toronto or Vancouver will have seen. Yet Canada also imposes a mandatory one-year prison sentence on illegal immigrants, and the majority of Canadians favor deportation. Canadians insist that their compassion be orderly, too.

This immigration policy is neither “liberal” nor “conservative” in the American political sense. It just works. You could say exactly the same thing about Canada’s economic policies.

Canada has been, and always will be, overshadowed by its neighbor, by America’s vastness and its incredible versatility and capacity for reinvention. But occasionally, at key moments, the northern wasteland can surprise. Two hundred years ago last month, the War of 1812 began. Thomas Jefferson declared, “The acquisition of Canada, this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching.” The U.S. was comparatively enormous -- with almost 8 million people, compared with Canada’s 300,000. The Canadians nonetheless turned back the assault.

Through good luck, excellent policy and even some heroism, Canada survived the war. But it has taken 200 years for Canada to become winners.



Remember When Being on the Government Dole Was a Bad Thing?

Doug Giles

When I was a young dork growing up in West Texas in the 70s and 80s, my folks raised me to believe that making good money via righteous and industrious means was actually a good thing—y’know, something to aspire to. Remember that notion?

My folks would point out people in the neighborhood and community who busted their butts and got rewarded for the goods and/or services they provided and would say, “See Johnny, Dougie? Johnny studied. Johnny worked hard and smart, and now Johnny’s rich, and you’re still a weed-smoking dipthong working at a frickin’ gas station high as a kite on Colombian gold.”

Yep, Johnny had a good life. And me, eh … not so much. The reason why? Well, it wasn’t because wealthy fat cats suppressed me. It wasn’t because I wasn’t afforded knowledge (because I was); I just chose to esteem it lightly. In addition, it wasn’t because I didn’t have enough after school government pimped-out programs at my disposal to help my wayward self.

No, my lack was based not on a deficiency of opportunity but primarily because I watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High, thought Spicoli was cool, and ran with that. Yes, I blame Sean Penn. Damn you, Sean Penn.

As Providence would have it, at the ripe old age of 21, I extracted my head from my backside via Christ’s effectual grace, and all the advice my folks gave me regarding knowledge and hard work came rushing back to my bong resin clogged cranium. Call me a late bloomer.

Since I had an affectation for organic stuff, I got into landscaping—planting grass, trees, shrubs, and installing sprinkler systems and custom curbing. I bought a used CJ-7, a crappy trailer, a sod roller, some machetes, rakes, hoes and shovels, and within one year I was doing a solid six figures in sales. No government handouts. No pity money from Christians. No, “woe is me, I used to be a drug addict.” No, “I’m lost and need to get on the government tit.” Nope, I accomplished the aforementioned at a young age via hard work. Just hard work. Nothing but good ol’ hard work.

Yes, children, when I was a wee lad, my parents taught me that taking money from the government when one didn’t truly need it was scummy. Matter of fact, we viewed those who did milk the system as shameful thieves—a veritable affront to what it means to be a man.



My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my old Facebook page as I rarely accessed it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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, July 18, 2012

Journalist Chris Mooney is feeling his way towards an understanding of the psychology of politics

In his article below he has acknowledged that there are two sides to the debate over the merits and demerits of conservatism and notes that conservatives as a whole are markedly happier than Leftists, which is a considerable step forwards for him. Perhaps the best indication of his naivety is that he sees the debate as going back "well over a decade". In fact it has been going on for over 60 years. He still has a lot of catching up to do.

His basic mistake below is one common throughout science -- interpreting a correlation as if you JUST KNOW the direction of the causal arrow. He assumes that conservatism makes you happy when there is a much stronger case for arguing that happiness makes you conservative.

That is most easily seen if you look at the converse of conservatism: Leftism. What is ABSOLUTELY distinctive about Leftism? Dissatisfaction. They seem to like very little in the world about them and are never satisfied. Regardless of what they have already achieved, they are always wanting to change something -- whether by legislation or by revolution. So conservatives are simply people who don't have such motivations. There are a lot of things that conservatives would like to change -- such as Obamacare and affirmative action, but they don't have that PERVASIVE dissatisfaction with the world about them that Leftists do. In psychological terms, Leftists are maladjusted and conservatives are not.

Poor old Mooney is still relying on the ludicrous Kruglansky work for much of his understanding. One hopes that as he explores the world of psychological research, he realizes what a crock it is. Kruglanski argues that conservatives are less "open", a question that was originally addressed by Rokeach in 1960.

Another energetic proponent of that view is Van Hiel. But nobody has managed to prove what Mooney believes. See here for Van Hiel and here for problems in the work of Rokeach.

Rokeach in particular might be something of an embarrassment to Mooney in that he argued that closed-mindedness is equally found on both the Left and the Right. And research with general population samples using Rokeach's methods bears that out. Given the problems in Rokeach's measurement methods, however, the question is best regarded as unresolved. Mooney would be wise to forget the whole idea.

Since Mooney mentioned it, perhaps a brief comment on the Napier & Jost paper is in order. They conclude that "the relation between political orientation and subjective well-being is mediated by the rationalization of inequality". You could, however, quite reasonably replace the quite loaded psychological term "rationalization" with "acceptance" and get a rather different impression. Once again you find that conservatives are well adjusted to the world as it is and Leftists are not.

Mooney ends up concluding that conservatism is "somnambulant" -- i.e. that conservatives are happy only because they are sleepwalking through the word, unaware of the realities of it. I myself once tried to assess that proposition by constructing a measure of "realism" but gave up because I could see no way of doing it in a non-ideological way. If Mooney has any evidence for his assertion, I would therefore be delighted to see it.
Conservatism makes you happy

In general, political conservatives haven’t been very pleased with a slew of scientific attempts — sometimes dating back well over a decade — to psychoanalyze their beliefs and behavior. Indeed, some on the right wrongly interpret these analyses as implying that conservatives have “bad brains” or a “mental defect.” Yet if psychology-of-politics research is really a veiled attack on the right, then why does it contain so many findings that cast conservatives in a positive light?

Chief among these, perhaps, is the discovery that conservatives, across countries, tend to be just plain happier people than liberals are. That’s not bad news for the right — it’s seriously bad news for the left.

Indeed, the left-right “happiness gap” is no small matter. In a 2006 Pew Survey, for instance, 47 percent of conservative Republicans said they were “very happy,” compared with just 28 percent of liberal Democrats. Furthermore, the Pew Survey found that this result could not simply be attributed to the seemingly obvious cause: differences in income levels between the left and the right. Rather, for every income group in the study, conservative Republicans were happier than Democrats.

The fascinating question is why this is the case. The left-right happiness research was recently singled out in a New York Times op-ed by Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, who suggested that conservatives’ subjectively greater sense of personal happiness may be attributable to factors like marriage and religious faith. In other words, married and religious people tend to be happier, and conservatives are more likely to be both. That seems to make a lot of sense … or does it?

In truth, this analysis fails to peer very far beneath the surface. There is every reason to suspect that there may be something deeper, inherent to political conservatives, that makes them more likely to be married, religious, happy and a great deal of other things besides.

What might it be? Well, let’s start with the body of well-documented personality differences between people who opt for the political left, and people who opt for the political right. Using the well-established “Big Five” personality scale, conservatives and liberals differ on at least three out of five major personality traits that have implications for their personal happiness.

First, one striking finding is that conservatives tend to be less neurotic — or, more emotionally stable — than liberals. It is part of the inherent definition of neuroticism that one is less happy — more fretful, more depressed. Liberals, then, don’t just worry about the poor, and the rights of those different from themselves — it appears that they worry more, period, than conservatives do.

Although it has a smaller effect, conservatives also tend toward more extraversion in some personality studies. That means they probably make more friends and feel more comfortable in groups and communities. They’re more sociable. Once again, this probably helps confer a subjective sense of greater happiness.

But perhaps most significant, personality research shows that conservatives tend to be less open, exploratory people than liberals are. Indeed, based on a large body of research by University of Maryland social psychologist Arie Kruglanski, conservatives tend to have a higher “need for cognitive closure,” meaning that they are uncomfortable with ambiguity and prefer to seize on and hold fixed beliefs and views. And if you think being more closed-minded makes you less happy … well, think again. Instead, it appears that the relationship runs in the opposite direction.

The need for closure is often interpreted very negatively — understandably so. But if it has an upside, it may well be the happiness and peace of mind that it confers. Conservatives tend to be more assured in their views and confident in them; thus, they have less need to agonizingly question them. They know their place in the world and aren’t troubled over it. “It’s kind of a peaceful bliss, cognitively speaking,” explains Kruglanski.

Furthermore, the need for closure — for certainty, fixity — may underlie much else about the right. Kruglanski notes, for instance, that there’s a known relationship between closure and religiosity. “Religion or any comprehensive belief system is one that provides you answers to everything — and therefore belief and happiness,” he explains.

Finally, there is the related argument that the conservative tendency to rationalize politically or economically unequal social systems — to overlook how the other half is forced to live, either through simple dismissiveness, or affirmation of the fairness of free markets and meritocracies — also confers happiness. In his New York Times op-ed, Brooks dismissed this argument, associated with New York University social psychologist John Jost, but that’s not so easy to do. In a 2008 study in the journal Psychological Science, Jost and Jaime Napier showed that conservatives were happier than liberals in nine countries beyond the United States (including Germany, Spain and Sweden) — and further demonstrated, through statistical analyses, that the rationalization of inequality was a key part of the explanation. “Meritocratic beliefs account for the association between political orientation and subjective well-being to a signi´Čücant degree,” wrote Napier and Jost.

The upshot of this research, to my mind, is that it provides a huge wake-up call to liberals who would dismiss conservatism, and their conservative brethren, without understanding this ideology’s appeal or what its adherents are getting out of it. Overall, the happiness research suggests that conservatism is giving something to people that liberalism is not — community, stability, certainty, and perhaps, in Jost’s words, an “emotional buffer” against all the unfairness in the world.

Knowing this, one still may not want the type of somnambulant happiness that conservatism conveys (I certainly don’t). But it would be foolhardy to mistake its appeal. The world is hard and cruel and perhaps, as predominantly liberal atheists suspect, ultimately meaningless. In this context, it appears, political conservatism is doing much more than political liberalism to get people through the day.



'Fundamentally Transforming' the Military

In Lone Survivor, a chilling, firsthand account of the loss of eleven members of the Navy’s elite Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team and eight Army aviators, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell describes the fateful decision that led to disaster for him and death for his comrades. It came down to a judgment call about whether to risk prosecution and jail-time for doing whatever it took to complete their mission, or to allow three Afghan goatherds to rat out his unit to the Taliban.

When Luttrell cast the deciding vote to turn loose the farmers who had stumbled upon him and three other SEALs shortly after they had been dropped behind enemy lines to take down a particularly dangerous Taliban leader, he described the thought-process:

“If we kill these guys, we have to be straight about it. Report what we did. We can't sneak around this….Their bodies will be found, the Taliban will use it to the max. They’ll get it in the papers, and the U.S. liberal media will attack us without mercy. We'll almost certainly be charged with murder….”

Such concerns prompted Luttrell to make the call to release the goatherds, setting in train calamity for his buddies and sixteen others dispatched to rescue them from the massive Taliban assault that ensued. It turns out those concerns were well-founded, as was most recently demonstrated in a case before the U.S. Military Court of Appeals. By a 3-2 vote, the judges outrageously determined that an Army Ranger, First Lieutenant Michael Behenna, was deemed to have no right to self-defense when he killed the Iraqi prisoner he was interrogating after the latter threw a concrete block at him and tried to seize his firearm. Unless he is pardoned, Lt. Behenna will remain incarcerated for the next twelve years.

Unfortunately, under President Obama, service personnel’s rising fears of being prosecuted for acting to protect themselves and their missions are but one of many ways in which themilitary is being, to use his now-infamous turn of phrase, “fundamentally transformed.” Consider a few examples:

* Losing wars: Few things can have a more corrosive effect on morale and esprit de corps of the armed forces than being ordered to participate in and sacrifice – not least by risking life and limb – in protracted conflicts, only to have political authorities throw in the towel. Add in the repeated combat tours pulled by many servicemen and women, with all that entails for both them and their families, and you have a formula for disaster for the U.S. military.

* Budget cuts: Matters are made much worse by the sense that the military is being asked to pay more than its fair share of the burden associated with deficit-reduction. Even though defense spending accounts for approximately 20% of the budget, the Pentagon has been required to absorb roughly 50% of the cuts, while entitlements have been entirely spared.

The roughly $800 billion in defense spending already excised or in the works is denying our men and women in uniform the modern, properly maintained and qualitatively superior equipment they need to wage war safely and successfully on our behalf. The next $500 billion in reductions – which, all other things being equal, are to go into effect in January – will have, in the words Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Demsey, a “catastrophic” effect.

* A defective Counter-Insurgency (COIN) strategy: [As documented in Part 9 of the Center for Security Policy’s online curriculum, “The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within” (,] the effort to win hearts and minds in places like Iraq and Afghanistan has exposed our troops unnecessarily to danger: They are being obliged not to wear protective eyewear and body armor, at risk literally to life and limb. They are ordered to honor their hosts in visits with local elders by consuming foods offered, despite the fact that doing so can subject them to lifelong affliction by parasites and diseases. They must observe rules of engagement that restrict use of their firearms and deny them air cover and artillery support in circumstances where it can mean the difference between living and dying.

Worse yet, our troops are seen by the enemy in these and other ways to be submitting to the latter’s doctrine of shariah. According to that supremacist code, its adherents are compelled when confronted with evidence they are winning, to redouble their efforts to make us “feel subdued.” This generally translates into more violence against our troops and us, not less.

* Assault on the culture of the Military: Last, but not least, President Obama’s use of the military as a vehicle for advancing the radical homosexual agenda in the larger society has demonstrated for many in uniform civilian indifference to the unique attributes of the armed forces. That message can only have been reinforced by the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing fraudulent claims to military decorations as protected free speech.

Unfortunately, these sorts of assaults on the U.S. military are likely to “fundamentally transform” it, all right. Perhaps that tranformation will manifest itself, among other ways, by precipitating the collapse of the All-Volunteer Force, as many of those who are currently serving decline to do so, and fewer and fewer new, high-quality recruits enlist. We can ill-afford such an Obama legacy in an increasingly dangerous world.



The States need to unite against the Federal behemoth

Congress has invariably sought to expand the reach and power of the federal government through one piece of legislation after another. When challenged, the courts have for the most part upheld said legislation. Then the executive branch goes on to expand federal powers even more through the creation and implementation of regulations. When regulation and promulgation are challenged, the courts, again for the most part, grant their imprimatur. The system has been crafted over a long period and is designed to create, promote and preserve the power of the federal government. The players have little or no desire to restrain themselves. For the most part they are enablers of one another. And partisan bickering is often no more than diversion. Much the same could be said for the “bipartisanship” ruse.

This system, as it stands, is unchallengeable by private citizens or groups. Go along or go to jail … even if you didn’t really break any laws. Few have the time, money and stamina to mount a serious challenge against the federal government in court. And even if you do win, the victory may prove Pyrrhic. Just ask Lord Black. And it doesn’t mean that down the road the government won’t go after some other poor bastard for essentially the same thing. What we have here is a tyranny of, by and for a legal system that to a great extent serves no useful purpose other than to perpetuate itself. That’s why with 5 percent of the world’s population we have 50 percent of the world’s attorneys.

If political constitutionalism is to be anything more than a catch phrase, it will have to be because a substantial majority of the states, with the support and on the behalf of state residents, don the Constitutional defender mantle, and as a group challenge the federal government, i.e., Civil War II. It won’t be pretty, but it need not be bloody. That this is the direction whither we’re moving is indicated by such state actions as Arizona’s illegal alien legislation, Florida’s refusal to stop purging its voter rolls of fraudulent registrants, and several states’ proclamation of their intent to not fully implement Obamacare. That’s probably why Attorney General Eric Holder has been so vigorously challenging these assaults on federal prerogative.

The states would do well to get organized and coordinated. First order of business would be for the state parties, especially the Republicans, to become financially detached from the national party. Without control of their own funds, the state parties cannot act independently of the national. Reincorporating under a different name, for example “Texas Independent Republicans” or a similar moniker may also be necessary. Then, along with the Tea Party, and whoever else is of like mind, get state legislators elected who will vote for the convening of Constitutional Convention II. Without some such bold action I have no faith whatsoever that there will ever be any substantive improvements in the functioning of our government. The Constitution may very well need updating whether or not it’s “living”, but certainly not by the courts or executive orders or the bureaucratic fiats that have, to a large extent, been the case so far. After over 200 years of floating about in briny political and legal seas, the Constitution seems bit barnacle encrusted. Perhaps it’s time to pull it out of the water for a good scraping.

Who knows, we may even end up with a bit of originalism back in our public debate.


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


My identity: jonjayray. I have deleted my old Facebook page as I rarely accessed it. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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, July 17, 2012

America slides back into recession

The Economic Cycle Research Institute in America has doubled down on its recession call. A fresh US slump is not just a risk any longer. It has already begun.

Output slowed to stall speed over the winter. The US economy tipped into outright contraction in the second quarter, even before facing the "fiscal cliff" later this year – tightening of $600bn or 4pc of GDP unless action is taken to stop it.

Nothing serious is yet being done to head off the downward slide. If ECRI is right, the implications for the global system are ugly.

It is never easy to read the signals at inflexion points. Washington is always caught off guard. As ECRI’s Lakshman Achuthan says, it took the Lehman collapse ten months into recession in September 2008 to "wake people up".

What we know is that retail sales rolled over in February and broader trade sales peaked in December. Industrial output peaked in April. The nationwide ISM index of manufacturing crashed through the break-even line of 50 in June, just as it did at the onset of the Great Recession in late 2007, but this time at a faster pace.

Job growth has slumped to 75,000 a month over the last three months, too low to stop unemployment rising again to 8.2pc, or 14.9pc on the wider U6 measure.

Albert Edwards from Societe Generale expects the US economy to shrink 2pc this year, leading to a 40pc fall in profits. He says the S&P 500 index of stocks will ultimately plumb fresh secular depths, below the 666 bottom of March 2009.

The Federal Reserve has drifted into fatalism, seeming to lose confidence in its own ability to shape events, displaying the same lack of "Rooseveltian resolve" as the Fed in the early 1930s -- to borrow an expression written years ago by a young Princeton professor, and Fed scourge, called Ben Bernanke.



BOOK REVIEW of Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason, by Christina Shelton (Threshold, 352 pp., $26)

That good old Leftist feeling of superiority again, a feeling never far from megalomania

It is unlikely that we ever will have a proper reckoning of the American Left’s culpability in the worldwide Communist enterprise — the gulags and laogai, the Stasi, the Holodomor, the 100 million corpses. It is a testament to the perversity of human nature that in the two main political efforts to uproot Soviet agents from U.S. institutions, the villains in the popular mind are not those who enabled the enslavement of entire nations but the imperfect men who tried to stop them. We never had a Nuremberg trial for Communists — we would have had to hang too many veterans of the Roosevelt administration. Instead, we had the perjury case of Alger Hiss. And we keep having it.

Christina Shelton, a former analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, has produced a new study of the case. In the course of her rigorous and carefully documented analysis, she offers a persuasive explanation not only of why Hiss chose treason but of why so many others did as well. It is a rare thing: a good book about an important subject.

Shelton’s telling of the story is in a sense Nixonian. Hiss was the archetypal East Coast liberal-establishment man: son of an executive, Johns Hopkins, Harvard Law, a protege of Felix Frankfurter, law clerk to Oliver Wendell Holmes, attorney at Choate, Hall, & Stewart, State Department, United Nations. But Hiss was a member of the most dangerous class: the barely-hanging-on elite. His father’s suicide left the family in a condition that biographer G. Edward White famously described as “shabby gentility.” He was a highly accomplished student but, in the judgment of Whittaker Chambers, a mediocre mind. As a young man, he learned to sneer at business while availing himself of every benefit to be derived from his wealthy and well-connected friends. He was a member of the self-loathing elite.

Like most of his kind, Hiss drew precisely the wrong lesson from the Great Depression — that the state should attempt to manage the economy — and was, like most New Dealers, prepared to endorse extraordinarily authoritarian steps to put that vision into action. Shelton insightfully identifies Hiss’s support of Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme as a critical indicator of his views:
Hiss’s advocacy of bypassing constitutional restraints and his open disregard for both the constitutional principle of separation of powers and for the precedent of an independent, nonpoliticized judiciary are astounding, and symptomatic of his leftist authoritarianism. Using the judiciary as a political instrument of state power is a characteristic feature of both Communist and Fascist regimes. Hiss felt that “we were entitled to think of ourselves — and we most certainly did — as a select few.” This claim by Hiss reflects the recurring elitism of a higher wisdom that is thoroughly embedded in the ideologies of the left: the “enlightened” know best; authoritative leadership is needed to direct the masses; a vanguard is required to advance the revolution; and so on and so forth. Alger saw himself and his colleagues as that vanguard.

Fortunately, she has a hell of a story to tell and many illuminating details and anecdotes to add. Like many liberals of his time, Hiss seems to have been radicalized in part by the Sacco and Vanzetti controversy, and he was drawn quickly to the subversive Left. Early in his career in government, he joined Lee Pressman — who would himself later be outed as a Soviet spy — in defending Franklin Roosevelt’s central-planning ambitions. Throughout Shelton’s telling of the tale, one cannot but notice that Hiss’s fellow traitors not only shared his ideological commitment but were in the main the same sort of people. That latter fact may be of more consequence than the former. The confrontation between Alger Hiss and Richard Nixon exposed a cultural fault line, and those who have been (and remain) sympathetic to Hiss and his ilk seem to do so not out of any sophisticated understanding of Marxist-Leninist doctrine or midcentury history but out of dread of aligning themselves with the loathsome likes of Nixon. It is unsurprising that Hiss, in the decades after his release from prison, found himself enthusiastically welcomed at New York’s New School for Social Research, where, as Shelton reports, he was a regular lecturer, and at other elite institutions, including Brandeis and Columbia. Nixon’s downfall coincided with a refreshed interest in Hiss among liberals.

Hiss gave substantial cooperation, including access to his papers, to historian Allen Weinstein, who began his researches holding the conventional liberal faith in Hiss’s innocence. The evidence convinced him of the contrary, and the publication of his book, Perjury, in 1978 was the occasion for a sustained campaign by The Nation and other leftist outlets to discredit him. Tribal ties are highly resistant to evidence (and apparently immune to shame), and that is why the case of Hiss continues to be newly litigated each generation.

Shelton makes a sledgehammer of a case that this is unnecessary. The strongest section of the book is titled simply “The Evidence,” and it is a sustained artillery assault: the GRU general who fingered Hiss, the U.S. ambassador who warned Roosevelt, the Soviet defectors who knew his secret, Whittaker Chambers and the other turncoats, the KGB operatives, the Communist-party members who plotted alongside Hiss, the U.S. State Department officials who corroborated Chambers’s evidence, the Daily Worker editor, the foreign intelligence operatives: The question has never been Hiss’s word against Chambers’s and the Pumpkin Papers, but Hiss’s word against a large and compelling body of evidence.

That evidence has in recent years been supplemented by the declassified Venona transcripts, by Hungarian intelligence documents, and, most damningly, by KGB documents. “Despite the existence of overwhelming evidence against Hiss,” Shelton writes, “there are still those today who cannot bring themselves to assimilate that evidence and acknowledge that Alger Hiss was a Soviet asset and guilty of espionage. They focus on Hiss’s message, not his actions.” Likewise, they focus on the character defects of Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, apparently unable to distinguish conventional if severe human failings (Nixon’s megalomania, McCarthy’s dipsomania) from the moral depravity of men who were engaged in the greatest campaign of mass murder documented in the history of civilization.

It is just possible to understand the sympathy for Russian Communism in the context of the 1930s and the rise of Nazi Germany. But Hiss’s embrace was a broad and lasting one: As Shelton notes, he was denying the crimes of Mao and Castro as late as 1975. Hiss argued, among other things, that the scale of Mao’s killing must have been exaggerated, since so many Chinese opposed to Communism had left the country as he came to power, and therefore “the problem of liquidation which Mao would have undertaken must have been minimized.” Here Shelton cannot avoid a parenthetical: “Was Hiss really suggesting that Mao killed fewer people because there were less available to kill?” The Chinese who escaped the chairman’s terror are blessed not to have found out.

It is impossible to dispute Shelton’s overall verdict. The word “treason” carries a great deal of emotional weight, a sense of being the worst crime of which one could be guilty. But it is not: Benedict Arnold and Guy Fawkes were traitors — Hermann Goring and Joseph Goebbels were loyal to the end. Hiss and his associates did in fact choose treason, but treason was hardly the worst of their crimes. They chose to further the work of bloody-minded gangsters engaged in the mass extermination of nations and the permanent enslavement of the survivors. To make an average-sized gravestone for each of their victims would require 900 times more marble than was used in the dome of the Taj Mahal. They were the very worst men that modern civilization has produced, abetted by those who may have been among our brightest but were by no means among our best.



Tilting at the U.N. Windmill

Not everything the U.N. does is evil. Some of it is just incompetent

By Jonah Goldberg

Those of us who believe the United States would be best served by pulling out of the United Nations and starting up a more morally and politically serious clubhouse for morally and politically serious nations are often accused of tilting at windmills.

The phrase “tilting at windmills” was inspired by Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote, and it means to fight something that doesn’t really deserve to be fought. Quixote mistook the windmills of the Spanish countryside for ravenous giants and set out to vanquish them. (“Tilting” is a jousting expression, in case you didn’t know.)

Well, let’s review some recent evidence.

The U.N. has been working hand-in-glove with the Chinese government to make the Chinese one-child policy as efficient and ruthless as possible. “Our conclusion is that the [United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)] is directly responsible for forced abortions and forced sterilizations in China,” Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, recently told Congress in prepared testimony.

Of course, not everyone dislikes the one-child policy. Vice President Biden has supported it, and President Obama restored UNFPA’s funding when he took office. So let’s move on.

Lots of people like the Internet, right? Well, good news! The U.N. wants to take it over. The International Telecommunications Union, a U.N. organization, is secretly debating proposals to claim jurisdiction over the Web and take it out of America’s hands. The major forces behind this push: authoritarian regimes eager to censor their domestic Internet and monitor their citizens. Russia and some Arab countries, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Crovitz, want the power to read private e-mail. Others want to tax cross-border Web traffic. And countries like China are working hard to bribe, bully, or barter votes in favor of the U.N. takeover.
You see, that’s what dictatorships do at the U.N.: work to make the world safe for dictatorships. The most brutal regimes on the planet are constantly trying to get on or game the Human Rights Council so they can spend all of their time condemning Israel and blocking any attempts to censure their own regimes.

Not everything the U.N. does is evil. Some of it is just incompetent. The whole of what passes for the “international community” has been trying to enforce sanctions on Iran and North Korea. But nobody told the U.N.’s intellectual-property agency, it was revealed earlier this month, so they went ahead and gave North Korea and Iran computers and IT equipment.

A few days later, the invaluable human-rights group U.N. Watch reported that Iran was elected to the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, despite having just been declared guilty — in a U.N. Security Council report! — of illegally shipping guns and bombs to Syria.

Speaking of Syria, which is currently violating agreements to not murder its own people, it recently had a big victory at the Human Rights Council. Syria co-sponsored and passed a resolution pushed by Cuba (and supported by the usual Legion of Doom nations) to establish a “Right to Peace.” The document is a lot of boilerplate until you get to the part where it says “all peoples and individuals have the right to resist and oppose oppressive colonial, foreign occupation.” This is Middle East–speak for “It’s okay to blow up Israelis.”

Now these are all just recent news items. But you can play this game any time you want because the U.N. always provides fresh hells for us to marvel and laugh at.

For example, the United Nations website tells us that there is something called the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group of the General Assembly on the Integrated and Coordinated Implementation of and Follow-up to the Major United Nations Conferences and Summits in the Economic and Social Fields. Who among us doesn’t sleep better knowing the OAHWGGAICIFMUNCSESF is working for us?

Alas, the U.N. website notes, “The Ad Hoc Working Group was last active during the 57th session of the General Assembly in 2003.” In other words, the ad hoc open-ended working group is so open-ended it hasn’t met in nearly a decade.

But that’s the great thing about the U.N.: It never fails to surprise us with its predictability.

I’m beginning to think the U.N.’s defenders are the Don Quixotes, only in reverse. Where the critics see the reality of the ravenous giant, the U.N.’s defenders can only see a harmless windmill converting hot air for the good of all mankind.



Demokratische Republik of Maryland Demands Pay For No Service!

This is ludicrous:
Some of you will see an extra charge in your next electric bill because Pepco and BGE lost money when they couldn’t charge customers to deliver power during the storm outage....

Only regulators in Maryland allow utilities to recoup lost billings by invoicing customers directly.

“It’s the law,” said Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey. “It’s called bill stabilization.” ...

Officials in the District and Virginia say the utilities can not charge customers for lost billings there – so this is unique to Maryland customers.

It’s called highway robbery. It may be the law, but the fact is there was no power being consumed by millions of people for days and yet, MD allows for them to be charged for no service! Power losses led to water shortages, food losses in refrigerators and freezers, which then led to expensive alternatives like eating out. Thousands were at risk health wise, sanitation issues ‘blossomed’ – and for all this suffering MD consumers are handed the bill?

Can everyone see shades of Obamacare in this life lesson? When the government runs the monopoly, they are free to take from you as they see fit.

In VA there is no such need or requirement. We also have balanced budget, better economic growth and lower unemployment than MD. Wonder why that is?…..



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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)