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 Schürmann (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.

Friday, June 10, 2011

More Financial Crisis Articles

USA Today: U.S. Funding for Future Promises Lags by Trillions:
The government added $5.3 trillion in new financial obligations in 2010, largely for retirement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. That brings to a record $61.6 trillion the total of financial promises not paid for.

Reuters: Economy at Tipping Point:
Recent housing and employment data suggests the U.S. economy is at a tipping point where a double-dip recession is possible and home prices could have much further to fall, a veteran economist said on Thursday.

Robert Shiller said the recent uptick in unemployment is not yet enough of a sign as to which way the recovery is heading. But if unemployment continues to rise in the coming months, it could suggest another recession.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Economics Blogs

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Economics One, by John B. Taylor

Limericks Economiques (yes, economic commentary in the form of limericks)

Economonomics (with haiku)

I'll probably add more in the future, but that's what I have for now.

2008 Financial Crisis Link Dump

Kenneth Anderson at The Volokh Conspiracy talks about a new book on Fannie and Freddie's role in the crisis. In the post, he links an NPR interview with Gretchen Morgenson, one of the authors, and a review at the Washington Post. Anderson's post is well worth reading in full, BTW.

The book is Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon, by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner.

These reviews led me to Wikipedia's entry on George Stigler, a Nobel-winning economist and originator of the idea of 'regulatory capture,' which describes very well one aspect of my own impression of how the US government has, in large part, been corrupted.

Stigler, in turn, led me to the Mont Pelerin Society:

... an international organization composed of economists (including 8 winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences), philosophers, historians, intellectuals, business leaders, and others who favour classical liberalism. Its founders included Friedrich Hayek, Karl Popper, Ludwig von Mises, George Stigler, and Milton Friedman.

The society advocates freedom of expression, free market economic policies, and the political values of an open society.
I feel like I've been admitted to a higher (lower?) circle of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy ...

Anyway, interesting stuff. I look forward to reading the book.

PS On a somewhat related note, this is hilarious.