Monday, August 31, 2009

Amazing! "Psychology Today" has printed a condemnation of the lockstep Leftism among academic psychologists

I know it well from personal experience. An excerpt below reflecting on a one-eyed talk given at a psychology conference:

How can Drew Westen, a remarkably intelligent man, make the kinds of one-sided statements he made, and why did no one in the room question the sheer inanity of what was being presented?

My theory—call it the “Oakley effect”—is that really smart people often don’t know how to accept and react constructively to criticism. (A neuroscientist might say they “have underdeveloped neurocircuitry for integrating negatively valenced stimuli.”) This is because smart people are whizzes at problems that only need one person to figure out. Indeed, people are evaluated from kindergarten through college prep SATs on the basis of such “single solver” problems. If you are often or nearly always right with these kinds of problems, your increased confidence in your own abilities would be accompanied by an inadvertent decrease in your capacity to deal with criticism. After all, your experience would have shown that your critics were usually wrong.

But most large-scale societal issues are not single solver problems. They are so richly complex that no single person can faultlessly teach him or herself all the key concepts, which are often both contradictory and important. Yes, smart people have an advantage in dealing with such problems, because they’ve got natural brain-power that allows them to hold many factors in mind at once, bringing formidable problem-solving skills to bear. But smart people have a natural disadvantage, too: they’re not used to changing their thinking in response to criticism when they get things wrong.

In fact, natural smarties—the intellectual elite—often don’t seem to learn the art of soliciting the criticism necessary to grasp the core issues of a complex problem, and then making vital adaptations as a result. Instead, they fall in naturally with people who admire, rather than are critical, of their thinking. This further strengthens their conviction they are right even as it distances them from people of very different backgrounds who grasp very different, but no less crucial aspects of complex problems. That’s why the intellectual elite is often branded by those from other groups as out of touch.



Obama's Summer of Discontent

The politics of charisma is so Third World. Americans were never going to buy into it for long


So we are to have a French health-care system without a French tradition of political protest. It is odd that American liberalism, in a veritable state of insurrection during the Bush presidency, now seeks political quiescence. These "townhallers" who have come forth to challenge ObamaCare have been labeled "evil-mongers" (Harry Reid), "un-American" (Nancy Pelosi), agitators and rowdies and worse.

A political class, and a media elite, that glamorized the protest against the Iraq war, that branded the Bush presidency as a reign of usurpation, now wishes to be done with the tumult of political debate. President Barack Obama himself, the community organizer par excellence, is full of lament that the "loudest voices" are running away with the national debate. Liberalism in righteous opposition, liberalism in power: The rules have changed.

It was true to script, and to necessity, that Mr. Obama would try to push through his sweeping program—the change in the health-care system, a huge budget deficit, the stimulus package, the takeover of the automotive industry—in record time. He and his handlers must have feared that the spell would soon be broken, that the coalition that carried Mr. Obama to power was destined to come apart, that a country anxious and frightened in the fall of 2008 could recover its poise and self-confidence. Historically, this republic, unlike the Old World and the command economies of the Third World, had trusted the society rather than the state. In a perilous moment, that balance had shifted, and Mr. Obama was the beneficiary of that shift.

So our new president wanted a fundamental overhaul of the health-care system—17% of our GDP—without a serious debate, and without "loud voices." It is akin to government by emergency decrees. How dare those townhallers (the voters) heckle Arlen Specter! Americans eager to rein in this runaway populism were now guilty of lèse-majesté by talking back to the political class.

We were led to this summer of discontent by the very nature of the coalition that brought Mr. Obama, and the political class around him, to power, and by the circumstances of his victory. The man was elected amid economic distress. Faith in the country's institutions, perhaps in the free-enterprise system itself, had given way. Mr. Obama had ridden that distress. His politics of charisma was reminiscent of the Third World. A leader steps forth, better yet someone with no discernible trail, someone hard to pin down to a specific political program, and the crowd could read into him what it wished, what it needed.

The leader would be different things to different people. The Obama coalition was the coming together of disparate groups: the white professional liberals seeking absolution for the country in the election of an African-American man, the opponents of the Iraq war who grew more strident as the project in Iraq was taking root, the African-American community that had been invested in the Clintons and then came around out of an understandable pride in one of its own.

The last segment of the electorate to flock to the Obama banners were the blue-collar workers who delivered him Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. He was not their man. They fully knew that he didn't share their culture. They were, by his portrait, clinging to their guns and religion, but the promise of economic help, and of protectionism, carried the day with them.

The Obama devotees were the victims of their own belief in political magic. The devotees could not make up their minds. In a newly minted U.S. senator from Illinois, they saw the embodiment of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Like Lincoln, Mr. Obama was tall and thin and from Illinois, and the historic campaign was launched out of Springfield. The oath of office was taken on the Lincoln Bible. Like FDR, he had a huge economic challenge, and he better get it done, repair and streamline the economy in his "first hundred days." Like JFK, he was young and stylish, with a young family.

All this hero-worship before Mr. Obama met his first test of leadership. In reality, he was who he was, a Chicago politician who had done well by his opposition to the Iraq war. He had run a skillful campaign, and had met a Clinton machine that had run out of tricks and a McCain campaign that never understood the nature of the contest of 2008....

Now that realism about Mr. Obama has begun to sink in, these iconic figures of history had best be left alone. They can't rescue the Obama presidency. Their magic can't be his. Mr. Obama isn't Lincoln with a BlackBerry. Those great personages are made by history, in the course of history, and not by the spinners or the smitten talking heads.

In one of the revealing moments of the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama rightly observed that the Reagan presidency was a transformational presidency in a way Clinton's wasn't. And by that Reagan precedent, that Reagan standard, the faults of the Obama presidency are laid bare. Ronald Reagan, it should be recalled, had been swept into office by a wave of dissatisfaction with Jimmy Carter and his failures. At the core of the Reagan mission was the recovery of the nation's esteem and self-regard. Reagan was an optimist. He was Hollywood glamour to be sure, but he was also Peoria, Ill. His faith in the country was boundless, and when he said it was "morning in America" he meant it; he believed in America's miracle and had seen it in his own life, in his rise from a child of the Depression to the summit of political power...

In contrast, there is joylessness in Mr. Obama. He is a scold, the "Yes we can!" mantra is shallow, and at any rate, it is about the coming to power of a man, and a political class, invested in its own sense of smarts and wisdom, and its right to alter the social contract of the land. In this view, the country had lost its way and the new leader and the political class arrayed around him will bring it back to the right path...

Those protesters in those town-hall meetings have served notice that Mr. Obama's charismatic moment has passed. Once again, the belief in that American exception that set this nation apart from other lands is re-emerging. Health care is the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it is an unease with the way the verdict of the 2008 election was read by those who prevailed. It shall be seen whether the man swept into office in the moment of national panic will adjust to the nation's recovery of its self-confidence.

More here


Speaker Of Lies

Public Trust: What did the speaker know, and when did she know it? With CIA documents contradicting Nancy Pelosi's claims on classified briefings, will a death watch begin on her leadership?

The newly declassified CIA report on the interrogation of Islamist terrorists notes "in the fall of 2002, the agency briefed the leadership of the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees on the use of both standard techniques and EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques)." The CIA, according to the report, "continued to brief the leadership of the Intelligence Oversight Committees on the use of EITs and detentions in February and March 2003."

And here's the zinger: "The general counsel says that none of the participants expressed any concern about the techniques or the program . . . ." For months, Speaker Pelosi has claimed she and other high-ranking Democrats in Congress who were briefed by the CIA during President Bush's first term "were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation techniques were used."

Others present with her at CIA intelligence briefings, like former House Intelligence Committee Chairman and CIA director Porter Goss, say otherwise. Her credibility was also rattled by the revelation that Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat who succeeded Pelosi as ranking Democrat on the House intelligence panel, sent a classified letter to the CIA in February 2003 objecting to EITs.

Speaker Pelosi's behavior reeks of the kind of cynicism and hypocrisy Americans have become used to seeing in Washington. Her liberal instincts were to object to the CIA's tough interrogation of terrorists. But those briefings took place not long after the 9/11 attacks; the war in Afghanistan, home to al-Qaida and shelter for Osama bin Laden, was going well; and the Iraq War had not yet begun. So there was no way for an ambitious politician like Pelosi to know which way the political winds would end up blowing.

At the time, President Bush was basking in popularity, and the nation was in lockstep behind his aggressive approach to waging the global war on terror — including in Iraq. For all Pelosi knew, it might stay that way for many years to come. So she stayed quiet, keeping her options open. Now, with Democrats running the whole show in Washington and a Justice Department poised to criminalize CIA interrogators in a politicized national security witch hunt, she has chosen to revert to those liberal instincts.

That means condemning a successful strategy of harsh interrogation that gleaned valuable information from high-ranking al-Qaida detainees and foiled numerous terrorist attacks. It also means turning hero interrogators, and the architects of the interrogation strategy, into scapegoats. We have long warned that the revelations of this deceit, now fully confirmed by CIA documentation, mean there's a cancer growing on the speakership. The question now is how long it will take other Democratic leaders to get out of denial and do something about it.




A hypocrite writes to the Pope: "The contents of the letter from Senator Ted Kennedy delivered to Pope Benedict XVI by President Barack Obama in July were made public at Kennedy's burial today. Former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick read excerpts from the letter and a response from the Vatican during the burial service. Despite his advocacy for abortion and homosexual 'marriage', Kennedy told the Pope: ""I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings." Kennedy also wrote that he opposed the death penalty and also that he supported conscience rights in the healthcare bill which would permit Catholic doctors to refuse to participate in abortion without sanction. "I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health care field and will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone," he wrote."

Obama admin kills investigation into corrupt NM Democrat: "Gov. Bill Richardson and “former high-ranking members of his administration” won’t be charged following the federal investigation into allegations of pay-to-play in his administration, the Associated Press is reporting today. “It’s over. There’s nothing. It was killed in Washington,” the AP quoted “a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe. The decision to kill the case was made by “top Justice Department officials,” that person told the news service. Richardson’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the AP report. The governor, who is in Cuba on a trade mission, has said all along that he and his administration did nothing improper"

Israel surging ahead: "Almost every day during the six weeks that I spent in the country this summer, I experienced the vibrancy of an amazingly successful society that, in Gilder’s estimation, not only towers over all of its neighbors but invites a more ambitious comparison: “Dwarfing Israel’s own wealth is Israel’s contribution to the world economy, stemming from Israeli creativity and entrepreneurial innovation. Israel’s technical and scientific gifts to global progress loom with similar majesty over all contributions outside the United States.” Gilder makes a convincing case that American political and military support for Israel should not be seen merely as a generous gift bestowed on a deserving country that shares our democratic values. Rather, Israel is now one of America’s most indispensable allies, contributing to our own economic growth and providing critical technology breakthroughs for the U.S. military." [See also here]

Why rich kids get higher SAT scores: "The NY Times Economix blog offers us the above graph, showing that kids from higher income families get higher average SAT scores. Of course! But so what? This fact tells us nothing about the causal impact of income on test scores. (Economix does not advance a causal interpretation, but nor does it warn readers against it.) This graph is a good example of omitted variable bias, a statistical issue discussed in Chapter 2 of my favorite textbook. The key omitted variable here is parents' IQ. Smart parents make more money and pass those good genes on to their offspring. Suppose we were to graph average SAT scores by the number of bathrooms a student has in his or her family home. That curve would also likely slope upward. (After all, people with more money buy larger homes with more bathrooms.) But it would be a mistake to conclude that installing an extra toilet raises yours kids' SAT scores."

Bush Volunteered for Vietnam, CBS's Mapes Knowingly Omitted from Story: "On Tuesday, FNC's The O'Reilly Factor hosted FNC analyst Bernard Goldberg as the former CBS News correspondent highlighted a story recently posted on his Web site,, in which he complains of how little mainstream media attention was given to the fact that former President George W. Bush had volunteered to go to Vietnam as part of his service in the Texas Air National Guard, but that he was turned down because other pilots were more experienced, and that CBS News producer Mary Mapes, even though she knew this part of the story before the report aired, did not include this important angle in the infamous piece by Dan Rather that used forged documents to paint Bush as trying to avoid Vietnam War service."


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, August 30, 2009

Google chaos

Not long after they lost a court case over abusive content hosted on their blogspot subsidiary, Google seem to have decided "never again" and unleashed a "Reign of Terror" on blogspot blogs that they thought might be dubious in some way. Four of my blogs were blocked in one day. The two that were most obviously innocuous were unblocked within 24 hours but POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN were apparently too marginal for immediate unblocking so apparently had to wait evaluation by some sort of Google High Priest. The Oracle has now spoken however and both blogs were unblocked a couple of days ago.

In the meanwhile I had of course transferred operations for both blogs to new sites here and here. And I am going to keep it that way. Once bitten twice shy. As Google has blocked those blogs once they could well do it again.

But some blogs have apparently not yet gone before the Google High Priest. He must be overworked. The following post from Wicked Thoughts suggests that:
Goodbye Google

I still think Google have the best search engine but they are woeful blog hosts. Via their blogspot subsidiary, they hosted this blog from January 2003 to July, 2009 without a single problem. Then one fine day earlier this month, they completely blocked anyone from viewing it. Why? I have no idea. What they can have against a humor blog quite escapes me. But so it was and is.

Moving my blog here seems to have worked well. I now seem to have most of my old readership back. But a niggle has been that Google has made all my past posts (archives) inaccessible too. I am pleased to say, however, that I have just completed the transfer of ALL my past posts elsewhere. So they are all generally accessible again. There are a lot of good jokes and funny stories in them so I hope a few people might browse them occasionally.

As I say in the side-column here: "The archives not stored on this site are mostly available at Wicked Thoughts Archive but the archives for April to July 2009 (incl.) are available via the Mirror Site"


Bill would give Obama "emergency" control of the Internet

This is a disgrace. It is a major step towards a Fascist dictatorship. We have already seen how Obama abused the financial crisis in order to push through every pet project on the Democrat wish-list for the last ten years. There is no doubt that he would misuse this too. The Democrats are so full of hate that a GOP lead during a Presidential election campaign could well be seen by them as an "emergency"

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They're not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for "cybersecurity professionals," and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

"I think the redraft, while improved, remains troubling due to its vagueness," said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which counts representatives of Verizon, Verisign, Nortel, and Carnegie Mellon University on its board. "It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill."

Representatives of other large Internet and telecommunications companies expressed concerns about the bill in a teleconference with Rockefeller's aides this week, but were not immediately available for interviews on Thursday.

A spokesman for Rockefeller also declined to comment on the record Thursday, saying that many people were unavailable because of the summer recess. A Senate source familiar with the bill compared the president's power to take control of portions of the Internet to what President Bush did when grounding all aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001. The source said that one primary concern was the electrical grid, and what would happen if it were attacked from a broadband connection.

When Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. "We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs--from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records," Rockefeller said.

The Rockefeller proposal plays out against a broader concern in Washington, D.C., about the government's role in cybersecurity. In May, President Obama acknowledged that the government is "not as prepared" as it should be to respond to disruptions and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff. Three months later, that post remains empty, one top cybersecurity aide has quit, and some wags have begun to wonder why a government that receives failing marks on cybersecurity should be trusted to instruct the private sector what to do.

Rockefeller's revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a "cybersecurity workforce plan" from every federal agency, a "dashboard" pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a "comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy" in six months--even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.

The privacy implications of sweeping changes implemented before the legal review is finished worry Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "As soon as you're saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it's going to be a really big issue," he says.

Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to "direct the national response to the cyber threat" if necessary for "the national defense and security." The White House is supposed to engage in "periodic mapping" of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies "shall share" requested information with the federal government. ("Cyber" is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)

"The language has changed but it doesn't contain any real additional limits," EFF's Tien says. "It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version)...The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There's no provision for any administrative process or review. That's where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it."

Translation: If your company is deemed "critical," a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network.

The Internet Security Alliance's Clinton adds that his group is "supportive of increased federal involvement to enhance cyber security, but we believe that the wrong approach, as embodied in this bill as introduced, will be counterproductive both from an national economic and national secuity perspective."

Update at 3:14 p.m. PDT: I just talked to Jena Longo, deputy communications director for the Senate Commerce committee, on the phone. She sent me e-mail with this statement:

"The president of the United States has always had the constitutional authority, and duty, to protect the American people and direct the national response to any emergency that threatens the security and safety of the United States. The Rockefeller-Snowe Cybersecurity bill makes it clear that the president's authority includes securing our national cyber infrastructure from attack. The section of the bill that addresses this issue, applies specifically to the national response to a severe attack or natural disaster. This particular legislative language is based on longstanding statutory authorities for wartime use of communications networks. To be very clear, the Rockefeller-Snowe bill will not empower a "government shutdown or takeover of the Internet" and any suggestion otherwise is misleading and false. The purpose of this language is to clarify how the president directs the public-private response to a crisis, secure our economy and safeguard our financial networks, protect the American people, their privacy and civil liberties, and coordinate the government's response." [Blah, blah, blah!]



Artists pressured into pushing Obama's agenda

The National Endowment for the Arts initiated a "call to action" earlier this month for members of the art community to push President Obama's recovery agency through works that focus on health care, energy and the environment -- a troubling sign, one artist said

A 39-year-old Los Angeles film producer is accusing the National Endowment for the Arts of initiating a "call to action" to artists to support President Obama's domestic agenda. The film producer, Patrick Courrielche, said he was one of roughly 75 artists, musicians, writers, poets and others on an Aug. 10 conference call hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement and United We Serve, a nationwide initiative launched by Obama to increase volunteerism.

Courrielche said officials on the hour-long call -- including NEA Director of Communications Yosi Sergant and Michael Skolnik, political director for hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons -- encouraged the artists on the line to create works of art in their respective fields related to health care, energy and the environment. "What I heard was a well thought-out pitch to encourage artists to create art on these issues," Courrielche told "We were told we were consulted for a reason, and they specifically stated those issues as the issues we should focus on, to plant the seed. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what they're attempting to do."

The NEA did not respond to several requests for comment, but others familiar with the conference call dispute Courrielche's version of events, saying the purpose was a broad pitch for artworks on the theme of public service. Siobhan Dugan, a spokeswoman for United We Serve, said the call was organized by an "individual interested" in the group and was unable to provide a list of those invited to participate on the call. "The service that we are encouraging through United We Serve is taking place with no direct tie to any policy initiative, but instead focuses on the areas of the greatest need of our nation and our neighborhoods," Dugan said in a statement to

Thomas Bates, vice president of civic engagement for Rock the Vote, confirmed to he was on the call, saying he was invited by officials at United We Serve. He doesn't agree with Courrielche that there was a political undercurrent. "I don't remember it that way," Bates said. "The call I was on was about engaging artists in ongoing service projects, including on Sept. 11." Bates said his participation in the call revolved around a proposed service event in Chicago that his organization had considered. He did not elaborate.

Told of Bates' denial that artists were encouraged to produce art in certain areas, Courrielche said he omitted an "essential, specific aspect" of the conference call. "The word volunteerism was never used," Courrielche said. "Service was the word being used and it was in specific areas, those being health care, energy and the environment." Courrielche said the now ubiquitous Obama "Hope" poster by artist Shepard Fairey and musician's "Yes We Can" song and music video were offered as "shining examples" of the artist group's clear impact on Obama's landslide election.

The "potential propaganda machine," Courrielche said, is concerning on many levels. "The issue that troubles me the most is that the NEA was set up to promote the arts," he said. "If you have a meeting where you're trying to set up a machine that does your bidding, a propaganda machine, that's not what the National Endowment for Arts is for."

Moderators on the conference call did not specify whether any piece of subsequent artwork should be supportive or critical of the president's agenda in key areas like health care and the environment. "For me, it was implied," said Courrielche, adding he felt the NEA "tainted" the artistic process.

Courrielche, who said he took extensive notes during the call, recalled one particular passage he attributed to Skolink, who acted a moderator on the call. "So what I had hoped in bringing this group together," Skolnik said, according to Courrielche, "with the great hosts that again I want to thank for reaching out to their communities, was that we could begin to bring together our community in the same enthusiasm, with the same enthusiasm, and with the same energy that we all saw each other during the campaign, and we continue to work together on issues as important as United We Serve, and service, and begin here and continue to work together on other issues that we feel are important as was mentioned, some of them health care and others." Courrielche also wrote up his experiences for Big Hollywood.

Reached by on Friday, Skolnik declined to comment for this story.

Dugan said the group was not aware of the conference call leading to any new artwork or campaigns. "Organizations and people from all political persuasions and beliefs continue to support community service as one part of the solution to the economic crisis and the recovery efforts," she said. "There are no government funds provided or funding incentives given to organizations or individuals to participate or encourage community service as part of United We Serve."

Courrielche, who said he felt compelled to speak out about the call, said unidentified members of the press were also on the call. "I felt like I needed to say something about it," he said. "Now I think if [a piece of art] comes out, you have to question it, did it come from this meeting? This is the exact argument for why an agency like this shouldn't exist."



BrookesNews Update

The US economy: Getting there from here: More and more Americans are coming to realise that there is no quick fix for the economy. Furthermore, they instinctively feel that the Obama administration's policy of greater spending, borrowing and massive interventionism is not going to put the country on the road to prosperity. They are spot on. But how did we get here?
What is the true state of US savings and how will it affect economic recovery?: Since early 1980s and expanding money supply combined with rising government outlays have severely undermined the process of real capital formation. As a result, real savings could be in serious trouble. If this is correct then it will be very hard for the US economy to grow, for it is a growing pool of real savings that make genuine economic growth possible
More rubbish about unemployment and the recession : It's been about 70 years since the Great Depression ended and yet the lesson that government spending is not the cure for unemployment has still not been learnt. The economic fallacies that made possible the tragedy of mass unemployment are being resurrected by people totally ignorant of economic history, people like James Guest. Although these fallacies are easily stated the refutations are by necessity lengthy
The ACLU helps terrorists finger CIA agents : The leftwing American Civil Liberties Union has been secretly photographing alleged CIA agents near their homes and then passing on the photos of the agents and their addresses to terrorists suspects. This is an open invitation to terrorists to murder the family members of CIA agents. The question now is why the ACLU has not been charged with treason
Health care and the elites' meltdown :Outraged by the American people's spirited resistance to theit attempt to take over the health system the Democrats' responded with lies, libels, abuse and vicious distortions. America's deeply corrupted media joined in the mayhem, demonstrating that it is no more than the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party
Obama, Ayers and the knowledge 'too big' to handle : It is becoming clearer by the day that Obama is firmly in the anti-American camp of the left. From all evidence, even after eight months as president, it is apparent that he has fully accepted the left's relentless, anti-capitalist, anti-American agitprop as true knowledge
Don't be fooled by the co-op option of healthcare : Fanatical Democrats are determined to force private insurance out of existence leaving in its place the single-payer system created and controlled by federal government bureaucrats. As with every government-run health care system ever done throughout history, rationing and 'pulling the plug on grandma' become a vital part as costs spin higher and out of control
Democracy, when I like the outcome : Why is it Democrats who finds it so intolerable when democracy doesn't go their way? Why can only those results that support their own ideological agenda - a term Mr. Obama & Co. like to deploy when they wish to besmirch the opposition - manage to be democratic, while when the vote or the meetings go against them, something must have undermined the democratic process? My guess is that many of these folks really do not want democracy at all
U.K. on ObamaCare: Been there, done that : Why do the Democrats want to impose on the American people a medical system that has been a social disaster wherever it has been tried? The UK's National Health Service provides tragic example after example of what happens when the state takes over the medical system


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, August 29, 2009

Seven lessons of Cash-for-Clunkers' failure

By: Irwin M. Stelzer

It's over, finished, done. And quiet returns to the auto showrooms of America. Cash-for-Clunkers has outlived its funding. But left us with a host of useful lessons.

First, government forecasters are really bad at their job. The program was originally funded with $1 billion of taxpayer money to cover rebates of $3,500-$4,500 on cars traded in for more fuel-efficient models, and the money was expected to last for about six months. It lasted for one week. The $2 billion added to keep the program alive lasted less than a month. No surprise, then, that the government just discovered that its forecast of the deficit in the coming decade is light by a mere $2 trillion, or almost 30%.

Second, the government's talents, whatever they might be, do not include efficient administration of its programs. The 135 pages of rules setting out what dealers had to do to recapture the refund money they laid out, were constantly changed, the web site they were to use to apply to get their money back frequently crashed, and some had to drop out of the program because they had run out of cash. The Department of Transportation assigned 2,000 workers to process dealer paperwork, but they seemed unable to get the money to dealers who, having laid it out in response to promises of prompt repayment, desperately needed the cash. So if you think the President's plan to "reform" health care will make it easier to cope with the paperwork surrounding hospital and doctor's bills, think again.

Third, Cash-for-Clunkers proved that if you give people $4,500 to buy a durable good, they will be more likely to buy it while the refund is available than later. But it does not show that the increase in spending meets one of White House economist Larry Summers' tests - sustainability. The buyers of the almost 700,000 cars - 41% from Japanese makers and 39% from the (once) Big Three - for which dealers have filed $2.88 billion in refund requests included many who merely accelerated their purchase. Estimates are that 60% of buyers would have bought cars this year without this incentive. So dealers are expecting a very quiet few months. And from the stimulus effect of the program must be deducted the appliances, clothes and other stuff that consumers will not buy in the future, now that they have the burden of lease or loan payments for their new vehicles.

Fourth, if you want to reduce dependence of foreign oil, don't look to Cash-for-Clunkers for help. On the best of assumptions about the fuel saved by replacing inefficient Clunkers with cars that get perhaps 10 mpg more than the Clunkers they replace, the reduction in gasoline consumption will cut our oil consumption by 0.2 percent per year, or less than a single day's gasoline use. Unless, of course, the new car is more frequently driven because lower fuel consumption lowers the cost of driving, and increases the pleasure of taking to the road, in which case the saving will be less, or none.

Fifth, fuel saving was only one goal of the program. The main stated goal was to cut carbon dioxide emissions and thereby postpone the day when the globe will be so warm that the ice caps melt, islands are inundated and we face a gory future. That, the program did, although only inconsequentially, given the pell-mell construction of coal plants in China and India, but at a horrendously uneconomic cost.

Christopher Knittel, associate professor of economics at the University of California, estimates that the cost of reducing emissions was somewhere between $237 per ton and $365 per ton. Since the market price for carbon has fluctuated between around $20 and $40 per ton, "the program is an expensive way to reduce greenhouse gases." But cost is not something this Congress and the administration systematically factor into their policy ruminations.

Sixth, unionization matters. Cash-for-Clunkers added $3 trillion to the billions of taxpayer money expended to save General Motors and Chrysler, i.e., members of the United Auto Workers. What a like sum might have done for furniture makers, or the hotel industry, or small businesses, was never even considered.

Seventh, programs such as Cash-for-Clunkers have no regard for lower-income consumers. By mandating the destruction of trade-ins, Congress removed 700,000 cars from the used-car market, inevitably driving up prices of the cars that lower-income consumers tend to buy. And by ordering that a trade-in's engine be destroyed by replacing its engine oil with a sodium silicate solution (which turns out to be in short supply!), Congress sharply reduced the salvageable used parts that are bought mostly by poorer consumers to keep their cars running.

There's more, but you get the idea. It takes a politician to declare Cash-fo-Clunkers a success.



Some media ridicule of Obama at last

July 15th, 2009 - a day that shall live in comedic infamy. The Obama administration’s first direct hit from reliably friendly allies. Former Saturday Night Live star, now stand up comic Dana Carvey was the guest on the new Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. When O’Brien asked Carvey his opinion of Obama, Carvey trotted out some fresh material. “I’m worried. The economy just had a heart attack, but Barack just wants to work on the knee,” Carvey riffed. ”Should we do CPR? No, we’re gonna fix this knee. We can do CPR when it’s efficient and cost effective, but right now we’re going to work on the meniscus. “Carvey concluded the bit suggesting George W. Bush would have used an economic “crash cart.” “Tax cuts for everybody - CLEAR!” The audience roared. Were they laughing at Carvey’s “dumb guy” Bush impression, or was it the excitement of more money in their pockets as an economic remedy? No matter the audience response. Carvey saw fit to address economic policy in his comedy. That’s telling.

At the same hour, on the same day - The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart opened fire. ”Last night, Obama threw out the first pitch at the All Star game. He even played short-stop for a time,” Stewart said. “There’s nothing he can’t do…except create jobs.” Ouch. The audience laughed tepidly. It was as though they couldn’t believe what they’d heard, and Stewart moved past the line quickly.

During the same show, Stewart went on to skewer the healthcare reform fight in Washington. Initially mocking Republicans for sounding the alarm on Obama’s ultimate desire for a “single payer” system, the joke took an unexpected turn. ”…that’s just a Republican scare tactic. The Democrats are not proposing a government takeover of health insurance. And they’re certainly not trying to “Trojan horse” us into some European or Canadian-style single payer system,” said Stewart. With that, Stewart played some grainy campaign video from 2008 in which Obama told a cheering crowd, “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer health care.” The next shot is a dumbfounded Stewart back at the desk as he coldly confessed, “Wow. That Communist sounded a lot like our President.”

Since this watershed event in comedy, the Daily Show has taken on a new tone. A day after President Obama declared Cambridge cops “acted stupidly” in the arrest of his friend “Skip” Gates, Stewart took it head on. “Now, I wasn’t at the press conference last night, and I don’t have all the facts. But I think it’s fair to say that Obama handled that question…oh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Stupidly?”

In another segment of the same show, Stewart playfully cheered as Nancy Pelosi and President Obama suggested increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for health care reform. He pretended to be surprised when he was “informed” in his earpiece that he, in fact was wealthy. ”Oh, so they’re coming for me…ok,” Stewart said sheepishly. Remember, Stewarts’s a New York-based millionaire. Theirs is the highest taxation in the country, and President Obama and New York want more from him. Is Stewart sensitive to that? Again, economics and federal budgets as punch lines? You’ve got your answer.

Last week’s Daily Show also featured a montage of the President refuting criticisms of his health care plan. After the string of presidential rebuttals Stewart concluded, “You know a sales pitch is in trouble when it starts with “Look, you’ve got to trust me. We’re not going to kill your grandparents.”

The impression shouldn’t be left that comedy’s liberal leanings are absent. The bias for this president is still deeply entrenched in comedy writers. But writers and performers are also wealthy, privately insured, and often well educated. They have lost much of their own wealth in the markets while beginning to realize the finest doctors and insurers who serve them are growing nervous. Comedians have families and friends in medicine, finance, and industry. Reality is setting in.

The truth of the nation’s growing pessimism and skepticism in Washington is at historic highs and on display every day. Comedians’ choice is clear. Continue to cheer and cover for a president in whom they emotionally invested so much. Or realize the investment just didn’t pay off as they’d hoped and get back to the honesty in their craft. Never have there been so few jokes directed at a President who deserves so many.

Jon Stewart was just voted “America’s most trusted” by the online readers at Time Magazine after Walter Cronkite passed away. He led the likes of Couric, Williams, and Gibson - all network news anchors who “play it straight.” Meanwhile, Gallup polling reports Obama’s job approval among likely voters age 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 has dropped 6 percent in the last month. Obama is losing Jon Stewart. The question is: Can Obama get him back?



A Lesson from Across the Pond

As states like California, Illinois and New Jersey struggle to make up for steep multi-billion dollar budget deficits while they totter on the brink of insolvency, there is one option for reducing those shortfalls that is making real headway across the Atlantic Ocean.

It all revolves around cutting the public sector. It's time to try it here.

Ireland is faced with a €20 billion deficit and borrowing €400 million a week just to keep afloat. Colm McCarthy, the chairman of An Bord Snip Nua—a cost-cutting bureau in Ireland—knows the stakes. And he sees no way around cutting public sector pay by some €5.3 billion. Government officials agree. So far, the left-of-center government refuses to rule anything out in the Bord Snip report.

Writes The Sunday Times on July 19th, "Ireland is like a household that has been living beyond its means and now finds itself deep in hock to the bank. Unless we show a willingness to reduce our spending, [international] lending may dry up, forcing us into the arms of the European Central Bank which will have to mount an IMF-style rescue to prevent a euro currency crisis."

Ireland is not alone. Poland just announced a cut of 12,000 government employees. No silly furloughs or dodgy accounting tricks. A straight reduction in the number of public sector workers. And the government warns that if revenues do not increase, further reductions will be forthcoming. Other nations in Europe are actively considering similar or even deeper cuts.

The basic problems Ireland faces are quite similar to those in California, New York and other states in the U.S.: Public sector workers make far more than their private sector counterpart.

An October 2007 survey from Ireland's Central Statistics Office showed that the average hourly earnings in the public sector were far greater than in the private sector. Average earnings per hour in the public sector were €26.67 compared with €18.07 per hour in the private sector. Public sector wages are 48% higher.

And how do California, Illinois and others match up? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' recently published study for 2007, in California, which is still trying to climb out of its oppressive $26 billion deficit, average annual income for state employees was $56,777 versus $49,935 for the private sector, a 14 percent gap. In Illinois, a similar story emerges: $53,925 for state workers, and $48,006 for the private sector, an 11 percent split. New Jersey: $57,845 average state salary, $53,590 for private sector workers, at an 8 percent difference. And these differences don't take into account the excessive fringe benefits enjoyed by public sector workers. The bottom-line is that we pay the public sector more, in some cases far more, than corresponding workers in private business.

Nationally, the story is even worse. Federal workers made on average $64,871 in 2007, with private sector workers making a meager $44,362, so public sector wages in the federal system are 46% higher.

If California, and other spendthrift state governments ever hope to emerge in the black, they must now implement what some may consider draconian fiscal measures. Cutting public sector pay makes the most sense. In California, for example, if workers received a 12.1 percent pay cut, leveling the playing field with the private sector, the state would save $3.1 billion.




Seniors benefit from zero inflation: "AARP and other self-styled senior lobbies are raising a ruckus over the news that in 2010, for the first time in 35 years, Social Security recipients won't be getting a cost of living increase in their monthly checks. Members of Congress are calling for an investigation into the way COLAs are calculated. But the only real scandal here is the opposite of what Congress, the press and AARP are moaning about. The recent fall in prices has served up a windfall for seniors and a real $600 average increase in their Social Security payments this year. There will be no COLA increase this year because consumer prices have been level or even falling. In the past nine months, the consumer price index—the official measure of the cost of living—has fallen by 2.3%, meaning the real purchasing power of a Social Security check has risen. How is this bad for seniors?"

Remembering the Hebron Massacre: "Yet another wrenching exile and return, now rarely remembered, occurred 80 years ago this week. On Aug. 23-24, 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was exiled following a horrific pogrom. The tragedy is known as Tarpat, an acronym for its date in the Hebrew calendar. Until 1929, Jews had lived in Hebron for three millennia. There, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land. Ever since, religious Jews revered Hebron as the burial site of their matriarchs and patriarchs. Conquered, massacred and expelled over the centuries, Jews always returned to this sacred place. In August 1929, that community was suddenly and brutally attacked. Incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—Arab rioters swept through Palestine. In Hebron, the carnage was horrendous. It began on Friday afternoon when Arabs attacked Jews with clubs and murdered a yeshiva student. The next morning, joined by local villagers, Arabs swarmed through Hebron screaming "Kill the Jews." When the slaughter finally subsided, 67 Jews had been murdered. Three days later, British soldiers evacuated 484 survivors, including 153 children, to Jerusalem."

What moves justice Kennedy? "He sits dead center in a court still polarized between four conservative justices and four liberal ones. In the 2006-07 term, for instance, Justice ­Kennedy joined the majority in all its 5-4 decisions. For all its importance, Justice Kennedy's outlook can appear puzzling at times, either maddeningly ­capricious or philosophically incoherent. In "Justice Kennedy's Jurisprudence," Frank J. Colucci manages to define it with admirable precision, debunking along the way the oversimple ways in which Justice Kennedy has been characterized by people who disagree with his ­decisions. Mr. Colucci shows that his ideas are not ­inconsistent or dismissible as mere caprice or opportunism. The key to Justice ­Kennedy's votes, Mr. Colucci says, is his moral ­reading of the Constitution: He sees the document as an unfolding story of ever greater individual liberty. Thus he ­opposes laws that abridge sexual ­freedom, including laws against homosexual conduct. If an originalist reading of the Constitution does not reveal such a liberty—relying on the received meaning of the ­Constitution's words at the time they were ­written—Justice Kennedy's moral ­reading does. But he is skeptical of race-conscious ­programs, too, because they treat applicants as members of a group rather than as individuals who possess the right to be free from group-based policies or rules."

Clunker cash taxable: "People who purchased cars recently under this cash for clunkers program may find out a little something they weren't expecting: that $4,500 rebate from the government taxpayers is taxable. Not only are you taxed once, but this blogger points out that depending on which state you live in, you could be taxed twice on clunker rebates. "Specifically, you pay sales tax on the full vehicle price (effectively paying sales tax on the $4,500!) and what's worse those states that tax income (that would be most of them!) might wind up counting this as income for state income tax purposes too, effectively taxing you twice." Even when the government tries to kiss you, it is just a prelude to a good screwing."


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, August 28, 2009

A U.S. President, Raised on KGB Propaganda

The former chief of Romania's espionage service sees an American president fully invested in the lies he helped disseminate along with the KGB

In the heyday of the Cold War, both knowingly and unknowingly, such radical intellectuals served as a reliable conduit for anti-U.S. propaganda generated in the think tanks of Moscow. The technical details were described by a number of defectors from the Eastern Bloc intelligence agencies, the highest-ranking of whom was Ion Mihai Pacepa, acting chief of Romania’s espionage service.
“The whole foreign policy of the Soviet-bloc states, indeed its whole economic and military might, revolved around the larger Soviet objective of destroying America from within through the use of lies,” Pacepa writes. “The Soviets saw disinformation as a vital tool in the dialectical advance of world Communism. … Many ‘Ban-the-Bomb’ and anti-nuclear movements were KGB-funded operations, too. I can no longer look at a petition for world peace or other supposedly noble cause, particularly of the anti-American variety, without thinking to myself, ‘KGB.’

“As far as I’m concerned, the KGB gave birth to the antiwar movement in America,” Pacepa continues. “KGB chairman Yuri Andropov managed our anti-Vietnam War operation. He often bragged about having damaged the U.S. foreign-policy consensus, poisoned domestic debate in the U.S., and built a credibility gap between America and European public opinion through our disinformation operations. Vietnam was, he once told me, ‘our most significant success.’”

The fraudulent image of America as the “violent imperialist aggressor” was picked up by the Western media, disseminated through activist groups, and found its way into policy making, exemplified by John Kerry’s 1971 “Genghis Khan” testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where Kerry almost verbatim repeated the KGB fabrications, later recognized by Pacepa as his own subversive product.

“KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility,” Pacepa recalls. “One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and ‘news reports’ about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. … All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.”

Our sensory organs may perceive the same reality, but our knowledge of the world depends on how our minds interpret our perceptions and connect the dots. A successful propaganda campaign modifies that process by inserting, in a manner of speaking, a prefabricated optical lens that redirects incoming information and rearranges the existing dots. It may remain unnoticed for a while because the distortion affects limited designated areas — in this case, political ideology. One still is the same person, except that when he thinks of political, economic, or social issues, lies suddenly become perceived as the truth, right as wrong, good as evil, enemies as friends, and so on.

Ultimately, the most successful, moral, and just country in the history of humanity becomes perceived as a violent monster feeding on the bodies of innocent victims.

Caught off guard by such a procedure and lacking intellectual tools to detect it, any decent red-blooded man will naturally be enraged by America’s “injustice,” wish for its defeat, and sometimes even join its enemies. Assuming that in 1971 John Kerry was a decent man and his testimony to the Senate Committee was delivered in good faith, he must have had that lens implanted in his brain for a long time. The Vietnam War was won by Moscow, not on the battlefield, but in the information warfare. And that was only the beginning.

This is how Pacepa remembers it:
During my last meeting with Andropov, he said, wisely, “now all we have to do is to keep the Vietnam-era anti-Americanism alive.” Andropov was a shrewd judge of human nature. He understood that in the end our original involvement would be forgotten, and our insinuations would take on a life of their own. He knew well that it was just the way human nature worked.

Andropov’s strategy must still be working if even today Barack Obama believes in these insinuations strongly enough to apologize before the world for the perceived history of “American arrogance.” During his recent visit to Moscow, President Obama stated:
America supports … the restoration of the democratically-elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies.

But didn’t Obama himself oppose American policies just as strongly and from the same ideological perspectives? His own history suggests that saying “because he has strongly opposed American policies” would have been a more honest use of conjunctions.

From his communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis to the unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, Barack Obama has always gravitated towards people holding radical leftist views akin to those of Zelaya. He eagerly promoted leftist ideology as an ACORN activist and later when he taught and developed theories that opposed the American system of individual liberties in favor of unsustainable group entitlements at the expense of producers — theories that advocated placing the people under the controlling “care” of the state.

And since such views are part of the ideological template that vilifies America and lionizes its enemies, Obama’s instinctive reaction was to back Zelaya and throw a lifeline to Ahmadinejad.

Like John Kerry at the Senate hearings, President Obama may be acting in good faith, but his processing of reality is just as impaired by the same “metaphorical deformation.” As a result, the leader of the free world strays across the frontlines and joins the Marxist leaders Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, Evo Morales, and Daniel Ortega, at least two of whom — Castro and Ortega — were committed Soviet clients.

The Soviet Union may have self-destructed in 1991, but the seeds of intellectual deception it had planted gave such a bountiful crop that seventeen years later America has elected a leader who is guided by received notions designed to subdue and destroy this country. Apparently, the rumors about America’s victory in the Cold War appear to have been greatly exaggerated.



Government's Negative Effect on the Labor Market

On the first Friday of every month, the Department of Labor through the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the current number of unemployed workers in America. Often times as with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, politicians expand federal employment to lower that number and create the false illusion of real job creation.

As, pundits and economists debated on whether government spending would bring us out of the current “Great Recession,” one thing was for sure: the number of federal employees would increase. And even though government jobs were created and some people were no longer unemployed, new studies show that the real result of all this Potemkin Village-building is a long-term negative economic impact.

Economists Matthew Higgins, Andrew Young, and Daniel Levy have found that, when looking at sample data in the United States from 1970 to 1998, there is a negative correlation between creating government jobs and real economic growth. And that includes all federal, state, local government offices.

A large part of the problem, of course, is that public spending crowds out private spending. Or in other words: every dollar the government spends is one more dollar being bid away from private industry. And this goes for employment too. Every employee the government hires is one less person for the private sector to employ in productive jobs. Now, of course, if the government was just as efficient and productive as the private sector then this would not be a problem.

But this study’s result show that productivity decreases, not increases, when more federal employees are put on the taxpayers tab. Due to lack of proper price and profit structure, government misallocates resources, produces an inferior product – and runs up the deficit all at the same time.

Yet, as bad as that is, it gets even worse. Within every single category of government employee (federal, state, and local), government wages grew much faster than non-government wages. For example, in the chart below, the difference is over 30 percent in every case. The worse example is local government employee’s wages. Throughout the U.S., they increased at a rate of 70 percent higher than non-governmental wages.

This type of wage gap makes it hard for the private sector to compete with the government for employees. Not to mention the other benefits that go along with a government job, including job security, more benefits, and the bureaucratic axiom that anything short of taking a nap is “close enough for government work.” In other words, every time a new future employee enters the labor market from college, high school, or anywhere else, there is more of an incentive for them to take a government job than a private sector job. And this, in turn, adds to the country’s burgeoning productivity loss – at astronomical prices.

So finally, the only solution that can be offered here is to eliminate many of the unnecessary government jobs that already create an overwhelming amount of red tape and higher taxes. But sadly it seems that this administration’s policy will do more to expand government jobs than eliminate them. And with that, the Obama White House will cause an enormous amount of productivity losses for generations to come – all the while touting its bogus record for “job creation.”

More here



Japanese and Korean makers gained most from cash for clunkers: "Japanese and South Korean automakers registered the biggest market share gains in the U.S. government's "cash for clunkers" program that ended this week with bankruptcy related inventory shortages hurting General Motors Co and Chrysler. Toyota Motor Corp Honda Motor Co Ltd, Nissan Motor Co Ltd, Hyundai Motor Co capitalized on the program's goal of pushing consumers away from gas guzzling sport utilities and pickups, to more efficient cars and trucks, preliminary sales figures showed on Wednesday. Overseas manufacturers dominate in car sales, while U.S. companies have been stronger in the light truck segment. Cars outsold trucks 2-1 under the "clunker" initiative. Ford Motor Co was the only domestic manufacturer to hold its own in market share compared with its performance so far this year, while GM slipped and Chrysler stumbled noticeably. GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company, which slowed production significantly during the spring and its early summer bankruptcy, recorded brisk sales of Malibu, Cobalt and other car models in the first weeks of the program.

Federal Pay Continues Rapid Ascent: "The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its annual data on compensation levels by industry. The data show that the pay advantage enjoyed by federal civilian workers over private-sector workers continues to expand. The George W. Bush years were very lucrative for federal workers. In 2000, the average compensation (wages and benefits) of federal workers was 66 percent higher than the average compensation in the U.S. private sector. The new data show that average federal compensation is now more than double the average in the private sector. In 2008, the average wage for 1.9 million federal civilian workers was $79,197, which compared to an average $49,935 for the nation’s 108 million private sector workers (measured in full-time equivalents). The figure shows that the federal pay advantage (the gap between the lines) is steadily increasing.

Budget forecast may doom Obama aims: "President Barack Obama's ambitious domestic policy agenda collided with spiraling deficit figures that project bulked-up federal spending will add more than $9 trillion to the national debt over the next decade -- doubling the nation's obligation to creditors. This year's record $1.6 trillion budget deficit will be the biggest since World War II, according to the White House and nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Last year's budget deficit was $459 billion.... The figures were included in an otherwise routine White House midsession budget review the administration delayed for a month and released after the president and Congress were out of Washington.... Predicting the economy has proven a tough bit of soothsaying for the administration. Obama ran in part on a promise to do away with the questionable accounting practices of prior presidencies, and to cut the deficit in half in four years. But the administration in less than a year has had to retreat from its own rosy forecasts about the economy."

Obama's 09 deficit exceeds all eight years of Bush red ink: "How much is President Obama boosting federal spending? The Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedl puts a little perspective on the numbers made public today: This year, Washington will spend $30,958 per household, tax $17,576 per household, and borrow $13,392 per household. This spending is not just temporary: President Obama would permanently keep annual spending between $5,000 and $8,000 per household higher than it had been under President Bush. The 22 percent spending increase projected for 2009 represents the largest government expansion since the 1952 height of the Korean War (adjusted for inflation). Federal spending is up 57 percent since 2001."

CDC mulls routine genital mutilation of infants to reduce spread of HIV: "In an effort to reduce the spread of the AIDS-causing HIV virus, the Centers for Disease Control are currently mulling routine circumcision for all baby boys born in the United States, the New York Times reports. The controversial recommendations, scheduled for a formal release by the end of the year, come on the heels of research that shows circumcised men in African countries hit hard by AIDS had half the risk of getting infected as those who were uncircumcised.”

90,000 flu deaths: Where did that number come from?: "The warning is dire: Up to 90,000 ‘possible’ deaths from a potential swine flu outbreak. But how did the president’s science advisers, who came up with the number, reach that estimate? It is based on complicated models of how such illnesses are transmitted, how they mutate, how prepared the healthcare system is, and what’s known from the patterns of past flu epidemics, such as the ones in 1918, 1957, and 1968. It even taps the so-called ‘virus detectives,’ a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that tracks, in the best Sherlock Holmes manner, the threats to America’s health — often traveling to remote parts of the world to study outbreaks. The problem with dire warnings, though, is that the complacency scientists are in part trying to break may be caused by the very studies they tout — the crying wolf syndrome. The avian bird flu predictions in 2005 included estimates of millions dead. Worldwide, 282 people died.”

Still “crazy” — and proud of it: “Us right-wing nuts sure is scary! That’s the message from the Washington Post. To put this in language a conservative would understand, the fourth estate has been alarmed once again by the Burkean proclivities of our nation’s citizens. The Post is in a panic about (to use its own descriptive terms) ‘birthers,’ ‘anti-tax tea-partiers,’ and ‘town hall hecklers.’ If, last Sunday, you spent a profitless hour reading the Washington Post (itself not too profitable), you noticed the loud yapping and desperate nipping at those who disagree with liberal orthodoxy. It was as if top management were a toy schnauzer accidentally mistaken for a duster and traumatized by being run back and forth through the venetian blinds. The wise and prestigious broadsheet institution was so barking mad that it sent three (Three! In these times of hardship for the print media! When reporters are being laid off right and left — well, mostly right — and stories are going uncovered from rapidly warming pole to pole! Three!) journalists to do battle with ‘The Return of Right-Wing Rage.’”

Mises, Human Action and economic calculation: "Six decades ago Ludwig von Mises published his masterpiece, Human Action, and it grows in importance. I was unaware of the book’s existence and its timeless truths through my formative years, but one of Mises’ students, William Peterson, introduced it to me in 1980, and I forever will be grateful. Because Human Action covers a vast amount of intellectual territory, I will deal only with economic calculation. If there is a Misesian term to which I return again and again, it is ‘economic calculation,’ for that term explains why socialism is fated to fail — always.”

Nanotechnology: Innovation vs. corporate welfare: "Nanotechnology — the art and science of manipulating matter at the scale of 1 to 100 nanometers — is a field with seemingly limitless potential. But if researchers and politicians are not careful, that potential will vanish. Nanotech firms have a choice between being entrepreneurs, or being corporate welfare recipients. They choices they make today could determine whether the future of nanotech is one of dynamism and innovation, or one of dull, bureaucratic stasis. A nanotech boom is already underway. Just this week, the number of products that scientists have invented or improved passed the 1,000 mark. In two years, there could be 1,600. MIT nanotech researchers announced this month that they have discovered a way to kill ovarian cancer cells in mice. Treatments for other types of cancer may soon follow.”

Remember “no controlling legal authority?”: "It was a dozen years ago when Eric Holder began his first tour of duty at the Justice Department, as deputy attorney general. At the time, DOJ had a major hot potato on its hands: Al Gore, the vice president of the United States, had engaged in a clear, black-and-white felony violation of campaign-finance laws. … But Gore was the heir apparent to Pres. Bill Clinton, and the deputy attorney general was very much hoping to become the attorney general in a Gore administration. So Holder found it within himself to oppose the appointment of a prosecutor. Gore was in the clear. The CIA did not make out so well. Holder, having finally become attorney general eight years later than planned, has just appointed a prosecutor to investigate the agency’s interrogators, which really means to investigate the Bush administration’s interrogation practices. Thus does Holder begin delivering on the ‘reckoning’ he promised the hard Left as an Obama political spokesman during the 2008 campaign. The attorney general has plunged into this crassly partisan adventure even though, this time around, the controlling legal authority says there is no case and, therefore, no ethical basis for conducting an investigation.”

Health care? The government can’t even run a railroad: "Nowhere in the debate regarding health care has anyone asked if the government is able and qualified to run such a system. Before we ask the government to manage universal health care, let’s check them out. How successful has the federal government been in managing agencies, programs and businesses?”


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, August 27, 2009


I asked for comments about the larger font I have started using on my two new sites: Political Correctness Watch and Eye on Britain. Most people liked the larger font but those who did not seemed to dislike it mainly because it made a narrow column slow to scroll through. I have therefore changed the template on both blogs to the one with the widest main columns available for the site. I think that should go closer to suiting everybody. Sadly, though, in both cases, the wide column templates had no colour whatevever! I am hoping that someone who knows their way around templates a bit better than I do might eventually tell me how to change them into my usual green and yellow pattern.


Study Demonstrates How We Support Our False Beliefs

The study reported below is reasonable on the whole but what it overlooks is that most people take only the most cursory interest in politics and know very little about it. So their picture of politics will inevitably be oversimplified. Sad to say, it is the personality of the candidate that determines most votes that are not already "rusted on" to a particular party. Exit interviews with Obama voters after the 2008 Presidential election showed that most voters had quite mistaken ideas of what the Republican and Democrat policies were. They were just taken in by the con-man personality. So the "motivated cognition" explanation offered below is unparsimonious (needlessly complex). Sheer ignorance is sufficient to explain the results

In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions focus on one of the most curious aspects of the 2004 presidential election: the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda, but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.

The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.

The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.

Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe. "In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information. "The study demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information," he explains.

While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of information. "The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.

"We form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter. The problem is that this notion of 'motivated reasoning' has only been supported with experimental results in artificial settings. We decided it was time to see if it held up when you talk to actual voters in their homes, workplaces, restaurants, offices and other deliberative settings."

The survey and interview-based study was conducted by Hoffman, Monica Prasad, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern University; Northwestern graduate students Kieren Bezila and Kate Kindleberger; Andrew Perrin, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and UNC graduate students Kim Manturuk, Andrew R. Payton and Ashleigh Smith Powers (now an assistant professor of political science and psychology at Millsaps College).

The study addresses what it refers to as a "serious challenge to democratic theory and practice that results when citizens with incorrect information cannot form appropriate preferences or evaluate the preferences of others."

One of the most curious "false beliefs" of the 2004 presidential election, they say, was a strong and resilient belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Hoffman says that over the course of the 2004 presidential campaign, several polls showed that majorities of respondents believed that Saddam Hussein was either partly or largely responsible for the 9/11 attacks, a percentage that declined very slowly, dipping below 50 percent only in late 2003. "This misperception that Hussein was responsible for the Twin Tower terrorist attacks was very persistent, despite all the evidence suggesting that no link existed," Hoffman says.

The study team employed a technique called "challenge interviews" on a sample of voters who reported believing in a link between Saddam and 9/11. The researchers presented the available evidence of the link, along with the evidence that there was no link, and then pushed respondents to justify their opinion on the matter. For all but one respondent, the overwhelming evidence that there was no link left no impact on their arguments in support of the link.

One unexpected pattern that emerged from the different justifications that subjects offered for continuing to believe in the validity of the link was that it helped citizens make sense of the Bush Administration's decision to go to war against Iraq. "We refer to this as 'inferred justification,'" says Hoffman "because for these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war. "People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war," he says.

"One of the things that is really interesting about this, from both the perspective of voting patterns but also for democratic theory more generally, Hoffman says, "is that we did not find that people were being duped by a campaign of innuendo so much as they were actively constructing links and justifications that did not exist.

"They wanted to believe in the link," he says, "because it helped them make sense of a current reality. So voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information, whether we think that is good or bad for democratic practice, does at least demonstrate an impressive form of creativity."



A Clunker Q&A

by Jeff Jacoby

Q: CONGRESSMAN, was "Cash for Clunkers" a success?

A: Of course it was! I'm surprised you'd even ask. "It has been successful beyond anybody's imagination," President Obama said last week. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said he was thrilled "to be part of the best economic news story in America." GM executive Mike DiGiovanni raved that "it really is all thumbs up," a rare example of an undertaking "that it's hard to find anything negative about." If that's not success, I don't know what is.

Q: If it has been such a wonderful program, why did it end this week?

A: Well, nothing wonderful lasts forever. All the money available for rebates has been claimed, so the program has come to a close.

Q: But why close down "the best economic news story in America?" You extended it once; why not a second time? Why not keep it going forever?

A: You forget that Congress has other priorities too. Cash for Clunkers has been terrific for automobile dealers, but there is more to the economy than cars.

Q: Oh, you mean you're now going to offer rebates to consumers who buy other things, like new couches or paint jobs or airplane tickets?

A: No, that wasn't exactly what I --

Q: But aren't those purchases as deserving of subsidies as cars? Surely Congress wants to help furniture dealers and housepainters and airline employees too?

A: Yes, of course, but -- I mean -- well, let me think about that.

Q: By the way, if the "clunkers" program were really such a boon for the auto business, why did so many car dealers back out of it early?

A: "So many?" Don't exaggerate!

Q: It's no exaggeration, congressman. Associated Press reported that AutoNation, the largest dealership chain in America, pulled out of Cash for Clunkers last Thursday -- three full days before the deadline. Automotive News ran a story about other dealers who found the government so difficult to deal with that they got out even earlier. "It's just a mess, an absolute mess," one of them said. The News surveyed dealerships, and more than one-eighth of those responding said they had stopped doing "clunker" deals because it was such a bureaucratic nightmare. According to the New York Post, half of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association dropped out early. Does that sound like something the president should be calling "successful beyond anybody's imagination?"

A: OK, maybe there have been snafus with the government's computers and whatnot, but you're missing the forest for the trees: This has been an incredible shot in the arm for the economy. Thousands of jobs have been created or saved, and hundreds of thousands of cars were sold.

Q: Yes, but for every car sold, a car had to be destroyed. I understand why that might make GM happy. But how does the destruction of 750,000 used cars -- all of which had to be in drivable condition to qualify for a rebate -- help your constituents who can't afford a new car? All this program did for them was guarantee that used cars will become more expensive. Poorer drivers will be penalized to subsidize new cars for wealthier drivers. Isn't that immoral?

A: Look, there are tradeoffs to everything. You're overlooking all the benefits that those new car sales will generate.

Q: No, I'm refusing to ignore all the costs that inevitably accompany those benefits. Congress and the administration took $3 billion from taxpayers in order to boost car sales. That's $3 billion taxpayers will not be able to spend on groceries or tuition or a down payment on a new house. Before you can credit Cash for Clunkers with the "multiplier effect" of those new-car sales, you have to charge it with a negative multiplier effect at least as great: all the jobs and growth and stimulus that won't materialize because the government decided to spend $3 billion disabling, crushing, and shredding used cars. Don't you see that everything government does, it does at someone's expense?

A: You can say what you like, but this was a popular program.

Q: According to the polls, 54 percent of Americans opposed it. You call that popular?

A: Look, I have to go. But let me just say this: If Cash for Clunkers were as dubious as you suggest, it wouldn't have had so many takers.

Q: Oh, for heaven's sake, congressman: If you give away money, won't people always line up to take it?




Dead Ted: Good riddance to bad rubbish: "Mr. Kennedy, a one-time presidential hopeful, nine-term senator and last of the major public figures from the American version of Camelot, died at age 77 of brain cancer, his family said early Wednesday. He leaves a controversial personal history, a complicated legacy of defiance and compromise, and a gaping hole in American liberalism." [He wasn't as bad for America as he was for Mary Jo but he tried]

NY: Democrat fundraiser charged with fraud: "A wealthy investment banker and prominent fundraiser for President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top Democrats was arrested Tuesday on charges that he lied to get a $74 million business loan. Prosecutors accused Hassan Nemazee of giving Citibank ‘fraudulent and forged’ documents showing that he owned millions of dollars in collateral. A criminal complaint also accuses Nemazee of providing false verifying information for financial institutions, including a phone number that actually belonged to him.”

SCOTUS: Priest records should be unsealed: “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut, saying that thousands of documents generated by lawsuits against six priests for alleged sexual abuse cannot remain sealed. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday denied the Bridgeport diocese’s request to continue a stay on the release of the papers until the full court decides whether to review the case.”

“Stimulus” checks went to inmates: “The federal government mistakenly sent out stimulus checks to 1,700 inmates, the Social Security Administration said Tuesday — a $425,000 error. Social Security spokesman Dan Moraski told in a written statement that the money went out because official records ‘did not accurately reflect that they were in prison.’ The inspector general’s office for the Social Security Administration is now looking into the problem as part of its broader audit on stimulus spending. The Social Security Administration acknowledged the glitch following a report that nearly two-dozen inmates in Massachusetts had wrongly received the $250 stimulus checks.”

When the rich get poorer, look out below: “The positive effects of market capitalism have been felt around the world. Even in countries such India and Brazil, the number of poor people have declined markedly since 1980. Worldwide the number of extreme poor has fallen by 50%. Trickle-down economics appears to be have more a waterfall than a drizzle. As Andrew Carnegie once said, ‘Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities.’ But what about the future? The answer is simple: When times are good, the rich get richer and the poor get richer too. But when times are tough, the rich get poorer … and so do the poor and middle class.”

The high cost of liberalism: "“Which tax increases do the current administration and Congress intend to enact? There are more than a dozen, all of which would negatively affect our economy, says Pete du Pont, the former governor of Delaware and current Board Chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). One has already been signed into law by President Obama: an increase in the tax on tobacco, to $1.01 a pack of cigarettes from 39 cents, and to as much as 40 cents a cigar from a nickel — increases of 159 percent and 700 percent, respectively (this is expected to bring in $8 billion a year).”

Fascism and communism: Two sides of the same coin: “In an article in last week’s Guardian, Jonathan Steele objects to the joint condemnation of communism and fascism. The moral he draws is that ‘History is too complex and sensitive to be left to politicians.’ Quite right, but it is also too complex to be used to defend a failed political ideology by crudely trying to show that another is worse. Mr Steele was upset that the ‘23 August be proclaimed European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, in order to preserve the memory of the victims of mass deportations and exterminations.’”

Madison checks Obama: “Like most presidents, Obama took office intending to bend history to his liking. This impulse, while understandable, leads to overreach. In the case of Obama, it has been abetted by two significant misjudgments. The first was following the counsel of his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who famously declared, ‘You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.’ The assumption being that the American public in the midst of a deep and prolonged recession yearned for government action — not just on the economy but on the environment and, especially, on health care. The Obama administration views this as a once-in-a-generation moment, plastic and rich with possibilities. It is Obama’s chance to reshape the American political landscape through a series of bold initiatives. It turns out the president reacted in precisely the wrong way to the situation he confronted. Most Americans — whose instinctive conservatism has been reinforced by the fear and uncertainty created by the financial crisis — long for stability.”

Spending ourselves to death: "Government expenditures are running at 185 percent of revenue, which is like the lone family breadwinner earning $50,000 a year, while the family spends $92,500 a year. With families that do that, it is not too long before the credit cards are cut off, the mortgage is called in and the family Chevy is repossessed. According to those same White House figures, this year’s deficit will be closer to $1.6 trillion than the $1.8 trillion previously projected. Now, there are only three basic ways to finance that deficit. The first is by borrowing the savings of one’s own citizens, thus consuming the seed corn of the private economy. The second is by borrowing from abroad. The third is by having the Fed, ‘through a roundabout process,’ writes Buffett, ‘printing money.’”


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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)