Friday, August 03, 2012

Freedom Makes All the Difference

Palestinian leaders were understandably insulted when Mitt Romney, noting the huge gap in wealth between Israel and the West Bank during a speech in Jerusalem on Monday, declared, "Culture makes all the difference." Although culture plays an important role in economic development, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee overlooked another key variable: government.

Good government establishes conditions that are conducive to production, innovation and trade. I am not talking about the roads, bridges and public schools cited by President Obama in his notorious "you didn't build that" speech. I am talking about a more basic kind of infrastructure: the rule of law, protection of property rights, enforcement of contracts, honest and open government, tolerable taxes and a minimum of interference with transactions between consenting adults.

When the state flagrantly flouts these principles, people do not prosper, no matter how much they value education, how hard they are prepared to work, how much risk they are willing to take or how inclined they are to save and invest. In fact, oppressive, arbitrary government changes culture, making these traits less valuable and therefore less common.

When Romney said "culture makes all the difference," he was quoting "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations," a 1998 book by the historian David Landes. Elsewhere in the book, Landes is less categorical, saying, "Culture can make all the difference," and cautioning that "culture does not stand alone."

What else makes a difference? Landes is quite clear that limits on government are essential. When he says "the driving force" of economic progress during the last millennium "has been Western civilization and its dissemination," he is referring not just to cultural values such as thrift, competition, gender equality and the Protestant work ethic, but also to the political values that keep the state from smothering creative effort.

Saeb Erekat, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, highlighted the importance of political institutions when he complained that Romney "doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation." Israeli checkpoints, control of imports and exports, and interference with land use, even if justified by legitimate security concerns, surely have impaired economic development in the territory administered by the Palestinian Authority, but so has the authority's history of corruption and incompetence.

Those factors, along with intermittent violence, go a long way toward explaining the enormous difference in per capita gross domestic product between Israel and the West Bank (which Romney actually understated by a factor of five): $28,600 vs. $2,900, according to the CIA's 2009 numbers. There are also stark, though less dramatic, disparities between Israel and bordering Arab countries. According to the CIA's 2011 estimates, per capita GDP was $31,400 for Israel, $15,700 for Lebanon, $6,600 for Egypt and $5,100 for Syria.

One interpretation of these data -- the one Erekat clearly had in mind when he called Romney's remarks "racist" -- is that Arabs are lazy, while Jews are good with money. Yet Arabs excel economically in countries with stable governments that respect individual rights and the rule of law. In the United States, for instance, Arab-American households are more affluent than the average.

A similar pattern can be seen among the Chinese, who, Landes observes, "have long been so unproductive at home and yet so enterprising away." The laissez-faire Hong Kong Special Administrative Region -- which has a per capita GDP of nearly $50,000, compared to $8,500 in the rest of China -- shows it's not distance but rules that matter. Likewise, East Germany's per capita GDP was about half West Germany's in the decades before unification, while South Korea's is about 18 times North Korea's.

Culture matters, but these examples demonstrate that institutions are crucial. If you compare per-capita GDP to ratings in Freedom House's annual Freedom in the World report or the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom, you will see a clear association between poverty and tyranny. Maybe Romney should have said, "Freedom makes all the difference."



10 Concepts Liberals Talk About Incessantly But Don't Understand

1) Being Open Minded: To a liberal, this has nothing at all to do with seriously considering other people's ideas. To the contrary, liberals define being "open-minded" as agreeing with them. What could be more close-minded than assuming that not only are you right, but that you don't even need to consider another viewpoint because anyone who disagrees must be evil?

2) Racism: Liberals start with the presumption that only white people who don't belong to the Democratic Party can be racist. So, for example, even if Jeremiah Wright can make it clear that he hates white people because of their skin color or if liberals take an explicitly racist political position, like suggesting that black people are too stupid and incompetent to get identification to vote, they can't be racist. White Republicans, on the other hand, are generally assumed to be racist by default, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.

3) Fairness: In all fairness, I must admit that fairness is an arbitrary concept. So, you could make the argument that no one could get "fairness" wrong. Still, liberals do because they don't make any effort to actually "be fair." As a practical matter, liberals define "fairness" as taking as much as possible from people who they don't think are going to vote for them and giving it to people who may vote for them in return for their ill gotten largesse. Certainly conservatives, libertarians, and moderates might disagree about how much money to take from the wealthy to redistribute to the poor or how to help the disadvantaged, but the only liberal answer to the question, "How much is enough?" is "more."

4) Greed: To a liberal, believing that you pay too much in taxes or even opposing paying more in taxes is greedy. In actuality, wanting to loot as much money as possible that someone else has earned to use for your own purposes, which is what liberals do, is a much better example of greed.

5) Hate: Liberals often define simple disagreement with them on issues like gay marriage, tax rates, or abortion as hatred. No matter how well a position is explained, or the logical underpinnings behind it, it's chalked up to hate. Meanwhile, the angriest, most vicious, most hateful people in all of politics are liberals railing against what they say is "hatred." This irony is completely lost on the Left.

6) Investment: Actual investments involve putting money or resources into a project in hopes that they will appreciate in value. Liberals skip the second half of that equation. To them, an "investment" is taking someone else's tax dollars and putting it into a project that liberals approve of and whether a profit is made or lost is so irrelevant that they typically don't even bother to measure the results.

7) Charity: Contributing your own money or time to a good cause is charity. Liberals view themselves as charitable if they take someone else's tax dollars and give it away to people they hope will vote for them in return. At a minimum, they should at least credit the taxpayers who paid for the money they gave away for the charity, although it's not really charity if it's involuntary. Of course, there's nothing charitable about asking someone else to sacrifice for your gain, which could actually be better described as selfish.

8) Patriotism: Liberals love America the way a wife beater loves his spouse. That's why they're always beating up the country "for its own good." Doesn't the country understand that liberals have to hit it in the mouth because they LOVE IT SO MUCH?!?!? Of course, the conventional definition of patriotism, which is loving your country and wishing it well, isn't one that liberals can wrap their heads around.

9) Tolerance: In a free, open, and pluralistic society, there are all sorts of behaviors that we may have to tolerate, even though we don't approve of those activities. Liberals don't get this distinction. For one thing, they don't understand the difference between tolerance and acceptance. They also don't extend any of the tolerance they're agitating for to people who disagree with them. Liberals silence people who disagree with them at every opportunity which is, dare we say it, an extremely intolerant way to behave.

10) Diversity: What liberals mean by "diversity" is that they want a broad range of people from different races, colors, and creeds who have identical political views. A black or Hispanic conservative doesn't contribute to "diversity" in liberal eyes because he actually has diverse views. Incredible role models for women like Sarah Palin can't be feminists to liberals because she doesn't share the same liberal beliefs as sexist pigs like Anthony Weiner and Bill Maher. How can you have any meaningful "diversity" when everyone has to think the same way?



America's disastrous experiment with Fascist economics is still leading its privileged life

Big government programs often have results that are very different than what was intended. We can gain particular perspective by reflecting on the experience of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's most ambitious infrastructure program, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

It was heralded as a program to build dams that would control floods, facilitate navigation, lift people out of poverty, and help America recover from the Great Depression. Yet the reality is that the TVA probably flooded more land than it protected; much of the navigation it has facilitated involves barges of coal for coal-fired power plants; people receiving TVA-subsidized electricity have increasingly lagged behind neighbors who did not; and the TVA's impact on the Great Depression was negligible. The TVA morphed into America's biggest monopoly, dominating an 80,000 square mile region with 8.8 million people—for all practical purposes, it is a bureaucratic kingdom subject to neither public nor private controls.

Back in 1933, David Lilienthal, one of the founding directors of the TVA, vowed, "The Tennessee Valley Authority power program is not a taxpayers' subsidy. It is a business undertaking." In fact, for more than 60 years, Congress appropriated funds to cover the TVA's losses.

Although the TVA no longer receives congressional appropriations, it continues to receive large subsidies. The TVA pays none of the federal, state, and local taxes that private businesses pay. A 1993 study by Putnam, Hayes & Bartlett, a consulting firm retained by investor-owned utilities, estimated that annual cost-of-capital subsidies exceeded $1.2 billion, including the taxes that the TVA avoided. As a government-backed entity similar to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the TVA can borrow money cheaper than private businesses. Currently, the TVA has about $26 billion of debt.

Moreover, the TVA doesn't have to incur the costs of complying with myriad federal, state, and local laws. Energy consultant Dick Munson reported that the TVA is exempt from 137 federal laws, such as workplace safety and hydroelectric licensing. The TVA can set electricity rates without oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over private utilities. The Securities & Exchange Commission has only limited jurisdiction to oversee the TVA. On top of that, the TVA is exempt from federal antitrust laws and many federal environmental regulations. It's also exempt from some 165 laws and regulations in Alabama and hundreds more laws and regulations in other states in which it operates. When the TVA wants to acquire more assets, it doesn't have to haggle, because unlike private businesses, it has the power of eminent domain. More than 15,000 people were expelled from their property to make way for the TVA.

Established by President Roosevelt in May 1933 as part of his first 100 Days, the TVA's roots actually go back to 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson decided that the federal government should get into the gunpowder business after German submarines sank several ships bringing nitrates from Chile. At the same time, E.I. du Pont de Nemours, the world's most experienced gunpowder manufacturer, wanted to build a gunpowder manufacturing facility at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on the banks of the Tennessee River, and his company proposed building a hydroelectric plant to provide the power that was needed.

"Progressive" politicians were wary that du Pont might make money on the deal, so the decision was to have two gunpowder manufacturing facilities: one built by du Pont and the other by the federal government. The du Pont facility was finished for $129.5 million and produced 35 million pounds of canon powder before the Armistice (November 1918), while the government's facility produced nothing at all. Wilson's Muscle Shoals project became the starting point for the TVA.

It's run by three directors, each appointed by the president to staggered nine-year terms. Although the directors are sure to be political supporters, the unusual length of their terms gives them considerable independence, and they're not subject to constraints by investors, customers, or voters.

As a remedy for the Great Depression, the TVA didn't work. It created no new wealth and, through taxation, transferred resources from the 98 percent of Americans who didn't live in the Tennessee Valley to the two percent who did. Any spending that happened in the Tennessee Valley therefore was offset by the spending that didn't happen elsewhere. Those taxes reduced net incomes.

Much like any other complex public works project, it took an inordinate amount of time to build the TVA. Only three TVA dams were completed during the 1930s. The dams themselves were small—with less than one-twentieth the power-generating capacity of big western dams like Grand Coulee. Although the building process provided work for engineers and skilled construction workers—who earned above-average incomes—the dams simply came too late to have much impact on most people in the Tennessee Valley during the Great Depression.

To the degree that the TVA had any impact, it appears to be negative. The most important study of the effects of the TVA, conducted by energy economist William Chandler, estimated that in the half-century after the TVA was launched, economic growth in the Tennessee Valley increasingly lagged behind non-TVA southern markets. Chandler concluded, "Among the nine states of the southeastern U.S., there has been an inverse relationship between income per capita and the extent to which the state was served by the TVA...Watershed counties in the seven TVA states, moreover, are poorer than the non-TVA counties in these states."

In the non-TVA southern markets, there was a greater exodus of people out of subsistence farming into manufacturing and services, which offered higher incomes. Ironically, electricity consumption has grown faster in the non-TVA southern markets, because it tends to correlate with income. Subsistence farmers might be able to afford light bulbs, but they could not afford the electrical appliances that people in non-TVA southern markets were buying. Furthermore, despite the vast sums spent building TVA dams, water usage grew faster in the non-TVA southern markets.

In any case, it was a delusion to believe that there was one "key" (such as TVA-subsidized electricity) to eradicating poverty. Subsistence farmers needed equipment such as tractors, trucks, and hay bailers (which are powered by diesel fuel, not electricity). They needed to develop more skills, more sophisticated farming practices, and so on.

Backed by the power of the federal government, the TVA promoted electricity for home heating--even when oil and natural gas were cheaper. To the extent the TVA's home heating campaign was successful, it still squandered resources.

As for flood control, the TVA has flooded an estimated 730,000 acres—more land than the entire state of Rhode Island. Most directly affected by TVA flooding were the thousands of people forced out of their homes. And while farm owners received cash settlements for their condemned property, black tenant farmers received nothing.

As one might expect with a government monopoly that can ignore so many laws, there have been frequent reports of waste and possible corruption. According to TVA's own inspector general, these include lucrative executive perks, cozy consulting contracts, costly building leases, and much more. The TVA spent $15 billion building nine nuclear power plants—and none of them worked. The TVA hired a former Navy admiral to fix them, but he was charged with cronyism and bad judgment. Congressional investigations followed.

Although the TVA was established to build dams, it has expanded relentlessly (as bureaucracies do) to include 11 coal-fired power plants and three nuclear power plants as well as 49 dams—apparently with ambitions to expand the TVA's power-generating monopoly beyond the Tennessee Valley. Among other things, this has raised environmental concerns. Ralph Nader charged that the TVA "has the poorest safety record with [nuclear] reactors." On December 22, 2008, at the TVA's Kingston, Tennessee coal-fired plant, the dike of a 40-acre holding pond broke, spilling as much as a billion gallons of coal sludge with elevated levels of arsenic. The sludge covered some 300 acres up to six feet deep, damaging homes and wrecking a train. This spill reportedly was much bigger than the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez tanker that went aground in Alaska.

As the TVA's long record illustrates, voters rarely receive what they signed-off on when it comes to massive government programs. Despite all of the harm it has done, the TVA has grown into a powerful and politically unstoppable special interest that has done a grave disservice to the Tennessee Valley. Too bad today's advocates of a new New Deal seem determined not to learn from their predecessors' mistakes.



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, August 02, 2012

A logical corollary of the Obama gospel


Social Security Nonsense

If you want to see a good example of liberal or progressive thinking on fiscal policy, read this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled “Social Security Is Not Headed for Disaster” by Barbara R. Bergmann, who serves as professor emerita at American University and the University of Maryland.

The thrust of Bergmann’s article is that Social Security is not headed for disaster because the federal government is a big government in a nation of lots of rich people who can be taxed whatever amounts are necessary to fund the Social Security program indefinitely into the future.

That’s also the argument that liberals make with respect to the entire welfare state — that there is so much wealth in the United States that the federal government can use its vast taxing powers to continue imposing and raising taxes to whatever extent it needs to continue funding the ever-increasing expenditures of the welfare state.

Unfortunately, Bergmann didn’t mention the case of Greece. I wonder what she would say about Social Security and the entire welfare state in that country.

You see, in Greece statists took the same position — that government spending on welfare could go on increasing forever. Of course, Greek citizens on the dole, like American citizens on the dole, absolutely refused to consider any reduction in their dole.

Well, it got to a point in Greece where the amount being spent far exceeded the amount being collected in taxes.

So, why not just continue raising taxes? Because the government sector depends on a vibrant private sector in order to survive, much as any parasite needs a vibrant host to survive. If the private sector shrinks to nothing, there are no more taxes that can be collected, which means no more Social Security or any other welfare dole.

The problem for the parasite is this: how to keep the host vibrant and still suck as much blood of him as possible. If too much blood is sucked out of the host, he dies. That means the parasite dies too.

So, the government can tax up to a certain point but if it continues to confiscate increasing amounts of wealth and income from the private sector, it ultimately destroys the source of its loot.

As taxes are raised, businesses that are barely making a profit go out of business, laying off workers. Those workers go on the dole, which means higher taxes to fund them, which means more businesses going out of business. Moreover, wealthy people stop producing wealth and instead look for ways simply to preserve what they already have. Increasingly, the private sector shrinks and ultimately gets to a point where it cannot sustain the enormous taxes that are being imposed on it.

That’s what happened in Greece. And when spending began to exceed tax revenues, instead of reducing spending, which the dole recipients would not permit, the government just went on a huge annual borrowing spree to keep the dole going. For a short time it worked. But as the government’s debts mounted, things finally got to a point where no one would dare lend it any more money.

The Greek government was busted. Sure, it could levy a massive confiscatory tax on everyone, including the rich, which many statists want it to do. It could seize savings accounts, businesses, and homes to continue paying the doles. But then what? What does it do then? The host is dead. And that means the parasite is dead too.

Closer to home, I wish Bergmann had talked about those cities in California that are going bankrupt. Why is that? Why can’t they simply tax everyone 100 percent to fund their obligations and pay their debts? Why not seize their homes and businesses? What’s all that private wealth good for if not to fund the government? It’s because they know that that would work only one time. Then what? Who do they tax next year when there isn’t anyone left to tax?

Undoubtedly Bergmann would say that the U.S. government is different from the Greek government and those California city governments in that it is a bigger government that has more wealthy people to tax. But that implies that no matter how much the federal government spends, there is always going to be enough money in the private sector to fund it. It implies that that private sector can sustain any amount of federal expenditures.

With all due respect, that’s ridiculous. Right now, the federal government is spending more than a trillion dollars a year more than what it is bringing in with taxes. Like the Greek government, it continues to borrow the difference, adding to the mountain of federal debt that hangs over the American taxpayer.

Why doesn’t the government simply raise taxes to cover that difference rather than go further into debt? Because the more it raises taxes on the private sector, the more it threatens to destroy the host. It is an implicit recognition that there is a limit on the amount of taxes that can be imposed on the private sector.

Moreover, as the Greeks have learned and as American cities have learned, debts ultimately have to be paid back. And the only way governments have to repay their debts is through taxation. By borrowing the money, the day of reckoning is simply delayed.

In her article Bergmann mentions the Social Security “trust fund,” which is designed to make Americans falsely believe that their Social Security taxes are placed into a fund for their retirement. To Bergmann’s credit, she pierces right through that sham. There is no trust fund and there never has been one. Social Security is a straight welfare confiscate-and-transfer program, one that taxes the young and productive and gives the loot to people to whom it does not belong.

Bergmann suggests that the government can raise Social Security taxes to whatever extent is necessary to keep the system going. Oh? What if that means imposing a 90 percent tax on the income of young people for the rest of their lives? Would Bergmann say that’s okay?

The fact is that Social Security, like all other aspects of the welfare state (and the warfare state) are in deep crisis. After 80 years of all this socialism, the chickens have come home to roost. Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, paper money, the Federal Reserve, farm subsidies, foreign aid to dictatorships, and all the rest. They’re all in crisis, which is why they’re always in need of “reform.”

The only question is: Are Americans going to let this alien, socialist system that was imported onto our shores in the 1930s take us down, or are we going to embrace libertarian principles before it’s too late?



Big Lies in Politics

Thomas Sowell

It was either Adolf Hitler or his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, who said that the people will believe any lie, if it is big enough and told often enough, loud enough. Although the Nazis were defeated in World War II, this part of their philosophy survives triumphantly to this day among politicians, and nowhere more so than during election years.

Perhaps the biggest lie of this election year, and the one likely to be repeated the most often, is that the income of "the rich" is going up, while other people's incomes are going down. If you listen to Barack Obama, you are bound to hear this lie repeatedly.

But the government's own Congressional Budget Office has just published a report whose statistics flatly contradict this claim. The CBO report shows that, while the average household income fell 12 percent between 2007 and 2009, the average for the lower four-fifths fell by 5 percent or less, while the average income for households in the top fifth fell 18 percent. For households in the "top one percent" that seems to fascinate so many people, income fell by 36 percent in those same years.

Why are these data so different from other data that are widely cited, showing the top brackets improving their positions more so than anyone else?

The answer is that the data cited by the Congressional Budget Office are based on Internal Revenue Service statistics for specific individuals and specific households over time. The IRS can follow individuals and households because it can identify the same people over time from their Social Security numbers.

Most other data, including census data, are based on compiling statistics in a succession of time periods, without the ability to tell if the actual people in each income bracket are the same from one time period to the next. The turnover of people is substantial in all brackets -- and is huge in the top one percent. Most people in that bracket are there for only one year in a decade.

All sorts of statements are made in politics and in the media as if that "top one percent" is an enduring class of people, rather than an ever-changing collection of individuals who have a spike in their income in a particular year, for one reason or another. Turnover in other income brackets is also substantial.

There is nothing mysterious about this. Most people start out at the bottom, in entry-level jobs, and their incomes rise over time as they acquire more skills and experience.

Politicians and media talking heads love to refer to people who are in the bottom 20 percent in income in a given year as "the poor." But, following the same individuals for 10 or 15 years usually shows the great majority of those individuals moving into higher income brackets.

The number who reach all the way to the top 20 percent greatly exceeds the number still stuck in the bottom 20 percent over the years. But such mundane facts cannot compete for attention with the moral melodramas conjured up in politics and the media when they discuss "the rich" and "the poor."

There are people who are genuinely rich and genuinely poor, in the sense of having very high or very low incomes for most, if not all, of their lives. But "the rich" and "the poor" in this sense are unlikely to add up to even ten percent of the population.

Ironically, those who make the most noise about income disparities or poverty contribute greatly to policies that promote both. The welfare state enables millions of people to meet their needs with little or no income-earning work on their part.

Most of the economic resources used by people in the bottom 20 percent come from sources other than their own incomes. There are veritable armies of middle-class people who make their livings transferring resources, in a variety of ways, from those who created those resources to those who live off them.

These transferrers are in both government and private social welfare institutions. They have every incentive to promote dependency, from which they benefit both professionally and psychically, and to imagine that they are creating social benefits.

For different reasons, both politicians and the media have incentives to spread misconceptions with statistics. So long as we keep buying it, they will keep selling it.



Statehouse, not White House, should lead on health reform
Washington Times

Says Gary R. Herbert, the Republican governor of Utah, below

The full title of what most call Obamacare is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The irony is it neither protects patients nor is it affordable. In fact, PPACA is a misguided budget-buster that falls short of real health care reform, undermines state solvency and subverts individual liberty. For those reasons, Utah is in no rush to adopt any Medicaid expansion and will continue to pursue pragmatic, principle-based reforms, regardless of elections or Congress‘ partisan balance.

Of course, we care about better health and an improved system, but it’s breathtaking that in order to comply with the individual mandate for insurance, just covering Utahns presently eligible for Medicaid but not yet enrolled will cost the state $940 million the first decade and $1.88 billion the next decade. Then the Medicaid expansion tacks on an additional $240 million the first decade, and $480 million the next. In other words, even if Utah does nothing, Obamacare will completely unravel our state’s uniquely positive financial outlook.

Utah has defined a clear vision for health care: We will pioneer health care innovation and reform, harnessing the power of collective efforts and market principles as we become the healthiest people in the nation. Our efforts include solutions for low-income, uninsured and vulnerable populations.

But in contrast to federal solutions, the philosophical framework for Utah’s vision is personal responsibility. Reform must align incentives and empower people to make better choices — and reward them when they do. Most importantly, reform must reinforce basic principles of free markets — principles like flexibility and certainty. PPACA stifles both.

Washington appears to have forgotten that Medicaid is supposed to be a bridge, not a hammock. To that end, Utah has proposed thoughtful and potent Medicaid waivers to deliver care to the most vulnerable while protecting the program’s long-term viability. Our goal is to help people in need but prepare and empower them as their situation improves.

Yet it is those most vulnerable — those whom Obamacare professes to protect — who will be most victimized by shrinking access to eligible providers, and hidden taxes and regulation that drive up the costs of life-saving medical devices.

Utah continues to use and explore customized reforms like greater flexibility, accountable care organizations and paying for quality instead of quantity, cost-controlling features, electronic records management systems like Utah’s Clinical Health Information Exchange, a market-oriented health insurance exchange, and our All Payer Claims Database. True reform adds real value.

At this time of economic uncertainty, Obamacare will effectively kill every state’s efforts to maintain balanced budgets — all at the sacrifice of other critical priorities. Right now, Medicaid consumes 21.5 percent of Utah’s budget, nearly double what it was a decade ago. Adopting the expansion could cost Utah $1.3 billion over the next 10 years. Where will that money come from? Take no consolation in false assurances that the federal government will offset costs. It all comes from the same wallet — the American taxpayer’s — and alarming federal deficits should be a major concern for every one of us.

If we truly want to cut costs, the administration should cut strings attached to Medicaid and issue block grants to states. Give me less money and no strings, and I’ll deliver better services.

PPACA has too many rules and too few answers. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s ruling has only exacerbated marketplace uncertainty. Restoring market confidence and stability will come when we strike the right balance between costs and benefits, between compassion and dependence, and between freedom and accountability.

Unfortunately, with its top-down, one-size-fits all approach, Obamacare doesn’t really fit anybody. At this juncture, as states assess their options, it comes down to this: The statehouse, not the White House, should be leading the charge on one of the most complex issues of our day. It is time to reset the health reform conversation, and repeal and replace PPACA with state-driven, people-centered and market-oriented innovations. States simply cannot afford the Affordable Care Act, and neither can the American people.



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, August 01, 2012


The article below came out some time ago but it is so stupid that it has taken me until now to bother with it. They come to the crazy conclusion that people do NOT become more conservative as they age.

I think most of us old-timers can think of quite a few people who are a lot more conservative than they used to be -- and who can overlook that both Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill were liberals in their younger days? And readers of this blog will probably be familiar with John Stossel and David Horowitz as further examples of such change. In my home State of Queensland, Ned Hanlon started out as a far-Left unionist and red-ragger but when he eventually became Premier of the State he ended up using the police to break strikes by unionists. He moved from one extreme to the other in the course of his lifetime. I could go on. The exampes are innumerable.

So how did they go wrong below? In the usual Leftist way: They have no idea of what conservatism is and substitute their own false picture of it for the reality. In particular, they equate conservatism with rigidity and closed-mindedness, when the actual research on the topic (going back to Rokeach in 1960) says that closed mindedness is not politically polarized. Both liberals and conservatives are roughly equally likely to be rigid and closed-minded. My papers on that topic are here.

And any mention of what conservatism really is: Respect for individual liberty and opposition to big government, for instance, is conspicuously missing.

In short, the work below fails as research because it gets the very first step in any science wrong: Taxonomy. Their classification of people as conservatives is demonstrably erroneous

Readers may be interested in the listing of attitudes contained in my paper "What old people believe". Note that the listing includes statements that old people REJECT -- JR

Amidst the bipartisan banter of election season, there persists an enduring belief that people get more conservative as they age -- making older people more likely to vote for Republican candidates.

Ongoing research, however, fails to back up the stereotype. While there is some evidence that today's seniors may be more conservative than today's youth, that's not because older folks are more conservative than they use to be. Instead, our modern elders likely came of age at a time when the political situation favored more conservative views.

In fact, studies show that people may actually get more liberal over time when it comes to certain kinds of beliefs. That suggests that we are not pre-determined to get stodgy, set in our ways or otherwise more inflexible in our retirement years. Contrary to popular belief, old age can be an open-minded and enlightening time.

"Pigeonholing older people into these rigid attitude boxes or conservative boxes is not a good idea," said Nick Dangelis, a sociologist and gerontologist at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

"Rather, when they were born, what experiences they had growing up, as well as political, social and economic events have a lot to do with how people behave," he said. "Our results are showing that these have profound effects."

Today, the image is ubiquitous in popular culture: A rigid gray-haired grump, who is closed-minded and set in his or her curmudgeonly ways. To some extent, that belief emerged from a real observation: Surveys that ask about attitudes towards things like premarital sex or race relations reveal that people older than 60 express more conservative views than people between the ages of 25 and 39. By extension came the assumption that older people used to be more liberal.

The problem with these studies, Dangelis said, is that they compare two demographics at one moment in time without offering a picture of the older cohort when they were younger. So, in a 2007 paper in the journal American Sociological Review, Dangelis and colleagues started to address that problem.

Using surveys taken between 1972 and 2004, the researchers found that groups of people actually became more tolerant, not more conservative, after age 60 -- calling into question some enduring myths about old age. Survey questions addressed attitudes about boundaries of privacy (such as the right to die), historically subordinate groups (such as women and Blacks) and civil liberties (for groups like atheists).

But that study had limitations, too. For one thing, each survey included a different set of people. So the researchers could compare the attitudes of people who were 25 in 1972, for example, with the attitudes of people who were 35 in 1982.

What's still missing, though, are long-term studies that actually follow individuals over time to see how their beliefs change.

In lieu of that kind of research, which is too difficult to do, researchers are now using complicated statistics to tease apart the effects of getting older from the effects of being a certain age at a certain moment in time.

Results, which are just starting to emerge, suggest that each belief follows its own complicated pattern. Seniors seem to have become more liberal about subordinate groups, for example, but more conservative about civil liberties.

Overall, what's happening in society at large as people come of age seems to matter most in determining the starting point for their core beliefs, said Karl Pillemer, a sociologist and gerontologist at Cornell University, who conducted more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with seniors for his book, "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans." From there, people's attitudes can evolve as they age. And flexibility often trumps rigidity.

"Older people said very surprising things about being old," Pillemer said. "One of those things was that old age was a quest for adventure and a time to try new things. Many older people describe themselves as feeling freer or clearer."

Late in life, his research shows, people often become more open, more tolerant, and more appreciative of compassion. Even if they started out conservative, they may become less extreme in their conservatism.

"Many describe themselves as open to ideas or open to new ways of thinking, and they come back to a sense of much greater tolerance for different points of view," he said. "I had someone say, 'I used to think I was always right, but now that I'm 80, I'm not so sure I'm always right.'"



Shrinking government payrolls IS possible

Many people have pointed out that the size of the U.S. Federal bureaucracy seems to increase inexorably. People point out that even Ronald Reagan only managed to hold the size of the bureaucracy where it was. He did not reduce it. And after he went it resumed growing. So a tempting conclusion is that a reduction in the Federal workforce is impossible. It is a ratchet that we cannot put it into reverse.

That is of course depressing news for all of us with libertarian inclinations so I thought that something that revives hope might be worth mentioning.

I live in the Australian State of Queensland, which has recently given a huge parliamentary majority to a conservative administration. And the Premier (similar to a governor) is fulfilling his promise to cut the State payroll. He is making drastic cuts -- as you can judge from the news report below. And he is still getting onto his stride.

For context, the size of the total Queensland population is 4.5 million

HUGE cutbacks to Queensland's public service are draining Brisbane's CBD, leaving entire floors of carparks empty and retailers struggling to stay open.

Secure Parking's David Knight said it was not only the shrinking CBD workforce that was hurting operators; fewer people in general were coming into the city for business.

"People aren't going to see that lawyer or architect or engineer, and they're not going to government offices because there's no new projects happening," Mr Knight said. "It all dominoes right through the economy."

National Retail Association spokesman Gary Black said CBD retailers had been doing it tough since late 2009 and many were now on death row. "You would expect the public service job cuts to have some impact (on retailers)," he said.

Premier Campbell Newman announced on Friday that public sector numbers had fallen by 4400 full-time employees. He said the Government's reforms to build a "right-size public service" would continue.

Mr Knight said the plunge in demand for car parking started just before the June school holidays and had only got worse. "At first I thought everyone had gone away to the snow. But after the holidays business didn't pick up like it normally does," he said.



The Reddest of Presidents

It’s clear the economy is seeing red. A host of economists, who always seem to be the last to know, have cut GDP growth forecasts recently, in light of rising unemployment and falling manufacturing output. The latest to see the light at the end of the tunnel in its proper context as a speeding train coming right at us is Fannie Mae’s chief economist, Doug Duncan. Fannie Mae always seems to be the last-est of the last to know.

“The data from the past month collectively point to decelerating economic growth, but growth nonetheless," noted Duncan in a statement by Fannie Mae. “It's now clear that our bias toward downside risks noted in the June forecast have materialized, pushing down our already modest growth projections.”

And, according to Newsday, poverty is approaching levels not seen since 1965.

“Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups,” says Newsday, “from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.”

That should not surprise anyone who has paid much attention to the administration over the past year. Despite increasing worry over lack of economic growth, the administration has done little to get the economy moving and much to prevent it from growth.

Last year, in a signal to business that perhaps he really did feel their pain, Obama appointed Chicago’s Bill Daley as his chief of staff. This allowed former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel to exit stage left to replace the other Daley- Richie- as mayor of Chicago.

And for a brief moment the chamber of commerce crowd thought maybe Obama was starting to be more business-friendly. But the Daley ascendancy lasted months, not years. And while Obama announced an effort to cut back on red tape and regulation, year three of Obama's economic-whatnot has been as tough on business as any year of Obama’s administration.

An update to last year’s report from Heritage, Red Tape Rising, says that “Despite this promise of restraint, however, the torrent of new rules and regulations from Washington continued throughout 2011, with 32 new major regulations. These new rules increase regulatory costs by almost $10 billion annually along with another $6.6 billion in one-time implementation costs.”

And that’s not counting Obamacare costs.

In fact, last year Obama’s own Small Business Administration calculated that the total cost to implement regulations in the country amounted to $1.75 trillion or 13 percent of GDP.

While some of that money is accounted for already in government outlays, it means that total cost of government (state, local and federal), which accounts for over 40 percent of our GDP in cash costs, is actually much higher than that when you figure in other costs like lost business and costs of compliance.

Might government costs be over 50 percent of our economy? Possibly. But for sure, government now is the single biggest factor in our economy whether the actual percentage of GDP it accounts for falls just below the 50 percent-of-GDP rate or just inches past it.

And we haven’t even gotten to the bad part either:

Warns Heritage: “This regulatory tide is not expected to ebb anytime soon. Hundreds of new regulations are winding through the rulemaking pipeline as a consequence of the vast Dodd–Frank financial-regulation law (the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act), Obamacare, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming crusade, threatening to further weaken an anemic economy and job creation.”

Total costs of all regulation will cost the economy close to $20 trillion in the next ten years, just using estimates from the Small Business Administration from 2011. In contrast, our yearly economic output is only $15 trillion. If Obamacare is implemented and Dodd-Frankenstein continues to turn on its masters, the costs, including lost opportunities for our economy, will be staggering.

Obama told us that for generations his election would be hailed as the moment the seas stopped rising and the earth began to heal.

But he neglected to mention how much it would cost us in red tape.

That red tape makes him the reddest of all presidents.

What? You expected something else?



Some 0ne-liners

Jay Leno

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a congressional committee the economic recovery is weakening. But the good news is most Americans will not be affected because they had no idea there was a recovery.

Jobless claims rose again by 35,000 last week. Not good. But it does show that if you’re unsuccessful in this country, you didn’t do it on your own. You had help. Thank you, President Obama.

Well, President Obama and first lady Michelle went to see the U.S. Olympic basketball team play Brazil the other day. And during the game, they were put on the kiss cam. At first, they didn’t kiss and the crowd booed them. Then the camera went back to them. And they finally did kiss. Isn’t that amazing? A politician in Washington caught on camera kissing a woman he’s actually married to?

Romney’s surrogate, John Sununu, he’s in hot water for saying, “I wish President Obama would learn how to be an American.” Well, that’s kind of insulting, isn’t it? President Obama spends money he doesn’t have. He loves to skip work and play golf. He sneaks away from his wife to eat fatty foods. What is more American than that?

Ralph Lauren says the uniforms they make for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be made right here in the USA — using our own old-fashioned illegal immigrants.

Well, Harry Reid and other members of Congress, they’re just furious over this Olympic uniform deal. He says we should burn the uniforms, and it’s an embarrassment and a disgrace. Not as embarrassing as Congress constantly borrowing money from the Chinese, but still embarrassing.

The big news in Washington now is the disappearance of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Nobody can find him. He’s completely disappeared. People think he’s either in rehab or he might have been given his own show on CNN.

The White House is now urging Americans not to “read too much” into last week’s jobs report. In fact, they said it would be best if you didn’t read it at all.

At a Democratic fundraiser in Seattle earlier this week, Vice President Biden said that Romney’s economic policies were “George Bush on steroids” — as opposed to Obama’s policies, which are “Jimmy Carter on Ambien.”



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 31, 2012

Australian household wealth up 20 per cent from 2004-2010 as US drops 30 per cent

Given the large basic similarities between Australia and the USA, this shows that America's decline was not inevitable. But Australia does not have big black and Hispanic minorities that pull economic policies Leftward

Australian households are doing very nicely, thankyou very much. AVERAGE household wealth jumped by more than 20 per cent between 2004 and 2010, new Treasury figures show. In comparison, median household wealth in the US declined by more than 30 per cent in the same period.

Treasurer Wayne Swan claimed his Government's credit for the figures. "Contributing to this was our stimulus response to the GFC, which protected hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as our decent social safety net and government policies that spread opportunity," Mr Swan wrote in his economic note released yesterday. Mr Swan said Australia had not been immune from global turbulence.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb attacked the Government for taking the most optimistic forecasts available to develop its Budget. "The Budget was predicated on everything going well around the world," Mr Robb told Network Ten.

Median wealth in Australia in 2010 was a little less than $400,000, compared with mean wealth of almost $700,000 [now], according to the RBA figures.



Even Older Americans lose homes as great recession takes toll

MABLETON, Georgia: Roy Johnson fell so far behind on his $US1000-per-month mortgage payments that last year he allowed the red brick, three-bedroom ranch he had owned since 1963 to lapse into foreclosure.

"I couldn't pay it any longer," he said. "One day, I woke up and said, 'Hell, I'm through with it. I'm walking away from the house'."

That decision swept Mr Johnson, 79, into a rapidly expanding demographic: older Americans who have lost their homes in the great recession. As he hauled his belongings by pick-up truck from this Atlanta suburb and moved into his daughter's basement, Mr Johnson became one of the 1½ million Americans over the age of 50 who lost their houses to foreclosure between 2007 and 2011. Of those, the highest foreclosure rate was for homeowners over 75.

Once viewed as the most fiscally stable age group, older people are struggling. Last week, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), released what it described as the most comprehensive analysis of why the foreclosure crisis struck so many Americans in their retirement years.

The report found that while people under 50 are the group most likely to face foreclosure, the risk of "serious delinquency" on mortgages has grown fastest for people over 50.

While the study classified even baby boomers as "older Americans," its most dire findings were for the oldest group. Among people over 75, the foreclosure rate grew more than eightfold from 2007 to 2011, to 3 per cent of that group of homeowners, the report found.

"Despite the perception that older Americans are more housing secure than younger people, millions of older Americans are carrying more mortgage debt than ever before, and more than 3 million are at risk of losing their homes," the report found. "As the mortgage crisis continues, millions of older Americans are struggling to maintain their financial security."

More here


Gun Lovers: New York's Nanny Bloomberg Won't Protect You

I have just about had enough of NYC nanny, uh, Mayor, Bloomberg. He has finally gone over the cliff with his comments last week on CNN. In response to the horrific shooting in Colorado, his remedy is once again, to control and take away our freedoms, i.e., our second amendment rights. Nanny Bloomberg says "I don't understand why the police officers across this country don't stand up collectively and say we're going to go on strike," Bloomberg told the "Piers Morgan Tonight" host. "We're not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what's required to keep us safe."

Ok, I get it; he’s basically telling the police to blackmail the citizens of this country until they give up their right to bear arms. When does this end? When do the American people finally stand up and shout these people down? Well, I think they have come to the tipping point. It’s like the old story of the frog in a pot of water who doesn’t notice that he is being boiled alive until it is too late. We the American people are at the boiling point and most of us are jumping out of the pot.

Bloomberg, who has been at this since 2002, started with the smoking ban. Now, no one can smoke in any park or open space without facing a fine. Next came the ban on trans fats and salt in restaurants, then the mandatory salads for school lunches. (That went over well!) Next he outlawed food donations to the homeless because the city couldn’t access the salt, fat and fiber content and of course he outlawed the Big Gulp. You can’t buy a drink over 16 oz or the food police will get you!

Day after day we Americans are being chained and shackled by regulations and laws that limit what we can say, do, eat, drive, wear or even believe. Chick fil-A is a great example of how you can’t even have a moral belief without someone trying to take it away! You can’t have an opinion on anything unless it is the politically correct opinion. You can’t make a joke or compliment anyone lest they take it the wrong way and call in the PC squad.

Have you noticed how when one or a small group of people do something wrong the rest of us have to suffer for it? If obesity is a problem for a section of the population, those of us who eat responsibly and have a healthy weight have to be punished for their sins. Instead of targeting that group of people and educating them on proper diet, we all get penalized. I don’t want to be told not to eat fried chicken if I want to, it is my choice. I am not overweight and I pay my own health insurance, leave me alone!

I own guns and took an intense training course in the use of many types of weapons. I did not and will not shoot anyone unless they threaten me or my family on my property and neither would the vast majority of gun owners.

If I want to drive an SUV or a pickup truck and can afford the high cost of gas why shouldn’t I be able to? One SUV that carries eight kids to a baseball game sure beats three little Volts that you can’t even fit a “mandatory” car seat in. Three cars versus one make sense to me.

How long do you think it will be before they decide to outlaw football? You think I’m kidding? Right now, the nannies are scrutinizing the head and other injuries that are part of the game that the players make a choice to play. Mark my words it will either be outlawed or they will look like the Michelin man. If someone chooses of their own free will to play the game knowing full well what could happen, why should anyone have the right to take that freedom away?

I am tired of being the one groped by TSA for doing absolutely nothing except boarding an aircraft; I’m tired being monitored by cameras whenever I enter any store or building. I have nothing to hide, but it is unsettling to know that you are being watched all the time because someone else might do something. I agree, there is an upside to catching criminals on film, but it is too bad that we have to live like this.

How free are we when we have to work 111 days of the year just to pay our tax burden? That will be going up even more in 2013 after the enormous tax hikes kick in. No wonder businesses and workers feel strangled, we are running as fast as we can and are still losing ground.

The bottom line is we are less free than some other countries around the world. Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland and Canada have far more room to breathe than we do. How did we let this happen? How have we lost control of what our founding fathers envisioned for us?

We have always fought for freedom in our country. We fought for our independence and our right to free speech, religion, etc. We fought the Civil War for the freedom of slaves. We have sacrificed American blood and treasure for others to have freedom around the world. Why then, do we not stand up and fight for the freedoms that are being taken away from us every day by the control freaks in government who think they know what is best for us?

WE know what is best for us! Just get out of our way and we will handle it. We are not incompetent little children that need a nanny all the time. That kind of enabling is killing this country. Yes, there are good regulations and laws that help everyone, but let’s be reasonable and use common sense. Everyone needs to start showing politicians and other elitists how ridiculous they are. They are acting like helicopter parents that don’t allow their children to experience life. Those children end up paying for it later in life because they have been protected from everything and haven’t a clue how to do anything. You can’t be protected from life; it isn’t possible and if we don’t stop this soon, freedom will be something we can say we once had.

Having freedom makes us stronger, it makes us braver. Free will can’t be bought and it can’t be taken away as much as they may try.



What Mindset Leads to Communism?


An old friend from Massachusetts happened upon my blog last year and was shocked that I'm so conservative now. We both worked a couple of years with Saul Alinsky, red diaper baby "community organizers" in the early ‘70s. He's still a proud leftist and loyal Democrat. He didn't ask me why I'd changed, and I didn't ask him why he hasn't. Perhaps we'll discuss it someday.

Until fairly recently, I felt ashamed of my left-wing activities in those days, but I realize now they were essential to constructing my world view of today, especially now that my country is being run by the kinds of people I worked with then. It's not just the president and secretary of state, it's thousands of bureaucrats, judges, and other functionaries appointed over the years. I understand how they think.

To sum up a few of the differences between them and me within an 800-word, op-ed column, generalizations are necessary, so here goes:

They're nihilists. I'm a theist. They believe the universe happened by itself. And humans? A few chemicals mixed together in a primordial sea and became a cell which reproduced and evolved into us. There's no meaning, so don't waste time looking for any. The laws of physics are absolute and nothing else exists. I believe God created it all and He is absolute. Laws of physics are secondary instruments of His spiritual will.

They're relativists. I'm not. I believe in objective truth, but since I'm as flawed as every other human, I perceive it imperfectly.

They're utopian. I'm not. There can be no perfect society this side of heaven. My former Alinsky associates think they can manifest utopia with big government. Mine is a tragic view. That is, we can never achieve perfect happiness in this life. The best we can expect is episodes. As government grows, those episodes become fewer and farther between.

They're atheistic, or, at best, agnostic. I'm Christian. More so, I'm a Catholic Christian. My church is the oldest, continually-functioning institution on earth, but it's imperfect too because it's comprised of flawed humans like me.

Both Communism and Nazism have been manifestations of their thinking. That the Catholic Church and capitalism were enemies of both is not coincidental. The 20th century was dominated by the struggle between and among these competing belief systems. Hundreds of millions died and that struggle continues, smoldering, into the 21st. Neither Communism nor Nazism are dead. Both had been in remission, but are re-emerging in parts of the body politic with ubiquitous application if Alinskyite euphemism.

Even when I was a leftist, however, I was pro-life, although today that would be considered oxymoronic. I always knew abortion kills innocent human beings. Abortion epitomizes the leftist, nihilist, atheist, utopian mindset. Protecting it is the primary objective of today's Democrat Party. Redistribution of wealth and income is second. Big government is their vehicle for both. The November election will be pivotal to the continuing struggle.

Writing this column - putting ideas into logical sequences of sentences and paragraphs each week - helps me work all this out. I do it more for myself than for you, my readers.




Israel: Romney declares Jerusalem to be capital, rattles saber at Iran: "Standing on Israeli soil, U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish state and said the United States has 'a solemn duty and a moral imperative' to block Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability. ... A goal of Romney’s overseas trip is to demonstrate his confidence on the world stage, but his stop in Israel also was designed to appeal to evangelical voters at home and to cut into Obama’s support among Jewish voters and donors."

U.S. birthrate lowest in 25 years: "Twenty-somethings who postponed having babies because of the poor economy are still hesitant to jump in to parenthood -- an unexpected consequence that has dropped the USA's birthrate to its lowest point in 25 years. The fertility rate is not expected to rebound for at least two years and could affect birthrates for years to come, according to Demographic Intelligence, a Charlottesville, Va., company that produces quarterly birth forecasts for consumer products and pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Procter & Gamble."

On courage and cowardice: "I was at a meeting the other day, of a new group that was looking for a name. The name that was proposed, under which the individuals at the meeting had gathered in the first place, was a fine, tradition-evoking one, stemming from the early American Revolution. It stated a purpose, it sent a message, and I was very proud to be associated with it. Almost immediately, however, a few participants began to object to the name and to the logo that went with it. It was 'too edgy,' someone said. It looked too 'aggressive' (believe me, the posture involved is one of pure self-defense). It might offend some people. It might make them reluctant to join the organization or (gasp!) to give us money. It might keep other groups from affiliating with us. Worst (and most hysterically funny of all), it might bring us to the attention of the government." [Funny? I think that's prudent -- JR]

Comment on the Olympic opening ceremony: "Is it just me or did the Olympic opening ceremony seem a little leftist and one sided? Whilst the commentary was totally lacking and some of the scenes made no sense at all it would seem we went from Britain went from tending fields with a few geese and horses to an industrial revolution with nothing in between. What’s worse we went from the industrial revolution to the internet to pop music and nothing else. Where were the sciences, the biotechnology advances, space science and astro physics? Britain has contributed so much more to the world than suggested on Friday night."


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)


Monday, July 30, 2012

The qualities of independence and self-reliance that made America great have slowly leaked away

Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1962, America was a far different place from what it is today. President John Kennedy was presiding over Camelot, and despite fouling up the invasion of Cuba, his approval rating hovered at around 80 percent. Unemployment was 5.2 percent with the average family income at $6,000 a year.

Most Americans did not have much money but made do. Millions bought Elvis Presley's record "Return to Sender" and went to see "Lawrence of Arabia" in movie theaters. At home, "Wagon Train" was the top TV show.

Years later, the film "American Graffiti" featured the ad campaign "Where were you in '62?" Well, I was on Long Island, hanging around. During the day, we swam at the Levittown pool and played stickball in the street, and in August, my father took us to a lake in Vermont. Also, we went to Jones Beach and baked in the sun without block while secondhand cigarette smoke engulfed us on the blanket.

My folks had little disposable income, certainly not enough for air conditioning or a color television set. But again, there was little whining in my working-class neighborhood. We had fun with what was available. Most everybody worked. Nobody was on welfare.

In fact, just 6 percent of Americans received welfare payments in 1962. Now that number is 35 percent. More than 100 million of us are getting money from the government, and that does not count Social Security and Medicare, programs workers pay into. This is a profound change in the American tradition.

Also, we now have close to nine million workers collecting federal disability checks. In 2001, that number was about five million. Here's my question: Is the workplace that much more hazardous than it was 11 years ago? Is our health that much worse?

The answer is no. What we are seeing is the rise of the Nanny State.

Self-reliance and ambition made the United States the most powerful nation on Earth. But that ethic is now eroding fast. Instead, many Americans are looking to game the system, and the philosophy of "where's mine" has taken deep root. About half of American workers pay no federal income tax, leaving the burden to be shouldered by the achievers. As The Edward Winter Group once sang: "Come on and take a free ride. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!"

Presiding over and joyously encouraging this societal shift is the purveyor of social justice President Barack Obama. His entire campaign is now built around making the rich "pay their fair share." And where will that money go? To those in need, of course. And those legions are growing larger every single day.

Fair-minded people do not begrudge a safety net for Americans who, through no fault of their own, need help. A compassionate society provides for those battered by life. But what is happening in this country is far beyond a helping hand. We are creating a dual society. In one corner: Americans who work hard to succeed. In the other corner: folks who want what you have.

And the second corner is the growth industry.



If You Can't Win on the Facts ...

I am normally very understanding of the need for Presidential vacations, Presidential weekends off, or even Presidential naps.

It's a tough job and there is always someone, somewhere doing something illegal, dangerous, and/or stupid somewhere on the planet that demands your attention.

Having written that, I am becoming increasingly irritated with the fact that the total Obama campaign strategy is: Destroy Romney personally.

There is an old saying that goes something like: "If you can't win on the facts, argue the law. If you can't win on the law, call your opponent names."

The Obama campaign can't win on the facts; The economic situation is what it is and it is not good. They can't win on the law; about the only thing they've gotten passed is Health Care and you know how popular that is.

So, they are reduced to the third option: Calling their opponent names: Romney the maybe job outsourcer. Romney the maybe tax evader. Romney the too rich guy. Romney the manipulator of Winter Olympics. Romney the … (pick one). In short, they got nothin'.

The national press corps - which has by no means given Obama a free ride - still buys into the Obama campaign's act. They treat campaign advisor David Axelrod like he is delivering tablets from the Mount each and every Sunday.

They also buy into the "Romney the …" bit. I had a reporter call recently suggesting that the reason Romney won't release 5-10-20 years of tax returns is because there might be some years when he didn't pay any taxes.

I said that was an assumption he was not allowed to make. Or, if he did want to make that assumption he had to assume that Obama won't release his college records because he never actually accumulated enough hours to graduate but was waived through the system into law school. A long silence was followed by, "… well." Sauce for the goose and all that.

There was a small item this week that Obama was meeting with his Cabinet. Not a big deal, except this was only the second time in 2012 he felt the need to have a Cabinet meeting.

Before you get all huffy about how many Cabinet Meetings did George W. hold in his re-election year, I checked with people who worked in the White House back then. The answer is six, which was about average over the course of his Presidency.

I understand this is only the end of July, so Obama might hold four more Cabinet meetings before the end of the year, but to misquote Grantland Rice, that's not the way to bet.

The Obama campaign has had its collective knickers in such a twist over Obama's "you didn't build that" line that we have to believe it hurt even as the campaign claims it was taken out of context.

The Republican National Committee has a YouTube video titled, "The More Context You Get, the Worse it Sounds." Ok, doesn't exactly trip off the tongue but it's on YouTube.

The reason the Obama is reacting so strongly can be found in Gallup data released yesterday that show Obama's standing among business owners is 35 percent approve while 59 percent disapprove. The highest approval group for Obama are professionals who approve by a 52-43 margin. Not exactly a landslide, but way better than -24.

As to Mitt Romney's opening day as an international traveler; he did say that the threats of strikes by immigration agents and customs officials were "disconcerting" but I don't believe Romney's Salt Lake City Olympics ever confused the flag of South Korea with that of North Korea as the Brits did before a soccer match Wednesday in Scotland.

Nevertheless it might have been better for him to have said, "I know a little about organizing an Olympics. A million things CAN go wrong; some things DO go wrong; but I have complete confidence that the London Games will be terrific." He didn't, and we'll have to wait to find out how (or whether) Romney was briefed for his meetings in London.

As for Obama, he still won't have the facts or the law on his side so he's reduced to calling his opponent names.

The most famous stanza of one of Grantland Rice's poems should be hung on the walls of the White House and the campaign headquarters in Chicago:

"For when the One Great Scorer comes, To mark against your name,

He writes - not that you won or lost - But how you played the Game."



It's massive bureaucratization that has made healthcare so expensive

If you thought most of the increased costs in health care were going to the physicians and surgeons and specialists, you would be most definitely wrong. Take a close look at the chart that accompanies this article. The number of doctors in America has roughly doubled, perhaps a little more. Perhaps 125% growth. The population of the US has increased about the same amount over the same period of time.

But take a good look at the number of administrators that have been added to the US health care scene in these past 40 years! Over 3000%!

When something, ANYTHING, increases by 3000%, that means the number has increased exponentially, not linearly or even geometrically. 125% growth over 40 years is about a doubling in number. 3000% growth means 'it has grown in magnificent leaps and bounds'!

If there were 10 doctors in your hometown in 1970, there would be roughly 25 doctors working there today to take care of everyone. If there were 25 administrators in the medical field in your town in 1970, there would be over 750 health care administrators in your town today. Where do you think the increased costs in health care have occurred over that time frame, in doctor's salaries or what is more commonly referred to as 'G&A' expenses ('General Administrative')?

The federal government has made it clear that they think the problem is in doctors' fees since they have repeatedly been lowering the 'Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates' for the past 2 decades at least.

But they don't control the salaries of the CEOs and the administrative staff of these large hospitals and medical practices so they can't 'lower' the reimbursement rates to them directly, at least as they can with the doctors.

Are there more or less support staff nowadays than way back when? Think about the elementary school, junior high school, high school you attended perhaps as far back as the Dark Ages of the 1960's (Triassic Period) or the 1970's (Jurassic Period). Do you remember tons of 'other people' working there other than the great teachers you had and perhaps a principal, assistant principal, some office support staff, coaches and 2-3 driver's ed teachers?

According to a recent Texas education report, every public school had roughly as many support staff and administrators in it as the number of full-time teachers and educators.

In every school. In 2009. That is a 1-to-1 ratio for those of you keeping score at home. So it is not just health care where the number of administrative staff has exploded over the past 35 years, is it? Public education suffers from the same sclerotic bureaucratic diseases as modern American medicine today.

What is driving this surge in administrative staff in the medical world and public education?

You guessed right. More regulation and laws from Washington, the state capitals and the local governments. (see 'Regulations') We have had doctors tell us they spend 50% of their waking, working-day time filling out paperwork, complying with regulations and overall, making darned sure they do not get sued by anyone. 50% of their precious time. Even with all those staff support people.

Weren't doctors trained to 'fix' people and help cure them of what ails them? Why do we tolerate such a clear waste of time and talent when so many people are sick and need their help?

That would be like paying LeBron James $100 million ostensibly to play basketball for the Miami Heat and win championships....'but, oh, by the way, fill out all these attendance and concession forms in triplicate before, during and after the game and make sure you have them on my desk by 9:30 pm every night, win or lose!'

Making our well-trained medical personnel to fill out forms for half the time they are at work is like asking Secretariat to run in The Kentucky Derby with 5000 pounds of weight on his broad back.

We want them to do their jobs which is to heal people and help them get well. Just like we should all want great teachers to 'just teach our kids well' and not be over-worked secretaries, truant officers, psychologists and crowd control police.

We recently read of a large medical center where 42 administrative personnel were making well in excess of $1 million per year in salary. A piece. Per head. Per capita. Generous benefits on top of those generous salaries. The two top executives were pulling down $6.2 million and $4.3 million in annual salary.

That is a lotta tongue depressors and MRIs that have to be sold to pay for those high salaries, doesn't it? Medicare and Medicaid only covers some of those costs so where does the medical industry turn to get the money to pay for these high salaries and other costs of what are typically hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollar enterprises?

You. If you pay 100% of your health care. Which you probably don't. In which case, it comes out of your insurance company's pocket. In which case your health care premium goes up 16% per year as does the cost to your employer.

Before Obamacare kicks in full force in 2014, that is.

Want to take a dizzying look at the number of regulations now underway for Obamacare and 'being promulgated' (we love that word for some reason) as we speak and have been for the past 2 years?

Take a look at this CMMS link NOT on a full stomach and see if you understand a darned thing about what is going to be happening as of January 1, 2014 if Obamacare is not repealed, rolled back or significantly amended and improved (streamlined)

Here's just one footnote from the Federal Register of just one of these hundreds of new regulations:

"7 This language underscores and is not inconsistent with the scope of the disclosure requirement under the existing Department of Labor claims procedure regulation. That is, the Department of Labor interprets 29 USC 1133 and the DOL claims procedure regulation as already requiring that plans provide claimants with new or additional evidence or rationales upon request and an opportunity to respond in certain circumstances. See Brief of amicus curiae Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, Midgett v. Washington Group International Long Term Disability Plan, 561 F.3d 887 (8th Cir. 2009) (No.08-2523) (expressing disagreement with cases holding that there is no such requirement)."

You wanna bet that every hospital and medical facility in America is going to have to hire tons of new administrative people, lawyers and Executive VPs for Compliance in the next several years?

Where do you think health care costs are heading in America then?




Homosexual marriage to be introduced in Scotland: "Scotland could become the first part of the UK to introduce gay marriage after the SNP government announced plans to make the change. Ministers confirmed they would bring forward a bill on the issue, indicating the earliest ceremonies could take place by the start of 2015. Political leaders, equality organizations and some faith groups welcomed introducing same-sex marriage. But it was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland."

The ignoramus strikes again: "Barack Obama has said that ‘AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers’, even though the rifle, most associated with terrorism and communism, is not issued to the US military or any of its Western allies. The US military’s primary rifle is the M-16. An AR-15, the civilian variant of the M-16, was allegedly used by James Holmes to killed 12 people and wound 58 people at a screening of the film ‘Dark Right’ in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado this month. Early reports that Holmes had been arrested with an AK-47 proved false. The AK-47 was first produced by the Soviet Union and takes its name from its creator Mikhail Kalashnikov and 1947, the year it was introduced into service. The rifle was subsequently issued to most Warsaw Pact armies and exported to throughout the world."

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)


Sunday, July 29, 2012

What are the Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Lots of people would like to know the answer to that and many answers have been proposed. Daron Acemoglu dismisses the most popular explanations and proposes a contrast between societies run on extractive and inclusive lines. He says that societies are usually run on extractive lines but it is the inclusive societies that are the runaway successes. Below are his illustrative case-studies. I am not persuaded but will add my doubts at the foot of the extract below:


There is no better laboratory that demonstrates how extractive institutions emerge and persist than the New World. The Americas provide a brilliant example for understanding how different institutions form, how they become supported within different political frameworks, and how that, in turn, leads to huge economic divergences.

The economic and political institutions in the New World have been largely shaped by their colonization experience starting at the beginning of the 16th century. While the tales of Francisco Pizarro and Hernán Cortés are quite familiar, I'd like to start with Juan Díaz de Solís — a Spaniard who in 1516 initiated the colonization of the southern cone of South America, in what is today Argentina and Uruguay. Under de Solís's leadership, three ships and a crew of 70 men founded the city of Buenos Aires, meaning "good airs." Argentina and Uruguay have very fertile lands, with a climate that would later become the basis of nearly a century of very high income per capita because of the productivity of these areas.

The colonization of these areas itself, however, was a total failure — and the reason was that the Spaniards arrived with a given model of colonization. This model was to find gold and silver and, perhaps most importantly, to capture and enslave the Indians so that they could work for them. Unfortunately, from the colonists' point of view, the native populations of the area, known as the Charrúas and the Querandí, consisted of small bands of mobile huntergatherers.

Their sparse population density made it difficult for the Spaniards to capture them. They also did not have an established hierarchy, which made it difficult to coerce them into working. Instead, the Indians fought back — capturing de Solís and clubbing him to death before he could make it into the history books as one of the famous conquistadors. For those that remained, there were not enough Indians to act as workhorses, and one by one the Spaniards began to die as starvation set in.

The rest of the crew moved up the perimeter to what is now known as Asunción, Paraguay. There the conquistadors encountered another band of Indians, who on the surface looked similar to the Charrúas and the Querandí. The Guaraní, however, were a little different. They were more densely settled and already sedentary. They had also established a hierarchical society with an elite class of princes and princesses, while the rest of the population worked for the benefit of the elite.

The conquistadors immediately took over this hierarchy, setting themselves up as the elite. Some of them married the princesses. They put the Guaraní to work producing food, and ultimately the remainder of de Solís's original crew led a successful colonization effort that survived for many centuries to come.

The institutions established among the Guaraní were the same types of institutions that were established throughout other parts of Latin America: forced labor institutions with land grants for the elite Spaniards. The Indians were forced to work for whatever wages the elites would pay them. They were under constant coercive pressure — forced not only to work but also to buy what the elites offered up for sale. It is no surprise that these economic institutions did not promote economic growth. Yet it's also no surprise that the political institutions underpinning this system persisted — establishing and continuously recreating a ruling class of elites that did not encourage economic development in Latin America.

Yet, the question still remains: Could it have been geography, culture, or enlightened leadership — rather than institutional factors — that played a critical role in the distinct fates of the two teams of explorers?


Roughly a thousand miles north, at the beginning of the 17th century, the model of the Virginia Company — made up of the elite captains and aristocrats who were sent to North America — was actually remarkably similar to the model of the conquistadors. The Virginia Company also wanted gold. They also thought that they would be able to capture the Indians and put them to work. But unfortunately for them, the situation they encountered was also quite similar to what the conquistadors witnessed in Argentina and Uruguay.

The joint stock companies found a sparsely populated, very mobile band of Indians who were, once again, unwilling to work in order to provide food for the settlers. The settlers therefore went through a period of starvation. However, while the Spaniards had the option of moving up north, the captains of the Virginia Company did not have this option. No such civilization existed.

They therefore came up with a second strategy. Without the ability to enslave the Indians and put them to work, they decided to import their own lower strata of society, which they brought to the New World under a system of indentured servitude. To give you a sense of this, let me quote directly from the laws of the Jamestown colony, promulgated by the governor Sir Thomas Gates and his deputy Sir Thomas Dale:

No man or woman shall run away from the colony to the Indians upon pain of death. Anyone who robs a garden, public or private or a vineyard or who steals ears of corn shall be punished with death. No member of the colony will sell or give any commodity of this country to a captain, mariner, master, or sailor to transport out of the colony or for his own private use upon pain of death.
Two things become immediately apparent in reading these laws. First, contrary to the image that English colonies sometimes garner, the Jamestown colony that the Virginia Company was chartered to establish was not a happy, consensual place. Pretty much anything the settlers could do would be punished by death. Second, the company encountered real problems that were cause for concern — namely, that it was extraordinarily difficult to prevent the settlers they brought to form the lower strata of society from running away or engaging in outside trade. The Virginia Company therefore fought to enforce this system for a few more years, but in the end they decided that there was no practical way to inject this lower stratum into their society.

Finally, they devised a third strategy — a very radical one in which the only option left was to offer economic incentives to the settlers. This led to what is known as the headright system, which was established in Jamestown in 1618. In essence, each settler was given a legal grant of land, which they were then required to work in exchange for secure property rights to that plot. But there was still one problem. How could the settlers be sure that they had secure rights to that property, particularly in an environment in which a stolen ear of corn was punishable by death?

The very next year, in order to make these economic incentives credible, the General Assembly offered the settlers political rights as well. This, in effect, allowed them to advance above the lower strata of society, to a position in which they would be making their own decisions through more inclusive political institutions.


The above examples seem to me to offer no insight into the two runaway economic and political successes of the 19th century: Britain and Germany. Britain inherited a system of individual liberty from way back which was emphasized by the governments of the day, notably by both the Liberals under Gladstone and the Conservatives under Disraeli.

Germany, however, was created by Bismarck in 1872 and flourished under his authoritarian rule. And the systems which he set in place survived his term in office and led to continued economic advance in Germany. And by 1914, Germany was arguably more powerful and prosperous than Britain. It was only a tenuous lead in naval strength that gave Britain any headway over Germany. Compared to the German army, the British army was of course laughable. It took the combined might of France, Britain, Russia and the USA to bring Germany to heel.

So how does Germany fit the Acemoglu model? I cannot see that it does. Both Prussia before 1872 and Germany after 1872 had parliaments with varying degrees of influence but both Prussia and Germany remained substantially under the control of political strongmen, first Bismarck and then Kaiser Bill. One of the most famous episodes in his career was when Bismarck ran Prussia for four years in the name of the Kaiser alone -- completely ignoring the Prussian parliament.

So it seems to me that the Acemoglu model gives us no insight into the ORIGIN of powerful and prosperous societies. It does however give a reasonable DESCRIPTION of powerful and prosperous societies -- secure property rights etc. But we already knew that. It is the origin question that we want answered.

And I do have an answer -- but it is so politically incorrect and will initially be seen as so improbable that I hesitate to say much about it. Briefly, I think that a tradition of respecting the individual is the key and that such an orientation was historically basic among Teutonic peoples and is still alive (though gasping) today. I think it is that tradition which led to both British and German eminence in the 19th century. I set out some of the history behind my thinking on the matter here


No science can explain massacres like Aurora

In his comments below Theodore Dalrymple applies a view that is close to the heart of conservatism: An acceptance that that there will always be a lot that we do not know or understand and that we must always therefore proceed with caution. Only Leftists "know" all the answers

By a strange irony, alleged Aurora mass murderer James Holmes was a doctoral student of neuroscience—the discipline that will, according to its most ardent and enthusiastic advocates, finally explain Man to himself after millennia of mystery and self-questioning.

But what could count as an explanation of what James Holmes did? At what point would we be able to say, “Aha, now I understand why he dyed his hair like the Joker and went down to the local cinema and shot all those people?” When we have sifted through his biography, examined his relationships, listened to what he has to say, and put him through all the neuropsychological and neurological tests, will we really be much wiser?

Like Anders Breivik, the young Norwegian who killed 77 people in Norway by bomb and gun, Holmes is reported to have been a “loner,” a young man without the social skills or perhaps the inclination to mix with his peers in a normal way. But such loners, though a small minority, are numbered in the thousands and tens of thousands; vanishingly few of them act like Breivik or Holmes, and many, indeed, make valuable contributions to society. Preventive detention for loners, or even special surveillance of them, would hardly be justified.

The same is true of any other characteristic that might link Breivik and Holmes to their acts. Even the presence of a recognized mental illness, such as schizophrenia, would not suffice, since most people with that affliction don’t act in this fashion. And the temptation to indulge in a circular argument, where the explanandum becomes the explanans and vice versa, must be resisted, because it offers the illusion of understanding where there is none: “He must have been mad to do this; and he did it because he was mad.”

The multifactorial analyses to which experts are inevitably driven—a bit of genetics here, a bit of parenting there, plus a dash of social pressure, culture, and the legal availability of weaponry thrown into the explanatory soup, as the weird sisters threw eye of newt and wool of bat into their cauldron—will leave us not much better off. The mesh will never be drawn fine enough for us to be able to say: “Now, at last, I understand.”

And yet our nature drives us to seek an explanation and an understanding (the two are related but not quite the same). Even if we felt like it, we cannot say: “Well, such things happen; let us hope, Inshallah, that they never happen again.” We must know the how, but also the why.

An atrocious event like the Aurora massacre brings us up sharply against something that for the most part we ignore: that, for metaphysical reasons, our explanatory reach exceeds our grasp and will do so forever. We seek a final explanation, but cannot reach one because, as Haitian peasants say, “Behind mountains, more mountains.”



Rich Liberal Hypocrites!


I don't know about you, but I am sick of all the Democratic mud-slinging at Mitt Romney because he is rich. The level of hypocrisy tells me that Obama and his trolls are so bereft of anything to offer the voters that they insult them with this class warfare garbage about "millionaires and billionaires."

President Obama, according to a May 15, 2012 USA Today news article, "is a wealthy man with assets of as much as $10 million. Moreover, "he has a hefty stake in JP Morgan Chase, the megabank...with an account worth between 500,000 and $1 million."

Romney is rich. If he is elected, the Forbes list of the ten richest U.S. Presidents noted that in 2010 he reported adjusted gross income of $22 million of which $8 million was interest and dividends." The January 24, 2012 Forbes article by William P. Barrett said that "implies assets in the range of $200 million to $250 million."

Romney, however, would not be tops in presidential wealth. At the top of the list, in adjusted terms, George Washington was one of the wealthiest men in the nation when he became president. Mount Vernon plantation grew to 6,500 acres and Washington was a canny businessman, distilling booze, and even raising mules.

In 2010 dollars, Democrats who held the presidency in the last century included John F. Kennedy whose net worth was $1 billion. Jacqueline Kennedy was an oil heiress and his father was one of the wealthiest men in America. Almost all of JFK's wealth income and property came from a trust shared with other family members.

Clinton's wealth is estimated at $38 million. Twenty years of public service did not make him a rich man, but since leaving office, books and speaking fees earned him big bucks.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was worth $60 million, mostly acquired through inheritance and marriage. He spent most of his adult life in public service and his mother controlled the purse strings.

Lyndon Baines Johnson made a lot of money as a politician. He would accumulate 1,500 acres in Blanco County, Texas, and he and his wife owned a radio and television station in Austin. His net worth was estimated at $98 million.

In 2011, you couldn't swing a dead cat in Congress without hitting a multi-millionaire, many of them Democrats. John Kerry who ran against George Bush has a net worth of $193.07 million, much of it the result of marrying rich wives. Jay Rockefeller whose very name suggests wealth has $81.63 million. The California ladies, Diane Feinstein comes in at $55.07 million and Nancy Pelosi is worth $35.20 million.

The Daily recently reported that Rep. Pelosi's 2011 financial disclosure statement included between $1 million and $5 million earned from partnership income with Matthews International Capital Management, a firm that invests exclusively in Asia where much U.S. outsourcing occurs.

Among the Republicans, Rep. Michael McCaul has assets of $294.21 million, much of it is held by his wife, Linda McCaul, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications CEO and founder, Lowry Mays. Rep. Darrell Issa, who earned his wealth in the private sector, is worth $220.40, and, from a celebrated New Jersey family, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is worth $20.35 million. Neither of the Bush's, father and son, made it into the top, most wealthy Presidents.

Suffice to say if you weren't already wealthy when you got elected to Congress, the odds are you will accumulate wealth while there.

Obama's salary as President is $400,000 a year; he has a $150,000 expense account and a $100,000 tax-free travel account, along with a $20,000 entertainment budget. Not big money compared to the CEOs of major corporations and banking institutions, but the taxpayers pick up the tab for a lot of extras that go with the job.

If the economy will decide Obama's fate in November, then a lot of voters, Republicans, Democrats, and independents are going to be thinking about the past 40-plus months of 8.2% unemployment, billions wasted on "clean energy" companies that have gone bankrupt sticking taxpayers with the losses, the national debt of $17 trillion that robs the future from the next generation and the one after that, and the largest tax increase in history--$494 billion in one year-that will hit on January 1, 2013. I don't even want to think of the costs of Obamacare.

Caterwauling about how wealthy Mitt Romney is and telling lies about his career at Bain Capital may fool some people, but most know where their financial problems came from and have no doubt it has been Barack Hussein Obama's appalling mismanagement of the nation's economy.

Being rich in America never kept anyone from being elected President. Obama and many of his Democratic Party colleagues are the wealthiest hypocrites in public office.



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)