Saturday, February 28, 2009

More on the instinctive nature of morality

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

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

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

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

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

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



Obama's incompetent arithmetic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Friday, February 27, 2009

Why do so many people hate Gail Trimble?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about the brilliant Miss Trimble here and here



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



BrookesNews Update

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


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Financial Stability, or Fascist Decline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Taxpayer-fed fat cats

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

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

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

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

More here



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

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

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

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

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

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


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Love me. I'm a liberal"

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a detailed fisking of weasel here.


It Any Wonder The Market Continues To Sink?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



More sabotage of jobs from the Democrats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Nation of Cowards?

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

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

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

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

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

More here

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

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




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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Monday, February 23, 2009

That dreaded IQ again

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is: They aren't.

By Satoshi Kanazawa

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

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

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

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

More here

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Sunday, February 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Government-Inflated Bubble

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

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

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

No More Housing Policy

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ever-present Leftist propaganda does make an impression -- and is weakening America

Comment received by email from Sam Wells of Toward the Laissez-Faire Republic []

Americans are flooded with propaganda, both subtle and not so subtle -- mostly from the Democrat, left-wing perspective, especially on TV. Because the propaganda is so ubiquitous few people even realize they are immersed in it. I believe that many libertarians and conservatives and definitely most populists have unwittingly bought into some aspects of the Left's disinformation efforts. I have heard "libertarians" admit to believing in some of the most absurd left-wing conspiracy theories -- usually about the Bush Administration -- from 9/11 attacks being an "inside job" to Bush weakened the levies in New Orleans so as to flood certain mostly black areas because he hates black folks so much. (I can just see Bush and Cheney in SCUBA gear swimming down to the base of the levies and cleverly planting all that C4 so the levy would break just in the right way to flood blacks and not white people. Right.)

Most of the anti-Bush hatred has been instilled by propaganda over the past eight years -- stored in peoples' minds through repeated barrages of propaganda messages. An election comes around and it is time to trigger that stored hate. Bush did not run for re-election (could not under the Constriction)? Not to worry; just associate whoever is running under the GOP banner with Bush and all that programmed hate has not gone to waste. A lot of us in the libertarian subculture have absorbed the hate-Bush stuff and some even buy into the DNC/Move On anti-Bush conspiracy tales. But not all those who oppose the war against jihadist terrorism are that naive, of course.

I consider myself to be a constitutionalist. I believe the constitutional approach to limiting the scope of government to its proper functions has been the most successful one so far, (given the Greco-Roman heritage underlying our Anglo-American traditions). But we must not lose sight that the Constitution is a means, not an end in itself and that the purpose of the Constitution is to protect liberty -- not to serve as an excuse not to defend our way of life.

The enemies of freedom are past masters at manipulating the virtues of good, well-intentioned folks in the service of their ultrastatist agendas. There are those who sincerely question Congress's war powers declaration as being strong enough to fulfill the Constitution's requirement for lawfully going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those who genuinely believe they are "constitutionalists" by opposing wars on such arguably technical grounds should search their consciences and ask themselves if they are just being led by the nose and used by the Left's "anti-war" front offensive for political partisan ends. Does their nitpicking constitute genuine constitutionalism or is it just an excuse to look the other way and pretend not to see what is really happening? I cannot say what is in their hearts. But leftists often pretend to be supporters of the Constitution when they think they can distort its meaning and purpose so as to serve their ultimate goal of imposing more taxes, more regulations, bigger government, and more socialism on us all.

The 21st century Lord Haw-Haws and wishful-thinking Neville Chamberlains who refuse to recognize that the reactionary jihadists are a real threat to America and the world are aiding America's enemies and supporting the ostrich-like position of the surrendercrats. That pacifist approach does not really lead to peace but only postpones the conflict temporarily until a much more devastating war is unavoidable. Would they wait until the enemy has nuclear weapons and biotoxins to throw against us? Prudence dictates getting a conflict over as soon as possible, if it be inevitable, before the enemies are more powerful and can kill far more innocent people.


Upside Down Economics

by Thomas Sowell

From television specials to newspaper editorials, the media are pushing the idea that current economic problems were caused by the market and that only the government can rescue us. What was lacking in the housing market, they say, was government regulation of the market's "greed." That makes great moral melodrama, but it turns the facts upside down. It was precisely government intervention which turned a thriving industry into a basket case.

An economist specializing in financial markets gave a glimpse of the history of housing markets when he said: "Lending money to American homebuyers had been one of the least risky and most profitable businesses a bank could engage in for nearly a century." That was what the market was like before the government intervened. Like many government interventions, it began small and later grew.

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 directed federal regulatory agencies to "encourage" banks and other lending institutions "to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institutions." That sounds pretty innocent and, in fact, it had little effect for more than a decade. However, its premise was that bureaucrats and politicians know where loans should go, better than people who are in the business of making loans. The real potential of that premise became apparent in the 1990s, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) imposed a requirement that mortgage lenders demonstrate with hard data that they were meeting their responsibilities under the Community Reinvestment Act.

What HUD wanted were numbers showing that mortgage loans were being made to low-income and moderate-income people on a scale that HUD expected, even if this required "innovative or flexible" mortgage eligibility standards. In other words, quotas were imposed-- and if some people didn't meet the standards, then the standards need to be changed. Both HUD and the Department of Justice began bringing lawsuits against mortgage bakers when a higher percentage of minority applicants than white applicants were turned down for mortgage loans. A substantial majority of both black and white mortgage loan applicants had their loans approved but a statistical difference was enough to get a bank sued.

It should also be noted that the same statistical sources from which data on blacks and whites were obtained usually contained data on Asian Americans as well. But those data on Asian Americans were almost never mentioned. Whites were turned down for mortgage loans more often than Asian Americans. But saying that would undermine the reasoning on which the whole moral melodrama and political crusades were based.

Lawsuits were only part of the pressures put on lenders by government officials. Banks and other lenders are overseen by regulatory agencies and must go to those agencies for approval of many business decisions that other businesses make without needing anyone else's approval. Government regulators refused to approve such decisions when a lender was under investigation for not producing satisfactory statistics on loans to low-income people or minorities. Under growing pressures from both the Clinton administration and later the George W. Bush administration, banks began to lower their lending standards.

Mortgage loans with no down payment, no income verification and other "creative" financial arrangements abounded. Although this was done under pressures begun in the name of the poor and minorities, people who were neither could also get these mortgage loans. With mortgage loans widely available to people with questionable prospects of being able to keep up the payments, it was an open invitation to financial disaster. Those who warned of the dangers had their warnings dismissed. Now, apparently, we need more politicians intervening in more industries, if you believe the politicians and the media.



Toothless Blue Dogs Roll Over on Stimulus Bill

The House's Blue Dog Democrats like to pretend they are the deficit tigers of Congress, determined to stop runaway spending and stamp out waste, fraud and abuse. But when push came to shove, as it did in the pork-crammed $800 billion economic-stimulus bill, most of these tigers mewed like pussycats, voting in lock step with Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank for a bill they had not read. One by one, they inserted their voting cards into the slot in front of their seats and charged the stimulus money to the taxpayers. The first payment will be due April 15. Brace your wallets.

"Toothless tigers is one way to describe them. They are more gums than teeth when it comes to putting a bite on deficits," said Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union. NTU's "bill tally" monitoring showed that Blue Dogs propose three-quarters less spending increases than the Democrats as a whole, but the majority of Blue Dogs still vote for most of the spending bills their party brings to the floor.

"The Blue Dogs can't say with a straight face that they have a moderate or conservative bone in their body. They're exposed as pawns of the most left-wing Democratic leadership in American history," says tax-cut crusader Grover Norquist.

There are about four-dozen Blue Dog Democrats who took their name about a dozen years ago from their Southern ancestry and who showed their party loyalty by saying they would vote for an old yellow dog before voting Republican. At the start of the new Congress, they vowed that a "top priority will be to refocus Congress on truly balancing the budget and ridding taxpayers of the burden the national debt places on them." In a Feb. 4 letter to Speaker Pelosi, Indiana Rep. Baron Hill and seven other Blue Dog leaders said they had "serious reservations" about the big stimulus bill then working its way through Congress.

But on final passage, only a half-dozen brave Blue Dogs voted against the bill that will, with interest, add $1 trillion-plus to the federal debt.

More here



Through his bias and bigotry, "Pinch" Sulzberger has done a great job of destroying his family inheritance: "New York Times Stock Now Costs Less Than Sunday Paper. Shares of NYT dropped 29 cents today to close at $3.77. The Sunday paper goes for $4 at the newsstand. Maybe they could save costs by printing the paper on their stock certificates". By coincidence, in Australia some time ago, another Jewish-born boy, Warwick Fairfax Jr. also destroyed a great family media inheritance, though his main problem was that he had a Harvard MBA and therefore thought he knew something (See today's EDUCATION WATCH for a comment on Harvard MBAs). I wonder how that all plays out with the conspiracy theorists who see Jews as controlling everything? Maybe Jews are NOT all-powerful and all-knowing, after all? Belief in Jewish control of the media must be rather hard to sustain in the face of the fact that the world's most powerful and successful media owner is of Presbyterian background. Perhaps they assume his real name must be Murdochstein.

Just In Case It Wasn't Obvious . . .: "Does anyone else grasp the irony of AG Holder's characterization of Americans as a "nation of cowards" for their reluctance to discuss race -- just as the story about the NY Post chimp cartoon is part of every blog and newscast? I guess the coverage of the cartoon controversy is just another sign of America's endemic reluctance to talk about race, right?"

This Should Scare You: "Carter voices confidence in Obama stimulus plan" That would be the Carter who left us with interest rates of 21%, inflation at 13.5% and unemployment at 7%. When he's got "confidence" in Obamanomics, be afraid. Be very afraid."

Was Ted Stevens railroaded?: "The headlines are gone, and MSNBC no longer cares. But that's all the more reason to take note of the strange and disturbing turn in the Ted Stevens legal saga. Prosecutors claimed this senior Senatorial scalp last year, winning an ethics conviction a fortnight before the octogenarian Republican narrowly lost his bid for a seventh term from Alaska. Though media interest stopped there, the story has since become one of ambitious prosecutors who at the very least botched the job and may have miscarried justice."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama the magician

In case you have not seen it yet: A Japanese sendup of Obama:


BrookesNews Update

Monetary policy - not Obama's stimulus - is what needs watching : On the one hand the US faces a massive boondoggle that has greatly disturbed the markets and threatens to destabilise the economy. On the other hand the threat of inflation is looming up as the money supply expands. This is a truly terrible witches' brew and like it or not Obama and his crew of economic vandals need to be held accountable for it
Prime Minister Rudd's misbegotten assault on the market goes unchallenged : Rudd's essay is an opening salvo against free market thinking and deserves to be taken seriously. Ideas have consequences, particularly bad ideas. If these ideas are not thoroughly refuted in the public arena they are likely to take root in the public mind. The consequences for the economy could be disastrous. This article is an attempt to expose the shoddy thinking, economic illiteracy and the ignorance of economic history and the history of economic thought that underpin Rudd's essay
Rudd's "growth gap" myth : Politicians are talking about rising unemployment, falling production and output gaps. Being politicians their first response is more spending in order to raise aggregate demand. They are too ignorant to realise that what they propose is dose of the same fallacious economic medicine that caused the crisis in the first place
Mr. Obama, the barn is also "shovel ready" and is as useful to the economy as the stimulus bill :Obama's brilliant tax plant amounts to workers getting an additional $13 a week in their pay checks (at least those still with jobs) beginning in June 2009 and then $8 a week in 2010. Does anyone but the most ardent Obama acolyte really think these tax cuts will spur on the economy? With the increasing price of gasoline the 'Obama tax cuts' are not even likely to fill the gas tank of your car. The rest of his phony stimulus plan is just as shoddy
Honoring Cuba's Heroes:You'll often find people with red-rimmed eyes ambling amidst the long rows of white crosses at Miami's Tamiami Park. It's the Cuban Memorial and it stands in honor of the tens of thousands of murder victims of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. It is a tribute, too, to those who fell while trying to free Cuba from the barbarism that the two imposed with their Soviet overlords while America's 'best and brightest' dithered, bumbled and finally betrayed the Cuban people
The impact of Obama's pending program on the US economy : All real economic growth comes from an increase in the accumulation of capital per worker. There is no other source, Keynesianism notwithstanding. Capital is generic unconsumed wealth saved up and available for investment in productive enterprises. Obama's economic package will not create wealth. It will only create more economic problems
Murphy's Law, the Peter Principle and Barack Obama:In only three weeks Obama has signaled to every terrorist on the planet that we are a sorry, groveling, ashamed Nation ready to come to the diplomatic confessional. He is closing Gitmo within one year, has suspended trials there, and dismissed the charges against the U.S.S. Cole plotter. The perfect collision of Murphy's Law with the Peter Principle has arrived to explode in our faces
Will Obama start a trade war? :Access to the $996 billion global infrastructure market will disappear in a trade war, all in exchange for access to $43 billion in federal stimulus spending on infrastructure - not a good swap. Obama's 'Buy American' may turn into 'Bye, American'



Obama's "openness" in action: "In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor's system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D'Ivoire. Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps. The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site."

Another Obama corruptocrat: "News broke last week that Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, lived rent- free for years in the home of Rep. Rosa De Lauro (D-Conn.) - and failed to disclose the gift, as congressional ethics rules mandate. But this is only the tip of Emanuel's previously undislosed ethics problems. One issue is the work Emanuel tossed the way of De Lauro's husband. But the bigger one goes back to Emanuel's days on the board of now-bankrupt mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Emanuel is a multimillionaire, but lived for the last five years for free in the tony Capitol Hill townhouse owned by De Lauro and her husband, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. During that time, he also served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - which gave Greenberg huge polling contracts... Emanuel never declared the substantial gift of free rent on any of his financial-disclosure forms. He and De Lauro claim that it was just allowable "hospitality" between colleagues. Hospitality - for five years? Some experts suggest that it was also taxable income: Over five years, the free rent could easily add up to more than $100,000. "

Under fire, Burris refuses to resign Senate seat: "Despite calls for his resignation, Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) made clear Wednesday that he intends to fight. Burris, appointed to fill President Obama's Senate seat, is under investigation for repeatedly changing his story about contacts with associates of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). But he insisted that his hands are clean. . Burris has offered five varying explanations - three of them under oath - of his contacts with associates of Blagojevich, who was charged Dec. 9 with taking part in a bribery conspiracy that included trying to sell Obama's former seat."

Homeless families face strict new rules -- in Massachusetts!: "Less than two years after vowing to end homelessness in Massachusetts, the Patrick administration has proposed new regulations that it acknowledges could force hundreds of homeless families back on the street. The regulations, scheduled to take effect April 1, would deny shelter to families who in the last three years had been evicted from or had abandoned public or subsidized housing without good cause, and to those who fail to meet a new 30-hour per week work requirement and save 30 percent of their income."

"Truth to power" gap: "`Speak truth to power,' a phrase of Quaker origins adopted by campus radicals, Hollywood gadflies, and establishment journalists, has become shorthand for bravely criticizing government, big corporations, and other stereotypical villains. But where's the bravery? I don't know many journalists who are afraid of the government, and most make their living from big corporations. Sure, liberals - which most journalists are - are afraid of what conservatives will do in power and vice-versa. But they aren't very afraid of what government will do to them, specifically. In fact, being singled out for criticism by the president of the United States is nothing short of a gift."

Why gay rights activists need to straighten up: "My darling daughter. You want to disestablish marriage as a legally regulated institution entirely? As a libertarian, I'm with you. You want to amend the California constitution so that any two or more adults who want to get married - including groups of men and women in any number and mixture - may legally do so . I'll cross the border from my home state of Nevada to help you campaign for it. But don't tell me that `gays' have a greater right to marriage than Mormon-offshoot polygamists. That sort of special pleading that ignores the historical discrimination against others just revolts me."

In defense of the "filibuster" : "So Ezra Klein wonders whether it's better that a minority can block good policy or a majority can enact bad policy? Given the 'stickiness' of bad policy (Ezra, in another post, suggests that corn and beef subsidies aren't so wonderful but that there are structural incentives to retain them) one would think that inhibiting bad policy would be a good goal for either side of the aisle. So let's stipulate a few general principles: 1. Government, by definition, is coercive. 2. Most government `programs' (here defined as positive government acts rather than simple regulatory prohibitions or laws) expand the state and curtail personal liberty - at least to the extent that they must be paid for by non-voluntary means. 3. Therefore, government action is more likely to reduce individual liberty than increase it. 4. Finally, to a libertarian (one whose first principles are towards individual liberty), it is best to inhibit government action."

Who Gives, and Why It Matters: "Arthur Brooks, professor of public administration at Syracuse University, is a rare scholar. In "Who Really Cares," he surveys the data on American charitable giving, and he has much to report - much, he admits, that surprised him, going against his own cultural prejudices. The facts show that all the common myths about giving are exactly opposite to reality. Take the perception that Americans are generally indifferent to other people's suffering, a view that St. Jimmy Carter once trumpeted. The reality is that around 75% of American families give to charity annually, to the tune of an average of 3.5% of their household income. Only a third of this largess goes to churches; the rest goes to secular charities. Brooks urges that far and away the biggest predictors of charitableness are religious belief, skepticism about powerful government, strength of family, and personal entrepreneurism. Brooks' first chapter debunks the common myth that people who are politically "progressive" are more charitable than others, a myth endlessly promoted by the Left. The data show that at every income level, self-identified conservatives donate more than self-identified liberals, despite the fact that liberals average 6% more income. Next, Brooks considers differences in charitableness as it relates to ideology. Specifically, he raises the question of whether people who favor the forced redistribution of income by government ("redistributionists," estimated by one large 1996 survey at 33%) give more to charity than people who oppose government redistribution ("nonredistributionists," about 43% in the same survey). The answer is - drum roll, please! - Hell, no! Nonredistributionists give four times more money to charity than redistributionists.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Should scientists study race and IQ?

The usual Leftist strategy when faced with truths that contradict their simplistic theories: Shut down debate. Everything bad is due to "poverty", don't you know? Everything they do seems to lead to impoverishment so I guess there is some sort of weird consistency there. Report below from one of the "Science blogs"

Just in case anyone has missed it, the pair of duelling essays in the latest issue of Nature is well worth a read. The topic is whether there is any justification for scientific exploration of associations between gender or race and intelligence; Stephen Ceci and Wendy M. Williams from Cornell argue the affirmative, while Steven Rose takes up the opposing case.

The debate continues as a lively discussion on Nature Network, which contains many thoughtful comments from both sides.

I find it pretty hard to stomach the notion that any field of scientific enquiry should be completely off the table, even an area as contentious and politically charged as this one - in fact especially in such an area, since nowhere are solid facts needed as desperately as in a debate driven largely by ideals and emotions. Thus while Rose makes some fair points about the difficulties of defining both race and intelligence, I find his overall argument less than compelling.

In fact this sentence from Rose's final paragraph is downright worrying: "In a society in which racism and sexism were absent, the questions of whether whites or men are more or less intelligent than blacks or women would not merely be meaningless -- they would not even be asked."

This borders on defining anyone who even thinks about group differences in cognition as a bigot. Poisoning the well in this fashion is a highly effective strategy for shutting down debate on a particular topic - but this is a terrible strategy for a scientist to adopt.


I should perhaps mention that the first comment on the blog post reproduced above is a tease. Razib is a geneticist of Bangladeshi origin who is in fact confident that the specific genes for IQ will eventually be identified


Some marvellous news from Italy

Another defeat for media-enabled Leftist lies. Report below by Fiamma Nirenstein, a journalist and some-time resident of Jerusalem. She is a new Member of the Italian Parliament. I like her first name. It is Italian for "flame". I have long had great affection for Italians and the report below certainly reinforces that

We didn't expect what you see in this picture. This is the square of the Italian Parliament in Rome, Piazza Montecitorio: You can see the Palace on top of the square, and in front a lot of Israeli flags. That was last night from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. What you cannot see here, is the extraordinary number of members of Parliament, about 100 from all political sides, that took the stage during this time: for about three hours we were speaking about the role of Israel, its right to self defense, its moral height, its fight on behalf of us all, of our civilization and values, against the wild hate of the Islamic jihad represented by Hamas.

It seems to me that for the first time in the too long history of the Arab/Israeli conflict, apart from a minority of crazy leftists and fascists that took the street with anti-Semitic slogans, we have achieved a huge consensus on one critical point: this is not a local conflict, there is nothing in it that reminds us of a peace theme that has characterized the Palestinian issue. This is an attack against the western world, and Iran is behind it.

What happens today, at least in Italy, is the defeat and fall of the leftist ideologies: ideology that has allowed justification of all the most violent crimes and most disgusting verbal attacks. If Arafat launched the terrorist Intifada, if he promoted the martyrdom of children in public speeches, the ideologists were ready to justify him with the issues of occupation, the Palestinian misery and loss of any hope. Not so with Hamas.

History, in Italy, has brought to a profound crisis the ideology of revolution and the justification of any cruel attack against a so-called unjust imperialist order. That time is over, nobody will see Hamas as the resolution of the problem and not even as the problem itself. I think that the word "peace" has lost that healing meaning that it once had. The new non-ideological point of view sees that there is no peace when one of the contenders doesn't want it, and that even if the world in the short run asks for a truce, in the long run it hopes for the defeat of Hamas.

Last night, many people, Ministers and Members of Parliament, composed a very new, interesting mix of opinions. I think that when you are not overwhelmed by exotic thirdworldism, the images of children educated as hate machines, the speeches of jihad leaders, from Ahmadinejad to Nasrallah, to Haniyeh, that deny the holocaust and promise death to Jewish and Christians alike, you are left only with disgust. Westerners, thank God, can still be disgusted by uncivilized levels of political speech.

But most of all, in the Parliament square, many of the Parliament Members said: "I love Israel". You can't imagine how many.



The Decline of California

They still think they can tax their way out of this one.

If you thought Washington's stimulus debate was depressing, take a look at the long-running budget spectacle in California. The Golden State's deficit has reached $42 billion, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to furlough 20,000 state workers (go ahead, make our day), and as we went to press yesterday Democrats who control the legislature had blocked lawmakers from leaving until they finally get a deal.

It's sad to watch. The Golden State -- which a decade ago was the booming technology capital of the world -- has been done in by two decades of chronic overspending, overregulating and a hyperprogressive tax code that exaggerates the impact on state revenues of economic boom and bust. Total state expenditures have grown to $145 billion in 2008 from $104 billion in 2003 and California now has the worst credit rating in the nation -- worse even than Louisiana's. It also has the nation's fourth highest unemployment rate of 9.3% (after Michigan, Rhode Island and South Carolina) and the second highest home foreclosure rate (after Nevada).

Roughly 1.4 million more nonimmigrant Americans have left California than entered over the last decade, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. California is suffering more than most states from the housing bust, but its politicians also showed less spending restraint during the boom.

To close the current deficit, the pols in Sacramento are nearing a deal that cuts spending by $15 billion and raises $14.2 billion in higher taxes on income, sales, gasoline and cars. Six years ago Mr. Schwarzenegger helped depose Governor Gray Davis by calling him "Car-taxula." Now he's agreed to double the same tax.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has won at least some concessions from Democrats, who run the most liberal legislature this side of Trenton. The budget deal contains a handful of useful tax breaks for job creation and the first public union workplace reforms in a decade; it also creates a new rainy day fund. These taxpayer victories wouldn't have been possible if Republicans in the legislature hadn't held out for them. But the plan is still far short of the radical tax and spending surgery the state needs. It's loaded with short-term gimmicks -- such as $5 billion of borrowing from future lottery receipts and nearly $10 billion in one-time federal stimulus cash. Even proponents concede the plan doesn't balance spending and revenues 18 months from now.

The tax increases will continue to chase even more productive people out of the state. For at least two years, the sales tax would rise by one percentage point to 8.25% and the income tax by 0.3% to a top marginal rate of 10.56%. These will both be the highest statewide rates in the nation (see chart).

Do these taxes hurt business? Ask Hollywood. Film makers are threatening to flee to avoid the state's high costs, so to keep them in Southern California the deal offers $500 million in tax breaks for producers. Rich liberals like Rob Reiner, who love higher taxes on other people, get a sweetheart tax break and everyone else pays more.

Mr. Schwarzenegger is finally getting a constitutional state spending cap that will be on the ballot in the next election, but even that is flawed. This cap would limit spending hikes in any year to a rolling average of the percentage increase of the past 10 years. Nice idea, except that if Californians vote yes, the higher income and sales taxes automatically kick in for three more years. So to get a modicum of spending restraint, the voters have to agree to tax themselves by $25 billion more for three additional years. Californians can be forgiven if they say "no deal."

The tragedy of this gamesmanship is that the political class still won't address the root cause of its financial problems, which is that the state is becoming less economically competitive. California businesses and high-income families already pay a surtax for locating inside the state. The new budget deal raises that tax toll higher still.

It's no surprise that most CEOs we talk to, many of whom live in California, say they'd be foolish to build another plant in the state. California's budget crisis is the inevitable result of runaway liberal governance, and the state's voters will keep paying for it until they reduce their tax burden and adopt more radical spending controls.




Britain: Race of attackers mentioned for once. I wonder why? "An Australian woman has been subjected to a horrific seven-hour rape ordeal after being snatched from the streets of Edinburgh in broad daylight. Two men grabbed the 24-year old woman and sprayed her in the face with a "noxious substance'' before dragging her into nearby bushes, police say. The woman had been walking through an underpass near the city centre at 3pm on Monday. She was not released until 10pm, after a prolonged assault that has shocked local officers. A police spokeswoman said: "This young woman has been subjected to a terrifying ordeal at the hands of these two men - the trauma she has experienced cannot be underestimated. Police were last night unable to provide further details about the woman, such as which state she was from or whether she was a tourist or resident. The suspects are described as being white, Eastern European, and in their 20s."

What's America's backup plan? : "Barney Frank needs to go back to running a whore house and Chris Dodd needs an economic ejumacation to name a few. Nancy Peeelosi needs a math lesson at the very least with her oft repeated 500,000,000 job loss per month (it's on tape more than once). Hey, Nanc, the population of the entire US is only 300,000,000. Or were you using Democratic voter math? Ok, my bad. Oh, and get back on your meds. The whole bunch has a bad case of hubris and at that can't seem to find a direction or logical path. Oops I forgot, they are emotion based decision makers. The stock market is still waiting on what the government will do, not because they think it will help, but so that they know where to invest with the least likelihood of getting burnt. On the bright side, at least the House Republicans showed a little spine in voting against the Porkulus Bill."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

France guilty of deporting Jews in WWII

France has had something of an undeserved reputation for tolerance since the butchers of the French revolution were the first to declare the emancipation of the Jews. That declaration did not affect basic French attitudes, however -- as the Dreyfus case of the 1890s showed. And we see below some final acceptance of the fact that the French of WWII fully "understood" the Nazi antipathy to Jews. And guess what? French Jews are being forced out of France right now -- with many going to Israel -- because of the failure of the French State to defend them from Muslim attacks. It seems that the French of today "understand" Muslim attitudes too

France's top administrative court ruled today that the state was responsible for the deportation of French Jews during World War Two, but appeared to close the door on major new compensation for victims' families. Some 76,000 Jews were arrested in France between 1942 and 1944 and transported in appalling conditions to Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz. Only 3000 returned.

Today's landmark ruling by the Conseil d'Etat court establishes a legal recognition of France's role in the deportations and was welcomed by Jewish organisations. "The Conseil d'Etat recognises the error and responsibility of the state," the court said. "This persecution, in a total break with the values and principles ... enshrined in the declaration of human rights and the traditions of the Republic, inflicted exceptional damage of extreme gravity," it said.

Former President Jacques Chirac was the first French leader to acknowledge state complicity in the deportations in an historic speech in 1995, breaking with past efforts to dissociate France from the collaborationist Vichy regime. His recognition of French involvement opened the way for victims' families to seek compensation and the authorities have since given hundreds of millions of euros to plaintiffs.

The Conseil d'Etat issued its ruling after a minor court sought guidance over the liability of the state in the case brought by daughter of a deportee. The top administrative court said the junior courts could decide on compensation, but added that the state had already met its obligations and respected European norms. "Taken together, these various measures ... have compensated as much as is possible ... the losses suffered as a result of the actions of the state, which collaborated with the deportation," the ruling said.

Serge Klarsfeld, a famous French Nazi hunter whose own father was deported from France, welcomed the ruling. "This ruling is satisfying," he was quoted as saying by Le Figaro newspaper website. "France is now showing itself to be a leader amongst countries facing up to their past." He added that reparations was no longer a major issue. "Those who are currently seeking more compensation have often already received something."



Some more interesting onomastics (Onomastics = the study of names)

The journal abstract is here. Interesting that the finding applied to whites as well as blacks

The authors of Freakonomics, Steven Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Dubner, a New York Times journalist, noted that data shows African Americans are far more likely than other racial groups to give their children uncommon names. White people tend to favour more familiar names that formerly were popular with other, more affluent white people (hence the journey of Madison from relative obscurity in 1988, when it was ranked 300th on the Social Security Administration's name database, to its high of No. 2 in 2001 and 2002).

New research out of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania also looks at what names signify. However, unlike Freakonomics - which maintained that although a name might tell you something about a person's background, it wouldn't predict the outcome of that person's life - the new study purports to show a link between name and outcome: The more unpopular your name, the more likely you are to land in the juvenile justice system.

The Shippensburg researchers first assigned a popularity score to boys' names, based on how often they showed up in birth records in an undisclosed state from 1987 to 1991. Michael, the No. 1 name, had a popular name index score of 100; names such as Malcolm and Preston had index scores of 1. The researchers then assessed names of young men born during that time who landed in the juvenile justice system. They found that only half had a rating higher than 11. By comparison, in the general population, half of the names scored higher than 20. The take-away? "A 10 per cent increase in the popularity of a name is associated with a 3.7 per cent decrease in the number of juvenile delinquents who have that name," they say in the study, to be published in Social Sciences Quarterly.

For the most part, this isn't new territory. That's because we know that boys with uncommon names are more likely to come from a socio-economically deprived background, which means they also are more likely to get involved with crime. The Shippensburg researchers readily admit that it's not a name alone that affects a child's outcome, but rather the circumstance underlying the name.

A lot of baby names in Hollywood these days would have to rate badly. I'm not just talking about marginally weird names given to Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter - Apple - or Sylvester Stallone's son - Sage Moonblood. I'm talking names like Pilot Inspektor (actor Jason Lee's son), Hud and Speck Wildhorse (singer John Mellencamp's sons), and Tu (actor Rob Morrow's daughter; get it? Tu Morrow?). Insofar as such names are often a symptom of a larger problem - parental narcissism and immaturity, anyone? - you can see why some people might want to get the US Congress involved.

And they illuminate the degree to which some parents view kids as accessories. Sure, some odd names may have family significance, but they mostly seem like ads for parents' cleverness and self-congratulatory "individualism". It's not fair saddling a kid with an ad for his folks rather than giving him a name of his own.



The New Patriotism
"It is worth considering the meaning of patriotism because the question of who is - or is not - a patriot all too often poisons our political debates, in ways that divide us rather than bring us together." -Barack Obama, June 30, 2008

Throughout the Bush years, particularly in the wake of Iraq's liberation, liberals from coast to coast grew increasingly paranoid about patriotism. Virtually anything conservatives said about anything could be twisted and perceived as a dig-subtle or overt-at any given liberal's love of country. Here are some illustrative examples of this phenomenon, circa 2004:

Conservative A: "I support the troops."

Liberal A: "Dissent is patriotic, chicken hawk."

Conservative B: "God Bless America."

Liberal B: "How dare you suggest that I don't want God to bless America! For your information, I hope that he or she blesses America, and every other country for that matter."

Conservative C: "I'm flying American Airlines today."

Liberal C: "Stop questioning my patriotism!"

Suffice it to say, they seemed a tad insecure about the whole thing. Left-leaning pundits and talking heads continually insisted that Republicans, particularly those within the administration, reflexively tarred anyone who dared to deviate from the party line as a traitor. In most cases, these accusations were figments of the Left's collective imagination. Still, to liberals, it was very real and totally outrageous, so America was introduced to a new Golden Rule of politics: Questioning someone else's patriotism is strictly verboten in all circumstances.

A Congressman from Pennsylvania maliciously slanders US Marines by falsely accusing them of murder? Don't bring up the P-word. A former haughty-looking presidential candidate encourages young people to educate themselves, lest they get "stuck" in the military? He won three purple hearts. Bite your tongue. A certain Democratic leader in the Senate prematurely declares an active US military mission "lost" for partisan gain? He loves the troops! He has many friends who are troops!

The lesson, time and again, was that ascribing patriotism (or the lack thereof) based on someone's statements, positions, or actions was out of bounds. To use patriotism as a political badge of honor was an unforgivable-even un-American!-tactic of the warmongering, bloodthirsty Bush/Cheney death machine. In fact, perhaps the purest form of true patriotism, we were told, was the act if dissenting from the creeping fascism promulgated by the neo-con cabal at the helm of Amerikkka's government.

To the astonishment of no one, these once-sacred rules are suddenly vanishing now that the Left has taken power. In fact, three of the most powerful Democrats in America have already gone to the patriotism well to help reinforce support for specific policy preferences.

While still a candidate, Vice President Joe Biden faced questions from an ABC News about his ticket's plan to hike taxes for "the rich." The term "rich," incidentally, was defined at the time as households making $250,000 or more-though that figure crept steadily downward as the campaign wore on. These rich Americans, Biden explained, could afford to fork over more of their earnings to Uncle Sam. In fact they should be proud to do so: "It's time to be patriotic," he explained, flashing his patented painted-on grin. (No movement from his forehead, of course). Got that, "rich" folks? You will surrender more of the money you work hard for, and you will do so merrily. Out of patriotism. Why, to even complain would be unacceptable-don't you love your country? Considering this new standard he constructed, one wonders what the Vice President thinks of, say, his administration's current Treasury Secretary. Never mind. One ought not get bogged down with such distractions.

This past week, the President of the United States abandoned his June 2008 position by eagerly expanding the politicization of patriotism. In his efforts to woo public support for his entirely pork-free, catastrophe-preventing, crucially-crucial stimulus package, Obama hoped to enlist some Republicans patsies to help create the mirage of bipartisanship. He succeeded, winning over three whole Republicans out of the 219 in Congress. For those keeping score at home, that's a .014 batting average for the post-partisan healer. According to the New York Times, after the northeastern trio knuckled under, the president called each of them to "applaud them for their patriotism." What a thrill it must have been. After all, it's not every day that one gets the opportunity to condemn future generations to mind-bending piles of debt, all in the name of promoting a non-stimulatory "stimulus" plan that rewards Lefty interest groups and furthers the sweeping policy goals of the party that-technically-represents your opposition.

When the final deal was struck a few days later, Harry Reid echoed the president's kudos, albeit with his renowned cloying charmlessness: "I'm really at a lack of words how to express my admiration and respect for the love of our country, the patriotism, and the courage of three brave senators," Reid said, "Specter from Pennsylvania, Snowe and Collins from Maine. I don't think I need to say more than that." No, he needn't. There's a new patriotism in town. This time around, 98 percent of Congressional Republicans failed to reach the patriotic plateau. Not to worry, though. They'll have three years and 42 more weeks, at least, to redeem themselves and display their genuine love for America by supporting the president and whatever emergency/apocalypse-averting policies he may have in store. God Bless Omerica.



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Typical socialist lies

The self-described socialist senator from Vermont, Bernard Sanders, is prematurely declaring the teachings of Milton Friedman dead in the fringe publication, In These Times. Many dim bulbs on Capitol Hill think the same way as Sanders does, so if only for that reason it's worthwhile to see what he's thinking.

The senator's beliefs are not merely misguided but evil and profoundly un-American. He and his fellow travellers on the Hill and in the media routinely lie and distort the history and function of markets in this country. Never does it occur to them that government, because it set the rules of the road and provided incentives for perverse behavior, is a primary cause of the current temporary economic downturn. Instead they are adherents of an imported ideology that tolerates no dissent and crushes all freedom. Take this Sanders statement:
My colleagues in the Senate and I are now picking up the pieces of a banking system brought to the edge of collapse by this theory of deregulation and by the insatiable greed of a small number of wealthy financiers playing in the market and engaging in incredibly risky-if not illegal-behavior.

Which deregulation would he, as Congress enslaves future generations by running up debts in the trillions of dollars, be referring to? Sarbanes-Oxley? The Community Reinvestment Act? Ask these people for specifics and you consistently get stammering evasions. Sanders and those like him are just trotting out the same lies that one of America's worst presidents ever, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, used in the 1930s to vilify the market after government intervention helped to push it over the edge.



The Truth about taxes

Stimulus: President Obama, a smart man, says that tax cuts for the wealthy are the main reason we're now in such economic trouble. Someone needs to tell him how utterly - and dangerously - wrong that is.

"We have tried that strategy time and time again," the president said Monday of "tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans," and "it's only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now."

Well, he's half-right: We have tried it again and again. But rather than create crises, economic growth has been restored. The evidence is pretty much beyond dispute. Since World War I - the start of the modern financial era - we've suffered four major downturns. In three of them, the government cut tax rates. And each time an economic boom ensued. In only one did the government respond by raising taxes, erecting trade barriers and enacting massive new spending programs to get out of the slump. Today, we call that time the Great Depression.

As noted in a recent study by UCLA economists Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian, President Roosevelt's efforts at government direction of the economy likely extended the Depression by seven years. As history shows, lower taxes, not more government, work best:

The 1920s: When the income tax was established in 1913, the rate was 7%. But it quickly soared, especially for the rich, and by 1918 the top rate was 77%. Unfortunately, coming out of the war the economy was a mess, with prices falling, unemployment soaring and nominal GDP dropping by more than 15% in just one year. From 1921 to 1925, under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, tax rates were slashed to 25%, and GDP rose at an annual rate of 3.4% in the four years after the tax cuts vs. 2% before. All told, GDP swelled more than 50% during the 1920s.

All this was undone, however, on a bipartisan basis - first by President Hoover, a Republican, then by the Democrat FDR. Hoover boosted the top income tax rate to 63%. Then, FDR took it to 79%, while also doubling the corporate tax to 24%, imposing a Social Security tax of 2% and raising taxes on stocks and dividends, estates, and "excess" profits. Is it any wonder the economy went nowhere in the 1930s?

The 1960s: President Kennedy, a Democrat, believed strongly that lower taxes meant higher growth, and he was soon proven right. Before he was assassinated, JFK proposed cutting top tax rates from a punitive 91% to 70%. In 1965, his cuts were enacted under President Johnson by a Democratic Congress. Once again, growth took off, along with private investment. Real GNP, which averaged just 2.4% from 1952 to 1960, expanded at 4.5% during the '60s. The expansion that began in 1961 and ended in 1970 was, at the time, the longest ever.

The 1980s: President Reagan took over an economy with a 21% prime interest rate, double-digit unemployment and inflation, slowing productivity and flagging economic growth. But he too was a big tax cutter. His 25% across-the-board rate cuts snapped the economy out of its funk, creating the longest peacetime expansion ever at the time. During Reagan's two terms real GDP growth averaged 3.2% compared with 2.8% in the preceding eight years. After stagnating through most of the 1970s, real median family income grew $4,000 under Reagan. Investment boomed, as did the stock market, business creation and innovation. Some 20 million new jobs were created, due to the increased incentives to work, save and invest resulting from lower tax rates.

We all want our new president to succeed. But to do so, he needs to drop the class-warfare rhetoric on taxes and cut them instead. Like Coolidge. Like Kennedy. Like Reagan.




The Mysterious Disappearing Tax Cuts in Stimulus Bill : "We have all heard about the debate regarding the percentage of the Obama Stimulus Bill that is tax cuts as opposed to expenditures. Originally, there was discussion that it should be up to 40% of the total of the bill. There were arguments because it had slipped to 33%. In the final package, I don't see much at all in the way of real cuts -- certainly not tax cuts that will stimulate the economy in the near future... For individuals, a large portion of the tax savings is a one-year correction to the tax code to limit tax hitting about 70 million Americans with the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Allowing for the fact that only one person in a back office on the fifth floor of a very large building in Washington actually understands the AMT, how are these 70 million Americans going to know that they saved taxes from a tax they never knew existed? How are they going to quantify how much they are saving? Even if they could figure out what they are saving are they now going to go out and spend this mystery savings? Even if they knew about these savings, they would not happen until March or April 2010. So much for this "tax cut" being a stimulus.

The Left as a Mafia: "Members of the Mafia have to take a vow of silence, and if they break it, they face the very real possibility of winding up dead. Liberals have their own version of the vow. However, instead of having to keep quiet about murder, drug deals and extortion, they must promise not to ridicule their own kind. The price of breaking the code isn't death, it's something far more serious; namely, exile from their social circle. Dare to make fun of Joe Biden's statement that in 1929, President Roosevelt went on TV to reassure his fellow Americans about the Depression, and don't expect to be invited to write for the Huffington Post. Dare to laugh at Nancy Pelosi's contention that 500 million Americans are losing their jobs every month, and you can forget about being invited to brunch at Streisand's or to pitch a movie idea to Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg. Believe me, for some people, that's a far worse fate than swimming with the fishes. When you remember what a big deal the press and the late night jokesters made out of Dan Quayle's merely misspelling "potato," you get some idea of what partisan hypocrites these people are."

Helping people to see Muslims in a better light: "Orchard Park police are investigating a particularly gruesome killing, the beheading of a woman, after her husband - an influential member of the local Muslim community - reported her death to police Thursday. Police identified the victim as Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37. Detectives have charged her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder. "He came to the police station at 6:20 p.m. [Thursday] and told us that she was dead," Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz said late this morning. Muzzammil Hassan told police that his wife was at his business, Bridges TV, on Thorn Avenue in the village. Officers went to that location and discovered her body. Muzzammil Hassan is the founder and chief executive officer of Bridges TV, which he launched in 2004, amid hopes that it would help portray Muslims in a more positive light.

Israel: No truce unless soldier freed : "Israel said yesterday that it would not agree to a long-term truce with the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip unless an Israeli soldier held by the Islamists was freed. Full opening of the Gaza border crossings has been a Hamas condition for a truce. Israel linked that demand with the release of Gilad Shalit, held captive in Gaza since 2006, when he was kidnapped in a cross-border raid. `The prime minister's position is that Israel will not reach understandings on a truce before the release of Gilad Shalit,' Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement. Palestinian officials had reported significant headway in the indirect talks mediated by Egypt."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Monday, February 16, 2009

No excuses if Obama can't fix 'his' recession

So Obama has his stimulus bill, but he has paid a very high price. He now owns the recession

By economist Irwin Stelzer

If, like John Maynard Keynes, you believe that spending, any spending, will revive a flagging economy, the freshly minted, 1,000-page American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, calling for $504 billion in deficit-financed spending, is for you. Well, not quite. It seems that most of the money will not be spent very soon. About 30% won't hit the economy until 2011, and the balance is likely to be tied up in the procurement processes of the federal and state governments until well into 2010, and beyond. Besides, much of the spending will end up boosting other economies - subsidies for wind machines will benefit workers in the other countries in which such machines are manufactured, not our very own horny-handed toilers. And much of the spending will not create jobs for the unemployed: laid-off car workers do not have the skills to design the software to manage the "smart grid" that is the apple of the greens' eye.

If you have not jumped onto the new Keynesian spending bandwagon, but believe with Christina Romer, chairman of Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, that tax cuts are more certain than spending to turn the economy round, you should love this bill, with its $286 billion in tax cuts and credits. Well, not quite. True, individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and families earning less than $150,000 will receive credits of $400 and $800, the earned income-tax credit for working families with three or more children is increased, and there is something for pensioners, disabled veterans, families of college students and a host of others.

Reflection suggests, however, the tax-cut contingent is doomed to disappointment. Much of the money will be saved or used to pay down credit-card balances, not bad things, but not very stimulative. Much will be spent in Wal-Mart, earning Congress the applause of Chinese trainer and t-shirt manufacturers. And much will never be claimed: the specific subsidies for college education are simply too small to have much effect on college enrolments.

If you are a supply-side enthusiast, a reading of this bill will add your personal depression to the national recession. Reforms that might increase employment in the oil and gas industries by removing restrictions on drilling are nowhere to be found. Environmental restrictions on the sorts of cars that Americans want to buy remain in place, consistent with Congress's drive to have the begging-bowls-in-hand car companies produce Schumermobiles, named after the New York senator whose passion is electric vehicles and cars too tiny to need much petrol or to survive in a serious crash. A change in rules that would permit the construction of needed transmission lines without lengthy court reviews initiated by environmental groups remains off the Obama agenda and out of the bill. Most important is the absence of steps to encourage the flow of private capital into toll roads, an alternative to government-financed highways, and into schools free to compete for vouchers, rather than schools built by governments in towns that already have too many classrooms.

The explanation for these omissions was simply stated by the president, responding to those who want even more tax cuts and some supply-side stimulus, "We won." Not very satisfying intellectually, but who needs intellectually satisfying arguments when his party controls the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives?

Enough quibbles, though. If, like any sensible person, you're not sure spending will work, but not sure it won't; not sure that the bulk of tax cuts will be spent on US manufacturers, but not sure they won't; and not sure that doing nothing is a good, though tempting idea, this bill is about the best that can be extracted from a Democratic Congress.

So Obama has his stimulus bill, but he has paid a very high price. He now owns the recession. He has asked to be judged by whether this bill and other measures he will propose create or "save" 3.5m-4m jobs, the number lost so far since unemployment turned up. Forget "save" - if unemployment keeps rising, voters are not likely to rally round the slogan "It would be still worse if I hadn't spent your trillions". What the president has done is to promise what he certainly can't deliver in time for the congressional elections next year - a reversal of job destruction, and millions of new jobs. If the voters prove patient in 2010, they are unlikely to remain as forgiving when the presidential election rolls round in 2012. Since employment is what economists call a lagging indicator - employers are not confident enough to start hiring until economic recovery is well under way - Obama will have a lot of explaining to do. Unless, of course, the Republicans find a candidate so inept the president can once again rely on his very attractive persona to see off challengers.

Finally, there is what is now being called the Tim Geithner no-plan. The president used a nationally televised press conference to announce that his Treasury secretary would the very next day reveal to the nation, and indeed to the world, a plan to save the banks and provide relief for troubled homeowners. But Geithner's speech was so lacking in detail the stock market plunged by about 400 points. The administration's economists have not solved the problem of valuing the toxic assets on the banks' balance sheets - pay too much for those assets and the taxpayer gets the bill; pay too little and the banks have to take bankruptcy-producing writedowns.

By the time you read this, Geithner will have met with his G7 colleagues in Rome. Unless he has worked out some effective way of spending the $2 trillion that Washington rumour says new bailouts will cost, a gaggle of finance ministers will head home disappointed. For in between their public attacks on America, they privately say that only America can lead the world out of its current difficulties.



Obama's new deal is the same old blunder

By Dominic Lawson

Here's something new: instead of the customary attempts to put an optimistic gloss on the state of the economy, our governments are doing exactly the opposite. Over here Ed Balls tells us, more or less, that this is the worst recession since dinosaurs roamed the primordial swamps. Meanwhile President Barack Obama declared last week that "if we don't act immediately, our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse". As The Economist commented, with some alarm: "The notion that [America] might never recover was previously entertained only by bearded survivalists stockpiling beans and ammunition in remote log cabins."

Obama's dire assessment was on the surface the more surprising - wasn't he supposed to be the great uplifter of the national mood, in the spirit of Franklin D Roosevelt's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"? It seems all the odder because Obama has explicitly drawn on folk memories of FDR's New Deal, telling television viewers to "keep in mind that in 1932, 1933 the unemployment rate was 25%".

Obama is probably right to assume that those same memories have it that the massive state interventionism of the New Deal triumphantly restored America to full employment. That's why he felt comfortable in asserting, on the eve of the launch of a $2 trillion (or so) injection of taxpayers' money, "There is no disagreement that we need . . . a recovery plan that will help to jump-start the economy."

He might, therefore, have been surprised to see an advertisement in the national papers, signed by more than 200 eminent economists, which declared: "With all due respect, Mr President, that is not true. Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians . . . we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s." The sorry facts bear this out. The unemployment rate in the US was still 19% in 1939. Over the following four years the number of unemployed workers declined dramatically, by more than 7m. This had a very particular reason: the number of men in military service rose by 8.6m.

More here



A good man, once a clergyman, needs help to care for his seriously ill sister. See here

There is now online a complete transcription of a classic expose on John Maynard Keynes entitled Keynes At Harvard: Economic Deception as a Political Credo. It's been out of print for 40 years. It was originally published by a group of disaffected Harvard alumni led by Theodore Roosevelt's youngest son Archibald. The thesis is that Keynes was a Fabian Socialist whose economic "theories" were calculated to push countries into socialism behind a facade of "saving capitalism from itself." The book also looks at Keynes's perverted sexuality (sodomite and pedophile) as a Bloomsberry--not to be read on a full stomach."

Monkeys have a sense of morality, say scientists: "Monkeys and apes have a sense of morality and the rudimentary ability to tell right from wrong, according to new research. In a series of studies scientists have found that monkeys and apes can make judgments about fairness, offer altruistic help and empathise when a fellow animal is ill or in difficulties. They even appear to have consciences and the ability to remember obligations. The research implies that morality is not a uniquely human quality and suggests it arose through evolution. That could mean the strength of our consciences is partly determined by our genes. The scientists say, however, that the evidence is clear. "I am not arguing that non-human primates are moral beings but there is enough evidence for the following of social rules to agree that some of the stepping stones towards human morality can be found in other animals," said Frans de Waal, professor of psychology at Emory University in Georgia in the United States. In papers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this weekend de Waal described experiments on monkeys and apes to see if they understood the idea of fairness. [It sounds like monkeys are smarter than the Leftist philosophers who say that "There is no such thing as right and wrong"]

Primogeniture lives: "Wealthy parents are making their first-born the focus of family ambition, giving them a disproportionate share of time, care and attention, according to research. Younger siblings, by contrast, are being held back in their lives by a relative lack of attention. The findings show affluent modern couples are aping the upper-class tradition of primogeniture. Although poor families also show some extra favour to the oldest child, this practice is far more pronounced among those who are richer - despite there being more resources to share with younger offspring. "Traditionally, aristocratic families tended to give the first heir more wealth," said David Lawson, a behavioural ecologist with the human evolutionary ecology group at University College London, who led the research. "That impulse may be culturally ingrained. Richer families have more time and money to afford surplus benefits for their kids like a good diet, helping with homework and time to read to them at night. These benefits are diluted sharply as more children are born.... In the royal family and, since Norman times, the aristocracy, the system of primogeniture has formalised the practice of favouring the oldest child. This has enabled families to pass power and wealth down the generations by bequeathing estates intact to the oldest son rather than, as in much of Europe, breaking them up by distributing them evenly among siblings."

The latest British bungle: "A new billion-pound fleet of spy planes able to spot the roadside bombs that kill troops in Afghanistan will be out of action until at least the middle of next year because the RAF has failed to train enough crew. Two Sentinel R1 aircraft were deployed to a Gulf base at the end of last year to fly over Afghanistan, conducting trials with their stand-off radar (Astor). The aircraft had an immediate impact - commanders were delighted by its ability to provide high-definition video footage of an area 200 miles long and 200 miles wide, day or night. Astor can detect any movement and even record the speed of a car from more than 200 miles away in almost any weather. It flies seven miles up, far out of sight of guerrillas. It will allow commanders to spot Taliban planting the bombs that David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said last week had led to "strategic stalemate" in Afghanistan. A total of 37 troops have been killed by explosions caused by roadside bombs and mines since the Taliban started using them in the current attacks, which started in August 2007. A further 32 soldiers have died from other causes during the same period. The failure to train sufficient crew and imagery analysts means the RAF will not be able to deploy a Sentinel full-time until 2010. Two crews a plane, making a total of 50 personnel, are required to operate the five aircraft. Ten have been trained".

Failed radio host says Says GOPers Are A**holes: "Are you a conservative? Then you're a d***, and there's something wrong with your brain. At least that's what "24" actress and comedienne Janeane Garofalo believes. According to the former Air America radio host, a conservative starts out an “a**hole,” and the politics come later. She asserted, “The reason a person is a conservative republican (sic) is because something is wrong with them...It really is neuroscience.” In this February 12 interview with the environmentalist celebrity blog Ecorazzi, Garofalo also claimed the “irrational” emotion center of the brain, the limbic system, is what creates conservatives: "The reason a person is a conservative republican is because something is wrong with them. Again, that’s science – that’s neuroscience. You cannot be well adjusted, open-minded, pluralistic, enlightened and be a republican. It’s counter-intuitive. And they revel in their anti-intellectualism. They revel in their cruelty." ... Maybe a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who is fond of angry, vitriolic outbursts should take a look at the limbic system in her own brain for the excessive emotion and fright that she attributes to the right."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Will the stimulus actually stimulate? Economists say no

The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won't stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists. "I think (doing) nothing would have been better," said Ed Yardeni, an investment analyst who's usually an optimist, in an interview with McClatchy. He argued that the plan fails to provide the right incentives to spur spending. "It's unfocused. That is my problem. It is a lot of money for a lot of nickel-and- dime programs. I would have rather had a lot of money for (promoting purchase of) housing and autos . . . . Most of this plan is really, I think, aimed at stabilizing the situation and helping people get through the recession, rather than getting us out of the recession. They are actually providing less short-term stimulus by cutting back, from what I understand, some of the tax credits."

Another reason that some analysts frown on the stimulus is the social spending it includes on things such as the Head Start program for disadvantaged children and aid to NASA for climate-change research. Both may be worthy efforts, but they aren't aimed at delivering short-term boosts to economic activity. "All this is 25 years of government expansion jammed into one bill and sold as stimulus," said Brian Riedl, the director of budget analysis for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy research group.

The view wasn't much more supportive on the other side of the political spectrum. In a brief on the stimulus compromise, William Galston, a senior fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House adviser, warned Thursday that a bank-rescue plan being finalized will make the $789 billion look like "pocket change." "While the stimulus bill is a necessary condition for economic stabilization and recovery, it is hardly sufficient," Galston wrote. "As the lesson of Japan in the 1990s shows, fiscal stimulus without financial rescue yields stagnation - at best." " . . . Serious observers believe that recovery cannot begin until we acknowledge that losses in the financial system amount to some trillions of dollars, rendering many institutions insolvent. The temptation will be to muddle along, hoping that these institutions can gradually regain strength without putting massive amounts of taxpayers' money at risk. If we go down that road, we are likely to end up with zombie banks whose balance sheets are riddled with near-worthless investments - banks that cannot lend to credit-worthy customers and who cannot trust one another," Galston wrote.

Even some proponents of a stimulus are disappointed, however. Harvard University economist Martin Feldstein, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan, was an early supporter. He said that government is now the only engine left to spark economic activity, but he said that the compromise falls short of what's needed. "If the choice is between the current bill and an improved bill, I would say wait and improve the bill," Feldstein told CNBC on Wednesday after the compromise was announced. "I am disappointed with the structure of this bill." Like Yardeni and other analysts, Feldstein wanted more incentives for consumers to make big purchases that have ripple effects across the economy. When a car is purchased, it helps not only the carmaker, but its suppliers, the trucking companies and railroads that transport cars, the states that issue license plates and so on.

There's also the problem of time. Much of the stimulus is to be spread over a two-year period or longer - and 2009 looks increasingly bleak. A Wall Street Journal survey of 52 mainstream economic forecasters published Thursday found that while most forecasters still think there could be slow growth by the second half of the year, that won't offset steeper-than-projected declines in the first half of 2009. That means this is essentially a lost year for the economy. Most scenarios envision the economy picking back up again next year.

More here


The Mice that Roared

There's an old saying that, "If you give a mouse a cookie, it'll ask for a glass of milk." Well, it appears that the salt marsh harvest mouse may receive more than just a cookie. Thanks to house Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), up to $30 million has been allocated in the so-called economic "stimulus" bill, for wetlands restoration-surprise, surprise-Ms. Pelosi's home district in order to accommodate the creature comforts of the harvest mouse.

While the stated purpose of the $789 billion spending bill-$1.1 trillion after interest-is to promote job growth and thereby stimulate the economy, the bill has turned into special-interest funding heaven, with billions of non-existent taxpayer dollars going to fund legislators' pet projects. And yet the politicians have no qualms about promoting it as the best-laid plans of mice and men. As the bill, almost universally opposed by Republicans-as well as 69 percent of Americans who lack confidence that Congress knows what it is doing when it comes to addressing the country's current economic problems-entered the final stages of negotiation between House and Senate, Democratic leaders engaged in a game of cat and mouse with the American people, claiming that the bill has no earmarks. And they based that transparent obfuscation on the fact that that the billions in pork was added via a different method than the usual way earmarks are traditionally handled.

And yet, spending $30 million on wetlands in the district of the Speaker of the House can hardly be called anything but an earmark-especially given the fact that Ms. Pelosi has pushed for funding of the mouse's wetlands in past sessions. This cheesy earmark is, and represents, a tipping point in this trillion dollar total spending extravaganza that compels the American people to demand that the bill be recalled and redrawn.

The fact that the full amount will have to be paid by future taxpayers-with interest-means that future generations will be left as poor as, well, a church mouse. As Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) pointed out, the average American family will be saddled with an additional $10,800 as a result of this bill. But Democrats have been as careful as possible to avoid any discussion of the full cost of this measure. Despite the many times they loudly objected to "passing the bill to future generations" when the Republicans were in power, they have been strangely silent as to the costs of their own measures. And with good cause.

More here


Iraq's Quiet Transformation

by Charles Krauthammer

Preoccupied as it was poring through Tom Daschle's tax returns, Washington hardly noticed a near-miracle abroad. Iraq held provincial elections. There was no Election Day violence. Security was handled by Iraqi forces with little U.S. involvement. A fabulous bazaar of 14,400 candidates representing 400 parties participated, yielding results highly favorable to both Iraq and the United States. Iraq moved away from religious sectarianism toward more secular nationalism. "All the parties that had the words 'Islamic' or 'Arab' in their names lost," noted Middle East expert Amir Taheri. "By contrast, all those that had the words 'Iraq' or 'Iraqi' gained."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki went from leader of a small Islamic party to leader of the "State of the Law Party," campaigning on security and secular nationalism. He won a smashing victory. His chief rival, a more sectarian and pro-Iranian Shiite religious party, was devastated. Another major Islamic party, the pro-Iranian Sadr faction, went from 11 percent of the vote to 3 percent, losing badly in its stronghold of Baghdad. The Islamic Fadhila party that had dominated Basra was almost wiped out. The once-dominant Sunni party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the erstwhile insurgency was badly set back. New grass-roots tribal ("Awakening") and secular Sunni leaders emerged.

All this barely pierced the consciousness of official Washington. After all, it fundamentally contradicts the general establishment/media narrative of Iraq as "fiasco."

But in the intervening years, while the critics washed their hands of Iraq, it began developing the sinews of civil society: a vibrant free press, a plethora of parties, the habits of negotiation and coalition-building. Reflecting these new realities, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani this time purposely and publicly backed no party, strongly signaling a return -- contra Iran -- to the Iraqi tradition of secular governance.

The big strategic winner here is the United States. The big loser is Iran. The parties Tehran backed are in retreat. The prime minister who staked his career on a strategic cooperation agreement with the United States emerged victorious. Moreover, this realignment from enemy state to emerging democratic ally, unlike Egypt's flip from Soviet to U.S. ally in the 1970s, is not the work of a single autocrat (like Anwar Sadat), but a reflection of national opinion expressed in a democratic election.

More here



Time to scrap Britain's banking watchdog: "So ex-HBOS banker Sir James Crosby has quit his job at the UK's bank regulator, the Financial Services Authority. It happened just 30 minutes before Gordon Brown faced questions in Parliament, so I guess he was pushed. But the surprising thing is that Brown appointed him to the FSA in the first place. The Authority is now saying that it had been concerned about HBOS's risky investments since 2002. And then Brown makes it's head poacher into one of the gamekeepers! Absolutely bizarre. The Financial Services Authority is no good and should be closed down."

British PM vows to 'claw back' bonuses amid backlash against the bankers: "Gordon Brown promised moves to "claw back" bonuses from bank executives yesterday, as a poll showed a big public backlash against the banks. The Prime Minister foreshadowed changes to the bonus system that would ensure it was no longer a "one-way bet". Banks should be able to recover bonuses from staff who ended up losing them money, he said. The public will clearly back such moves. According to a Populus poll for The Times, executives responsible for the near-collapse of rescued banks should be forced to repay the bonuses they have received in previous years." [Hard to disagree with that]


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Saturday, February 14, 2009

IQ rediscovered -- including its heritability and its link to social class

Charles Murray documented all this years ago. Vocabulary is the best single predictor of IQ. Including gestures in vocabulary does however give the new study some originality.
Children who communicate using a wide variety of gestures at the age of 14 months have a much larger vocabulary at age four-and-a-half, and fare much better in school, a study said. [Something that IQ studies told us long ago]

Researchers from the University of Chicago worked with 50 Chicago-area families with different social backgrounds, filming children and their careers during ordinary activities at home for 90-minute sessions. The study, published in the journal Science, found that "differences in child gesture could be traced to differences in parent gesture."

On top of that, psychologist Meredith Rowe said the study found that socioeconomic status differences are clearly evident in the initial stages of language learning. Fourteen-month-old children from "high-income, well-educated families used gesture to convey an average of 24 different meanings," said the researchers in a statement. Same-aged children from lower-income families conveyed only 13 different meaningful gestures. The differences continued on into the child's command of vocabulary in school, the study said.

"Child gesture could play an indirect role in word learning by eliciting timely speech from parents, for example, in response to her child's point at a doll, mother might say 'yes, that's a doll,' thus providing a word for the object that is the focus of the child's attention," the authors wrote in the report. Vocabulary is a "key predictor of school success and is a primary reason why children from low-income families enter school at a greater risk of failure than their peers from advantaged families," said co-author Susan Goldin-Meadow.


The irrational Leftist obsession with their "All men are equal" myth has led to IQ becoming a banished topic -- so the authors above may in fact have been simply unaware that what they had rediscovered was IQ. Certainly, anyone familiar with the IQ research would have predicted all of their findings.

The ban on even thinking about IQ does lead to a lot of follies, particularly in the education field. Vast efforts are made, for instance, to get average black educational achievement up to white levels. But no matter what bright ideas the educators try, the gap stubbornly remains. Again, anybody familiar with average black IQ scores would have predicted that result and told the educators to stop wasting time and money and direct their efforts in more profitable directions. If your theory is wrong, you won't get the results you expect and the results that the educators get certainly falsify their theories regularly -- while the same results validate the IQ concept.

Another folly -- this time in research about secondhand smoke -- that was brought on by ignoring IQ is set out on my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog today.



Bipartisan "stimulus" nonsense: "The cynicism and shallowness of politics have been abundantly on display throughout the debate over the 'stimulus' bill. The Democrats insult the intelligence of the American people by peddling the following sophistry: Republicans were big spenders when they controlled the government. Republican criticism of Democrats for being big spenders is hypocrisy. Therefore, arguments against big government spending are invalid."

Obama "bipartisanhip" sinks without trace: "Obama is not having a good start to his presidency..... all in all it is clear that Obama is not succeeding in allaying people's fears about the economy, reforming ethics standards, or changing the "tone" in Washington. He's failing to deliver the change he campaigned on. I was unwilling to say this before, but Judd Gregg's withdrawal has really changed the equation. The stimulus bill has become a political fiasco. He has too many poorly vetted appointees. And as bad as only receiving three Republican votes for the stimulus bill in both houses of Congress was for signifying a new tone of bipartisanship, it doesn't compare to the crippling embarrassment of Republican Judd Gregg withdrawing his nomination as commerce Secretary. I'm giving Obama a single setback today for Gregg's withdrawl, but really it should count as more. It signals that there is little remaining hope for a new, bipartisan tone in Washington, and it is a profound and symbolic denouncement of Obama's stimulus bill." [Background on the Gregg withdrawal here]

Prosperity in a crisis: "What is most remarkable about the public debate about the stimulus bill is not the partisan bickering or even the astonishing price tag of the bill's congressional pet projects. Rather, it is the lack of an open debate among policymakers about what kinds of activity a 'stimulus' bill is supposed to, well, stimulate. We are on the verge of committing more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars to "stimulate" the economy with very little explanation by the nation's political leaders about how the bill will jump-start much of anything. At its current price tag, if the bill were divided equally as cash payments among American households, each family would get approximately $6000. Without a clear idea of what needs 'stimulating,' one cannot say why a healthy rebate check for each family is any less of a good idea than spending vast sums on projects whose dubious relationship to economic recovery members of Congress would rather have us ignore."

Free market bashing: "Since the inception of the current downturn, free market capitalism has taken quite the bashing. Supporters of significant government involvement in the economy deride the horrors of `unfettered capitalism' and a `free market run amuck.' Frequently, deregulation of capital markets is singled out as the most dastardly culprit, to which Pres. Obama seems to be alluding when he blames `relying on the worn-out dogmas of the past,' and `too little regulatory scrutiny.' Yet, after the last eight years in which we witnessed Sarbanes-Oxley, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and numerous attempts to reign in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shoved aside by legislators, evidence of unregulated economic activity being the source of our crisis seems rather scant."

Free markets are, sadly, a myth: "In today's fiasco there is a lot [of] consternation about whether the free or the regulated market produced the mess. But there has not been a free market in place anywhere for many decades and even before then it has had only a limited scope in the economies of most countries. Politicians always took it for granted that they may manipulate the market, regiment market agents, both in small localities where they passed blue laws and curfews, and in the larger community where they passed protectionist laws and subsidies for faltering industries. Many other examples could be listed but the main point is that no free market has ever existed, not under Lincoln, nor Wilson, nor Hoover, certainly not FDR, or Eisenhower, Reagan or Bush. And it certainly isn't likely to exist under Barack Obama."

Bills would limit use of "state secrets": "House and Senate committees yesterday introduced bills that would sharply curtail the government's use of the 'state secrets' privilege, a policy used by President Bush to argue that a lawsuit involving allegations of torture should be dismissed - and a position that the Obama administration has now adopted. . The move surprised the court, angered the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case, and caused some legal observers to question why President Obama - who entered office vowing an open, transparent government that would reject harsh interrogations - would adopt Bush's position in a high-profile case alleging torture."

Obama's regulatory chief believes in paternalistic government: "The old joke runs, `I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' Most Americans are appropriately skeptical of such a claim, just as they are skeptical when told that they've won $10 million in a Nigerian lottery. But President Obama's selection of Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein to direct the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs threatens to turn this joke into grim reality. Sunstein is most famous for his approach to government regulation known as `libertarian paternalism,' detailed in his book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (co-authored with Richard Thaler). The basic premise of libertarian paternalism is that the government should use its power to `nudge' people into acting in their best interest, while leaving them the choice to `opt out.'"

Ending welfare reform as we knew it: "Pres. Barack Obama vowed to correct the mistakes of the Bush administration but instead is determined to undo one of the great successes of the Clinton years: welfare reform. Democrats have inserted provisions into the catch-all stimulus bill that will reverse Clinton-era welfare reform, re-establishing the wasteful, incentive-killing system whose transformation was the bipartisan pride of the 1990s."

The conservative-libertarian alliance: "The conservative-libertarian alliance is as fundamental as it is often troubling. There are three ways in which libertarians and conservatives are ultimately the same (and in which conservatives and libertarians differ radically from progressives): (1) Libertarians and conservatives agree on what kind of thing government is. (2) They agree on what humans are. (3) They experience themselves in the same way. That is, the basic libertarian and conservative positions are consonant with respect to (1) the ontology of government, (2) anthropology, and (3) personality. . Government is a physical power. Progressives, on the other hand, experience governmental power as being economic. Starting from the progressive view of government, you come to see government as a potential partner or donor. Starting from the libertarian/conservative view, however, you come to see government as a potential threat, whose only virtue is that it can minimize other threats."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Friday, February 13, 2009

Goodbye, America! It was fun while it lasted

By Ann Coulter

All Americans who work for a living, or who plan to work for a living sometime in the next century, are about to be stuck with a trillion-dollar bill to fund yet more oppressive government bureaucracies. Or as I call it, a trillion dollars and change. The stimulus bill isn't as bad as we had expected - it's much worse. Instead of merely creating useless, make-work jobs digging ditches - or "shovel-ready," in the Democrats' felicitous phrase - the "stimulus" bill will create an endless army of government bureaucrats aggressively intervening in our lives. Instead of digging ditches, American taxpayers will be digging our own graves. There are hundreds of examples in the 800-page "stimulus" bill, but here are just two.

First, the welfare bureaucrats are coming back. For half a century, the welfare establishment had the bright idea to pay women to have children out of wedlock. Following the iron laws of economics - subsidize something, you get more of it; tax it, you get less of it - the number of children being born out of wedlock skyrocketed. The 1996 Welfare Reform bill marked the first time any government entitlement had ever been rolled back. Despite liberal howling and foot-stomping, not subsidizing illegitimacy led, like night into day, to less illegitimacy. Welfare recipients got jobs, as the hard-core unemployables were coaxed away from their TV sets and into the workforce. For the first time in decades, the ever-increasing illegitimacy rate stopped spiraling upward. As proof that that welfare reform was a smashing success, a few years later, Bill Clinton started claiming full credit for the bill.

Well, that's over. The stimulus bill goes a long way toward repealing the work requirement of the 1996 Republican Welfare Reform bill and rewards states that increase their welfare caseloads by paying unwed mothers to sit home doing nothing.

Second, bureaucrats at Health and Human Services will electronically collect every citizen's complete medical records and determine appropriate medical care. Judging by the care the State Department took with private visa records last year, that the Ohio government took with Joe the Plumber's government records, that the Pentagon took with Linda Tripp's employment records in 1998, and that the FBI took with thousands of top secret "raw" background files in President Clinton's first term, the bright side is: We'll finally be able to find out if Bill Clinton has syphilis - all thanks to the stimulus bill!

HHS bureaucrats will soon be empowered to overrule your doctor. Doctors who don't comply with the government's treatment protocols will be fined. That's right: Instead of your treatment being determined by your doctor, it will be settled on by some narcoleptic half-wit in Washington who couldn't get a job in the private sector. And a brand-new set of bureaucrats in the newly created office of "National Coordinator of Health Information Technology" will be empowered to cut off treatments that merely prolong life. Sorry, Mom and Pop, Big Brother said it's time to go.

At every other workplace in the nation - even Wal-Mart! - workers are being laid off. But no one at any of the bloated government bureaucracies ever need fear receiving a pink slip. All 64,750 employees at the department of Health and Human Services are apparently absolutely crucial to the smooth functioning of the department. With the stimulus bill, liberals plan to move unfirable government workers into every activity in America, where they will superintend all aspects of our lives.

Also, thanks to the stimulus bill, the private sector will gradually shrivel and die. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of servicing the bill's nearly trillion-dollar debt will shrink the economy within a decade. Robert Kennedy famously said: "There are those who look at things the way they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and ask, 'Why not?'" The new liberal version is: There are those who look at things and ask, "Why on earth should the government be paying for that?" I dream of things that never were funded by the government and ask, "Why not?"



A useless bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid touts a whopping 58 percent of the bill as job-creating. No doubt that number is inflated. Even so, what's the argument for the other 42 percent? For instance, why is an emergency spending bill weighted down with an authorization for $198 million in payments to Filipino World War II veterans, many of whom live in the Philippines? We owe them the money, but how does sending millions to Manila fend off the American "catastrophe" that Obama says is the price of inaction?

Principled liberals defend the bill while conceding that roughly half the discretionary "emergency" spending won't even start until two years from now. (Funny coincidence: That's right around the time Obama's re-election campaign will kick off.) Good social policy is good social policy, no matter how you get it enacted, they say.

Putting aside the question of whether the ornaments dangling from every branch of this legislative Christmas tree amount to good policy, there's still the matter of why Democrats are afraid of the normal process. Sneaking into the package hundreds of millions for, say, sex education, the National Endowment for the Arts and sod for the National Mall doesn't suggest a lot of confidence that Americans support such liberal priorities. But that's OK. As the president is so fond of pointing out, the Democrats won. They're in the driver's seat. To govern is to choose, and these are the choices they've made.

The Democrats have shown no desire to craft real bipartisan legislation, which is their right, even if it contradicts Obama's campaign promises. And the vast majority of Republicans have shown little desire to back legislation that violates their principles simply for the sake of "doing something." The moderate mooncalves, who expect Republicans to sign on essentially for signing-on's sake, really want Republicans to stop being Republicans. "I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason," Specter wrote in the Post. "The country cannot afford not to take action." Such thinking is the purest nonsense. Sure, if your house is burning down, you can't afford not to take action. That doesn't mean any action is better than no action. Grabbing a fire hose is good. Grabbing a jerrycan of gasoline and dancing the Macarena, not so much.

More here


Asia's Jewish myths

A Chinese bestseller titled "The Currency War" describes how Jews are planning to rule the world by manipulating the international financial system. The book is reportedly read in the highest government circles. If so, this does not bode well for the international financial system, which relies on well-informed Chinese to help it recover from the present crisis.

Such conspiracy theories are not rare in Asia. Japanese readers have shown a healthy appetite over the years for books such as To Watch Jews is to See the World Clearly, The Next Ten Years: How to Get an Inside View of the Jewish Protocols and I'd Like to Apologise to the Japanese - A Jewish Elder's Confession (written by a Japanese author, of course, under the made-up name of Mordecai Mose). All these books are variations of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Russian forgery first published in 1903, which the Japanese came across after defeating the tsar's army in 1905.

The Chinese picked up many modern Western ideas from the Japanese. Perhaps this is how Jewish conspiracy theories were passed on as well. But Southeast Asians are not immune to this kind of nonsense either. Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamed has said that "the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." And a recent article in a leading business magazine in The Philippines explained how Jews had always controlled the countries they lived in, including the US today.

So what explains the remarkable appeal of Jewish conspiracy theories in Asia? The answer must be partly political. Conspiracy theories thrive in relatively closed societies, where free access to news is limited and freedom of inquiry curtailed. Japan is no longer such a closed society, yet even people with a short history of democracy are prone to believe that they are victims of unseen forces. Precisely because Jews are relatively unknown, therefore mysterious, and in some way associated with the West, they become an obvious fixture of anti-Western paranoia.

Such paranoia is widespread in Asia, where almost every country was at the mercy of Western powers for several hundred years. Japan was never formally colonised, but it too felt the West's dominance, at least since the 1850s, when American ships laden with heavy guns forced the country to open its borders on Western terms.

The common conflation of the US with Jews goes back to the late 19th century, when European reactionaries loathed America for being a rootless society based only on financial greed. This perfectly matched the stereotype of the rootless cosmopolitan Jewish moneygrubber. Hence the idea that Jews run America.

More here



Galluping Past Bad Polls: "Some of President Obama's policies are not faring well in public opinion, but will anyone be told? On Feb. 2, a Gallup poll found that Obama's executive order "allowing U.S. funding for overseas family planning organizations that provide abortion" was decidedly unpopular: Only 35 percent approved, while 58 percent disapproved. You didn't know this? You're not alone: A Nexis survey finds none of the television networks, cable or broadcast, noticed these results, either.

Why Obama's new handout will fail to rescue the banks: "The new plan seems to make sense if and only if the principal problem is illiquidity. Offering guarantees and buying some portion of the toxic assets, while limiting new capital injections to less than the $350bn left in the Tarp, cannot deal with the insolvency problem identified by informed observers. Indeed, any toxic asset purchase or guarantee programme must be an ineffective, inefficient and inequitable way to rescue inadequately capitalised financial institutions: ineffective, because the government must buy vast amounts of doubtful assets at excessive prices or provide over-generous guarantees, to render insolvent banks solvent; inefficient, because big capital injections or conversion of debt into equity are better ways to recapitalise banks; and inequitable, because big subsidies would go to failed institutions and private buyers of bad assets.... The correct advice remains the one the US gave the Japanese and others during the 1990s: admit reality, restructure banks and, above all, slay zombie institutions at once."

How Europe's companies are feeding Iran's bomb: "While the U.S. has ratcheted up its efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, the Islamic Republic is reaping a windfall from European companies. These firms' deals aid a regime that is bent on developing nuclear weapons and which financially supports the terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah... Yet because of the sheer volume of its trade with Iran, Germany, the economic engine of Europe, is uniquely positioned to pressure Tehran. Still, the obvious danger of a nuclear-armed Iran has not stopped Germany from rewarding the country with a roughly 4 billion trade relationship in 2008, thereby remaining Iran's most important European trade partner. In the period of January to November 2008, German exports to Iran grew by 10.5% over the same period in 2007. That booming trade last year included 39 "dual-use" contracts with Iran, according to Germany's export-control office. Dual-use equipment and technology can be used for both military and civilian purposes. One example of Germany's dysfunctional Iran policy is the energy and engineering giant Siemens. The company acknowledged last week at its annual stockholder meeting in Munich, which I attended, that it conducted 438 million euros in trade with Iran in 2008, and that its 290 Iran-based employees will remain active in the gas, oil, infrastructure and communications sectors.

The Messiah is with us: "President Obama is back in messianic campaign mode. It is unbecoming. When he's not snarling at conservative opponents of his endless spending programs, he's pandering to supporters as the nation's community organizer-in-chief. At a stimulus rally in Ft. Myers, Florida on Tuesday, a woman named Henrietta Hughes stood up to decry the mortgage crisis and ask Obama for his personal help. Choking back tears, she implored: "I have an urgent need.We need a home, our own kitchen, our own bathroom." If she had more time, she probably would have remembered to ask Obama to fill up her gas tank, too. The soul-fixer dutifully asked her name, gave her a hug, and ordered his staff to meet with her. Supporters cried "Amen!" and "Yes!" A young McDonald's worker named Julio bolted out of his seat and exclaimed: "It is such a blessing to see you. Oh! Gracious God, thank you so much! Ungh!"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Thursday, February 12, 2009

The great Statin scam

Statins are the medical equivalent of global warming: A great theory, dubious evidence but believers still want to shove it down all our throats anyway. Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs and are supposed to prevent heart attacks. And there are proposals to make everybody take them.

Don't laugh: We are already compulsorily medicated with iodides, vitamin D and folates by having them added to our table salt, butter and bread. And that really gives the knowalls who want to dictate to everybody an erection. They are always looking for something else that they can make us take. The fact that folates in bread have given lots of American men bowel cancer is rarely mentioned: "Shut up and take it! It's good for you" is the attitude. And there is now a new study out that is giving the health Fascists a big boost. Like global warming theory, however, it overlooks a lot.

The big problem with statins is that they often have severe and unpleasant side-effects. So lots of people who are given them to take only take a few tablets before they leave the rest sitting untouched in their medicine cabinet. So the limited evidence for the benefits of statins is severely polluted by that. You have to be pretty robust to start with in order to tolerate taking statins. And so the takers (compliers) have fewer heart attacks not because of the statins but because they were more robust to start with!

The latest study shows some dim awareness of that. They actually managed to find out whether people were taking their prescribed pills or not. And they found -- surprise! -- that the compliers did indeed get fewer heart attacks. You might think that that finding would kick the whole statin craze up the behind but it is the reverse. It is being hailed as great new evidence for the benefit of statins and the heath fascists are really having an orgy over it. See here, for instance. So don't be too sure that you won't be taking them soon in some way and wondering why you do not feel as well as you used to.

Fuller details are on my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog. The citation for the new study is: Shalev, V. et al. (2009) "Continuation of Statin Treatment and All-Cause Mortality". Arch. Intern. Med. 169(3):260-268


BrookesNews Update

Are bonds and stocks signalling bad news for the US economy? : The Fed cannot expand the money supply at the current rate with generating a severe inflation. On the other hand, it cannot suddenly slap on the monetary breaks without the very real risk of sending the economy into a tailspin. If Bernanke insists on flooding the economy with money a rapid rise in inflation cannot be avoided, bringing in its wake a falling dollar and a possible collapse of the bond market
America will pay a heavy price for Obama's economic illiteracy: Despite the lessons of history and the fact that he is a proud member of the 'reality-based' community Obama and his advisors are total economic and historical illiterates who suffer from a big government fetish. Unfortunately, their addiction to big government will carry a heavy price for the American people
Rudd's stimulus package will fail : Without a reasonable grasp of capital theory it is impossible to fully comprehend what is going on with the economy. This is why so much economic commentary is very bad, including the stuff Treasury officials come out with, which brings us right back to Dr Ken Henry's spending nonsense
Benicio del Toro and Che Guevara: Tune in, Turn on - Get Shot: Had del Toro been born two decades earlier and in Cuba and attempted the lifestyle of a U.S. teenager or campus rebel, his 'digging' of Castroite Cuba would have been of a more literal nature. Benicio would have found himself digging ditches and mass-graves in a prison camp system inspired by the man he glorified as 'Jesus Christ'
These projects are shovel-ready, all right: This is not a stimulus - it's a see rip-off. The Democrats are using the alleged crisis as the pretext for a monumental looting of the taxpayers (present and future) in the service of rewarding the interest groups that put them in power
Obama's "Change" - but not just yet : If recovery will take years then why does Obama say the crisis is imminent and so we must spend over a trillion dollars now and more soon? Why is the money he wants to spend not going to improve the economy but rather on his socialist plans? Why is most of the money to be spent in the next two to three years and not now if we need an immediate 'stimulus' to improve our economy and avoid the 'worst depression in years'? Something smells



Israel: Voters deliver split decision; Knesset shifts right: "Israeli voters on Tuesday delivered a split decision in national elections, sparking competing claims by backers of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni over who will be the next prime minister. Voters appeared to give Livni's Kadima Party, which favors negotiations with the Palestinians, a slight and unexpected edge over Netanyahu's Likud, which has been critical of peace talks, according to nearly complete returns and exit polls. But the overall shift in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, was sharply to the right."

Thanks, but we don't need an arts czar: "There is nothing new under the sun, says the Good Book, and the plea for a Cabinet-level secretary of arts and culture is no exception. That plea comes most recently from composer-producer Quincy Jones, who has long wanted the United States to establish a national ministry of culture akin to those in Italy, Germany or France. `The next conversation I have with President Obama is to beg for a secretary of arts,' he said in a radio interview shortly after the presidential election. Culture and the arts are `just as important as military defense,' Jones argues, and a federal arts czar can ensure that American students learn something of their cultural roots."

The 180-degree reversal of Obama's State Secrets position : "To underscore just what a complete reversal the Obama DOJ's conduct is, consider what Seante Democrats were saying for the last several years. In early 2008, Sens. Kennedy and Leahy, along with Sen. Arlen Specter, sponsored the State Secrets Protection Act. It had numerous co-sponsors, including Joe Biden. In April, 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill, with all Committee Democrats voting for it, along with Specter. The scheme of restrictions imposed on the privilege by that bill was the consensus view of the pre-2009 Democratic Party. The primary purpose of that bill is to bar the precise use of the State Secrets privilege which the Obama DOJ yesterday defended: namely, as a tool to force courts to dismiss entire lawsuits from the start without any proceedings being held, rather than as a focused instrument for protecting specific pieces of classified information from disclosure."

Protectionism is the embrace of fear, the rejection of hope: "In the context of America's $17-trillion economy, $12-trillion national debt and $4-trillion federal budget, a few billion dollars worth of international trade doesn't sound like much. Yet Americans and foreigners concerned about free trade have every reason to get worked up about the proposed `Buy America' mandate in Washington's massive stimulus plan. Although modest in its likely economic consequences, a Buy America mandate represents the exact opposite of what the new president promised in his campaign - it's a triumph of fear over hope."

Tax credit for house buying - good or bad?: "Superficial thinking might conclude that a tax credit for buying a house is good for the economy, since more folks will buy houses. More house buying would reduce the decline of residential real estate. That would reduce the mortgage defaults, help the banks, and the birds would sing. More thorough thinking would realize that what one person gains, others must lose. The tax credits will reduce tax revenues in 2009 and 2010, making the federal budget deficit that much larger, and requiring more borrowing. That sucks in money that would have been invested in job-creating private enterprise."

Obama attempts to spin tax cuts and does it badly: "Now whether or not you agree that a stimulus package is needed or not, the point to be made here is a bunch of politicians from different sides agreeing that something must be done and one of them being pleased that the other side is considering tax cuts as a major part of that 'something' does not equal being `brought in early' or being `consulted.' That happens when the bill is written and put into final form, and as everyone know, Republicans weren't brought in at all on that process, much less consulted. So when that final bill was trotted out and placed before the full House, with no debate, Republican[s] voted 177-0 against it. They did so for a number of reasons, but primary among them was they had had no part in writing the bill. But of equal importance, the tax cuts that they were promised would be in the bill and comprise approximately 40% of it total, just weren't there."

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


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Black" names

As I have noted in previous onomastic posts, American black mothers tend to give their children distinctive "black" Christian names. Why do they do that? I have no firm evidence on the matter but it seems to me that they do so in order to give their kids names which sound prestigious. They think that the names they choose will have some influence in causing their children to be treated with respect.

And I suppose there is some rationality behind that. Blacks living among predominantly Caucasian populations are -- dare I say it? -- invariably at the bottom of any status hierarchy. Their huge rate of criminality, low rate of educational success and usual lack of much economic achievement ensure that. But is the naming strategy effective? Not at all, it seems to me.

There is no group of people in the world with a higher level of prestige than the British Royal family. And what sort of names do they choose for their children? Simple old-fashioned names like Charles, Edward, Andrew, Harry and William. So if you were in good touch with reality, surely the way to name your children in a prestigious way would be to do likewise? I must say that I am entirely comfortable with having named my son Joe.

On the other hand, maybe I have got it entirely wrong and what the black mothers concerned wish to do is to distance themselves from "slave" names or from whites generally. In that case what they do makes some sense but I doubt that it does much good to the kid concerned -- which is surely regrettable.



The Missing Obama Tax Cut: "One question we wish someone had asked President Obama at last night's press conference is this: Why doesn't his economic stimulus bill include his own campaign proposal to eliminate the capital-gains tax for small businesses? The House bill omits it entirely, and the Senate version offers a rate reduction to 7% from the current 14%, but only on investments made in the next two years. That lower rate would apply to less than 2% of all capital gains. Mr. Obama's original promise to cancel the capital gains tax for small enterprises was highlighted on his campaign Web site under "Small Business Emergency Rescue Plan." A few weeks before the election, advisers Austan Goolsbee and Jason Furman touted their boss's pro-growth credentials by noting in this newspaper that "he is proposing additional tax cuts" that included "the elimination of capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups."

Marking 100 years of failed drug prohibition: "This week marks the centennial of a fateful landmark in U.S. history, the nation's first drug prohibition law. On February 9, 1909, Congress passed the Opium Exclusion Act, barring the importation of opium for smoking as of April 1. Thus began a hundred-year crusade that has unleashed unprecedented crime, violence and corruption around the world - a war with no victory in sight. Long accustomed to federal drug control, most Americans are unaware that there was once a time when people were free to buy any drug, including opium, cocaine, and cannabis, at the pharmacy. In that bygone era, drug-related crime and violence were largely unknown, and drug use was not a major public concern."

Some humility there: "Now that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has been removed from office after his arrest on corruption charges, the state's lieutenant governor, Democrat Patrick Quinn, 60, has replaced him. Quinn is described by political observers as the "Anti-Blagojevich" -- calm, quiet, and humble. Quinn understands popularity comes and goes, remembering once in the 1970s when he was sitting in the gallery of the state legislature. When introduced, lawmakers "stood up and booed for three minutes," Quinn said. "One guy called it a standing boo-vation." Quinn may be popular now, especially compared to Blago, but "You want to know my philosophy?" he asked. "One day a peacock. The next day a feather duster."

Obama regime invokes "state secrets" : "The Obama administration is backing an anti-terrorism policy of President George W. Bush, urging a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit that accuses a Boeing Co. unit of helping the CIA fly suspects overseas to be tortured. The Justice Department said it is reviewing other cases in which the Republican Bush administration urged similar complaints be dismissed because of the need to protect state secrets."

World Bank covered up destruction of Albanian village : "Managers at the World Bank provided false information to the agency's board of directors about a $39 million, politically-connected European `coastal cleanup' project that led to the destruction and destitution of a powerless village in Albania in 2007 - and then spent nearly two years trying to cover it up, FOX News has learned. Bank insiders also misled and stonewalled a panel of independent investigators commissioned by the board to investigate the scandal, according to the investigators themselves. . For its part, once the report leaked in Albania last week, the bank announced that further disbursements of the loan for the Albanian project had been temporarily suspended on Jan. 9 `due to certain outstanding policy and operational issues.'"

A surprise from Daley: Chicago's city employees no match for private sector : "Mayor Daley said Wednesday he unloaded four of Chicago's most valuable assets for a $6 billion mountain of cash, in part, because city employees are clock-watchers who don't think about the customers. . `We can't compete with the private sector. The private sector has a complete idea of who your customers are. Government doesn't have customers. They only have citizens.' Daley offered his blunt, candid assessment of city workers after joining business leaders at a Merchandise Mart news conference called to launch the so-called `Green Office Challenge' aimed at encouraging downtown buildings to conserve."

Losing American principles: "The speed with which venerable American institutions - Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia - have disappeared or been gobbled up is jarring. But in most cases, that's just creative destruction at work. What Joseph Schumpeter defined as `the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.' What's far more disconcerting is how quickly Americans seem willing to throw off our last few vestiges of freedom and adapt a nationalized, Washington, D.C.-based set of standards - replete with pay caps, government-preferred industries (and companies within those industries), and massive new government employment - all in the panicky name of 'stability.' Even more startling is that this new economic catastrophe is only about four months old."

Do Americans cherish freedom anymore?: "Virtually everything we do and say is monitored by the great Nanny State. Practically every service, every act is regulated by the State. Ask any independent business owner how many regulations, laws, acts, etc., demand fulfillment, and how many fees, taxes, permits, etc., are required by various government agencies and bureaucracies before he can perform a single task. For example, the federal government actually dictates how some restaurants can seat people or serve tables. Farmers are told what and how much to plant - and even to not plant. We cannot buy a gun, drive a car, marry the person we love, or even install a toilet without saying, `Pretty please?' to a dozen despots. And we still wave the flag every Independence Day and brag about how `free' we are. Again, we don't know the meaning of the word."

Revenge of the tax code: "If it were a movie, it would be called `Revenge of the Tax Code.' The complex income tax, which has bedeviled average Americans for years, is biting back at the elite who helped create it. Tom Daschle, former chief lawmaker in the Senate, withdrew his Cabinet nomination because of an `unintentional' $128,000 tax mistake. Rep. Charles Rangel, chief tax-writer in the House, is also entangled in a tax scandal, as is Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Nancy Killefer, another high-ranking nominee who has withdrawn. What is going on here? Whether you believe the excuses of these folks or not, it's common for both taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service to make big errors."

It still won't work : "No amount of presidential persuasion, nor any conceivable quantity of federal spending, can repeal the basic economic law of supply and demand. Thus, if Congress should enact this idiotic 'stimulus' - a neo-Keynesian pump-priming venture absurdly overbalanced to the demand side of the equation - nothing is more predictable than its failure to spur real recovery. Indeed, the Pelosi plan is so close to being the exact opposite of what our economy needs at this juncture, many informed observers do not hesitate to say that it will actually delay recovery and perhaps make the recession far worse than it already is."

Obama & the economy: When was he telling truth? : "As the final push for the 778 page, $827 billion stimulus package faces votes today and tomorrow in the Senate, President Obama is hammering his opponents and pushing hard for the bill. On Friday, Obama pointedly reminded Republicans that he won the November election and had the right to get his policies enacted. But the stimulus bill bears little resemblance to his campaign promises. It bears little resemblance his many promises he made just a month ago. If Obama claims a mandate, shouldn't it be related to what he campaigned on?"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No holocaust in Gaza

The Israeli Government runs no death camps, anywhere

MUSLIM leader Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali says the Israeli incursion into Gaza last month was "another Holocaust". No it wasn't. The Holocaust was an act of German state policy, a systematic attempt to murder every Jew in Nazi-controlled Europe. It was not a mass execution of political prisoners or the killing of enemy combatants. It was an attempt to slaughter an entire people. When they were not murdering Jews, the Nazis and their allies were happy to kill as many gypsies and Slavs and homosexuals as they could. But the death camps existed primarily to kill Jews.

In contrast, the Israelis went into Gaza to stop Hamas terrorists firing rockets into Israel. Certainly, 1200 people, at least half of them civilians, died. There is no denying the Hamas regime in Gaza and the Government of Israel both have innocent blood on their conscience. However, for Hamas to incite Israeli attacks in urban areas was to invite casualties. Given Israeli firepower, it is astonishing there were not more. But civilians were not -- not -- the targets. If Sheik Hilali does not know this, he has no interest in the facts of the Middle East conflict. But if he is aware of the evidence but uses "holocaust" to save him the trouble of calmly debating the continuing crisis in the Middle East, he can play no useful role in helping the people of Gaza. There are different dictionary definitions of "hyperbole" and "hysterics". In the case of this claim by Sheik Hilali, the words are synonyms



Government control of the economy will increase but only up to a point

I have long argued that the Fascists won and that we live in very much the sort of State that the Fascists designed, particularly in the economic sphere. Note that Fascist leaders are almost always popular in their own countries: Hitler, Mussolini, Peron, Putin etc. The writer below is historically correct in that Fascism always was a form of socialism-- JR

The headline of Newsweek's current cover story reads: "We Are All Socialists Now." The story tells us that Republicans and Democrats, oligarcos y peones, have given up on the market economy and, however reactionary some people's rhetoric may be, we are all in fact being swept toward bigger government by an irresistible wave. Pretty soon, we Americans will be just like the French, though lacking a comparable command of the beautiful French language. I don't recommend the Newsweek article. Although the writers, Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas, have absorbed a number of true facts, their level of economic understanding is abysmal, and hence their reasoning is close to worthless.

Truth is, socialism is not the wave of the future. Indeed, it is already almost as dead as the dodo. Hardly anybody in a position of political power or influence now wants to establish socialism along the lines of the Soviets or the Maoists. Everyone knows that doing so is a one-way ticket to widespread poverty, which leaves precious little surplus for the political kingpins to rip off.

No, the world is converging ever more visibly, not toward socialism, but toward what I (following Charlotte Twight's usage) have for many years been calling participatory fascism. The hallmarks of this system are, on the political side, the trappings of democracy (parties, elections, procedural niceties, etc.), and, on the economic side, the form of private property rights (though not much of the substance that characterizes the real thing).

The beauty of this system is that the political system can easily be corrupted so that the power elite retains a firm hold on the state, despite the appearance that they rule only with the consent of the governed. The major political parties appear to compete, but for the most part they coalesce and conspire; on the basics, they are in complete agreement. The apparent "consent" they enjoy they actually manufacture by their control of the mass media, the schools and universities, and other key institutions, and no political opinion outside the 40-yard lines ever receives a hearing in serious political circles. (Remember how the oligarcos rolled their eyes when Ron Paul managed to get in an occasional word during the debates last year?)

And while the ruling establishment retains an iron grip on state power, it allow entrepreneurs just enough room for maneuver so that innovators can continue to produce the new products, new methods of production, new raw materials, and new organizational forms that move the economy forward. The most enterprising entrepreneurs can still get rich, although even they will see a large chunk of the fruits of their labors ripped away by the state. The economy will improve its productivity sufficiently to keep a growing supply of creature comforts and amusements flowing to the masses, who are content with these things, along with the illusion of security that state functionaries induce in the people.

Lest you suppose that the masses are getting a raw deal, because their level of living would be so much higher in a genuine free-market system, bear in mind that virtually all of these people despise the free market. If you don't think so, just give them an opportunity to live in one or even to move in that direction, conditional on their willingness to accept the personal responsibility and bear the risks that attend life in such a system - and you'll see them flee quicker than a vampire exits at the first light of day. How do you think we got into our present situation, anyhow? It's not as though the masses were repeatedly given what they didn't want. They had plenty of opportunities to say no to dependency on the state, but they turned away; and they do not intend to go back any time soon to what they imagine to be an unbearably harsh style of life. Rugged individualism might have been okay for their great-grandparents, but they want no part of it.

All of which leaves us - by which I mean nearly everybody on earth - converging on the only form of politico-economic system that has a stable equilibrium in our present ideological circumstances: participatory fascism. I am not saying that this system is the only one possible, forever and ever, amen. I am saying, however, that until the world's people abandon en masse the collectivist ideologies that now determine their social cognition, policy evaluation, political practices, and personal identities, any hope for moving to a freer form of economic order as a stable equilibrium is virtually nil.




Stimulus no fix for health insurance: "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger raised the ire of many in California by calling for $1.1 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal, the state healthcare program for the poor, as part of an effort to head off a projected $42 billion budget deficit over the next 17 months. The federal government is now throwing him a lifeline. A cool $32 billion from the massive economic stimulus bill winding its way through Congress was designated for California. About a third of that is earmarked for Medi-Cal relief. But a bailout of Medicaid (the federal version of Medi-Cal) with no checks and balances to ensure funds are spent as specified only kicks healthcare reform further down the road."

Instead of stimulus, do nothing ... seriously! "As we wait to see how the politicians in Washington will alter the stimulus package the Obama administration is pushing, many questions are being raised about the measure's contents and efficacy. Should it include money for the National Endowment for the Arts, Amtrak, and child care? Is it big enough to get the economy moving again? Does it spend money fast enough? Hardly anyone, however, is asking the most important question: Should the federal government be doing any of this? In raising this question, one risks immediate dismissal as someone hopelessly out of touch with the modern realities of economics and government."

The Great O has spoken! "President Barack Obama is getting angry about his 'stimulus' package, now stalled in the Senate. Like the Great and Powerful Oz when faced with a courageous Dorothy, he is not taking well to criticism of his leadership, and he does not want critical eyes peering to see the man behind the curtain. This is a President who is watching his mandate to govern - alongside his vaunted trillion dollar 'stimulus' plan - evaporate quicker than a drop of water on Venus. He says the point of a stimulus plan is to spend. And apparently, in his eyes, to spend as much as it takes, no matter the cost."

Economic change we can believe in: "President Barack Obama's stimulus proposal entails an awkward tradeoff between spending and efficiency. Fiscal stimulation suggests large, rapid increases in spending, while efficiency means cautious, modest increases. Similarly, Obama's plan favors tax cuts for low-income families, since they are most likely to spend rather than save, yet the drive for efficiency means cutting marginal tax rates on high-income consumers. One policy change, however, can stimulate both the economy in the short-run and enhance efficiency in the long-run: repeal of the corporate income tax, which collects up to 35% of the difference between revenues and costs of incorporated businesses."

The disastrous Smoot and Hawley return: "As if the `economic stimulus' bill was not bad enough, it also contains a `Buy American' provision. It is now truly an economic sabotage bill. This is particularly scary. When the economy soured last year, one could reassure oneself that this would not be a repeat of the 1930s because 1) a dramatic contraction of the money supply was unlikely (the Fed presumably having learned the lesson of the Great Depression) and 2) we would never see the likes of Smoot-Hawley again. This, of course, refers to the monstrous tariff bill that Congress passed and President Herbert Hoover signed in 1930 in the name of protecting American jobs."

The US government has no business taking over banks: "The U.S. government has no business taking over banks. Outright nationalization of banks would lead to poorly run banks and, in the long run, make America poorer. As a trip to any Motor Vehicles Dept. can illustrate, the government doesn't always do a great job running things. Even when they provide decent service, in fact, government-run `businesses' like the Postal Service and Amtrak almost always lose money."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Monday, February 9, 2009

Tu B'Shevat

Today is the Jewish holiday celebrating the New Year for trees. It is only a minor holiday but it is a good occasion to plant a tree. I planted eight fast-growing crepe myrtle trees in my backyard five years ago and they now are about 12 ft high and produce masses of pink blossom every January. So take it from me: Planting trees is both rewarding and an expression of faith in the future.

British teenagers have lower IQs than their counterparts did 30 years ago

As usual, Jim Flynn gets it partly right. The best evidence would seem to indicate that the IQ rise previously reported by Flynn and others was due to increased test sophistication, produced by increased years of education. Only about two thirds of IQ score is genetically determined. Personal environment accounts for the rest and education is a very important part of the intellectual environment. Anybody who knows how severely dumbed-down British education has been in recent years should not be surprised by the results below. They simply show that dumbed down education gives kids fewer clues about how to do IQ tests

Teenagers in Britain have lower IQ scores than their counterparts did a generation ago, according to a study by a leading expert. Tests carried out in 1980 and again in 2008 show that the IQ score of an average 14-year-old dropped by more than two points over the period.

Among those in the upper half of the intelligence scale, a group that is typically dominated by children from middle class families, performance was even worse, with an average IQ score six points below what it was 28 years ago. The trend marks an abrupt reversal of the so-called "Flynn effect" which has seen IQ scores rise year on year, among all age groups, in most industrialised countries throughout the past century.

Professor James Flynn, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, the discoverer of the Flynn effect and the author of the latest study, believes the abnormal drop in British teenage IQ could be due to youth culture having "stagnated" or even dumbed down. He used data gathered in IQ tests on UK children to examine how the country's cognitive skills have changed over time. He found that while children aged between five and 10 saw their IQs increase by up to half a point a year over the three decades, teenagers performed less well. "It looks like there is something screwy among British teenagers," said Professor Flynn. "While we have enriched the cognitive environment of children before their teenage years, the cognitive environment of the teenagers has not been enriched. "Other studies have shown how pervasive teenage youth culture is, and what we see is parents' influence on IQ slowly diminishing with age.

"Up until the age of nine and ten, the home has a really powerful influence, so we can assume parents have been providing their children with a more cognitive challenging environment in the past 30 years. "After that age the children become more autonomous and they gravitate to peer groups that set the cognitive environment. "What we know is that youth culture is more visually orientated around computer games than they are in terms of reading and holding conversations." He added that previous studies have shown that IQ increases as teenagers move into adulthood, entering university or starting work.

Professor Flynn also believes that the larger drop in IQ among the upper half of the ability range could be due to effects of social class. He said: "IQ gains are typically correlated by class, but the results in this case are very mixed. Maybe the rebellious peer culture of the lower half of British society has invaded the peer culture of the upper half. "It could be the classes in the upper half were insulated from this rebellious peer culture for a time, but now it is universal."

His research, which is presented in a paper published online by the journal Economics and Human Biology, also refutes the commonly held belief that increases in IQ over time are a result of improving nutrition.

Previous research has suggested that using text messages and email causes concentration to drop, temporarily reducing IQ by 10 points, while smoking marijuana has been associated with a four-point drop in IQ. IQ, or intelligence quotient, is normally expressed as a single numerical score, with 100 being the average.

Professor Flynn's study was conducted using a respected IQ test known as Raven's Progressive Matrices. Questions involve matching a series of patterns and sequences, so that even people with no education can take the test. Dr John Raven, the Edinburgh-based psychologist who invented the test, said he was surprised by the fall in teenage IQ. He said: "IQ is influenced by multiple factors that can be dependent upon culture, but the norms tend to be very similar across cultures even in societies that have no access to computers and television. "What we do see is that IQ changes dramatically over time."

He cautioned that since the study did not record the social class of participants, "it is very difficult to make inferences about how changes within social classes can impact on these changes in IQ".

Richard House, a senior lecturer in therapeutic education at Roehampton University and a researcher into the effects of television on children, said: "Taking these findings at face value, it appears that there is something happening to teenagers. "Computer games and computer culture has led to a decrease in reading books. The tendency for teachers to now 'teach to the test' has also led to a decrease in the capacity to think in lateral ways."



RINOs place huge burden of debt on the backs of Americans

How clever of them to support "stimulus" measures that won't stimulate but which do fulfil lots of long-held Democrat wishes. If Senators Snowe, Specter and Collins had held fast, the bill could at least have been cut back to expenditures and tax cuts that will actually be made this year, when they might do some good

Republicans and Democrats offered starkly different assessments of President Barack Obama's newly renegotiated economic recovery plan Saturday, as the Senate held a rare weekend debate in advance of a key vote on Monday. Lawmakers are already looking past Senate action to difficult House-Senate negotiations that will test the mettle of a handful of Senate moderates against House Democrats unhappy over more than $100 billion in spending forced from the bill.

Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, said central elements of Obama's plan such as the $500 tax cut for most workers would do little to help the economy, just as last year's $600 rebate checks failed to provide a jolt. "It was not effective last year," Kyl said. "There's nothing to suggest it's going to be any more effective this year to stimulate the economy."

Saturday's debate came a day after a handful of GOP moderates struck a deal with the White House and Democratic leaders following White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel weighing in to urge Democrats make a final round of concessions. Architects of the compromise included Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who represented a broader group of moderates unhappy that so much money went into programs they thought wouldn't create jobs. Eventually, every Republican except Collins and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., left the talks, which finally produced a deal with the White House late Friday afternoon.

While ensuring passage of Obama's plan in the Senate within a few days, the deal sets up difficult negotiations with the House. But the Senate GOP moderates votes are crucial to the measure's success, giving them great leverage going into talks with the House. The sense of urgency to wrap the measure up also seems to contribute to the leverage of Collins and Specter, as does White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's embrace of the measure in late stage talks.

Officials put the cost of the bill at $827 billion, including Obama's signature tax cut of up to $1,000 for working couples. Also included is a tax credit of up to $15,000 for homebuyers and smaller breaks for people buying new cars. Much of the new spending would be for victims of the recession, in the form of unemployment compensation, health care and food stamps.

In a key reduction from the bill that reached the Senate floor earlier in the week, $40 billion would be cut from a "fiscal stabilization fund" for state governments, though $14 billion to boost the maximum for college Pell Grants by $400 to $5,250 would be preserved, as would aid to local school districts for the No Child Left Behind law and special education. A plan to help the unemployed purchase health insurance would be reduced to a 50 percent subsidy instead of two-thirds.

Despite a 58-41 majority bolstered by the elections, Democrats need 60 votes to clear a key procedural hurdle [cloture] on Monday and advance the bill to a final vote. In addition to Collins and Specter, Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine pledged to vote for the legislation.



Old crap dredged up to attack Palin

The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund sponsored the YouTube video starring Judd. They've dubbed their campaign, launched this week, "Eye on Palin." With all the serious, socially responsible celebrity earnestness she could muster, Judd decried the aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska, the GOP governor's state. "It is time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery," Judd intoned.

Fact is, the policy is intended to protect other animals -- moose and caribou -- from overpopulation of wolves. Alaskans rely on caribou and moose for food. Not all Americans care to live on environmentally correct starlet diets of tofu salad and Pinkberry yogurt.

Neither Palin nor the aerial hunters in those scary low-flying planes that have Judd quivering promote the program out of malice and animal insensitivity. On the contrary, they are the true compassionate conservationists. The bounty helped state biologists collecting wolf age data and provided incentives to reduce the wolf population when wildlife management efforts had fallen behind. This is about predator control. But to liberal, gun-control zealots thousands of miles away, it's all heartless murder. Federal law makes specific exceptions to aerial hunting for the protection of "land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life or crops." Targets are not limited to wolves. And, as Alaska wildlife officials note, the process is tightly controlled and "designed to sustain wolf populations in the future."

No matter. As Judd proclaimed, "It is time to stop Sarah Palin." That is the true aim of left-wing lobbying groups and their allies in Hollywood. Palin is a threat not to Alaska's wolves, but to the liberal establishment's wolves. Defenders of Wildlife isn't targeting the ads in states affected by these policies. They're running the Judd-fronted ads across battleground states. It's about electoral interests, not wildlife interests. The eco-Kabuki theater is just plain laughable.

More here


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


Sunday, February 8, 2009

This judgment of doom from a Brit may well be true

American politics is now run by minorities and those who pander to them. Without huge minority support, the Democrat drift to the Left would have fizzled out

I was in Washington DC the night of the election. America's beautiful capital has a sad secret. It is perhaps the most racially divided city in the world, with 15th Street - which runs due north from the White House - the unofficial frontier between black and white. But, like so much of America, it also now has a new division, and one which is in many ways much more important. I had attended an election-night party in a smart and liberal white area, but was staying the night less than a mile away on the edge of a suburb where Spanish is spoken as much as English, plus a smattering of tongues from such places as Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan.

As I walked, I crossed another of Washington's secret frontiers. There had been a few white people blowing car horns and shouting, as the result became clear. But among the Mexicans, Salvadorans and the other Third World nationalities, there was something like ecstasy.

They grasped the real significance of this moment. They knew it meant that America had finally switched sides in a global cultural war. Forget the Cold War, or even the Iraq War. The United States, having for the most part a deeply conservative people, had until now just about stood out against many of the mistakes which have ruined so much of the rest of the world.

Suspicious of welfare addiction, feeble justice and high taxes, totally committed to preserving its own national sovereignty, unabashedly Christian in a world part secular and part Muslim, suspicious of the Great Global Warming panic, it was unique.

These strengths had been fading for some time, mainly due to poorly controlled mass immigration and to the march of political correctness. They had also been weakened by the failure of America's conservative party - the Republicans - to fight on the cultural and moral fronts.
They preferred to posture on the world stage. Scared of confronting Left-wing teachers and sexual revolutionaries at home, they could order soldiers to be brave on their behalf in far-off deserts. And now the US, like Britain before it, has begun the long slow descent into the Third World. How sad. Where now is our last best hope on Earth?

More here


Weakling Americans are now all too common

And the Leftist nanny-state has made them that way

In an interview in the January issue of Esquire, super tough guy and Cleveland Brown of all Cleveland Browns, Jim Brown said: "A liberal is arrogant enough to think he can do you a half-***ed favor. He is superior enough to think he can give you something that you don't deserve. A liberal will cut off your leg so he can hand you a crutch."

The statements will be no surprise to roughly 50 percent of this country. We know them to be true. It's why we fear liberals. They are arrogant, thinking they can re-arrange people and institutions and money, forcibly re-distribute wealth and manufacture economic justice by punishing success.

But the source of these comments would surprise a lot of people, especially liberals and liberal pundits. For one thing, Jim Brown is black. He is 72 years old, so he came up when being black in America was no stroll through the park. When he switched from football to movies, he broke the color barrier, with a steamy sex scene with the white sex symbol Raquel Welch - creating a firestorm. Another thing: he's an activist. He has spent decades on the streets in L.A. fighting gang violence, working at getting kids to look beyond the ghetto, to look at someone other than drug dealers and pimps as role models. It would be natural to presume him liberal-leaning. He knows better. And he has always been willing to speak the truth.

Jim Brown never missed a game in his nine record-breaking seasons with the Browns. He also rarely stepped out of bounds to avoid a high speed hit or bruising tackle. Instead he lowered a shoulder and knocked everyone else on their ***es. In the interview he says that the biggest crutch is thinking you're a victim. I imagine if a liberal handed Jim a crutch, he'd beat him over the head with it. Even if he had to hop on one good leg while doing it.

In an interview recently on Letterman, the equally aged and, it seems, equally tough Clint Eastwood wondered aloud when we became `a p***y society.' I wonder the same thing. I wonder where the shame is, in lining up for crutches, hand-outs and bail-outs. When I was a kid, my family was very briefly on food stamps, and my father was horribly, terribly ashamed at going to get them, at accepting them, at using them.

Today none of those in the ever-growing line for food stamp equivalents shows shame - not the governors of grossly mismanaged states, nor the executives of criminally mismanaged companies, nor the irresponsible, foolishly leveraged home buyers.

When did it become so ordinary, so acceptable to be a p***y? To be so helpless and inept and pathetic? And why don't we - and our elected officials and our media - look all these embarrassing people in the face and tell them to go make their own crutches or lie by the side of the road and rot as they choose? When will we refuse to enable this ever-expanding victimhood and shameful begging and thievery?

It's not the flying in on the private jet to beg Congress for billions of dollars of food stamps that bothers me. It's the fact that these executives aren't so ashamed as to be physically ill, vomiting, ashen faced, apologetic.

No, I'm not looking for a show of remorse. I'm looking for real, sincere recognition of responsibility and a re-commitment to self-reliance. I'm looking for the auto-maker CEO's and the head of the UAW to say, "We are foregoing our salaries and bonuses in this business we insist is viable, investing all our personal and family wealth, mortgaging our homes and investing that money, and we are going to take no vacations, no weekends off, and work 12 hour days until we fix what we broke." The same from the executives of Citi and AIG, et al. If somebody like Jim Brown had been in charge and made such a mess, I'm pretty sure that's what he would say. It's what small business owners do.

And I'm looking for homeowners to say: "Gee, I should have made sure I understood what I signed. I shouldn't have leveraged myself silly and bought four times the home I could afford then sucked equity out by repeatedly re-financing. I don't want anybody bailing me out. I'll take my lumps, go be a renter for a while, and be more responsible in the future. I certainly don't want to have my government steal money from people who acted responsibly to give me a bail-out I don't deserve.

If somebody like Jim Brown had made such a mess of his personal finances, I'm pretty sure that's what he would say.



Capitalism Should Return to Its Roots

We wouldn't need pay caps if shareholders were given their rights.


President Barack Obama's plan to limit executive pay to $500,000 a year -- plus restricted stock -- for institutions that get government funding is understandable. Still, salary caps are only a stopgap measure that fails to address the root of the problem. The real problem is that many corporate managements operate with impunity -- with little oversight by, or accountability to, shareholders. Instead of operating as aggressive watchdogs over management and corporate assets, many boards act more like lapdogs.

Despite the fact that managements, albeit with some exceptions, have done an extremely poor job, they are often lavishly rewarded regardless of their performance. We must change this dismal state of affairs if we are to rebuild our economy in a sustainable way that restores confidence. If we don't, these problems will keep recurring as investors pile into the next Wall Street innovation or asset bubble, enabled by the kinds of managements that nearly sank Wall Street.

The problem, as I have long maintained, is that boards and managements have been entrenched by years of state laws and court decisions that insulate them from shareholder accountability and allow them to maintain their salary-and-perk-laden sinecures. What we need are fewer government rules at the state level that protect managements. We need to return capitalism -- our great national wealth machine -- to its roots, where owners call the shots to managements, not the other way around. Currently, corporate law is largely the province of state governments, not federal. As a result, most corporations migrate to, and incorporate in, states that offer the most protection for managements.

Management-friendly states have a vested interest in attracting these companies because hosting them generates a substantial portion of state revenues. It's a symbiotic relationship: The state offers management protections and, in return, receives much-needed tax revenue.

However certain states, like North Dakota, offer many more rights and protections to shareholders. Because shareholders own companies, they should have the right to move a company to a state that gives shareholders more protections. What is needed, therefore, is a federal law that allows shareholders to vote by simple majority to move their company's incorporation to another state. That power is currently vested with boards and management.

This move would not be a panacea for all our economic problems. But it would be a step forward, eliminating the stranglehold managements have on shareholder assets. Shouldn't the owners of companies have these rights?

Now some might ask: If this policy proposal is right, why haven't the big institutional shareholders that control the bulk of corporate stock and voting rights in this country risen up and demanded the changes already? This is because many institutions have a vested interest in supporting their managements. It is the management that decides where to allocate their company's pension plans and 401(k) funds. And while there are institutions that do care about shareholder rights, unfortunately there are others that are loath to vote against the very managements that give them valuable mandates to manage billions of dollars.

This is an obvious and insidious conflict of interest that skews voting towards management. It is a problem that has existed for years and should be addressed with new legislation that benefits both stockholders and employees, the beneficiaries of retirement plans.

I am not arguing for a wholesale repudiation of corporate law in this country. But it is in our national interest to restore rights to equity holders who have seen their portfolios crushed at the hands of managements run amok. The suggestions above would do a great deal to change the dynamics of corporate governance in this country. Such a change will make us more productive as an economy, generating more wealth for everyone.

The Wall Street bailout and economic stimulus packages may be unfortunate and necessary steps to revive this flagging economy. But it is important to attack the real problem by demanding more management accountability. I have initiated United Shareholders of America to empower shareholders to institute changes, and I encourage you to join our cause. A majority of the U.S. population owns shares. Their voices need to be heard -- now -- on Capitol Hill and in the boardrooms of corporate America.



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Great Overreach

by Jonah Goldberg

The stimulus bill has failed. Barack Obama has failed. The Trojan Horse of Hope and Change crashed into the guardrail of reality, revealing an army of ideologues and activists inside. Now, before I continue, let me say that Barack Obama will still be popular, he will still get things done, and he will declare victory after signing a stimulus bill. But Obama's moment is gone, and politics is about nothing if not moments. The stimulus bill was a bridge too far, an overplayed hand, 10 pounds of manure in a 5-pound bag. The legislation's primary duty was never to stimulate the economy, but to stimulate the growth of government, the scope of the state.

Of course, this was more than a budgetary ploy. Democrats had good reason to believe that this was their moment. For the first time in a generation, they truly own the political commanding heights. They've won a string of elections, including the momentous presidential contest in which their candidate never really ran to the center the way Democrats normally do. He stayed on the liberal left all the way through Election Day, so liberals figured voters knew what they were getting with Obama. Indeed, that's why the president keeps saying "I won," as if that settles the issue. Funny how that argument didn't work for the last president when he tried to reform Social Security.

The economic crisis was almost too good to be true. Like FDR and Lyndon Johnson, Obama was poised to act on Rahm's Rule of Crisis Exploitation in a way that would not only guarantee a newer New Deal and an even greater Great Society, but would also receive bipartisan approval. That's why Obama wanted so much GOP support -- so as to ratify the left turn to European-style social democracy, particularly when voters cottoned on to the con.

But that didn't happen. Obama and his party were undone by their hubris. There was just too much muchness in the bill. The once impressive support from conservative economists evaporated. Right-wing radio has been having one long tailgate party celebrating Obama's overreach. According to the polls, voters are souring on the whole thing. Republicans finally discovered testicular fortitude -- and they seem to like it. There is still probably bipartisan support for a stimulus bill, but only for a measure intended to stimulate our market-based economy rather than one that hastens its Swedenization. Again, Obama's presidency has many victories ahead of it, and Democrats still run the show. But the perfect storm of liberalism has dissipated to mere scattered showers.

More here


Crisis, Catastrophe: Are These Words of Hope?

By Charles Krauthammer

"A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe." -- President Obama, Feb. 4.

Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.

And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An ostentatious executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. Followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn't understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040. Followed by Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent.

And yet more damaging to Obama's image than all the hypocrisies in the appointment process is his signature bill: the stimulus package. He inexplicably delegated the writing to Nancy Pelosi and the barons of the House. The product, which inevitably carries Obama's name, was not just bad, not just flawed, but a legislative abomination.

It's not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It's not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.

It's the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus -- and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress' own budget office says won't be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said...

After Obama's miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell -- and that this president told better than anyone. I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.

More here


Let's Start Brand New Banks

A clean slate would keep TARP money away from bad banks

Everyone agrees that the United States urgently needs a few good banks. Turning bad banks into good banks is a difficult and risky way to get them. It's simpler and safer to start entirely new banks. In this context, "good" means a bank with assets and liabilities that are easy to value using market prices. At a good bank, officers, regulators and investors can be confident about the value of the bank's capital.

The government has $350 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds that it can use to encourage new bank lending. If this money is directed to newly created good banks with pristine balance sheets, it could support $3.5 trillion in new lending with a modest 9-to-1 leverage. Right out of the gate, the newly created banks could do what the Fed has already been doing -- buying pools of loans originated by existing banks that meet high underwriting standards.

If the TARP funds go to existing banks, much of them will end up stuck in financial institutions that are still bad after the transfer. We know from the previous round of TARP that giving more capital to bad banks generates very little net new lending.

More here



This is the sub-prime house that Barack built: "It is all very well for President Obama to vent his anger on all those US bankers who continued to claim billions of dollars in bonuses while expecting Washington to bail them out after the sub-prime mortgage scandal brought the banks to their knees. But conveniently overlooked has been the curious part Mr Obama himself played in the sub-prime debacle. At the heart of it was a 1995 amendment to the Community Reinvestment Act which legally required banks to lend money to buy homes to millions of poor, mainly black Americans, guaranteed by the two biggest mortgage associations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And no one campaigned more actively for this change to the law than Mr Obama, as a young but already influential Chicago politician."

Jim Cramer compares Obama to Lenin: "CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer sees some scary similarities between the words of President Obama and those of communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. Obama dogged Wall Street by saying there would be a time "for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses. Now's not that time. And that's a message that I intend to send directly to them." Cramer made this comparison: "There was a little snippet last week that was, `Now is not the time for profits.' Look - in Lenin's book, "What Is to Be Done," is simple text of what I always though was for the communists. It was remarkable to hear very similar language from `What Is to Be Done?' which is we have no place for profits."

The media version of impartiality: "We always knew that Brian Williams had it out for President Bush. But now he's calling him something he likely wouldn't even call any of Obama's terrorist friends: evil. The NBC Nightly News anchor, last week on the Late Show with David Letterman, passionately described how he witnessed people line up to buy any type of Obama merchandise they could get their Messiah-worshipping hands on. Gushing as if he'd just seen his first rock concert. he told Letterman he was thrilled at seeing so many people "that excited about our new chief executive after a line of what the ordinary voter would maybe describe as bad choices or choices of evils, for years, generations." Astute listeners will note it's not him, but how "the ordinary voter" would describe Bush. According to Williams, "none of us have a party in my line of work. We all try to call balls and strikes down the center."

The unraveling of the ethanol scam : "The failure of Renew is the latest bankruptcy in the corn ethanol industry, a sector that despite billions of dollars in federal subsidies, hasn't been able to prove its long-term economic viability. About 9 percent of all the ethanol plants in the US have now filed for bankruptcy and some analysts believe the numbers could go as high as 20 percent. Even if the 20 percent figure is never reached, it's readily apparent that billions of investment dollars will be lost on the corn ethanol scam, a darling of farm state legislators. Today, about four years after Congress increased the mandates on the use of corn ethanol in gasoline, the US is nowhere close to the much-promised goal of `energy independence.' Instead, the increasing use of corn to make motor fuel has caused a myriad of problems. Chief among them: increased food prices."

Deja Vu All Over Again: "A bright new president announces he's going to have the most ethical administration in American history and, even before the new has worn off, has to accept the resignations of one after another of his top appointees when their ethical lapses come to harsh light. Sound familiar? It should. The calendar says 2009, the new president is Barack Obama, but it could be the false political spring of 1993, when Bill Clinton seemed almost as busy undoing his appointments as he'd been making them only days before. Something else hasn't changed much, either: The distinguished former appointees almost uniformly explain that they're stepping down not because they've shown rotten judgment and/or complete insensitivity to the simplest ethical requirements, but because paying attention to such matters would be too much of a "distraction" from the great service they have and could still render an ungrateful public."

Volvo to become Chinese!: "Ford Motor Co., seeking to raise cash to avoid a federal bailout, is in talks to sell its Volvo Car unit to China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd., according to three people familiar with the discussions. Ford probably will get less than the $6.4 billion it paid for Sweden-based Volvo in 1999, said one of the people, who declined to be identified because the preliminary talks are confidential. Ford has also approached Chinese automakers Chery Automobile Co. and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., the people said."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Friday, February 6, 2009

The difficulties of getting IQ research published

Below is an email circulated by eminent East German psychologist and geneticist, Volkmar Weiss []

With great interest I have read Gelade's paper on "IQ and the technological achievement of nations", Intelligence 36 (2008) 711-718, in which he has come to the conclusion that the GDP of a nation depends upon the percentage of high-IQ individuals. Independently, La Griffe du Lion with his smart fraction theory and I myself with the "law of the vital few" are confirming his result, see page 137ff. of my paper "National IQ Means, Calibrated and Transformed from Edudational Attainment, and Their Underlying Gene Frequencies", Mankind Quarterly 49 (2008) 129-164. For the full text click here. Originally, in April 2008 my paper was submitted to "Intelligence", too, but was rejected by Dettermann. In September I wrote to Richard Lynn:
"Dettermann was even able to find a reviewer who did not understand the transformation of PISA scores (500;100) into IQ scores (100;15). I quote from this review: "The author mentioned the mean and SD of intelligence and at one point stated "in the relationship 100 : 15 = 6.67 ." I am not sure what to make of this. I know quite well how to perform linear transformations, but I am not sure how the 6.67 helps in this context." ... The author stated that he was able to "calculate . a world average IQ of 95". How can one make sense of this? What is the reference population? Typically, IQ is normed to have a mean of 100 in the population. If so, why wouldn't the world average IQ be 100?" - Richard, you could be happy that this anonymous reviewer did never review one of your publications. - A responsible editor would be ashamed to communicate such a "review" to the author and drop this reviewer from any further reviewing. However, I am sure, this will never happen.

In your book "The Global Bell Curve", I was very impressed by the foreword by the publishers: "We are distinguished by the fact that we are not a publisher of choice but one of last resort. We celebrate that status as it grows directly from our resolve not to tolerate the strictures of political correctness. Our authors come to us after having been worn to a nub by rejection slips from established houses that only a few years ago would have been figthing for their manuscripts. But now a velvet tyranny seeks to oppress the mind."

My original plan was to write a monograph on intelligence in English during the next two years, the rejected paper should already be a small part of this book. Now, I am sure that after reading this foreword and the rejection, I will have no chance to find an established house to print my book. I write in German at least three times faster than in English. Therefore, I will write this book in German. I have an offer from an established house in Austria and from two smaller publishers in Germany.

In the age of mass universities, where all over the world thousands of professors of psychology must publish or perish, the journal "Intelligence" and the "International Society for Intelligence Research" are themselves part of the problem of increasing mediocrity. Of course, next year I will not renew my membership in the so-called "Society for Intelligence Research".

Today, I would like to add and I am calling, that the adherents of Charles Spearman should found a journal "General Intelligence" and found a society of their own, free from the thousand multiple intelligences and even emotional ones. The editor of "Mankind Quarterly", Roger Pearson, is already an old man and, I am afraid, after him no journal all over the world will dare to print such a completely political incorrect paper as mine.

Attention: In the printed pdf-version the head of Table 1 is lacking, and the tables are not printed in the places where they should be inserted. 4 pages behind the tables are doubled. Otherwise the text is okay. (I had no possibility to correct the final pdf-version.)


The National Ponzi Scheme

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was set up to combat fraudulent practices. The SEC's website explains that "Ponzi schemes are a type of illegal pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who duped thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme back in the 1920s." It goes on to say, "Decades later, the Ponzi scheme continues to work on the 'rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul' principle, as money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme collapses." That is how the SEC described the recent Bernard Madoff $50 billion Ponzi scheme, "a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions."
A Ponzi scheme does not generate any wealth whatsoever; that is why it ultimately collapses. As Circuit Judge Anderson said in the 1922 Lowell v. Brown case, the Ponzi scheme was "simply the old fraud of paying the earlier comers out of the contributions of the later comers." So long as the number of late comers -- you might call them suckers -- grows, the fraudulent scheme has life.

We have a national Ponzi scheme where Congress collects about $785 billion in Social Security taxes from about 163 million workers to send out $585 billion to 50 million Social Security recipients. Social Security's trustees tell us that the surplus goes into a $2.2 trillion trust fund to meet future obligations. The problem is whatever difference between Social Security taxes and benefits paid out is spent by Congress. What the Treasury Department does is give the Social Security Trust Fund non-marketable "special issue government securities" that are simply bookkeeping entries that are IOUs.

According to Social Security trustee estimates, around 2016 the amount of Social Security benefits paid will exceed taxes collected. That means one of two things, or both, must happen: Congress will raise taxes and/or slash promised Social Security benefits. Each year the situation will get worse since the number of retirees is predicted to increase relative to the number in the workforce paying taxes. In 1940, there were 42 workers per retiree, in 1950 there were 16, today there are 3 and in 20 or 30 years there will be 2 or fewer workers per retiree.

Social Security is unsustainable because it is not meeting the first order condition of a Ponzi scheme, namely expanding the pool of suckers. Social Security has been one congressional lie after another since its inception. Here's what a 1936 Social Security pamphlet said: "After the first 3 years -- that is to say, beginning in 1940 -- you will pay, and your employer will pay, 1.5 cents for each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year ... beginning in 1943, you will pay 2 cents, and so will your employer, for every dollar you earn for the next 3 years. ... And finally, beginning in 1949, twelve years from now, you and your employer will each pay 3 cents on each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. That is the most you will ever pay." The pamphlet also said, "Beginning November 24, 1936, the United States government will set up a Social Security account for you. ... The checks will come to you as a right."

That's another lie. In .Flemming vs Nestor (1960), the U.S. Supreme court held that you have no "accrued property rights" to a Social Security check. That means Congress can do anything it wishes with Social Security. There is little or nothing that can be done to prevent the economic and political chaos that will result from the collapse of Social Security.

Today's recipients of Social Security, along with their powerful AARP lobby, represent a powerful political force. Few politicians are willing to risk their careers alienating today's senior citizens for the benefit of Americans in 2040. After all what do today's seniors and politicians care about a 2040 calamity? They will be dead by then.




A detailed but very amusing explanation here of how Wall St perpetuated the sub-prime mortgage problem.

Sounds hopeful: "Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written and said that to gain bipartisan support, they will seek to cut provisions that would not provide an immediate boost to the economy. The legislation represents the first major test for President Obama and an expanded Democratic Congress, both of which have made economic recovery the cornerstone of their new political mandate. The stimulus package has now tripled from its post-election estimate of about $300 billion, and in recent days lawmakers in both parties have grown wary of the swelling cost. Moderate Republicans are trying to trim the bill by as much as $200 billion, although Democrats working with those GOP senators have not agreed to a specific figure. The Senate's first vote on a stimulus amendment, a failed effort yesterday to add more infrastructure spending to the package, signaled the change in course."

Stimulus package will increase unemployment : "President Obama and the Democrats' 'stimulus' package will increase the unemployment rate. The changes they propose will also make us poorer, with fewer, less productive jobs. The most obvious explanation is the $36 billion in increased unemployment insurance benefits. Larger benefits at least for this year will encourage some people, who may be unhappy with their jobs, to be unemployed while they look for something better. . Yet the 'stimulus' package will do something else that will increase unemployment at least as much. Most of the new jobs will be for people who are currently employed. By moving money from places where it is currently being spent to places where the government wants it spent, you move the jobs also. But it takes time for people to move between jobs. That is called unemployment."

Kill the big, bad banks : "Every day we read that one primary reason the financial system is on the brink of collapse is that the banking industry extended too many loans to consumers and businesses that weren't creditworthy. We also read the reason the economy is in a nose dive is businesses and consumers have stopped borrowing because they no longer have access to credit. Taken together, these two premises imply the following conclusion: One key to reviving the economy and putting the financial system back on a sound footing is to provide creditworthy customers sufficient loans at reasonable interest rates. We are being told the only way to do that is to 'save' big, bad banks. Just the opposite is true: The only economically sound and morally just course of action is to close existing insolvent banks and replace them with new, sound banks."

The next big stink (according to P.J. O'Rourke): "The killjoys are back in charge - the mopes, the fusstails, the glum pots. Their wet blanket has been thrown over the White House and Congress. They're worrying up a storm. (Good thing that George W. Bush is no longer in charge of the weather and FEMA the way he was during Hurricane Katrina.) America is experiencing a polar ice cap and financial meltdown, causing sea levels to rise and sending cold water flooding into Wall Street where the rapidly acidifying ocean is corroding our 401(k)s and releasing mortgage securities full of hot air into the atmosphere until our every breath is full of CO2 especially when we exhale, which should be banned when children are present lest their uninsured health care be harmed by second-hand greenhouse gases that are causing endangerment of plant and animal species (Republicans are extinct already), leading to a shortage of green, leafy vegetables vital to the fight against America's growing epidemics of obese hunger and housing foreclosures on the homeless."

Investing in what doesn't work : "President Barack Obama, in discussing the $800 + billion economic stimulus package now working its way through Congress, promised that `we will invest in what works.' Well, if that's true, every piece of education spending - totaling a whopping $150 billion - in the mammoth stimulus bill should fall by the wayside. But isn't education one of the best public investments we could possibly make? After all, doesn't spending on education give our students the skills and knowledge they need not just to spur economic recovery, but long-term growth? No. More and better education may indeed be a good thing, but government spending doesn't give us that. What it gives us is more waste."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Still blogging!

The plastic surgeon took a larger lump than expected out of my skin so I am in a bit of pain but you can't keep a good blogger down!


BrookesNews Update

How the Obama-Bernanke monetary scheme could wreck the US economy : Bernanke has apparently come up with a monetary plan that will bring home the bacon for Obama. It will trigger an economic recovery while allowing Obama to satisfy the Democrats' toxic fetish for Big Government. Unfortunately for Americans, should Bernanke implement this monetary monstrosity the consequence for the economy could be extremely severe
Bernanke thinks he can use inflation to lower unemployment : Why is Bernanke so Blas‚ about the dangers of inflation? From August 2008 to 9 January he expanded the monetary base by a massive and unprecedented 107 per cent, thus laying down the foundations for an inflationary surge. The reason is that he believes he can use inflation to slash unemployment
Prime Minister Rudd launches attack on capitalism - and his rightwing critics crumble : Kevin Rudd's attack on what he calls 'Free-market fundamentalism' is the work of an utter economic illiterate, a man totally ignorant of economic history, the history of economic thought and of classical thinking. Nothing he said was correct. And the response of our fearless right was just what one would expect - pathetic
Why a carbon tax is a direct attack on living standards : A carbon tax would have a severe impact on living standards and industry. Electricity prices would be driven up to a level that would force a massive restriction in consumption. So-called 'clean alternatives' are grossly inefficient and would waste enormous amounts of capital
Obama's America: Our New Government At Work : Roll up! Roll up! The Obama Circus is in town! A once-in-a-lifetime experience - if you're lucky. The first spectacle is Six Dem clowns enjoying a Caribbean junket sponsored by Citigroup after Congress obligingly approved the $700 billion bailout of financial services firms. Roll up! Roll up! See the amazing Dems give the corrupt leftwing ACORN $5 billion of your money! And you've seen nothing yet! See the astonishing spectacle of patriotic Dems slashing defense spending in the name of defending the country! See Obama enter the lion's den in Tehran and get eaten alive! See the wondrous display of money fleeing US shores! Obama's Circus, the Greatest Show on Earth is in town!
Nancy Pelosi's neo-eugenics : Pelosi's views in their ugliest implication is directly linked to Margaret Sanger's eugenics movement of the 1920s. Sanger's 'Planned Parenthood' was just a horrifying euphemism designed among other goals to selectively prune certain populations by design along racial, gender, age, intelligence, physiological and socio-economic lines
Wishing President Obama success - why?: The 'change' Obama campaigned on and intends to make is not good for our capitalist and free market system, our constitutional law and government and certainly not good for America. Wherever socialism has been tried it has been a failure
America's enemies aiming to shoot across Obama's bow : Are America's enemies linking up to test Obama? It looks that way. If their assessment of Obama's mettle is on the button then the world is going to be an even more dangerous place
Who needs an education?: At the end of the day jobs come down to labour market regulation and the ability of employers to operate businesses without fear of interference from governments or trade unions. The best place to learn a job is on the job



Obama to announce limits on executive pay: "The Obama administration plans to mandate new executive pay limits on Wednesday for government-assisted financial institutions in a new get-tough approach to bankers and Wall Street. `If the taxpayers are helping you, then you've got certain responsibilities to not be living high on the hog,' President Barack Obama said in an interview Tuesday with `NBC Nightly News'." [Hard to disagree with that]

Wells Fargo defends, then reconsiders Vegas retreat : "Wells Fargo & Co. abruptly reconsidered a pricey Las Vegas casino junket Tuesday after a torrent of criticism that it was misusing $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money. The company initially defended the trip after The Associated Press reported the company had booked 12 nights at the Wynn Las Vegas and its sister hotel, the Encore Las Vegas, beginning Friday. But within hours lawmakers on Capitol Hill had scorned the bank, and the company said it was reconsidering. The conference is a Wells Fargo tradition. Previous years have included all-expense-paid helicopter rides, wine tasting, horseback riding in Puerto Rico and a private Jimmy Buffett concert in the Bahamas for more than 1,000 employees and guests."

SC: Idiot sheriff wastes taxpayer money "investigating" Phelps: "Authorities in the US will press criminal charges against Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps if an investigation proves he broke the law smoking marijuana. A spokesman for Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, known for his tough stance on drugs, said the department was investigating Phelps after a photograph surfaced showing him smoking a bong pipe."

US Senate votes to give a tax break to new car buyers : "The Senate voted Tuesday to give a tax break to new car buyers, setting aside bipartisan concerns over the size of an economic stimulus bill with a price tag edging above $900 billion. The 71-26 vote came as President Barack Obama said he lies awake nights worrying about the economy and signaled he'll try to knock out `buy American' provisions in the legislation to avoid a possible trade war."

Washington has no money to give : "Well, strictly speaking, the federal government has as much money as it wants, because it owns the exclusive right to print U.S. dollars. But that doesn't mean it possesses real assets or claims on income to back up the dollars it creates. Federal officials can expend real wealth on services or redistribute it to preferred beneficiaries only to the extent that it confiscates that real wealth from the people who originally created it. Washington can either confiscate the wealth today, by taxation, or confiscate it in the future by borrowing today and paying creditors with future taxes."

The stock market has little hope for Obama: "For those of you who haven't been paying attention to financial markets (which is probably somewhere between 0% and 2% of my readers), I'd like to point out that the Dow Jones was not only down 9% in January, but it's down 17% since the election of The Chosen One. . Financial markets aren't taken with the charisma of the Obamessiah. They don't see hope for profits or any change for the better."

Palaces for the bureaucrats : "Included in the massive stimulus bill that passed in the House of Representatives are several line items appropriations to renovate federal buildings in Washington. Included is $150 million to renovate a Smithsonian museum, $500 million for a new National Institutes of Health building, and $400 million for renovating a Social Security Administration building. For the renovation of the Social Security building, the agency estimates that the renovation will create 400 jobs. In other words, it will cost $1 million dollars for each job created."

Is classical liberalism selfish? : "One of the oddest criticisms of classical liberal political theory that one encounters is that libertarianism is inherently selfish. If we use the word 'selfish' as it is usually meant this is a most peculiar accusation. Liberalism, properly understood, is a political philosophy. As such it is not directed inward at all. It is an outward-directed set of ethics. What liberalism defines is the minimal obligations we owe others."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Possible Hiatus

I go in for yet more dermatological surgery later today. Such is the high quality of private medical services in Australia that I will be away from home for only about an hour but I do tend to get a bit depressed for a short while after such events so posting thereafter may be light for a day or two.


How Government Prolonged the Great Depression

Policies that decreased competition in product and labor markets were especially destructive

The goal of the New Deal was to get Americans back to work. But the New Deal didn't restore employment. In fact, there was even less work on average during the New Deal than before FDR took office. Total hours worked per adult, including government employees, were 18% below their 1929 level between 1930-32, but were 23% lower on average during the New Deal (1933-39). Private hours worked were even lower after FDR took office, averaging 27% below their 1929 level, compared to 18% lower between in 1930-32.

Even comparing hours worked at the end of 1930s to those at the beginning of FDR's presidency doesn't paint a picture of recovery. Total hours worked per adult in 1939 remained about 21% below their 1929 level, compared to a decline of 27% in 1933. And it wasn't just work that remained scarce during the New Deal. Per capita consumption did not recover at all, remaining 25% below its trend level throughout the New Deal, and per-capita nonresidential investment averaged about 60% below trend. The Great Depression clearly continued long after FDR took office.

Why wasn't the Depression followed by a vigorous recovery, like every other cycle? It should have been. The economic fundamentals that drive all expansions were very favorable during the New Deal. Productivity grew very rapidly after 1933, the price level was stable, real interest rates were low, and liquidity was plentiful. We have calculated on the basis of just productivity growth that employment and investment should have been back to normal levels by 1936. Similarly, Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas and Leonard Rapping calculated on the basis of just expansionary Federal Reserve policy that the economy should have been back to normal by 1935.

So what stopped a blockbuster recovery from ever starting? The New Deal. Some New Deal policies certainly benefited the economy by establishing a basic social safety net through Social Security and unemployment benefits, and by stabilizing the financial system through deposit insurance and the Securities Exchange Commission. But others violated the most basic economic principles by suppressing competition, and setting prices and wages in many sectors well above their normal levels. All told, these antimarket policies choked off powerful recovery forces that would have plausibly returned the economy back to trend by the mid-1930s

The most damaging policies were those at the heart of the recovery plan, including The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which tossed aside the nation's antitrust acts and permitted industries to collusively raise prices provided that they shared their newfound monopoly rents with workers by substantially raising wages well above underlying productivity growth. The NIRA covered over 500 industries, ranging from autos and steel, to ladies hosiery and poultry production. Each industry created a code of "fair competition" which spelled out what producers could and could not do, and which were designed to eliminate "excessive competition" that FDR believed to be the source of the Depression.

These codes distorted the economy by artificially raising wages and prices, restricting output, and reducing productive capacity by placing quotas on industry investment in new plants and equipment. Following government approval of each industry code, industry prices and wages increased substantially, while prices and wages in sectors that weren't covered by the NIRA, such as agriculture, did not. We have calculated that manufacturing wages were as much as 25% above the level that would have prevailed without the New Deal. And while the artificially high wages created by the NIRA benefited the few that were fortunate to have a job in those industries, they significantly depressed production and employment, as the growth in wage costs far exceeded productivity growth.

These policies continued even after the NIRA was declared unconstitutional in 1935. There was no antitrust activity after the NIRA, despite overwhelming FTC evidence of price-fixing and production limits in many industries, and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gave unions substantial collective-bargaining power. While not permitted under federal law, the sit-down strike, in which workers were occupied factories and shut down production, was tolerated by governors in a number of states and was used with great success against major employers, including General Motors in 1937.

The downturn of 1937-38 was preceded by large wage hikes that pushed wages well above their NIRA levels, following the Supreme Court's 1937 decision that upheld the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act. These wage hikes led to further job loss, particularly in manufacturing. The "recession in a depression" thus was not the result of a reversal of New Deal policies, as argued by some, but rather a deepening of New Deal polices that raised wages even further above their competitive levels, and which further prevented the normal forces of supply and demand from restoring full employment. Our research indicates that New Deal labor and industrial policies prolonged the Depression by seven years.

By the late 1930s, New Deal policies did begin to reverse, which coincided with the beginning of the recovery. In a 1938 speech, FDR acknowledged that the American economy had become a "concealed cartel system like Europe," which led the Justice Department to reinitiate antitrust prosecution. And union bargaining power was significantly reduced, first by the Supreme Court's ruling that the sit-down strike was illegal, and further reduced during World War II by the National War Labor Board (NWLB), in which large union wage settlements were limited by the NWLB to cost-of-living increases. The wartime economic boom reflected not only the enormous resource drain of military spending, but also the erosion of New Deal labor and industrial policies.

By 1947, through a combination of NWLB wage restrictions and rapid productivity growth, we have calculated that the large gap between manufacturing wages and productivity that emerged during the New Deal had nearly been eliminated. And since that time, wages have never approached the severely distorted levels that prevailed under the New Deal, nor has the country suffered from such abysmally low employment.

The main lesson we have learned from the New Deal is that wholesale government intervention can -- and does -- deliver the most unintended of consequences. This was true in the 1930s, when artificially high wages and prices kept us depressed for more than a decade, it was true in the 1970s when price controls were used to combat inflation but just produced shortages. It is true today, when poorly designed regulation produced a banking system that took on too much risk.

President Barack Obama and Congress have a great opportunity to produce reforms that do return Americans to work, and that provide a foundation for sustained long-run economic growth and the opportunity for all Americans to succeed. These reforms should include very specific plans that update banking regulations and address a manufacturing sector in which several large industries -- including autos and steel -- are no longer internationally competitive.

Tax reform that broadens rather than narrows the tax base and that increases incentives to work, save and invest is also needed. We must also confront an educational system that fails many of its constituents. A large fiscal stimulus plan that doesn't directly address the specific impediments that our economy faces is unlikely to achieve either the country's short-term or long-term goals.




Don't Push Banks to Make Bad Loans: "There is a widespread belief that banks are now refusing to lend as much as they should, and that Congress should pressure them to extend more credit to consumers and businesses. In reality, banks as a whole increased their lending during 2008 -- the notion they haven't is based on a misunderstanding of U.S. credit markets. Pressuring banks to lend more could backfire. As far as commercial banks go, Federal Reserve data released last week show that their lending increased 2.36% during the last quarter of 2008. For all of 2008, commercial-bank lending rose by $386 billion, or 5.63%, even as the economy slid into recession. Over that 12-month period, business lending jumped $152 billion, or 10.6%, real-estate loans were up $213 billion, or 5.9%, and consumer lending rose $73.5 billion, or 9%. Other categories of bank lending such as loans to farmers, broker-dealers and governments, declined $53.2 billion, or 5.4%. Fed data also show that during the first three quarters of 2008, the total amount of credit supplied to the economy increased $1.91 trillion, or 3.8%, with $540 billion of that amount coming from foreign lenders".

Stimulus: The power of names: "A well chosen name wins an argument by assuming its conclusion. Label cash subsidies to foreign government as `foreign aid' and who can be so hard hearted as to oppose them. Call subsidies to the public schools `aid to education' and you neatly skip over the question of whether additional spending in the public school system results in more education. Label something `pollution' and is no longer necessary to offer evidence that it is bad, since everyone knows pollution is bad - even thermal pollution, otherwise described as warm water. Occasionally we even get dueling names. Both `right to life' and `pro-choice' are obviously good things; how could anyone be against either? For a more recent example, consider Obama's economic policy. Everyone - including Obama, back when he was running for President - is against deficit spending. Relabel it 'stimulus' and everyone is for it."

Quarterly Exxon Obscene Profit Reality Check : "Yes...Exxon made a profit of $45 billion. Feign shock/disgust/outrage at the "obscene" profits if you want. But know this...your rage is aimed in the wrong direction. While Exxon was earning a $45 billion profit out of $477 billion of revenue...governments around the world were squeezing a profit of $116 billion out of that same revenue. Yes, that is right. According to the numbers, Exxon paid $116 billion is total taxes in 2008. That is a profit 2.5x the one that Exxon is supposedly guilty of earning. So if you think we need a 'Windfall Profit Tax" when it comes to oil profits, perhaps we should levy it on government, because no one made a bigger windfall than them....."

Australian terrorist leader gets 15 years: "The leader of a Melbourne-based terrorist cell has been sentenced to 15 years' jail. Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 48, of Dallas, was sentenced to a non-parole period of 12 years. He has already been in custody for 1184 days. Justice Bernard Bongiorno in the Supreme Court said a terrorist organisation led by Benbrika had been dedicated to the destruction of non-believers but the group had not planned specific attacks despite the evidence of a key prosecution witness. Benbrika became the first Australian to be convicted of leading a terrorist group last September, following the country's biggest terrorism trial that lasted seven months and cost tens of millions of dollars. The father-of-seven faced a maximum 25 years' prison for directing the terrorist group that the jury heard had discussed attacking Melbourne's Crown Casino and bombing the MCG. Benbrika was also convicted of possessing a compact disc connected to the preparation of a terrorist act... Benbrika used warped teachings of Islam to recruit his young followers and encourage them to wage violent jihad against "non-believers" in Australia. Justice Bongiorno said that, although the word jihad had many meanings in Islam, Benbrika used the term only to mean a violent attack by his group to advance the Islamic cause. He said Benbrika had admired Osama bin Laden and believed that killing people and destroying buildings was justified as it would help pressure the Australian Government into withdrawing troops from Iraq and leaving the American alliance. The court heard Benbrika had told one of his followers, Abdullah Merhi, not just to kill a few people but to "do a big thing"."

Attacks on Jews in Venezuela: "In the past, as today, several Venezuelan governments have expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian cause or the Palestinian people. However, since the events in Gaza that began on December 27 2008, the present government of Venezuela has adopted an aggressive and dangerous tone never previously heard, clearly inciting against the Jewish Community. The Government's supporters nationwide picked up on the Government's lead with clearly anti-Semitic expressions - with no effort whatsoever by Government to stop them. The expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador followed, and subsequently, a final breaking off of diplomatic relations. Furthermore, there is a well-orchestrated campaign on TV, radio, print and Internet media owned by the government, openly questioning Israel's right to exist, even including publication of such anti-Semitic materials as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A group of pro-government journalists is urging the population to boycott businesses owned by Jews in Venezuela."

The New England Cottontail Rabbit : "Most of the impacts on private property from the federal Endangered Species Act have occurred in the south and the west. This story notes that the New England cottontail rabbit isn't on the ESA's list of threatened or endangered species yet, largely due to workload issues at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Typically environmental activists sue to force such species on to the list, but not apparently not in this case. New England liberals have a much easier time supporting the draconian species laws when those laws don't have any impact on their own backyards. If and when the rabbit jumps onto the list and land use suddenly becomes a swirl of delays and expensive planning, lawsuits and devalued land, it will be interesting to see how the Congressmen from up north view the ESA then."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Asian influence in Australia

I originally wrote the post below for my personal blog but I think it has enough general interest to post here too. On some estimates, the population of Australia is now about 10% East Asian

As a conservative, I treat people primarily as individuals, regardless of any group to which they may or may not belong. I leave obsession with race and class to Leftists. From Marx up until shortly after the Hitlerian catastrophe, Leftists were very pro-racist. Now they are very anti-racist but the obsession with race remains. They seem unable to treat people as individuals and can only talk about people in terms of broad and very oversimplified categories.

But as well as being a conservative I am also a sociologist. An Australian government (NSW) paid me a lot of money over a 12 year period to teach it. And as they are nearly all Leftists, what is the chief interest of sociologists? Race and class! So I still mull those topics over in my head quite a lot -- with always in mind the one piece of wisdom I remember from my mother's incessant chatter: "There's good and bad in the lot".

I am, for instance, very pro-Indian; I think that Indians tend to have admirable characteristics. And being the forthright sort of person I am, I put my money where my mouth is and have mostly Indian sharers living with me in my large house. Usually, I even fly the flag of the Republic of India from the flagpole at the front of my house and have been known to greet Indians living here with Jai Hind ("Long live Hindustan")! And that orientation serves me well in that I am very satisfied with the people that I have living with me. But I have also kicked two Indians out. Even though I think Indians are mostly fine people there are some pesky ones too and I have no trouble treating them accordingly. There is good and bad in Indians too.

So on to my thoughts about East Asians and the Han Chinese in particular. I never cease to be amazed at how well Australians of Asian and British ancestry get on together in Australia. One sees Anglo/Asian couples around the place all the time: Older Australian men with Filipinas and younger Anglo-Australian men with Chinese ladies.

And I myself am quite Sinophilic as well as Indophilic. It is in a way fortunate that I am as I have two old friends who now live in China with Chinese wives. And another old friend has a Japanese lady in his life. I myself however have never got involved with East Asian women, though I did once have an Indian girlfriend. My son however has a girlfriend with Han ancestry and has Chinese friends as well. There are all sorts of background differences and some genetic differences between Anglo-Australians and Chinese but at the individual level there is also often a great appreciation of one another. One can only applaud that. And my conclusion is that the differences between East Asians and Anglo-Celts are complementary: Each has strengths where the other has weaknesses and vice versa. But I might tread on toes all round if I went further into that thought.

The present revival of this theme in my thinking was provoked by a visit from China by one of my old friends, Croucher. He arrived in Brisbane yesterday with his Chinese wife and his two very impressive Eurasian sons. So we all went to dinner together with the Henninghams. Henningham, Croucher and I have a friendship that goes back many years. We always refer to one another by surname only, indicating a sort of jolly friendship, I suppose.

Perhaps in need of a change off Chinese food, Croucher wanted some Middle-Eastern food. So we went to a Turkish restaurant near where I live. Parking around there there is either very difficult or very expensive so I crammed us all into my 1963 Humber Super Snipe and delivered everybody to the door of the restaurant in that. The Humber has bench seats front and back so can transport more people than many modern cars.

I was feeling a bit depressed due to my upcoming minor surgery but fortunately everyone else was in good form with nonsense being talked for most of the night. We did however have occasional serious moments in which we agreed, for instance, that global warming was a great steaming heap of ... Henningham, Croucher and I constantly talk bantering nonsense to one another in emails -- which we greatly enjoy doing -- but it was best of all to do so in person, of course. All three of us are academics so there is also occasionally some academic talk between us but not much.

But it is still a little surprising to me that wherever I go there is a Han presence -- a presence that seems to be completely harmonious. At the classical music group I go to there are almost always Chinese performers giving renditions of Western classsical music to a very high standard; and at the recent annual gathering of my relatives on my mother's side there was also a Han presence: A cousin once removed is married to a Chinese lady and has attractive Eurasian children. I actually now have relatives with Han ancestry!

So if only all minorities fitted in as well here as the East Asians do! Australia is indeed lucky that its largest visible minority is East Asian -- people whom I see as generally patient, clever, flexible individuals who work hard and contribute greatly to the community as a whole. They are not saints (though their rate of crime is very low) but they do seem to fit in with the rest of us remarkably well. And anyone who values social ease and harmony will value that.



Baby chimps are as bright as human infants: "Chimpanzees have long been known for their ability to mimic humans. Now scientists have found that baby chimps' mental development can even be more advanced than children of the same age. At nine months, the animals are just as curious and capable of recognising carers and familiar objects as the average baby. When compared with infants kept in isolated conditions in orphanages, the animals are even more advanced. The scientists who carried out the research believe their research also provides valuable evidence that chimpanzees, like humans, thrive on social interaction. The more intimate their contact with their carers, the faster their brains develop. Chimpanzees share about 96% of their DNA with humans. An adult chimp's level of intelligence has been likened to that of a three-year-old child. The new research shows that in their early lives, they develop along similar lines to people before humans race ahead." [I have looked at some of the more embarrassing aspects of this previously]

`Jimmy Carter' tag has Obama wincing: "Less than two weeks into his administration, President Barack Obama is being portrayed by opponents as a new Jimmy Carter - weak at home and naive abroad - in an attempt to dim his post-election glow and ensure that he serves only one term. The charge has stung because it was made privately by Hillary Clinton supporters during a hard-fought primary campaign and plays to fears about Obama's inexperience. He is engaged in early trials of strength with Republicans in Washington and critics of the United States around the world - not least Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president. Obama faces battles to talk Wall Street into giving up its addiction to large bonuses and US banks to start lending again. "Barack Obama thinks he can charm his adversaries into changing their ways but his personality can't change the dynamics," said Tom Edmonds, a Republican consultant. "Carter [president from 1977 to 1981] had the same belief in naive symbolism. Their styles are very different but the political similarities are there." The Republicans are in fighting mood after Obama failed to secure a single vote on their side for his $819 billion financial stimulus package in the House of Representatives, despite intensive wooing. The bill came laden with spending on Democratic pet projects, including $50m for the arts and $400m for global warming research that critics said had little to do with boosting the economy. It also contains "buy American" protectionist provisions that have alarmed trading partners, including Britain."

$646,214 per government job: "House Democrats propose to spend $550 billion of their two-year, $825 billion 'stimulus bill' (the rest of it being tax cuts). Most of the spending is unlikely to be timely or temporary. Strangely, most of it is targeted toward sectors of the economy where unemployment is the lowest. The December unemployment rate was only 2.3% for government workers and 3.8% in education and health. Unemployment rates in manufacturing and construction, by contrast, were 8.3% and 15.2% respectively. Yet 39% of the $550 billion in the bill would go to state and local governments. Another 17.3% would go to health and education - sectors where relatively secure government jobs are also prevalent. If the intent of the plan is to alleviate unemployment, why spend over half of the money on sectors where unemployment is lowest?"

An interesting statement from a former Leftist: "Why am I no longer a Leftist? Because - in my advancing age - I have become responsible. And honest. And true. And unafraid to stand alone alongside anything else in the universe. Nobody is going to tell me - ever again - what to think or how to think it. Nobody is going to speak for me - on my behalf - without my explicit permission. Nobody is going to make me run away, except myself. Nobody is going to plant guilt upon me, except myself. And nobody - but nobody - is going to overpower me. Some of us are far more susceptible to conditioning than others. I have often thought how pleasant it must be to be one of them. But some of us have no choice. We are stuck with our ability to perceive, to be aware, to know our own hearts and minds. We do not stay outside the herd by choice, but because there is no place for us in the herd. And herds can be dangerous places, even for those that inhabit them. It is so very easy to get trampled underfoot as they hurtle towards - and over - the cliff."

Obama grants CIA permission to retain right to carry out renditions: "The banner headlines greeting President Obama's decision to close the detention centre at Guant namo Bay and secret CIA prisons may have concealed how he has retained one of the most controversial weapons in the War on Terror. Under executive orders signed on January 22, the CIA appears to have preserved its authority to carry out renditions - by which hundreds of terrorist suspects have been abducted and transferred to prisons in countries with questionable human rights records such as Egypt, Morocco or Jordan. The measure, disclosed by the Los Angeles Times yesterday, gives some indication of how Mr Obama's promise of change may be slower to be realised than once hoped, with the new Administration coming under concerted attack across a range of issues. An administration official was quoted yesterday defending rendition. "Obviously you need to preserve some tools. You still have to go after the bad guys," said the official. "It is controversial in some circles. But if done within certain parameters, it is acceptable." The European Parliament has condemned renditions, some of which have involved flights with stopovers in British territory, as illegal under international law."

The right stimulus : "What the Democrats have done is write down every single item on their liberal wish list, append dollar amounts next to the items seemingly at random, and call it 'stimulus.' The president wanted the bill to be free of pet projects and include business tax cuts. But no one told Pelosi's appopriators. They are using the current troubles to push through a decades-old domestic policy agenda. The spending - $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $400 million for global warming studies - demonstrates that the bill has no overarching logic. Which makes it a major disappointment. Almost everybody agrees that the economy is a mess and that fiscal policy might help tidy things up. But $6.2 billion for `home weatherization?' The problem with the House plan is that it is ineffective even on Keynesian grounds."

The optimum government : ""Over the last few decades, many economists have done studies on the `optimum' size of government. A new study just completed shows the optimum size of government is less than 25 percent of GDP. Optimum is defined as that point just before government becomes so large as to reduce the rate of economic growth and job creation. Governments are created to protect people and property. A government too small to establish the rule of law and protect people and their property from both foreign and domestic enemies is less than optimal."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Monday, February 2, 2009

"Cuba to attend Human Rights Council with head held high"

Psychologists have known since the work of LaPiere in the 1930s that there is often a very large gap between what people say and what they do. The report below from the official organ of the government of Cuba, however, must be one of the more amusing examples of such a gap

CUBA is to attend the Universal Periodic review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council with its head held high and a clean conscience, given its work in favor of human rights for all Cuban men and women, affirmed Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, during a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). He described as intense and genuinely participative the drafting of the island's national report to the UPR, the text of which is available on the Cubaminrex and Cubadebate websites and is to be published in tabloid format.

The process involved many state institutions and 200-plus of the island's NGO'S, as well as 150 from other countries, which submitted their contributions to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He explained that Cuba is taking on this exercise, scheduled for February 5, with all seriousness and a sense of responsibility, convinced that respectful dialogue, based on the principles of objectivity, impartiality and non-selectiveness, is the only way for international cooperation on human rights issues.

The foreign minister also referred to the anti-Cuba mandate imposed on the former Human Rights Commission, whose elimination, he stated, has made it possible to qualitatively intensify our cooperation with the mechanisms applied in this context on non-discriminatory bases; and which was an act of essential justice toward our people, as well as a recognition of the prestige and the work of the Revolution in protecting and promoting human rights for all.

Perez Roque also announced that, next week, Cuba is to extend an invitation to Manfred Novak, special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as part of the country's disposition to continue relating to the Council's special procedures. In the same press conference the minister announced the upcoming ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, in a country in which "in the last 50 years, there has not even been one disappeared or tortured person, and not one extra-judicial execution," he noted.

Cuba is party to 41 of the most important human rights treaties or conventions, and last year signed the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, currently moving through the ordinary procedure of constitutional consultation. Cuba is sending reports to the Committees on the Rights of the Child and on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and is likewise working on its report to the Committee against Torture, which should be ready for submission at the end of March.



Another gross FEMA failure -- but it is not the President's fault this time

It's only the fault of the President if he is a Republican

Where is FEMA? That's the question rural southerners are asking. Or would be asking if their lips weren't frozen shut. At least 42 people have died, including 11 in Kentucky, and conditions are worsening in many places days after an ice storm knocked out power to 1.3 million customers from the Plains to the East Coast. About a million people were still without electric Friday, and with no hope that the lights will come back on soon, small communities are frantically struggling to help their residents.

The death toll may be higher already, Grayson County Emergency Management Director Randell Smith indicates there are many people they just haven't been able to get to. "We don't even know that they're alive," said Smith, who also indicated that the National Guard showed up without even chainsaws to clear fallen trees from the roads.

Across the stricken area, local officials are increasingly upset at the lack of assistance from the Federal Government. As Tim Blair puts it, "according to the Katrina template, this is all Obama's fault." Right, Kanye?

FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak said that some FEMA people are getting out into the state, but indicated that they are hampered by icy and dangerous conditions. So, just so we are clear Mary, the ice emergency is hard to help with because its all icy? The worst hit areas are poor rural counties. You know, the kind full of bitter people clinging to guns and religion. I reckon they're clinging to them right now. Facing freezing to death alone in the country no doubt puts one's mind to prayer. More from the AP:
Even for those who wanted to leave, it wasn't possible. The one gas station in Marion that was up and running was able to supply gasoline to emergency vehicles only until another delivery of gasoline arrived Friday. Only half of that gas was made available to the public, and there was a $10 limit. Linda Young, who is staying the town's shelter, said her car only had enough gas in it to get around Marion. Even if she had gas, there was nowhere to go - all of her relatives in other parts of Kentucky also were hit by the ice storm.

They are trapped, huddled in shelters, and wondering what's next. But hey, the governor said Obama called him and was all, you know, worried. So it's not like he's not doing anything. I wonder if the President told the Governor that Kentuckians should "toughen up"? Is "flinty" a synonym for grossly insensitive? It would, of course, be despicable to suggest the President isn't helping because of the race and income levels of the majority of the victims. Although as Jeff Emanuel notes, it's been known to happen.




How British. Huge rewards for huge incompetence: "Dozens of staff at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) have been offered early-release payoffs worth up to 240,000 pounds after a secret Whitehall report found its work was being undermined by alleged cronyism and incompetence. The SFO, which received 42m from the government last year to tackle Bernie Madoff-style fraud, has offered many of its lawyers and accountants gold-plated pensions and lump-sum payoffs, in some cases worth three times their salary. The move follows a confidential review of the agency by Jessica de Grazia, a former US prosecutor, who found a widespread perception of cronyism where staff believed the agency was "a bit of an old boy's club". The unpublished report, seen by The Sunday Times, said staff were promoted because they were "nice". Some employees felt this was because they were "friends of the [then] director". SFO officials said it was "like a rudderless ship [with] the blind leading the blind". John Lawson, head of Standard Life pensions, said the payoffs were "an offer to die for".

Britain's crooked Lords: "Peers who avoid tax or have criminal convictions - such as Lord Archer and Lord Black - are to be expelled from the House of Lords in the wake of the lords for hire scandal. The reforms are being drawn up by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, in an attempt to restore the Lords' battered reputation after last weekend's revelations in The Sunday Times. He plans to enact the legislation necessary to expel them before the general election, which has to be held by May next year. Peers who are "non-domiciled" or "non-resident" for tax purposes - there are thought to be at least seven - will lose their seats, as will those who have been convicted of a serious criminal offence. Our disclosures that Labour peers were prepared to amend laws in the Lords on behalf of businesses has lifted the lid on the frenetic business activity in the second chamber... Our inquiries have established that other peers are routinely attempting to change legislation that would favour companies and organisations which pay them. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Baroness Royall, Labour leader in the Lords, said the system was "bananas". [Most members are now political hacks appointed by the government so this was to be expected]

British police 'ran away' from jeering Muslim demonstrators: "Video footage posted on a website shows police officers running way from chanting demonstrators who took part in a violent protest in London against Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip. The ten-minute amateur film shows 30 officers being chased by a crowd of up to 3,000 people who broke away from an official protest march last month. The video, posted on YouTube, shows protesters chanting 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greatest) and 'Fatwa', a death threat under Islamic law. As they walk past St James's Palace, demonstrators throw traffic cones and stones at the police, who are seen running away from the threat before turning to walk backwards. One demonstrator shouts: 'Run, run, you cowards. Run, you poof. Allahu Akbar.'"

More on the decay of British policing: "The anonymous blogging policeman records that officers are visiting areas with high vehicle crime and identifying vulnerable vehicles. They attach a sticker to the windscreen informing the owner that there is some kind of insecurity. They even tick a box telling the owner how the vehicle is insecure. This marks out the vulnerable cars for thieves and helpfully informs them how to proceed. As the blogger says: "This is quite the maddest scheme in British policing." I certainly hope so. I sadly suspect not."

The British car industry, the bailout and the taxpayer : "On Wednesday, UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson went some way in bailing out the carmakers by giving them credit, though you might think that it was too much credit that got us all into this mess in the first place, but put that aside for one moment. The real issue is where this cash is going to come from. Our leaders like to suggest that it's just some bookkeeping entry at the Bank, but every pound lent to a potential car customer has to come from somewhere. And indeed, it comes from taxpayers. Hairdressers in Harwich have to pay higher taxes so that Sloane Rangers can buy a new Jag or a new Lexus. Yes, that could save lots of jobs, possibly thousands, in carmaking. But only by putting jobs under threat everywhere else."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


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


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bailout hypocrisy

Everyone is talking about how much money the government is spending, but very little attention is being paid to where they are spending it or what they are buying with it. The government is putting money into banks, even when the banks don't want it, in hopes that the banks will put it into circulation. But the latest statistics shows that banks are lending even less money now than they were before the government dumped all that cash on them. Even if it had worked, putting cash into banks, in hopes that they would put it into circulation, seems a rather roundabout way of doing things, especially when the staggering sums of money involved are being justified as an "emergency" measure.

Spending money for infrastructure is another time-consuming way of dealing with what is called an immediate crisis. Infrastructure takes forever to plan, debate, and go through all sorts of hearings and adjudications, before getting approval to build from all the regulatory agencies involved. Out of $355 billion newly appropriated, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only $26 billion will be spent this fiscal year and only $110 billion by the end of 2010. Using long, drawn-out processes to put money into circulation to meet an emergency is like mailing a letter to the fire department to tell them that your house is on fire.

If you cut taxes tomorrow, people would have more money in their next paycheck, and it would probably be spent by the time they got that paycheck, through increased credit card purchases beforehand. If all this sound and fury in Washington was about getting an economic crisis behind us, tax cuts could do that a lot faster.

None of this is rocket science. And Washington politicians are not all crazy, even if sometimes it looks that way. Often, what they say makes no sense because what they claim to be doing is not what they are actually doing. No matter how many times President Barack Obama tells us that these "extraordinary times" call for "swift action," the kind of economic policies he is promoting take effect very slowly, no matter how quickly the legislation is rushed through Congress. It is the old Army game of hurry up and wait.

If the Beltway politicians aren't really trying to solve this crisis as quickly as they could, what are they trying to do? One important clue may be a recent statement by President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, that "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste." This is the kind of cynical revelation that sometimes slips out, despite all the political pieties and spin. Crises have long been seen as great opportunities to expand the federal government's power while the people are too scared to object and before any opposition can get organized. That is why there is such haste to do things that will take effect slowly.



Obama is watching you

Or some of his acolytes are with his permission

Back when he was campaigning for president, Barack Obama's skillful use of Web 2.0 technologies such as Facebook and YouTube enabled him to get his message out to new audiences of voters in an unprecedented fashion. But using the same technologies in his new role as president is already proving to be more controversial.

Not even 10 days into Obama's presidency, some privacy advocates are expressing concern about a White House decision permitting the use of persistent Internet cookies in YouTube video files embedded on the redesigned Web site. Letting third-party cookies be placed on the site is a deviation from established executive-branch policy that leaves site visitors open to being tracked and profiled without their knowledge, the privacy advocates claim.

In a letter mailed Tuesday to White House Counsel Gregory Craig (download PDF), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) questioned a waiver that was issued by Craig's office concerning the use of cookies on the site. The waiver, which is now part of the site's modified privacy policy allows the use of persistent cookies by "some third-party providers to help maintain the integrity of video statistics."



The wonderful power of regulation again

Once again we see that the principal function of regulators is to give people a false sense of security while they are being ripped off

An Indiana financial manager who parachuted from a small plane in a suspected bid to fake his death handled lucrative accounts in several states for years despite repeated accusations that he was bilking investors. Regulators in at least three states were warned about Marcus Schrenker, in one case as early as 2002. But it took nearly seven years - and suspected losses reaching into the millions of dollars - before Indiana launched a criminal investigation of Mr. Schrenker, whose high-flying lifestyle included planes, luxury cars and a 10,000-square-foot home. Officials say he deliberately switched his licensing from state to state to create confusion about who should have been watching him.

Mr. Schrenker's wife filed for divorce Dec. 30, a day before Indiana police served a search warrant on his home and office, seizing computers, tubs full of financial documents and evidence of recent document shredding. This was within days of his loss of a $533,000 judgment to an insurance company.

With his personal and financial woes mounting, Mr. Schrenker, 38, bailed out of his plane Jan. 11 near Birmingham, Ala., and sped away on a motorcycle. The plane, left on autopilot, continued for another 200 miles before crashing near homes in the Florida panhandle.

On Jan. 13, Mr. Schrenker was arrested at a Florida campground where a suspected suicide attempt left him hospitalized with a self-inflicted gash to a wrist. He was released Sunday from a Tallahassee hospital. Mr. Schrenker was being held Monday in the Escambia County Jail, though a court date had not been set. Federal court records did not list an attorney for him.

Felony charges from his financial dealings are pending in Indiana, where authorities have frozen Mr. Schrenker's assets and those of his wife. He also faces nearly $9 million in potential and actual judgments and legal claims, some filed in other states, on complaints that he failed to refund unwarranted commissions and charged exorbitant fees. "That guy's house of cards is falling rapidly," said Charles Kinney, an airline pilot from Atlanta who has made formal complaints that Mr. Schrenker scammed up to $135,000 from his parents' retirement fund. "We knew this day was coming."

Authorities in Indiana and Georgia have received at least nine complaints since 2002 against Mr. Schrenker and his companies - Icon Wealth Management, Heritage Wealth Management and Heritage Insurance Services. A financial industry regulatory group says there were two other complaints filed in 2001.

Georgia's insurance department worked with five people who filed complaints over Mr. Schrenker's handling of annuities - including charging exorbitant "surrender fees" the investors didn't know they'd face - starting in late 2006, said spokesman Glenn Allen. The department eventually obtained $2.5 million in refunds for the investors, working with insurance companies that issued those annuities.



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