Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our puritanical progressives
...In 1954, Fredric Wertham brought science - very loosely defined - to the subject of juvenile crime. Formerly chief resident in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, he was politically progressive: When he opened a clinic in Harlem, he named it for Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx's son-in-law who translated portions of "Das Kapital" into French, thereby facilitating the derangement of Parisian intellectuals.

Without ever interviewing the convicted spy Ethel Rosenberg, Wertham testified on her behalf concerning what he called her "prison psychoses." Since 1948, he had been campaigning against comic books, and his 1954 book, "Seduction of the Innocent," which was praised by the progressive sociologist C. Wright Mills, became a bestseller by postulating a causal connection between comic books and the desensitization of young criminals: "Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry."

Wertham was especially alarmed about the one-third of comic books that were horror comics, but his disapproval was capacious: Superman, who gave short shrift to due process in his crime-fighting, was a crypto-fascist. As for Batman and Robin, the "homoerotic tendencies" were patent. ...

...Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives' agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise - an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism's itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon - the Pecksniffian progressive.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

UCLA researcher says he won't be deterred by animal activists' attacks
When UCLA neuroscientist J. David Jentsch was a grad student, he never expected his life as an academic would require around-the-clock armed guards, or a closed-circuit TV inside his bedroom so he could keep constant watch over his home.

But the high-powered security proved necessary again this month when the researcher, who experiments on monkeys, opened a letter left in his mailbox to discover razor blades and a death threat.

"We follow you on campus," Jentsch recalled the note reading. "One day, when you're walking by, we'll come up behind you, and cut your throat."

Activists claimed the razors were tainted with AIDS, though it hasn't been confirmed by officials. University officials have said the latest threat, confirmed by UCLA on Tuesday, is under investigation by the FBI and UCLA police.

But the 38-year-old professor has been through this before. Last year, he woke up to an orange flash and a car alarm. He ran outside to find his car had been blown up.

Twice a month, animal rights activists in ski masks gather outside his home, chanting "murder." On Halloween, neighborhood trick-or-treaters were handed flyers with images of bloodied animal subjects.

"If you go to the house down the street, there's a monster who lives there," children were told.

The tactics, Jentsch said in an interview inside his office, are part of an intensifying effort by extremists to halt animal research at the university. Molotov-cocktail-like devices have been left near researchers' homes and under their cars, and in one case, a professor's window was smashed and a garden hose inserted to flood her home....

Health law snag may cost hospitals
...The error was a simple and unintentional omission in the final, frenetic days of drafting the landmark legislation and reconciling House and Senate versions. Con gressional staff intended to allow children’s hospitals continued access to the portion of a federal program that offers below-market prices on 347 specific medicines for rare, life-threatening conditions. But that language was accidentally altered.

“It was a drafting error,’’ said a congressional aide familiar with the writing of the bill but not authorized to speak publicly....

Friday, November 26, 2010

These kids today are so afraid of looking stupid that they won't get serious, collectivize, and change the world — declaims Mark Ames, spittle flying.
...Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state: they are against promoting American citizens’ general welfare and against policies that create a perfect union. Like Communists before them, they are actively subverting the Constitution and the American Dream, and replacing it with a Kleptocratic Nightmare....

...That’s why they’re following a clown like Stewart, whose entire political program comes down to this: not being stupid, the way the other guys are stupid–or when being stupid, only stupid in a self-consciously stupid way, which is to say, not stupid. That’s it, that’s all this is about: Not to protest wars or oligarchical theft or declining health care or crushing debt or a corrupt political system or imperial decay—nope, the only thing that motivates Liberals to gather in the their thousands is the chance to celebrate their own lack of stupidity! Woo-hoo!...

...Ames is still playing on his audience's fear of being the stupid ones — even as he spews some crazy shit he wants us to hear as brilliant. Don't be a dumb fuck, believe me when I tell you: This individualism is a trick the billionaires are playing on you. Come together, live as One.

Ames boldly palms this off as constitutional interpretation. The "more perfect union" in the Preamble isn't the reallocation of powers between the federal government and the state governments to deal with the problems that arose under the Articles of Confederation. No, Ames's big, serious lie — and you should worry that you're a dumb fuck if you don't believe it — is that the Constitution compels us to set aside our individual pursuit of happiness and dedicate ourselves to the collective.

Liberals resort to conspiracy theories to explain Obama's problems
...So Matt Yglesias warns the White House to be prepared for "deliberate economic sabotage" from the GOP - as though Chamber of Commerce SWAT teams, no doubt funded by foreigners, are preparing attacks on the electrical grid. Paul Krugman contends that "Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there's a Democrat in the White House." Steve Benen explains, "We're talking about a major political party . . . possibly undermining the strength of the country - on purpose, in public, without apology or shame - for no other reason than to give themselves a campaign advantage in 2012." Benen's posting was titled "None Dare Call it Sabotage."

So what is the proof of this charge? It seems to have something to do with Republicans criticizing quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. And opposing federal spending. And, according to Benen, creating "massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system."

One is tempted to respond that it is $1 trillion in new debt, the prospect of higher taxes and a complicated, disruptive health-reform law that have created "massive economic uncertainty." For the purposes of this argument, however, it is sufficient to say that all these economic policy debates have two sides.

Yet this is precisely what the sabotage theorists must deny. They must assert that the case for liberal policies is so self-evident that all opposition is malevolent. But given the recent record of liberal economics, policies that seem self-evident to them now seem questionable to many. Objective conditions call for alternatives. And Republicans are advocating the conservative alternatives - monetary restraint, lower spending, lower taxes - they have embraced for 30 years.

It is difficult to overstate how offensive elected Republicans find the sabotage accusation, which Obama himself has come very close to making. During the run-up to the midterm election, the president said at a town hall meeting in Racine, Wis.: "Before I was even inaugurated, there were leaders on the other side of the aisle who got together and they made the calculation that if Obama fails, then we win." Some Republican leaders naturally took this as an attack on their motives. Was the president really contending that Republican representatives want their constituents to be unemployed in order to gain a political benefit for themselves? No charge from the campaign more effectively undermined the possibility of future cooperation.

The sabotage accusation, once implicit, is now direct among panicked progressives....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Facebook-banning NJ pastor acknowledges threesome
NEPTUNE TOWNSHIP, N.J. — A pastor who said Facebook was a "portal to infidelity" and told married church leaders to delete their accounts or resign once testified that he had a three-way sexual relationship with his wife and a male church assistant.

The Rev. Cedric Miller confirmed the information reported Saturday by the Asbury Park Press of Neptune, which cited testimony he gave in a criminal case in 2003. The relationship had ended by that time.

Miller gained national attention when he issued the Facebook edict this week. He said it came about because much of the marital counseling he has performed over the past year and a half has concerned infidelity stemming from the social-networking website.

The 48-year-old leader of Living Word Christian Fellowship Church in Neptune Township had claimed Facebook ignites old passions, and he ordered about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts with the social networking site or resign from their leadership positions.

Miller had previously asked married congregants to share their login information with their spouses — as he does — and now plans to suggest that they give up Facebook altogether. The minister also said he would leave the site this week.

In court testimony he gave in April 2003, Miller said his wife had an extramarital affair with the church assistant. Miller said he participated in many of the sexual encounters and said the assistant's wife was sometimes present, too.

Miller said the dalliances — which occurred in the Millers' home — sometimes took place during Thursday Bible study meetings and Sundays after church. But the minister said the encounters "came to a crashing halt" when several women in the church accused the assistant of having sex with them....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Climate Cash Cow
...Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Working Group III on Mitigation of Climate Change (say that twice), told the Neue Zurcher Zeitung last week: "The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War." After all, redistributing global wealth is no small matter....

On the anniversary of Climategate the Watermelons show their true colours
...First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole....

...Lord Stern said that Europe and the Far East (sic) were forging ahead of the US in controlling emissions and switching to low carbon sources of energy. They would not tolerate having their industries undermined by American competitors that had not paid for their emissions. “If you are charging properly for carbon and other people are not, you will take that into account,” he said. “Many of the more forward-looking people in the US are thinking about this. If they see a danger on the trade front to US exports that could influence public discussion.”

Asked what type of US products could face restrictions, Lord Stern said: “Aircraft, clearly, some cars, machine tools — it’s not simply what’s in the capital good, it’s what kind of processes the capital good is facilitating.”...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

California Suggests Suicide; Texas Asks: Can I Lend You a Knife?
reply to this

...A vast difference in economic performance is driving the demographic shifts. Since 1998, California’s economy has not produced a single new net job, notes economist John Husing. Public employment has swelled, but private jobs have declined. Critically, as Texas grew its middle-income jobs by 16%, one of the highest rates in the nation, California, at 2.1% growth, ranked near the bottom. In the year ending September, Texas accounted for roughly half of all the new jobs created in the country. ...

MIT's Dr. Richard Lindzen's 48-page Congressional Testimony: 'Increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming' -- 'Data is being analyzed with aim of supporting, rather than testing models'
...'Incontrovertibility' belongs to religion where it is referred to as dogma...Cicerone [of NAS] is saying that regardless of evidence the answer is predetermined. If gov't wants carbon control, that is the answer that the Academies will provide...We should stop accepting term, 'skeptic.' Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition.'...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Washington's Wealth Boom
Take a look at this map. The areas shaded in red are the 100 wealthiest counties in America according to per capita income. At first glance, it's a little misleading, because in the American West, counties tend to be larger in geographic area. But look closely, and you'll see that after the New York City metropolitan area, the largest cluster of wealth in the U.S. is huddled around Washington, D.C.

If we look at household income, the picture grows starker. After the 2000 Census, the richest county in America was Douglas County, Colorado. By 2007, Douglas County had fallen to sixth. The new top three are now Loudon County, Virginia; Fairfax County, Virginia; and Howard County, Maryland. All three are suburbs or exurbs of Washington, D.C. In 2000, 14 of the 100 richest counties were in the Washington, D.C., area. In 2007, it was nine of the richest 20.

All of this is fine if you happen to live in the D.C. area. It's not so great for the country as a whole.

While the D.C. metro area hasn't completely escaped the recession, it's doing much better than most everywhere else. Real estate advisers Grub & Ellis Company recently ranked the D.C. metro area the top market in the country for commercial real estate investment. Investment advisers are high on D.C. area real estate even in down times, because they know the federal government's only going to get bigger. That means more federal employees, more grantees and contractors, and more wealthy lawyers and lobbyists setting up shop inside the Beltway — both to get a piece of the federal budget (or, more recently, the $7 trillion-and-growing pot of federal bailout honey), and, as the federal regulatory state expands, to lobby for regulations most favorable (or, least unfavorable) for their clients.

The problem is that, save for the tech corridor in D.C.'s Virginia exurbs, the Washington Metro area doesn't actually produce anything. Washington doesn't create wealth, it just moves it around — redistributes it. As government grows and takes control of more and more of the private economy — either through spending, regulation, or taxes — more and more wealth that's created elsewhere comes to Washington to be devoured.

The Washington wealth boom is the result of the massive expansion in government over the last 10 years, which has populated the region with an increase in well-paid federal employees, and wealthy federal contractors and lobbyists....

You live in nation's richest counties
WASHINGTON - The D.C. area makes plenty of Top 10 lists, and this one shows its residents make the big bucks.

According to a new report from Newsweek, seven of the nation's 10 richest counties are in this region.

Virginia's Loudoun County takes home the top spot, with its median household income exceeding $114,000 per year. Seventeen percent of Loudoun households make more than $200,000, while only 16 percent earn less than the national average household income of $50,000.

The survey, based on 2009 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, names Loudoun neighbor Fairfax County the No. 2 breadwinner in the country. The county was the first in America to hit six figures with its median household income, and more than half its homes make more than that number now.

"Fairfax County has traditionally been home away from home for many diplomats and officials who want to live in a rural community close to Washington, D.C.," Newsweek explains. ...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Statism, the Greatest Threat
...The state has been by far the largest recipient of intellectual charity during the past hundred years. The issue of government coercion has been taken off the radar screen of politically correct thought. The more government power has grown, the more unfashionable it becomes to discuss or recognize government abuses -- as if it were bad form to count the dead brought about by government interventions. There seems to be a gentleman's agreement among some contemporary political philosophers to pretend that government is something loftier than it actually is -- to practice noblesse oblige and to wear white gloves when discussing the nature of the state.

The great political issue of our time is not liberalism versus conservatism, or capitalism versus socialism, but statism -- the belief that government is inherently superior to the citizenry, that progress consists of extending the realm of compulsion, that vesting arbitrary power in government officials will make the people happy -- eventually.

What type of entity is the state? Is it a highly efficient, purring engine, like a hovercraft sailing deftly above the lives of ordinary citizens? Or is it a lumbering giant bulldozer that rips open the soil and ends up clear-cutting the lives of people it was created to protect?

The effort to find a political mechanism to force government to serve the people is the modern search for the Holy Grail. No such mechanism has been found, and government power has been relentlessly expanded. Yet, to base political philosophy on the assumption that government is inherently benevolent makes as much sense as basing geography on the assumption that the Earth is flat. Too many political thinkers treat government like some Wizard of Oz, ordaining great things, enunciating high ideals, and symbolizing all that is good in society. However, for political philosophy to have any value, it must begin by pulling back the curtain to bare the nature of the state.

Trusting contemporary governments means dividing humanity into two classes: those who can be trusted with power to run other people's lives, and those who cannot even be trusted to run their own lives. Modern Leviathans give some people the power to play God with other people's lives, property, and domestic tranquility. Modern political thinking presumes that restraints are bad for the government but good for the people. The first duty of the citizen is to assume the best of the government, while government officials assume the worst of him. ...

Interior inspector general: White House skewed drilling-ban report
The White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling, the Interior inspector general says in a new report.

In the wee hours of the morning of May 27, a staff member to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited versions of the department report’s executive summary back to Interior. The language had been changed to insinuate the seven-member panel of outside experts – who reviewed a draft of various safety recommendations – endorsed the moratorium, according to the IG report obtained by POLITICO.

“The White House edit of the original DOI draft executive summary led to the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer-reviewed by the experts,” the IG report states, without judgment on whether the change was an intentional attempt to mislead the public. ...

Government Salaries Soar Under Obama
Here's where the real pay dirt is. In the last five years, the number of federal employees making $150,000 or more per year increased tenfold, according to an investigation by USA Today. Those high wages increased by twofold under the Obama administration. "The biggest pay hikes have gone to employees who have been with the government for 15 to 24 years," the paper reports. "Since 2005, average salaries for this group climbed 25% compared with a 9% inflation rate." ...

Psst! Rand Paul Was Right About Federal Pay
...Federal pay does average more than $120,000 (including about $40,000 in benefits). The debate is simply over whether the private sector pays as much. Media Matters clears it up again! Where would we be without them? ...

P.S.: When people are outraged at the $120,000 figure, I think, they aren't making an implicit apples-to-oranges comparison. They're making an apples-to-themselves comparison. They know what they do and what they're making. They have a pretty good, rough idea of what federal employees do (some are highly skilled doctors, some are equal opportunity compliance facilitators). They know that they themselves have had to take pay freezes and cuts and endure waves of corporate downsizing while the federal government hasn't been through anything like that. In fact, pay for individual federal workers has kept growing each year thanks to both cost-of-living raises and "step" increases. The federal pay escalator kept on running right through the recesssion. Meanwhile, federal workers enjoy job security they can only dream of.

They know, in short, that as a result of this Great Divergence (sorry Tim!) they don't make anything like $120,000, but they pay taxes to support the government workers who do—and they're outraged. ...

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Confirmed: Geithner met with Jon Stewart in April to talk about the economy
...In the midst of debates on financial regulation and China’s currency in April, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner sat down to discuss the U.S. economy — with comedian Jon Stewart.

Geithner and Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” held an off-the-record meeting at Stewart’s office in New York on April 2, according to Geithner’s appointments calendar, updated through August on Treasury’s website…

“Jon Stewart is influential in America, so we took the opportunity for the two to meet and to discuss the economy,” Treasury spokesman Steve Adamske said in an e-mail yesterday. Stewart’s program has poked fun at Geithner, including a segment last year about the Treasury secretary’s trouble selling his New York home...

A recoil against liberalism
...Actually, as the distilled essence of progressivism, he should feel ratified by Tuesday's repudiation. The point of progressivism is that the people must progress up from their backwardness. They cannot do so unless they are pulled toward the light by a government composed of the enlightened - experts coolly devoted to facts and science.

The progressive agenda is actually legitimated by the incomprehension and anger it elicits: If the people do not resent and resist what is being done on their behalf, what is being done is not properly ambitious. If it is comprehensible to its intended beneficiaries, it is the work of insufficiently advanced thinkers.

Of course the masses do not understand that the only flaw of the stimulus was its frugality, and that Obamacare's myriad coercions are akin to benevolent parental discipline. If the masses understood what progressives understand, would progressives represent a real vanguard of progress?

Of course the progressive agenda must make infinitely elastic the restraints imposed by the Founders' Constitution and its principles of limited government. Moving up from them - from the Founders and their anachronistic principles - is the definition of progress. ...