Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blogging the Year

On a day when Judge Samuel Alito is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice and President Bush is due to deliver the State of the Union speech, I realized that the one year birthday of PalosVerdesBlog passed by without my notice. Yes, I’ve been driving the blog machine since Jan. 7, 2005.

I decided to look at the stats to see what topics I covered the most and what posts generated the most feedback. In the year I wrote 291 posts, approximately 8 posts every 10 days, each about 2 pages in length (approximately 600 words) on a wide range of topics. The most common topics were:

Liberals/Democrats – 40
Military/War - 29
Popular Culture - 24
Religion - 22
Conservatives/GOP - 20
Judiciary - 18
Family/Friends - 17
Blogs/Blogging - 13
Education - 13
Intelligent Design - 13
Global Warming - 12
Economics - 11
Foreign Policy - 11
Science - 10
Humor - 10
Europe - 10

I considered lumping Europe together with Humor, but decided against due to England, Ireland and the new Eastern countries like Poland.

It’s clear that I can’t get enough of Libs and Dems, perhaps because I’m recovering from both afflictions. Those posts also tend to receive a lot of comments, not all of them flattering. (LOL) But with so much material produced every day by the left wing loons, it is such a treasure trove for bloggers.

Take the meeting last night billed as the forum on "The Impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney." David Swanson, a labor union official who runs "Impeach PAC," asked the audience, "Does the Democratic Party want to continue to exist or does it want to ignore what 85 percent of its supporters want?" And then it got nasty.

Saddam Hussein's lawyer and former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark said the Bush administration is "the greatest threat to peace, to human rights, to economic justice worldwide."

Hugo Chavez's friend Cindy Sheehan condemned the administration's agenda "to spread the cancer of empire." (She was just arrested by the Capitol Police)

Referring to the Bush administration: "These criminals and gangsters, thugs as I regard them, I believe engineered 9/11" declared one of the attendees.

Hugh Hewitt played “Name the Nutter” with these sound bites on his show today.

And then there was Teddy Kennedy nearly blowing up in the Senate chamber while incoherently bashing Sam Alito.

These guys are the gifts that keep on giving to the Republican Party and to right wing bloggers like moi.

Anyway here are the most popular pieces from the last year based on the number of comments received.

My Birthday Ride (Aug. 5, 2005), Conservatives Debate Harry (Oct. 11), I’m Thankful For.. (Nov. 24), So What’s Wrong with the Public Schools (Jan. 8), Torture Test (Dec. 11), Real Science (Aug. 16), Rebuilding the Man (Sept. 30), More Lessons from Katrina (Sept 5), Definition of a Liberal (Dec. 29), Liberals are Dangerous (Dec. 30), Myths of Evolution (Dec. 17), Conservative Babes (Dec. 12), Men are Smarter (Sept. 21), Global Warming Postscript (Feb. 18), 2006 Predictions and Hopes (Jan. 3, 2006).

It’s been fun! Thanks for reading palosverdesblog and thanks especially for your comments and suggestions.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Belly Monologue Meet Mama Moonbat

This is the story of two women. Since we all know Mama Moonbat Cindy Sheehan, I’ll happily procrastinate and begin with Eve Ensler, the activist who invented the one-woman play The Vagina Monologues. Note that even the feminist Camille Paglia has called the play "ravingly anti-male" and a "painfully outmoded branch of feminism."

Now in her new play The Good Body, Ensler has turned her unique eye on the rest of the female form, shifting her focus north, taking on post-40 belly sags, spreading hips, and other bodily “imperfections.”

Ensler was recently interviewed by Mother Jones who gushed: It’s hard not to admire a woman who looks you straight in the eye and says with a beatific smile, "I love the word vagina."

Mother Jones: Do you think violence against women in the U.S. gets overlooked?

Eve Ensler: I think violence against women in America has become ordinary -- it’s been made absolutely acceptable.

Turning to international affairs, Ensler believes that women in Afghanistan and Iraq lived better lives under the Taliban and Saddam Hussein than they currently live in the wake of America's overthrow of those regimes.

She helped form the group New Yorkers Say No to War, joined the artists network of Refuse and Resist! a Maoist group, and lent her name to the Not in Our Name antiwar coalition, also organized by Maoists.

Condemning President Bush's reference to the "Axis of Evil" (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea), Ensler said that "I have problems with this 'evil' thing. Evil is a really problematic word… Evil is reductionist. It destroys ambiguity and takes away duality and complexity; it says that they are dark and we are light, they are evil and we are good. That's all a lie...There are a lot of things that govern us. But I'm not going to accuse anyone of evil."

Moral relativism, that’s the ticket!

Meanwhile in CARACAS, Venezuela - Cindy Sheehan, the peace activist said she is considering running against CA. Senator Dianne Feinstein to protest what she called the California lawmaker's support for the war in Iraq.

"She voted for the war. She continues to vote for the funding. She won't call for an immediate withdrawal of the troops," Sheehan told the AP in an interview while attending the World Social Forum in Venezuela along with thousands of other anti-war and anti-globalization activists.

"I think our senator needs to be held accountable for her support of George Bush and his war policies," said Sheehan. Feinstein and Sheehan appear to have a fundamental disagreement over whether troops should be pulled out right now.

Sheehan also wants Feinstein to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. “I’m appalled that Diane Feinstein wouldn’t recognize how dangerous Alito’s nomination is to upholding the values of our constitution and restricting the usurpation of presidential powers, for which I’ve already paid the ultimate price,” Sheehan said.

One of my favorite blogs, Little Green Footballs, recently chose its 2005 Idiotarian of the Year. The candidates included such luminaries as Kofi Annan, Hugo Chavez, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Howard Dean, Dan Rather, Chris Matthews, Nancy Pelosi and Cindy Sheehan. And the result?

"Despite the best efforts of many Venezuelans to tilt the poll toward the estimable Hugo Chavez, we’re very pleased to announce that the winner of the 2005 Idiotarian of the Year Award is none other than the mainstream media’s favorite “peace mom,” the one and only Cindy Sheehan, shown here snuggling up with – figuratively and literally – hugo chavez. "Her poor son must be rolling in his grave." (Thanks to Dave McCarthy)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Liberal's Deep Freeze

As an ideological liberal since I first voted for John Kennedy in 1960, and until I absent mindedly voted for Al Gore in 2000 (mea maxima culpa), I have spent a good deal of time trying to understand how I could have been so wrong for so long.

In a Tech Central Station piece called “Stuck on 1968Arnold Kling examined the “stuck on stupid” phenomenon that has afflicted most liberals and Democrats since their golden age of the 1960s. Kling posits that the Conventional Wisdom among well-educated liberals in 1968 included the following beliefs:

1. Anti-Communism was a greater menace than Communism.

2. The planet could not possibly support the population increases that would take place by the end of the twentieth century.

3. Conservatives stood in the way of progress for minorities.

4. Government programs were the best way to lift people out of poverty.

5. What underdeveloped countries needed were large capital investments, financed by foreign aid from the rich countries.

6. Inflation was a cost-push phenomenon, requiring government intervention in wage and price setting.

Liberal’s confidence in these beliefs at that time was so strong that they sincerely believed that Anyone who is not a liberal must be incorrigibly stupid.

Given the state of the world in the 1960s, it is understandable that an intelligent person might have believed in the Conventional Wisdom at that time. Since then, however, we have seen every one of these tenets of liberal faith dashed on the anvil of history. Yet we find that elements of the liberal myth persist in the Democratic Party to this day and amount to an irrational denial of reality.

Since the 1960s, we have seen:

A. The collapse of Soviet Communism, revealing that the system did much broader and deeper damage than most people realized. (eg. note the huge gap between the two Koreas)

B. The mass starvation predicted by Erlich and other liberal thinkers did not occur and instead it is now believed that population is
The Ultimate Resource.

C. After fighting to pass Civil Rights legislation, liberals now oppose policies that might really help minorities, such as school vouchers to release them from the obligation to attend failed public schools.

D. Foreign aid has been found to be a tool used by tyrants to entrench their corrupt governments.

E. Paul Samuelson’s liberal ideas that the economy could be fine tuned by government to reduce the unemployment rate, with a trade-off of higher inflation, in turn curbed by government action to control prices and wages, have been completely abandoned by all the free world economies.

Liberals seem to be stuck in a 1960s ideological deep freeze pessimistic about the well being of Americans and the environment; opposed to corporations and free markets; and against trusting people to make their own decisions on schools, health care and retirement.

Perhaps the problem is that liberals are “godless unpatriotic pierced-nose Volvo-driving France-loving leftwing Communist latte-sucking tofu-chomping holistic-wacko neurotic vegan weenie perverts” as Dave Barry put it. Perhaps.

Or perhaps they just need to grow up.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Woman Impersonating Male Person

Among the egregious legacies of the feminist movement is the current Democratic Party. Do you think that Harry Truman would recognize the feminized liberals who populate the leadership of the Leftover Party? Rush calls them WIMPS (Woman Impersonating Male Persons).

Take John Kerry (PLEASE!!) The Senator, cutting short his hobnobbing in Davos, Switzerland with the World Economic Forum elites, parachuted into the Senate chamber today in order to whine about Sam Alito. In his deepest manly voice Kerry declared, "I reject those notions that there ought to somehow be some political calculus about the future. … The choice is now." Senate Democrats scratched then shook their heads. Huh?

The Red-Blue divide of the culture war permeates every aspect of our lives, even the trivialities. Speaking of which, take a look at the recent Harris Poll of movie star preferences. The favorite star among men is John Wayne, and among conservatives it is Wayne again in a tie with Tom Hanks. Women like Hanks best. And liberals: Johnny Depp.

Let’s see: John Wayne vs. Johnny Depp

As the liberal columnist Richard Cohen wrote in the Washington Post, “The Duke is Still King.” And the only thing John Wayne has in common with the Democratic Party is that “both are DEAD.”

Red Republicans win large majorities among men, married women and conservatives… and John Wayne fans. Blue Democrats win among single women, minorities and liberals…. and Johnny Depp fans. More encouraging news for Republicans is that political moderates like Tom Hanks best, not Johnny Depp.

John Wayne was the quintessential anti-Democrat cowboy, Ronald Reagan was a cowboy with a subscription to the National Review and George Bush is a cowboy ball player. John McCain is waiting in the wings with youngsters like George Allen and Mitt Romney, cowboys all.

And the Democrats “manly men:” Algore, “Christmas in Cambodia” Kerry, Harry Reed, Barack Obama, …. Hillary Clinton may be the toughest. How pathetic!

The humongous and hugely loyal “24” audience is a prototype of the Republican cowboy image. When Jack Bauer captured the terrorist who killed President Palmer, he interrogated the killer… and then SHOT him. Jack Bauer is a take-no-prisoners patriot who puts love of country and loyalty to friends first, and fights by his own rules. To Jack Bauer, the only good terrorist is a dead terrorist.

Meanwhile Democrats whine about federal intercept of phone conversations between al Qaida enemies overseas and their agents in America. Pat Buchanan recently described the hypocrisy in a Real Clear Politics article.

President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and blockaded Southern ports, without congressional authorization. President Wilson locked up Eugene V. Debs in World War I and never let him out. FDR interned 110,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans in relocation camps, in a wartime act of racial profiling approved by the Supreme Court. Truman dropped atom bombs on defenseless cities, killing 100,000 women and children. Yet all are judged by liberal historians to be great or near-great presidents.

What would Democrats do if Jack Bauer was real? They’d try to put him in jail with “Dirty Harry” and the “Duke.”


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Jobs, Unions and Schools

The last post about manufacturing jobs generated some excellent comments from my colleagues.

Barry explained the difference between manufacturing and assembly: Ford, Chrysler and GM have been assembling overseas for sale in the U.S. since the 1970s. Meanwhile, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Isuzu, Mazda (and soon Hyundai) are assembling in the U.S since the 1970s. It seems like we win there.

Manufacturing means where are the parts made that are later assembled. Look at the window sticker. Most cars sold in the U.S. are made with the vast majority of parts fabricated in North America.

Barry also noted why Ford is in trouble: Labor costs pure and simple. Between the unions and the union pensions, Ford, GM and Chrysler pay something like $1500 per car MORE in labor than any of the “foreign” car companies assembling cars in the U.S.

Fetching Jen pinpoints the source of the jobs problem: Working for a manufacturer, I've witnessed the supposed "job loss." It is employees who refuse to update and upgrade their skills as the jobs become more technical. We phase them out and hire people who are trained more technically.

Lynora agrees that re-training is the key but questions the responsibity: I believe that jobs exist, they have just shifted and the simplest way to cope with this shift is through training and education. Who pays for that? That's another topic for another day, right? Yep!

And Jim makes the argument for free markets: U.S. corporations need to concentrate on new product innovation (what we do better than anybody) with the realization that within two years of introduction, that new idea will came back to us from the East better and cheaper..... great for the consumer.

But Vic worries that individual productivity in practice means that techniques allow a person to do the job five did a few years ago more effectively now. GREAT. But that means one employee working and four out of a job. How do you fix that?

Well…. the fabulous American productivity growth (3.4% per year) means that productivity is up 18% since five years ago. Thus one man can do the work of 1.18 men (roughly, 5 can do the work of 6); not exactly a catastrophe for the worker. And you “fix” that by re-training … or by starting a business (perhaps on the internet) or becoming a realtor or selling software or … whatever.

The schools and the unions have created this unfortunate situation and changes must be made if we want to remain a prosperous nation.

The poor performance (and lousy productivity) of our education system is well known. From John Stossel’sStupid in America” TV special: At age ten, American students take an international test and score well above average. But by age fifteen the Americans place twenty-fifth out of forty countries. The longer kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition.

This is a serious problem that deserves several posts. (See “So What’s Wrong with the Public Schools,” 1/8/05; “Reforming Public Education,” 2/10/05; “Blowing up Boxes at Starbucks,” 3/12/05; Fixing Public Education at Aspen,” 7/25/05; “Beware Liberal Colleges,” 10/25/05) I’ll have more to say soon.

Unions once had value while now they are harmful and a drain on the economy. Everyone understands the significant extra cost (eg. $1500 per car) imposed by unions, but the real harm is to the workers themselves. By maintaining a system based on guaranteed raises and lifetime job security they provide a refuge for students of the lower economic classes who forgo advanced education in favor of factory jobs. When the global economic competition overcomes the unionized companies, the workers are out of luck. (The union bosses do fine.)

In the public sector, the unions maintain the failing school system and the beat goes on….and on….and on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Manufacturing Myths

Good friend Dave McCarthy wrote that his brother-in-law (retired engineer for Boeing; one of the brightest people I know) made the comment that America has very little manufacturing jobs left, and is losing more each year and soon this country will be all service and will produce nothing, thereby ceasing to be a world power. It seems that many people have that concern.

Good friend Vic Quirarte asks how I can say that the U.S. economy is just fine and on the rise when Ford is going out of the country for most of its manufacturing, GM already builds Chevy's in Mexico.

So what about it? Last May I wrote a piece called “Economic Myth and Nonsense” (5/23/05) that included this one: As we outsource our high paying manufacturing jobs, Americans are left with inferior service jobs.

Now is the time to put a stake into the heart of that economic myth. My primary reference is an
article in The Economist magazine, not noted for right wing economic or political views.

In “Manufacturing Employment” (9/29/05) The Economist claimed that the fall in manufacturing employment in developed economies is a sign of economic progress, not decline. Whoa, how can that be true? Well -- look at these factoids.

1. Employment in manufacturing, once the engine of growth, is in a long, slow decline in America (and in the rest of the developed world) with American manufacturing now accounting for less than 10% of total jobs.

2. Manufacturing output in America has been growing by almost 4% a year on average since 1991.

How can these facts be consistent? Productivity is the key to the benefits program. In “Dow Eleven Thousand” (1/9/06) I noted that GDP per capita is determined almost entirely by productivity, that has been growing at a remarkable rate of 3.4% per year for the last 5 years. Thus we are able to produce more goods with fewer workers, as Ford, GM and others are showing.

So manufacturing in America is not in trouble. We still produce twice as much manufactured goods (measured by value) as China. Due to our technological advantages we are able to do it with automation while China relies more on human labor.

Furthermore, advanced technology has allowed us to shift production from labor-intensive products such as textiles to higher-tech, higher value-added, sectors such as pharmaceuticals. While low-skilled jobs have moved offshore, higher-value R&D, design and marketing have stayed at home.

And jobs in these higher paying areas are growing faster than the lower paying jobs in manufacturing are declining. That is also true in the services sector where average wages in the fastest-growing areas such as finance, professional and business services, education and health, are much higher than in manufacturing. That’s right -- the services sector is a great place to work, not at all like the popular Mcjobs myth.

What is happening in America is happening also in all other highly developed countries. Manufacturing jobs disappear because economies are healthy, not sick. Countries that fight this trend through protectionism may be able to retain some lower paying manufacturing jobs but do so at the expense of higher paying high-tech jobs, and their economies flounder. (See “Mythical Protectionism,” 6/26/05). In the last 30 months the American economy has created 4.5 million new jobs while the unemployment rate decreased below 5% and GDP growth averaged 4%. Check out the German economy if you want to see the effects of a little anti-American economic policy.

Finally, what about those workers who lose their manufacturing jobs? Government needs to ameliorate the pains which change inflicts by retraining or temporarily helping those workers who lose their jobs. Unions can help by joining with management to transition workers to higher skill jobs before their manufacturing jobs are lost and schools can help by educating students for the jobs of the future. But those are subjects for another post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Limbaugh Babies Go To College

As I sit at my computer nursing my Achilles Heel, I wonder what the heck is happening at our prestigious universities. The story begins at “24 Hour Fitness.”

I love the PiYo (Pilates + Yoga) class and attend regularly. At the last class my good friend Ali advised me to take off my sneakers to better experience the freedom of the movements. So, I did that, and everything was fine until we assumed the “plank” position, with one leg raised. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in the other heel area and the result is the injured Achilles tendon that pains me now. Although Ali is Egyptian, I reject the suggestion that this was a terrorist act, but….. I’ve been watching a lot of “24” and beginning to wonder. Where’s Jack Bauer when I need him?

Which brings me back to college life: First, I must apologize to the “Valley” for the headline of my recent post “USC Valley Girl.” It turns out the ditzy cheerleader is actually a Hill girl from Palos Verdes and a grad of Peninsula High. Could that explain it?

Anyway, Rush has been spreading wisdom on talk radio long enough to have influenced the thinking of the current generation of college students. One such is Andrew Jones who graduated from UCLA in 2003. Jones has long antagonized UCLA officials and professors by his unique activities, such as the “affirmative action bake sale” where cookies were priced based on the affirmative action status of the buyer, 25 cents for minority women up to 2 dollars for white males.

Now head of the Bruin Alumni Association, Jones is currently attempting to expose liberal bias on campus by offering up to $100 for student’s reports on classroom behavior of radical professors.

Just for fun I checked out the web site
www.uclaprofs.com to see what the fuss was all about. The welcome message from Jones explains that the UCLAprofs project is dedicated to exposing UCLA’s most radical professors who are “actively proselytizing their extreme views in the classroom, whether or not the commentary is relevant to the class topic.

Jones gives a few examples: “Douglas Kellner rages about a “Bush Reich,” the vicious anti-Semitic troika of Gabriel Piterberg, Saree Makdisi, and Sondra Hale peddle hatred of Israel and Zionism, while Peter McLaren teaches the next generation of educators how to politicize their own classrooms.”

The “dirty thirty” is the list of the 30 worst of the worst prof’s. Heading the list is Peter McLaren, professor of Education, whose webpage features a revolving red Communist star and noble Che Guevara iconography while The Internationale, the anthem of Marxist socialism plays. McLaren’s specialty is “critical pedagogy” that teaches students to “reach the point of revelation where they begin to view their society as deeply flawed.” A prime example of McLaren’s anti-American blamestorming:

Over the last five decades the US national security state funded and advised right-wing forces in the overthrow of reformist governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Uruguay, Haiti, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Syria, Greece, etc.; the US has participated in proxy mercenary wars against Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Portugal, Cambodia, East Timor, Peru, Iran, Syria, Jamaica, South Yemen, the Fiji Islands, Afghanistan, Lebanon, etc.; they have supported ruthless rightwing governments who have tortured and murdered opposition movements such as in the case of Turkey, Zaire, Chad, Pakistan, Morocco, Indonesia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru; and, since World War II, the US military has invaded or bombed Vietnam, North Korea, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Laos, etc. My emphasis is on linking these acts of barbarism to the political history of capitalism.

This guy is educating the next generation of teachers. Heaven help us.

Another beauty is Karen Brodkin, Anthropology/ Women’s Studies prof, who is a militant lesbian feminist who has no patience for those who see women’s issues in a broader context than her own. Brodkin has hitched her star to the whiteness studies movement, and her most famous work, “How Jews Became White Folks: And What That Says About Race in America” is one of the top books in the field.

Her primary thesis is that racism is the core of our national identity and our economic system. Brodkin’s contention is that no accomplishment of a white person is “strictly the results of [their] own efforts.” And the beat goes on and on.

Writing about these people is making my foot hurt!

Monday, January 23, 2006


Proud to be Republican

During a speech at Kansas State University today, a student asked President Bush: "I was just wanting to get your opinion on BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN if you'd seen it yet. You would love it! You should check it out."

"I haven't seen it," Bush said flatly. "I'd be glad to talk about ranching, but I haven't seen the movie," he said to laughter. "I've heard about it."

Bush was asked how he holds up under all the attacks on his character. He thought a second and then said "I rely on faith, family and friends. And Barney, the Scottish Terrier... Laura must not hear this.... he's the son I never had."

The Kansas State Students loved it.

On the phone from Kansas, Bush told abortion opponents that they are pursuing "a noble cause" and predicted that their views would prevail eventually.

"We're working to persuade more of our fellow Americans of the rightness of our cause," the president said. "This is a cause that appeals to the conscience of our citizens and is rooted in America's deepest principles. And history tells us that with such a cause we will prevail."

He makes me proud.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

USC Valley Girl

University of Texas vs. University of Southern California

National Championship Game

Cheerleading and tumbling lessons and camps since age three: $50,000

Annual cost of attending USC: $35,000

Annual cost for staying just the right shade of blonde: $10,000

Cheering when the other team scores: Priceless

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hail to the Chief

It has been 25 years since Ronald Reagan pulled America out of the Carter-era dark ages into the sunlight of Republican optimism. When the “Gipper” was inaugurated he promised less intrusive government, lower tax rates and victory over Communism. What a contrast.

Do you remember Jimmy Carter: stagflation and the misery index, long lines at gas stations, Americans held hostage in Iran?

During the Presidential campaign of 1976, Carter made frequent references to the Misery Index, ie. the sum of the rates of inflation and unemployment. In the summer of 1976, the Misery Index was 13.6% and Carter stated that any man responsible for giving the country that much misery had no right to ask to be President. He narrowly beat President Ford. Carter then presided over the worst four years of American economic history since the Great Depression. Due to Carter’s economic policies the Misery Index reached an all-time high of 22.0% by the end of his term. In his famous malaise speech in 1979, President Carter basically told the American people to get used to a lower standard of living.

In foreign affairs Carter was equally feckless. With his blessing, a pro-U.S. monarchy was toppled by the 1979 Iranian Revolution. He was then amazed when dozens of Americans were taken hostage by Islamic fundamentalists -- his buddies. When Russia invaded Afghanistan Carter did nada. Carter subscribed to the theory of John Lewis Gaddis that the American-Soviet competition had settled into a stable ''long peace.''

The American people were not fooled. Carter lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan in a landslide.

Reagan was the anti-Carter. Domestically, Reagan said stop: It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed. To end stagflation, Reagan chose a different route: Cut taxes to generate economic growth. Stabilize the value of the dollar to ease inflation. Trim federal spending. Ease regulation.

Getting government out of the way allowed the American economy to flourish. GDP growth averaged 3.2 percent a year during the 1980s. Unemployment dropped and, with inflation under control, so did interest rates. Reaganomics produced a genuine economic miracle, and we're still enjoying its effects to this day.

Overseas, too, Reagan launched a new era. As we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom, he announced.

Recently the historian Gaddis published a retrospective look at the Reagan cold war strategy in the book, The Cold War: A New History. It took visionaries - saboteurs of the status quo - to widen the range of historical possibility, Gaddis writes. In the West, these saboteurs were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. In their qualities and in their arguments, there is the distinct echo of George W. Bush.

'They used to the utmost, Gaddis writes, their strengths as individuals: their personal character, their perseverance in the face of adversity, their fearlessness and frankness, but above all their dramatic skill, not only in conveying these qualities to millions of other people, but also in persuading those millions themselves to embrace those qualities. Gaddis quotes Thatcher: I had long understood that detente had been ruthlessly used by the Soviets to exploit western weakness and disarray. I knew the beast.

Reagan was a great man, a great president. But they called him a cowboy, said he was reckless and would lead us into a nuclear holocaust, said he was dumb. Sound familiar?

Bush looks at the absurdity of a Middle East blotted with dictatorships, at a religion producing monstrous suicide bombers, and dares to create something better.

Reagan is regarded as one of the best American presidents, Thatcher a great British prime minister. Bush has some of their vision and fearlessness, and will join their ranks.


Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review, in the Salt Lake Tribune, 1/21/06

Edwin J. Feulner, President of the Heritage Foundation, in Real Clear Politics, 1/21/06.

Opinion Journal, editorial, 1/20/06.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Freedom Comes at a Cost

From a 20-year-old medic serving in Iraq. It makes you think about how fast these young men mature in times of stress.

You asked me for my perspective on the war, so here goes. I want to start off by saying that I believe in this war and what we are doing here down to my very bones. These people were ruled, not governed. They were tortured, not for information, but for the sheer pleasure of it. When we overthrew Saddam and his regime, we gave these people hope, for survival, for freedom and in humanity.

There are others who do not share their hope and strive to destroy it through terrorism and destruction. We are in a transition phase now, letting the Iraqi police begin to take over as their training and confidence allows. True patriots those guys, no incentives like college money and a fat paycheck to entice them into service for their country. They do it for love of their fellow man and to bring order to their country.

The Iraqi people are bystanders caught in a horrid crossfire most of the time. They come into the ER (we call it the EMT) all chewed up and burned because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, men, women, and even children. A family came in the other night, two men and two children, not knowing that the mother and daughter in the other helicopter had died before they reached the other facility in Balad. I went to the Intermediate Care Ward and saw one of the men today, full thickness burns to his hands and some on his face, but in surprisingly good spirits considering we had to scrub the old skin off.

Sometimes an American will come off the bird (medevac helicopter), sometimes a twisted ankle or dehydration. Sometimes in full arrest with one of our medics riding the stretcher doing CPR. The last one who came in like that did not survive his injuries. It makes me stop and wonder if this war is worth the American lives it has cost so far.

I think it is. Liberty,freedom, and human rights, things that have been the cornerstone of our government and what the American people stand for (at least most of us) and hold dear to our hearts, cost American blood to make those ideas reality for us. And again it was American blood that paid for it in Iraq, and to free the people of Iraq from an opression that we have never known in our entire history.

In order for there to be peace, there must be a war where blood is shed, and when the chaos clears and the fog of war settles, there will lay the foundation of the new things to come. Freedom comes at a cost that no nation can pay with money, and cannot pay without blood. The question is, who is willing and brave enough to foot the bill.

Doc Winnie

Thanks for this letter to Bob and Joan Barry whose son Rob has served two tours of duty in Iraq. Doc Winnie is the grandson of a friend of theirs.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

America the Father

Michael Mandelbaum, professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins, has written a remarkable book called The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World’s Government in the Twenty-First Century. Mandelbaum’s thesis is that America is the world's indispensable nation, not the spoiled child and self-infatuated bully depicted elsewhere.

This book should be required reading in all schools. Isolationist conservatives and most liberals need it desperately. Following are some excerpts from an article by the author in Foreign Policy Jan/Feb 2006.

The rest of the world complains that American hegemony is reckless, arrogant, and insensitive. Just don’t expect them to do anything about it. The world’s guilty secret is that it enjoys the security and stability the United States provides. The world won’t admit it, but they will miss the American empire when it’s gone.

No one loves Goliath. What is surprising is the world’s failure to respond to the United States as it did to the Goliaths of the past. Why? Because far from menacing the rest of the world, the United States plays a uniquely positive global role. The governments of most other countries understand that, although they have powerful reasons not to say so explicitly.

Our foreign ventures are few in number and, with the exception of Iraq, none has any economic value or strategic importance. Unlike the great empires of the past, the U.S. goal has always been to build stable, effective governments and then to leave as quickly as possible.

America performs for the community of sovereign states many of the tasks that national governments carry out within them. For instance, U.S. military power helps to keep order in the world. The United States has assumed responsibility for impeding the spread of nuclear weapons to “rogue” states and terrorist organizations. In the international economy, much of the confidence and the protection needed to proceed with transactions come from the policies of the United States. For example, the U.S. Navy patrols shipping lanes, assuring the safe passage of commerce along the world’s great trade routes. The United States, through its military deployments and diplomacy, assures an adequate supply of the oil that allows industrial economies to run.

Furthermore, working through the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States also carries out some of the duties that central banks perform within countries, including serving as a “lender of last resort.” Americans’ appetite for consumer products enables us to play the critical role during times of economic slowdown as the “consumer of last resort.”

Never in human history has one country done so much for so many others, and received so little appreciation for its efforts. Acknowledging America’s global role would risk raising the question of why the rest of the world does not pay more for them.

Michael Mandlebaum, like the bumper sticker, is Proud To Be an American.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More Mel and Me

The response to “Mel and Me” was so invigorating that I decided to continue the topic. I loved the comments:

Mel should read the LA and New York Times and then come back to the BLOGS for the other side.

Bill you are "nuts"... that is not scientific, it is wishful thinking on your part.

He was Middle Eastern. I asked him how he like living here, etc. and he said to me (I'll NEVER forget this) "We're not here to just live, we're here to take over." He was as serious as a heart attack.

Mel's a heckuva guy. It's like he turned you into an adult and increased your IQ by 50 points overnight.

Mel, shsmell!

I agree with Karen. Keep on being you, Dad.

Great stuff that, and thanks Daughter. Tex mentioned another argument against the war: “The invasion of Iraq has increased the influence and confidence of the extremist Shiites in Iran. We're going to have more trouble dealing with that than we would have if we weren't mired in Iraq.”

My counterpoint: The democratic Iraqi government with its Shiite plurality will provide an inspiring example to the Iranian people who overwhelmingly oppose their own extremist government. The best approach to the Iran problem is to support the Iranians in a revolt against their Mullah masters.

Aside from the war, Mel and I agreed on a surprising number of things:

(1) All workers should pay some income taxes.
(2) Tax cuts helped the economy recover.
(3) Public schools could do a far better job for less money.
(4) Competition, ie privatization, is the route to improved schools.
(5) Social security taxes should be "locked up" (invested) and not used by the federal government.

We discussed, without agreeing completely, several other points. Here are my positions.

(6) The issue of wiretapping without FISA court approval is whether the president has the constitutional authority or not. I believe that most judicial scholars say that Congress cannot impede the presidential powers to make war and that previous presidents have all upheld that position.
(7) The CA infrastructure is in disrepair. I agree that bonds are appropriate, as long as the budget is balanced without new taxes. Arnold promised to do that but the latest budget is $16Billion over balance. I would not increase gas taxes because of the burden on poor people.
(8) The LA traffic is terrible. The new roads will help. I would also provide incentives to businesses to move to outlying areas. Mel would fund mass transit.
(9) We both oppose "corporate welfare." I would also eliminate corporate taxes completely as all they do is put our companies at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. Our corporate tax rates are among the highest. The lost corporate taxes would be partly offset by personal income taxes that would ensue from a growing economy.
(10) We agree that a huge budget deficit is a problem, but I contend that it is not out of line relative to GDP. I want government spending at the federal and state levels to be cut substantially (say 10% for a start).

It's amazing how many topics we covered in a half hour at the gym. Thanks Mel, and thanks dear readers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mel and Me

I had a nice discussion at the gym this morning with my friend and PVBlog reader Mel. He criticized my presentation of only one side of each issue and of viewing all things through a conservative filter. Mel thought that being a scientific type I would want to analyze all sides of each issue. I believe that I do the analysis, but my posts generally reflect my opinions, not Michael Moore’s. I think that is the rule on most blogs, but wonder if there are any that are strictly analysis…. “just the facts Mam.”

Anyway, one issue that divides Mel and me is the Iraq war. I thought I’d try the purely scientific approach. Let’s see how it goes.

Against the war I think of the following points:

1. Iraq was not a threat to the US; there were no WMDs.

2. The UN sanctions were working to keep Iraq largely disarmed.

3. The war has cost the US too much, in lives, injuries and money.

4. The war has created terrorists and we are less safe.

5. World opinion is against us.

For the war are the following counter-points:

1. The world thought that Iraq had WMDs (they may still be in Syria) and that Saddam would give them to terrorists. He was funding suicide bombers.

2. The oil-for-food program had been corrupted by Saddam and by our UN “allies” (France, Germany, Russia, China). Iraq was re-arming, the people were not receiving the food and medicine and the UN was on track to remove the sanctions.

3. It is the heavy cost of defending America.

4. We are fighting and killing the terrorists in Iraq rather than in Los Angeles. A free Iraq will be a model for political reform in the region, the only way to reduce the threat of worldwide terrorism.

5. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan (about 50 million) are free, thankful and optimistic; Britain, Australia, Poland and several smaller countries are with us; France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries are beginning to see that radical Muslims are a problem.

That’s what comes to mind. My conclusion is that #4 on the pro war side trumps all the points on the con side. Others could form different opinions.

Ok Mel, is that “fair and balanced” enough?

I wonder if my other readers prefer that style?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cinderella Man

Americans celebrate today the memory of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, a man who abhorred the race riots of the 60s and preached non-violence as the only path to racial justice. In his “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963, Dr. King said:

There is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”

King was a man of peaceful progress. Then why do I choose today to discuss a movie about a Depression era boxer who made his living in a violent sport they call the “sweet science”? Perhaps these words from Dr. King will provide a connection:

I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.”

Cinderella Man is a movie about James J. Braddock, called the Bulldog of Bergen, the Hope of the Irish, and a man’s man. Russell Crowe portrays this real-life figure from the Depression era. Braddock the boxer is a Terrier, never giving up against younger, much better boxers. Braddock the family man is a Golden Retriever in his loyalty, gentleness, and nobility of spirit.

The storyline is pure Hollywood; rather, it is Hollywood as it once was and now too rarely is. The promising boxer loses his biggest fight, is devastated by the Great Depression, gets another chance and, fighting to save his family from poverty, beats the murderous Max Baer to win the championship. The fight scenes are marvelous but the story is about the man, not the fighter.

Things got so tough for Jim and Mae (Renee Zellwegger) that they have no money for groceries, gas and electric and the children are getting sick. After a tear jerking quarrel, Mae sends the kids to live with relatives. Full of regret and shame, Jim goes down to the relief office and signs up for the dole so he can bring them home. Given the chance to fight again, he wins a few bouts and returns to the office to repay the debt. When a reporter asks him about this, he shrugs it off.

This is a great country, a country that helps a man when he's in trouble. I thought I should return it.

It seems that kind of nobility in the face of hardship is something Dr. King would admire.

In a 1967 speech King asked Where do we go from here? He noted that “we must first honestly recognize where we are now. Of the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those of whites. Of the bad things of life, he has twice those of whites. Thus half of all Negroes live in substandard housing. And Negroes have half the income of whites. There are twice as many unemployed.”

So it is appropriate to take stock of the current situation. Census figures show that on some measures such as annual income, blacks have closed the gap considerably with whites over the past few decades. In a nationwide survey three-quarters of Americans say there has been significant progress on achieving King's dream and two-thirds of blacks felt the same.

Of the problems that remain, the worst have less to do with opportunity and more with moral values. Nearly 70% of black babies are born to unwed mothers. Too many black men have opted out of the family and the consequences are poverty and crime.

Liberals would have you believe that the solution involves more abortions, more welfare and more tolerance of antisocial behavior. But that remedy has not worked for fifty years. Trying the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.

The men have to be men again, like the Cinderella Man. He is a man who works brutally hard to support his wife and kids, who teaches his kids to be honest, and adores his wife. As Mae says to Jim before the big fight, You're the Bulldog of Bergen, the Pride of New Jersey, you're everybody's hope, you're your kids' hero, and the champion of my heart.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sam the Snark

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away,
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

In the midst of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Judge Samuel Alito, I couldn’t help thinking of Senator Slow Joe Biden softly and suddenly vanishing away after discovering that Sam the Snark was indeed the feared Boojum.

Hugh Hewitt covered the hearings all week and had some great interchanges with his regular callers. One of the funniest was with James Lileks,
dealing with the Senatitis on display this week in the Judiciary Committee.

Hewitt: Joined now by James Lileks, columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and blogger extraordinaire. James, your take on the week of Alito?

Lileks: Oh, where does one begin? The fantasy that comes back to me, again and again, is seeing these people grill Albert Einstein.

Hewitt: (laughing)

Lileks: I would love to see Biden leaning forward with that expression of deep concern, and saying you know, Doc...Doc, I've read that you believe that E= MC squared, but I gotta say I'm troubled by it. Don’t you really mean to say MC=E squared? Doc? And I'm puzzled as well by your past: Weren't you a member of a country that elected Hitler? How do you explain that, Doc?

Hewitt: (laughing)

Lileks: I mean, it would be like that. It would be like engaging in a colloquy on the theory of relativity with Einstein, with these guys who had a chemistry set when they were in 4th grade, and believe that they are qualified to grill Einstein on theoretical physics...

Hewitt: Oh, you've opened up a whole can... like, what if they questioned Beethoven?

Lileks: Well, Beethoven would just be perfect, because in the later years of his life Beethoven was deaf. And if Biden's asking the question, you don't have to hear, because he's just going to talk for 28 minutes.

That’s all folks.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Loathsome, abhorrent, disgusting, hateful, indecent are apt descriptors of Democrats treatment of Judge Samuel Alito during the Senate’s advise-and- consent hearings.

Willisms noted that Senator Ted Kennedy's technique of guilt-by-association against Samuel Alito evokes a valid analogy to Joseph McCarthy, and quoted Robert Welch's famous rebuke to Joseph McCarthy in 1954:

Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Completely in character, Ted Kennedy loathfully attempted to assassinate Sam Alito's character by charging him with responsibility for every statement made by Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP).

KENNEDY: You had indicated in your '85 job application that you were a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy and a member of the Concerned Alumni at Princeton University. And you said yesterday that you wracked your memory about the issue and really had no specific recollection of the organization; is that correct?

ALITO: I have no specific recollection of joining the organization.

KENNEDY: You called CAP a "conservative alumni group." It also published a publication called Prospect, which includes articles by CAP members about the policies that the organization promoted. You're familiar with that?

ALITO: I don't recall seeing the magazine. I might have seen...

KENNEDY: So a 1983 Prospect essay titled "In Defense of Elitism," stated, quote, "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic. The physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports. And homosexuals are demanding the government vouchsafe them the right to bear children." Did you read that article?

But before Alito could respond Senator Feinstein loudly whispered to Kennedy:

FEINSTEIN: Finish the last line.

KENNEDY: "and homosexuals are...

FEINSTEIN: No, "And now here come women."

Having been straightened out by the Demo Diva, Kennedy continued.

KENNEDY: You didn't read that article?

ALITO: I feel confident that I didn't, Senator, because I would not have anything to do with statements of that nature.

KENNEDY: Well, I have to say that Judge Alito -- that his explanations about the membership in this, sort of, radical group, and why you listed it on your job application, are extremely troubling.

So what about that “radical group” that Kennedy finds so troubling? National Review Online editor Kathy Lopez interviewed former CAP board member and National Review editor William Rusher.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: What was your involvement in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton?

William A. Rusher: In or about 1972, I was asked to be on the board of the newly formed CAP. I remained on it for a few years.

Lopez: What was Concerned Alumni of Princeton?

Rusher: CAP was exactly what its name implied: a group of alumni who were concerned over various liberal tendencies that had developed in the Princeton administration in recent years. Naturally, the University administration wasn't happy about our existence.

Lopez: Was it racist and or sexist? Anti-gay? Ted Kennedy read a pretty bad-sounding quote from its publication today.

Rusher: CAP was none of the things Senator Kennedy is smearing it as being: anti-black, etc. Since Alito apparently had next to no involvement with CAP, Kennedy is trying to give CAP the worst possible reputation, in the hope that some of that will rub off on Judge Alito.

Back at the hearings, several Democrats in Kennedyesque style continued the character assassination of Judge Alito until Senator Lindsey Graham could stand it no longer.

GRAHAM: Now, this organization (CAP) that was mentioned very prominently earlier in the day, did you ever write an article for this organization?

ALITO: No, I did not.

GRAHAM: OK. And some quotes were shown, from people who did write for this organization, that you disavowed. Do you remember that exchange?

ALITO: I disavow them. I deplore them. They represent things that I have always stood against and I can't express too strongly...

GRAHAM: I'm going to be very honest with you. How have you lived your life? Are you really a closet bigot?

ALITO: I'm not any kind of a bigot, I'm not.

GRAHAM: No, sir, you're not. And you know why I believe that? Because you seem to be a decent, honorable man. I have got reams of quotes from people who have worked with you. Glowing quotes about who you are, the way you've lived your life; law clerks, men and women, black and white, your colleagues who say that Sam Alito, whether I agree with him or not, is a really good man.

Let me tell you this: Guilt by association is going to drive good men and women away from wanting to sit where you're sitting.

Judge Alito, I am sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this.

Sitting behind her husband, Mrs. Alito began to cry quietly and soon had to leave the room.

Senator Graham continued.

GRAHAM: The last thing I'm going to read -- do you know Cathy Fleming?

ALITO: I do. She was an attorney and supervisor in the U.S. Attorney's office in New Jersey.

Cathy Fleming wrote:

I'm a lifelong Democrat. I am the president-elect of a national women's bar association. I chaired the corporate integrity and the white collar crime group at a national law firm.I do not speak on behalf of either my law firm or the women's bar association. I speak for myself only. But, by providing my credentials as an outspoken women's rights advocate and liberal-minded criminal defense attorney, I hope you will appreciate the significance of my unqualified and enthusiastic recommendation of Sam Alito for the Supreme Court.Sam possesses the best qualities for judges. He's thoughtful; he's brilliant; he's measured; he's serious; and he's conscious of the awesome responsibilities imposed by his position.I cannot think of better qualities for a Supreme Court justice. It is my fervent hope that politics will not prevent this extraordinary, capable candidate from serving as associate justice on the United States Supreme Court.

GRAHAM: I share her hope.

Senator Kennedy, Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Scary Decisis


--- Biden

It was like watching a train wreck. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee faced off against Judge Samual Alito and the eight Dems were destroyed. But Alito did little of the damage. Mostly it was the case of a once great political party committing hira-kiri on national television.

Front and center was the clueless and nasty Ted Kennedy blaming the judge for the president's alledged abuse of power by wiretaping al Qaida calls to American traitors. Kennedy apparently forgot about his brother Bobby wiretapping Martin Luther King, a well known black American. (Mary Jo Kopechne was unavailable for comment.)

Slow Joe Biden accused Alito of siding with employers who discriminated in employment cases.

BIDEN: But all kidding aside, when the employer's reason for not hiring the person toward whom they showed sheer personal antipathy weren't true. How do you distinguish that from discrimination, subtle discrimination?

ALITO: Well, to put it in simple terms (best for slow joe), ... when the issue went to the Supreme Court in Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing, Justice O'Connor wrote the opinion for the Supreme Court and she agreed with my analysis of this legal issue.

Slam Dunk!!

Of course the prime time drama was reserved for Democratic pandering to the abortion is a woman's right in any imagineable circumstance because a woman may wish to have a career and children would be inconvenient and remember all the rapes and incest ... lobby.

One panderer was the senior senator from CA.

FEINSTEIN: Let's move to the issue of a woman's right to choose and Roe. Casey reaffirmed the original soundness of Roe and then put emphasis on precedent. There needs to be a special justification for overruling a prior precedent. Can you give us a few examples of a special justification, not including Brown v. Board of Education, which you think would qualify?

ALITO: One situation in which there is a special justification for overruling a precedent is if the rule is proven to be unworkable. An example is provided by National League of Cities and San Antonio Transit Authority v. Garcia...etc, etc..

Alito's grasp and recall of case law is astounding, perhaps even more impressive than John Roberts' the Chief Justice.

But the prime bloviator for the NARAL lobby was the senior senator from NY.

SCHUMER: Judge Alito, in 1985, you wrote that the Constitution -- these are your words -- does not protect a right to an abortion. Now let me ask you: Do they accurately reflect your view today? Do you stand by that statement? Do you disavow it? Do you embrace it?

ALITO: Senator, it was an accurate statement of my views at the time. That was in 1985. If the issue were to come before me as a judge, the first question that would have to be addressed is the question of stare decisis,...

SCHUMER: Does the Constitution protect the right to free speech?

ALITO: Certainly it does. That's in the First Amendment.

SCHUMER: So why can't you answer the question of: Does the Constitution protect the right to an abortion the same way without talking about stare decisis, without talking about cases, et cetera?

ALITO: Because answering the question of whether the Constitution provides a right to free speech is simply responding to whether there is language in the First Amendment that says that the freedom of speech and freedom of the press can't be abridged. Asking about the issue of abortion has to do with the interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution.

SCHUMER: Well, OK. I know you're not going to answer the question. I just want to ask you this. Stare decisis is not an immutable principle, right? When Judge Roberts was here, he said it was discretionary. So it's not immutable. Is that right? You've told us it's not an inexorable command. It doesn't require you to follow the precedent.

ALITO: It is a strong principle. And in general courts follow precedence. The Supreme Court needs a special justification for overruling a prior case.

So there seems to be an immutable tie between abortion and Stare Decisis. But what about it? In a post from SouthernAppeal blog called Stare decisis is fo' suckas!: For precedent to be entitled to respect it must have a respectable basis. Stare decisis means nothing to me unless the constitutional basis of the decision is sound. Thus, were I on the Supreme Court (a scary thought to most, I know), I would vote to overrule Roe no matter how much time had passed.

Liberals only wave the flag of stare decisis when the decision in question enshrines their value preferences (e.g., Roe). Notice that Senator Feinstein explicitly asked Alito to ignore Brown v. Board of Education in discussing the power of precedent, because it was the case where the Supreme Court finally overturned 58 years of "separate-but-equal" precedent flowing from Plessy v. Ferguson. (1896)

How do you spell hypocrisy?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dow Eleven Thousand

Finally! After four and a half years of lethargy, the Dow Jones index broke above $11,000 today (closing at $11,012) for the first time since June 2001. Crossing the $11,000 mark puts the Dow about 6 percent below its all-time high of $11,750 set on Jan. 14, 2000. In the ensuing bear market, the Dow retreated to a low of $7,197 in October 2002 before starting its rebound. Perhaps more amazing was that General Motors led the way as shares climbed 5.5 percent.

When one looks honestly at the US economy it's quite rosy. Our Gross Domestic Product -- the single best indicator of economic progress -- grew by more than 3.5 percent again in 2005, compared with about 1.5 percent for the Euro Zone. U.S unemployment is 4.9 percent, compared with rates twice that high in Europe. We are creating net new jobs (jobs gained minus jobs lost) at a rate of 2 million a year. Inflation is low as are interest rates. All this after hurricanes caused $100 billion in damage in the United States and record high oil and gasoline prices.

Furthermore, the latest Census data show that, far from losing ground, the middle class in America has become a good deal richer. “Back in 1967, the income range for the middle class [the three middle quintiles] was between $28,800 and $39,000 (in today’s dollars). Now that income range is between $38,000 and $59,000.” The increase averages $14,600 or 43 percent real income.

Middle class families are 43 percent better off economically, all other things being equal. Except they are not equal. Tax cuts have increased net incomes, and home ownership and home equity increases have increased net worth. Americans are doing really well.

It's interesting to search for the source of this financial well being. Are we smarter, harder working, more entrepreneurial, less regulated and taxed??? Well there is some of all that. But the single most important factor is productivity.

GDP per capita is determined primarily, almost entirely, by productivity. People basically work in order to have a place to sleep and something to eat and so on and so forth. The huge differences around the world are the efficiencies with which they work -- their productivity. (
William Lewis )

Productivity, as measured by output per hour is compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So what are the numbers?

Period ----Average Productivity Growth
1955-1960--------2.03 percent

What the table says is that the economy is in great shape. The average productivity growth rate in the last five years is the highest over the past half century, thanks to American technology (see Moore’s Law).

In a recent
TCS interview, Robert Fogel suggested that productivity growth of 2 percent per year would be sufficient to ensure the soundness of Social Security. With three percent productivity growth, even Medicare may be sound. (Arnold Kling, author of Learning Economics.)

Americans know that our economic system gives them a real shot at upward mobility if they work hard and make good choices. But mobility and other socially desirable goals demand growth. In his new book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Benjamin Friedman, argues that when countries grow robustly, they become more tolerant, democratic and generous. All good things.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Judy Loves Dick

In real life my pal TexasJudy loves Skip, her longtime hubby. But in her fantasy life, well, this is what Judy has to say: “I want to tell you I saw a fine picture of our President and Vice President Cheney at the Dallas IRS Building yesterday and, yes, I drooled over Cheney again.”

So what’s the secret of Dick Cheney’s charm? Cheney excelled at his Wyoming high school. He was elected senior class president, he represented the school at Boys State, and played halfback on the football team. After high school graduation in 1959 and for six summers, Cheney worked on power lines and was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union. In 1964, he married Lynne Vincent, his high-school sweetheart, whom he had met at age fourteen. They had two children. Lovely Lynn is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

OK, so Dick's athletic, a leader, a bit of a cowboy. What’s the big deal?

Perhaps it’s the “model of ideal manhood” that Meghan Daum found in “Brokeback Mountain?” (LA Times, 1/7/06)

Despite its vast Western landscapes, drunken cowboy talk and gay sex scenes, "Brokeback Mountain" is a thinking girl's chick flick. For all their monosyllabism, Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (Heath Ledger) are fonts of emotion. Sure, they're prone to the usual male-pattern drinking, fighting and marrying women without knowing quite what they're doing, but when it comes to their love for each other, their hearts aren't just on their sleeves, they're pinned to their foreheads. And guess what? Chicks dig it.

Could it be that’s what Judy sees in Dick?

Daum notes: Instead of merely acquiring the trappings of kinder, gentler manhood, Jack and Ennis actually walk the walk. The sight of Jack crying in his truck as he drives away from Ennis (who retreats to an alley and vomits in tortured despair) is enough to make even the bitterest woman swoon.

Meghan admits: I was just pretending Heath Ledger was vomiting because of me. By acting like men but emoting like women, by embodying both sides of the divide, Jack and Ennis cover all the bases of the romantic equation.

I guess that must be it: Dick Cheney covering both sides of the sexual divide, wearing his heart on his forehead as he pines over Karl Rove. Judy?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

FemiNazis Strike Out

“The old prejudices – women are animals, less than human, unable to think like men, born merely to breed and serve men – were not so easily dispelled by the crusading feminists, by science and education, and by the democratic spirit after all.” (Betty Friedan)

Forty two years after publication of The Feminine Mystique and 33 years after Roe v. Wade, young women still don’t seem to get it. A recent national poll of high school seniors found that 72 percent of females in the class of 2006 would not consider an abortion if they became pregnant. Whoa, what’s going on here?

Among the savages, 69 percent of the male teens said they would not want their partner to consider an abortion. Only 13 percent of the seniors would counsel a pregnant friend to consider an abortion.

What’s more, it’s a moral issue for these kids. Some 67 percent of high school seniors said abortion is either always (23%) or usually (44%) morally wrong. Only 29 percent said abortions should be allowed when a woman doesn't want more children, which is the reason for 95 percent of abortions according to Planned Parenthood.

High school seniors with non-religious views were overwhelmingly in favor of abortions. Education having failed to indoctrinate religious kids in high school, the colleges do their best to remove religion from the kids before they graduate.

So how well are they doing? Polls are consistently showing that Americans are becoming more pro-life. A December 2003 poll conducted by Zogby International confirms that, by a 53 percent to 36 percent margin, the public supports the statement, "Abortion destroys a human life and is manslaughter."

There was a political bias with 68 percent of Republicans agreeing with that statement while 43 percent of Democrats also agreed. Some 58 percent of all respondents said they thought "abortion, when the mother's life is not in danger" was morally unacceptable. An April 2004 Zogby poll found Hispanics support a pro-life position by a 78-21 percentage margin.

Meanwhile, YOU ARE INVITED to join Planned Parenthood Golden Gate in honoring the 33rd Anniversary of Roe V. Wade. Bring your kids.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Liberty Train

This article appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News on December 22, 2005, by Ronnie Polaneczky. Thanks to our good friends the Barrys and the Sabins, both with sons in the service, and the Hamiltons for sending it to me.

AND NOW, in time for the holidays, I bring you the best Christmas story you never heard. It started last Christmas, when Bennett and Vivian Levin were overwhelmed by sadness while listening to radio reports of injured American troops. "We have to let them know we care," Vivian told Bennett. So they organized a trip to bring soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the annual Army-Navy football game in Philly, on Dec. 3.

The cool part is, they created their own train line to do it. Yes, there are people in this country who actually own real trains. Bennett Levin - native Philly guy, self-made millionaire and irascible former L&I commish - is one of them. He has three luxury rail cars. Think mahogany paneling, plush seating and white-linen dining areas. He also has two locomotives, which he stores at his Juniata Park train yard. One car, the elegant Pennsylvania, carried John F. Kennedy to the Army-Navy game in 1961 and '62. Later, it carried his brother Bobby's body to D.C. for burial. "That's a lot of history for one car," says Bennett.

He and Vivian wanted to revive a tradition that endured from 1936 to 1975, during which trains carried Army-Navy spectators from around the country directly to the stadium where the annual game is played. The Levins could think of no better passengers to reinstate the ceremonial ride than the wounded men and women recovering at Walter Reed in D.C. and Bethesda, in Maryland. "We wanted to give them a first-class experience," says Bennett. "Gourmet meals on board, private transportation from the train to the stadium, perfect seats - real hero treatment."

Through the Army War College Foundation, of which he is a trustee, Bennett met with Walter Reed's commanding general, who loved the idea. But Bennett had some ground rules first, all designed to keep the focus on the troops alone: No press on the trip, lest the soldiers' day of pampering devolve into a media circus. No politicians either, because, says Bennett, "I didn't want some idiot making this trip into a campaign photo op." And no Pentagon suits on-board, otherwise the soldiers would be too busy saluting superiors to relax. The general agreed to the conditions, and Bennett realized he had a problem on his hands. "I had to actually make this thing happen," he laughs.

Over the next months, he recruited owners of 15 other sumptuous rail cars from around the country - these people tend to know each other - into lending their vehicles for the day. The name of their temporary train? The Liberty Limited. Amtrak volunteered to transport the cars to D.C. - where they'd be coupled together for the round-trip ride to Philly - then back to their owners later. Conrail offered to service the Liberty while it was in Philly. And SEPTA drivers would bus the disabled soldiers 200 yards from the train to Lincoln Financial Field, for the game. A benefactor from the War College ponied up 100 seats to the game - on the 50-yard line - and lunch in a hospitality suite. And corporate donors filled, for free and without asking for publicity, goodie bags for attendees: From Woolrich, stadium blankets. From Wal-Mart, digital cameras. From Nikon, field glasses. From GEAR, down jackets. There was booty not just for the soldiers, but for their guests, too, since each was allowed to bring a friend or family member.

The Marines, though, declined the offer. "They voted not to take guests with them, so they could take more Marines," says Levin, choking up at the memory. Bennett's an emotional guy, so he was worried about how he'd react to meeting the 88 troops and guests at D.C.'s Union Station, where the trip originated. Some GIs were missing limbs. Others were wheelchair-bound or accompanied by medical personnel for the day. "They made it easy to be with them," he says. "They were all smiles on the ride to Philly. Not an ounce of self-pity from any of them. They're so full of life and determination."

At the stadium, the troops reveled in the game, recalls Bennett. Not even Army's lopsided loss to Navy could deflate the group's rollicking mood. Afterward, it was back to the train and yet another gourmet meal - heroes get hungry, says Levin - before returning to Walter Reed and Bethesda. "The day was spectacular," says Levin. "It was all about these kids. It was awesome to be part of it." The most poignant moment for the Levins was when 11 Marines hugged them goodbye, then sang them the Marine Hymn on the platform at Union Station. "One of the guys was blind, but he said, 'I can't see you, but man, you must be beautiful!' " says Bennett. "I got a lump so big in my throat, I couldn't even answer him."

It's been three weeks, but the Levins and their guests are still feeling the day's love. "My Christmas came early," says Levin, who is Jewish and who loves the Christmas season. "I can't describe the feeling in the air." Maybe it was hope. As one guest wrote in a thank-you note to Bennett and Vivian, "The fond memories generated last Saturday will sustain us all - whatever the future may bring."

God bless the Levins. And bless the troops, every one.