Monday, September 28

Politics as usual

What we have here is a president who views trade policy as nothing more than a tool to advance his own political standing with groups that are hostile to commerce. Since groups on the left have grown disenchanted that some of the most socialist elements of the health care debate might be left on the cutting room floor, why not try to placate them with anti-business, anti-consumer, anti-globalization protectionism? Will makes the link between tire tariffs and the health care debate in his concluding sentence.

Labor's clout and a mindless adherence to liberal gospel

The New York Post is reporting that unemployment among young workers (aged 16-24, excluding students) has reached a postwar high of 52.2 percent. It had never topped 50 percent before.

A recession is always going to hit the unskilled the hardest, and most of this age group are unskilled. But the increase in the minimum wage on July 24, 2009, adversely impacted this group as well, for it raised the price of unskilled labor by no less than 10.7 percent in the teeth of an already growing unemployment rate. Since 2006, as the seeds of recession were beginning to germinate, the minimum wage has increased by a whopping 40.8 percent. This could only have reduced the demand for unskilled labor. A small-business owner with 10 minimum-wage employees in 2006 could have hired another four with the wage increase he has been forced to pay to the ones he already had. So, of course, many of them didn’t hire anybody.

The evidence that minimum-wage laws work against, not for, the interests of the unskilled is pretty clear. There are, for instance, 13 states, ranging from California to New England, with minimum wages above the federal level. Their unemployment rates among the unskilled average higher than the national unemployment rate. That’s unlikely to be a coincidence.

The biggest backer of a higher minimum wage has long been Big Labor, few of whose workers are paid the minimum wage. But many of their workers are paid wages that are multiples of the minimum wage, so any increase in the minimum boosts their wages as well.

The stimulus bill did nothing for those earning the minimum wage. Had a substantial portion been designated to fund tax relief for employers who added minimum-wage jobs to their payrolls, the unemployment rate would have been immediately impacted for the better by lowering the cost of unskilled labor. Instead, the Obama administration made it harder for employers to hire the unskilled, not easier. Why? First, because Big Labor has enormous clout in this administration; second, because of this administration’s intellectual rigidity and mindless adherence to the gospel of liberalism.

Serves you right!

Vermillion County Prosecutor Nina Alexander victimizes a woman for buying two boxes of cold medication in less than a week, saying "I’m simply enforcing the law", or "I was only following orders". Vigo County Sheriff Jon Marvel agrees:

“Sometimes mistakes happen,” Marvel said. “It’s unfortunate. But for the good of everyone, the law was put into effect.

“I feel for her, but if she could go to one of the area hospitals and see a baby born to a meth-addicted mother …”

Sunday, September 27

We are here to guarantee peace

Claudia Rosett reminds us of Nicolas Sarkozy's remarks at the Security Council meeting. Here's the original French version:
Nous sommes ici pour garantir la paix. Nous avons raison de parler de l’avenir. Mais avant l’avenir, il y a le présent. Et le présent, c’est deux crises nucléaire majeures. Les peuples du monde entier écoutent ce que nous sommes en train de dire. Nos promesses, nos engagements, nos discours. Mais nous vivons dans un monde réel, pas dans un monde virtuel.

Nous disons, il faut réduire. Et le Président Obama a même dit : « Je rêve d’un monde où il n’y en aurait plus. » Et sous nos yeux, deux pays font exactement le contraire, en ce moment. L’Iran a violé depuis 2005 cinq résolutions du Conseil de sécurité. Cinq. Depuis 2005, la communauté internationale a appelé l’Iran pour le dialogue. Une proposition de dialogue en 2005, une proposition de dialogue en 2006, une proposition de dialogue en 2007, une proposition de dialogue en 2008, et une nouvelle en avril 2009. Monsieur le Président Obama, je soutiens la main tendue des Américains. Qu’a amené à la communauté internationale ces propositions de dialogue? Rien. Plus d’uranium enrichi, plus de centrifugeuses, et de surcroît, last but not least, une déclaration des dirigeants iraniens proposant de rayer de la carte un Membre de l’Organisation des Nations Unies. Que faisons-nous? Quelle conclusion tirons-nous? Il y a un moment où les faits sont têtus, et il faudra prendre des décisions. Si nous voulons un monde sans armes nucléaires à l’arrivée, n’acceptons pas la violation des règles internationales. Je comprends parfaitement les positions différentes des uns et des autres. Mais tous nous pouvons être menacés un jour – tous – par un voisin qui se doterait de l’arme nucléaire.
Apparently the French news sites didn't carry this.

Friday, September 25

Obama's plan makes the problems of the current system worse.

With 30 million to 40 million newly insured persons under the administration's plan, aggregate health-care demand will increase significantly. But when demand expands prices increase. We estimate that the higher demand will increase health insurance premiums for the typical family plan by about 10%. Because an employer-sponsored family insurance plan cost $12,680 in 2008, this translates into an increase of about $1,200 in the typical annual premium.

The mandates will also have adverse additional longer-run consequences. According to provisions in both House and Senate bills, mandated plans must have low copayments and provide coverage of health-care services that is at least equal in scope to a typical, current employer-sponsored plan. But these are the very flaws that are responsible for high and rising health-care costs, flaws that stem directly from the misguided tax exclusion for and the extensive state regulation of health insurance. By locking in these flaws, the mandates will inhibit precisely the innovation needed to reform U.S. health care.

Thursday, September 24

American gov't mocked for treating its people as children

Remember when George W. Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, claimed that the president saw the American people "as we think about a 10-year-old child"? His comment, understandably, caused much mockery and disdain.

The problem, apparently, wasn't the paternalist sentiment; it was the parent offering it. What we needed was a brainy, grown-up administration to harangue and regulate us into submission.

Saturday, September 19

Protectionist Obama

Obama has largely decided to become a domestic-policy president. His supporters, his base and the politicking of his underlings indicate things will only get worse. With the global economy in deep crisis, protectionism is a terrible way to build a recovery.

Thursday, September 17

I hope this is wrong

...domestic political considerations and the good opinion of his base are more important to Obama than just about any other concern. That seems to be the motivating factor in a lot of what he does. The international apology tour is catnip for his Left-leaning academic friends, who are delighted that we finally have a president who “understands” there isn’t anything special about America. He unleashes another investigation on CIA operatives, cheering the “get the Bushies” netroot crowd. He selects an entirely mediocre Supreme Court judge because the Hispanic vote could use a boost. And despite what must be the advice of free-traders within his administration, he has no qualms about risking economic retaliation from China to mollify his Big Labor patrons.

During the campaign, Obama’s supporters assured us that Obama was intensely “practical” and therefore would make fact-based decisions devoid of ideology. The reality is that he persistently tends to the whims and demands of his Left-leaning base (whose views he, in any case, sympathizes with), the result being a series of policy choices that send a thrill up the legs of union bosses and Harvard professors. If we trigger a trade war or throw the intelligence community into a tailspin, well, that’s a small price for keeping the base quiet.
But it's a convincing argument.

Sunday, September 13

Norman Borlaug

In a just world, people like Borlaug would be the subject of hours of media commentary and coverage and special commemorative issues of Time or Newsweek while politicians got a cursory obit notice on the back page of the local rag.
Not to mention princesses and pop stars.

Saturday, September 12

Thief to head the Senate Agriculture Committee

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) forces us--under threat of imprisonment or violence--to pay her part of our paycheck, then gave most of that money to her friends, keeping a cut for herself and her family.

Obama's Senseless Protectionism

I was afraid he'd be protectionist, which is why I didn't want to vote for him.

John Holdren: zero-sum scientist

I think ultimately that the rate of growth of material consumption is going to have to come down, and there’s going to have to be a degree of redistribution of how much we consume, in terms of energy and material resources, in order to leave room for people who are poor to become more prosperous.

Homeland Security Marked By Waste, Lack of Oversight

Friday, September 11

Obama must know

Obama must know...that health insurance premiums are paid in lieu of employee wages. Because of a stupid tax loophole, employers use pre-tax dollars to purchase health insurance as a benefit rather than pay their workers wages. So instead of paying an employee $1,000 more in wages, of which $400 will be taxed away, companies purchase $1,000 in additional health insurance tax-free. In this way companies funnel more than $140 billion a year in federal tax breaks to their workers.

Faith-Based Double Standards

In 2001, President Bush issued his first executive order as president. He created a program to encourage religious organizations to receive taxpayer funds to perform social services. The Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, as it was called, infuriated many. Civil libertarians said it violated the separation of church and state, liberals suggested that the office was paying off political supporters, and even Christian conservatives worried about the tentacles of government regulation.

The Village Voice fretted over Mr. Bush's "plan to let churches run the government's welfare system" and his "march toward turning the U.S. into a religious state." Former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal wrote an article on about the faith-based efforts with the subtitle: "By pandering to Christian zealots, Bush has come close to establishing a national religious party."

Now that Mr. Bush is gone, however, no one seems particularly worried about the entanglement of the federal government with religious organizations.


In "Who Is a Moron?" (The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 24, No. 1 [Jan., 1927], pp. 41-46), Henry H. Goddard argued,
There have been for many years at least three different terms commonly used to apply to persons of defective mentality. These were idiot, imbecile and feebleminded. Each in its turn had originally been applied as a very kindly designation of mentally deficient people. Idiot, which sounds so harsh to-day, was originally taken over from the Greek language "idiotes," meaning having an individuality of his own, or in a sense peculiar, not an obnoxious term to be applied to a serious mental defective. But of course in time it came to take its meaning from that to which it was applied. Likewise, imbecile, which means literally leaning upon a staff or needing support, was also a friendly term. Still more recently, the expression feebleminded has come to be applied to these people with the result that it is coming to be a little unpleasant in its implication.
Goddard appears to have popularized if not invented "moron", which came to have the same negative connotations as the others (and indeed the OED cites many such for "idiot". Oh, and "idiot" was also defined as "natural fool", which in fact it had replaced in legal terminology.

According to Robert B. Edgerton, in Mental Retardation, "In the past an idiot was someone with an IQ of less than 30, an imbecile had an IQ of 30 to 50, and a moron an IQ of 50 to 70." These terms were replaced by various levels of "retardation", and "retard" is showing signs of becoming taboo. Apparently the preferred label is "intellectually disabled", but perhaps that will be replaced by "exceptional". It may be necessary to change terms
periodically once they have taken on destructive connotations

Monday, September 7

Continue to suffer!

If you live in constant pain, should the government have the right to tell you, "You must continue to suffer in pain"?


Is sacrificing the interests of consumers who follow instructions for the sake of consumers who don't, or policing voluntarily assumed risk, the right thing to do?

Sunday, September 6

What Barack Obama should tell public school children

"If you want to grow up to be like me, you should beg your parents to put you in private school, right now."

Although Obama attended public school in Indonesia early in life, he soon switched to a private Catholic school, and from fifth grade through graduation went to a private college-prep school in Hawaii. His own daughters now attend a private school in Washington D.C.

Community organizers lament the sincerest form of flattery

When Wade Rathke, founder of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, came to West Baltimore to promote his book, "Citizen Wealth: Winning the Campaign to Save Working Families,"

The group collectively lamented that the Right discovered Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals." "It's kind of scary! They have learned all of the tricks," said Sue Esty, the assistant director of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Maryland.


The disruption of the town hall meetings has many Alinsky trademarks: using spectacle to make up for lack of numbers; targeting an individual to make a large point; and trying to use ridicule to persuade the undecided. Here are excerpts from “Rules for Radicals.”

Big surprise: liberal commentators seem to feel this behavior is unethical now. How did they feel when the left practiced it?

Vicious cycle

Members of Congress ensure they have gerrymandered seats where they pick the voters rather than the voters picking them and then they pass out money to special interests who then make sure they have so much money that no one can easily challenge them.

Saturday, September 5

Obama's Speech to Schools

He wrote, "Write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals." Oh, wait, that was Bush.

What is most troubling about Van Jones

his belief
expressed in his book The Green Collar Economy, that dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions not only won't cost anything but will actually benefit the economy by creating jobs. I debated this subject with Jones on a radio show last year, and my impression was that he is a true believer in the broken [window] planet fallacy. The problem is that Jones was hired not despite but because of this nutty idea, which his boss also espouses.

An instrument of control over the individual

While China has long since replaced its communist economy with a kind of raw capitalism and is fast ascending to the rank of superpower, its relationship with its own citizens remains partly stuck in its totalitarian past. The state continues to keep a secret dossier on every working citizen, which helps it retain its absolute power over the individual...

For each of China’s 700m employees – except farmers, historically excluded – there is a file, started while they are high school students. The file is transferred to their employers, where it is open to superiors but closed to the employees themselves – which means, in effect, the state’s invisible hand can make or break anyone’s fate.

“The file system holds some functions that are covered by the social security number in the United States, but its real meaning is that it gives the state an instrument of control over the individual,” says Chen Tan, a professor of public policy at Central South university in Changsha...

Employee files are frequently filled with false information, and often used by superiors to punish staff they do not like or by state institutions to stop individuals taking politically sensitive ac­tion, says Prof Chen, who has had access to thousands of such files for his research on the system...

But files are not only abused as instruments in power struggles or vendettas. They can also become a commercial good, highlighting the problems of a society where everything can be for sale. Several graduates in the central town of Wubu in 2006 have discovered in the past three years that their files have disappeared, erasing bright prospects and condemning them to a future as day labourers or freelance salespeople.

The vanished files all belonged to students with exceptional grades, raising suspicions of identity theft. Officials in other provinces have been found to have sold files to wealthy families whose offspring wanted to improve their career chances.

Friday, September 4

Recruiting to the Party

“[The promise of future graft is] now a recruiting tool.... Corruption is the glue that keeps the party stuck together. Getting rid of it is not possible as long as they keep this system.”

22 Chinas

McKinsey researchers studied 815 Chinese cities along lines including industry composition, government policy, demographic characteristics and consumer preferences. The 22 city clusters – population areas anchored by a city – it identified in the 2009 Annual Chinese Consumer Study are meant to underscore how the nation has many markets.
Mostly urban consumers, then. And I'm guessing not any in Taiwan.

Another reason to get rid of the printed word

Errors are common in all forms of media, but it is mistakes in the printed word that are perhaps the most pernicious. Once a “fact” has been pressed onto paper, it becomes a trusted source, and misinformation will multiply. The combination of human fallibility with Gutenberg’s invention of efficient printing in 1439 has, for all the revolutionary advantages of the latter, proved (in some respects) to be a toxic mixture.