Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yay Us

Astute observers of human nature that we are, conservatives are a generally dour and pessimistic bunch. For tens of thousands of years that attitude has proved reliably predictive, as humankind's natural defects of selfishness and greed prevented it from advancing beyond a standard of living that was brutish, nasty and short. Fortunately, beginning in the 17th century, a movement began, gradually at first, and then with a rush on July 4, 1776, granting individuals the freedom to pursue happiness within a system of free market capitalism. Among its myriad benefits, that revolution allowed human flaws to be utilized as assets, initiating miraculous improvements in living standards.

Kevin Williamson is cheered by this significant achievement of Homo sapiens --

The Princeton economist Angus Deaton, recently awarded the Nobel prize, has spent much of his career working on how we measure consumption, poverty, real standards of living, etc. It is thanks in part to his work that we can say that the global rate of “extreme poverty,” currently defined as subsistence on less than the equivalent of $1.90 a day, is now the condition of less than 10 percent of the human race. In the 1980s, that number was 50 percent — half the species — and as late as the dawn of the 21st century, one-third of the human race lived in extreme poverty. The progress made against poverty in the past 30 years is arguably the most dramatic economic event since the Industrial Revolution. It did not happen by accident.

...There is much left to do: We have unsustainable fiscal situations in the Western welfare states, irreconcilable Islamist fanatics originating in points east but spread around the world, environmental challenges, and that tenth of the human race that still needs lifting out of hardcore poverty. But we have achieved a remarkable thing in that unless we mess things up really badly, in 50 years we’ll be having to explain to our grandchildren what a famine was, how it came to be that millions of people died every year for want of clean water — and they will look at us incredulously, wondering what it must have been like to live in the caveman times of the early 21st century.

The recent plummeting of global extreme poverty is due almost exclusively to China's and India's acceptance of the ideas of Smith, Hayek, and Friedman (Milton, not Thomas). In the process, those two countries rejected policies advocated by Marx, Sanders, Obama, Clinton, Warren, et al. Other nations are adopting, have adopted that which made us great and exceptional, even as we are turning away from it.

And note - these wonders are occurring with a current global population of 7.3 billion, roughly ten times what it was in 1700. Many, Many more mouths to feed. Yet, taken as a whole, our species is incomparably better off now. Malthus was wrong, spectacularly wrong, and so are his intellectual successors.

More cause for optimism -- It's always gratifying when an individual of the left gets something right. The Wall Street Journal's token liberal opinion writer, William Galston, has correctly identified single parenthood as the chief cause of African-American poverty. When conservatives make this connection, they're immediately and viciously branded as racists. To correct the discrepancy between black and white poverty rates by substantially diminishing the former, many more voices on the left must come to Galston's conclusion. They must relinquish the intellectually lazy, politically expedient myth that racism, crime and the vestigial cultural effects of slavery, segregation and discrimination are to blame. 

About seven in 10 white children, from newborn to 18 years of age, are living with their biological parents, compared with one in three black children.

This matters because—as family-structure researchers Sara McLanahan and Isabel Sawhill note in the Future of Children, “most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide variety of outcomes.”

...The researchers study—and reject—the hypotheses that these differences reflect higher prenatal sensitivity to factors such as stress and poor nutrition or that they are entirely attributable to dangerous neighborhoods and poor schools. There are independent effects of family background that contribute to the large gaps between boys and girls. In fact, the researchers conclude, neighborhoods and schools are less important than the “direct effect of family structure itself.”

Why is this? The research team finds that boys’ problems are far more behavioral than cognitive. For example, truancy and classroom disciplinary issues lead to suspensions, which play the largest role in explaining the boy-girl high-school graduation gap. But the presence of fathers in the household substantially reduces the gaps between boys and girls in absences and suspensions. It turns out that boys need fathers as well as mothers even more than girls do, and suffer even more when fathers are absent from their lives.

...we should never imagine that efforts by government and civil society, however effective, can fully substitute for the influence of stable, intact families.

Kevin again --  expressing puzzlement over our inconsistencies in defining adulthood. He observes an effort by doctors to enlist government in raising the age "minors" are permitted to smoke...

Never mind that government-backed health projects often turn out to be wrong — e.g., that starchy food pyramid — we ought to carefully consider whether they ought to exist in the first place.

“Of course they ought to exist,” the progressive argument goes. “Government subsidizes health care and takes upon itself some share of health-care costs, and it therefore has a legitimate interest in whether you smoke.” Or eat your veggies. That is, in its way, entirely correct, and it is an important part of the case against such policy misadventures as the wretchedly misnamed Affordable Care Act — or Medicare, for that matter. Once the government is in the business of financing something, it acquires all sorts of interests and leverage points, all of which it will use — reliably, and almost without exception — for political ends.

...We should pick an age of adulthood and stick with it. If 18-year-olds are going to be legally permitted to inflict Barack Obama on this republic, then the few sensible souls among that age cohort should be permitted to legally dull the resultant pain with a cocktail. And what’s a cocktail without a cigarette?

If, on the other hand, we’re going to decide that 22-year-old students at Harvard getting ready for law school or junior positions in the U.S. Foreign Service are not far enough removed from their diapers to be expected to deal with the micro-aggressions of Mark Twain, then they sure as Hell shouldn’t be at Parris Island preparing to meet macro-aggressions on behalf of these United States — or permitted to see the inside of a voting booth.

Speaking of micro-aggressions, how about this?! ("She" refers to a University of Vermont freshman, Cameron Shaeffer, the subject of the article).

According to a piece in the Huffington Post, the word “too” is sexist and hurts women by constantly making them feel like they’re not good enough.

...“In my experience, I rarely hear too thrown around about men,” she explains. “You hear someone say, ‘He’s short,’ but you seldom hear ‘too short.’”

Well, why shouldn't Ms. Schaeffer be so easily offended? She has as a role model the probable next president of the U.S. And that woman is offended by the imagined suggestion that she speaks at an excessive decibel level, (shouts) something of which men are apparently never accused. (No wonder she got rolled by Assad and Putin).

KW takes aim at the pernicious phenomenon of celebrity that has somehow empowered and enriched such vacuous non-talents as Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Lena Dunham and the Kardashians (whoever they are).

A great many dumb issues and empty crusades make it to the forefront of the public political consciousness because of celebrity. The anti-vaccination movement is celebrity-propelled; the phony pay-inequality crusade is a creature of celebrity (N.B., Emma Watson: The movie that made you rich wasn’t called Hermione Granger and the Sorcerer’s Stone); global-warming hysteria has been sustained by celebrity much more than by science; Lena Dunham’s daft and illiterate political pronouncements would not echo very far beyond Maison Premiere if she were just another rich private-school kid from Manhattan instead of a famous rich private-school kid from Manhattan.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Good Riddance, Actually

Peggy Noonan in today's Wall Street Journal --

"Joe Biden’s decision not to run for president left me sad. He would have enlivened things. He has always reminded me of what Democrats were like when I was a kid—kind of normal and earthy and fun. They did not spend their time endlessly accusing people of being sexist-racist-homophobic-gender-biased persons of unchecked privilege. They would have thought that impolite."


Recall Biden speaking of Republicans to an audience populated with many African-Americans - "They're gonna put y'all back in chains."

No race-baiting there. The "y'all" was an especially classy touch.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Uncommon Wisdom

The website has compiled a list of notable quotes from the venerable Thomas Sowell. Named "our greatest living philosopher" by left wing convert David Mamet, Dr. Sowell produces much more than just witty aphorisms of course. A complete list of his works can be found here -

A sampling from Ricochet's list --

"Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good."

"The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics."

"Only in government is any benefit, however small, considered to be worth any cost, however large."

"The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty."

"I have never understood why it is 'greed' to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money."

"Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it."

"It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance."

"There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs."

"It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong."

"Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late."

“Any serious look at the history of human beings over the millennia shows that the species began in poverty. It is not poverty, but prosperity, that needs explaining. Poverty is automatic, but prosperity requires many things — none of which is equally distributed around the world or even within a given society.”

An astute Sowell admirer noted -- "Isn’t it telling that were society to act broadly upon all of Sowell’s statements, we would be much more likely to approach – if not utopia, a far more perfect union. It is also remarkable that progressives pursue the exact opposite of virtually every one of Sowell’s statements. In sum, this captures the ethos of my despair for the future."


"...two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al-Qaeda-like group.”
Hillary Clinton email to her daughter the night of the Benghazi attack

“We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest.”
Clinton speaking to Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, September 12, 2012 the day after the Benghazi attack

“We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”
Clinton at the ceremony receiving the flag draped coffins of the Benghazi victims, September 14, 2012

Steve Hayes (The Weekly Standard) --

Charles Woods has been waiting a long time for the truth. He met his son’s body at Joint Base Andrews, three days after the attacks, at a solemn ceremony in just outside Washington, D.C. He first met Clinton at that brief memorial service. He remembers it well, in part, he says, because he took notes immediately after he spoke with her. 

When I asked him about that day as we waited for the hearing to begin, he pulled a small leather black datebook from his pocket – maybe the size of a calculator, with 2012 engraved in gold on the front – as he recalled her words. He began reading from the entry that started on September 14, the day of the ceremony, and continued into the space for the following day. It ran just five or six lines, written in pencil.

He recorded Clinton’s exact words. “We are going to have the filmmaker arrested who was responsible for the death of your son,” he read. Then he looked up. “I remember those words: ‘who was responsible for the death of your son.’ She was blaming him and blaming the movie.”

Spreading the lie --

Jim Jordan (R, Ohio) --

You can live with a protest about a video. That won’t hurt you. But a terrorist attack will. So you can’t be square with the American people. You tell your family it’s a terrorist attack, but not the American people. You can tell the president of Libya it’s a terrorist attack, but not the American people. And you can tell the Egyptian prime minister it’s a terrorist attack, but you can’t tell your own people the truth.

Jim Geraghty writing at NRO --

...Byron York thinks this is already “priced in” in the public’s mind: “The documents were still more evidence that the blame-it-on-the-video story was lies and spin. But the public has known for a while that it was lies and spin. It seems unlikely to strike many Americans as very big news.”

If the American public knows that it was lied to about a terror attack, and doesn’t really care… then maybe we are doomed.

Added 10/24 --

Jonah Goldberg tears into Hillary and the press. A very good analysis of the specifics of her mendacity (and Obama's) and of the general aversion of the mainstream media to honestly report events that favor Republicans. Goldberg (as usual) expresses the frustration and outrage well. There's too much to excerpt. Please read --

Andrew McCarthy is equally effective in focusing on the brazenness and disgrace of Hillary's lies --

These are two forceful columns. I would recommend that liberals and progressives (there - I used your preferred terminology without scare quotes) read both just to get an idea of the exasperation that the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton generates among conservatives.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Trump Loses (And Other Stuff)

Self-proclaimed conservative "purists" believe there is little difference between squishy RINOs like John McCain or Mitt Romney and hard leftists like Barack Obama. This nonsense kept many conservatives home on Election Days 2008 and 2012 helping to elect and re-elect the worst president in American history. (Even Buchanan didn't actively damage the nation. He certainly didn't mess up the world.)

Now that some of these idiots are throwing their support to Donald Trump, I have news for them - I'm staying home November 8, 2016 if Trump gets the Republican nomination.* The reason? There really is no difference between Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Among their similarities -- They're both well left of center ideologically, though they're both quite willing to adopt to any principle that advances their interests. They're both strong believers in and practitioners of crony capitalism. They both have no sense of decency and integrity. (Hillary's propensity to lie makes her husband seem like Abe Lincoln in that regard. Trump has the morals of a 6th grade playground bully). They both lack the wisdom for effective decision making. They both seem to be able to get away with anything. And they both became filthy rich on the backs of other people. (I don't usually like that description of the wealthy but in the case of these two it's appropriate)
Quds. Kurds. What difference does it make?!

Believe it or not, my lack of support is a problem for Trump. As I pointed out with the case of Todd Akin, my backing is necessary (though, unfortunately, not sufficient) for a general election victory - if a Republican does not get my vote, he does not win. Trump has no chance.

*A caveat - If it's Trump vs. Clinton and Jim Webb runs as a 3rd party candidate, I'll vote for Webb. Webb is a reminder what the Democratic Party used to be.

The other stuff --

The hilarity of James Lileks' National Review Athwart columns tend to mask the author's perceptive wisdom. Like few others - P.J. O'Rourke and Andrew Klavan come to mind - Lileks can generate humor from outrage, an impressive talent. Here are his most recent efforts --

The title of the John Hawkins column below makes a false assertion. Inequality is not irrelevant to economic health. Wealth creation and diminishment of poverty is positively correlated with income and wealth inequality. Otherwise, a good piece.  --

No Christians = No criminal charges or lawsuits = No coverage by NYTimesNBCWashingtonPostCNNCBSNPRetcetc.
A gay person walks into a Muslim bakery...(A pretend gay person, that is. Real gay people, the "activists" among them anyway, are too busy harassing Christians. And too understandably fearful to provoke Muslims) --

A quartet of columns explaining why invoking Scandinavia is a fallacious argument for socialism --

Bjorn Lomborg continues to spotlight the global green industry's assault on the world's poor.

The left's attack on the producers of life-saving medicines --

From Bookworm --

Voter ID

Also, in her typically long October 21 blogpost, Bookworm includes some stomach-turning photos of surviving victims of the recent Palestinian knife attacks. Keep in mind - these are survivors. What the MSM terms "the injured".
Horrifying to normal humans, the images will cheer supporters of Palestinian terrorism and leave its enablers, Messrs. Obama and Kerry, unmoved, and babbling platitudes about ending the "cycle of violence".
(Go to the 10/21 entry)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Genius At Work

Reading Kevin Williamson at times, I'm reminded of the scene in the film Amadeus where an awestruck Salieri is perusing some of Mozart's musical scores.

Astounding! It was actually, it was beyond belief. But they showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down music already finished in his head! Page after page of it as if he were just taking dictation. And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall.

I don't know if KW is able to write as if taking dictation, but the quality and volume of his output is remarkable. Below is one weekend's worth of eclectic thinking.

A learned and lengthy examination of a variety of recent instances of the human propensity to punish perceived opponents. Williamson added the following preface to his essay --

I hope you’ll forgive the 4,500-word Saturday-evening brain dump below. There is something to that Blaise Pascal line about sending a long letter because he didn’t have time to write a short one.

Out of the box thinking on reducing unemployment (Only conservatives think this way) --

Technology is turning the tables on the old conventional wisdom that you can't fight City Hall --

On BHO's distaste for HRC --

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Crappy Days Are Here Again

Jonah Goldberg with some thoughts on Tuesday's Democratic "debate" and the sorry state of leftist ideology.

I mean good gawd, Lincoln Chafee? He’s less a presidential candidate and more a cautionary tale of what happens to WASP genes when you drench them in scotch, ink residue from old issues of Mother Jones, and bong resin.

...That’s one reason why Sanders wasn’t as foolish as some think for his “gift” on the e-mail scandal. Many Democrats now reflexively take the view that if Republicans or Fox News think something is bad, then it must be an illegitimate issue. Lending even rhetorical aid and comfort to the enemy is counted as “unprogressive” even on issues that progressives should be horrified by. The Clinton Foundation’s incestuous cronyism should horrify the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic party. But saying so would be seen as using “right-wing talking points” so they stay mum on the issue. The same people who freaked out over the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity should properly want Clinton indicted for what she did with her e-mail. But if the Republicans think so too, it must not be so.

 ... The debate was a joyless ass ache of a reminder of what liberalism really is. Bernie Sanders thinks you can pay for an 18 trillion dollar expansion of the welfare state — to make it align with a Denmark that doesn’t actually exist — simply by taxing “the billionaire class.” There are 536 billionaires in America. Even if you confiscated everything they had — which, by the way, would surely destroy the American economy by triggering the greatest round of capital flight in human history and amount to government seizure of countless businesses — it wouldn’t come close to covering the tab of Sanders’s proposals.

But saying stupid things about economics is why God put socialists on this planet. Sanders has to say such things because that is what socialists do.

... The real appeal of the New Deal wasn’t its alleged success, it’s that the New Deal is synonymous with a time when progressives had nearly unfettered political power to do what they wanted. Liberals don’t really worship the New Deal, they worship themselves. The New Deal is just a talisman in their undying faith in their own ability to guide society and make decisions for others better than people can make for themselves.

And, at a fundamental level, the desire for an unending string of New Deals going on forever, is indistinguishable from socialism. Liberals used to be honest about this point, as when Arthur Schlesinger let slip in the pages of Partisan Review that “There seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.”

It’s all just so exhausting. And I guess what I resent most of all is the fact that I will spend the rest of my life arguing with people who not only think that their faith in progressivism and the State is smart and modern, but that their opponents are the ones who are stuck in the past. And in the process, they’ll keep making the country worse, with every failure providing the latest evidence that now, now, is the time for a new New Deal.

Friday, October 16, 2015

How To Increase Employment

In today's WSJ, a good, basic primer on job creation from an expert practitioner of the subject, Andy Pudzer, CEO of CKE restaurants. Mr. Pudzer would certainly make the Bernie and Hillary list of Hated Millionaires and Billionaires despite (because of?) the enormous good he provides society.

In September the labor-force participation rate—the percentage of Americans employed or actively looking for work—continued its decline under Mr. Obama, hitting 62.4%, a low last seen 38 years ago during the Carter administration. The rate has been stuck below 63% for 18 consecutive months. For prime working-age Americans—those between 25 and 54—the rate is 80.6%, the lowest figure since 1984. Nearly six million Americans are “not in the labor force” who “want a job now.”
After more than six years of “recovery,” about 2.5 million more people are working than were employed when the Great Recession began in December 2007. However, the employable population has increased by about 18 million people—seven times the number of people who found jobs.

Even the bump in employment reflects economic weakness. Compare September’s jobs numbers with those from December 2007: 230,000 more people were employed full time and more than two million more people were employed part time. In other words, 90% of the increase has come from part-time employment. About six million Americans are working part time because they can’t find a full-time job.

...Since the problem is too few jobs, it is important to understand who creates jobs. At my company, CKE Restaurants, for example, our franchisees are small business owners who furnish entry-level jobs and management careers every time they open a Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s. Franchisees generally invest more than $1 million to permit, build and equip restaurants, creating jobs for architects, attorneys and construction workers.

After opening, each store creates about 25 permanent jobs within the restaurant as well as ancillary jobs maintaining, advertising and supplying food and paper products to it.

Our approximately 3,000 domestic restaurants (90% franchised) spend more than $1 billion on food and paper products a year. That creates jobs for everyone from the farmers who plant the seeds to the truck drivers who deliver the ingredients to our restaurants.

CKE also spends about $175 million a year on advertising, great for actors and workers at ad agencies, as well as radio and TV stations. We spend $150 million annually on capital improvements, remodeling restaurants, and purchasing new equipment. This spurs opportunities for construction workers, equipment manufacturers and more. Then there’s the roughly $100 million put toward annual maintenance. That means jobs for window washers, air conditioner repairmen and landscapers.

These workers in turn spend their incomes on food, clothing, housing, health care, education and entertainment—supporting even more jobs. The more restaurants the company builds, the more jobs and the more growth in local economies. Collectively with our franchisees, CKE provides employment for more than 70,000 Americans and supports jobs for tens of thousands of others outside the restaurants.

This engine of economic growth applies to every part of the economy. Whether Ford, Apple,  Caterpillar, Wal-Mart or Coca-Cola, the web of job creation is the same. And so if a politician wants to help workers win a raise, he should help businesses add jobs by simplifying the tax code, enacting regulatory reform and replacing ObamaCare with something that works.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cursing At Solutions

The National Review blogsite The Corner reproduced this tweet from a Philip P. Richardson, a NY Times reporter (naturally).


So eloquent. You just have to admire the level of discourse of left wing journalists.

Addressing his "point" -- My father's family lived on the lower east side of Manhattan during the Depression - two adults and seven children in a small tenement apartment. There are few people in the U.S. today enduring worse poverty than they did. Yet, because they grew up in a strong two parent family, (which poverty did not weaken), all of the children grew up to be successful, law abiding citizens.

Richardson's obscene outburst is typical of the left's reactionary response to any conservative identifying and offering remedies for the true source of poverty. They simply don't tolerate ideas that threaten the viability of the big-government sustaining, poverty perpetuating welfare state.

Here is the video that inspired Richardson's tantrum.

Bush didn't even mention the three factors virtually guaranteeing an escape from poverty as cited by the Brookings Institution, a left leaning, (and Liz Warren hugging*), think tank.

1. Graduate from high school.
2. Wait until at least age 21 to get married and don't have children before marriage.
3. Have a full time job before starting a family.

Persons of all races following these rules have a poverty rate of two percent.

Imagine Richardson's wrath had Bush dared to be more specific as to how the poor could improve their situation.  


Saturday, October 10, 2015

My (Indirect) Dialogue With Kevin Williamson

A couple of days ago, Williamson posted the following on NR's blog site, The Corner :

In 1957, the nation was more or less at peace, the budget ran a small surplus, and we spent 9.8 percent of GDP on national defense. That was down sharply from the years immediately before (winding down of Korean War expenses, I guess) but quite a bit higher than it was in 1950 and 1951. In 1950, we spent only 4.9 percent of GDP on national defense, half that 1957 number.

This year, we’re going to spend about 3.3 percent of GDP on national defense. That’s less than we spent during the first Clinton administration, a fairly peaceable time. It’s less than we’ve spent since before the budgetary beginning of the post-9/11 era, by which I mean, since 2002.

Looking at 1957 from the other side of the ledger, tax receipts were 17.2 percent of GDP. This year, taxes are expected to come in at 17.7 percent of GDP, a little bit more.

I like 1957. It seems like a pretty good year to me, and its neighbors on the calendar were pretty good years, too.

My lefty friends sometimes say that Republicans should endorse those high Eisenhower-era personal income tax rates, but in fact the government took in slightly less in taxes then than it does now. Not many people paid those sky-rate 1950s tax rates on much of their money. Certainly not Ike—he had his million-dollar book deal structured as a capital gain. The 1957 story isn’t about the taxes.

It’s about the spending.

The real lesson of 1957 is that you could—if you were so inclined—spend three times what we spend on the military in GDP terms, produce a small budget surplus, and reduce total taxes. You could do that if you were willing to do the work on the rest of the budget.

To which I commented on the NR site --

Cmon Kevin. Of course we could spend one tenth of GDP on defense in 1957 without running a deficit. We didn't have the welfare state.

Today, KW wrote --

Interest on the debt today is almost exactly the same as it was in 1957; it is exactly the same as what it was in 1953: 1.3 percent of GDP. In 1957, we spent 1 percent of GDP on physical resources; today, we spend a bit less, 0.8 percent of GDP. Other functions constituted 1.6 percent of GDP in 1957, today down to 1.1 percent of GDP. Undistributed receipts is nearly unchanged, up 0.1 percent of GDP.

That leaves us with the welfare category, the only area of federal spending that has grown significantly relative to the size of the U.S. economy. In 1957, it was 3.9 percent of GDP—not insignificant, to be sure; that’s a slightly larger figure than our present-day military spending. But welfare entitlement spending in 2015 is 15.2 percent of GDP. Which is to say, broadly defined welfare spending alone is equal to 86 percent of all the federal taxes that are going to be collected this year. Most of that is Social Security, health-care spending, traditional welfare, and federal education spending, which has grown substantially despite the fact that most education spending happens at the state and local level.

Recap: In GDP terms, we spend about a third on the military today compared to what we spent in the late 1950s. We spend almost exactly the same on interest on the debt. We spend 20 percent less on energy, transportation, the environment, and natural resources. And we spend almost four times as much on welfare. Again, that is in GDP terms, and our economy is a heck of a lot bigger than it was in 1957. As a share of all federal spending, welfare has gone from 23 percent of spending to 73 percent of federal spending. In constant-dollar terms, we spend 17.5 times as much. In nominal-dollar terms, we spend 150 times as much.

We could probably stand to trim the Pentagon budget a bit and reform defense procurement. But the real problem is the welfare state. The numbers don’t lie.

As I was saying...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Free Trade And Prosperity

Kevin Williamson waxes eloquent on one of his pet subjects - the glories of globalization. In the process he trashes a foolish, uninformed NY Times opinion writer (Paul Theroux).

Beyond the shopworn banality of his prose (“the catfish farms and the cotton fields and the blues bars . . . the gun shows and the church services and the football games”) Theroux is guilty of thinking and analysis that is beyond sloppy — he fails to account for the basic facts of the case. The South was an extraordinarily poor and backwards place until the day before yesterday. In the 1950s, about half of the households in the South didn’t have indoor plumbing. The economic transformation of the South in the past 50 years has been astounding, a success story for the ages.
As it has been for what development nerds sometimes call the “global south.” Just as the gentlemen of the Times were putting the headline on Theroux’s daft little tantrum, the World Bank published its estimate that this year — this year, not at some point in the happy-happy future — the number of people living in extreme poverty on this planet will dip below 10 percent for the first time in the history of the human species.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

"A Geopolitical Chernobyl"

-- The words of David Petraeus describing the current situation in the Middle East.

We really don’t know what their (Russia's) intentions are. --
General Lloyd Austin, Barack Obama's commander of US Central Command

Since Dumb and Dumber (Obama and Kerry) remain intractably clueless on the subject - here are Marco Rubio's September 16th debate comments explaining the motives and goals of Vlad Putin, two weeks before Putin began bombing our Syrian allies.

It’s pretty straightforward: He wants to reposition Russia once again as a geopolitical force. He himself said that the destruction of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Soviet Union, was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century. And now he’s trying to reverse that. He’s trying to destroy NATO. He is exploiting a vacuum that this administration has left in the Middle East. Here’s what you’re going to see in the next few weeks: The Russians will begin to fly combat missions in that region — not just targeting ISIS, but in order to prop up Assad.

(My emphasis)

Ralph Peters seconds Rubio's assessment --

Because Putin didn’t go to the right prep school and has poor table manners, Western elites continue, even now, to underestimate his intelligence, his strategic vision and his ruthlessness. Putin cynically portrays his intervention in Syria as part of a common fight against the Islamic State. But the immediate target of his military will be the (relatively) moderate Syrian opposition, leaving the West with a choice between Bashar al-Assad and Islamist fanaticism.

Putin has a vision of a wall of Iranian-dominated, Russia-friendly, anti-American states stretching from western Afghanistan through Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea. And he’s well on his way to achieving it, thanks to the nuclear deal with Iran, US military hesitancy in the region and, now, an open alliance between Russia, Iran, Iraq’s Shia militias, Hezbollah and the forces of the Assad regime.

That wall would not only keep out the United States, it would isolate our Kurdish allies and overshadow our last clients in the region, including Israel (which has already moved to improve relations with Moscow).

While Russia moves forcefully to exert influence over Syria and Iraq, the Obama "strategy" has, at a cost of half as billion dollars, trained a grand total of "4 or 5" Syrian fighters. Four OR five - numbers too large for precision from Obama's military.

Yes, Obama is completely unqualified for his job. But his incompetence is augmented by an even more disturbing characteristic. As Peters notes in a tweet --

You bet President Obama’s afraid of Putin. Physically, tangibly, change-the-diaper afraid.

And Putin knows it. That's why his next move, predicts Peters, will be a dangerously provocative act --

Vladimir Putin’s next strategic gambit may be to order the shootdown of an American military aircraft over Syria. If we’re “fortunate,” it will only be an unmanned airframe he chooses to make his point.

But it may be a manned fighter. Putin is confident that the Obama administration wouldn’t respond militarily, but would eagerly accept his explanation that the shootdown was an accident, a simple misunderstanding.

Peters column --