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Thursday, July 29, 2010

YouTube - Milton Friedman Puts A Young Michael Moore In His Place

Oil Spill Damage Exaggerated? The Microbes Ate It Edition

Remember when Obama called the BP oil spill "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced"? Well, according to this article, the damage has been largely exaggerated. Among other reasons, storm winds have helped evaporate the oil, and balmy temperatures help bacteria break it down. According to the article:

Marine scientist Ivor Van Heerden, another former LSU prof who's working for a spill response contractor, says "there's just no data to suggest this is an environmental disaster. I have no interest in making BP look good — I think they lied about the size of the spill — but we're not seeing catastrophic impacts," says Van Heerden, who, like just about everyone else working in the Gulf these days, is being paid out of BP's spill response funds. "There's a lot of hype, but no evidence to justify it."
As the following cartoon illustrates, there is evidence to justify labeling another event a catastrophe.

Victory for Free Speech

Fortunately, the DISCLOSE ACT, which I wrote about here, has died. Debra J. Saunders provides a decent recap of the bill in her op-ed, A Shameless Charade on Disclosure. She writes:
The Senate Democrats' "Disclose" Act - "Disclose" stands for "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections" - represents perhaps the baldest, if failed, power grab attempted this year. But you wouldn't guess it from reading news stories about the bill...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gov. Christie: "Treat People Like Adults"

I don't completely agree with his characterization of the problem, but I'm becoming a huge fan of NJ Gov. Chris Christie. Check this out.

The Onion: "Religion...has never let us down"

I loved this hilarious Onion article on how thankful people of the Middle East are for religion. Excerpt:
"Religion is the one thing that has never let us down," Taheri added over the low rumble of AK-47 fire emanating from the nearby home of a radical Israeli rabbi.

Taheri is not alone. In a time of seemingly unending conflict between Israelis and Arabs, a growing number of Middle Easterners are fervently embracing the unshakeable wisdom of Judaism and Islam.

Palestinian Omar Abdel-Malik, a resident of the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, credits his Islamic beliefs for preserving his sanity.

"The Israelis have fired missile upon missile on my neighborhood, but it has only made my trust in Allah that much stronger," Abdel-Malik said. "I cringe to think where the people of the Middle East would be right now if it weren't for our steadfast belief in one true, merciful, and loving Supreme Being."

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Democrat's War on Free Speech, Immediate Threat

In the next day, the U.S. Senate is set to vote on the so-called DISCLOSE Act which I discussed here. Even the ACLU and Sierra Club oppose this bill. The ACLU states:
The Senate today and tomorrow will debate a campaign finance bill that includes disclosure requirements that raise significant civil liberties concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union is urging senators to vote against the bill because those disclosure requirements are overly broad and inconsistent and will likely infringe upon the free speech and privacy rights of Americans.
Here are some more details on the bill. You can urge your Senator to vote NO on this bill here. This bill is part of a larger movement by the left to overthrow free speech in America which I recently discussed here.

Frezza: "When Will the U.S. Go the Way of Rome?"

Excellent piece by Bill Frezza.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Britain Runs Out of Health Care, but Walmart Doesn't Run Out of Shampoo

Here is a shocker that could never have been predicted: A health care system relying on government bureaucrats, who are not motivated by profit but only maintaining their cushy government jobs, results in layers of bureaucracy and inefficiency, while customers expecting "free" health care cause demand and costs to spiral out of control. Intransigent socialist central planners then demand more power and money to solve the catastrophe they have caused, believing that there is some way somehow to transcend logic and the nature of reality...and a new surfeit of regulations, bureaucrats, and funding, seem to make the problem only worse, which causes them to ask for more power and money, ad infinitum...

Of course, the resounding successes of public education, public housing, public roads, public mail, and public toilets are proof positive that such a scenario could never actually happen, right? Well, you will be surprised to learn that the British government is now aiming to decentralize their disastrous system of socialized medicine, in place since 1948. The New York Times reports:
Perhaps the only consistent thing about Britain’s socialized health care system is that it is in a perpetual state of flux, its structure constantly changing as governments search for the elusive formula that will deliver the best care for the cheapest price while costs and demand escalate.
Apparently, the current version of this "elusive formula" relies on 150 "primary care trusts" which control a $160 Billion budget and mete out health care rations to doctors and the public. The new plan would substantially change this approach:
Practical details of the plan are still sketchy. But its aim is clear: to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers.

The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government’s goal to effect $30 billion in “efficiency savings” in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost because layers of bureaucracy would be abolished.

Isn't it amazing that McDonald's seems to know just how many hamburgers to have on hand? Isn't it amazing that Walmart seems to have just enough shampoo, toothpaste, and shaving cream on hand? Isn't it amazing that you can be driving in the middle of nowhere, stop at a gas station, and the Coca-Cola company has somehow managed to have a cooler full of soft drinks on hand which you can purchase for a few cents? Have you ever walked into one of these stores and been directed to a representative of a Primary Drink or Primary Shampoo Trust who determines whether you really need these products and decides how much, what brand, and even more important, when you will receive them? Have you ever been encouraged by the company not to buy their product or to only buy a very limited amount?

Perhaps the British and those supporters of socialized medicine in America should ponder those questions, and consider why it is that freedom and capitalism are the solution, not the problem. And, when they say, "but health care is different, socialized medicine is the right thing to do", they should re-consider their own code of morality and ask why there should be a dichotomy between the moral and the practical.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stone vs. Brook

I randomly read two articles in a row, and it struck me that they almost perfectly serve to clarify two sides in a profound debate. The first article was related to Oliver Stone's claim that various American industries should be nationalized a la socialist dictator Hugo Chavez, the subject of his recent fawning propaganda film. The second article was an op-ed by Yaron Brook, Atlas Shrugged's Timeless Moral: Profit-Making Is Virtue, Not Vice, and provides an eloquent overview of the central theme of Ayn Rand's magnum opus. Also, last fall, in one of my favorite posts, Chavez, Jones, and Obama: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions and Red Carpet, I wrote about Stone's documentary, Chavez, Obama, Van Jones, and some of the underlying philosophical issues that explain and unite these characters.

The debate is over the question of capitalism versus socialism, individual freedom versus totalitarian dictatorship, or life versus death. You be the judge.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How the Government is Causing Unemployment

Although the official unemployment rate stands at about 9.5%, more realistic and accurate assessments put the number at closer to 20-30% (notwithstanding the ridiculous claims of the Obama administration). What is causing unemployment? After all, have people run out of ideas to improve their lives? Have all human desires vanished? Does no one wish to innovate and produce? Is there no work left for the human race to perform? In a previous post, I stated:

If you have one million television sets and you want to sell them but no one wants to buy them, what should you do? If you want to sell your home, but no one wants to buy it, what should you do? If you want to work, but no one will hire you, what should you do?

If you said: "LOWER THE ASKING PRICE!," then you would be likely to sell TVs, sell your home, and find a job.

In other words, when something doesn't sell, like televisions or labor, the reason is that either no one wants it at all or the price is too high. Since human wants have not suddenly vanished, and people want to work, the only reason is that the cost of employment is too high. When there is massive, chronic unemployment, it means that the cost of labor must fall in order to encourage businesses to hire. But why is the cost of labor so high? Can't someone just offer to work for a little less? In a statist economy, the short answer is no.

First of all, by extending unemployment benefits, the government is paying people not to work. Therefore, people who are receiving benefits are not being encouraged to offer less for their labor. However, even if the government were not paying these benefits, and these people wanted to offer less, they could only do so up to a point. Why?

Say, for example, that the government decreed that the minimum wage shall be $1 million per hour. Progressives like Obama and Nancy Pelosi might jump for joy since they would believe that all workers would become millionaires by working for one hour. Of course, such a law would not make anyone a millionaire. It would simply put every business out of business (except maybe film making and professional basketball). Firms simply could not afford to hire anyone at this rate.

For a less extreme example, let's say that a business can afford to put $50 into labor given all other costs and revenue. At $5 per hour, a business can afford to hire 10 workers. If the minimum wage is raised to $10 per hour, then the business can only afford to hire 5 workers. This is why minimum wage laws cause unemployment. These laws make it impossible for workers and employers to contract for services below the statutory rate. To the extent that the prevailing wage for a given job is above the minimum wage rate, the law is not a factor, however, for jobs at the lowest end of the spectrum, these laws cause chronic and persistent unemployment, since no one will pay someone more than a job is worth.

It should also be pointed out that this sudden increase in unemployment, currently being experienced, is a side effect of the boom-bust cycle caused by the government's manipulation of the money supply. The inflationary boom period, caused by excessive credit and money creation, leads to misallocations of capital, that is, investments in unsound business ventures that appear to be profitable only because of the inflation (see the housing market). When the inflation stops, prices fall, and these unsound investments must be liquidated. As businesses and individuals raise their cash levels and pay down debt, spending slows, further exacerbating the slow down and causing widespread bankruptcies, which in turn, puts downward pressure on prices and wages. The recession or depression, depending on the severity, is the process of the economy recovering as equilbrium is restored. To the extent that wages and prices do not fall, by virtue of government policy, chronic unemployment and stagnation will result. This is exactly what happened in the Great Depression of the 1930's as the government "encouraged" employers not to reduce wages. The result was massive unemployment (see The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression, by Robert Murphy). The blame for this cycle, in the first place, must be squarely placed on government's policy of continual fiat currency inflation. Secondarily, minimum wage laws, in addition to other forms of legislation, and the Fed's monetary policy, restrict wages from falling, either by direct fiat, by propping up failing businesses, or through further inflation which hides and prolongs unsound investments. These government policies turn what would be a short, severe recession, followed by a return to prosperity, into a chronic depression with no end in sight.

While the wage "rate" is crucial, it is important to point out that it is not the only cost to employing persons, nor is it the only consideration when deciding whether to expand a business. In a recent post at TheEconomicCollapseBlog.com, titled No Jobs, the author notes:

[T]he question not enough people are asking is why so many jobs are being lost. Yes, the large global corporations have been sending millions of jobs overseas where labor is far, far cheaper. And yes, the U.S. government has accumulated so much debt that it is absolutely suffocating the U.S. economy. But there is another very important factor that has been largely overlooked. Traditionally, about 75 percent of all new jobs are created by small businesses. But today, hundreds of thousands of small businesses are being strangled out of existence by all of the oppressive taxes, fees, rules, regulations, paperwork and demands that government keeps imposing on them. In such a repressive environment, it is getting close to impossible for small businesses to thrive, and if our small businesses can't succeed, then we simply are not going to see a lot of jobs being created.[emphasis mine]

This tends to effect small businesses disproportionately since larger corporations can better deal with the red tape. He notes:

When it comes to hiring new employees, the federal government has made the process so complicated and so expensive for small businesses that it is hardly worth it anymore. Things have gotten so bad that more small businesses than ever are only hiring part-time workers or independent contractors.

So what we actually have now is a situation where small businesses have lots of incentives not to hire more workers, and if they really do need some extra help the rules make it much more profitable to do whatever you can to keep from bringing people on as full-time employees.

Besides strangling small business with endless costs and regulations, on a larger scale, the government is doing everything in its power to discourage business for firms both big and small. Bill Frezza notes:

The Obama Administration has taken to the hustings to promote its plan to create jobs by ratcheting up federal spending, paying people to stay out of work longer, dishing out billions in subsidies to refugees from the collapsing solar industry in Spain, and terrorizing companies that produce jobs by increasing regulatory uncertainty. Oh, and don't forget jacking up taxes.

Does this make sense to you?

All of this has caused corporate America to go on strike, sitting on an estimated two trillion dollars in cash. Businesses refuse to invest fearing they'll be trashed when Barney Frank has some inspired thought at 2am and sticks some devastating provision in the next abomination working its way through the Congressional sausage

In other words, when it is not clear what the law will be tomorrow, how much you will pay in taxes, how much you will be forced to pay for employee medical insurance, which pet project of which government agency will be funded, whether you will pay more or less for energy, what type of energy will be available, whether you will be sued under some newly discovered provision of a thousand page bill, whether you are in compliance with any of thousands of different regulations enforced by vicious bureaucrats from hundreds of different agencies, whether some new regulations will suddenly upend your industry or subject you to massive liability, whether governments will pay back their debts, whether they will pay back their debts by debasing the currency (printing money) leading to massive inflation, whether the state will offer bail outs to favored industries, etc., is it any surprise that companies are simply doing nothing?

Consider just this list of taxes set to take effect on January 1, 2011, compiled by Ryan Ellis in his article, Six Months to Go Before the Largest Tax Hikes in History, and ask how anyone could be optimistic about expanding a business in this anti-business milieu? Quoting No Jobs:

My small business-owning friends aren't creating one job. Not one. They are shedding jobs. They are learning to do more with fewer employees. They are creating high-tech businesses that don't need employees. And many business owners are making plans to leave the country. In a high-tech world where businesses can be run from anywhere, Obama has a problem. His one-trick pony -- raise taxes, raise taxes, raising taxes -- is chasing away the business owners he desperately needs to pay his bills.

The U.S. government has become like the 500 pound fat guy who jumps on a horse and then gets angry when it won't move.

Passing even more ridiculous regulations and raising taxes even higher is not going to fix business in America.

The government is at war with American business and businessmen are shrugging. So what is the solution? Is it more stifling regulations, more confiscatory taxes, more government spending and debt, more robbing Peter to pay Paul? Absolutely not.

The solution is economic freedom. The government should unshackle and unleash the American entrepreneur by acknowledging and restoring the preconditions to prosperity: the protection of individual rights, as understood by our Founding Fathers, and a system of laissez-faire capitalism. Rather than terrorizing and threatening businessmen, producers, and innovators, the government should be protecting and celebrating the individual's right to pursue his own profit and happiness. At a minimum, this would entail upholding the rule of law, including the sanctity of contracts and the protection of property rights. It would mean minimizing burdensome regulations, ending subsidies and government guarantees, reducing budget deficits by cutting spending, cutting taxes, and pursuing a course of sound money and low inflation.

Unemployment is not natural. In a free society, anyone wishing to work, produce, and innovate has infinite capacity to do so. Who would stop them - except a government?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is "Obamanomics" Working?

Say that an intruder breaks into your house and shoots you in the stomach. He then robs you, but at the last minute, as he scurries away, he forgets to cut your phone line. This misstep enables you to crawl to the phone and call an ambulance, which rushes you to the hospital where your life is saved. Would it be fair to conclude that the robber saved your life?

If you think that argument would be ridiculous, because it ignores the fact that the robber shot you in the first place and that you only survived because he didn't fully implement his original plan, consider that this is exactly the form of argument made by those who claim the Federal Reserve and "Obamanomics" deserve credit for "saving the economy." Businessweek's April cover story,
Obama's Hot Hand: Why the Obama Plan is Working by Mike Dorning, is just one example. And just what is Obamanomics? Quoting Dorning:

For most of the past two decades, the reigning economic approach in Democratic circles has been Rubinomics, a set of priorities fashioned in the 1990s by Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, Robert E. Rubin, the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs (GS). Broadly, Rubinomics was a three-legged stool consisting of restrained government spending, lower budget deficits, and open trade, which were meant in combination to reassure financial markets, keep capital flowing, and thus put the country on a path to prosperity.

On the surface, Obamanomics couldn't be more different. The Administration racked up record deficits as it pursued a $787 billion fiscal stimulus on top of the $700 billion bailout fund for banks and carmakers. Obama has done close to nothing to expand free trade. And while Clinton pleased the markets with a moderate, probusiness image, Obama has riled Wall Street with occasional bursts of populist rhetoric, such as his slamming of "fat cat bankers" on 60 Minutes last December.
In other words, Obamanomics consists of spending more than you have, subsidizing inefficient or bankrupt businesses that sell products no one wants, quashing free trade, and denigrating or threatening the most productive members of society. One might ask, if Rubinomics once led to economic prosperity, how can Obamanomics, which is the exact opposite approach, lead to economic prosperity? Isn't that a contradiction? It doesn't matter. The robber saved your life. According to Dorning:

Little more than a year ago, financial markets were in turmoil, major auto companies were on the verge of collapse and economists such as Paul Krugman were worried about the U.S. slumbering through a Japan-like Lost Decade. While no one would claim that all the pain is past or the danger gone, the economy is growing again, jumping to a 5.6% annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2009 as businesses finally restocked their inventories. The consensus view now calls for 3% growth this year, significantly higher than the 2.1 % estimate for 2010 that economists surveyed by Bloomberg News saw coming when Obama first moved into the Oval Office. The U.S. manufacturing sector has expanded for eight straight months, the Business Roundtable's measure of CEO optimism reached its highest level since early 2006, and in March the economy added 162,000 jobs—more than it had during any month in the past three years. "There is more business confidence out there," says Boeing(BA) CEO Jim McNerney. "This Administration deserves significant credit."
Evidently, if any economic activity occurs, following and in spite of destructive policies, the Administration "deserves significant credit." And what if Obama had followed a different course, a course that encouraged deleveraging, failing businesses to declare bankruptcy, cuts in government spending, lower taxes, and decreased barriers to capital investment, i.e., economic freedom and the rule of law? What could have happened? The author does not ask this question. And what about the policies that caused the crisis to begin with, such as the Fed's easy money policy, government underwriting of mortgage loans, laws that encouraged loans to low income persons who could not afford them, government guarantees of checking accounts, and the like? Aren't these same institutions and policies still in place? Again, these questions are never asked by the modern economist. He simply observes positive GDP and busts out the champagne!

Arguments of the type made by Dorning commit the Fallacy of the Broken Window, conceived by Bastiat and popularized by Henry Hazlitt in his famous book, Economics in One Lesson. The lesson is that economists must not only focus on what actually happens but also account for the unseen or unintended consequences of an action throughout the entire economy. Economists who do not understand this principle, are the kind of economists who tell us that war, destruction, and broken windows are good for the economy, that "stimulus" creates prosperity, that unemployment insurance creates jobs, and that Obamanomics is "working."

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Government's War on Internet Freedom: Kill Switch Edition

Two articles I read today struck me as being critical in understanding the escalating war on the free expression of ideas - an effort I have continued to chronicle.

First, Philip Giraldi, writing for Campaign for Liberty, details the increasing and disturbing level of government intervention into the internet. He writes:
A recent trip to Europe has convinced me that the governments of the world have been rocked by the power of the internet and are seeking to gain control of it so that they will have a virtual monopoly on information that the public is able to access. In Italy, Germany, and Britain the anonymous internet that most Americans are still familiar with is slowly being modified.
After detailing the various types of controls and monitoring efforts taking place in Europe, he cites two major justifications that are being offered by Western governments:

[T]he ability to control the internet technically is only part of the story. Laws are being passed that criminalize expressing one's views on the internet, including both "hate crime" legislation and broadly drafted laws that make it a crime to support what the government describes loosely as terrorism in any way shape or form. Regular extra-legal government intrusion in the private lives of citizens is already a reality, particularly in the so-called Western Democracies that have the necessary technology and tech-savvy manpower to tap phones and invade computers.
If you think these concerns are a product of the imaginations of over zealous civil libertarians, consider this Washington Post expose based on two years of investigation. Quoting the report, titled Top Secret America: A Hidden World, Growing Beyond Control:
The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
If "terrorism" and keeping Americans "safe" were the concern, then why not consider identifying our enemy and attacking their aiders and abettors by launching a war against Iran, Syria, and others? Instead, the United States is constructing a vast police state, an "alternative geography", to monitor and control the flow of ideas within our own borders. At what point will any criticism of the government be regarded as "hate speech" or a potential "terrorist" threat which provokes government investigations and censorship? I agree with Giraldi who writes:

But the moves afoot to create a legal framework to completely shut the internet down and thereby control the "message" are far more dangerous. American citizens who are concerned about maintaining their few remaining liberties should sound the alarm and tell the politicians that we don't need more government abridgement of our First Amendment rights.
Hear, Hear - before it's too late.

Who Needs a Fairness Doctrine Now?

I can't resist briefly commenting on a story that serves to integrate two recent themes. The Washington Post Ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, takes his paper to task for not covering a major scandal which I discussed previously:

Thursday's Post reported about a growing controversy over the Justice Department's decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. The story succinctly summarized the issues but left many readers with a question: What took you so long?

For months, readers have contacted the ombudsman wondering why The Post hasn't been covering the case. The calls increased recently after competitors such as the New York Times and the Associated Press wrote stories. Fox News and right-wing bloggers have been pumping the story. Liberal bloggers have countered, accusing them of trying to manufacture a scandal.

But The Post has been virtually silent.

Adams raises the question of whether the Post employs a double standard.

The Post didn't cover it. Indeed, until Thursday's story, The Post had written no news stories about the controversy this year. In 2009, there were passing references to it in only three stories.

That's prompted many readers to accuse The Post of a double standard. Royal S. Dellinger of Olney said that if the controversy had involved Bush administration Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, "Lord, there'd have been editorials and stories, and it would go on for months."
If you want a clue as to why the Post has not covered the story, consider the title of the article that finally did appear on Thursday: "2008 voter-intimidation case against New Black Panthers riles the right." [emphasis mine]. Immediately, the pragmatist ideology of the liberal journalist is revealed. In other words, this story, which involves a serious voter intimidation case inexplicably dropped by the Justice Department, is not important based on the facts of the case. It is only a story because it "riles the right." In fact, while the article does mention some of the facts of the case, most of it is devoted to throwing water on the seriousness of the case. Why would liberals employ such a double standard? Adams writes:

To be sure, ideology and party politics are at play. Liberal bloggers have accused Adams of being a right-wing activist (he insisted to me Friday that his sole motivation is applying civil rights laws in a race-neutral way). Conservatives appointed during the Bush administration control a majority of the civil rights commission's board. And Fox News has used interviews with Adams to push the story. Sarah Palin has weighed in via Twitter, urging followers to watch Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's coverage because "her revelations leave Left steaming." [emphasis mine]
The accusation by liberal bloggers that Adams should be dismissed as a mere "right wing activist" is exactly the type of argument that I analyzed previously. In other words, the facts or principles underlying the case are irrelevant to the liberal. Sure, there is video of two New Black Panthers dressed in military gear wielding nightsticks outside a polling place. And sure, a justice department lawyer has resigned, after the Attorney General dropped the case, citing his concerns that the Justice Department is not interested in applying civil rights law in a race neutral way. Who cares - that's not news? What's really important is that the lawyer is a right wing activist and Fox News is busy "conditioning" the minds of their dupes in order to "manufacture a scandal" (recall, that Obama Care opponents were denigrated as "astro-turf" agitators manufactured by the insurance lobby). Only when this "vast, right-wing conspiracy" reaches fever pitch does the Post feel the need to begrudgingly mention the story.

Is it ironic that the left are the ones yearning for a "fairness doctrine?" Please.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why Are They Happy?

Last year, I wrote a post explaining why liberals vote for bills they don't read or understand titled, Why Liberals Don't Read Their Bills, Evade Their Constituents, but "Penetrate the Message Wars." In the wake of yet another Washington boondoggle that fails to address the underlying causes of the present economic crisis, that is, causes which consist of the same forms of government intervention in the economy that this bill will only increase, including expansion of the same financial fascism that will have unintended consequences for generations, now seems like an appropriate time to link to it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Henninger: Berwick Recess Appointment Is Bigger Than Kagan"

WSJ's Daniel Henninger warns:

Barack Obama's incredible "recess appointment" of Dr. Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is probably the most significant domestic-policy personnel decision in a generation. It is more important to the direction of the country than Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court.

The court's decisions are subject to the tempering influence of nine competing minds. Dr. Berwick would direct an agency that has a budget bigger than the Pentagon. Decisions by the CMS shape American medicine.

Dr. Berwick's ideas on the design and purpose of the U.S. system of medicine aren't merely about "change." They would be revolutionary.

One may agree with these views or not, but for the president to tell the American people they have to simply accept this through anything so flaccid as a recess appointment is beyond outrageous. It isn't acceptable.

He goes on to excerpt passages from various speeches and articles which make it obvious that Berwick is a philosopher-king-central planning-power lusting-wanna be. He should fit right in at the West Wing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Islamic Cleric: You Drew, You Die

Molly Norris and anyone else who participated in "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day!" now knows what a fatwa is. I encourage you to read Edward Cline's excellent post, Everybody Drew a Fatwa. He writes:
The Islamists mean to censor us one way or another: if not from fear of retaliation, then by retaliation. Shut your mouth, still your pens, stop thinking, or we will do it for you. Permanently.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Liberal Despair Over Obama, Taker of the Ham Sandwich

The first thing that always strikes me when reading liberal writers is how distant they are from any serious consideration of the philosophic essentials of their own ideology (much less their opponent's). In several previous posts, I examined this fact and argued that it is crucial to examine the left's underlying philosophy both to understand why the conservatives and libertarians have failed to stop America's march down "the road to serfdom", and to better focus the efforts of those who advocate individual rights towards more fundamental issues. A recent essay provides an outstanding example for consideration.

Writing for politico.com, Abby Phillip discusses "[t]wo recent essays" which have "framed the debate raging within the progressive community over why the promise of Obama’s candidacy has not lived up to their expectations — and how liberals should proceed in what they fear will be difficult months ahead." Phillip writes:
In a 17,000-plus-word piece published in The Nation on Thursday, journalist Eric Alterman calls the Obama presidency “a big disappointment” for progressives and blames a broken system in Washington that he says allows the minority party to rule with impunity — and special interests and big money to dictate legislative policy.
I encourage you to undertake your own masochistic odyssey through this progressive mind, however, I think I can summarize it aptly. According to Alterman, Obama may have good socialist, excuse me, "progressive" intentions, but His Elysian agenda is being impeded by the usual suspects: right wing ideologues duped by Fox News and talk radio into thinking that free markets and limited government are the solution, not the problem. This fatuous "crusade" is forcing Him to implement Utopia piecemeal, rather than wholesale, a state of affairs which surely implies that the system is "rigged", broken, endemically set against always popular "transformative progressive legislation". In this wild-west global corporate milieu wherein the state only controls 96% of an individual's life, dejected liberals and aspiring apparatchiks must surely continue their efforts to slowly erode basic freedoms, but until El Presidente can send in the Army to shut down Fox, fully nationalize the S&P 500, and post Green Guards on every curb in America, they must content themselves with merely taking "ham sandwiches" rather than "whole hogs."

To better understand this mindset, consider why rational, economic arguments fail to move liberals? It is a fact that free market advocates routinely analyze the devastating consequences of government intervention in the economy, i.e., policies advocated by liberals. For example, it is not difficult to demonstrate why minimum wage laws cause unemployment, or why socialized medicine results in sub-standard care, or why inflation stemming from government budget deficits sets the boom-bust cycle in motion and destroys our standard of living. Even Alterman considers this torrent of right wing proselytizing :
An April 2010 poll published by the Pew Research Center found that just 22 percent of Americans questioned trust the "government in Washington almost always or most of the time," one of the lowest readings in half a century. This natural skepticism of government action has been reinforced during this same period by a massive ideological investment by conservative individuals and foundations—aided by global corporations—in discrediting activist government and presenting laissez-faire policies as the natural order of things.
First, note, that he characterizes this skepticism of government as "natural" as if it is some sort of innate idea bred into the American mind, rather than a product of hundreds of years of theory integrated with thousands of years of human experience suffering and dying under the designs of central planning despots. Perhaps more striking is that Alterman wishes us to believe that laissez-faire as the "natural order of things" is an idea only recently propounded by global corporations and their ideological shills, not a theory of, oh, I don't know, John Locke, Adam Smith, Turgot, and America's Founding Fathers! Has Alterman even read The Declaration of Independence?! He goes on:

Neocon pundit Irving Kristol, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Robert Bartley and former Treasury Secretary William Simon made this cause a crusade through much of the 1970s and 1980s with impressive, often astonishing results. They helped channel hundreds of millions of dollars, later mushrooming into billions, into the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Manhattan Institute and countless offshoots in Washington and elsewhere to train pundits and politicians to embrace the right-wing view of economic activity. These groups and others championed the likes of Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek and American economist Milton Friedman to replace what had previously been a Keynesian consensus. These ideas were further disseminated by a rash of new publishing outfits, later augmented by an entire alternative media structure we now understand to be a natural part of our political and cultural landscape.
Although I do not necessarily agree or support the various conservative writers to which he refers, it is important to note the subtle implication in this passage , an implication which almost always underlies liberal arguments, namely, that the truth of an idea is not relevant. According to Alterman, these pundits did not integrate facts into theory and reach a valid conclusion, rather, they went on a "crusade" to overthrow the "Keynesian consensus." And how was this "Keynesian consensus" originally validated? He doesn't say. To him, belief in ideas can only be based on faith and consensus rather than reason. He is not only imparting a religious connotation to the free market movement but to ideas as such - a view that stems directly from modern intellectuals' broader rejection of reason and objectivity. He continues:
This investment, present since the Carter administration, has led to a rush towards deregulation in virtually all areas of the economy under presidents of both parties. There was nothing accidental about any of this. Lower taxes, less regulation, less government: these are seen as goals in and of themselves, regardless of their impact on public policy, because they weaken government's ability to intervene in the lives of its citizens. Milton Friedman argued that "freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself." This belief leads a conservative columnist like George F. Will to support policies like the privatization of Social Security irrespective of whether such a transformation would make the program more or less effective, for "reasons [that] rise from the philosophy of freedom."
First, since the 1970's, he believes we have have had "lower taxes, less regulation, less government"? Really? By what possible standard? Does he really believe the statist mess before us is an example of laissez-faire? Quoting George Reisman:
[T]he politico-economic system of the United States today is so far removed from laissez-faire capitalism that it is closer to the system of a police state than to laissez-faire capitalism. The ability of the media to ignore all of the massive government interference that exists today and to characterize our present economic system as one of laissez-faire and economic freedom marks it as, if not profoundly dishonest, then as nothing less than delusional.
Second, and more importantly, note that Alterman regards these free market philosophers to be pursuing their ideas as "goals in and of themselves, regardless of their impact on public policy." While it is true that the justification for free markets is not "public policy" but rather, individual rights predicated on egoistic ethics, I do not believe that is what Alterman means in this context. He simply can not imagine that those who advocate free markets and individual rights actually believe their ideas to be in the interests of human life. Instead, he regards these ideas as floating abstractions which could only be pursued for their own sake.

For example, he claims that George Will supports the privatization of Social Security "irrespective" of whether it will make the program more "effective." While I can not speak for Will, I personally do not want to make Social Security more "effective" - I want to abolish it. Why? Because, it entails an immoral theft of my income, and in addition, I believe I can manage my own money better than the government, which actually doesn't manage it, but rather spends it in exchange for IOUs from future taxpayers. Alterman appears not only unwilling, but perhaps, unable to grasp the method of this argument, namely, an argument from principle. He simply assumes that Social Security is good, and that the only proper debate could be over details on how to make it more "effective." Any consideration of abolishing such a program could only stem from the pursuit of privatization as some ethereal rationalistic end in itself.

As I have argued countless times, such an approach to ideas is the hallmark of the modern pragmatist liberal who implicitly relies on two false premises: the default morality of altruism and the non-objectivity of knowledge. What's disturbing, is that by its nature, the rejection of reason and objectivity renders the liberal impervious to principled argument. Ironically and contrary to their own claims, the liberal mind, like the mind of a religious fanatic, is therefore "closed" - not "open." It is closed, because it rejects the human method of cognition, i.e., reason. This has serious implications, because faith and force are corollaries, i.e., when one abandons reason as a method of persuasion, physical force is the only alternative. That is why socialists send out their armies to nationalize businesses, not their philosophers.

Principled ideas are anathema to the liberal. To him, a person who professes to stand on principle can only be one of three things: a) a paid shill b) an ideologue or c) an unwitting moron duped by Fox News and talk radio. On this view, one can not arrive at the principle of individual rights logically. If he was not paid off by a corporation, he must be a dogmatic zombie akin to a Jesus freak shouting verses from scripture, or his mind must have been warped through exposure to Fox News and talk radio. Note that none of these categories entertain the possibility of truth. Therefore, anyone standing up for capitalism and individual rights can not be taken seriously and is regarded as a mindless, red state buffoon. In fact, according to Alterman, Fox News should not even be considered a news station, unlike the objective arbiters of truth at the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Chicago Tribune, et al. Further, he was actually angered when fellow reporters did their job and rebuffed the White House's official demonization of Fox:
ABC's Jake Tapper got all huffy with White House briefer Robert Gibbs, noting, "It's escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations 'not a news organization' and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it's appropriate for the White House to decide that a news organization is not one?" he demanded. The idea that Tapper cannot see how the Fox News network differs from than his own is sad but telling. David Axelrod had to appear on This Week to explain to Tapper's colleague George Stephanopoulos, "It's really not news—it's pushing a point of view. And other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way."
In other words, not only are the ideas of the right not to be taken seriously, these nutty ideologues are standing in the way of "progress" by conditioning American minds with distortions and sensationalism, that is, non-liberal ideas. Therefore, corporations must be stopped from spending money or speaking out on political matters. Fairness doctrines must be imposed to give liberals "equal time." Campaigns must be publicly financed. Perhaps, the government can "reinvent journalism"? But, that may not even be enough:
Even without the heavy overlay of right-wing propaganda, the American media as it is now constituted would be hard pressed to provide the kind of information and opportunity for debate required if the president were to undertake fundamental liberal reforms of our various dysfunctional institutions and outdated public policies. It is no secret that with just a few laudable exceptions, complicated stories about government proposals and their likely implications do not excite what remains of a decimated journalistic establishment. Sensationalism, not substance, is what drives ratings.
Note, the equation of right wing ideas to "sensationalism" and "propaganda" which lack "substance." It is impossible for the liberal mind to take the right seriously. And, what exactly are these "outdated public policies" and "fundamental liberal reforms"? He does not say. You see, liberals just Know. Unfortunately, that damned system of checks and balances prevents them from overthrowing the government in a month (excuse me, passing "transformative progressive legislation"):
Face it, the system is rigged, and it's rigged against us. Sure, presidents can pretty easily pass tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful corporations. They can start whatever wars they wish and wiretap whomever they want without warrants. They can order the torture of terrorist suspects, lie about it and see that their intelligence services destroy the evidence. But what they cannot do, even with supermajorities in both houses of Congress behind them, is pass the kind of transformative progressive legislation that Barack Obama promised in his 2008 presidential campaign.
If you have wondered why there is such a political divide today, this is the reason. While Republicans and the Tea Party movement are literally taking to the streets, properly characterizing Obama as the most radical president in American history, referring to him as "the Alien in the White House", and demanding a return to a limited Constitutional republic, the liberals sneer at these concerns and direct outrage at Obama, because he has not gone far enough! Alterman is more sanguine:
Personally, I tend more toward the view expressed by the young, conservative New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat, that Obama is "a doctrinaire liberal who's always willing to cut a deal and grab for half the loaf. He has the policy preferences of a progressive blogger, but the governing style of a seasoned Beltway wheeler-dealer." Or as one of Obama's early Chicago mentors, Denny Jacobs, explained to his biographer David Remnick, Obama is a pol who learned early that "sometimes you can't get the whole hog, so you take the ham sandwich."
Don't worry Liberals. You don't need Fox News to tell you - he has taken a pretty damn big sandwich.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"And Then Kiddies, We'll All Have Noodles in our Soup"

Was this propaganda film made yesterday, or in 1933, just as FDR confiscated the nation's gold? Was that professor in the film Paul Krugman? Couldn't tell. Evidently, no new knowledge has entered the mainstream economics profession since this film was made. Just print money!

"Happy Days Are Here Again!"

Obama to Press: Stay Away or Go to Jail

From the beginning, the Obama regime has made it clear that they are serious about carefully controlling the media. While this is to be expected from virtually any political regime, the Obama administration has taken these efforts to a frightening level.

Previously, I
documented the creation of a Soviet style Department of Agitprop (http://www.whitehouse.gov/) and discussed a dust up between the White House press reporters and Gibbs related to the staged "town hall" meetings on health care. Of course, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Recall the administration's health care snitch line (flag@whitehouse.gov) to turn in anyone suspected of being "fishy." Here, I analyzed the left's multi-pronged strategy to overthrow the First Amendment right to free speech through campaign finance regulation, hate-speech codes, and so-called "fairness doctrines." Following the passage of rules that threaten bloggers, I discussed other "thought police" trial balloons, including the FCC's recent draft proposal concerning the "reinvention of journalism" which considers government subsidies to old media (in exchange for objective reporting on the government, of course) along with rules to stifle Internet news outlets and bloggers. Obama used the state of the union to unleash an unprecedented attack on the independent judiciary related to their decision (to uphold free speech!) in Citizens United vs FEC. This spawned efforts to pass the Disclose Act (or "Government Wants You to Shut Up Act") which, in total opposition to the SOTUS ruling, seeks new restrictions on the political speech of incorporated organizations (except those organizations who obtained special exemptions in exchange for supporting the bill).

The LA Times discusses the coming collision of the SOTUS with the POTUS, a collision that can not come soon enough.

Two recent cases have also made headlines. A Justice Department lawyer, J. Christian Adams, recently resigned over the decision by Obama's Attorney General to dismiss a "slam dunk" voter intimidation case "where members of the New Black Panther Party were videotaped in front of a polling place, dressed in military-style uniforms and allegedly hurling racial slurs while one brandished a night stick." Adams claims that "nobody thought there was any doubt that this was the clearest case of voter intimidation that I've seen since I've been practicing law."

The other case is documented in this
video report by CNN's Anderson Cooper. Apparently, the Coast Guard has just passed a rule that threatens fines and felony charges to any reporter, photographer, or anyone else from getting "within 65 feet of any response vessel or booms out on the water or on beaches". Anderson rightly argues that this rule will effectively stop reporters from filming oil soaked wildlife or any other unsavory images from the spill.

These lap dog reporters, who failed to subject Obama Jesus to any serious scrutiny in the election and who have done nothing but kowtow to his fascist agenda, are now seeing their chickens come home to roost. These are the same reporters who failed to grasp or even consider the philosophy of Obama's "regulatory czar",
Cass Sunstein, who chillingly wrote:
...a system of limitless individual choices with respect to communications is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government, and efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not to be rejected in freedom’s name.
Dear MSM: wake up.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Adams on Celebrating Independence

In the wake of the Declaration of Independence, Adams was able to write the following, even as the British fleet, the greatest armada in history to that point, was bearing down on New York. So, as frustrated as I am with the state of our nation, I will be optimistic for a day and celebrate what America was and could be.
"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

John Adams
July 3, 1776

(The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142. )

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pelosi: Guide to the Land of Cockaigne

Evidently, Nancy Pelosi has made a profound discovery. It is a breakthrough that, if real, promises to usher in a new age of prosperity and to transform the modern world into a veritable Land of Cockaigne. What is this breathtaking revelation? In this video, the Grand Madame explains:
Unemployment insurance... this is one of the biggest stimuluses [sic] to our economy. Economists will tell you, this money is spent quickly, it injects demand into the economy, and is job creating. It creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name, because it is money needed for families to survive and it is spent, so it is has a double benefit. It helps those who have lost their job but it is also a job creator...
Wow! Really? So the government can pay money to the unemployed and create jobs?! If this is true, shouldn't all working Americans quit their jobs, collect unemployment, and thereby create jobs? Would this not create a "double benefit", that is, they could all survive by spending the money, but, at the same time, create jobs?

Let me get my simple mind straight. Say that Joe makes $10 working and Steve does nothing. Now, the government taxes away Joe's $10 and gives it to Steve. Steve certainly spends the $10, and that's good for those receiving the $10. But, what about Joe? He had his $10 taken from him, so he can not spend $10. What about the people that would have received $10 from Joe? In total, how does this do anything other than transfer wealth from one group to another?

I'm sure someone in the mainstream media will pester Madame with this dim-witted query, and I will soon be relieved of my ignorance. Nancy? Nancy?

Time, Universe, etc.

We know from the First Law of Thermodynamics that energy can not be created or destroyed. It follows from this law, that everything in the universe has always existed in some form.

Yet, I often hear scientific claims related to the "dawn of the universe" or "the beginning of time." Evidently, the universe is believed to be 13.7 billion years old, and, some scientists even hold that discussions of what happened before the big bang are "meaningless" - a non sequitur at best. Related to these claims is the common question of the form "when did the universe begin?" or "what started the universe?", etc. I have a few thoughts on this.

First, "time" is simply a standardized measurement or record of motion. It is a conceptual tool that allows us to define or identify relationships between other forms of motion or between causes and effects. In other words, time is a measurement made by humans, not something existing in the universe per se such as an atom or a rock. If nothing moved (or changed), there would be no time. If there were no humans, time would not "exist" out there.

If I walk from point A to B and it takes an hour, this is just the same as saying "during your motion from A to B, the earth spun 1/24 of a revolution." Expressing certain sequences of events in terms of a standard unit of motion is very useful conceptually. But, it is causality which gives us the sense of a direction of time, not time itself.

Perhaps, the fact that we are born, age, and then die creates a kind of bias towards the view that the universe must have started at some point or had some ultimate cause, but why does anyone insist on this? The universe doesn't know or care about time or our memories. There can be no "first cause" since everything has always existed. Entities, and therefore causes, can not spring from nothing.

Perhaps a better question to ask is: if the universe did "begin" then what was going on before it began, and how is that any easier to grasp and accept than simply following the evidence to the conclusion that everything has always existed?