Thursday, November 24, 2011

Still on the AGW Bandwagon

Jonathan H. Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy explains why, even after all the evidence of some climate scientists behaving badly, he believes in anthropogenic global warming. It's worth reading.

Progressive Economics: The Case of Northern Europe

Economist Jeffrey Sachs attacks the idea that we should cut government spending:

The upshot is that both parties champion the 1 percent, the Republicans gleefully and the Democrats sheepishly. Both parties have worked together to gut the tax code. Companies use accounting tricks approved by the IRS to shift their profits to foreign tax havens. Hedge-fund managers and recipients of long-term capital gains pay only 15 percent top tax rates. As a result of these irresponsible tax policies and rampant tax evasion, tax collections as a share of national income have sunk to 15 percent, the lowest in modern American history.


The lowest macroeconomic misery is in Northern Europe. Norway has the lowest score, followed by Switzerland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Demark. All seven countries have lower unemployment rates, smaller budget deficits as a share of GDP, and lower foreign deficits as a share of GDP, than the U.S. We look pretty miserable indeed by comparison.

Yet, miracle of miracles, these seven countries collect higher taxes as a share of GDP than does the U.S. Total government revenues in the U.S. (adding federal, state, and local taxes) totaled 31.6 percent of GDP in 2010. This compares with 56.5, 34.2, 39.5, 45.9, 52.7, 43.4, and 55.3 percent of GDP in Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark, respectively. ...

... In five of the seven countries, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Netherlands, and Sweden, government spending as a share of GDP is much higher than in the U.S. These countries enjoy much better public services, better educational outcomes, more gainful employment, higher trade balances, lower poverty, and smaller budget deficits. High-quality government services reach all parts of the society. 

I currently think it is absolutely essential that the US cut spending, so Sachs's data is very interesting. I've noticed several progressive writers using northern European countries as an example to show that conservatives are wrong about economics, so this is something that must be addressed. If it can't be, then conservatives need to rethink their economics. (And, of course, so do I.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters -- A scientific study shows that in some ways IQ is more important than effort.

America Before the Entitlement State

A Caveman Won't Beat a Salesman -- Peggy Noonan discusses Steve Jobs' theory of decline in business and applies it to American politics, where, she claims, we have elevated salesmen over people who know how to get things done. She then, quite sensibly, tells us why Republicans aren't anti-government:

Republicans don’t hate government, but they’re alive to what human beings are tempted and even inclined to do with governmental power, which is abuse it. And so they want that power limited. It’s not really that complicated. Democrats may try to paint it one way, but when they do, Republicans shouldn’t help them. They should show respect for the moment. They shouldn’t be unserious. 
The Large Number of Near-Poor

An interesting blog I ran across: The Maverick Philosopher

American Wonderland -- A comparison of America's current political climate with Alice's Wonderland.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Mike Mayo: Why Wall Street Can't Handle the Truth (How sounding the alarm got him in hot water, and what we can do now to reform the banking industry.)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: End Bonuses for Bankers (Another idea to solve our banking industry problem.)

Mark Steyn: Corporate Collaborators A snippet:
On Wednesday, the “Occupy Oakland” occupiers rampaged through the city, shutting down the nation’s fifth-busiest port, forcing stores to close, terrorizing those residents foolish enough to commit the reactionary crime of “shopping,” destroying ATMs, spraying the Christ the Light Cathedral with the insightful observation “F**k,” etc. And how did the Oakland city council react? The following day they considered a resolution to express their support for “Occupy Oakland” and to call on the city administration to “collaborate with protesters.”
Walter Russel Mead: Occupy Blue Wall Street? A snippet:

Blue, government-oriented Wall Street; the professional do-gooders and the progressive intellectual and foundation establishment; the unionized government workforce; and the beneficiaries of social programs: this is the blue coalition.  Many blue partisans don’t fully get this; they think of Wall Street as the enemy without fully grasping the essential role that the financial community plays in the creation and administration of blue policy.  The participation in and support of blue social and economic policies by American finance both enables and shapes those policies, and it was the belief on Wall Street in the 1940s and 1950s that the blue social model provided the most effective path for national economic development that created the postwar commonwealth, which many blue activists today hope to restore.
James Taranto: The Obamaville Riots

The Onion: Remains of Ancient Race of Job Creators Found in Rust Belt

Friday, November 04, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Economists Can't Be Trusted on Tax Plans: Laurence Kotlikoff

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan is a case in point. My last column pointed out that his plan would hit the superrich -- those with lots of wealth, but little or no labor earnings -- right in the solar plexus, dramatically lowering their sustainable living standards. The day after the column appeared, the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, released a widely quoted study suggesting exactly the opposite.

I’m not surprised. The Tax Policy Center has first-rate economists, but they knowingly use wholly inappropriate distribution analysis also employed by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Service and the Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis.

All five groups of tax experts take annual income as a measure of a household’s economic standing and evaluate the progressivity of tax proposals by dividing annual taxes by annual income. This is problematic, in large part because people don’t live for just one year. Their incomes and the taxes on that income change over their lifetimes. 

An interesting analysis follows. Is he right?

What's Your Kid Getting From College? A snippet:

Even so, these figures don't touch the most important question: Are students getting fair value in return?

Anne Neal has been trying to help families answer that question for years. As president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, she believes students should leave college with a broad base of knowledge that will allow them "to compete successfully in our globalized economy and to make sense of the modern world." By that ACTA means universities should require a core curriculum with substantive courses in composition, literature, American history, economics, math, science and foreign language.

"The fundamental problem here is not debt but a broken educational system that no longer insists on excellence," Ms. Neal says. "College tuitions have risen more than 440% over the last 25 years—and for what? The students who say that college has not prepared them for the real world are largely right."
At, students can click onto ACTA's recent survey of more than 1,000 American four-year institutions—and find out how their colleges and universities rate. Two findings jump out. First, the more costly the college, the less likely it will require a demanding core curriculum. Second, public institutions generally do better here than private ones—and historically black colleges such as Morehouse and service academies such as West Point amount to what ACTA calls "hidden gems."

And one more, because it's fascinating:

Intelligence Operative's Letter, Sent to Son on Hitler's Stationery

In what will likely go down as one of history’s mysteries, the CIA Museum in McLean, Va., has obtained a letter from former intelligence operative Richard Helms written in 1945 on Hitler’s stationery. Helms’ son, Dennis Helms, had received the letter when he was three years old and gave it to the museum this year.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wall Street Vs. Government Responsibility for Economic Crisis

According to Investor's Business Daily, the percentage of responsibility for the subprime and nonprime mortgage crisis is pretty clear. Out of 27 million such mortgages, the government held 19.2 million: 12 million by Fannie & Freddie, 5 million by FHA, and 2.2 million with HUD and CRA loans. Wall Street held 7.8 million.

That would mean Wall Street bears 29% of the responsibility, while Washington bears 71%.

In a related piece, Gretchen Morgenson at the NYT notes a recent speech on needed financial reforms by Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve:

THE other area that cries out for change, Mr. Volcker said, is the nation’s mortgage market, now controlled by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giants.

“We simply should not countenance a residential mortgage market, the largest part of our capital market, dominated by so-called government-sponsored enterprises,” Mr. Volcker said in his speech. “The financial breakdown was in fact triggered by extremely lax, government-tolerated underwriting standards, an important ingredient in the housing bubble.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Politics of Raising Cain

Roger L. Simon sees Cain's campaign as a challenge to political professionals like Rove.

Cillizza & Blake: Why Herman Cain Can Win

Amy Gardner, Cain's Staff Trying to Keep Up

(Interestingly, she notes that Cain's trip to Tennessee may be because a lot of Country music people like him. This may answer the question some have been asking about why he's going there, like the next article.)

Cain's Curious Month Off

Was SimCity Cain's Inspiration for the 9-9-9 Plan? An amusing diversion ...

Discussions of Cain's 999 Plan

999 on Cain's Website and in an editorial in USA Today

The phases of Cain's plan, copied from his website:

Phase 1, 9-9-9:

  • Zero capital gains tax
  • Ends the Death Tax.
  • Eliminates double taxation of dividends
  • Business Flat Tax – 9%
    • Gross income less all investments, all purchases from other businesses and all dividends paid to shareholders.
    • Empowerment Zones will offer additional deductions for payroll employed in the zone.
  • Individual Flat Tax – 9%.
    • Gross income less charitable deductions.
    • Empowerment Zones will offer additional deductions for those living and/or working in the zone.
  • National Sales Tax – 9%.
    • This gets the Fair Tax off the sidelines and into the game.
Phase 2, the Fair Tax:

  • Amidst a backdrop of the economic boom created by the Phase 1 Enhanced Plan, I will begin the process of educating the American people on the benefits of continuing the next step to the Fair Tax.
  • The Fair Tax would ultimately replace individual and corporate income taxes.
  • It would make it possible to end the IRS as we know it.
  • The Fair Tax makes our exported goods and services the most competitively internationally than any other tax system.
Discussion of pros, cons, and what the heck does it all mean [this section will get filled out over the weekend, if you care to stop back]:

Nathan Lewis at Forbes, Flat Tax vs. Fair Tax vs. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan

Edward Morissey at the Fiscal Times, 9-9-Nein! The Herman Cain Mutiny

Bruce Bartlett in the NYT, Inside the Cain Tax Plan

5 Reasons to Reject It

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cain Picks Up Support

from Art Laffer

"Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan would be a vast improvement over the current tax system and a boon to the U.S. economy," Laffer told HUMAN EVENTS in a statement. "The goal of supply-side tax reform is always a broadening of the tax base and lowering of marginal tax rates."

Added Laffer: "Mr. Cain’s plan is simple, transparent, neutral with respect to capital and labor, and savings and consumption, and also greatly decreases the hidden costs of tax compliance. There is no doubt that economic growth would surge upon implementation of 9-9-9."

Laffer also said that "such a system provides the least avenues to avoid paying taxes, yet also maintains the strongest incentives for work effort, production, and investment."

Haley Barbour

“If this election is where it ought to be, and that is a referendum on how President Obama is doing, Republicans are going to win. If Herman Cain is our nominee against Barack Obama, I think he’ll sweep the south," Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) told Laura Ingraham today.

Paul Ryan

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan says he “loves” presidential candidate Herman Cain’s signature “9-9-9″ tax plan.

Ryan told The Daily Caller in an exclusive interview that Cain’s plan is a good starting point for debate, and shows the GOP presidential campaign season has entered into a more advanced stage where ideas — not just personalities — have come to the forefront.

A spokesman for Ryan later clarified that Ryan wasn't endorsing Cain.

Today's Links of Interest

Herman Cain Takes the Lead

Cain, Perry, Romney All Beat Obama

Oxford U. History Prof. Tim Stanley says: If the Wall Street protesters really want to reform capitalism, they should join the Tea Party

Michael S. Malone: Waiting for Princip

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Illegal Students

Michael Flaherty at the WSJ has an article titled, The Latest Crime Wave: Sending Your Child to a Better School:

From California to Massachusetts, districts are hiring special investigators to follow children from school to their homes to determine their true residences and decide if they "belong" at high-achieving public schools. School districts in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all boasted recently about new address-verification programs designed to pull up their drawbridges and keep "illegal students" from entering their gates.

Other school districts use services like, which provides "the latest in covert video technology and digital photographic equipment to photograph, videotape, and document" children going from their house to school. School districts can enroll in the company's rewards program, which awards anonymous tipsters $250 checks for reporting out-of-district students.
Only in a world where irony is dead could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.

In August, an internal PowerPoint presentation from the American Federation of Teachers surfaced online. The document described how the AFT undermined minority parent groups' efforts in Connecticut to pass the "parent trigger" legislation that offers parents real governing authority to transform failing schools. A key to the AFT's success in killing the effort, said the document, was keeping parent groups from "the table." AFT President Randi Weingarten quickly distanced her organization from the document, but it was small consolation to the parents once again left in the cold.
At the same time, many American schools are forced to accept the children of illegal aliens, and to even suggest that they shouldn't results in strident accusations of racism and heartlessness.

I am all for public schools educating the children of illegal immigrants. The children are not at fault, and not only would it be morally wrong to deny them an education, it would also be reckless from a utilitarian perspective. However, since those expenses have been incurred due to the deceptions and irresponsibility of the federal government, I also strongly believe that every school which educates these children should be paid to do so by the federal government. (I also believe this is the correct way to handle the local and state incarceration expenses for illegal aliens.)

For similar reasons, the AFT and other organizations that act to destroy educational choice and quality in the American public schools should be forced to pay for the consequences. That, however, would be impossible; you cannot reimburse someone for giving them an inferior education during their childhood. Consequently, these organizations should be abolished.

Today's Links of Interest

Transcript of the Fox News - Google GOP Debate

Simpson & Bowles: Our Advice to the Debt Committee: Go big, be bold, be smart

Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard: Raising Cain (an interesting comparison of Cain and Obama's biographies)

Back in 2008, Cain defended TARP. This is a complex topic. I think bailing out the banks created a powerful, dangerous moral hazard, but at the same time, letting the banks fail would have had a significant negative impact on a lot of people who were innocent of wrongdoing. Sometimes there is no good option.

Michael Barone says that Cain is beginning to look like a contender.

Jennifer Rubin says Cain can shake up the GOP race.

Jane McGonigal: Gamer's Will Save the World (well, that's not really her headline, but I suspect it's true)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Alasdair Roberts, The Wikileaks Illusion. A fascinating article in the Wilson Quarterly (why have I never heard of them before?) that looks at some of the unexpected ramifications of the Wikileaks releases.

North Carolina governor Bev Purdue:

"I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that," Perdue said. "You want people who don't worry about the next election."

The comment -- which came during a discussion of the economy -- perked more than a few ears. It's unclear whether Perdue, a Democrat, is serious -- but her tone was level and she asked others to support her on the idea.  (Read her full remarks below.)

Later Tuesday afternoon, Perdue's office clarified the remarks: "Come on," said spokeswoman Chris Mackey in a statement. "Gov. Perdue was obviously using hyperbole to highlight what we can all agree is a serious problem: Washington politicians who focus on their own election instead of what’s best for the people they serve."
The End of the Blogprof, alas. Another blog I should have been reading all along, it seems, but just discovered as the shutters fell.

Here's Herman Cain's campaign website, just since he's been in the news quite a bit lately.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Jon Stewart and the Burden of History. This gets a bit personal for my tastes, but it's an interesting take.

Saddam: What We Now Know. As I've said before, he didn't have stockpiles of WMDs, but he had programs to develop them and he provided extensive support for terrorist organizations.

Fast and Furious: Whistle-blowers Allege Corruption, Cartel Ties:

Two former law enforcement officers allege that they cannot get anyone to investigate allegations that the Mexican drug cartels have corrupted U.S. law officers and politicians in the El Paso border region.
Your State University Doesn't Want You (it wants foreign and out of state students who pay out-of-state tuition)

Tea Party, Liberals Play Nice at Harvard (There's a Harvard Law Tea Party!)

Symposium on Deregulating the Legal Profession

The World Will Be More Crowded - With Old People

Gallup Says Americans Express Historic Negativity Toward U.S. Government. Two points of interest:

  • Americans believe, on average, that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every tax dollar, similar to a year ago, but up significantly from 46 cents a decade ago and from an average 43 cents three decades ago.
  • 49% of Americans believe the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. In 2003, less than a third (30%) believed this.

Rasmussen Reports Says Only 17% Say U.S. Government Has Consent of the Governed

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Walt Harrington's article, Dubya and Me, is a fascinating look at the former president and a welcome antidote to BDS.

An article on counting crowds.

An old Front Page Mag article about one FBI translator's experience on 9/11. This article is difficult to believe, but it's worth thinking about and investigating further.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hayek & Keynes

Maybe I've posted them before, but with this recent Powerline post on the two economists, I thought it would be good to put these two videos up.

and the sequel

At Powerline, Steven Hayward brings up some interesting history. Apparently the two economists were friends and admired each other's work. It's a good post with links to more interesting stuff.

Palin and Crony Capitalism, or Fascism

Sarah Palin on crony capitalism:

This icon of American industry is a company full of good employees who make some good products (and is the parent company of a huge media outlet), but GE is also a large American corporation that pays virtually no corporate income taxes despite earning worldwide profits of $14.2 billion last year, $5.1 billion of it in the United States. In fact, they claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion, meaning they received more of our hard earned tax dollars than they contributed. How is that possible? It’s because not only do they shelter their money from taxes, but they also get many tax credits, loans, government grants, and other benefits from the federal government that our smaller businesses couldn’t even imagine being able to profit from.

NYT writer Anand Giridharadas actually offers her some praise for her position. The NYT column is behind a registration wall, so I'll also link an Examiner column about the NYT column.

The Examiner columnist, Anthony Martin, calls it like it is. 'Crony capitalism' isn't any kind of capitalism at all. We need to call it by its proper name:

True capitalism stands on its own. It does not need nor seek special favors from government. In fact, when capitalism crawls into bed with big government, what you have is 'Fascism' and not capitalism.

It may be difficult to see how it is fascism. We associate fascism with government oppression, but when the government picks the winners in the economy, it also picks the losers, just like Mussolini picked the winners and losers. If you aren't in the right political crowd, in the politically-picked 'winners,' you are relegated to be a 'loser' and are oppressed by 'crony capitalism,' by fascism.

What is the Tea Party?

Two articles about what the Tea Party actually is.

Dan Balz writes in the Washington Post, What the tea party is -- and isn't. Balz reports on a set of papers on the Tea Party delivered at the recent American Political Science Association conference. He touches on demographics, effectiveness, the history of the Tea Party movement, and expectations for the future.

In response, Don Surber writes The Blind Men and the Tea Party, wherein he notes that a bunch of liberal poli sci profs research the Tea Party and find exactly what liberals have been saying they would find. He notes some rather obvious questions that should have been asked, but most importantly that there was no comparison with anything on the left.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Sickness in America?

Do Progressives Shame the Country on the Anniversary of 9/11?

The claim is spot on with regard to Krugman and a number of others, but I think a number of those who would call themselves progressives do not fall in behind Krugman on this.

More along these lines from Ace, analyzing Krugman and Parker:
We have never really been arguing about whether we should go to war, or whether we should hate. The only contention of these past 10 years has been whom we should go to war with, and whom we ought to hate.

The bien pensants are quite insistent that we must not hate some External Other who serves as a bogeyman exciting our darker passions.

Rather, they urge, we must direct these darker passions at an Internal Other, the vast majority of Americans who do not consider themselves a type of latter-day digital order of Jesuits.

Apparently we all have the right basic emotional take on things; some of us have just chosen the wrong bogeymen to fear and hate.
This is exactly right. I have said for years that one of the chief difference between the left and right is that the right is concerned with external enemies and the left with internal enemies.

Althouse also addresses the topic, criticizing Krugman for not allowing comments.

Mark Steyn's Let's Roll Over discusses things missing from the 9/11 commemorations.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Popular Mechanics: How to Make Your Own Apps reviews two pieces of app-making software, Google App Inventor for Android and GameSalad for iPhone's, iPads, etc.

Michael J. Totten reviews The Devil's Double, a movie based on the true story of Uday Hussein's body double.

Here's the trailer:

Gary S. Becker, Nobel Prize-winning economist: The Great Recession and Government Failure

Just a taste:

The origins of the financial crisis and the Great Recession are widely attributed to "market failure." This refers primarily to the bad loans and excessive risks taken on by banks in the quest to expand their profits. The "Chicago School of Economics" came under sustained attacks from the media and the academy for its analysis of the efficacy of competitive markets. Capitalism itself as a way to organize an economy was widely criticized and said to be in need of radical alteration.

Although many banks did perform poorly, government behavior also contributed to and prolonged the crisis. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates artificially low in the years leading up to the crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two quasi-government institutions, used strong backing from influential members of Congress to encourage irresponsible mortgages that required little down payment, as well as low interest rates for households with poor credit and low and erratic incomes. Regulators who could have reined in banks instead became cheerleaders for the banks.

This recession might well have been a deep one even with good government policies, but "government failure" added greatly to its length and severity, including its continuation to the present.
Update - Some more links of interest:

Arthur Herman: The Ultimate Stimulus? World War Two and Economic Growth. Herman challenges the idea that WWII brought us out of the Depression, noting data that shows the increase in government spending came at the expense of private spending. Also, he points out that the economic boom of the '50s came only with a massive reduction in government spending.

Nigel Warburton on Introductions to Philosophy

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Lawrence Solomon on how science works and the new CERN data:

The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, convincing new evidence demonstrates, but Al Gore, the IPCC and other global warming doomsayers won’t be celebrating. The new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth.

The research, published with little fanfare this week in the prestigious journal Nature, comes from ├╝ber-prestigious CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest centres for scientific research involving 60 countries and 8,000 scientists at more than 600 universities and national laboratories.


The hypothesis that cosmic rays and the sun hold the key to the global warming debate has been Enemy No. 1 to the global warming establishment ever since it was first proposed by two scientists from the Danish Space Research Institute, at a 1996 scientific conference in the U.K. Within one day, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Bert Bolin, denounced the theory, saying, “I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naive and irresponsible.” He then set about discrediting the theory, any journalist that gave the theory cre dence, and most of all the Danes presenting the theory — they soon found themselves vilified, marginalized and starved of funding, despite their impeccable scientific credentials.

True? Beats me. I do look forward to reading the Nature article, however.

An Entrepreneurial Fix for the US Economy

Jim Geraghty: Taking the Alter Challenge on Obama

Left Turn: A Book with an Interesting Theory on Political and Media Bias

Crime Declining Even in Economic Hard Times

The Other McCain: The Politics of Fear:

Unjustified fear of “right-wing extremism” is fomented simply as a way of demonizing Republicans who, the liberals would have us believe, are on the one hand beholden to dangerous crackpots while, on the other hand, are also tacitly encouraging violent extremists. So if some nut commits a heinous crime and is then alleged to have been a Rush Limbaugh listener — vote Democrat! 

Because if you don’t vote Democrat, the Republicans will take charge and then the brownshirts will be goose-stepping down Main Street next week.


Beyond such transparent guilt-by-association smears, however, we see that the fearmongers benefit from the nebulousness of the threats with which they excite the phobias of their audience. They rely on the “ghosts of fascists past” that haunt the liberal imagination, so that a rally of people waving Gadsden flags and grumbling about taxes can easily be made to conjure up nightmares of Nuremberg in 1934.

It does little good, in protesting against such distortions, to point out the blindingly obvious fact: The dreams of the Tea Partiers — fiscal responsibility, limited government, the rule of law — are the antithesis of Nazi dreams of an all-powerful totalitarian super-state. Nor does it do much good to point out what Jonah Goldberg has explained at length, that modern liberalism owes a tremendous debt of fascism.
And two three more links just because these sites should be linked:

Open Secrets - Keeping track of money in politics.

View from the Porch, an interesting blog I came across in my web wanderings.

The BioLogos Forum - A website devoted to dialog between science and faith.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Learn Liberty

I just found out about Learn Liberty from the following video posted at Gregory Mankiw's blog. It claims to be "a resource for learning about the ideas of a free society." Looks like there are a lot of interesting videos there. Here's one:

Top 3 Common Myths of Capitalism

Here's the website for Learn Liberty and their sponsoring organization, the Institute for Humane Studies.

Today's Links of Interest

Foreign Policy: Life After Debt

LeafSnap - an app for those with an interest in trees

UK Riots: The end of the liberals' great moral delusion

Top 3 Common Myths of Capitalism, by Harvard economist Jeff Miron

CERN: 'climate models will need to be substantially revised'

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Foreign Policy, Life After Debt

DSLR Film Noob, another interesting blog I recently ran across.

Junk Science and Watt's Up With That fight the AGW consensus (for better or worse, I don't know)

Aquinas' Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gotta follow that up by a link to the man himself: Summa Theologica

Then Aesthetic Judgment at the SEP along with the website for the American Society of Aesthetics

And what goes better with philosophy than beer? Here's a guide to some of the healthier beers!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Bowles-Simpson Report

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was an interesting project. According to Wikipedia, the report required a super-majority of 14 (out of 18) votes to be formally endorsed by the commission. It failed, 11-7. Nevertheless, the report was endorsed by 10 ex-chairs of the president's council of economic advisers from both Democratic and Republican administrations. It offered a way out, but Obama and the Democrats ignored it and the Republicans followed their lead.

Bowles-Simpson was probably the last chance for a true bipartisan solution to the deficit battle. Failure to take it seriously lead to the brink. Once there, both the establishment politicians and the Tea Party dug in. For their actions on the brink, both sides are equally culpable, but it was the establishment politicians who drove us to the brink, and for that, they should be pilloried in every public forum. Instead, the Tea Party is demonized, and all those with a stake in business as usual, all those who will deny Americans any genuine chance of hope, any real change, are piling on.

Terrorism. Tea Party. Hobbits. Sorted Out by Sgt. Mom.

Sgt. Mom has a good post clarifying some of the key differences between terrorism, the Tea Parties, and hobbits.

Some of her commenters object, claiming the Tea Partiers are economic terrorists. My reply is still that, if any political group in America can be defined as economic terrorists, all those who put us in this economic situation, from 1937 to today, most qualify.

One bizarre commenter even called the Tea Partiers "definitely the nearest thing this country has yet produced to true fascism." Weird kind of fascists that call for a weaker, more decentralized government; less government control over the economy; and less government-corporate cronyism.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Give the Democrats the Higher Taxes They Want

In the spirit of Glenn Reynolds, I have a suggestion for a way through our current impasse on higher taxes. Democrats say we need them; Republicans have vowed to stop them. I believe both sides can get what they want, if only they are willing to compromise just a bit.

My proposal is to raise taxes on Democrats. All registered Democrats would pay an extra 5% in income tax. Now, this would violate the Republican promise to not raise taxes, but they might be persuaded to make this one exception and take a compromise. Democrats, on the other hand, would object that they only want to raise taxes on the rich, but really, aren't all Americans rich compared to, say, the average Indian or Somalian? Here, too, Democrats will have to compromise just a bit to get what they want.

NB: As to who is rich, clearly, any party that can go from crying at the tops of their lungs that Bush is Hitler and that dissent is the highest form of patriotism to calling the Tea Party terrorists -- well that's just rich, you know?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Civility in Politics

James Taranto's column, "Civility: The Denouement":

Hey, what ever happened to civility?

That's not a rhetorical question. Back in January, after a madman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a crowd of her constituents, gravely wounding her and killing six, the liberal elite briefly developed an obsession with the supposed dangers of uncivil political rhetoric.

Before a suspect had even been identified, as we noted Jan. 10, Fitzsimmons, the Tucson cartoonist, was on CNN blaming "the right in Arizona" for "stoking the fire of heated anger and rage" and making the attack "inevitable." Fitzsimmons later apologized, but former Enron adviser Paul Krugman did not. Sources inside Krugman's head told him that the Tea Party dunnit ...

There were many other examples, including Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker, who complained of "shocking vituperation and hatred, virtually all of it coming from people who call themselves conservatives." When his fellow liberals falsely accused conservatives of mass murder, Hertzberg was unshocked. ...

Then it was February, and the liberal elite lost all interest in policing "the boundaries of public discourse." The faux goo-goo group Common Cause held a rally where participants urged the lynching of Supreme Court justices. Liberals--including at least one Democratic congressman--employed actual violent rhetoric against Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker, whose state budget reforms stripped government employee unions of many of their expensive privileges.

And now, of course, all of liberaldom is likening the Tea Party to terrorists. But really, that message is entirely consistent with the one in January, and indeed with the message the liberal elite has been propagating since the early days of the Obama administration: that the Tea Party is illegitimate.

I would add that the actual reasons given are irrelevant; they will say anything at all to delegitimize the Tea Party regardless of any truth, surely, but also regardless of whether they contradict themselves.

Taranto's whole piece is well worth reading, as usual.

Finally, a good word for the LA Times, whose Andrew Malcolm condemns the vice-presidents eliminationist rhetoric.

Related:Anti-Tea Party Vitriol

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Anti-Tea Party Vitriol

Annhilating Democracy with the Tea Party

Tyranny of 87 Must Stop

The Tea Party is a real threat to America

Kerry: Tea Party a group of 'Absolutists' who don't understand what they're doing

The Tea Party Taliban

So, the Tea Party are crazy extremists, but the Glorious Compromisers of both parties who, over the last 80 years, have in unmitigated greed, pornographic power lust, and undiluted narcissism sunk us into this position are the sane ones who we should all hail as our saviors.

Annihilating Democracy? That's Crony Capitalism (see Fannie and Freddy, corporate welfare, etc.). Tyranny? Every usurpation of state and individual rights by the ever-ravenous federal government is tyranny. The Tea Party a real threat? You mean, citizens learning about and getting involved with their own government threatens your ideological goals. Kerry is such a joke ... but, YOU, Senator Kerry, have helped put us here, so if you have known what you were doing then you have intended to bring America to the brink of destruction, and if you haven't, then you're a tool, an absolute tool. And Taliban? Taliban? Please. Again: The rest of the political establishment has brought us to the brink of destruction, not of two ancient statues, but of the economic lives of 300,000,000 people and all their descendants, and all because of your ideological inflexibility and greed.

Do we need more revenue? Sure, but the last century tells us that if the government raises taxes, they will just spend it; they won't pay down the debt. So no more taxes until we make structural changes that will eliminate the debt. We don't trust you.

And yes, if what the leftist media reports is true about how much the various plans would cut were true, one of them might be acceptable. But time after time politicians and their brown-nosing media enablers have heralded on front pages that huge sums have been saved or cut only to admit, on page 27, three weeks later, that those cuts / savings were really just accounting gimmicks and the deal really raised spending by billions. We don't trust you.

We don't trust you at all, and you have given us every reason not to do so.

And all those sycophants of the Grand Compromisers who are building up hatred for the Tea Party are idiots, or they expect us to be idiots. Why would we EVER again trust the political wheelers and dealers who put us in this position? To do so would be madness, idiocy, extremism of the worst kind. Doing so would destroy us, destroy democracy, destroy our world.

Today's Links of Interest

Syrian officers defect, form Syrian Free Army to fight Assad

Moody's: Neither Debt Plan Protects the Nation's AAA Rating

Fiscally responsible punk rock

Can the president ignore the debt ceiling set by Congress? Tasty snippet:

Isn't it funny how this "tea party" philosophy just sounds like a fair reading of the text? But only Clarence Thomas is crackpot enough to do that!
An interesting post and discussion in the comments on 'Asians as White'

Getting it right: Woodward and Bernstein did NOT bring down Nixon

Sen. Marco Rubio: “Compromise without solutions is a waste of time.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today's Links of Interest

Overcoming Bias, an interesting blog I ran across. From the site: "... economist Robin Hanson's blog, on honesty, signaling, disagreement, forecasting, and the far future."

The Art of Manliness, yet another interesting blog.

Gilligan's Island all about democracy. Who knew? This guy did.

At Business Insider, Wynn CEO Goes On Epic Anti-Obama Rant On Company Conference Call:

You bet and until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it's not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President. And a lot of people don't want to say that. They'll say, God, don't be attacking Obama. Well, this is Obama's deal and it's Obama that's responsible for this fear in America.

The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don't invest, their holding too much money. We haven't heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody's afraid of the government and there's no need soft peddling it, it's the truth. It is the truth. And that's true of Democratic businessman and Republican businessman, and I am a Democratic businessman and I support Harry Reid. I support Democrats and Republicans. And I'm telling you that the business community in this company is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he's gone, everybody's going to be sitting on their thumbs.
The LA Times attacks the first amendment. (It's a right or it isn't; when you start saying 'These people have first amendment rights; those people don't,' you've endorsed the end of the idea of a human right to free speech.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Paul Ryan's Plan

Gregory Mankiw:

As I have pointed out before, a bipartisan group of ten former CEA chairs (including your humble blog host) has endorsed the Bowles-Simpson commission report as a starting point for dealing with the long-run fiscal imbalance.  So readers might like to know that Bowles and Simpson themselves have called the Ryan plan a positive step.

If you want to learn more about the Ryan plan, you can look at this side-by-side comparison of two plans or read this CBO report


Apparently, Minnesota is getting along well without a government (at least, without parts of one), and the Democrats and Republicans are still wrestling over the budget. It seems the Democratic insistence on redistributing wealth from private to public hands is the sticking point.

I'd like to take a closer look at a couple of articles I linked that discuss conservative tax proposals. First, Steven Hayward's proposal:

But here’s the case: one problem with our current tax policy is that at the moment the American people as a whole are receiving a dollar of government for the price of only 60 cents.  (I don’t say a “dollar’s worth of government,” but let’s leave that snark for another time.)  Any time you can get a dollar of something at a 40 percent discount, you are going to demand more of it.  My theory is simple: if the broad middle class of Americans are made to pay for all of the government they get, they may well start to demand less of it, quickly.

In other words, if you want to limit government spending, instead of starving the beast, serve the check.

Indeed, tax forms sent to each individual should include an itemized receipt for the goods and services the taxpayer is purchasing, showing where every penny will go. Where the citizen has received services paid for by others, that should also be shown clearly on the receipt. When there is a proposal to increase government expenses, the cost to each citizen should be published well in advance in the form of "If bill XYZ passes, your taxes will go up by $X each year."

Hayward goes on to note that:

Back in the Reagan years, there was a vigorous internal debate about whether to resist tax increases because “starving the beast” would hold down spending.  But evidence is now in: this strategy doesn’t work.

Why? He cites a 2006 CATO study that showed that decreases in federal funding correlate to increases in federal deficits. Politicians don't stop spending; when the amount of public money available decreases, they just borrow more. In addition, the author points out that Reagan raised taxes and increased federal revenues.

If tax increases are on the table, then, what kind of tax increases should we support? Let's take one more slice from Haywood as our starting point:

A debate on how to raise taxes might actually be fun to have with liberals, because their only idea—eat tax the rich—doesn’t produce anywhere near enough revenue to fund their programs.
Indeed. HotAir covers that angle, showing that if we took 100% of what the top 10% of earners in the US make, it would not be close to covering Obama's budget gap. (More: WSJ, one of HotAir's sources for their article; Walter E. Williams; Steve McCann.)

Now let's shift our attention to Reid J. Epstein's article in Politico, Debt Blogs: Out of Left (& Right) Field Ideas:

While President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are gridlocked in their attempts to negotiate an agreement to raise the nation’s debt limit, there is no shortage of wacky ideas from the nation’s online peanut gallery.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit proposed a 50 percent surtax on the post-administration private sector incomes of top government officials and excise taxes on movie tickets, DVDs and digital music downloads.

But this isn't nearly enough. In the comments to Haywood's article a number of commenters take the position that everyone should pay taxes, even if it's just a few dollars a year for the poorest. This isn't a bad idea, and I've heard it in a number of other conservative forums, but again, it isn't enough. I don't have the answer, but there are two forms of tax increase I would like to see.

First, end virtually all federal corporate welfare and government subsidies of various industries through tax breaks, etc. While overall tax rates would remain the same, this would increase federal revenues.

Second, end or substantially reduce the number (or where that is impossible, the size) of public-private Frankenstein's like Fannie and Freddie. These organizations allow a few top people to take millions by risking taxpayer money; Fannie and Freddie were a key part of the housing crisis, and yet their top executives got away with millions and no condemnation, unlike executives in entirely private companies. This too, while avoiding increases in overall tax rates, would end tax subsidies to semi-private, wealthy, and powerful companies and individuals, effectively increasing taxes on them.

All of these proposals together would not be enough. At some point, there will have to be broader tax increases. However, except for ideas like the above, government must cut first. The federal government has continuously proven that it cannot handle money responsibly; it has left Social Security full of IOUs, it has wasted untold billions on pork barrel projects, and it has stuffed the pockets of big donors with public cash for decades upon decades. Federal profligacy is the reason for the crisis we are in now.

Therefore, in order to prove that tax increases will not be wasted, the federal government must now demonstrate that it can act responsibly by making deep and lasting cuts, and it must show that new tax revenues will go toward solving our financial crisis, not to the pockets of big donors or to useless "public works" projects just to buy votes for incumbents by drastically increasing transparency on the finances of the United States.

Webmail Software Comparison

Noah S over at Arvixe Blog* compares the top three webmail software programs: Horde, SquirrelMail, and RoundCube. Very useful, even though it was written in 2009.

*Arvixe is a web hosting provider.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Update on Going Without Google

In last Saturday's post on escaping Google I listed alternatives recommended by others.

I gave DuckDuckGo a try this past week, but it simply didn't turn up the quality of results Google does. I have since switched to Yahoo! for searching, and its results seem equal to Google's.

I have also been looking at Zoho to replace things like Gmail and Google Docs. Zoho really offers quite a bit of useful stuff. I suspect the usefulness of Zoho as a collaboration tool would depend on getting others to use it as well; most people already have a Gmail account, so it's simpler to just use Google's services.

Today's Links of Interest

Thanks to Instapundit, I've been reading a lot of Susannah Breslin lately.

She led me to The Graffiti of War Project.

xkcd has an interesting comment on postmodern dating.

Speaking of which, Javier Tordable has an interesting post on the best cities for singles in America.

And, in a complete non sequitur from the above links, James Pethokoukis makes the case that Obama may have really made things worse.

However, Politico tells us, there are a number of left and right tax proposals to address the debt problem.

Steven Hayward, at Power Line, makes the conservative case for higher taxes, more or less.

Continuing a circle of non sequitur, Instapundit also sent me to Molinaro Media, which sent me to a good article on how to make text look interesting by Kurt Edelbrock.

And here's a paper on the legal relationship between photographers' rights and law enforcement.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Yet Another Deception on the Internet

Today I discovered Traffic Faker, a service you can subscribe to that will generate a list of URLs and then send a robot out to plant your URL in those websites' referral logs, making it look like you visited the sites.

There's nothing illegal about it, of course, but the point is to deceive website owners into visiting your site. To which I say: What putzes! Both the company offering this service and the users of it -- putzes all!

Update: Maybe I should have titled this 'Referral Spam.'

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Escaping Google

If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. -- Google CEO Eric Schmidt

Here are two very good articles on escaping the ubiquity of Google online. Of course, it's not entirely possible, but there are a lot of alternatives out there for Google functions.

How I Learned to Live Google Free, by Joshua J. Romero

A Week Without Google, by Chris Reynolds

Some of the replacements that interested me were:

  • for RSS, Sage extension for Firefox
  • instead of Gmail, Zoho Mail (though Romero notes that, for better security, Lavabit or FastMail might be better, and each has a plan for less than $10 a year)
  • for searching, DuckDuckGo seems even better than Google and doesn't save or pass on data about you or your search; Blekko also seems to have some useful functions
  • YouTube seems to be the indispensable Google site, though Vimeo is an alternative
  • Todoist replaces Google Tasks, and Romero notes it is by far superior

I will update this post with more alternatives to Google in the near future.

Update: Speaking of the near future ...

  • Lightning, a Thunderbird plug-in, replaces Google Calendar and Tasks
  • Hootsuite replaces Twitter
  • Chris Pederick's Web Developer replaces Chrome's WebKit (though Reynolds laments the lack of Inspect Element, some similar add-ons are available for Firefox)
There's a lot more; the above is only the beginning.

Here are two more guys who took up the week-without-Google challenge:

A Week Without Google! on Tech Guru

One Week Without Google, by Tom Krazit

The Tech Guru's article offers some more alternatives:

  • He suggests Yahoo! search for web searching.
  • Instead of Gmail, he too recommends Zoho, and as an alternative,
  • He claims Zoho is better than Google Docs, but also suggests Thinkfree, which offers (like Zoho) an online office suite.
  • For Google Maps, he suggests Microsoft's Virtual Earth (though this doesn't seem, at first glance, to lead to an easy-to-use map application - maybe this has become Bing Maps?) and Yahoo Maps, and also Ask Maps. For Google Earth, Microsoft has Virtual Earth 3D, though this seems to have been dropped.
  • For YouTube, he offers Yahoo Video, Metacafe, Vimeo, Revver, and Veoh.
A few more apps of interest that I ran across in the above articles and in research stemming from them:
  • Web Developer does seem cool.
  • SeaMonkey is an integrated Mozilla app with browser, email, HTML composer, and more.
  • Tabberwocky seems like an interesting Firefox tab manager.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Cultural Diversity

    The left has dominated American cultural expression for decades. A few people are beginning to bring some cultural diversity back to the nation.

    Bill Whittle's Declaration Entertainment is one campaign in the movement. According to the Declaration Entertainment website:

    Declaration Entertainment is a grass-roots film-financing movement that turns you, the audience, into Citizen Producers to reclaim American values and put them back on the screen.  Declaration Entertainment is dedicated to making the kinds of movies Hollywood used to make - Movies about Freedom and Sacrifice, Hard-Work and Self-Reliance, Faith and Family.
    Another campaign on this front is the new independent TV show created by Colony Bay, Courage, New Hampshire. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the show will premiere tomorrow and then go to DVD.

    Colony Bay was founded by James Patrick Riley and Jonathan Wilson, ... who met when Wilson was forming the Pasadena chapter of Tea Partiers.

    Riley, the wealthy owner of Riley’s American Heritage Farm, a 760-acre apple and pear farm in Oak Glen, Calif. financed the first episode of Courage for $120,000. His money and that of other backers will fund future episodes. The first episode was filmed on the farm, where Riley has dedicated 55 acres to “living-history” educational tourism.


    References to the country’s founding are a staple at Tea Party rallies that are attended by an estimated 9 million people, so a show about Colonial America ought to appeal to them. Leaning primarily on Tea Partiers for your audience, though, is a risky business, as the makers of Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 learned when they tapped the political movement to market their film, which opened strong but petered out quickly.

    Wilson and Riley, though, are hoping they have a show that will attract history buffs of all political persuasions, much like HBO did with its Emmy-winning John Adams miniseries and Mel Gibson did with The Patriot, a feature film that earned $113 million domestically 11 years ago.
    Check out the whole article which has a lot more detail and a trailer for Courage, New Hampshire.

    PJTV and Kelsey Grammer's RIGHTNETWORK also produce some conservative video entertainment.

    This is just a taste of what we need, real cultural diversity.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    xkcd is cool, but


    Our brains have just one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit.

    But experience can recalibrate our scale. Edit: That's not really right, is it? What I wanted to say was, while I agree that we do resize our experiences to fit our scale, some experiences resize our scale. Living abroad, combat, sex, and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer series (at least the first three seasons) would be examples of this.

    IOW, while this strip is entirely plausible, when released from the box the Biden pics will take their place on the scale dependent upon experiences that are either greater or lesser, i.e., based upon how far our experiences have expanded that scale.

    IOW, yeah, not buying it. Thanks for playing.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Mankiw Advising Romney

    Tucked in at the bottom of a new article for the NYT, A Guy in Pajamas's favorite living economist (and Harvard professor of economics, if that matters), lets us know he's advising Mitt Romney.

    The article itself is about four ways Republican and Democratic health care reform plans are similar, including agreement that competition is good, an insurance mandate (Democrats penalize those who don't buy insurance while Republican plans reward those who do), taxing the rich (means testing is taxing the rich as well), and blinkered optimism - the staunch determination to not consider what will happen if their plans fail. (You'll have to read the article if you want to know why Mankiw makes these arguments.)

    Then, at the bottom of all this there is Mankiw's bio line:

    N. Gregory Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard. He is advising Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
    So that's why he's writing about health care reform!

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Progressive Bigotry

    Dr. Mike Adams writes an open letter to Cisco System's CEO, John Chambers, asking about the firing of Dr. Turek, who designed and conducted highly-rated teambuilding programs for Cisco, based on political beliefs that were never discussed during the training:

    The morning after completing the seventh session earlier this year, a manager in that session —who was one of the better students in that class—phoned in a complaint. It had nothing to do with content of the course or how it was conducted. In fact, the manager commented that the course was “excellent” as did most who participated. His complaint regarded Dr. Turek’s political and religious views that were never mentioned during class, but that the manager learned by “googling” Dr. Turek after class.

    The manager identified himself as gay and was upset that Dr. Turek had written this book providing evidence that maintaining our current marriage laws would be best for the country. Although the manager didn’t read the book, he said that the author’s view was inconsistent with “Cisco values” and could not be tolerated. (Dr. Turek is aware of this because he was in the room when his call came in.) The manager then contacted an experienced HR professional at Cisco who had Dr. Turek fired that day without ever speaking to him. The HR professional also commended the manager for “outing” Dr. Turek.


    I assume the intent of Cisco’s value of “inclusion and diversity” is to ensure that people in that diverse workforce will work together cordially and professionally even when they inevitably disagree on certain political, moral or religious questions. Please note that Dr. Turek agrees with that value and was demonstrating it. The manager and HR professional were not. Dr. Turek was being inclusive working with them. They were being exclusive by refusing to work with him, even though his viewpoint was never discussed during his work at Cisco. (Ironically, the people who say they are fighting for “tolerance” are often the most intolerant!).

    I have a couple of important questions: First, what action would have been taken had Dr. Turek been a proponent of same-sex marriage but a conservative employee had complained? Second, given your support of Senator McCain, a same-sex marriage opponent, are you qualified to be working at Cisco? 
    Adams has promised to publish Chambers's reply next week, so stay tuned.

    David French offers more examples:

    It’s amazing how many of the academy’s bad ideas leak out out from campus and begin to infect the body politic. Two of academia’s worst are the use of ideological litmus tests to determine whether a person can pursue their chosen profession and the explicit comparison of orthodox Judeo-Christian theology to violent white supremacy. Yesterday, both ideas were on very public display on opposite ends of the country.

    First, Massachusetts senate candidate Martha Coakley declares that Catholics need not apply for some medical jobs. ...

    Over in California, during day four of the Prop 8 trial, Yale history professor George Chauncey compared the motivations of those who support marriage with the motivations of segregationists and declared that the official doctrinal statements of the Catholic and Southern Baptist churches reflect historic bias.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Today's Links of Interest

    First and foremost in terms of interest, Diplomad gives us a must-read story of true-life international diplomacy (well, poetically true) in Across the River.

    TIGTA: IRS Did Not Follow Law in 38% of Seizures of Taxpayer Property


    UCLA professor shows liberal media distorts news bias:

    In a crushing body blow to the pushers of the so-called "Fox Effect," which claims the conservative media is dragging the left into the center, UCLA political science professor Tim Groseclose in Left Turn claims that "all" mainstream news outlets have a liberal bias in their reporting that makes even moderate organizations appear out of the mainstream and decidedly right-wing to news consumers who are influenced by the slant.

    Update: finance professor John H. Cochrane writes that QE2 basically did nothing but put us deeper in debt.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Articles on the War on Drugs

    Just collecting some articles here for future discussion:

    Drug Policy: Supply and Demand

    Mexico drugs war: Corruption grows on US border

    Mexico drugs war: Relatives march to demand justice

    The Diplomad Goes on a Drug Raid

    Post Script to the Birther Issue

    Some related links:

    Mutually Assured Distraction: Birthers and Obama backers alike behave exactly as predicted, a good article by James Taranto, talks about the issue and sends us to an AP article on challenges to (the white) Chester A. Arthur's qualification to be president due to the belief he was born in Canada, a conspiracy theory that persists today:

    Nearly 123 years after his death, doubts about his U.S. citizenship linger, thanks to lack of documentation and a political foe's claim that Arthur was really born in Canada - and was therefore ineligible for the White House, where he served from 1881 to 1885.

    Long before "birthers" began questioning the citizenship of President Barack Obama, similar questions were raised about the early years of Arthur, an accidental president who ascended to the job after President James Garfield was assassinated.

    "It's an old rumor that won't die, political slander," said John Dumville, who runs Vermont's historic sites and knows well the legend. "It's a fun story, and it comes up every year. People latch on to it and they've read about it somewhere and they want to know more."

    Over at Real Clear Politics, Steve Chapman tells us Why Birtherism is Here to Stay:

    Birthers don't dislike Obama because they think he was born abroad. They think he was born abroad because they dislike him. ...

    The phenomenon, of course, is not limited to conservatives or Republicans. It's endemic to partisans and ideologues of every stripe. In a 1988 survey, Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to believe that inflation and unemployment rose under President Ronald Reagan -- though they had actually fallen.

    A 2007 poll found that Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to say President George W. Bush knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks. A lot of them would believe he has the ExxonMobil logo tattooed on his chest.


    Yale political scientists John Bullock, Alan Gerber and Gregory Huber say partisans don't just say false things about the opposition; they actually, sincerely believe them. These scholars asked respondents various factual questions about Obama, Reagan and Bill Clinton -- and offered monetary rewards for correct answers. Yet even when money was at stake, partisans still had a clear tendency to give answers (and make errors) that matched their preconceptions.
    Previously on AGIP: The Birther *GAG* Issue

    The Birther *GAG* Issue

    I hate talking about this. It has been one of the biggest wastes of time the electorate has had to suffer through in the last three years, distracting us from genuinely vital issues like the economy, foreign policy, government reform, etc., etc., etc. However, those trying to kill the birther movement are blinded by their own ideological commitments and committing wholesale slander and libel, and, worse, dumping history in the sewer to try to achieve their goals.

    Let's start with Wikipedia's article on the Natural Born Citizen clause of the Constitution, which, appropriately, begins with a quotation from section one article two of the US Constitution:
    No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
    An interesting discussion of various interpretations of that requirement as well as a history of US citizenship in law and a history of challenges to the citizenship of candidates follows. It includes such fascinating tidbits as the debate over whether simply birth in the US confers citizenship (jus soli), or birth in the US to American parents, or just birth to American parents (jus sanguinis).

    As late as 2008, a law professor could assert that both jus soli and jus sanguinis were requirements, indicating that Obama, whose father was a British subject and not an American citizen, would not be considered a natural born citizen. He later changed his mind:
    In a 2008 article published by the Michigan Law Review Lawrence Solum, Professor of Law at the University of Illinois, stated that "[t]here is general agreement on the core of [the] meaning [of the Presidential Eligibility Clause]. Anyone born on American soil whose parents are citizens of the United States is a 'natural born citizen'". In April 2010 Solum republished the same article as an online draft, in which he changed his opinion on the meaning of natural born citizen to include persons born in the United States of one American citizen parent. In a footnote he explained that "[b]ased on my reading of the historical sources, there is no credible case that a person born on American soil with one American parent was clearly not a 'natural born citizen.'" He further extended natural born citizenship to all cases of jus soli as the "conventional view".
    Given that the Fourteenth Amendment states that, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside", I think the jus soli plus jus sanguinis argument is clearly wrong. Jus soli is enough, and Obama's British father has no bearing on the question. Indeed, had both of his parents been British subjects, that would still be irrelevant. All the evidence indicates that he was born in Hawaii, which last I heard was an American state, and that alone is enough to make him a natural born citizen of these United States. (NB: One can quibble with the fact that the Fourteenth doesn't use the words 'natural born citizens.' I think it is a silly quibble, but apparently some scholars do not.)

    Obama was not the first presidential candidate whose status as a natural born citizen was questioned. Wikipedia's list includes:

    Chester A. Arthur (1829–1886), 21st president of the United States, was rumored to have been born in Canada.

    Christopher Sch├╝rmann (born 1848 in New York) entered the Labor primaries during the 1896 presidential election. His eligibility was questioned in a New York Tribune article, because he was born to alien parents of German nationality.

    The eligibility of Charles Evans Hughes (1862–1948) was questioned in an article written by Breckinridge Long, and published in the Chicago Legal News during the U.S. presidential election of 1916, in which Hughes was narrowly defeated by Woodrow Wilson. Long claimed that Hughes was ineligible because his father had not yet naturalized at the time of his birth and was still a British citizen. Observing that Hughes, although born in the United States, was also a British subject and therefore "enjoy[ed] a dual nationality and owe[d] a double allegiance", Long argued that a native born citizen was not natural born without a unity of U.S. citizenship and allegiance and stated: "Now if, by any possible construction, a person at the instant of birth, and for any period of time thereafter, owes, or may owe, allegiance to any sovereign but the United States, he is not a 'natural-born' citizen of the United States."

    Barry Goldwater (1909–1998) was born in Phoenix, in what was then the incorporated Arizona Territory of the United States. During his presidential campaign in 1964, there was a minor controversy over Goldwater's having been born in Arizona when it was not yet a state.

    George Romney (1907–1995), who ran for the Republican party nomination in 1968, was born in Mexico to U.S. parents.

    John McCain (born 1936), who ran for the Republican party nomination in 2000 and was the Republican nominee in 2008, was born at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. McCain never released his birth certificate to the press or independent fact-checking organizations ... A lawsuit filed by Fred Hollander in 2008 alleged that McCain was actually born in a civilian hospital in Colon City, Panama.

    Barack Obama (born 1961), 44th president of the United States, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to a U.S. citizen mother and a British subject father from what was then the Kenya Colony of the United Kingdom (which became the independent country of Kenya in 1963).
    Why is all this worth bringing up here? Because of articles like "Birtherist response highlights racial undertones of ‘debate’", by Rachel Rose Hartman, which would seem to demonstrate an incredible ideological blindness by otherwise intelligent, well-educated people.

    During the 2008 campaign, questions about John McCain's birth in the Panama Canal Zone on a U.S. military base prompted some to ask whether McCain was eligible to be president, since the Constitution stipulates that anyone not born in the United States is not eligible to be president.

    ... When a bipartisan pair of lawyers announced the following month that McCain was indeed eligible, the issue virtually died--apart from a Senate resolution that pretty much laid the question to rest by attesting to the facts surrounding McCain's birth and citizenship.

    But the winner of the 2008 election, Barack Obama, has faced a relentless campaign questioning his U.S. citizenship--and thereby the legitimacy of his presidency--that has disregarded the facts.


    So what's fueling the dogged questioning of Obama's origins? Many critics of the birther movement say its core tenets--and its stubborn resistance to evidence disproving those beliefs--can be traced to racial hostilities. The fundamental birtherist conviction, these critics say, is that an African-American can't have legitimately won the presidency--and that his elevation to power therefore has to be the result of an elaborate subterfuge.

    "There is a real deep-seated and vicious racism at work here in terms of trying to de-legitimate the president," Peniel Joseph, a professor of history at Tufts University, told The Ticket.

    "This is more than just a conspiracy," Joseph added. "I think this is fundamentally connected to a conception of white supremacist democracy in this country."

    The article goes on to quote Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., columnist Michael Tomasky, and Jesse Jackson as sharing this view. Hartman continues:

    Birthers emphatically deny such criticism. But it's difficult to apprehend the ongoing resistance to proof of Obama's citizenship without crediting racial fear as a significant factor. At first, after all, many adherents of birtherism argued that the administration fueled speculation by failing to release the long-form version of Obama's birth certificate, but now that this version has been released to the public, the call continues to go out for other kinds of information about Obama's past to be released--a level of scrutiny that neither McCain nor Obama's 43 predecessors in the Oval Office were expected to face.


    Trump and others have accused Obama of not authoring his memoir, while many Obama detractors continue to argue he is secretly Muslim. Both Jackson and Joseph noted that never before has a sitting president's nationality been questioned.

    Meanwhile, an eye-opening recent study from the University of Delaware appears to confirm that race-minded detractors of Obama view him as "less American"--as Dan Vergano writes for USA Today.

    The study, which surveyed blacks and whites on their opinions of Obama compared to Vice President Joe Biden, found that whites classified as "higher prejudice-predicted Whites" viewed Obama as "less American"--a view that, in turn, resulted in lower evaluations of the president's performance.
    There are several issues missing from this article that indicate a powerful ideological blindness. In completely ignoring factors other than race, it fails to mention, for example, the fact that Obama's father was a British subject, that photos of a young Obama in Indonesian garb have made the rounds, or that Obama attended Jeremiah Wright's ("God DAMN America!") church for decades (a church which lauded Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan), or repeated charges that Obama is a socialist, all things that would at least bring up other possible reasons some Americans would have this view of Obama. There is also no analysis of birther rhetoric itself, other than to note that birthers deny the racism charge. In addition, the article ignores the lengthy history of challenging the natural born citizenship of a number of white candidates prior to the 2008 election, including two on issues of parentage.

    More egregious is the complete failure to mention the sustained, hate-filled campaign by Democrats to delegitimize Bush's presidency that lasted all throughout Bush's time in office, despite actual recounts after the USSC ruling that showed Bush would have won anyway. The campaign to delegitimize Obama's presidency can be seen as a response to the dishonesty and ugliness of the Democratic war on Bush's legitimacy. Even if you disagree with my characterization of that effort, the idea that an attack by a primarily Republican demographic on the legitimacy of a sitting Democratic president is in no way related to the primarily Democratic attack on the legitimacy of the preceding Republican president seems absurd.

    So here's the point: Birthers believe what they believe due to their ideological blindness. Others believe the birthers must be motivated by racism because of their own ideological blindness. These are two more examples of the bipartisan nature of the lack of intellectual curiosity that infests our nation, of the confirmation bias endemic to humanity, and of plain old stuck on stupid. Both groups are damaging this nation.