Sunday, March 23, 2008

Promoting irresponsibility

Hardly a day goes by during this housing crisis that the media does not report on families in foreclosure proceedings, or in arrears in repayment on mortgages that had close to zero down payment requirements and low "teaser" interest rates. The many excuses offered by some home owners for their plight, and also eagerly by the authors of these human interest stories, is that the borrowers did not understand that these introductory interest rates might rise a lot after a few years, or that they would have negative equity in their homes if housing prices stopped rising and began to fall. An obvious alternative explanation for their behavior is that they gambled that the good times would continue indefinitely.

This type of response to failed decisions is not unique to the present housing crisis, but is part of a strong trend toward shifting responsibility to others. Women who sign a pre-nuptial agreement specifying the amount of their husband's pre-marital wealth that would be theirs in the event of divorce often try to have the agreements overthrown in divorce litigation. They claim that they did not understand what the agreements meant, or that their husbands took advantage of them in other ways to get them to sign the agreements. Usually they signed simply because that was the only way they could marry the men they very much wanted to marry, perhaps in part because the men were wealthy.

Many criminals who confess to or are convicted of serious crimes try to have the courts excuse or mitigate their behavior. They allege that they had uncaring or abusive parents, or that fathers, relatives, stepfathers, or other adults molested them as children. Abusive treatment is awful, but still the vast majority of children abused do become law-abiding and responsible adults. That is a major fact that courts should pay attention to.

Successful attempts to shift the responsibility for bad decisions toward others and to society more generally create a "moral hazard" in behavior. If individuals are not held accountable for decisions and actions that harm themselves or others, they have less incentive to act responsibly in the first place since they will escape some or all of the bad consequences of their actions.




France to cut its nuclear detergent: "President Nicolas Sarkozy has said France will reduce its number of airborne nuclear weapons by one third. Mr Sarkozy said the reduction to fewer than 300 missiles would leave France with "half the maximum number of warheads we had during the Cold War". But he also insisted he was committed to France's nuclear deterrent, saying it was its "life-insurance policy". He made the comments in a major defence policy speech after inaugurating a new nuclear-armed submarine, the Terrible. France is believed to have 348 deployed nuclear weapons, including 288 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, 50 air-launched cruise missiles and 10 airborne bombs, according to the Federation of American Scientists."

More socialist "caring": Main British airport cuts corners on safety: "Passengers at Heathrow are being put at risk because air traffic controllers are having to cut corners, a whistleblower claimed last night. They come under such pressure to keep planes moving that aircraft are put on collision courses, he said. In one case a British Midland Airways jet landing at Heathrow allegedly came within 20 seconds of hitting one from Air France. The BMI service was due to land first but the Air France jet was given permission to turn into the runway instead. The whistleblower said the planes were only 100m apart when evasive action was taken. Heathrow handles 240,000 landings a year and 62 million passengers and is at 98 per cent capacity. The former controller, who retired through ill health in February, spent most of his 27 years' service there. One of his final duties was to compile a report into potential safety breaches last year. Last night he leaked the 33-page dossier, which detailed 12 incidents, to the BBC."

Murdoch on the prowl in NY: "News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch is poised to open his cheque book again to expand his media empire, with reports he has made a bid for Tribune Company's Long Island newspaper Newsday. The deal, estimated to be worth about $US400 million, would come just months after News Corp completed its $US5.6 billion takeover of Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal. News Corp also owns the New York Post tabloid. Newsday is the nation's tenth-biggest newspaper, with about 387,500 copies sold on weekdays. Buying the daily, which services New York City and the affluent commuter belt on Long Island, would give Mr Murdoch his third major paper in the Big Apple, and pitch him against rival mogul Mortimer Zuckerman, who owns the Post's fiercest competitor, The Daily News, and is also bidding.... Last year he joined a bid for Tribune to get his hands on the paper and combine its printing, distribution and ad sales with those of the unprofitable New York Post. The tie-up "would be a very, very powerful combination for advertisers", offering them the combined reach of both papers, Mr Murdoch said last year."

Democrats aiming for a depression: "House Democrats recently adopted a budget with massive tax hikes, many of which are directed at those Americans who can least afford them. By allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2010, this budget will raise income taxes not only on those in the highest income brackets, but raises the lowest bracket from 10% to 15% as well. Estates would again be taxed at 55%. The child tax credit would drop from $1000 to $500. Senior citizens relying on investment income would be hurt by increases in dividend and capital gains taxes. It's not just that the Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich. They want to raise taxes on everybody. The problem is, policing the world is expensive, and if elected officials insist upon continuing to fund our current foreign policy, the money has to come from somewhere."

Clinton lie kills her cred on trade policy: "What is the proper word for the claim by Hillary Clinton and the more factually disinclined supporters of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination -- made in speeches, briefings and interviews (including one by this reporter with the candidate) -- that she has always been a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement? Now that we know from the 11,000 pages of Clinton White House documents released this week that former First Lady was an ardent advocate for NAFTA; now that we know she held at least five meetings to strategize about how to win congressional approval of the deal; now that we know she was in the thick of the maneuvering to block the efforts of labor, farm, environmental and human rights groups to get a better agreement. Now that we know all of this, how should we assess the claim that Hillary's heart has always beaten to a fair-trade rhythm?"

Rights for terrorists? "Israel's renowned airline security faced a legal challenge Wednesday from a civil rights group charging that its practice of ethnic profiling is racist because it singles out Arabs for tougher treatment. At a Supreme Court hearing, civil rights lawyers demanded an end to the policy, which they say violates Israeli law. Such profiling is illegal in the U.S., where passengers must be singled out for security checks on a random basis."

If anybody is interested in what became of my Good Friday church visit, the story is on my personal blog


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


"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and 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)


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