Archive for the Politics Category

For many years, environmentalists have been criticizing Americans for consuming too much.  We were a wasteful “consumerist” society, and they wanted people to learn to live with less.  The Obama administration is clearly sympathetic to viro ideology — his appointments and the cap-and-trade provisions in his budget proposal make that clear.  But the administration is also telling us that the current economic crisis is caused in part by a lack of consumer spending — i.e. by people consuming less.  In other words, consuming less is simultaneously a moral imperative and is contributing to a practical disaster.

I sense inconsistency.   I wonder what Obama’s viro supporters think of the so-called stimulus package?

I like this.  People justly mock Republicans who lecture the rest of us on the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family values, then have marital affairs and solicit sex in public restrooms.  It’s well past time to mock Democrats who lecture the rest of us on cronyism and financial management problems, then obtain special “Friends of Angelo” mortgages and fail to pay their taxes.

Moral principles are universal, and apply equally to all people.  This business of applying one standard to government officials and another to everybody else is more like the relationship between feudal aristocrats and their serfs than anything that should exist in a free society.  At least they haven’t resurrected the droit de seigneur — so far, they’ve restricted themselves to screwing us economically.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya, President Obama commented that “the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there’s no reason why we can’t restore that.”  30 years ago, in 1979, the relationship between America and the Muslim world was dominated by the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  20 years ago, in 1989, it was the first Gulf War.  In other words, the “respect and partnership” that America had with the Muslim world 20 or 30 years ago was characterized by a virulent Islamic totalitarian movement waging a terror war against the United States, and a large-scale American invasion of Iraq.  Sounds familiar.  What exactly needs restoring, again?

Those ignorant of history…

Update: Sorry, brain fart.  The first Gulf War was, of course, in 1991 — not 1989 as I said above.  I think I conflated it with the fall of the Berlin Wall for some bizarre reason.  ‘Those ignorant of history’ apparently includes me.  Ok, so it was 18 years, not 20, and the irony only holds 50%.  Still, I think the basic point — that the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world over the last three decades has been a pretty consistently bloody and violent one — stands up.

Oftentimes people respond to a crisis by claiming that it could not have been foreseen.  (Government officials said this in the wake of 9/11, as one example.)  With regard to the housing crisis, I have an answer: Henry Hazlitt.  From his 1946 book Economics In One Lesson:

The case against government-guaranteed loans and mortgages to private businesses and persons is almost as strong as, though less obvious than, the case against direct government loans and mortgages [for homes]. … Government-guaranteed home mortgages, especially when a negligible down payment or no down payment whatever is required, inevitably mean more bad loans than otherwise. They force the general taxpayer to subsidize the bad risks and to defray the losses. They encourage people to ‘buy’ houses that they cannot really afford. They tend to eventually to bring about an oversupply of houses as compared with other things. They temporarily overstimulate building, raise the cost of building for everybody (including the buyers of the homes with the guaranteed mortgages), and may mislead the building industry into an eventually costly overexpansion. In brief, in the long run they do not increase overall national production but encourage malinvestment.

Over sixty years ago, and he nailed it.  What a shame nobody was listening.

People on the right like to point out the vile, anti-intellectual behavior of people on the left — with some justification.  But the right has its own dark side.  Recently, Nick Provenzo over at the Rule of Reason blog sparked a firestorm by defending a woman’s moral right to abort a Down’s Syndrome fetus, and boy howdy did the religionists let their inner thug out to play!  (For the record, I agree entirely with the thrust of Nick’s argument.  Some other relevant follow-up posts may be found here, here, here, here and here.  Nick has some follow-on thoughts on intellectual thuggery which are also worth reading, as is Diana Hsieh’s post on the same topic.)

Nick has done a wonderful job standing up to the resulting onslaught, and I’ve been remiss in not noting the fight and providing moral support.  So, Nick, well done.  Well done indeed.  I’ll be backing up my moral support with some financial support.

I have to wonder about people who are willing to support Barack Obama in spite of his thoroughly collectivist political ideas, but who would turn on him over something like this.  Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Every time I think American politics has hit rock-bottom, we start digging. 

The first time I found myself agreeing with former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, I joked that it was a sign of the impending apocalypse.  Now he’s gone and said something else sensible.

The third time is generally taken as a sign of enemy action.  If he does this again I’ll have to wonder if the GOP kidnapped his dog.

Ezra Levant is currently my favorite Canadian. He’s been fighting a solid, principled battle for free speech in Canada in the face of radical Muslims trying to use Canada’s “human rights commissions” to crush speech critical of Islam. Freedom of speech is the carotid artery of peaceful cultural change — block it off, and the prospects for improving the culture die with alarming speed. The kinds of things Levant is facing are a microcosm of the future we face in the United States unless we are vigilant.

I don’t know much about Mr. Levant or his views apart from the free speech issue, but on that he is dead-on accurate. Recently he testified before the U.S. Congress. He also has an interesting post commenting on testimony by a Pakistani diplomat on the efforts by Muslim nations to twist western legal systems into penalizing criticism of Islam (“blasphemy”) under the code word “defamation”.

Oh, hell, just go to his blog and read the whole thing. It’ll probably scare the pants off you, make you a better person and give your dog a bath, all at the same time.

Earlier today I received a phone call from a polling company. They wanted to ask me questions about my local water district authority. For the most part I was ignorant, but one of the questions struck me as extremely odd. There was a section of the survey in which they read me a series of statements and asked me to indicate whether and how strongly I agreed with them. One of the statements was “The water provided by the district authority meets all federal, state and local quality standards.”

Bear in mind that this was a random survey. I’m John Q. Public to these people. Now ask yourself what information you would need to be able to evaluate that statement. Do you know all of the federal, state and local water quality standards that apply where you live? Do you know the details of the contents of the water and the condition of the water infrastructure? I don’t, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either. And without that information, there is no basis to hold any opinion on whether the statement in question is true or false.  The chance of any randomly selected person knowing what they would need to know to give a meaningful answer to that question falls squarely between ‘slim’ and ‘fat’.

If the people who made up these surveys had any grasp of proper cognitive methodology, asking such a question would be simply unthinkable. But, sadly, they do not, and they’re probably no different in that regard than the majority of the people they poll. As a result, these sorts of polls turn into an orgy of mutual subjectivism, in which the emotionally-driven responses of hundreds of people get aggregated together into a pseudo-objective sum. The fact that some percentage of people ‘think’, on no particular basis, that the water district is meeting quality standards winds up being adduced as evidence that the water district is doing its job well.

Collective inter-subjectivity as a substitute for objectivity. I’ve been back from OCON for less than a week, and already I feel like I’m surrounded by monkeys.

Anne comments: I was in a job once where I was tasked with creating a survey for the organization’s membership (approximately 20,000 people at the time). I had no particular experience in creating surveys, but I worked with a consultant who did. One of the things I was very careful about was to ask questions that would produce the data we actually wanted. That’s trickier than you might imagine, and involves taking into account all the possible exceptions that someone might have to a survey question — but without making the question so open-ended that it produces useless results.